Connect with us

General

“Really? But I thought that you hated the Walt Disney Company …”

Jim Hill finally answers some of the more pressing questions that JHM readers have. Like what does Jim really think of “Cars”? And why does this site keep taking pokes at Pixar? (WARNING: This article does contain a few minor “Pirates” spoilers)

Published

on

Something rather telling happened to me earlier this month while I was attending SIGGRAPH 2006.




Advertisement
Click Here
  


I was standing in the main hall at Boston’s Convention & Exhibition Center, admiring all of the cool “Meet the Robinsons” concept art that was on display at the Disney Feature Animation booth. And I had just finished jotting down a few notes when I noticed that a WDFA staffer was standing at my elbow.


This woman said: “Are you Jim Hill?” I had to admit that I was. The two of us then had a brief but very pleasant conversation about this upcoming Stephen J. Anderson film. But — as I mentioned how much I was looking forward to seeing “Meet the Robinsons” — this WDFA staffer seemed genuinely taken aback.


“Really?,” she said. “But I thought that you hated the Walt Disney Company.”


*sigh*


Given some of the articles that I’ve posted on this website, I guess that I shouldn’t be all that surprised that a Disney Feature Animation staffer might think this. I mean, judging by what’s  sometimes been said about me over in JHM’s TalkBack section, it’s clear that a number of this site’s readers also think the very same thing.


So let me blunt here, folks: I don’t hate the Mouse. All I’m trying to do with the stories that I post on this website is report the Disney-related news as I see it.


And when I say “news,” I don’t mean that “Happy HAPPY HAPPY” news that you’ll find on most other Disneyana websites. Where those webmasters just post the press releases that various arms of the Disney corporate empire send them.


Me? I’m not a big fan of press releases. Why For? Well, they tend to gloss over actual information. You know? The really juicy stuff.  


Take — for example — all the “Cars” -related releases that Disney’s PR department has issued over the past few months. To hear the Mouse’s flaks tell this tale, virtually everyone on the planet has been thrilled with the way that this new John Lasseter film has been performing.


Of course, if you’ve been reading the articles that I’ve been posting over here on JHM, then you know that a number of people in the investment community have already expressed dissatisfaction with “Cars” performance. Which I think is an important Disney-related story.



Copyright 2006 Disney/Pixar


Speaking of those stories … A number of JHM readers (based strictly on my coverage on this one issue) have now decided that “… Jim must really hate ‘Cars.’ ”


Well, if you think that, you’re wrong.


I mean, if that were really the case, if I did actually hate “Cars” … Then why (for the love of Chrysler) would I have seen this John Lasseter film three times over the past three months? With the last performance that I attended being one where my daughter & I went to see “Cars” while it was actually being screened at our local drive-in theater? That’s kind of odd behavior for someone who supposedly has it in for this particular Pixar production, don’t you think?


Well, the truth of the matter is that I actually like “Cars” quite a bit. Being a baby boomer who grew up in a small town that nearly caved in on itself once Maynard’s main employer (I.E. Digital Equipment Corporation) suddenly hit the skids … Well, let’s just say that that part of this movie’s message really resonated with me.


So does that mean that “Cars” is now my favorite Pixar movie? To be honest, no. If I had to list my absolute favorite films that this animation studio has produced over the past 10 years, I’m thinking that I’d have an awfully hard time choosing between “Monsters, Inc.,” “Toy Story 2” and “The Incredibles.” Those three movies set the skillful-storytelling bar awfully high.


“Cars”? As entertaining as this John Lasseter film may be, it still feels like lesser Pixar to me. Sort of like “A Bug’s Life.” Which has lots of wonderful characters & some truly engaging moments, but still somehow missed the mark. For me, anyway.


Come to think of it, I think that “Cars” ultimately gets tripped up by the very same thing that did in “A Bug’s Life.” Given that — 30 minutes into the picture — this whole new set of characters suddenly comes on screen. Which means that, in essence, the film’s story has to start all over again. As we now have to get to know this entirely new set of characters.


