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Thursday, 13 January 2011

Why Disney Doesn't Care What You Think

Written by Alex McIntyre

You can’t deny that Walt Disney Pictures has been the leader in animated family films, churning out hit after hit – oh wait, this blog isn’t from the ‘90s.  Unfortunately that aint the case anymore as it seems Disney has ran out of steam this past decade, going through a major creative overhaul in the process.  The first half of the 2000s saw some tremendous flops for the studio.  Treasure Planet?  Home on the Range?  Brother Bear?  These films were destined to disappoint after the immense success that the ‘90s brought to Disney, but the numbers for these films were shockingly bad.  Home on the Range didn’t even make back its budget; that NEVER happens to them.  The 2D animation department was sadly shut down in 2004 and Disney tried a new creative direction for their films.  What are all the kids into these days? COMPUTERS!  And so Disney stumbled into the computer animation arena, releasing three mediocre pictures that were neither failures nor successes.  You may have seen Meet the Robinsons, but did you enjoy it? 

Enter John Lasseter; when the guru behind Pixar, Walt Disney Imagineering and Generally Good Films steps on the scene you know some changes have to be made.  First order of business: bring back what made Disney so special in the first place.  The 2D animation department was temporarily revived, and the result is a charming little film The Princess and the Frog which gave us a Disney princess unlike any other.  Feminism and race issues?  That’s deep, man.  It felt current, and deliered a new message: wishing upon a star isn’t gonna cut it anymore kids.  You have to work for it, and that made this film unique.  This was the first Disney flick in over a decade to be a fairytale as well as feature musical numbers.  The story was so ancient and magical it actually felt original.  What does that have to say about the slate of animated films this decade?  Well, you have Dreamworks to thank for that.  For every Finding Nemo there’s been a Shark Tale, and for every Despicable Me there’s a Megamind.  Yeah, Dreamworks aint so fresh on ideas.  But A-list voice actors + tired pop culture references = makin’ money, and unfortunately THAT is the important thing.  Their most recent effort Megamind grossed over $300m worldwide.  Princess didn’t.  Boo hoo.
Was the reason to blame having the word “Princess” in the title, shutting off the male audience?  Course not That’s Disney’s excuse as their next film (computer animated in 3D) got a ridiculous name change from the elegant and traditional sounding Rapunzel to Tangled.  Let’s take a look:

As the trailer says, she’s been grounded “Like, forever!”  Expect a battle-of-the-sexes comedy in which these characters will find something more important than their destination: each other.  Hilarity will most certainly not ensue.  There's been a great amount of uproar on the web about Disney’s sliding reputation, and their 3D computer efforts are being targeted.  Whose fault is it that 2D animation is dying?  The fancy studio executives?  The growing 3D trend?  Sorry folks, but it’s ours.  Truth is we get bored easily, we’re impatient and a slave to trends.  Don’t hate on Disney for their executive decisions, ’cause they have no choice but to be a sheep right now. You can be mad at Disney for giving up on the most well-regarded and timeless animation form of all time, but it is us who gave up on them.
So what is the future for 2D animation?  Disney has produced one more 2D film to make-or-break their future in this format.  A revival of Winnie the Pooh will be released July 15, 2011.  Y’know what else is released that day?  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.  Ah.  Do Winnie and the gang have any chance at even getting back their budget?  Mark that date in your calendars and go and see Winnie the Pooh; the fate of 2D animation rests in your wallets!  If not, then expect Pooh to be destroyed along with Disney’s charm, and the ink will be on your hands.

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