Four Reasons to Demolish The Disney Vault

 Via: The Orlando Sentinel

 The “Disney Vault” is the term used by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment for its policy of putting home video releases of Walt Disney Animation Studio‘s animated features on moratorium. Each Disney film is available for purchase for a limited time, after which it is put “in the vault” and not made available in stores for several years until it is once again released.

So says Wikipedia.

We all know about the Vault. It’s pretty much been around as long as I’ve been alive, although the Wikipedia article feels it goes all the way back to when Snow White was re-released.

The thing is, in the 21st century, is the Vault even relevant? Here’s a few reasons why it isn’t.

1. DVDs outlive VHS tapes

Yes, back in the day, you bought movies on real tapes that you had to rewind if you wanted to watch again. What everyone seems to have overlooked since the advent of DVDs is that tapes wore out and lost quality the more they were played. DVDs can be played “forever” without any degradation. The end result? The second-hand market for DVDs is much stronger than for tapes and sll those copies of Vault films that are lying around in empty nests have a habit of making it onto eBay.

2. The Vault Doesn’t Make The Films Any More Valuable

Think about it. If you lock a film away for a number of years, does that make it any more valuable? Of course not! Less people can watch it an appreciate it. Right? So if you had to make a decision, would you try and keep a film locked up as much as possible or try and get as many people to see it as possible? Exactly! You’d want the latter so you could sell more merchandise!

3. If You Broadcast The Films On TV, Doesn’t That Make The Vault Moot?

For this one, we have to assume that the studio isn’t attempting to stop people from seeing the films, just from “owning” them. Why? They broadcast the vaulted films almost constantly. You couldn’t find Aladdin on DVD for love nor money but you could easily throw on [shiver] ABC Family and see it being broadcast. The same goes for Snow White, which was supposedly in the Vault until recently but was broadcast last Christmas! Now if that doesn’t send confusing signals, I don’t know what does.

4. The Obvious Reason

Legality aside, the commercial reasons for locking up content are becoming increasingly irrelevant. If I can’t find something in the shop (or online through legal avenues), what is stopping me from wandering over to the bittorrents. My conscience? Oh sure, Disney would like to believe that Jiminy Cricket is sitting on your shoulder telling you no to “pirate” that copy of Pinocchio, but the reality is that he’s just not there for a lot of folks.

Ever growing numbers of internet-native kids are growing up with the notion that all forms of entertainment come from the internet. If they’re led to believe by just about everyone that they can get whatever they want whenever they want it, why should they think they have to wait around for years for something to be “released from the Vault”.

The answer is, they won’t and Disney will be all the poorer for it.


Disney really ought to re-think the limited-release strategy that they’ve branded as the Disney Vault. In this day and age you can’t help but feel its self-defeating on a number of levels and besides, if people want to see the content, they will see it regardless.

Character Sundays: The Goth Girls of Cartoons

No, this post isn’t about one particular character, but it is about a specific type of character (which I can justify because November in Irish is “Samhain” which began as a pagan festival to honour the dead). While I was nosing around the internet looking for pictures of Mandy for the post from a few weeks ago, I stumbled across the Goth Girls of Cartoons blog and found it quite amusing.

It’s not a regularly updated blog but a static one instead. On it, there are various list posts on different kinds of goth characters. Such as the ones who only appeared in one episode, ones who where main characters in their respective shows, characters who weren’t normally goth but became ones for a short time and heroines who just happened to be a bit on the dark side.

Overall its quite an interesting collection of characters who share certain traits. I don’t particularly get goth culture, but I have found that such characters in cartoons tend to be a bit more interesting than others because they are generally bestowed with a strong sense of who they are and what they stand for and believe in. For better or for worse, it at least makes them stand out from the crowd.

Each character featured on the blog comes with a fairly good description with just a tiny bit of personal subjectivity, but that doesn’t distract from the overall usefulness of the information.

So go ahead and have a peek, you might be as surprised as I was!

Wallace & Gromit Are Hosting An Animation Art Auction!

Coming by way of Tomm Moore, the Grand Appeal charity ‘run’ by Wallace and Grommit is holding an animation art auction through the 10th of November. All proceeds go to the Grand Appeal and the Bristol Children’s Hospital and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to provide comforts and facilities for patients and their families in the Hospital which the charity fundraises for.

The bidding is being held on eBay so those of us abroad can bid too. The artwork donated is impressive and represents a wide swath of the animation landscape, as well as a script for Father Ted, which must have snuck in there when no-one was looking.

Below are just some of the pieces, there are many more that I don’t have the space to post. Please visit the eBay auction for all details. Happy bidding!

Wallace & Grommit Signed Watercolour
Danger Mouse original cel


Original watercolour by Tomm Moore of Aisling from the Secret of Kells
Original Morph sketch

And my personal favourite:

Pencil sketch by Richard Williams of Roger & Jessica Rabbit

What Motivates YOU?

The other night in class, I was quite surprised to see our professor pull up a video on motivation. Not necessarily because that is a rare thing, but moreso because it had the word animate in the title. On closer inspection it’s not really animated but that we can let that slide because it is such a good video.

There’s an entire series but the one I’ll focus on is the one we watched in class. It’s on motivation and how people (read: managers) often confuse or overlook the real reason we show up on a Monday morning. Surprisingly enough, money isn’t as big a factor in all of this as you might think, even for those of us in office environments.

Consider the 10 minutes of this video as an investment. It’s been viewed nearly 7 million times so you know it has some good points.

Mark Mayerson Is Right!

Due to my abysmal levels of energy this morning, Amid Amidi beat me to it, but Mark’s post is nonethless right on the money.