Anywho … When I say “lesser Pixar,” that’s sort of like complaining that your brand-new solid-gold watch is only 18 karat, rather than 24 karat. Gold’s gold, right? And Pixar’s still the very best at what they do. Which is creating these hyper-detailed, densely entertaining animated features.


(Though — that said — were you to ask me which of this summer’s feature-length cartoons was my absolute favorite, I’d have to say that it was Dreamworks Animation’s “Over the Hedge.” That Bonnie Arnold production was honestly tighter, funnier and more heartfelt [for me, anyway] than John Lasseter’s latest opus. If you haven’t yet seen “OTH,” make sure to check this Tim Johnson & Karey Kirkpatrick film out once it arrives on DVD on October 17th. Anyhow …)



Copyright 2006 Dreamworks Animation


“But if that’s how you really feel about ‘Cars’ in general and Pixar in particular,” you ask,”Then why have you written all of these stories about how this film has been under-performing at the box office? Articles that have suggested that — just because ‘Cars’ didn’t meet the investment community’s initial expectations — that Pixar may soon slip off its pedestal?”


Because (my personal feelings aside) that’s where the real story is. Not that Pixar made another movie that made lots of money. But — rather — that “Cars” wasn’t the “Finding Nemo” -sized hit that everyone had been hoping for. Given that the Walt Disney Company just paid $7.4 billion for Pixar Animation Studios … The mere fact that the first film that was released after this acquisition was completed failed to meet Wall Street’s expectations … Well, that’s news, people.


Now please note that I didn’t say “happy news.” Just plain-old news-news.


This (I fear) may be the main problem that some JHM readers have been having with my more recent articles. These people … Well, they like all of the stories that they read on the Web about the Walt Disney Company to be happy & upbeat. To read a piece that’s not positive about the Mouse … That somehow takes some of the magic out of the Magic Kingdom for these folks.


Don’t get me wrong. I get that the Walt Disney Company founded its fortune on telling tales that prominently feature fantasy, where dreams really do come true. Which — given that most people  don’t have nearly enough magic in their lives … Well, this is why so many folks have warm & fuzzy feelings about this particular Fortune 500 company.


But me? While I may occasionally visit the Magic Kingdom, I still live in the real world. Where seriously over-paying for Pixar Animation Studios may wind up costing Disney’s new CEO plenty.


I mean, let’s remember that — back in November of 2003, when Roy E. Disney resigned from the Walt Disney Company — that this was one of the main charges that Walt’s nephew made against Michael Eisner. That Disney’s old CEO had seriously over-paid News Corp (by as much as a billion dollars, some say) when Disney bought Fox Family Channel back in July of 2001 for $5.3 billion.


Now Disneyana fans — many of whom are still caught up in the artificial exuberance that initially surrounded the Pixar acquisition — may be willing to overlook an under-performing motion picture here or a billion dollar over-payment there. But Wall Street will not. And if Pixar’s next picture — “Ratatouille” — also fails to meet initial box office projections … Well, that $7.4 billion price tag may come back to haunt Bob Iger.


To be fair, in the other article that I’ve posted on JHM today, I suggest that “Cars” under-performance at the box office this past summer may actually be a symptom of a much larger problem. That most of the other CG films that have been released in the past six months have also failed to meet their initial financial projections. Thanks — in large part — to the fact that moviegoers appear to be growing bored with computer animation. Which is why Disney’s recent decision to revive its traditional animation unit is now looking like a really smart move.



Photo courtesy of Google Images


Mind you, we’re not talking about WDFA as it used to be back in 2001 or 2003 (I.E. Way before the lay-offs). But — rather — traditional animation as it was back in 1984. Where a very small team (We’re talking about only 100 artists & technicians) worked ridiculously long hours in order to churn out each new animated feature.


And given that over 2000 people used to work for WDFA back in its heyday … Well, there’s not going to be a whole lot of room in this particular lifeboat. So it’s going to be really interesting to see who gets invited back to work on these new traditionally animated features. More importantly, who doesn’t.


