The BLOG FLUME - Mass Confusion

If traditional animation's not dead, Disney seems intent on killing it with bad films. More Mouse: It might or might not have the rights to Harry Potter, but it does have... Wallace and Gromit?

From Kevin Baxter
Posted August 15, 2003 at 2:34 PM
2-D OR NOT 2-D
MousePlanet - Aug 14

That's right... another article on the death of traditional animation. Apparently the animation leader, Disney, is down to about 60 people who are so-called "2-D" animators. The rest have been retrained in computer animation or have been shown the door. Hell, Disney has even sold off the vast majority of the animation desks!

But none of that is new or surprising. The speed of the process may be, and all signs point to Disney's next (and final?) two traditional features, "Brother Bear" and "Home on the Range." "Home" is apparently so troubled that not only did it switch dates with "Bear" but it may end up costing Disney $175 million just to make. One Disney insider mentioned that a preview screening was a wretched experience for the audience - one member called the movie "more boring than church" - and would not be surprised if this feature was mentioned in the same sentence as "The Black Cauldron." Which wouldn't be a good thing, for all you young'uns out there.

And there doesn't seem to be hope on the horizon for Disney's computer-animated films either. Apparently Mickey's PhilharMagic in Orlando had to be redone because the 3-D characters looked so atrocious. And Disney continues to try weird things like animating the story and then computer-rendering it, just so it looks like computer animation.

Furthermore, Jeffrey Katzenberg's absence is still being felt. His successors apparently understand nothing about animation. In fact, the current head of animation there was apparently overheard saying he couldn't understand why "Finding Nemo" was such a big hit. As if that wasn't enough to scare you, Michael Eisner is on record as saying he wants to reanimate classic Disney movies in 3-D.

Traditional animation may not be dead, but Disney's future in the animation field sure seems to be staggering far too close to an open grave.

Jim Hill Media - Aug 15

Jim Hill has asked his plentiful sources inside Disney about the rumors about Disney having the Harry Potter license and came up with a big fat nothing. Either no one is talking, or the rights aren't sewn up. Yet.

Of course, all this rumor-mongering didn't come out of Disney but out of Universal's Bob Gault. And Hill did trace the story back to a point where Universal did actually create a Harry Potter stunt show to present to JK Rowling, but were told that the theme park rights had already been sold. Gault apparently took an educated guess and assumed they were sold to Disney.

If so, why hasn't Disney done ANYTHING about it? One Harry Potter attraction would certainly drive attendance far more than a Pooh clone or this PhilharMagic thing. And whatever it cost would be made back quickly. So does Disney really own the rights, or did Rowling just say this to keep the parks off her back?

Who knows? But the most interesting part of the article was a section that listed a few other properties Disney apparently has the license to but hasn't done a thing with. And to my horror, one of those misplaced properties is Wallace & Gromit! So what does this mean with the Wallace & Gromit movie opening next year? Will Disney still hold the rights? Will Universal get the rights to the characters since it will be a DreamWorks film? Does Disney only have the rights to the Wallace & Gromit in the shorts while Universal would have the rights to the film versions? Could Wallace & Gromit end up working for both companies? This stuff can get so confusing depending on the wording.

Orlando Sentinel - Aug 14
LA Times - Aug 15

In a space of less than 24 hours, Comcast has considered bidding on the Universal assets and then dropped out of the process. Comcast refused to meet Vivendi's $14B asking price but was apparently seeking a joint venture that seemed to stop far short of NBC's offer. Yet that didn't stop Jean-Rene Fourtou, auction wiz that he is, from threatening to release a statement mentioning the joint venture. Apparently Vivendi is scared NBC is going to ride the company hard and put it away wet.

The problem is NBC/GE might have been scared off by Comcast's Jesse Owens routine. Comcast had major experts check out Universal's financial information, including ones who were familiar with Universal's two previous sales, and it is thought they didn't like what they saw. Unlike Liberty Media or MGM, though, Comcast isn't expected to bid through the back door due to its recent acquisition of AT&T Broadband.

Which brings us right back to Disney. Analysts believe Comcast might have turned to Universal since it wasn't as huge as Disney and could be dealt with more easily. Apparently Comcast was expected to look into a Disney takeover next year, if their bottom line continues to improve. AT&T Broadband should be sucking in the cash and debt is expected to fall. Still, if Comcast wanted to badly enough it could afford the Universal assets right now. With profits on a fast climb, a Disney takeover next year would certainly be a possibility. It seems the biggest obstacle, apart from the takeover itself, would be finding a buyer for the theme parks, which Comcast apparently wants no part of. Could this actually benefit the parks? Could they end up forever on the block, like the Universal parks? This sure promises to be less boring than church!

From Anonymous
Posted August 15, 2003 at 2:51 PM
There are a few things here I
have to gripe about.

Home on the Range might end up costing over $175 million: I really doubt this is correct. Even Treasure Planet costed "only" 140 mil. Furthermore, "Home" likely will not have any of the expensive CGI sequences and backgrounds that "Planet" had. Also consider that since "Planet's" failure, disney has been making an effort to keep costs down on animated projects. I would say that 80 million, the budget for "Brother bear." While it is possible, I would be quite amazed if 175 mil is the correct figure.

Wretched preview screenings for Home on the Range: Keep in mind that this movie is still very much in development. Don't forget about a certain other recent animated movie that had advance screenings. Like "Home", this film did not click with audiences in these screenings, and was surrounded, for a while at least, by bad buzz. It was called "Finding Nemo."

