Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hand Drawn at Disney

While wandering the halls of the hat building yesterday, I chanced on one of the traditional animators working there. He said:

We're developing a bunch of different projects to show John Lasseter. It's a complicated process. We pitch to a development group, they tell us which ones they like, then tell us that people who're pitching need to develop three pitches for Joh, since he likes artists showing him three things.

And when we do pitch, it's made clear to us that the stories aren't necessarily for a hand-drawn project. When we've brought it up with John Lasseter, he's shied away from commiting to a hand-drawn feature ...



This is a turn-around from a few years ago, when the idea was to have hand-drawn features created in Burbank, and the CG features produced at Emeryville.

My thought is: John Lasseter is a smart man. He likes hand-drawn but he recognizes they way the wind is blowing. Princess and the Grog grossed $300 million globally; Tangled grossed twice that. When the gap is so wide, it's an easy corporate decision to say: "We're going with CGI."

Ron Clements and John Musker are developing a hand-drawn feature that, if what I've been shown holds up, will look one hell of a lot different from Show White. The scuttlebutt I've heard indicates that Mr. Lasseter isn't as keen on greenlighting hand-drawn epics as he was a few years ago. But who inside Diz Co. could blame him? More than overseeing hand-drawn animation, John Lasseter wants to win. And he's probably made the judgment that creating hand-drawn features isn't a winning corporate strategy.

Even so, I was disheartened to read this from Mr. Kousac down below:

Thankfully, no "hand drawn" cartoons are in the work at Disney for the forseeable future. Looking forward to seeing the Disney artists take hold of their new digital tools.

Sorry, Mr. Kousac. You can be as glad as you like Disney hasn't got any hand-drawn features on its "to do" list. But I think the world is a little bit diminished if the curtain now rings down on big, hand-drawn features. They had a lilting, personalized quality to them, and they are missed.

20 comments:

Christopher Sobieniak said...

I miss them a lot Steve. :-(

Steve Hulett said...

From what I heard Thursday, I seriously doubt they will be coming back in any recognizable form. (They'll be disguised as CGI.)

A shame, but our fine entertainment conglomerates are slaves to box office and cash flows.

An animator and his view said...

I still do not get how PATF is seen as unprofitable. When I was there working on it, all they talked about was how they were coming in under budget and because of the film the princess line would get a huge kick in profits and it did by the way. PATF cost $65 million that is production cost, Tangled which I love was around $200 million (including the previous 10 yrs it was in development) and made $600 million so on par both films made about the same as the other. It used to sound like a conspiracy theory that Disney wants to kill off 2d, the more I see stuff like this I am beginning to believe it.

MR Creative said...

What's bizarre to me is how they base their entire thought process on 1 film, which actually made decent money. I don't understand how a company that has HUGE amounts of money can't utilize some of that for smaller hand-drawn projects.

Steve Hulett said...

I still do not get how PATF is seen as unprofitable. ...

Not unprofitable, but:

PATF -- $267,045,765
Tangled -- $590,721,936

Two princess movies, two formats. Easy to understand why corporate minds opt for the higher grossing format.

It's about the money.

Steve Hulett said...

Adding: Princess and the Frog cost more than than $60 million. BO Mojo has it $105 million, which jibes with the costs I heard bandied about the hat building.

Tangled was way more expensive than it would have been under other circumstances. There was over a decade of development costs embedded in the budget.

An animator and his view said...

I agree that PATF did not do Tangled numbers but surely they count in merchandising. Also for their first 2d feature in a long time it was good money wise. They need to give time to grow it again, shoot they gave CG enough time to grow. Also they need to pick a good story if they really want to give 2d a chance at all. Big Hero Six would be the ultimate, 2d characters mixed with CG and do a mix of 2d/3d EFX.

Megan said...

I don't understand a thing: is Ron & John Polynesian movie a CGI movie? or it will have Paperman style? What's about this? Is it a movie based on a book, or folktales or original story?

Alice Marie said...

Princess and the Grog, Steve? :)

Steve Hulett said...

I don't understand a thing: is Ron & John Polynesian movie a CGI movie? or it will have Paperman style? What's about this? Is it a movie based on a book, or folktales or original story?

I've seen test footage. Won't look like a traditional hand-drawn feature. Not sure if it's original or an adaptation. I think original, but could be wrong.

Diablo said...

PATF was not a good movie. Neither was Tangled.

Anonymous said...

MY OPINION IS MORE VALID THAN YOUR OPINION!!! RAAAAAGE!

Give it a rest, Diablo.

Kenneth Elliott said...

John Lasseter is such a big hypocrite. Whatever happened to the man who claimed that *story* was king? Whatever happened to the man who said he was going to protect the studio's legacy and heritage? Whatever happened to the visionary artist and the risk-taker who helped make Pixar the studio it is today?

This news disheartens and sickens me, especially in light of Paperman's bold throwback to a simpler graphic style. I was excited for the studio's artistic future. I really was.