You see? That’s the sort of thing that I’m talking about. Where most Disneyana fans would have had a very upbeat reaction to this particular story (I.E. “Disney’s reviving its traditional animation unit? Hurray!), I opted to go the other way (I.E. “Yeah, but there won’t be a whole lot of job openings at this new version of Disney’s traditional animation unit. So who exactly is the Mouse going to hire to make these movies?”).


Hmmmn … Maybe the people who always complain about my articles are right. Maybe I am unnecessarily negative. But  the way I see it … Where other people see simplicity, I see complexity. Which is why I’m not a big fan of press releases. I don’t like easy answers. Explanations that seem too neat & tidy.


Beyond that … I don’t really know what to tell you folks. Other than to say — if you need for the stories that you read about the Mouse to always be “Happy HAPPY HAPPY” … This probably isn’t the website for you.


If — on the other hand — you can handle the occasional controversial article, one that asks you to accept something other than what Disney’s press releases are telling you … You’ll probably find a few things that you’ll enjoy reading here at JHM.


Unless — of course — I decide to write another article about “Cars.” If that were to happen … Well, look for all sorts of Hell to break loose over in JHM’s TalkBack section again.


I think that that pretty much covers it for today … Oh, wait. Some JHM readers wanted to know what I thought about “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”


To be honest, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I did “Curse of the Black Pearl.” I felt that this Gore Verbinski film was a bit on the flabby side, running at least a half hour too long. With so many huge action sequences piled right on top of one another that — after a while — it just felt like over-kill.


But — that said — “Dead Man’s Chest” was still a pretty fun night out at the movies for me. Thanks — in large part — to Johnny Depp‘s performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow. And Bill Nighy really added to the fun with his scenery-chewing turn as Davy Jones. (FYI: JHM will be doing a story in the next week or so that talks about the amazing technology that ILM used to turn this acclaimed British actor into a tentacle-faced ghoul. So keep an eye out for that particular article).


Anyway … If you were to ask me what my favorite part of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” was, I’d honestly have to say that it was the last 30 seconds of the film. Where Geoffrey Rush makes one of the great entrances in movie history.



Copyright 2003 Disney Enterprises


That’s why (I think) so many people are eager to see “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s Endnow. Not because they really want to learn what became of Capt. Jack Sparrow once he got swallowed by the Kraken. But — rather — to see what Capt. Barbossa is going to do next.


You know, now that I think of it, even though I’ve already seen “Dead Man’s Chest” twice, I may  have to go back and see this Jerry Bruckheimer production again sometime soon. If only to see if the rumors that I’ve been hearing are true. That — if you’re watching really closely — you can actually spy Barbossa’s boots on Tia Dalma’s bed. As that undead monkey is racing around her shack in the swamp.


Anyway … Here’s hoping that the above article finally answers some of the questions that a few JHM readers have been asking over the past few weeks. Hopefully this piece will give you a better understanding of why I write what I write, how I really feel about Pixar, etc.


Okay … Enough with this self-indulgent crap. Now — if you’ll excuse me — I have to get back to my real job. Which is writing new Disney-related articles that (I’m sure) some of you will vehemently disagree with.


Your thoughts?

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

General

Seward Johnson bronzes add a surreal, artistic touch to NYC’s Garment District

Published

on

Greetings from NYC. Nancy and I drove down from New
Hampshire yesterday because we'll be checking out
Disney Consumer Products' annual Holiday Showcase later today.

Anyway … After checking into our hotel (i.e., The Paul.
Which is located down in NYC's NoMad district), we decided to grab some dinner.
Which is how we wound up at the Melt Shop.


Photo by Jim Hill

Which is this restaurant that only sells grilled cheese sandwiches.
This comfort food was delicious, but kind of on the heavy side.


