Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Maytime Studio Roundabout

After the long holiday weekend, I was back into the studio routine, room to room and cubicle to cubicle in the regular way.

DreamWorks is busy with its big slate of films. Monster and Aliens, which I think is its first stereoptican production, is well into work. A staffer clued me that two sequences are animated and everybody is turning and burning on a bunch of others, looking toward an end-of-year completion.

At the House of Mouse, various and sundry employees were bopping off to a meeting down Riverside Drive brainstorming ways to rehabilitate the corporate symbol (Mr. Mouse) back into a big-time movie star. (The 1930s, Mr. Mouse's last heyday, were a long time ago).

As I stumbled through the Hat Building's hallways, some of the suggestions I heard were:

"Stop making Mickey as a c.g.i. character."

"Put Mickey in some featurettes and like, short features."

My vote would be to team Mr. Mouse with his two long-time amigos, Mr. Duck and the Goof I'm quite good with doing the obvious.

And I'm told that there's animation going on in three different sequences of Princess and the Frog. And Bolt continues to move briskly along, with overtime aplenty.

18 comments:

Kristi said...

Well... Mickey in 2D and 3D went head-to-head in 2004: and the traditionally animated "The Three Musketeers" was the loser against "Mickey's Twice Upon A Christmas". Case closed, commercially - and smallmindedly.

sully's pal said...

Hey Steve,

Isn't Eric Goldberg working on a short with Mickey, Donald and Goofy? I remember reading that somewhere. Animation Magazine or something like that. Do you remember it?

Also, I was wondering how many shorts Disney is planning on releasing per year? One, two or more?

Nelson C. Woodstock said...

I can't imagine Mickey's "floating ears" work well in CG.

Anonymous said...

I have spent much of my professional life drawing Mickey Mouse in a variety of ways and in different contexts. It doesn't make me an expert, and I am not a current Disney employee, so I missed the meeting, but over the years I have given it a lot of thought:

Kristi, (and Steve), it's not a matter of 2-D versus 3-D. He was designed for and works better in 2D, but if enough care is taken with design and animation, he does all right in 3D.

Nelson, take a close look at Mickey Mouse Clubhouse- you will see the "floating" ears, working exactly the way they worked in 2D.

The problem is in the personality of the character. In his early days, Mickey had a clearly defined personality, probably because his cartoons were closely supervised by Disney himself. He had a clear point of view and a definite attitude and personal style when confronting villains and problems. He has since devolved into a bland corporate symbol. When put into the context of a story he now comes off flat and superficial- there is no emotional handle for the audience to grab on to or identify with.

Simple solution: Restore his personality!

SM

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Anonymous up there. The CGI Mickey of "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" DOES work, in fact he looks more appealing and more like himself than he's looked in years. And the show is a success, I'm happy to say. Just the same, I would love to see him in 2D again, especially if he were handled the way he was in the short "Runaway Brain", a superior work IMO. And restoring his personality is absolutely a must, and to do this, the Disney folks need look no further than the comic adventures written by Floyd Gottfredson. Mickey was both comic and heroic in those comics, and that's the personality that's been sorely missed. I hope he's taken in that direction again - and SOON.

Anonymous said...

Mickey's personality is the issue, not the number of D's in his creation.

Mickey went 3D way before CG - dolls, toys, games, and walkarounds at Disneyland. All of which were approved by Walt himself. So if you're going to complain about a 3D Mickey, take it up with Uncle Walt.

Anonymous said...

I say let's go back to 2d, and even further back, to the rubber hose/silent, black and white days...this 3d thing is old!

R.

Anonymous said...

Schumacher et al hated "Runaway Brain" because Mickey had actually been imbued with some of the chutzpah he showed in the early days.

Anonymous said...

Forgive my ignorance, but isn't a stereopticon a 19th century "magic lantern" for projecting slides?

I know some have been critical of the quality of animation in DW features, but isn't this taking it a bit far? ;)

Anonymous said...