Using the TPATF logic, Andrew Stanton should be gone, along with Jerry Bruckheimer; weren't John Carter and Sorcerer's Apprentice also in the "disappointment" category?

Megan said...

Dear Steve, thank you very much for your answer. I think hand drawn could go in a new direction, what I see from Paperman is stunning, so I think CGI could be mixed with hand drawn animation and create something of new, fresh and stunning.
I think (and hope) Ron & John will create a new masterpiece with a new style, like Paperman, so hand drawn animation could be live again, with something of cgi.
I don't hate CGI, I think CGI and hand drawn are 2 different approach of animation, so I hope people could understand this, CGI is brillant, hand drawn is great, I think some there are movies which are better in CGI and movies which are better in hand drawn.

Just a final little question, Steve: could you tell me if Ron & John movie will be a movie with human characters like for example Aladdin, Hercules, Little Mermaid or it will be an animal movie like Basil of Baker Street or Lion King (I know Lion King isn't directed by Ron & John)?

David said...

The really frustrating thing is that Lasseter's extreme conservatism when it comes to hand-drawn features is what has created this situation. They made a film that was too careful, too much of a retro piece and now because it didn't do great box-office numbers they pre-judge every other hand-drawn movie proposal as "too risky" . Let me be clear on something: I liked Princess and the Frog a lot. (but I'm of that generation) PATF was a nice enjoyable movie , but it was in fact a throwback. It felt like a movie that audiences had seen before . They needed to go bold , do something fresh with the art direction and story on a hand-drawn feature (and let's be honest: the hand-drawn features made at Disney, even in Walt's day, have barely scratched the surface in terms of different art direction and styles that are possible in hand-drawn -- just look at the wider world of animated shorts and independent animated features beyond Disney to see what's possible. The artists at Disney are among the best in the world. They could DO that sort of thing if they were set free from the extreme artistic conservatism that held them back.

Instead , J.L. greenlit and exec produced a very retro feature and got a soft response from the movie going public . He had an active role in driving that movie and instead of manning up and admitting his mistakes he's now distanced himself from his former championing of hand-drawn features and hurt the future of hand-drawn movies at Disney .

Very disappointing that his ego won't allow him to admit that the problem was with the type of movie he chose to make , not the medium ( he needs to go back and listen to some of his old interviews circa 2006) .

And then there was was Winnie the Pooh. That is a movie no one needed to make and no one needed to see. Disney has already strip-mined that franchise. Enough. No one cares. They've seen it before, Mr. Lasseter. Where innovation was needed he basically channeled Ron Miller era thinking.

TashTish said...

They should go retro and release an all-pencil test feature. Richard Williams did it, and to great acclaim. FWIW, much personality seems to vanish just in the conversion tp ink-and-paint.

Diablo said...

"MY OPINION IS MORE VALID THAN YOUR OPINION!!! RAAAAAGE!

Give it a rest, Diablo."

Yes. I will do exactly as your highness says. I bow my head to your superior taste. NOT!
I never said my opinion mattered more than anyone elses. But some disney fanboys forget Disney has produced movies that do not cut the mustard! Many times. I just thought I'd be the one to remind them of this fact. You think PATF was all that? Really? You really think Tangled will be remembered ten years from now? not bloody likely!

d.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think Tangled will be remembered in ten years. Easily.

Juan Carlos Valdez said...

The future of hand drawn animation at Disney will not be at Disney until someone else is successful with it again. Then, Disney will jump right back on board the Hand Drawn Animation Wagon and make claims like "hand drawn animation is our tradition and this is where it belongs"... I love Disney but honestly, this is very disappointing news. Hand drawn animation is just a different medium to make an animated film . It still has a place in the industry currently, it's not going anywhere, it's way better than CG. Btw, the real reason Tangled made more money than Princess and the Frog was because the execs gave more attention to Tangled and there was more marketing for it as well. The execs put the blame on the audience that the audience wants CG and not hand drawn. This is completely untrue. When Ron and John hinted that their film would be hand drawn animation at CTN-X, the audience went crazy... it was an audience full with animators... but we, the animators are the audience. The future of hand drawn animation is with independent studios...

Clover Glynn said...

Tangled grossed that amount mainly due to timing and marketing not because of the format. If you re-leased any of the old Disney movies and gave them the kind of marketing and promotion that Tangled got they would make a mint too. I personally prefer old hand drawn style. The attempt at hyper realism in animation is not art. The original use of CGI for seamless effects in live action film has poisoned the well for CGI use in other areas. It all seems to be either trying to look as 'real' to life as possible, which defeats the purpose of animation,or creating something nauseatingly artificial e.g. Cars. The gentleness, warmth and romanticism of old style animation is being forgotten and lost to a new generation. What child can watch and love a CGI animation and then rush to their art box and try to do it themselves? Just the other day I saw an ad on TV for an art programme on a computer. A little girl was painting and drawing on a computer screen and printing off the results. It was heartbreaking.

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