Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Disney & Pixar

As I'm sure you've already heard, yesterday Disney bought Pixar for $7.4 billion. I had considered doing the same, but cashing in all of my DVD's, CD's, and everything else I own still left me about $7.4 billion dollars short.

My first reaction to hearing that Disney was going to buy Pixar looked something like Darth Vader in "Revenge of the Sith" when the Emperor tells him that Padme is dead. I think the dialogue goes something like this: "Nooooo!" I then carried my hopes and dreams to an open field where I began digging a grave for them and the whole animation industry.

My problem with this transaction was the "Disney" part of it. Pixar has released six movies since 1995... six of the best animated films ever: Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. Disney, on the other hand, has recently released Chicken Little, Home on the Range, Atlantis, and Treasure Planet. It's obvious who's making the best movies... and it's not Disney. In recent years, a lot of people who grew up loving Disney's animated films have lost faith in Disney and turned to Pixar. I am one of them. Pixar has become the new Disney.

When I heard "Disney Buys Pixar," my first thought was that Disney's executives were going to do the "Eisner" thing and get over involved in the creative process they know very little about and begin messing up Pixar's ability to make films. Then I started reading articles about the terms of the deal and the changes Disney intends to make to their own animation division, and now it seems I'm ready to climb back on the Disney bandwagon that I threw myself off of years ago.

Here are some of the things things that changed my attitude about the deal:
1) Ed Catmull (President of Pixar) will serve as President of both studios. Instead of bringing the Pixar people over to work for Disney, the Disney folks will now be working for the Pixar people. They didn't buy the company as much as they bought the leadership.
2) John Lasseter (the creative leader of Pixar) is going to be the Chief Creative Officer of both Disney's and Pixar's animation studios. Perfect! Lasseter's great! He has also been named the Principal Creative Advisor for Disney Imagineering. That's the group that designs and creates the theme park attractions... meaning good things for them too.
3) Bob Iger (CEO of Disney) said, "I have really deeply committed to seeing to it that Pixar is allowed to exist in the form that it has existed, because that in my opinion is the single greatest thing that we can do to ensure that Pixar continues to be successful." The two animation studios will retain their current locations, and with Iger's dedication to leaving Pixar alone, it looks like Pixar won't have to deal with the interference from Disney that I most feared.
4) Roy Disney approves... therefore so do I. Roy's been a huge supporter of animation, and if he likes this deal based on all he knows, I have to agree with him.
5) David Stainton resigned! Hooray! He's been the president of Disney's Feature Animation for several years, and he's largely responsible for Disney's recent, terrible films. He declared 2D animation dead and did a bunch of other things that made me not like him. The director of a recent Disney feature said, "I LOVE the idea of Lasseter taking over Disney Feature! The only thing that would be better is if David Stainton is tazered, maced, and peppersprayed, and then frogmarched out of the building, stuffed into a burlap bag, and thrown into the L.A. river." Looks like I'm not the only one who's glad to see him go.
6) There are reports that Lasseter and his creative team may reinstate hand-drawn animation at Disney. Traditional animation may be saved by this deal, and that alone would have me cheering even if everything else I've said was left aside.

To sum up - the articles I've read about the buy-out of Pixar have completely changed my mind on the topic. What I thought was going to be the death of animation may actually be the best possible thing for it. The future looks good. Don't judge Disney on their next couple of movies... the effects of this deal won't be seen in Disney's films for a few years, but things are looking up. Pixar is still the best... now Disney has a chance to be saved by them, and it looks like that's the plan.


Adrian Ropp said...

1. Holy crap, that was a long blog.
2. I agree whole-heartedly!
3. To the future!

Joe Fowler said...

I like what Pixar has done with cg films, but hand drawn excites me more. And by "excites me" I mean I need a little alone time now.