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Disney geeks freak because they don't get a peek of the Peak they seek

Jim Hill

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Disney geeks freak because they don't get a peek of the Peak they seek

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Okay. I know. A lot of you folks got to see "Brother Bear" this past weekend during the film's exclusive NY and LA engagements. And it was gratifying to hear that so many of you really seemed to enjoy Walt Disney Feature Animation's latest creation.

But, me personally, what I found kind of disturbing was some of the e-mails that I received yesterday. Messages where people would segue straight from singing this picture's praises to savagely attacking Al Lutz.

Fairly typical of these notes was the one I got from RedRobin, which read:

Dear Jim:

Have you seen "Brother Bear" yet? The reason I'm asking is that I myself caught this new Disney film this past weekend at the El Capitan in LA. And there was something about that movie that really DIDN'T catch my eye.

What am I talking about, Jim? Well, do you recall that Al Lutz "Miceage" story from two weeks? The one where Al said that that the animators working on "Brother Bear" were forced -- at the very last minute -- to change the main mountain featured in that film so that it would look more like DCA's Grizzly Peak? So this new animated feature could supposedly have some sort of a strong tie-in with that particular Disney theme park?

Well, did I miss something, Jim? Because I watched this entire movie on Saturday. And NOT ONCE in "Brother Bear" did I ever see a mountain that looked even remotely like Grizzly Peak at Disney's California Adventure.

So -- given that you've been harping on Al Lutz a lot lately to clean up his act -- I would love to hear your take on this, Jim. Did Lutz flat-out lie to his Miceage readers? Or was he just fed some bad info by someone inside WDFA?

So what's the truth here, Jim? Did Al actually get this story wrong? Or does Grizzly Peaks really make an appearance in "Brother Bear" which I somehow managed to miss?

Can't wait to read your reply to this "Why For" question, Jim. Keep up the great work with the site.

Look, gang. Over the past few weeks, I'll admit that I've written a few articles that have taken a few pot shots at Mr. Lutz. Pieces that made fun of the way Al always stresses the most negative aspect of whatever story he's reporting. Which tends to make the bad news sound even worse.

But -- that said -- that still doesn't mean that I actually get my jollies from watching Al Lutz screw up. By that I mean: I'm not a big fan of schadenfreude. Which is a German term which means: "Taking malicious satisfaction in the misfortune of others."

Me personally? I'm a big believer in what comes around goes around. Which is why you're going to have to forgive me, RedRobin (As well as the rest of you folks who wrote to me yesterday about this "Brother Bear" brouhaha). Because -- if you're looking forward to reading some sort of column where I joyfully crow that "Al Lutz got it wrong!? Al Lutz got it wrong?! -- that AIN'T gonna happen.

And why not? Because sometime in the not-so-distant future, I know that I'm gonna get something wrong too. And I'd genuinely prefer it if Al Lutz weren't out there, lying in the bushes. Waiting to pounce on me the very next time that I forget that it's "I before E except after C."

No -- better yet -- given how truly nasty some of the e-mails that I received yesterday were, I'm fairly certain that Al is going to get pounded pretty savagely by his critics for getting this particular story wrong. Which is why I think that I'm now going to try and draw some fire away from Mr. Lutz by owning up to a recent error of my own.

"Which error am I talking about?," you ask. Well, how many of you folks recall that "You Know What Bugs Me" story that I posted on JHM back on October 1st? You know, the article where I said that I was concerned that Warner's marketing department wasn't really up to the challenge of properly promoting "Looney Tunes: Back in Action"?

Well, as part of the original version of that article, I said that Eric Goldberg had been an animator on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." Which -- as Allan Neuwirth (I.E. author of that essential animation text, "Makin' Toons" as well as all-around nice guy) so graciously pointed out to me later on that same week -- was wrong.

You see, while researching that piece, I must have had a major brain fart. For Eric Goldberg NEVER ever worked on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." In fact, this master animator wasn't even offered his first official Mouse House gig (I.E. the position of lead animator on the Genie for "Aladdin") until after production of "Roger Rabbit" wrapped.

Mind you, 'way back in the mid-1990s, Goldberg WAS been offered the job as head of animation on the proposed-but-never-produced "Roger Rabbit" sequel. So I guess how you can understand how I might have made this mistake. But the fact of the matter is ... I still initially got this story wrong.

So -- as you can see, gang -- Al Lutz doesn't have an exclusive when it comes to getting stuff wrong about Disney's animated features. The key difference between our two situations that is that no one -- except Allan Neuwirth, of course -- ever caught my original error. Which is why I was able to quietly revisit that story -- after it had been posted, mind you -- and make a small correction. Set things right, if you will.

Whereas Al ... His "Brother Bear" / Grizzly Peak story is still out there for the whole world to see. To add insult to injury, at one point in the "Grin and Bear It" section of his October 15th Miceage update, he actually says "You can't make this stuff up folks!"

Which brings us to the $64 question: Did Al -- in fact -- actually make up this entire animators-were-forced-to-redo-"Brother-Bear" story? To be honest, I don't think so. I'm betting that what really happened here is that Lutz got hoaxed by some cruel jerk inside of TDA and/or WDFA. Someone who deliberately fed Al bad information. With the hope that he's eventually post it on Miceage.com and then look bad.

Or (Watch now as I try to put an even more positive spin on this pretty awful situation) maybe Al Lutz just innocently misinterpreted something that someone within the Mouse House told him. I mean, perhaps DCA's Grizzly Peak really DOES make an appearance in "Brother Bear." Only -- instead of the full-blown last-minute change of this picture's art direction that Lutz so lovingly described in his article -- maybe this California Adventure icon only makes a cameo appearance in the finished version of the film.

