Friday, April 18, 2008
Two Versus One...
By now you've all seen the announcement of WDAS and PAS's film slate for the next four years. It's a pretty ambitious schedule with ten films over the next four years. If you're like me, you've noticed a little something that runs through all ten of these films...
Pixar Animation Studios:
Summer, 2008 "Wall-E" directed by Andrew Stanton.
May 29, 2009 "Up" directed by Pete Docter.
June 28, 2010 "Toy Story 3" directed by Lee Unkrich.
Summer, 2011 "Newt" directed by Gary Rydstrom.
Christmas, 2011 "The Bear and the Bow" directed by Brenda Chapman.
Summer, 2012 "Cars 2" directed by Brad Lewis.
And then we have the Mouse...
Walt Disney Animation Studios:
November 26th, 2008 "Bolt" directed by Chris Williams & Byron Howard.
Christmas, 2009 "The Princess and the Frog" directed by John Musker and Ron Clements.
Christmas, 2010 "Rapunzel" directed by Glen Keane and Dean Wellins.
Christmas, 2012 "King of the Elves" directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker.
Other than Pixar's "The Bear and the Bow" holiday release in 2011 there is going to be a clear divide between Disney animated films and Pixar animated films.
Pixar films will be summer events.
Disney films will be holiday events.
And that's not all...
Pixar's films will be directed by one person.
Disney's films are all directed by two people.
Has this got you thinking that Disney features are getting the slight? They don't trust putting a Disney film in the big summer season. Or perhaps, they don't trust Disney animators enough to let only one person be the sole director? Have you had that thought running through your Disney Geek brain?
Well I understand it as well, but fear not. Everything will be fine. Everything will be all right. Lasseter isn't trying to play favorites and he doesn't believe in treating Walt Disney Animation Studios as a second class step child.
Unsure about that?
Let me unpack what I'm talking about...
While up north in Emeryville, Lasseter has developed a more personal relationship with the directors that he's worked with at the Lamp. Simply put... he knows them better. He's worked there with many of them for two decades in one fashion or another. He's only been at the Mouse for a little more than two years. He's put together directors on projects there that have strengths that will compliment one another and possibly give each director a fresh perspective on the others work. So it's not that he doesn't have as much faith in Disney as he does in Pixar. He just happens to be using that phrase "Two heads are better than one"... An example would be Glen Keane who is directing the new "Rapunzel" movie that is the Mouse's big 2010 holiday release. It's not that he doesn't trust Glen. In fact, he trust Glen very much and both are friends from way back(he and Glen animated a test for Where the Wild things are decades ago). But Lasseter is a great judge of people's strengths and weaknesses. He chose a co-director for Keane that had the strengths to compliment Keane's shortcomings in story. Dean Wellins is a man that Brad Bird has praised as boarding almost all of the "Iron Giant" and if you don't know what boarding is, it's essentially the layout and tone of how a film will go. If you've seen that film you will see the inherent strength of having Wellins work with Keane. Together, they're going to make one heck of a film. The buzz I'm hearing is beyond my expectations and my expectations are very high for this one, friends.
The same is the case with many of the other directors that Lasseter has chosen to direct the rest of the film slate at Disney. He's taken the best strengths of the people that he's gotten to know and fused them together. He doesn't have the time to see these guys and bond with them over a decade or more before he can entrust them with a hundred plus million dollar budget the way he has with most of the Pixar directors. Will we ever see another Disney film directed by just one person? Of course, but don't mind the fact that two people are working on all these projects. After all, many of the hits from Disney's Second Golden Age were directed by two people.
As for the Summer versus Christmas releases? Well the Mousestro doesn't want films from both divisions competing with one another for dollars that's the main reason that one gets a summer release and the other gets a holiday release. Pixar will handle the slot used to compete with the normal summer blockbusters and Disney will take up releasing films that generate that holiday cheer we all feel around that time of the year. The only exception to this is 2011(there goes that year again). It just happens that the way the production of Disney films is lined up that there won't be time to have one released in time for a Christmas 2011 opening so with Pixar's production slate lined up with more films that have already gone through the process it was determined that one of their pictures would take the Disney slot for that year. And if you look closely you'll notice that the picture taking that slot is a fairy tale. Pixar's first. That is one of the main reasons that this particularly film was slotted in to this date. Although it may not be Disney, it does follow the narrative Lasseter seems to be trying to schedule for the holidays. Disney Magic will be expected during this joyous time of the year.
So look forward to the new schedule of films coming out from both divisions of the Mouse. And when it comes to the appointing of directors and favoritism don't smell a rat. It's all part of the plan.