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When it comes to Pixar, the Mouse is sending very mixed messages

When it comes to Pixar, the Mouse is sending very mixed messages

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Greetings from the exhibition floor at SIGGRAPH 2005. Where it's really hard to know what to think ... Particularly when it comes to the Walt Disney Company.

What do I mean by that? Well, let's start by talking about that rather slick recruiting film that's running repeatedly at the WDFA booth (No. 1724). This professionally produced production shows animators happily toiling away at Walt Disney Feature Animation, DisneyToon Studios and Disney Circle 7 Animation.

"And what exactly is Disney Circle 7 Animation?," you ask. Well, this is the brand-new studio that the Walt Disney Company has set up to produce sequels to Pixar Animation Studios' films like "Toy Story" and "Monsters, Inc."


A promotional image for "Toy Story 3" from the WDFA booth at Siggraph 2005

In fact, as part of a brief film montage, we see newly hired Disney employees in front of a storyboard for "Toy Story III." We also hear one new hire talk about how much she likes working in a brand-new building on films that will star characters that the world already loves ... Right before we get a quick shot of Mike & Sulley from "Monsters, Inc."

"Sooo ... If the Mouse is being so blatant about this whole we're-making-sequels-to-these-Pixar-pictures thing, I guess that means that there's not a chance in hell that Pixar Animation Studios will ever renew its co-production / distribution deal with the Walt Disney Company ... Right?," you query.

Not necessarily. Were you to talk with other folks who work at the Mouse House, you'd find that -- when it comes to Pixar -- Mickey's sending some very mixed signals nowadays.

What sort of signals? Well, take -- for example -- this story that just came out of WDI. Where the Imagineers who are still hard at work on DCA's "Monsters, Inc. : Mike & Sulley to the Rescue" attraction were somewhat miffed to learn that WDI's own art directors wouldn't have the final say on how this new dark ride should look. But -- rather -- a representative from Pixar was now going to have the final word on how this new California Adventure attraction should appear.


A storyboard sketch for DCA's Monsters Inc. ride.

You see what I mean, folks? Very mixed messages. With Disney Feature Animation basically playing hardball, insisting that sequels to "Toy Story" and "Monsters, Inc." aren't just going into production. But that both of these projects are already well into their development phases, with Disney Circle 7 staffers expecting to begin production on these two sequels very, very soon.

And yet ... Over at WDI, we have the Imagineers basically bending over backwards, taking power away from their own people. All in an effort to make the people back at Pixar think: "Those guys at Disney really like us & respect us. Our creative input truly matters to them. Maybe we should stay in business with these folks."


Could final say on the Finding Nemo submarine voyage soon be handed over to Pixar as well?

Of course, I guess it's easy to understand why Disney might be playing hardball on the exhibition floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center. After all, this is where Mickey is going head-to-head with Pixar as it attempts to recruit some of the top talent working in computer animation today to come for the Mouse House.

And the way I hear it: Walt Disney Feature Animation, DisneyToon Studios and Disney Circle 7 Animation are looking to recruit an awful lot of people. According to some people that I've spoken with, we could be talking about as many as 700 positions that need to be filled. To be specific, Disney is recruiting experienced:

  • software engineers (entry level through senior development graphics)
  • software engineers (general)
  • lead technical support engineers
  • administrator, render i/o
  • lead media technical support
  • media editorial support technicians
  • media project engineers
  • systems administrators
  • ids administrators
  • system engineers / intergation
  • network administrators

Plus all you undergraduate and graduate technology students out there, you may be interested to hear that the Walt Disney Company is offering (for the first time ever) a summer associate technology program. Starting in the Summer of 2006, a limited number of students will be offered full-time employment at Walt Disney Feature Animation. Where they will offered a variety of assignment with only one area of technology at the studio.

I know, I know. This sounds like a killer opportunity for some of you college students out there. But please be aware that Disney's Summer Associate Technology Program has some restrictions. The very least of these being that -- in order to land this position -- you have to provide your own housing & transportation out here in LA.

But -- beyond that -- this breally does sound like one hell of an opportunity. For those of you who'd like a bit more info about Disney's 2006 Summer Associate Technology program, just toss an e-mail at wds.intern@disney.com. And those folks will then supposedly be happy to fill you on the rest of the details that pertain to this new program.

Anyway ... Getting back to Disney Feature Animation's booth at SIGGRAPH 2005. Where every applicant walks away with a special souvenir WDFA Rubik's Cube. I thought that I might pass along one comment that I heard yesterday. Maybe make the Mouse aware of one potential PR problem that looms on the horizon for their newest studio.

This (I swear) is an exact transcript of a conversation that I overheard yesterday afternoon, while I was seated inside the Disney Feature Animation Booth. As the Disney Circle 7 promo film ran, one rather jaded conventioneer turned to another and said:

"Circle 7? Isn't Hell supposed to have seven circles?"

Sooo .... If you really want the people that you're recruiting to think of your newest studio as a pleasant possible working environment, you may want to lose the whole Circle 7 Animation name.

Just a suggestion.

Anywho ... I'll be back tomorrow with a full report on today's big "Legacy of Disney Animation" presentation at SIGGRAPH 2005.

Til then, you folks take care, okay?

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