Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Disney Rolls Out the Big Guns

You can't say the House of Mouse isn't tub-thumping for its upcoming product:

The Walt Disney Co. wowed an industry crowd Wednesday in a showcase of its upcoming films that included a sequel to its 1982 sci-fi flick "Tron" and a "Lone Ranger" remake with Johnny Depp as Tonto.

The daylong presentation at the Kodak Theatre, home of the Oscars, delivered repeated surprises as actors emerged onstage to tout animated 3-D movies, live-action thrillers and comedies — with animal co-stars ranging from guinea pigs and chihuahuas to humpback whales ...

Commenting on Disney's lengthy rollout, which included a full screening of the animated dog-hero movie "Bolt," [actor Jim] Carrey told out-of-town guests, "You can go back home and say these saddle sores came from Hollywood ...."

I got a call today from one of the c.g. artists who was bounced at the end of Bolt's production. The guy had been there ten years, but you know how it is: "You're last performance review was a little weak Charlie, here's your final check, and thanks for being part of the team."

And after a decade and five movies, the artist takes one for the team -- out the door and off to a rendezvous with unemployment benefits.

But I was amazed how non-bitter the ex-employee was, really more sad and resigned than angry:

"Disney Animation doesn't have a lot of development going on. I don't know what they're going to be doing after Rapunzel. There's the King of the Elves thing, but after that? One of the rumors going around was Robert Iger wanted to close Disney Animation and just have Pixar do the animation..."

I allowed as how that wouldn't seem to be a smart business move. The nameplate still means something, even if the last animation regime's final few movies tarnished it. The artist said:

"My friends that are still there say the main lot is expecting big things out of the picture. It's good."

My desires are simple. I want Bolt to be a mega smash hit. It helps the industry, it helps employment. Prosperity is what I'm about.

So here's to Bolt, and to the proposition that the movie marketplace will support two high-profile animated features at the same time, because Madagascar the Second will be out there alongside the doggie.

The last thing we need is 'toon cannibalization.


Anonymous said...

If the rumours of D.A.'s closure come to fruition somewhere soon down the line (aka, after 'Rupunzel' & 'King of the Elves'), Robert Iger certainly won't be worth a hint of his salary. Let's hope that rumour stays that; rumour.

Anonymous said...

Having just finished up on Bolt myself, I truly think it will be a hit. (not a smash hit, but a hit...maybe 300 mil worldwide?) The jokes land, the action is fun, the story arcs are strong, the ending is buttoned up. The only thing that annoys me in the whole thing is Miley Cyrus (Travolta is great, if you're wondering), but Miley will bring the mega-fans to the theaters, so I cant complain.

I also think it's what Disney needs at this point to prove they can make animated films again. Rapunzel so far seems promising, but seeing how its stiiill (after 7 years) in story phase, that doesnt bode well. BUT, the animation team they have there now is strong and growing (in skill, not in numbers), albiet a bit out of breath from a 5 month production time. Im sure they'll welcome the long-ish break between films to recharge their batteries, unlike us laid-off artists who are already in the throws of our new jobs...

Fun With Mr. Future said...

Rumor had it that Walt was sorely several times tempted to shut it down.

Rumor had it that Roy Disney (Senior) wanted to close down the Animation Department after Walt died. The box-office success of The Aristocats changed that and the old guys kept it going long enough to train up a new generation of animators.

By the time Eisner was brought in to take over the ailing Disney Co. it was rumored that Eisner and Co. (including at that time Frank Wells and Mr. J. Katzenberg ) wanted to close down the Animation dept. and just outsource any animation work to overseas studios where it was cheaper (like what Eisner knew from his ABC Saturday Morning days) The dept. had one defender , a knight in shining armor named Roy Disney Jr., and though banished from THE Animation Building on the main lot to an industrial warehouse building in Glendale they held on long enough to have a modest box-office success with The Great Mouse Detective, then slightly better with Oliver & Co., plus that Roger Rabbit flick helped out too by waving big dollar $igns in front of the execs eyes. The Little Mermaid was a bigger hit still and the rest is history ...

Rumor towards the end (during the Treasure Planet- Home on the Range - Brother Bear years was that Eisner wanted to shut down animation again, but kept it open as a hedge after the relationship with Pixar went sour (but only as a CG Pixar-wannabe studio ... the traditional animation dept. was shut down under Eisner and his minions).

So it's always been hanging by a thread.

Thus endeth the history lesson. (and you know what they say: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." )

The other rumor in those days (c. 2000) was that Eisner was going around saying things like : "let's just lay-off all the animation staff for a few years, then when we start up again we can hire them all back for much lower wages. "

Anonymous said...

Read in the paper this morning that Oprah has signed on as the voice of the mom in Princess and Frog.

Steve Hulett said...

Read in the paper this morning that Oprah has signed on as the voice of the mom in Princess and Frog.

Actually, I knew this a while back and was sworn to secrecy.

Anonymous said...

I figured it couldn't be news to those working on the film, given that they'd need a voice to animate to and all...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Disney can return to its roots and golden past with the 2D film next year.

Floyd Norman said...

What a life.

Even when animation is making money, you're still hanging by a thread.

I love, love, love animation, but I never encouraged my kids to get into the business.

scorpiotsm said...

Thanks for all you've done in animation, Floyd.

Is there any chance we may be seeing you back working for Disney again?

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