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A special "Toon Much of a Good Thing" edition of Why For

Jim Hill

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A special "Toon Much of a Good Thing" edition of Why For

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First up, Danny writes in to ask:


Any reason that you know of why Pixar started skimping on their DVD packages? Up to and including "The Incredibles," no company did the medium justice better than Pixar. But the discs for "Cars" and "Rataouille" (which I have an advanced copy of) are pathetic in comparison. Most notably absent are audio commentaries from Lasseter and Bird and little to no coverage of the Pixar artists.

Are there fully-loaded versions on the horizon, or some other reason to why Pixar DVDs have become so run-of-the-mill?

Thanks for the great site!


Dear Danny --

Given that I am regularly accused by JHM readers of being far too tough on that Emeryville-based animation studio, let me say -- right from the get-go here -- that this single disc thing isn't Pixar's fault.

Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

If John Lasseter & Brad Bird had their way, the theatrical release of every new Pixar film would immediately be followed by a multi-disc edition of that same movie. We're talking about a DVD that would then walk you through every phase of production, that would go into great detail about how that particular picture was made.

Which I know is just what all you Pixar and/or animation fans would really like to see ... But here's the harsh reality, kids: 95% of the people who actually purchase these new Disney / Pixar titles (at least during the first two weeks that these films are out on store shelves) aren't actually animation fans. But -- rather -- they're parents who just want something new that they can then drop into the family DVD player. Which will hopefully keep the kiddies quiet for an hour or so, so Mommy & Daddy can then get some work done.

Seriously, folks. That's what Walt Disney Home Entertainment has learned over the past 5 years through extensive survey work and consumer products testing. That the group that buys the largest number of new Disney / Pixar DVDs (i.e. parents of small children) just don't care for the two disc editions of these films.

Why For? Would you believe that it's because Mom & Dad are concerned that -- in their rush to load this new DVD into the player -- that they might accidentally drop the wrong disc into the machine? Which will then cause their kid to complain about how they're not able to see the movie. Which now negates the whole point of buying this new Disney / Pixar film in the first place. Which was to provide these parents with something that can then entertain and/or distract their children for a few hours.

Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Look, I know that that sounds a little cold-hearted. But the way I hear it, that's actually why WDHE opted to go with single disk editions of all of the new Disney / Pixar releases. Because that's what parents really wanted.

In fact, to address the ease-of-use concerns that some parents have with the DVD format ... Well, that's why Walt Disney Home Entertainment invented the FastPlay system. Which effectively allows Mom or Dad to just drop the newest Disney DVD into the family player and then walk away. All on its own, without anyone having to navigate through any menus, this disc will begin to play.

Mind you, before this DVD starts showing the main feature, it will first run coming attractions for every soon-to-be-released Disney / Pixar theatrical film and/or DVD. Which means that any child who's actually watched this disc will be well indoctrinated about what new movies they should be asking Mommy & Daddy to take them to and/or which DVD to ask for next. But for some parents ... That's a relatively small price to pay for a little peace and quiet.

As for us hardcore animation fans ... Not to worry: WDHE's business plan does eventually call for two disc editions of these new Disney / Pixar films to hit store shelves. But usually two to three years after the release of the original DVD versions of that same movie. More to the point, the multi-disc editions of these films will deliberately be sold at a much higher price point. So that the Mouse gets the maximum amount of return off of what is then basically a library title.

 Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Of course, another reason that Walt Disney Home Entertainment has been stinting on the Extra Features that it's been folding into its DVDs lately is that they now want consumers to start buying their new Disney / Pixar titles in the Blu-Ray format. Take -- for example -- the Disney Blu-Ray version of "Cars" that hits store shelves next Tuesday. This Hi Def disc features a never-before-seen deleted scene from that John Lasseter film. Plus -- if you take advantage of this Blu-Ray DVD's "Cine-Explore" option -- Lasseter himself will walk you through the making of this movie. All this, plus the "Car Finder" game. Which then allows you to hunt for the 200 different makes & models that Pixar created for this road picture.

"And will those Extra Features be offered on a non-Blu-Ray DVD version of 'Cars' ?," you ask. Well, the way I hear it, WDHE doesn't have any plans to release a disc like that anytime soon. So if you want to hear John Lasseter's insights about how "Cars" actually came together ... You're going to have to get yourself a Blu-Ray player.

