Re: JAMES BATES:The LA Times article

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Posted by A fly on the wall on April 30, 2000 at 01:48:14:

In Reply to: Re: JAMES BATES:The LA Times article posted by Dave Brewster on April 29, 2000 at 12:40:42:

: You cannot build company loyalty if the company is gone. Week to week contracts put the advantage on the animators side and make DWs the one having to live up to expectation. If an animator is worth it then the opportunity to move with short notice is golden. Myself I think it is the more desirable of all contracts

Just so you know, the only ones with the week to week contracts were inbetweeners, breakdown artists, and rough inbetweeners. That is, the people with the fewest options to bail if something better comes along. So in a sense it was a value judgment; the more valuable an artist was, the more likely they would be locked up till the end of the picture.

: : The real solution, one which I'm not sure the powers that be can admit, is that real creative and artistic leadership needs to be nurtured, demanded, expected, and allowed to flourish. Filmmaking by committee, with the producer making the final decision on everything, is a recipe for trouble.

: That depends on the producer. A producer is responsible to that film and takes just as many hits as the director so they have as much to lose. There are no books on what a producer does but I have seen some fine examples. Don Hahn or Harve Bennet. Both are story contributers but seem to be the objectiviy and will to push directors to execute. To set limits and close gaps. All this is wonderful but the one element these people seem to share is a degree of trust in the directors vision. A willingness to let that director fail a bit on their own terms. Who could blame anyone for being too controlling on any film that costs 100 million dollars. Staggering amounts of money. Staggering. The people who have that trust share the stage with saints and miracle workers. As artists we have a very myopic view of the production so things tend to be obvious and simple. The choices under pressure are not made in the blissful musings of fellowship. People will make mistakes so how we judge them should not be based on the mistakes they made but how they correct them.

I think I was being to obtuse. We were talking about DW, and above when I referred to "the powers that be" I was really referring to JK. He's ultimately the real producer, and also the real director. Hence objectivity goes out the window. My impression is that a committee tries to figure out what will please him, meanwhile they compete among themselves for his favor. And Jeffrey isn't an artist or a writer, so he can't be too explicit about what he wants, giving rise to a lot of successive approximations in the development process. That gets expensive.
I agree that he has a trememdous amount to lose, and it's his division of the company, so he can do what he wants. But I notice in pro sports most owners don't call the plays.

: : : I've also seen the work on Spirit and I have to say that it is nothing short of stunning. Totally different . Incredibly beautiful. The studio is gaining it's legs through the only real way to build a studio , experience. It takes no real genius to see they are acting responsably by doing things that allow the proper development process and trimming down to keep costs reasonable. James Bates may try to make it look like it's failure driven while those of us who know the company see it as absolutely intelligent foresight (and well learned).

: : I don't doubt the intelligence and the quality of the work, but I do doubt the foresight. I think Spirit will be a very hard film to sell, and I think the picture after that will be, too. There can't be just one person making all these decisions. There was only one Walt Disney, and even his instincts failed him on a regular basis.

: I really don't care if they can sell the film. That isn't my job at all. That is the marketing dept.

I don't agree at all. If the film lacks widespread appeal, then it will tank, and the studio will be threatened, and an important crop of jobs with it. Even the best marketing dept. in the world can't sell a film people don't want to see, no matter how beautiful that film is. There are some projects in production in town that are much more intrinsically interesting and appealing than others. Unfortunately, most of the more interesting ones seem to be at other studios.

: As an artist all I can ask is if I really would enjoy watching it myself because if I don't, I know the audience wont.

And you don't have to dig very deeply to find lots of people at DW who weren't very excited about the concept of El Dorado, and who are not excited about the concept of Spirit or Tusker (which have way too many similarities) or Sinbad. OTOH, Osmosis Jones and Treasure Planet and Atlantis and even Titan AE all sound like fun. The actual films may suck, but the basic concepts of all those films are great. They're naturals. Explain them in two sentences to a casual film fan and chances are their eyes will light up. Now try to do the same with the DW slate of animation (excluding that coming from Ardman).

:That is what film is about. Sharing that enjoyment. Failing is far more common than succeeding in this business so one should not expect to be left virginal in that sense. And so your lack of faith is the safer bet. It took 15 years for WBs cartoon unit to really evolve to it's legendary unit and Disney had years in shorts long before Snow White. I wonder whether people had lack of faith in the future then ? Hmm , I'll bet you they did.

Both Warners and Disney evolved and evolved and evolved, very quickly, until they became the benchmarks for the rest of the industry. Many more studios thought they knew what they were doing, had some success, but didn't evolve, and didn't last. I see no evidence of significant evolution at DW.
However, for me it's not lack of faith, but disappointment. There is SO much talent at DW, and I think much of it is being under used. We seem stuck in these complex PG historical costume dramas or over-serious animal pictures. And there is little breadth to the projects in development.
All I'm saying is that it appears that the vision from the top of the company is a little restrictive. People come in, direct or produce on a single picture, then disappear. There is no legacy of creativity, no alternative power bases to nurture alternative visions. I think highly of the company and of Jeffrey's obvious abilities, so all that is a shame.

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