I mean, you guys know how the artists at Disney Feature Animation love to slip in-jokes into their movies, right? Take -- for instance -- how Mickey, Donald and Goofy can be found sitting in the audience for Ariel's concert at the start of "The Little Mermaid." Or how that tiny toy version of the Beast from "Beauty and the Beast" has a hiding-in-plain-sight appearance in "Aladdin." Or how Pumbaa from "The Lion King" gets carried through the city square during the "Out There" sequence of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

So -- with an eye toward continuing this tradition -- perhaps the crew at Disney Feature Animation -- Florida quietly DID slip a single image of DCA's Grizzly Peak into "Brother Bear." In some quick shot that we're all only going to discover after we buy the "Brother Bear" DVD next year and then patiently click through the entire film, frame-by-frame.

Hey, I've got some friends who still work at WDFA-F. Let me make a few phone calls and see if I can't get someone from Orlando to go on the record about this. Reveal -- for once and for all -- whether this Disney's California Adventure icon really DOES make some sort of appearance in "Brother Bear."

Because -- based on what I personally saw this past Sunday (You see, Nancy, Jeff, Flo and I actually drove down to NYC to catch the 2:45 p.m. matinee of this movie at the Ziegfeld Theatre) -- DCA's Grizzly Peak DOESN'T make an appearance in "Brother Bear." At least not in any way that really registers with moviegoers.

Mind you, I kept an eagle eye out through the entirety of this motion picture, people. Constantly scanning around to see if this DCA icon was making some sort of appearance. And I honestly never saw anything that looked like Grizzly Peak. (Mind you -- at one point -- I though that I caught a glimpse of Grandmother Willow from "Pocahontas." Which is perhaps something else I should ask my pals at WDFA-F about. Anyway ...)

So -- getting back to the whole point of today's article -- I really don't think that you folks should be all that hard on Al Lutz for getting this Grizzly Peak / "Brother Bear" story wrong. I mean, if you really knew about all the stuff that Disney Feature Animation actually DID deliberately stick into some of its most recent films ...

Like that scene in "Pocahontas," where Meeko braids Pocahontas' hair. That scene was actually inserted into the movie in direct response to a request made by executives from the Mattel Corporation. These suits thought that their company would actually be able to sell some more "Pocahontas" dolls if there was footage in the film showing how much fun it was to braid the Indian Princess' hair.

Or how about that scene in "Mulan" where Mushu is brushing his teeth down by the river. The scene was originally put in the film because Disney was hoping to persuade Colgate to become a promotional partner on the picture. Colgate eventually balked at the idea. Reportedly because the toothpaste that Mushu was using was colored blue. Which -- of course -- is the color of the toothpaste made by Colgate's arch rival, Crest.

... Changing the look of a mountain in "Brother Bear" just so it might help promote a troubled Disney theme park doesn't sound all that far fetched, now does it?

I mean -- given how good Al's sources usually are -- I initially bought this story. As did hundreds of you, no doubt. It was only after I saw "Brother Bear" for myself this past weekend and realized that the picture appeared to Grizzly Peak-free that I thought that "Jeese, that story's really going to come back to haunt Al."

Well ... That and the 23 nasty e-mails that popped up in my in-box this morning. Each and every one of them gleeful about the very idea that Lutz had screwed up in such a public manner.

Anywho ... As I said at the start of this article, I'm not a big fan of schadenfreude. Nor do I particularly enjoy the company of people who seem to take great joy in the misfortune of others. I keep thinking that "If they're attacking Al this week ... Next week, it's going to be me."

Which is why -- whenever I write anything -- I always try to keep in mind something that one of my old writing teachers once told me. Which is: "Always make sure that the words you use are sweet and tender. For you never know when you may be forced to eat them."

In the meantime, let me offer up a little advice here that's just for Al Lutz: Sorry, Al. You're in kind of a tough spot here, big guy. My suggestion is just fall on your sword. Admit that you unintentionally made a mistake, then move on.

See? Do just like I'm doing here ...

Folks, I'm sorry that I made that stupid Eric-Goldberg-worked-on-"Who-Framed-Roger-Rabbit?" mistake in the initial version of my "You Know What Bugs Me?" article. But I've now corrected that error as well as admitting that I initially made that mistake. Which is why I'm hoping that all you JRH readers can eventually forgive me. And that I promise that I'll try to not make such stupid mistakes in the future, okay?

You see what I mean, Al? One simple, sincere apology and all your troubles are behind you. It's easy. Really.

What's more -- by admitting that you made an error and then apologizing for that mistake -- you totally undercut your critics. They're the ones who then come across as being aggressive and excessive, should they opt to continue their attacks.

But please don't make the mistake of stonewalling here, Al. Or -- even worse -- quietly excising that whole "Grin and Bear It" section out of your October 15th update. Pretending that you never wrote that part of that article. Doing something like that would just give your most vocal critics even more fodder for future attacks. And you don't really want to give those guys any more ammo, do you, Al?

Okay. That concludes the semi-private communication portion of today's JHM article.

My apologies to those of you who may feel that today's is a trifle self-indulgent. One writer offering another writer advice on how to weather a professional crisis. Who the he*ll cares about a piece of cr*p like that?

Well, maybe you're right. Maybe today's JHM article is 'way too self-indulgent. But I figured -- if I could actually manage to get out in front of this whole Al Lutz / Grizzly Peak / "Brother Bear" controversy before the story went rogue -- I could prevent things from getting too ugly.

I mean, let's remember, folks: We're just talking about a feature length cartoon and a theme park here, people. So Al Lutz made a mistake. Big deal. This is NOT a moment that calls for great celebration and/or excessive gnashing of teeth. It's a non-story, really.

So let's all just briefly acknowledge what happened here, hope that Al eventually rectifies his error and get on with our lives, okay?

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