Thursday, March 09, 2006

Disney+Pixar -- It's official

Party Time? The mandatory 45-day waiting period (mandated by the SEC) for the Pixar purchase by Disney expires in a couple of minutes, and the deal will be official (pending the Pixar proxies) by the time I publish this post. We've already heard some big changes at the Mouse House, but I wouldn't be surprised if we hear some more news tomorrow now that the deal is really done. Friday is also the Disney shareholder's meeting in Anaheim. Hmmm, now that I think about it, perhaps the deal was announced 45 days ago specifically so the official onset would coincide with the shareholder's meeting... That's quite a change from the last few shareholder's meetings with Eisner in charge. They were scheduled at times and in locations that were designed to minimize actual shareholders coming and speaking. My guess is this one will be like a big celebration, with Lasseter and Jobs (and maybe Roy?) being featured speakers. Steve Hulett will be attending, and I'm sure we'll get a full report. Are the Cheapquels dead? As for changes at Disney, some of the latest scuttlebutt I've been hearing involves DisneyToon Studios, the direct-to-video division that has been a cash cow for the company for years (and the source of the little loved but profitable "cheapquels"). The word I hear is that the cancellation of Chicken Little 2 wasn't an isolated decision, and that DisneyToon won't be doing any more sequels to the features. They will instead focus on "franchises." That is, more iterations of Winnie the Pooh, stories involving the Disney "princesses," and maybe some Wizard of Oz movies. I've heard of a few other possible "franchises" but I'll keep quiet on those. I do have to ask (assuming this is true), how is it that stories about the Disney princesses don't count as sequels?


Anonymous said...

I'll tackle that question if I may. : )

The "princesses" don't count as sequels because--so far--the DTVs that have been done are omnibus neo-TV special collections of "stories" that feature characters dawn from all over the place--they are far from direct sequels to any existing film. Think of them rather like shorts or again, TV specials. Same thing gos for Pooh: those always were shorts, albeit long-form ones in several cases. Totally dissimilar to a long-form, film classic story like "Bambi" or "Pinocchio".

A true sequel would be a "film" plot directly tied to ALL the main characters from the original film--and that's exactly what they don't want to be doing now. That's my take, anyway.

Kevin Koch said...

Good answer, and it's pretty much the way I understood things. But that line of reasoning still doesn't convince me that all of this is a real step in the right direction.

The problem with the cheapquels was that they were so cynically done -- shabby recreations of the original movie's key elements, but dumbed down for tiny tots. They were meant to be safe, video babysitters. 'Lion King 1 1/2' tried (and succeeded) in being more, but most were just exercises in creating cash flow.

I think several (but certainly not all) of the original movies could easily have had sequels with interesting stories in their own right. There was no reason not to shoot higher, as was done in 'Toy Story 2' and 'Shrek 2.'

The problem was that the filmmakers had their hands tied by production heads. They weren't allowed to shoot higher. I don't think you solve that problem by saying "no sequels," then taking "the princesses" (man, I hate such artificial groupings) out of their original context, and away from the supporting characters and settings that made them work, and focus on that one aspect. I know little girls love "princesses," but if that's the reason to go in this direction, then it seems just as cynical, and even more destructive to the original movies.

The theme of those original movies wasn't "I need to become a princess, because life sucks if you're not a princess." But by institutionalizing the princess part of the dramatic equation, I wonder if that doesn't becomes the new theme.

Or maybe I've missed some part of it that makes it a great idea. ;)

Anonymous said...

I agree with you...I guess that there must be so much revenue(even with the recent downturn of the home video market)in the princess "franchise" that even JL can't get the marketing gurus to leave that one alone. Well, we'll see. I think their negative impact on animation is totally negligible, and gives a good number of overqualified artists some work besides.

I worked on several of the DTVs and I felt the same way you described: that there was NO reason NOT to either do NEW material with new characters, or at least characters that didn't clash with beautifully, painstakingly original films. That, or try and go about approaching a sequel honestly, as TS2 did: board the bloody thing from scratch with a good enough premise rather than hiring a hack(sorry, but it's true) to pound out a talky pastiche.
To let you know how clueless the execs were re: the sequels..? One bigshot, having just watched "Scamp's Adventure" in story reel form after a year of production, gave as his big note: why had "that song in the dog pound" been cut from the film? The director/producers were baffled. there was no such song in their sequel. He persisted: "You know--the one the sexy dog sings to the girl dog?"
"You mean--the Peggy Lee number? 'He's a Tramp'?"
"YEAH! Where's that? That was great!"
The "creatives" had the unenviable task of telling the Super-VP that that truly great number was in the original, 1953 version of the film...not in their low-budget video sequel. It didn't faze him. He really saw that little difference. Which was the whole, horrible problem right there in a nutshell. Thank goodness those days are over.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Pixar-Disney merger: It was mentioned by Iger at today's stockholder meeting. RObert Iger said that, indeed. the 45-day waiting period is over, and after Pixar sends out their proxies, the merger will take place. Probably in late April or early May.

Kevin Koch said...

Anon, that is a priceless story -- it really does sum it all up in a nutshell.

Hey, Lady does count as a princess, doesn't she? Maybe there's still a chance to redo that Peggy Lee song in a sequel, er, I mean a franchise film.

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