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.