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What's wrong with Disney?

Share your views on the state of the Animation Industry.

What's wrong with Disney?

Postby Charles » Wed Jul 20, 2011 9:51 am

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They used to be the standard by which all animated films were judged.

But lately, Disney films are more like also rans when it comes to feature animation. They still produce great movies, and they certainly have the capacity to do anything they want at any level they want. But it seems to me that just may be the problem. It seems like they don't want to. There doesn't seem to be the burning, overwhelming desire to consistently produce truly great animated entertainment that's beyond what anyone else would do.

Their latest effort, the 'Winnie the Pooh' movie which was released in the US last Friday, had a poor showing of only $8 million, placed sixth overall among the top box office films for the weekend, and was even outdone by Pixar's 'Cars 2' sequel which had been in release four weeks already.

My question is this... Why Winnie the Pooh?

If I had the golden opportunity to head up Disney Feature Animation, that's not a project I would've given a thumbs up to. I don't think I would've approved of Princess and the Frog either. With all the great properties out there, especially public domain properties that are still waiting for the spotlight, and the endless resource of original concepts, why did the powers that be at Disney commit to these two projects?

To be fair, 'Tangled' was a great film, and I consider 'Bolt' to be one of the studio's best in the last decade. But I don't see the passion and the desire to do consistently awesome animated motion pictures as one sees with DreamWorks, Pixar, Blue Sky, and other competitive studios from around the world.

This, on top of the fact that Disney CEO Robert Iger is the highest compensated corporate executive in the US.

Consider also, that John Lasseter is Disney's CCO, or Chief Creative Officer. One would think that his presence and involvement alone would add fire to Disney Features and get things at the studio moving in exciting new directions, with bold, dynamic projects at least comparable to what's happening at Pixar, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

I can think of five ideas off the top of my head, all public domain, whose titles alone would attract huge attention and virtually guarantee epic enthusiasm from the movie going public and Disney fans in particular, and perhaps even more importantly, encourage passionate creative effort from their teams.

Instead, it's Winnie the Pooh.

Whether it's traditional hand drawn animation or CG, when you have the resources and the legacy of a studio as great as Disney, why not shoot for the stars instead of cumulus clouds.

I'm a life long Disney fan and a big believer in the studio. I was a dedicated supporter of Roy Disney's effort to cleanse the temple, so to speak, getting rid of the executive control that was smothering the studio and killing hand drawn animation. He was successful ousting Michael Eisner a year early and paving the way for what would be the merger with Pixar.

He was successful in keeping traditional animation going at Disney, but it seems almost as if the current powers that be play it too safe to keep those films from cashing in.

I'd like to see things turn around big time for the Disney Studios, and am looking forward to what's coming next.

Hopefully something that Disney animation fans everywhere can really get excited about.
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Re: What's wrong with Disney?

Postby tstevens » Wed Jul 20, 2011 11:28 am

I think Disney is doing basically what you would expect from a "brand" name.

Princess and the Frog was deisnged to round out the Princess line with an African American Character and Pooh is a billion dollar industry. I suspect that they probably were not planning on the winnie the pooh film being a blockbuster. But on video, this one will have legs. Every parent who wants to keep their three year old entertained will buy this when it hits Target and WalMart. It will continue to build a billion dollar brand in pooh bear alone. Remember, Pooh brings in more money than all other Disney characters combined.

Have they lost their creative spirit??? Well, in a billion dollar corporation the goal isn't to be creative. It is to make money. Disney and Pixar still turn out nice, friendly, palatable films but they will never turn out anything that breaks with the corporate brand. That is why Pixar will always make films based on the same tried and true formulas. If you look back at the few "odd moments" in the history of Disney animation you always arrive at The Black Cauldron. Now, you can come up with a lot of reasons why that film failed. I can garuntee that even the current executives know about that one and don't ever want to try anything that breaks with the brand like that one. Look at Nightmare Before Christmas: they released that under the Touchstone name.

THe sad part is that Disney has set the mold for most of what is made now. I commented on one other board that all of these films start out with brilliant concept design and interesting plot twists. By the end though, they all start to develop that same Disneyesque sheen. I think much of the blame also lays with artists who accept that and often want it. I can't count the number of times that I have heard people wanting to re-live the glory days by being involved in projects that remind them of their youth. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but the major players have all become inbred from the corporate to the artistic.

The only way Disney and Pixar will every break the mold and the stagnation (and pixar is definitely heading that way) will be by creating smaller independent labels (like Touchstone)or by getting small again. Since they are never going to go back to being privately held, that is out of the question.
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Re: What's wrong with Disney?

Postby hoofprints » Wed Jul 20, 2011 2:55 pm

Yeah I have heard that Winnie the Pooh is the 2nd biggest merchendice money maker at Disney after Mickey. Supprisingly even more then Cars which brings in tons of money. I just got back from Winnie the Pooh and I thought that it was charming and even better was the totally creative The Legend of nesse short.

I look at it this way sure in some ways its a cash grab, but in others its a very beloved story/characters that millions of kids gravitate to. I think that the industry does need to be creative, but they also need to remember to cater to the kids who love the core franchises once in awile. And frankly if it takes more Pooh, etc movies to get a Nesse then I'm all for it. Having said that whoever dicided to place it on the same weekend as Harry Potter are morons.

But Disney isn't the only one to lean on old things, look at Sherk 2, 3 & 4, Puss & Boots, Kung Fu Panda 2, etc. Or Cars 2, Monsters 2, etc. Dreamworks has been getting better, but most of their first 10 or so years were a lot of fairly week entries. So its the nature of the buisness and the unfortunate fact that these things run through committies and many hands at every studio and sometimes are made for mechendising reasons.
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Re: What's wrong with Disney?

Postby Greg B » Wed Jul 20, 2011 7:31 pm

For the umpteenth time, Disney's goal is to satisfy its investors with plump dividends. Not to uphold a tradition, keep an art form going nor give tribute to employees.

It's to make money or get their balls sued off by their investors. This is the world we've bred so there's no need to complain. We have an economic system built on loan sharking, strong arming, reflexive litigiousness, and worse. It ain't Disney's fault, they're trying to stay alive like the rest of us.
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Re: What's wrong with Disney?

Postby hoofprints » Wed Jul 20, 2011 8:50 pm

Even back in the time of the Great Masters that sort of thing was going on. The Pope (I think it was) told Michelangelio that he had to paint the Cistine Chapel and Michelangelo told him that he didn't like the restrictions of the space and told him that he wouldn't do it and roder off. He was forced to come back and paint it. Even back then it was those that had the money controled everything. Michelangelo hated the idea of having to work for money, but he came to realize eventually the necessity.
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