Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Midas Touch...


It appears the winning streak of John Lasseter and the Lamp continues...

Pixar has an unparalleled string of successes since it's first film "Toy Story" way back in 1995. Saying that makes me feel so old... sigh.

But the fact of the matter is that John Lasseter still remains on top of the mountain of success waiting for someone to unthrone him. And we know that there are many that wish to do so. Not just to stake their own claim as the new champion, but also to diminish the methodology that Pixar has used to get where it's at. Many Suits, most around Hollywood, but a few inside the Mouse as well that can't wait for a failure so they can finally say what they've always known:

"John Lasseter is human".

Well, that would come as news to those of us that believe he walks on water. Or at least that's how you're perceived if you have faith in what Lasseter and Catmull have been working at achieving for the last few years. To not recognize all the warts and all is to raise him to some higher plain that he doesn't belong. For me it's simply a matter of valuing the positive over the negative. It's a matter of priorities and I find it far too easy to be negative towards everything these days. I know that someday a movie greenlit by John and Ed will fail. It may be an all out bomb or it may just "disappoint" at the box office, but it will happen. It's the law of averages. Nothing last forever... including the Lamp's winning streak.

Now that that's out of the way, let's move on to a more interesting take on the subject of Lasseter. The intense amount of scrutiny and pressure he has been under since Pixar was adopted by Disney. No longer just someone spending the night, Pixar is now a full fledged part of the Disney family. Everyone expects everything that he touches will turn to gold. They expect it.

There is a pressure, an expectation that John can and will deliver "Pixar-Quality" animated films as well as "Pixar-Sized" profits over the next few years. Will it happen... maybe. One never knows, but the truth is the product will be better. The stories will be better. The conception from beginning to end will be better. Now, will it have "Finding Nemo" type box office? I'm not quite sure of that. It will be a better collection of films than the last few that were conceived in a committee of Suits and Creatives. Not that there won't still be tons of notes... they just will be coming from people that actually know how to tell a story, not how to read a budget sheet.

One might wonder if Bob Iger and his team may be placing their expectations way too high for John. He is after all only human, right? From what I know Bob has his head on straight and isn't looking for "Bolt" to make a billion dollars. He realizes that there are preconceptions people have and he doesn't appear to be falling under the notion that the next Walt Disney animated film will be the box office champ of the year. Most people working on the film will tell you that the Mouse will be very happy if the film does well. Not great, but well. This first film from the new regime is going to cost a pretty penny with all the start-stop, replacing of directors, in development, story changes. A lot. A WHOLE lot... more than I can tell you, but if the film stops the slide at the box office and begins to eliminate the perception of Disney films being inferior to Pixar films then "Bolt" will have done its job and it will be well worth it.

And it'll only have set the plate for "The Princess and the Frog" which is getting good vibes inside Burbank walls. And that film will establish the fact that Disney is back in animation and "Bolt" was only the beginning... this also says nothing about "Rapunzel" which has white-hot buzz about it from people I've spoken with.

So by the end of the decade Walt Disney Animation Studios could be a world, a galaxy even, away from the world that Walt Disney Feature Animation occupied only a few years earlier. That's what happens when you can create box office gold...

You create the standard.

23 comments:

TheSuckersThePikersTheOnesWhoMightHaveBeen said...

If everyone copied the Pixar formula for conceiving good films instead of conceiving sellable products, that'd be great.

Kung Fu Panda was probably only as good as it was because Jeffrey Katzenberg didn't take the time to hold the crew back because he had Jerry Seinfelds cock in his mouth. The title sounds like a typical Dreamworks feature but then Jeffrey broke his glasses on Seinfelds belt buckle.

Honor Hunter said...

Please try and use "other" language when stressing your points, please...

I know we all have strong feelings, but don't use words like that. We try and keep this site PG-13, k?

Future posts should bear this in mind. I don't want to have to delete anyone's opinion...

Spokker said...

Haha it was pretty funny though. I hate Seinfeld.

I really wish there was a place to discuss Disney stuff uncensored.

Honor Hunter said...

Not so much censoring Spokker... just asking that when you walk in you be mindful of who is reading. Just like when you go to a Disney theme park you should watch your language since families and children are around... k?

If you want to create an X-rated Disney site feel free. It's just not here, that's all.

Mr Matt said...

So Honor, what are your feelings on Bolt? Are you expecting it to do well from what you've seen, or are Disney already cutting their losses even before its been released?

