Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Good Times at Warner Bros. Feature Animation (circa 1995)

Right: Dennis Edwards and Peter Gullerud, by Peter Gullerud.
Warner Bros. Animation has been around, like, forever. But Warner Bros. FEATURE Animation was an entity separate and distinct from WBA. WBFA was born in response to the Disney Feature juggernaut of the early 1990s, and headquartered in a glossy high-rise on Brand Boulevard in Glendale, California. It's short, tumultuous life lasted approximately four years... WBFA occupied four or five floors of office space and was launched with high ambitions and high salaries. Ralph Eggleston, the art director of "Toy Story" and other Pixar epics, was there for a time. Bill and Sue Kroyer were there, along with a host of other big talents. In WBFA's first year, somewhere around eight or nine pictures were in devlopment, and Bob Daley, the head of Warner Bros., couldn't make up his mind about which of WBFA's projects he wanted to greenlight. This indecision went on for the better part of twelve months, and I watched staff morale slowly deflate like a tired balloon. The caricature above is from that time. Designer/story artist Peter Gullurud is listening to WBFA exec Dennis Edwards -- a quite decent gent, by the way -- declaim against unflattering caricatures.


Kevin Koch said...

My first professional animation job was at WBFA. I got in during the last hiring binge. Once there, I sat. And sat. And sat. For several months I prowled around looking for busy work, helped out on a UNISEF short, and worked on animation tests. Others had been doing the same thing for far longer.

If a few key choices had been different in the early days of WBFA, it would have been interesting to see what might have happened.

David Germain said...

Yeah, I've heard that the WB execs in the animation division were/are pretty clueless. Most of them were either fired from Disney's animation department for gross incompetence or were in WB's live action department and then were "demoted" to animation as punishment for, again, gross incompetence. I've read of one such person named Dalisa Cooper Cohen. It was said that she openly hated animation and animators in particular. And yet there she was in charge of WB animation projects. (I also read that Jenna Elfman's character in Looney Tunes: Back in Action was a caricature of Ms. Cohen).

Kevin Koch said...

My memory of Dalisa Cooper Cohen was that she was brought in to help salvage Quest for Camelot in the late stages. The Kroyers had long ago left, then things got even worse, and she replaced Frank Gladstone. She was coming off co-producing The Little Princess, which was critically acclaimed (though financially unsuccessful), and had zero knowledge of animation.

My impression wasn't that she hated animation, though after her experience on Quest she may have! I think she was just thrown into the deep end on a seriously screwed-up project. The film needed a new director, and instead they gave it a new, and completely inexperienced, producer.

I remember one meeting soon after she came aboard. She wanted to rally the troops, and she started off by saying something like, "I know you all want to do an adult and sophisticated animated film, like Cool World, but we just have to bear down and finish the film we have, and then maybe we can do the kind of thing you all want to do." She seemed to sincerely think she was speaking our language, but everyone in the room was agast that she so misunderstood our misgivings about Quest. She basically lost all credibility in that moment (not that it mattered -- the film was too far gone already).

Anonymous said...

Old Warner Bros. I started early, when there was a handful of people and finished up with Iron Giant.
It was a great place to work, and alot of nice people there.

Always something going on in the artist development, great place to develope, and get help from other artist.

I think there was alot of talent there waiting to get out.

Aways puzzled why the Warner Bros. never promoted "Cat's don't Dance"?
Or is it that Turner still owns it?

Hats off to the Turner people, did a great job on that movie.

Jenny Lerew said...

Warner Feature Animation actually started(with the Kroyers and a handful of others as staff)on the 4th floor of the Sherman Oaks, WB-leased TV animation building(then the Imperial Bank building), about 1993. They had several things in development then, notably a "Flying Dutchman" project.

Anonymous said...

I worked there as a temp for several months both with Feature and the television division.
I remember Pete Townsend of the Who being in on meetings for Iron Giant......and I can't remember the exec who spearheaded that project except she was fired for threatening her assistant.
I remember all of the tv people thought the Feature people had no soul. You'd be in the elevator with them and they were so corporate.
All said, I wished I had gotten hired on.

Anonymous said...

What about other animated movies that WB released, like the Pokemon movies, Happy feet, and Legend of the Guardians? Was WBFA involved with them?

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