Sorry about that.

Next up, Michael W. writes in to ask about the future of the "Magic of Disney Animation" facility at Disney-MGM Studios / Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Hey Jim,

I wanted to ask you about the old Feature Animation Building in the MGM backlot. As a cast member at the future Disney Hollywood Studios, I have heard rumors going around that John Lasseter came through the building about a year ago (January 07) in the interest of converting it back into an animation house for the shorts division. I was wondering if you have heard anything about this visit. If it is true, when could we see this happen.

Thanks for your insight!

-- Michael

Michael --

I wish I had better news for you. While I did hear that Lasseter did a walk-thru of Disney Feature Animation -- Florida when he visited WDW earlier this year (and John did reportedly marvel at how this actually-designed-by-animators building looked like it would have been the perfect place to produce cartoons), there's been no serious discussion at the corporate level of re-opening that facility.

 Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved

I mean, Walt Disney Animation Studios is getting back into the shorts business. Starting with "How to Install Your Home Theater" (Which will debut at a theater near you in less than three weeks. Given that this new Goofy cartoon is tacked on to the front of Walt Disney Pictures' big holiday release, "Enchanted"), there are three other shorts in WDAS's pipeline:

  • "Prep and Landing," which reveals how Santa's helpers get each of our houses ready for its annual visit from the Fat Man
  • "The Ballad of Nessie," which is this very stylized tribute to Loch Ness's most famous resident
  • "Glago's Guest," which details what happens when a member of Russia's border police has a close encounter of the third kind

But all of these films will be produced in Burbank using WDAS's own talent.

Mind you, this is not to say that there hasn't been some interesting gossip making the rounds about what's happening next at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Particularly the sorts of features that that studio will be producing in the not-so-distant future.

 Copyright 2008 Disney / Walden Media. All Rights Reserved

According to several folks who attended last month's "A Conversation with Disney's Mark Zoradi" presentation at the 2007 Heartland Film Festival, the president of the Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Group -- while he was talking up upcoming Mouse House releases like "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," "WALL * E" and "Bolt" -- may have dropped a bit of a bombshell. In that, while Zoradi was talking about other projects that Disney had in its development pipeline, Mark reportedly let slip that WDAS already had a second traditionally animated film in the works.

Wait. It gets better. A JHM representative who was attending this same event then quizzed a Disney publicist about Zoradi's comments. That publicist (who asked not to be identified) confirmed that such a project is in fact in the works. And this yet-to-be-named movie could be hitting a theater near you sometime in 2010, more likely 2011.

Just to clarify here: We're talking about a traditionally animated film in addition to "The Princess and the Frog," that John Musker / Ron Clements production that's currently due to be released in 2009. And -- no -- we're not confusing this movie with Glen Keane & Dean Wellins' "Rapunzel," which is still slated for 2010.

Now given that there have previously been rumors that -- following the release of "Bolt" and "Rapunzel" -- Walt Disney Animation Studios would revert to being a strictly traditional animation operation. With Pixar then becoming the arm of the Mouse House that produces CG-animated features, while Robert Zemeckis' new ImageMoversDigital unit would then handle all motion capture projects for the studio.

Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved

So now, what with top officials at Disney Studios making less-than-veiled references to WDAS having a second traditionally animated feature in the works ... One wonder what impact (if any) this intriguing new development is going to have on all those Burbank-based artists & animators who specialize in CG. If Walt Disney Animations Studios does go back to making traditional animated features, where do these guys then fit in the company's future plans?

Anyway ... That's it for this week, folks. Have a great weekend, okay?

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  • Don't toy with me, Jim! A second traditionally-animated feature? AHHH! You've made my day.

  • I would love Disney to reopen the Florida facility.  But I would want WDAS to survive as a Animation Studio.  After all, many animation studios have closed throughout the years, but Walt Disney Animation Studios is the oldest surviving Feature Animation studio.  I certainly hope both WDAS and Pixar will continue to make good films that will last for years beyond the 21st century.

  • Good Job jim on your valuable insight!


  • What a great, great, great Why For!!!!!!!!!!  So much good news!!!

    As for the lack of 2-disc DVDs, I figured it was because of Blu-Ray.  Not all parents are that stupid!  Why doesn't Disney just put out both 1-disc and 2-disc versions (like with POTC:DMC)?  Is it because some parents might buy the 2-disc version instead of the 1-disc version and complain?!?!?!?  They know that the animation fans will double dip, but that still seems unfair.  I see nothing wrong with releasing both 1-disc and 2-disc sets.

