Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Beating a Tired Horse

This meme starts to get monotonous.

Frozen's" success shows the house that Walt built can compete with a sibling rival that is enduring layoffs and criticism of its sequel strategy even as box office booms.

The contrast couldn't have been more stark. On Nov. 22, Pixar Animation Studios laid off 67 employees, about 5 percent of its 1,200-person workforce, as the release of its next feature, The Good Dinosaur, was delayed 18 months to November 2015. ...

Splitting time between Pixar in Emeryville, Calif., and Disney's Burbank lot, [John] Lasseter gets credit for breathing life into WDAS, which stumbled through the 2000s with such flops as Home on the Range, Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons. But some question whether he is stretched too thin as his studios and other parts of the Disney empire, including consumer products and park design, vie for his attention.

This is really pretty simple.

The two studios/divisions have different work forces doing different projects with different pipelines. Not unlike a single animation studio with different projects and different crews/pipelines. (Where one project, say, is CGI and one is hand-drawn.)

The Good Dinosaur wasn't delayed because John Lasseter wasn't paying enough attention to Pixar. The Good Dinosuar was delayed because sometimes, here and there, with even the most talented people, stuff happens. Characters don't jell and stories don't come together and retooling is in order. This has been happening since the days of Snow White and Pinocchio.

And Frozen wasn't a hit because John Lasseter was lavishing oodles of loving care on The Hat Building in Burbank. It's because creative projects move to their own rhythms, and sometimes the end results and terrific, and sometimes less than terrific. (Cars 2 ain't up to the creative level of Toy Story 3, even though both were made with many of the same bright minds. And John L. was devoting lots of time to Cars 2 as director. Sometimes the choices made are simply less than sterling.)

Frozen was in development for years before it got a green light, as was Tangled before it. You didn't see the press saying the problem was John Lasseter's inattention. Because when those movies had their hiccups, they hadn't been greenlit and were off the media radar. So nobody was writing, "The Rapunzel picture is stumbling because John Lasseter is spread too thin."


Unknown said...

Steve, thank you for the work that you do with this blog. I'm eagerly awaiting the day you publish "The Mouse In The Seventies/Eighties" as a hard copy book. Your insight and experiences regarding that time period are absolutely fascinating.

Wasn't "The Snow Queen" in development as early as 1994? I'd have to re-read "Disney War," but I thought I remember Frank Wells asking about how production was going. The production history of "Frozen" is so intriguing. Undoubtedly, its success is incredibly gratifying for all who made the film a reality.

Thank you again for sharing this wealth of information and history with us!

Steve Hulett said...

I've got one more chapter (mostly written) of "Mouse in the Seventies/Eighties." My intent is to publish it as an E-book ... sometime.

The whole thing will run 35,000 words, I think. I will probably tweak and expand the thing a bit.

Anonymous said...

An interesting story of Frozen which is never told is that while working on "Princess and the Frog" the crew was told many a time that "Snow Queen" AKA "Frozen" was the studio's next hand drawn project and believe me we were all very excited. They had amazing artwork on the 3rd floor and we 2d people thought this was all very good. As soon as PATF was over it seemed that the decision to make "Snow Queen" hand drawn was tossed out. That news came across that management put out the news of "Snow Queen" being hand drawn as a dangling carrot to keep the PATF crew motivated but once they got their movie the truth came out. I saw "Frozen", not a bad film but it could of worked as a 2d film quite well, shoot it felt like somethng from the 90's with all the musical numbers. Disney killed off 2d cause according to them audiences were tired of animated musicals. Well from what I am seeing obviously the are not. Also supposedly 2d just costs too much, Frozen cost 150 million! PATF costs around 70 million, at least that is what was being touted at the studio while I worked on the film yet no website seems to support that figure oddly enough. I know Big Hero 6 is CG but that should be the film that shows what 2d is and can be but that's a pipe dream.

Unknown said...

Disney never said they were going to make Snow Queen as a hand drawn film. That is an indisputable fact. They only said no decision had been made. But the story wasn't working, and the mencken score was very weak (even though he attempted to get it started again as a broadway musical and failed. The music was much better than the dreck posing as music in the new film). The earliest development at the studio of that project was in the 1940's--mostly in script writing form (as all Disney features of that era were done).

I'm happy for the new film's success. It's a much better film in CG than it would have ever been as a hand drawn film. But the songs are terrible--buth in music and lyrics. And completely unnecessary. The film would have been a superior experience without them.

Steve Hulett said...

"Snow Queen" started life as a hand-drawn project (I talked to enough artists inside Hat to know), but the project was shelved by the main lot after "The Princess and the Frog" failed to do the box office that Diz Co. wanted. (Can we say "Richard Ross?" I knew we could ...)

I talked to Chris Buck and others at the time. Chris and his crew had JUST finished putting first-pass story reels of "Snow Queen" together, but the picture was put in deep freeze without a by-your-leave ... or anybody seeing it. (Lasseter wasn't down on the project at all. But the main lot wasn't interested in another hand-drawn project, OR another Princess movie. And those were two things that "Snow Queen" happened to be.)

But then, after "Tangled" did big business, Princess movies were okay again, and "Snow Queen" was dusted off and repurposed as a CG feature.

And here we are. With the movie doing boffo box office.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I remember when Ross came on board. Everyone was invited to over to the lot and we all met in one of the huge sound stages and he gave some upbeat talk. I think Frozen would of done as well as a 2d film as it has as a CG film. Either way Disney seems to have the confidence to carry themselves forward now but it would nice to not think that every film needs to be CG.

Steve Hulett said...

Young Mr. Ross came in like a house afire. He closed down Image Movers and moved Disney TVA off lot so the corporate lawyers were handy in the Frank Wells building.

Then his projects didn't perform, his new head of marketing -- who had no big studio background -- crashed and burned, and he managed to tick off Steven Spielberg.

And lo!

Young Mr. Ross was shown the door by Robert Iger. Shortest tenure of a Diz Co. studio head EVER!

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