Monday, March 05, 2007

John Lasseter, 2D, and Glendalienism

Anne Thompson at the Hollywood Reporter, until tomorrow when she takes over, has a link to a very good New York Times story about the future of Disney animation. The Times story is simultaneously informative about the "business" while highlighting the narrow-sighted ignorance of East Coast bias. As Kate at Fishbowl LA points out, New Yorkers don't often have the familiarity one would expect. Sometimes I think New Yorkers shouldn't be allowed to write about Los Angeles.

Below is the comment I wrote about the article, which mentions that Disney Animation is going to have offices in Glendale.

Overall, this is a very good article, which gives me yet another reason to love living in Glendale. It's great being a Glendalien.

On a side note though, it continually amazes me how articles point to 2002's Treasure Planet and its failure as a symptom of how audiences lost interest in 2D animation. Rarely is it mentioned that 2002's Lilo and Stitch was a significant success for the studio. It cost less to make ($80 million to over $120 million) and made considerably more in the box office ($145 million domestic to $38.1 domestic). Lilo and Stitch was not only 2D, but it featured beautiful watercolor background paintings. It was a true 2D experience, where Treasure Planet was more 2-1/2D with more computer modeling etc.

What is often lost in analysis is how Treasure Planet suffers from what I call, Titan A.E. syndrome (a 2000 box office flop). This syndrome is a combination of two things. First, forgetting just who the audience is for a typical (i.e. non-ultra-vi film as Alex might say) American animated film. Second, is the lack of a well written/conveyed narrative. Pixar films work because they are well written. Treasure Planet may have been Treasure Island, but it made the protagonist a whiner and added "extreme" sports elements in an attempt to attract 12-14 year old boys.

Rule #1 in animation/comics/entertainment is "if you want 12-14 year old boys to desire your product, make it for 18 year olds." Atlantis, which featured awe-inspiring designs by Mike Mignola, was a flop for the same reason. 12-14 year old boys want to watch Full Metal Alchemist, Heavy Metal, and Samurai Champloo, they don't want Treasure Planet or its ilk.

Pixar's movies tried to appeal to all audiences, either through humor, nostalgia, or pathos. The nostalgia of the collector (and its dark side) are a wonderful part of Toy Story 2. The pathos of "Kitty!" at the end of Monsters Inc. is heartbreaking, and the humorous adaptation of The Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai that is A Bug's Life is wonderful.

It is the writing and quality that bring people to the theater again and again. I can only think of one well written animated film that failed and that was released with almost no fanfare, Iron Giant.

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