Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thoughts on Disney's CinemaCon Presentation

Disney's lengthy presentation at this year's CinemaCon is currently happening right now, revealing quite a lot of ambitious plans that the studio has for the future.

As of this writing, a full-length but unfinished cut of Monsters University is being shown. In a little while, we'll know what this upcoming Pixar prequel will be like. I'm anxious to know whether it's good or bad or not. I'm optimistic, as you all know...

This entry will be updated frequently...

3:20 P.M.

Early on in the presentation, Disney hyped up the future of Star Wars. The company hopes to have a Star Wars film ready for each year starting in summer 2015. This implies that Star Wars Episode VII, despite my earlier predictions, will in fact come out in May 2015 regardless of whether The Avengers' sequel opens that month or not. Think about it... Disney is literally going to own that month, all the other summer flicks will have to pray for mercy! As for a film each year, that means the character-centric spin-offs are probably entering pre-production as we speak. So much to come out of this!

Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn announced that Disney hopes to have at least fourteen films ready for release each year, eight of which will be tentpoles. But I have one major concern. With people getting laid off at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disney's own motion picture division, I fear that Disney might be morphing into your regular distributor like 20th Century Fox or Paramount or Warner Bros.

What was unique about Disney was that they started out as a production company and made all of their films. Starting in the mid 1950s, they self-distributed all of their own films and they still do that. But I hope that they don't slowly phase out their own studio or the animation unit in favor of Pixar, Marvel and LucasFilm. Those three studios are the ones bringing them their biggest hits. Walt Disney Animation Studios has been seeing hits recently, particularly Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, so they need to continue. They may have (possibly) jettisoned hand-drawn animated full-length films, which was a bad enough blow, but I don't want the studio to possibly be phased out. They're a separate entity from Pixar and they need to continue alongside the Emeryville house.

I'll be fine with having to wait a while for a new Walt Disney Animation Studios film... I just don't want them to abandon the studio. I fear it could happen given their satisfaction with what they're getting from Pixar, Marvel and LucasFilm and their recent attitude towards the animation studio. I mean, why the layoffs in that department and their live action film studio? Something doesn't seem right...

Worrisome speculation aside, Disney also hyped up their racing game adaptation Need for Speed, which is part of their Touchstone 30-film deal with DreamWorks SKG. I see the sudden enthusiasm for this April 2014 release as a response to the success of the Fast & Furious franchise, especially since the last one did very very well and the new one is bound to blow up the box office come May 24th. Like any smart competitor, they see that doing well and they want a piece of that pie. I expect Need for Speed to become a big franchise for them.

Footage from Saving Mr. Banks and Maleficent (opening July 2, 2014) was screening to overall positive reception. Looks like Disney will make sure that their film about P. L. Travers and the making of Mary Poppins won't be a dud, even though I'm personally not too keen on the project. Maybe a trailer will prove me wrong. Maleficent is one that I'm still on the fence about. A logo for Brad Bird's Tomorrowland was also unveiled, which also got praise. First Showing's Alex Billington had this to say about the logo reveal.

Oh... And as for Pixar... Inside Out was confirmed to be the title of Pete Docter's upcoming film and it will in fact open on June 19, 2015. We knew this a while back, so that's nothing new. The real news here is the unveiling of footage from The Good Dinosaur. Given Pixar's tradition of giving us a teaser for their upcoming films when a film of theirs opens, we'll most likely see a teaser for this. From what I hear (I've mostly been following Peter Sciretta of /Film's tweets and updates), the footage they showed was incredible.


The screening of Monsters Univeristy drew... Wait for it... Very positive reception! That's right, the whole film. Not the first 30-40 minutes, the whole film!

Any skepticism? Leave it at the door. We have another Pixar classic coming!

UPDATE - 9:00 PM

The presentation concluded after the Monsters University screening. Nothing about Frozen was revealed (the film comes out this autumn, I want a good excuse, Disney!) nor anything having to do with Marvel. I was hoping that we'd get some tidbits on the Phase 2 films and maybe a little taste of Phase 3... Oh well...

What's your take on all this news? Sound off in the comments below.


  1. I personally hope Disney doesn't completely jettison their hand-drawn animation unit (I don't really believe those stories of Disney repeating their mistake). I really want Mickey Mouse to come back to the big screen if those 2D shorts prove to be successful.

    1. I also believe it's come to a point where blogs like Cartoon Brew have distorted what was said about Disney's situation with their hand-drawn animation unit so badly, that I won't believe the whole story until an announcement by John Lasseter is leaked.

    2. Well I don't necessarily think that the hand-drawn unit is done for, I just find it highly suspicious that there were lay-offs in both WDAS and their live action film studio. They probably can't lay off anyone at Pixar, Marvel and LucasFilm... But something doesn't seem right. I'd love to have some answers or some form of announcement.

      As for Cartoon Brew, I am usually wary of some of their articles, but I do agree that removing those animators did essentially "gut" their hand-drawn animation, but not necessarily hurt it badly. It could be pure hyperbole.

    3. True. I know Mr. Lasseter loves hand-drawn animation and never understood why Disney got rid of it in the first place, and I'm sure he's really nervous about the future of the unit as well. I also think Bob Iger made a huge mistake by laying off those animators (and I say this as a Disney company stockholder). This makes me wonder if the Mickey Mouse feature Burny Mattinson was planning has been scrapped. I hope that's not the case, because I want Mickey back on the big-screen. I'd like to see him in the "meander" animation style that was used in Paperman.

    4. Disney got rid of hand-drawn animation for multiple reasons a decade ago... All of the reasons were misguided of course. I've written about it many times here and elsewhere, but yeah, Iger's cost-cutting methods... I'm not too keen on his current plans and ideas.

