Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Disney Renaissance II: Indefinitely Postponed

People were hoping that The Princess and the Frog would be the turning point for Disney animation. Most folks who support the hand-drawn technique were anticipating that it'd revive the interest in traditional animation and perhaps even kick-start another Disney Renaissance. To a lot of people, it was supposed to be the next The Little Mermaid.

Instead, it seems to have turned into another The Black Cauldron; a film that was supposed to get people talking and usher in a new golden age, but just fell way short of everyone's expectations instead. And it's pretty obvious why. I've said this before, but it absolutely bears repeating - why Disney tried to release this thing one week before Avatar and hoped it would be a smash hit is beyond me. NOTHING could compete with Avatar. The fact that it was James Cameron's comeback and that it was released in 3-D (meaning it was guaranteed to gross high no matter what, thanks to the extra cost of a pair of glasses with every ticket) meant that no other movie in the theaters stood a chance of topping it at the box office. The Na'vis flourished while Tiana sunk like a stone.

So what did Disney executives learn from all this? To plan their release dates for their animated films a little better? Heck no - Rapunzel is still slated for the week before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Only it isn't called Rapunzel anymore; Disney decided to change the name to Tangled, and the focus isn't going to be on the princess anymore. Oh, and you know The Snow Queen, the movie they've been working on for who knows how long now? Yeah, that's finally ceased production. Yes, Disney has decided that The Princess and the Frog failed because it was about a girl, and they're changing all their forthcoming animated features to make absolutely sure that they don't have female leads. Thanks, Iger, you just set Disney animation back about thirty years.

In the world of Disney animation, I was really hoping 2010 would bring about a Renaissance. Instead, we seem to be getting the Dark Ages, complete with the bubonic plague. (Oh well, at least there's always Pixar.)


  1. "Tangled" is a better description of the movie's production history, and the current Walt Disney Company for that matter. Their animated production pipeline gets cloudier every month, with more projects getting stalled or cancelled than launched. What's coming after the 2011 Winnie the Pooh Movie?

    What I don't get is how the Chipmunks "Squeakquel" managed to double Princess and the Frog's intake in half the time, even holding up relatively well against Avatar? What makes CGI/live-action sequels more attractive than a traditional Disney film???

  2. "What makes CGI/live-action sequels more attractive than a traditional Disney film???"

    Welcome, Semaj, to 2010. Where nobody cares about how things were made, or what road animation took to get to where it is today. They only care about the end product. The high-def sparkly crap that's churned out like butter. Hell, show the kids today how CGI came to be through classics like Toy Story 1, they'd probably complain about the graphics not being super-detailed like this "Squeakquel". Shame really.

  3. The Princess and the Frog is a title pretty much guaranteed to make the boys want to give it a miss, even though most would probably like it. Hollywood is a money-driven business; turning off something like half of your potential audience isn't a very good way to make a large profit, and a company Disney's size needs to make very large profits. Like it or not, art and story sometimes takes a back seat to money.

    As for scheduling issues, I don't think there's a studio anywhere that's going to dance around some other player's schedule. The egos are too big to let anybody give the entire market to someone else's film. That would be the equivalent of a television broadcaster airing infomercials opposite Lost or Heroes. Doesn't happen.

    Squeakquel probably managed to do as well as it did because the little rodents are depicted as something of the bad-boy type, which appeals to kids in general and boys in particular. That, and lowbrow films often do better than they should, which explains why Adam Sandler and Will Farrell can still make movies.

    Oh, and I don't think the decision to restyle Rapunzel was as much Bob Iger's as it was Ed Catmull's. Mr Catmull heads Pixar and Disney Animation. I'm guessing that's where the buck stopped.

  4. I just thought you might be interested in reading this

    somebody who's a disney fan has a theory about the movie's performance and success that maybe it wasn't meant to be like another Little Mermaid.

  5. I think that Disney was trying to give "Princess and The Frog" a release date that was away from any other family films (it was originally going to be released on Christmas but was probably removed due to the "Sqeakqul" being released on that day), and it sort of worked, for about a week.

    As for "Tangled", I read a article about the film before it got retitled and the plot seemed to be equally focused about both the Prince and the Princess. I don't think much will be changed beyond the title(they've already done 2 years worth of work on the film), and it might be a good movie (though I've been wrong before).

    On a positive note Pixar is once again standing out from the crowd, one of their future films "The Bear and the Bow" is going have a female lead character.

  6. Hopefully, its life on DVD/ Blu-Ray will be better. You know, cult classics? Do those even exist anymore? Don't they know there's still a chance once the movie hits shelves?

    Also, how could "Squeakquel" have possibly earned more than this film? It's crazy!

    God, thinking about Avatar & its success makes me wish James Cameron would hit a point later on in his career in which he's referred to as a "Fallen Creator"*.

    Either way, I hate today's society, but some stuff, like Pixar, is still good.

    *The "Fallen Creator" is when a maker of films, cartoons, that kinda stuff, hits a weak point in his career, where his creations don't do well, the fan base get divided, he loses momentum, & even the possibility of being treated like a joke. More info here:

  7. Also, I have to say that while it wasn't the success that Disney was hoping for, at least it showed, from its $269,312,336 box office gross, that traditional cel/ 2-D animation still has a place in the movie business. And its worldwide gross passed over the movie's $105 million budget, so that should at least be saying something, despite its "underperformance". So your comparison to it being another "The Black Cauldron" (that movie only grossed $21,288,692 with a $25 million budget) seems to fall flat, if you ask me.

    And about that whole demographic thing, they apparently thought that the reason it "underperformed" was because boys wouldn't want to go to a movie that had "Princess" in the title, although I'm not sure they were aware that wasn't the ONLY factor to the whole thing. (Obviously, none of them or the male viewers that skipped out saw "The Princess Bride", which is a fantastic movie, despite its title.) Which is why they changed "Rapunzel" to "Tangled".

    Just figured you should know.

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