Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Later this month the future of Walt Disney Animation Studios really kicks into high gear and it's time we reflect on where it's going afterwards...
On November , WDAS' "Princess and the Frog" shows the world what Disney can do. And hopefully the public will show the Mouse some love by seeing this Frog and giving Disney some major green. That will go a long way toward job stability and a return to the high throne for Disney Animation. It'll take time. We won't start to see if Lasseter's plan for the animation division as a whole has worked until 2011 or 2012. By then enough films will have been released under his belt to give the public an idea of how successful his magic is at turning the Mouse around. Not that we won't get an idea with Frog or the upcoming "Rapunzel," but we won't be rushing to any judgements until we get our first glimpse of Disney's take on Phillip K. Dick's novella in the early part of the next decade.
Now, we've seen the list of films before, but some things have changed since Disney announced its lineup a little more than a year ago. Remember at that time there was no Disney film coming out in 2011. That looked to be an off year according to the schedule, until we found out earlier this year that Lasseter had decided to release a new hand-drawn picture based on untold stories of a silly ole' bear. That meant that we'd get a 2D film in 2009, a 3D film in 2010, another hand drawn in 2011, and finally another CG film in 2012. But since then a few projects have moved quietly along in development at the Hat Building. Right now it appears that somewhere after "King of the Elves" we'll get another Computer generated film. Somewhere between 2013-2014 there is the possibility that a project that died when Lasseter came to WDAS will be showing up in theaters. And it's something that will go perfectly in CG.
When John Lasseter first arrived at Walt Disney Feature Animation (former name of WDAS), he looked through all the projects and had to whittle down what was to be worked on. He had to make it lean. There would be only so much resources to go around and anything that wasn't needed, wasn't "Disney" or wasn't working was tossed. One of those projects was a film in development for several years called "Joe Jump."
Joe Jump was a project headed by Sam Levine, who is a very talented story artist working at the Hat Building. JJ was the story of an outdated video game character whom time had passed by. A fish out of water tale about a Pac-Man era game trying to make it in a Halo era world. When Lasseter looked at it he realized that, although the concept itself was quite good, the story wasn't coming together. So it got tossed. Or it got put back on the shelf; to use a better term. Nothing ever dies in animation, really. I guess Imagineering also since so many projects that got cancelled have wound up in other lands or parks.
But as of now, "Joe Jump" is back in active development. It appears that since the next slot available is going to be around 2013, the Story Trust think that there is enough time to fix the story problems and have it ready to go in four or five years. Interestingly, the Pixar film it may be paired with that year features a big, furry blue monster and his green, one eyed friend, just in case you were wondering. But as of right now, that's the plan. Sort of. Nothing is really put in stone. Remember how Pixar was going to release "Cars 2" in 2012 and then it got moved up a year? Well, things could shift like that, but as of now that's how it'll stand.
After that CG film there is talk of another classic hand-drawn film that is in very early stages. I don't have the name for it, but I have an idea as to what it is. It's had a name in the past but I don't know if they're going to be using it on the final project so right now I'll just refer to it as "untitled." Let's just say that it will be another sweet, hauntingly beautiful 2D animated film that will fit the current direction of the studio. I hope to have more about this project later if all goes well.
And then there is Chris Williams' film that he's working on. This project should be just about to come out by this time as well. Now, not many are privy to his ideas, but he's the wunderkind that Lasseter has singled out and his work is going to be put on the front burner when he finally moves forward with it. And from what I've heard it'll also be computer animated, but Chris has been rather hush-hush about it. So we'll have to wait to hear more about this one sometime next year. Hopefully. But don't expect it to surface before 2012-2013.
Both of these projects will bring us up to 2015, which will almost be an entire decade of Ed Catmull and John Lasseter being in charge of the animated division of the Mouse. And I'm sure they're going to have something special planned. As to what it is? I don't have a clue. There are many projects in various states of readiness there right now and it could wind up being any one of them.
So for those of you that need to see a time line of everything after the Frog:
Winnie the Pooh 2011
King of the Elves 2012
Joe Jump 2013-14
Untitled hand-drawn film 2012-2013
Untitled CG film by Chris Williams 2012-13
By the time this last movie is out the Mouse House should be putting out about one film a year. Just like it did in the early nineties, only this time the story won't be sacrificed by the Suits desire to just see dollars. There will be a new CG animated film approximately every 18 months and a hand-drawn film approximately every 24 months. Within the time line that should work out to an animated film between every 12 to 14 months. Not too bad. And that's just from the Southern California Branch of Disney Animation. The Northern Branch, aka: Pixar will have it's own films released yearly too. But that's a story for another time on another day in another post.
And you'll have to wait a while for that post...