Walt Disney

Are Creative Risks Worth Taking?

Animation has always had a strong creative streak with plenty of variety to it. If you didn’t like that Walt Disney was chasing realism, all you had to do was look across town to the Warner guys on Termite Terrace and see cutting edge character comedy in full flow. Today is no different; while major studios have become increasingly bland in their offerings, there are plenty of others taking up the creative mantle. Is what they’re doing worth the effort and risk involved?

From the Kidscreen Convention to Walt Disney In One Blog Post

I’m kinda stuck for words this morning and I’m not sure why. There have been plenty of developments in the world of animation this week. Namely the annual Kidscreen gathering in New York City, which I can only assume went well from the various facebook and twitter updates I have read. I would attend myself, but at over a thousand dollars, it’s money I just don’t have at the moment.

In these days of course that is not as big a deal as it once was. the internet has greatly opened the animation industry to both outsiders (yours truly) and prospective animators. The result has been the greater proliferation of animation (and talk of animation) throughout the entertainment industry and beyond, from the use of flash to make TV shows to the many hundreds of short series that broadcast only on the web.

The web has facilitated the opening of animation as an industry and artform although sometimes you find that there is a this latent fear of being open about what you do. “Do all your work in secret”, “Don’t tell anyone what new projects your working on”, etc. Entertainment is a notoriously secret industry, where there is this constant fear that someone is always listening to steal your idea and get a leg up on you.

While this can be true, look at the likes of Pixar’s A Bug’s Life and DreamWorks’ Antz. Both are movies about ants. Both were released about the same time. Which one do you remember most? Exactly, quality matters much more than getting out first, at least most of the time it does.

Pixar may be king when it comes to CGI features, but it was not until this year that their main rival were considered to be on a similar level, and all it took to achieve that was a good quality film with a straighforward plot and a strong set of characters.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m in the middle of Bob Thomas’ biography of Walt Disney, and it’s been a extraordinary read, especially the chapters from 1930 to about 1950. In those 20 years, the studio was on a¬† bit of a roller-coaster ride from the highs of Snow White to the lows of the aftermath of World War II. Yet through it all, Walt had a saying for dealing with competitors:

We can lick ’em with product

The same holds true today. Any successful animated film (both from the big boys and independents) has been successful because it is well-made. Not necessarily animation-wise, but on the whole. Good plot, good characters, good animation. All three combine to make a fantastic film.

This post has been all over the place (and thank you for sticking through it). If ever there was a window into my mind, this post is it. I’m always thinking about animation in one form or another and it just so happens that it can go from the Kidscreen summit to Walt Disney in the 1930s just like that.

Like Sweeping Up The Latrines

I’m in the middle of reading the biography of Walt Disney by Bob Thomas (which I highly encourage you to seek out if you have not done so already) and came across this quote from the man himself.

I was making conversation with a guy who asked me, ‘Goin’ to California?’ ‘Yeah, I’m goin’ out there.’ ‘What business you in?’ I said, ‘The motion-picture business.’ Then all of a sudden, ‘Oh, is that right? Well, I know somebody in the motion picture business. What do you do? I said, ‘I make animated cartoons.’ ‘Oh,’ It was like saying, ‘I sweep up the latrines.’

While it is safe to say that animation is not viewed in nearly the same way now, there remains a whiff of it here and there. There are still plenty of people out there who look down on an artistic career with derision, or even pity.

There are plenty of examples out there of people who have worked hard and carved out a full career for themselves in animation. The shame is, the public at large were, and still are, surprisingly ignorant when it comes to the people who make their, often-times, favourite films.

Anomaly Appraisal: The Vault of Walt

Via: Mayerson on Animation

I suppose I’m kinda going backwards with these things, seeing as I’ve read this but no biographies of Walt. Nonetheless, I don’t think this will stand as a barrier to my enjoyment of either. I received The Vault of Walt as a Christmas present and was thoroughly surprised by what I read.

The first shock was it’s size, over 400 pages! I wasn’t expecting anything near that long, although that did not perturb me from racing through the entire tome in about 4 days such was the ease and eagerness at which I read it.

Jim Korkis, for those who do not know, wrote a blog over on the Mouse Planet website under a pseudonym before leaving the Disney Company and writing this book under his own name. Basically, it is a collection of stories that revolve around Walt Disney that Jim felt are not given adequate exposure in current biographies or even in any other literature.

The book is divided into four parts, each dealing with a different aspect of Walt’s life and work. They include such wide-ranging topics as: The Miniature World of Walt, the Gospel According to Walt, the Song of the South Premiere, Cinderella’s Golden Carousel, Khrushchev in Disneyland and Tinker Bell Tales.

All in all it the book is a smorgasbord of stories that I’d never heard of and that touch on aspect’s of Walt’s life that others either didn’t know about or chose to gloss over. A fine example is Walt’s religious beliefs and his apparent extreme religious tolerance of other faiths.

Some of the stories that revolve around Disneyland are almost as exciting as those surrounding the man himself. For instance there is a fascinating insight in the carousel at Walt Disney World, which is a genuine historical artefact and worth many millions of dollars. Yet park visitors ride it every day without even realising it!

Jim’s writing style is easy-going and easy to read as a result. The break-up of the stories also means that you can read it in a any order you wish, so it’s great for people (such as myself) who might only find time to read on story at a time.

Overall, I found that the Vault of Walt helped give me a more complete picture of the man known as Walt Disney. it helped fill in some blanks about how his childhood in Kansas and Missouri helped shape his work in Hollywood and beyond. As a purely entertainment piece alone I would recommend the book, but seeing as it is quite unique on its topic. As a pseudo-biographical collection of stories about one of the best-known people in the world, it is an essential place on my bookshelf.

You can order it here, but also please read the thoughts of Mark Mayerson and Michael Sporn who are much more knowledgeable on the subject than I.

Patiently Waiting for The Vault of Walt

Via Mark Mayerson’s Blog

There are a lot of stories and legends surrounding Walt Disney. Some are genuine, others are not, but all are entertaining or informative in some shape or form. He is, without a doubt, a giant in the animation world, not just because of his early developments, but because he proved that animation could provide a strong base on which to build a media empire.

Written By Jim Kokis, a noted Disney historian, the list of stories detailed in the press release and over on Mark Mayerson’s blog have certainly whetted my appetite for this book. Over the last year or so (especially after I read Serious Business), I have become more interested in learning about the early history of animation in Hollywood and Walt Disney plays a fairly large part in that.

The book will be out in October and by the looks of things it will be a very good read indeed.