No question that "Runaway Brain" was impressive work. It was edgy, graphic, fast paced, and kinetic. I am not inside enough to know who hated it or why. My own objections were that the tone of it seemed to have more in common with a Warner Bros cartoon than Disney. Also, like the piano scene in "Roger Rabbit," pure movement, action and flashy angles are not sufficient substitutes for character, timing and story telling. When the dust settled, we still didn't feel a connection with Mickey.

Ironically, a critical story point hinged on Mickey going through a change of personality. How about; give him one, first?

Note to Steve: I agree, putting Mickey in a story with his friends immediately pulls him out of spokesperson mode and creates a comedy team dynamic, but the personalities of Donald and Goofy are so large clear and well developed that Mickey tends to get thrown back into straight-man mode when he is around them. He needs a chance to have some story space of his own to re-establish himself, IMHO.

SM

Steve Hulett said...

Forgive my ignorance, but isn't a stereopticon a 19th century "magic lantern" for projecting slides?


You're right. I was thinking stereoptican was the dual 3-D images on cards held in a crude double-lensed viewer? (Uou know, the 19th century Viewmaster?)

I write these things fast and sometimes my word usage is ... ahm ... off.

Steve Hulett said...

Isn't Eric Goldberg working on a short with Mickey, Donald and Goofy?

Don't know. There are shorts ongoing. I think Eric is working on "P and F" at the moment, but I could be wrong.

Haven't talked to him lately.

victor "Hugo" chevy said...

Which character is Eric working on in Princess?

robiscus said...

"Don't know. There are shorts ongoing. I think Eric is working on "P and F" at the moment, but I could be wrong."

I read that and my first understanding was that you meant "Phineas & Ferb". then i came to.

Ha Ha!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm probably going to get flamed for this, but...what IS Mickey's personality??

Other than in the very, VERY earliest Mickey cartoons (Steamboat Willie, etc.), where he is an unrepentant jerk, Mickey himself has always seemed pretty bland. What ARE his defining personality characteristics?

A boy scout? Adventurous? In "over his head"? In his best shorts, like "Brave Little Tailor," or "Sorceror's Apprentice," it's more about the situation, in which he gets in over his head, and must find a way out of it.

So I would suggest that Mickey's personality has always been hard to peg, because he's simply the Luke Skywalker hero/straight-man type.

But put him in a fun adventure situation, and I'll bet people will love it.

Kristi said...

I never meant to imply that 3D is "better" than 2D, or indeed vice versa. I beg your pardon. I mention "The Three Musketeers" because it is a decent film (considering the budget, IMO), it is a full-length Mickey Mouse and friends adventure movie (in the style of "The Prince and the Pauper"), it sounds as if this is just what everybody claims that they want to see from Mickey, and it did not do particularly well.

Steve Hulett said...

What ARE [Mickey's] defining personality characteristics?


Plucky, resourceful boy scout.

See "The Pointer" (1939), "Brave Little Tailor" (1938), "Mickey and the Beanstalk."

He's kind of an animated Harold Lloyd type. (If anyone recalls Harold Lloyd.)

Anonymous said...

I agree. When he is at his most essential Mickey, he has a compulsive curiosity that leads to a reckless impetuousness which invariably gets him in over his head. He can't resist taking a dare, putting on the sorcerer's hat, jumping in the plane, taking on over-sized adversaries or stealing a kiss. The fun is watching him do things we wouldn't dare do, bracing for the impending disaster, then seeing him get out of it with a quick wit and ingenuity we don't posses.

His daring makes him a natural leader, but when he is cast in the role of a leader or boss, he goes flat. In "The Band Concert," we first saw that dynamic; Donald walks away with the picture. What finally killed Mickey off, in terms of his original appeal and popularity, was domesticating him.
Oh look- Mickey's got a house and a dog and he's going fishing! (YAWN).

SM

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