I’m not sure how many people are aware, but Disney has just purchased the incredible Pixar animation studio. I’m sure most of you are saying, “I thought Pixar was already part of Disney.” Well the truth is, no, Pixar is its own independent studio that has a distribution deal with Disney and a lot of early financial backing. Pixar has been the greatest thing to happen to animation since paper and film. This studio has given the greatest artistic talent of our day creative freedom and a secure home. It is because of Pixar that computer animation was even thought of as a medium for theatrical storytelling.
When I first heard of this buy out, I wasn’t sure what to think. Disney calling the shots at Pixar? Great, no more original pictures, just Toy Story 3, 4 and 26. But to my surprise it was the complete opposite. With the merger, Steve Jobs, head of Apple and Pixar, now is the major share-holder and John Lasseter is now head of Disney feature film.
Disney animation has had many rough patches in its past, and not because of the lack of good animators or storytellers, but the lack of trust in its work. During the 1980s, animation at Disney was going downhill, until “The Little Mermaid” came out. Soon after that, we had “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.” Disney was on top of the world. But their plan of creating a cartoon every year backfired when things weren’t looking to good. We had “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Treasure Planet” and “Home on the Range.” Now, it wasn’t that the things were getting stale; it was that Disney wasn’t making as much money as it was with the previous films. This made the top executives panic; I won’t name names, but a certain education building at CSUN is named after him. These executives started adding in their two cents and made movie changes based on “audience surveys and testing.” Rather than letting artists do their thing, they relied on what they thought people wanted, thus creating bad picture after bad picture.
Now let’s zoom back to 1990. John Lasseter and his young company called Pixar had just created the Oscar Award-winning computer-animated short called “Tin Toy.” Because of its success they were backed to create the movie “Toy Story.” Five years later, bam! “Toy Story” is a huge hit. Followed by “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Finding Nemo.” As this happened execs at other studios thought that computer animation is the way to be successful. Story has nothing to do with it; it’s all about the medium in which you make it. At least this is what Disney thought as they saw the success of Pixar’s film and the failure of theirs. They had no concept that it was all in the stories and characters. Sadly, this is why Disney computer graphics was created and all two-dimensional animation was quickly shutdown.
Fortunately, animation has seen the light at the end of the tunnel. With Pixar now head of Disney and Steve Jobs calling the shots, animation has a bright future. Hopefully now we’ll have beautiful films filled with lovable characters, great stories and original ideas.
Hadley Hudson can be reached at email@example.com