Thursday, July 19, 2007

In Praise of the Disney Sequels

Sharon Morrill should draw comfort from this.

Dan Kois rhapsodizes about the artistic quality and the lilting story notes of some recent sequels to older Disney classics:

[H]ave you ever actually watched one of Disney's DVD sequels? If you're expecting half-assed hack-work, you're in for a surprise. Lady and the Tramp II (2001), Bambi II (2006), and Cinderella III (2007), to take three recent examples, are certainly not perfect, but they're worthy successors to the originals, carrying the well-worn stories forward with care and charm. What's more, the movies tell their stories in the classic animation mode, using hand-drawn images, winning songs, and an energetic but not hyperactive style that has entertained children since Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

I haven't seen any of the films listed above, but I've walked often enough through the studio where they were being crafted, and I can tell you that what Mr. Kois says about the care taken with layout, characters and the quality of drawings is true. Disney spent one hell of a lot of time and expense getting the films to look good, as the clips that I've seen certainly do.

I spent a couple of afternoons with background artist Bob Schaefer, who walked me through the backgrounds he was doing for Lady and the Tramp II, and though they were created with Photo Shop rather than paint, they were (are) gorgeous. And Bob went down to the Disney Australia studio (since shuttered) to make sure the crew down there got the backgrounds just right.

And I thought art director Carol Police did a great job on the art direction I saw on Bambi II.

How were the stories of these films? I don't really have much of a clue, since I haven't seen them, although a DisneyToons staffer who worked on Little Mermaid III told me: "The film is a prequel, and I thought they did a great job of tying things together from the original movie. It's a cute movie."

You want a review of Bambi III, Cinderella III, and Lady and the Tramp II, you'll have to delve into Dan Kois's article. The only Disney sequel I have a strong opinion about (because I've actually seen it) is Jungle Book II. The visuals on that feature I found to be top notch, the characters wonderfully drawn and the animation quite good, the backgrounds rich and colorful.

And the story of JB II? Sadly, it's a pale copy of the original and pretty thin gruel.


Anonymous said...

I never saw JB2, but in all truth wasn't the first Jungle Book's story pretty thin at best too? Aside from some fun musical numbers and some great animation - Kahl's best stuff - there really wasn't all that much there. If Jungle Book was made today exactly as it was then I suspect it wuldn't stand up to the critical analysis that most of the films undergo these days.
Though JB was certainly better than most of the other Disney films from this period.

Anonymous said...

but where is the risk?

there is none. that is why they make these sequels because they are guaranteed an audience by carrying a classic's title. its pure cowardice and creative impotence. i haven't seen the sequels, but is this guy seriously telling me that i'm going to be blown away by the story?!?

newsflash to Mr Kois: there is only about 9 or 10 stories. the ceiling on original stories was hit ages ago. the fact that you are lauding a story makes you look like you know very little about films.

but lets just say the stories are amazing, brilliant and new... why do they have to be riding the coat tails of a classic? the answer: because the Disney executives are too chickenshit to risk their reputation on a new property. the would rather have the art form languish in stagnation and put money, talent, and time into characters we've all seen before.

if you don't take risks, you are a nobody, and thats exactly who is responsible for shamelessly cannibalizing its classic library: nobody executives.

thankfully there are worthy creative people back in charge over there to clear out these hacks.

JJ2000426 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Gotta agree with anonymous 2....

Not trying to belittle the efforts of the artists involved though.


Anonymous said...

Well, I agree with JJ2000426 - not to belittle the other self-righteous anonymous statements or anything...

Steve Hulett said...

The sequels had built in audiences. That's why they got made (to a large degree it's found money.)

The new strategy for DisneyToons going forward seems to be: older characters from the Disney franchises might be used in new dvd features, but they won't be doing knockoffs of the originals.

The new direction on Tinker Bell underlines this. Tink is -- as far as I know -- the only character from Peter Pan. Peter's absent, as is Hook, Smee, Wendy et al.

In the older version that was jettisoned, characters from the original appeared.

Tobias Schwarz said...

Most of the sequels are actually much better than they sound!

Anonymous said...

Making money without risk? That sounds like an irresistable business venture. The sequels will be back once the revenue stream starts to be missed. probably with some announcement about "improved quality" to cover the backtracking.

Anonymous said...

The author of the article is a close personal friend of sharon morrill's.

Anonymous said...

Most of the audience for these movies are not washed up or uptight artists/animators. Therefore, most people enjoy them more than we'd like to think. I agree, they'll be back once the revenue is missed.

John S. said...

The sequels cheapen the Disney name. They are substandard kidvid. Nothing more.
Championing mediocrity in the name of money is one of the reasons this country is in the state it's in.
Go John and Ed!!!

Anonymous said...

Mediocrity is in the eye of the beholder. Most would never consider 101 Dalmations, but Unca Walt hated it.

But I do feel a lot better (as I'm sure we all do) knowing that you're there to tell us what is acceptable and what isn't.

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