Honor Hunter said...

From what I've heard it's pretty good. The artist working on it are proud and working very hard to make sure it's done by its November release. They barely got the trailer done in time to be released in front of "Wall-E". But it sounds good... "The Frog and the Princess" and "Rapunzel" sound great. Great. Think of "Bolt" as "The Great Mouse Detective" and "Princess" as "The Little Mermaid" with "Rapunzel" being the new "Beauty and the Beast"...

Corruption said...

A couple of things:

The Great Mouse Detective/Mermaid/Beast comparison is a bit subjective. I personally feel The Little Mermaid is a better film, but I get your point.

Also, don't let Jim Hill read this. He might start writing more articles about how much buying Pixar is destroying Disney! :-O

Honor Hunter said...

I never said GMD was better than TLM, I simply felt it was the start of the new films that began the Second Golden Age...

"Little Mermaid" is better than "Mouse Detective" as "Beauty" is better than "Mermaid". Of course, that's subjective naturally...

"Beauty" is my favorite Disney animated film.

Corruption said...

Oh Honor Hunter,

We are forever stuck in a cycle of misunderstanding. I was saying TLM>BB>GMD, which I know that you disagree with, but I certainly don't look at GMD as anything other than filler. It's not "bad," but it's certainly not "great," either, which is funny, considering it's called "The GREAT Mouse Detective."

I do like B&B, but I'd have to vote for Cinderella or Lilo & Stitch as my favorite, followed by Mermaid, then B&B.

I'd actually put Pocahontas on that list, too, but I can't get past the historical inaccuracies. Couldn't they have just changed the names? Then it would have been spectacular! :)

Anonymous said...

Honor,
Beauty and the Beast is my all time favorite animated Disney film too. Have you heard any rumors (other than the ones about Mermaid) about any upcoming attractions based on the Second Golden Age films for the parks?

Geoff C. Bassett said...

While I would admit that bolt looks better than other disney fare (Beverly Hill Chiwawa made me cringe horribly, and people in my theater litteraly groaned aloud during the preview). I have a feeling Disney's past track record is going to hurt this at the box office. I also must note that the sync/voice acting of his female co-star seemed slightly week. Plus I believe people are a little tired of kids films with dogs in the lead role.

I also feel that the way the trailer was edited made the film seem like another throwaway Disney feature.

Anonymous said...

Very well articulated Honor.

I think you managed, in this one post, to squelch those critical of you for your faith in Lasseter and the current Disney regime, with simple, plain-spoken logic. Kudos.

And we shall all continue to hope and pray that Lasseter n' company, don't let us down.

Anonymous said...

I think Bolt will do better than expected. Its trailer has gotten great reactions from my fellow audience members every time I've seen it. And its central character is very appealing. I'm looking forward to it myself, and that's a 180-degree-turn from my first reaction when I read about its controversial beginnings.

M.Sedlar said...

I'll probably skip "Bolt." Animated films should be much more than just talking animals in a series of comedic situations. That has been the Dreamworks template for how many films now?

The thing about Pixar is that not every film is amazing, but every film is good. "A Bug's Life" and "Cars" are probably my least favorite Pixar films, but I still really like them. Even if Pixar manages to make a bad film one day, it will be 20 times better than "Beverly Hills Chihuahua." (Seriously, who gave the green light to that?)

HL said...

Take a Mac, remove the Apple logo and replace it with a Windows logo. It will feel like an Apple knockoff, even if it's guts are genuine Apple.

Take a Pixar film, done the Pixar way, with Pixar quality, and brand it a different way ... and it will feel like a Pixar knockoff. If Wall-E was branded Disney, it would be called "Good, but not good as, a Pixar film".

I think that Disney needs to re-find it's own 'voice', not appropriate Pixar's, or they're just going to feel like Pixar knockoffs, no matter how good.

Say what you want about Dreamworks movies, but they don't feel like they're trying to be Pixar.

Disney needs to do the same, without sucking.

Todd said...

You know what's interesting? If you go to boxofficemojo.com and look at the day-by-day box office comparison of Wall-E and Kung-Fu Panda, they are actually running about the same. I was shocked by this, because the coverage and media response is defintely in Wall-E's favor. It will be really interesting to see the final tally for each film.