The poor quality of the 3-d animation in "Mickey's philharmagic": This may be true, but I doubt that it is much of an indication as to the state of Disney's upcoming CG films. I believe that the problem is mostly due to the difficulty of turning a traditionally animated character into CG and still retaining the right look. This will not be a problem in original 3-d productions, though it might hinder CG straight to video sequels like Bambi 2 and Pinnochio 2 (Thank god). Certainly the pics of "Valiant" at the "Animated movies" website look adequate. They're not on par with Pixar, but are at least equal to the animation in, say, Ice Age.

Disney owning Harry potter: I've never heard this one, but wouldn't it be more likely that WB owns the rights? They have parks too, after all.

And finally, on the subject of the death of traditional animation at Disney: Nothing's said and done until "Bear" and "Range" come out. Like all studios, disney will go where the money is. So if these films are succesful, Disney will keep making them.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted August 21, 2003 at 2:30 AM
The film is expected to cost that much because basically the whole movie was redone. So it was like making 1 3/4 movies. Hence the 1 3/4 pricetag.

Yes, "Nemo" had bad early buzz, but most of that had to do with storyline leaks, which made the film seem like an underwater "Toy Story 2." But, unlike the other film, early previews for "Nemo" were riproaring successes.

From Anonymous
Posted August 24, 2003 at 12:20 PM
Not true.

To quote JimHillMedia's article from October 24, 2002:
"What's the hottest piece of gossip that's currently making the rounds in Tinsel Town? The news that Pixar Animation Studio recently held a test screening of "Finding Nemo" AND that the audience had a somewhat tepid response to the film."

Clearly, nuch of the bad buzz WAS caused by the test screening.

From Anonymous
Posted August 24, 2003 at 12:42 PM
Furthermore, a friend of mine attended a screening in April, and said that he film was "not bad" and that the audience reaction to it was pretty positive. He said that there were several dry spots -parts that were boring, unfunny, and did not contribute to the story- but that they were cancelled out by some very funny moments.

He gave the film a B-, which is not bad considering this is a sneak preview, and that the directors still have another year to tinker with the film.

Finally, on the "I don't get why Finding Nemo is doing so well" quote. I'm sure that that is taken out of content. It's really pretty simple-minded to believe Disney execs are THAT incompetent.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted August 25, 2003 at 12:03 AM
I don't think it is incompetence. More like arrogance. And that is just as bad, if not worse.

The screening I referred to was an early screening for theater managers that happen every year and "Nemo" was considered the best movie of the bunch. And most of the big summer movies were all presented.

From Anonymous
Posted August 25, 2003 at 9:31 AM
Mr. Baxter- if you could back up your claim I would be much more willing to believe you. I, however have quoted a pretty reputable source that backs up my claim.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted August 27, 2003 at 1:39 AM
About what? The theater manager convention? Look it up! Jeez, I ain't your slave. And I don't memorize all the papers I read. But I distinctly recall reading it because I had only heard bad things about "Finding Nemo" and was surprised over the reaction. Try the Vegas papers. I think that is where the convention is usually held.

From Anonymous
Posted August 30, 2003 at 2:35 PM
I DID look it up. And I found a source that proved MY point, and I quoted it above. Honestly I can't believe you told me to go find a contradictory article myself. Why would I want to prove myself wrong?

If you find me not worth the effort of an argument than that's fine, I'm probably not. If you don't want to admit you're wrong, well, I understand that too. But if you're not going to go out and find a source yourself, then at least admit you can't back up your claim.

Is that too much to ask?

(If you can find something to back it up with, then I'm more than willing to believe you)

From Kevin Baxter
Posted September 2, 2003 at 4:28 PM
You looked up the ShoWest convention article? So where is it? Funny but I couldn't find it. And I did end up looking. Even in the Vegas paper, which is where ShoWest takes place. If you don't want to believe that happened, then fine. I only remember it because I had heard bad stuff early on about "Nemo" also. But then I just read a report that claimed it was people inside Disney who were spreading those rumors to help them in the upcoming negotiations with Pixar. But I suppose you won't want to believe that either.

From Anonymous
Posted September 2, 2003 at 5:36 PM
No. You're not listening to me. I found a source that CONTRADICTED your argument. I quoted it, and wrote down the website

Not true.

To quote JimHillMedia's article from October 24, 2002:
"What's the hottest piece of gossip that's currently making the rounds in Tinsel Town? The news that Pixar Animation Studio recently held a test screening of "Finding Nemo" AND that the audience had a somewhat tepid response to the film."

Here it is again:

"To quote JimHillMedia's article from October 24, 2002:
'What's the hottest piece of gossip that's currently making the rounds in Tinsel Town? The news that Pixar Animation Studio recently held a test screening of "Finding Nemo" AND that the audience had a somewhat tepid response to the film.'"

You then told me that your information contradicted mine, but rather than providing a link or anything you instead told me to go look it up myself. In other words, you were telling me to have an argument wth myself. Why in the world would I search for a site that dispproved my own argument?

I do acknowledge the fact that much of the bad buzz for the film may have been caused by Disney, Jim Hill notes this; My point remains that a) Bad buzz does not necessarily mean that a film will be bad, and b) Bad buzz does not necesarily mean a film will do poorly at the box office.

I'm willing to believe you if you actually provide concrete evidence, or at least a source, that supports your points. You don't have to, but if you don't, I'll be forced to consider myself the victor of this argument.

From Anonymous
Posted September 2, 2003 at 6:04 PM
I can't believe I just used the word "victor" in a sentence.

This discussion has been archived, and is not accepting additional responses.

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