Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Future of Walt Disney Animation Studios (Part 2)

In part one, I went over Frozen, which is scheduled to be released on November 27, 2013. Right now, this is the only project after Wreck-It Ralph that currently has a release date. Two other projects that are in development right now don't: King of the Elves and a film based on Mickey Mouse.

King of the Elves was announced back in early 2008, when Disney released a big upcoming slate that included the cancelled Pixar film Newt and several other projects such as Bolt, The Princess and the FrogTangled (back when it was called Rapunzel), WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3Cars 2 (back when it had a summer 2012 release date) and Brave (back when it was called The Bear and the Bow) along with the direct-to-video Tinker Bell movies. The film was supposed to be directed by Brother Bear directors Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker. Brother Bear producer Chuck Williams would be the producer. For a good while, it seemed like this film would happen. It was still scheduled for 2012 after Bolt came out. Then after The Princess and the Frog opened in December 2009, it was shelved. Rumors went around months later that the project was back in the works, and the director would be Chris Williams, the co-director of Bolt, which would be confirmed last year. Michael Markowitz will write the screenplay, as he wrote the screenplay for Horrible Bosses and wrote a few episodes of the Klasky-Csupo animated series Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man. Good choices so far.

Prior to Bolt, Williams directed Glago's Guest, a rather rare Walt Disney Animation Studios short film that hasn't showed up on home media. Bolt was an indicator that the studio was now back on the right track after the woes of the Eisner era. Bolt's writing, while not perfect, was miles ahead of most of the 2005-2007 Disney animated output. The film was witty, heartfelt, the characters were very likable and the cast does a fine job. The story is familiar, but told well, while also being a nice satire of the entertainment industry. It wasn't formulaic either, it felt like a Pixar film in some ways. If I had any problems with Bolt, it would probably be the screenplay, but it's not much of a big deal. Another minor flaw was the safeness of the storyline, I would've liked to have seen Chris Sanders' American Dog. Still, Bolt is a very good film. It gives me hope that Williams will deliver the goods again with this project.

King of the Elves is based on the short story by Philip K. Dick (who wrote stories that were adapted into films like Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report) about a gas station owner who becomes the leader of tiny elves who are at war with trolls. This isn't a classic fairy tale or a love story, so this could be very interesting. Hopefully it is pulled off in a great manner, and not one that's going to have the critics saying "bowdlerization!" A respectable adaptation it should be, much like the Walt films. Maybe we can see that happen, with Lasseter & co. at the studio. Like Frozen, it will be computer animated, but I still want to see Disney doing more hand-drawn films.

The film based on Mickey Mouse was confirmed a while ago by Disney veteran Burny Mattinson. There are so many things you could do with a Mickey Mouse film adaptation. As long as Disney doesn't ruin the character, I'll be happy. Walt Disney Animation Studios is doing it, all should be well. It shouldn't be insulting like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Hopefully it'll remind this generation of why Mickey Mouse and his friends are icons, instead of trying to make them hip. This should be more akin to The Muppets and Winnie the Pooh than Alvin and the Chipmunks or The Smurfs. Aside from that, what could this film possibly be about? Will it be based on Epic Mickey? Maybe, that could make for an ambitious film. Will it be some big epic adventure? Or a fun comedy? What could they do with this character?

Mickey has appeared in films before, but no theatrical film ever centered around him or Donald and Goofy. The characters have appeared in segments in the 1940s package films, and of course Mickey is the Sorcerer's Apprentice in Fantasia. The thing is, it's probably not easy to make a movie based on a classic cartoon character, taking that character who had small adventures that took up a 6-minute short film into a roughly 90-minute film is no easy task. Some films based on classic cartoon characters just seem to go for broke and do whatever (Tom and Jerry: The Movie, Felix the Cat: The Movie) while others just don't work (Looney Tunes: Back in Action). Luckily, Disney proved that they can do an adventure about a character in something that's over 10 minutes long with Mickey and the Beanstalk, which is fantastic on its own. Again, there are so many possibilities. The only thing I'm not too crazy about is the fact that Disney is doing a Mickey Mouse movie and not something original or ambitious. We should be getting something like Mort, not a Mickey Mouse movie. However, there is a possibility that this will be an animated classic, so I won't be too skeptical. A very good Mickey Mouse movie can be a nice addition to Disney's animated film legacy while also reeling in bucks for corporate Disney. One last thing, it better be in hand-drawn animation. Classic cartoon characters in computer animation just don't work. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and the CGI direct-to-video Popeye movie (which I never saw) are good examples.

Of course, we don't know what will come next. Who knows what story Disney will adapt, or if they'll do more original works like Bolt and Wreck-It Ralph. They might bring back projects like Mort or old cancelled projects like Fraidy Cat and A Few Good Ghosts. Maybe not, sometimes projects are canned at Disney and show up years later. Walt Disney considered The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast back in the 1930s and 1950s, we got them in 1989 and 1991. Lilo & Stitch was around in the 1980s, but the film came out in 2002. Treasure Planet was thought of in the late 1980s, and we finally got that in 2002. If they don't go back to scrapped ideas (and they have a TON of scrapped projects), who knows what new original projects they will come up.

Right now, Walt Disney Animation Studios' future is somewhat unpredictable. Their upcoming animated film for this year is a "great decider" of sorts. Tangled was a smash, Winnie the Pooh was gap filler (very good gap filler), so now it's down to Wreck-It Ralph. If this film is a runaway success, then we might see Disney green light ambitious projects. We might see more projects being announced. Wreck-It Ralph needs to repeat the success of Tangled and establish Disney as a competitor to the big guns. A poster is already out, so hopefully a good trailer will be up soon. Hopefully Disney markets this thing aggressively, much like they did with Tangled. Another big success is what the studio needs, after having a string of underperformers and flops. Hopefully Wreck-It Ralph will signal a new, successful, ambitious, creative direction for Walt Disney Animation Studios.

We may find out in November...

1 comment:

  1. well, in the latest animation era the Disney adopts the 3D and leaves 2D animations but, I have noticed that the 2D animation is much better than the 3D animation. cutout animation videos