    I didn't know that the new Goofy short is in front of "Enchanted"- I was already so excited to see "Enchanted", but now I'm extra excited!!!

    And, I agree with megustajake- a 2nd traditionally animated feature would be amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I kind of like the idea of Disney making traditional features and Pixar making the CGI features, since I prefer Disney and I prefer traditional animation, but I wonder if Disney will ever have a story that would benefit from CGI?  I mean, I'm sure that CGI will be incorporated in the traditional films (it has since "The Black Cauldron", so I can't see them stopping now), but will they be completely closed-minded about making CGI features?

  • Wait a second, if a parent has a two disc dvd they might put in the wrong disc?  That is one of the worst excuses....ever.  

    And Jim another thing, you don't always have to write "this Emeryville base studio" or this "Brad Bird film."  it get's a litle annoying.

  • DAR31

    It's a writer's crutch that Jim uses... and yes, it is irritating. I noticed it being very prevelant in the recent Haunted Mansion series. Over the course of the 5 articles he must have referred to HM as "this Liberty Square attraction" at least 15 times.

  • Even before I was a parent, I couldn't have cared less about the second disc on the DVDs. Now, I take all the DVDs my daughter would ever ask to watch and put them in a 30-disc CD holder (thank goodness it isn't full!).

  • Thanks Disney...and a Blu-Ray player is exactly how much???

    People bought 2 disc Nemo DVD's by the bucketful. If Cars was on 2 discs and Rat was on 2 discs, parents would buy them anyway, so why not put them out and please the hardcore fans at the same time?

    This was a cheapskate suit decision if I've ever seen one.

  • Nice evenhanded article, Jim.

    Now is there any chance of an update on the 'disappointing boxoffice result of Ratatouile' a movie which at the moment of this writing (nov2) has made more than 80 million$ more than Cars, more than 60 million$ more than Toy StoryII and more than 25 million$ more than Monsters Inc. worldwide and is still going pretty strong internationally?


    Just wondering, because it would be a nice counterpart to all the 'suits/wall street/industry insiders have expressed displeasure with the performance of the latest work of this Emeryville based studio' that DID appear on the site regularly until most recently. I'm just saying.

  • Nah... He'll still figure out a way to spin it so that the Rat looks like a "disappointment".

  • Man parents are lazy.  When their kids are all fat and stricken with diabetes will they'll need those extra features to have something to do...

  • " When their kids are all fat and stricken with diabetes"

    That's when they'll pop in Wall-E to see what it will lead to.

  • Great article, Jim! Many thanks. I'm so excited about the new shorts. But...while I like Goofy, I hope we'll also get new shorts starring Mickey. His last short - "Runaway Brain" was excellent (it won an Oscar, after all!) I'd love to see more of the Mouse. (Wouldn't it be great if a new short was creating using the retro-Mickey design? I'd be in heaven!!!!)

  • As to the 2 disc special editions.

    One, Disney is not alone in this. Lord of the Rings screwed us all with one single disc and 6 months later a special 2 or 3 disc edition.

    Two, they will sell a single disc edition for the normal $19 - 29, then sell the special 2 disc edition for $29 - 39 later. I know it stinks, but it makes good business sense. I think the better thing to do, is to release both on the same day. But there might be logistical reasons or maybe the retailers don't want two different versions? A compromise might be regular edition for $20 at retailers nationwide and special edition for $30 at disney.com and Disney stores. That way Disney gets a bigger piece of the pie on the special editions.

    As to new traditional animation and the future of CGI at Disney Animation.

    I suspect that if Glen Keanne's new CGI/Tradional hybrid does well, that they will have a bright future at Disney feature animation. This style suits Disney and NOT Pixar. And can be a 4th unit at Disney?

  • Rapunzel and Princess and the Frog *may* actually swap release years.  I've heard many good things about Rapunzel; looking forward to that one.

    If they reopened Florida I know over a dozen animators (myself included) who would send reels immediately.  That studio was where I really wanted to end up..but anyways.

    It would be awesome for that studio to rise again.  One idea could be to make it a Pixar/Disney animation hybrid.  Give guests the opportunity to watch animators and artists from both studios do their thing.


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