It’s a 2005 Tom and Jerry, co-directed by Joe Barbera. In some ways, it does a remarkably good job of duplicating the look and feel of the Hanna-Barbera Tom and Jerry cartoons of the 1940s and ’50s. However, in other ways, it doesn’t…..

Mark does an excellent job of running down the issues with the short, starting with the opening credits that would give any designer nightmares and going on to talk about the animation styles. There are some great comments so don’t forget to read those too.

So just what is the point of so attempting to recreate the old timey feel of a Tom & Jerry cartoon? Oh sure, it wears its loyalty to the source material on its sleeve but what does that prove? That it’s the ‘rightful successor/continuation’ to the originals? That it somehow legitimises the cartoon as a real “Tom & Jerry” short? Or is it that the creators are acknowledging the value to be had in the old shorts?

The answer is more likely that it doesn’t feel “right” to see Tom & Jerry in any other setting than the ones we’re used to. The problem is that the original shorts were a product of their time, the 1940s and 50s. Everything was different then, and Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera played on that. Just think of how many jokes they got out of that ironing board. Regardless of how many times the rehashed the same joke, they were at least using contemporary society for inspiration. Who has an ironing board like that now? No-one! As Mark says (emphasis mine):

Creative works are not only the product of people, they’re also the products of a time and place. As the world keeps changing, it is impossible to recreate something from the past. While artists often wish to duplicate what they love, they can only approximate it. Paradoxically, the closer they get to it, the more they’ve succeeded in doing nothing more than an good imitation. And since the originals are everywhere to begin with, is an imitation necessary?

And rightfully so. That’s partially why The Simpsons of today is so radically different from the early years. The show has changed but society changed even more. The first few series’ simply reflect the culture of the time (the early 90s); today’s episodes are much more post-September 11th/global recession in tone.

So the real question is, why are studios/producers reluctant to move older cartoon properties beyond their established norms? Are they afraid of the risk? I mean, Lunatics Unleashed can’t be that scary an example of what can happen, right?

Iif you’re going to go to the effort of updating properties, why not just do something new? It might be a bit more expensive, but risks can be mitigated, and you’re far more likely to have a stronger product that isn’t constrained by the pre-conceived notions of ” the old version”.

At the end of the day though, David OReilly says it best:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/davidoreilly/status/131477972023656448″]

Puss In Boots is No. 1. So Why is DW Stock Down?

First of all, no need to worry, this isn’t going to be a lecture on economics. I hate those too. What it will though, is discuss how a studio’s stock can move relative to its releases. It’s not something that animators need to be too aware of as it doesn’t have a direct effect on their work, but it can affect how the studio operates on a higher level or indeed how decisions made in light of it can filter down to the lower ranks.

Firstly though, what does a stock’s price represent? If you said how much a company is worth, then congratulations! You’re correct! However, how do you determine how much a company is ‘worth’? Do you simply add up how many buildings it owns or how much cash it has on hand? No. It’s a bit more complex than that.

The price of stock is a complex thing that takes into account how much the company owns, but also how well (or poorly) its expected to perform in the future. If a company is expected to perform well, its stock price is high or is rising. If a stock price drops, it’s an indication that the company is either expected to do worse than it was or it’s simply failing to live up to its potential. Either way, the stock price is always correcting itself as investors either bid or sell at a price they feel is the right value.

In the case of DreeamWorks, the share price is just about half of what it was a year ago. Does this mean the company is only half as good now than it was then? No, of course it doesn’t. It simply means that the outlook for the studio is a bit hazier.

A studio’s stock price is a mixture of the company’s assets, it’s revenue steams (DVDs, etc.), it potential release slate (ever wonder why studios like to announce new projects years in advance?) and its current release slate. DW’s recent slide is the result of the current release slate in the form of Puss in Boots.

Y’see, there are analysts, hundreds if not thousands of them, whose job it is to analyse a company in the finest detail. They pour over company reports, sector reports, market reports, weather data (yes, those winter storms on the East coast can have a real impact), consumer spending, you name it. Their goal is to try and predict how well a company will perform based on the data available to them. They’re the ones who compile it all and sell it to other firms or investors who will make their decisions based on the data within.

Naturally, they paid close attention to the opening weekend of Puss in Boots, and unfortunately for DreamWorks, it came up short. From the LA Times:

With a production budget of about $130 million, “Puss in Boots” generated $34.1 million at the box office over the weekend. Although it was No. 1 movie, ticket sales were well below the $40 million to $45 million that most Wall Street analysts had forecast.

The resulting compendium that Wall Street ‘forecast’ is that with a lower box office, the DVD sales will be lower as will any and all merchandise, TV rights and potential sequels. As a group of pessimists, analysts are about as big as they come.

“But so what?” I hear you say. “Stock prices only have a bearing on investors, not on the studio itself”. This is true, but, a company’s ability to borrow is heavily dependent on their future prospects, and since investors have signalled that they’re not good, DreamWorks will now have to pay more for financing.

All of this goes to the bottom line of a film, where belts might get tightened. This is where the actions of this week will be felt by the rank and file. If upper management decide to scale back budgets, then there will be very real changes made on the ground level. People may be let go, or (more likely) schedules will be shortened and films brought forward to boost takings.

What does all of this teach us? Well, it should say not to pay much attention to analysts. They’ve got it wrong before (UP, anyone?) and they’re likely to get it wrong again. They also tend to focus on the very short term. It’s rapidly becoming the case that the box office opening is unconnected to a film’s subsequent performance in the DVD market and beyond.

DreamWorks (and every other studio) is in the middle of some choppy seas at the moment, and its simply dealing with them as best it can. Having the stock price go down is not the end of the world, not even close. Besides, any real investor is looking at the long term view, and in that regards DW is doing pretty fine considering its still independent.