I'm hoping and guessing that Wall-E will have really strong legs, but what is "success" for this film? Is it enough for it to crack $200 million like "Ratatouille"? Or does it need to get at least $250 (passing "Cars") and approximately match "Monsters Inc" and "Incredibles" to be justify the hype and satisfy expectations? Doesn't it need to reverse the trend line that has each Pixar flick since Nemo grossing less than the one before?

I'm asking this honestly, so PLEASE do not lump me in with JHM and other Pixar naysayers. I love Pixar and everything they touch, but I was jsut surprised that when you look at the numbers and compare them around, Wall-E isn't doing that much differently then Panda, Ratatouille, and Cars. I'm defintely rooting for the little robot to succeed.

-Doopey

Spokker said...

It looks like the box office for Wall-E isn't going to be a problem. But like Ratatouille, Wall-E is weak when it comes to merchandise sales.

I think that Pixar pays for their right to do "art films" by making Cars and Cars 2, which does well at the box office and also sells a ton of merchandise. Toy Story 3 is also in the works, and that will no doubt bring an updated line of Woody dolls.

Kids aren't going to nag their parents to buy a Wall-E toy if they were falling asleep during the movie. Everybody I know is saying their their kids weren't that into this movie or Ratatouille, but that they loved it.

Todd said...

Spokker-

I think/hope the merchandising on Wall-E will turn out a little better than Ratatouille. One thing Disney did really well was to market the character of Wall-E rather than the story of Wall-E. And I think that was pretty smart, because the character is amazing. Even if kids didn't completely love the movie (mine loved it, fwiw), I think they will still really dig the robot. But I guess time will tell.

-Doopey

Honor Hunter said...

My best friends kid was losing interest in the movie about an hour into it. Once the movie was over he turned to his father and asked for a Wall-E toy.

He defies your theory Spokker... I can't say that for everyone, but we'll have to wait and see.

As for Kung Fu Panda...

Truthfully, as much as I enjoyed "Wall-E", I enjoyed "Kung Fu Panda" more and so did all my friends. Now if Dreamworks Animation could keep up that level of quality then the Mouse would have some real competition.

Corruption said...

Honor,

I'll be honest and admit that I haven't seen Kung Fu Panda, but it just doesn't look good to me.

Everything about Dreamworks Animation irks me. I have yet to find any of their films watchable and I've viewed all of them, mercifully (most) on Netflix.

Every single one of them comes across as crass, and relies too heavily on celebrity voices (Mike Myers, Will Smith, etc.) and snarky post-modernity.

I was super excited to see Kung Fu Panda (it looked different enough from the usual DWA fare), then I saw the trailer where Po sits on Tai Lung's face. Game over. That just doesn't hold any appeal to me. And maybe I'm looking to into it, but I feel like each character represents some sort of diversity quota, which to me seems calculated and bizarre and that's part of what's driven me crazy about Shrek, etc.

KFP is already in my "saved" Netflix queue and I'll be bumping it up once it's out on DVD/Blu-ray, but dear lord, it looks terrible. Then again, I'm the one being a bastard about Bolt, too. Which (in the interest of full disclosure), I might also add is reduced in stature to me by the inclusion of Scientolotard John Travolta :(

And I'd like to make it very clear that I actually enjoy High School Musical and Hannah Montana, so I'm not averse to pop culture silliness, I just feel like animated features should strive for timelessness.

Honor, is Kung Fu Panda timeless? Really?

Honor Hunter said...

I don't remember calling it timeless...

But I enjoyed it more than Pixar's latest... that being said, I still loved "Wall-E", but I'd run out of fingers and toes if I started counting the number of people I know who've seen both and prefer KFP to W-E. Remember, this isn't saying the robot is bad... it's on my Top 10.

Kung Fu Panda is higher.

And if you wait for Netflix, Corruption, so be it... but it looks much better on a big screen than on a television. You'll miss some of the beauty of the backgrounds.

It's an hour and twenty or so minutes of your time. I'd take that time and watch it once. If you don't...

Your loss.

Corruption said...

Honor,

I guess I just don't see the appeal to the film. What am I missing that others seem to see?

Tangentially, do you find that WALL-E may end up being a more timeless film compared to KFP?

I'd really like to give KFP a chance, but I can't get over my "DWA sucks" mentality, plus I really don't feel like dropping another $10 on a movie right now, considering that I'm booked (in some cases double-booked) through mid-August on Friday night movie premieres.

Bob & Rob "Professional American Writers" said...

Great article, as usual Honor. The"Spirited" debate is always fun to follow. Never disappointed when we drop by.