      Hopefully the Mickey Mouse film is still in the pipeline.

    5. Isn't Iger's time at the studio almost up anyway? His contract expires in 2015. Hopefully someone new will fill his seat (presumably Kathleen Kennedy, who is a fan of traditional animation) who will give the traditional animation studio a second chance at life.

      Still, if future animated films are in the style of PAPERMAN, than traditional animation at Disney IMO won't be completely dead. But it WILL be a shadow of its former self.

    6. Now that would be great. Someone who sees the potential in hand-drawn should be the next CEO. I respected Iger for a while, but I'm just not too keen on what he's planning now. Blue Sky Disney, I believe, suggested that Kennedy could be the next CEO.

      I agree with you on the "Paperman" style being used for all future hand-drawn films. While it's a great new form of animation that should grow, the classic hand-drawn style shouldn't be left in the dust. It's really timeless, contrary to what some might think.

    7. Absolutely. Hand-drawn animation, to me, is what really MAKES Disney.

      But just because Disney is cutting back on 2D animation doesn't mean other studios are. Studio Ghibli, Japanese animation studios, and numerous others are still employing the technique.

      Still, do you think the media is blowing the whole "handdrawn animation at Disney is dead" thing out of proportion just because of these layoffs? I'd say yes, because as long as they're still doing shorts and hybrid "Paperman" style films, as well as a 2D training program (as SWillie! at UltimateDisney said), I don't think hand-drawn is totally gone at Disney.

      Still, I'd say Iger's time at Disney is long done. I doubt John Lasseter is any happier about these developments than we are. (He is getting wary with handdrawn animated films, yes, but I think he's really tired of Iger's indifference to it.)

    8. I know that other studios won't get rid of hand-drawn, but it's still saddening to see Disney letting it go once again. I am, however, optimistic that it'll make another comeback a few years later when the time is right.

      I do think the other sites have blown it out of proportion, because there's still quite a lot of animators in the hand-drawn unit. I also agree with you on Lasseter. A lot of people are assuming that he wants to get rid of hand-drawn too, but I think that's false. Lasseter is simply doing what he is being told to do, since he's an executive now. But I bet he wants more hand-drawn at Disney as much as we do - after all, "The Princess and the Frog", "Winnie the Pooh", "Paperman" and the hand-drawn short films exist for a reason.

      And yes, I think Iger needs to go. Again, I liked what he had done for years but it seems to me that he's more interested in Pixar, Marvel and LucasFilm than anything else nowadays. It's quite a shame, because you can't ditch what makes Disney, Disney. But at least he has two years left, so hopefully someone who has ambition and respect for hand-drawn becomes the next CEO.

    9. Exactly. Disney needs to have its executives replaced, not its artists.

      BTW, I intended this response to your "Handdrawn animation comeback" post.

      I think a handdrawn animation comeback could eventually happen, but I think it won't be Disney that brings traditional animation back. It'll probably be some other upstart (ala Don Bluth).

      And yes, handdrawn animation hasn't really lost its appeal. Anime, and Ghibli films, still have their fanbase (and continue to gain fans). Case in point: FROM UP ON POPPY HILL has gotten acclaim and reasonable success for a limited release. Then there's also the screening of their subsequent films (ironically enough, dubbed quite well by Disney). Those are successful. And what about CHICO AND RITA, A CAT IN PARIS, and TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE? Again, those films have followings. Why? Because they're damn good films.

      Imagine what WDAS will be like if Kennedy takes control? Ah, I can only dream....

    10. I honestly hope someone else tries to revive hand-drawn animation for mainstream American feature-length animation. At one point, DreamWorks had a computer animation/hand-drawn hybrid coming called "Me and My Shadow" (I'm sure you've heard of it), but it was delayed and nothing has been said about it for quite some time. I hope it wasn't canceled. I hope one day that an anime film or a Ghibli film will do very well at the domestic box office. Something above $70M at least. I was hoping "Arrietty" would do just that, but sadly it didn't.

      I wouldn't be surprised if Kennedy got the position. Who else could be the new CEO? Blue Sky Disney lists Tom Staggs, Alan Horn and a couple others. What about Lasseter? Imagine if he was CEO...

    11. Now I think Lasseter as the CEO at Disney WOULD be better than Iger, because he at least he has the creative side of Walt.

      But I won't say hand drawn animation is dead at Disney, just a shadow of its former self. They're still doing shorts and TV animation, right? Then that means it can't be all dead.

    12. Yes, have you seen "Croissant de Triomphe"? It's the first in a series of new hand-drawn Mickey Mouse shorts. 19 will follow. Pretty much all of Disney's TV shows are hand-drawn as well, so it's alive in some way. I just want it to continuing being a theatrical thing as well. There's still some hope!

    13. There is. Once again, the media is just overreacting. Also, Disney IS still holding a 2D animation training seminar, at least according to SWillie!, so this doesn't sound like "totally scuttering" handdrawn animation at Disney in general.

      But it will probably be someone other than Disney who will make the callback for 2D animation.

    14. Hopefully if those shorts are proven popular, then it let's Disney decide that people are in demand for more Mickey, and they decide to put him in a hand-drawn animated film.


    This guy says apparently there's STILL some handdrawn animation happening in Disney, if not a lot, with a picture of the Beast's transformation hanging on the wall.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. More proof the media is doing nothing but distorting Disney's situation.

    3. Yeah. They haven't given up on handdrawn animation (yet), they're just trying to think of a new way how to make it appealing. If it means more "Paperman" style projects, fine with me.

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