Photo by Jim Hill

Which is why — given that it was a beautiful summer night
— we'd then try and walk off our meals. We started our stroll down by the Empire
State Building


Photo by Jim Hill

… and eventually wound up just below Times
Square
(right behind where the Waterford Crystal Times Square New
Year's Eve Ball
is kept).


Photo by Jim Hill

But you know what we discovered en route? Right in the heart
of Manhattan's Garment District
along Broadway between 36th and 41st? This incredibly cool series of life-like
and life-sized sculptures that Seward
Johnson has created
.


Photo by Jim Hill

And — yes — that is Abraham Lincoln (who seems to have
slipped out of WDW's Hall of Presidents when no one was looking and is now
leading tourists around Times Square). These 18 painted
bronze pieces (which were just installed late this past Sunday night / early
Monday morning) range from the surreal to the all-too-real.


Photo by Jim Hill

Some of these pieces look like typical New Yorkers. Like the
business woman planning out her day …


Photo by Jim Hill

… the postman delivering the mail …


Photo by Jim Hill

… the hot dog vendor working at his cart …


Photo by Jim Hill


Photo by Jim Hill

… the street musician playing for tourists …


Photo by Jim Hill

Not to mention the tourists themselves.


Photo by Jim Hill

But right alongside the bronze businessmen …


Photo by Jim Hill

… and the tired grandmother hauling her groceries home …


Photo by Jim Hill

… there were also statues representing people who were
from out-of-town …


Photo by Jim Hill

… or — for that matter — out-of-time.


Photo by Jim Hill

These were the Seward Johnson pieces that genuinely beguiled. Famous impressionist paintings brought to life in three dimensions.


Note the out-of-period water bottle that some tourist left
behind. Photo by Jim Hill 

Some of them so lifelike that you actually had to pause for
a moment (especially as day gave way to night in the city) and say to yourself
"Is that one of the bronzes? Or just someone pretending to be one of these
bronzes?"

Mind you, for those of you who aren't big fans of the
impressionists …


Photo by Jim Hill

… there's also an array of American icons. Among them
Marilyn Monroe …


Photo by Jim Hill

… and that farmer couple from Grant Wood's "American
Gothic."


Photo by Jim Hill

But for those of you who know your NYC history, it's hard to
beat that piece which recreates Alfred Eisenstaedt's famous photograph of V-J Day in Times Square.


Photo by Jim Hill

By the way, a 25-foot-tall version of this particular Seward
Johnson piece ( which — FYI — is entitled "Embracing Peace") will actually
be placed in Times Square for a few days on or around  August 14th to commemorate the 70th
anniversary of Victory Over Japan Day (V-J Day).


Photo by Jim Hill

By the way, if you'd like to check these Seward Johnson bronzes in
person (which — it should be noted — are part of the part of the Garment
District Alliance
's new public art offering) — you'd best schedule a trip to
the City sometime over the next three months. For these pieces will only be on
display now through September 15th. 

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading

General

Wondering what you should “Boldly Go” see at the movies next year? The 2015 Licensing Expo offers you some clues

Published

on

Greeting from the 2015 Licensing Expo, which is being held
at the Mandalay Bay
Convention Center in Las
Vegas.


Photo by Jim Hill

I have to admit that I enjoy covering the Licensing Expo.
Mostly becomes it allows bloggers & entertainment writers like myself to
get a peek over the horizon. Scope out some of the major motion pictures &
TV shows that today's vertically integrated entertainment conglomerates
(Remember when these companies used to be called movie studios?) will be
sending our way over the next two years or so.


Photo by Jim Hill

Take — for example — all of "The Secret Life of
Pets
" banners that greeted Expo attendees as they made their way to the
show floor today. I actually got to see some footage from this new Illumination
Entertainment
production (which will hit theaters on July 8, 2016) the last time I was in Vegas. Which
was for CinemaCon back in April. And the five or so minutes of film that I viewed
suggested that "The Secret Life of Pets" will be a really funny
animated feature.


Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, Universal Pictures wanted to make sure that Expo
attendees remembered that there was another Illumination Entertainment production
coming-to-a-theater-near-them before "The Secret Life of Pets" (And
that's "Minions," the "Despicable Me" prequel. Which
premieres at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival next week but
won't be screened stateside 'til July 10th of this year). Which is why they had
three minions who were made entirely out of LEGOS loitering out in the lobby.


Photo by Jim Hill

And Warner Bros. — because they wanted "Batman v
Superman: Dawn of Justice
" to start trending on Twitter today — brought
the Batmobile to Las Vegas.


Photo by Jim Hill

Not to mention full-sized macquettes of Batman, Superman and
Wonder Woman. Just so conventioneers could then see what these DC superheroes
would actually look like in this eagerly anticipated, March 25, 2016 release.


Photo by Jim Hill

That's the thing that can sometimes be a wee bit frustrating
about the Licensing Expo. It's all about delayed gratification. You'll come
around a corner and see this 100 foot-long ad for "The Peanuts Movie"
and think "Hey, that looks great. I want to see that Blue Sky Studios production
right now." It's only then that you notice the fine print and realize that
"The Peanuts Movie" doesn't actually open in theaters 'til November
6th of this year.


Photo by Jim Hill

And fan of Blue Sky's "Ice Age" film franchise are in for an even
longer wait. Given that the latest installment in that top grossing series
doesn't arrive in theaters 'til July
15, 2016.


Photo by Jim Hill

Of course, if you're one of those people who needs immediate
gratification when it comes to your entertainment, there was stuff like that to
be found at this year's Licensing Expo. Take — for example — how the WWE
booth was actually shaped like a wrestling ring. Which — I'm guessing — meant
that if the executives of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. didn't like
the offer that you were making, they were then allowed to toss you out over the
top rope, Royal Rumble-style.


Photo by Jim Hill

I also have to admit that — as a longtime Star Trek fan —
it was cool to see the enormous Starship Enterprise that hung in place over the
CBS booth. Not to mention getting a glimpse of the official Star Trek 50th
Anniversary logo.


Photo by Jim Hill

I was also pleased to see lots of activity in The Jim Henson
Company booth. Which suggests that JHC has actually finally carved out a
post-Muppets identity for itself.


Photo by Jim Hill

Likewise for all of us who were getting a little concerned
about DreamWorks Animation (what with all the layoffs & write-downs &
projects that were put into turnaround or outright cancelled last year), it was
nice to see that booth bustling.


Photo by Jim Hill

Every so often, you'd come across some people who were
promoting a movie that you weren't entirely sure that you actually wanted to
see (EX: "Angry Birds," which Sony Pictures Entertainment / Columbia
Pictures
will be releasing to theaters on May 20, 2016). But then you remembered that Clay Kaytis
who's this hugely talented former Walt Disney Animation Studios animator — is
riding herd on "Angry Birds" with Fergal Reilly. And you'd think
"Well, if Clay's working on 'Angry Birds,' I'm sure this animated feature
will turn out fine."


Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, there were reminders at this year's Licensing Expo
of great animated features that we're never going to get to see now. I still
can't believe — especially after that brilliant proof-of-concept footage
popped up online last year — that Sony execs decided not to go forward
with  production
of Genndy Tartakovsky's
"Popeye" movie.  But that's the
cruel thing about the entertainment business, folks. It will sometime break
your heart.


Photo by Jim Hill

And make no mistake about this. The Licensing Expo is all
about business. That point was clearly driven home at this year's show when —
as you walked through the doors of the Mandalay
Bay Convention Center
— the first thing that you saw was the Hasbros Booth. Which was this gleaming,
sleek two story-tall affair full of people who were negotiating deals &
signing contracts for all of the would-be summer blockbusters that have already
announced release dates for 2019 & beyond.


Photo by Jim Hill

"But what about The Walt Disney Company?," you
ask. "Weren't they represented on the show floor at this year's Licensing
Expo?" Not really, not. I mean, sure. There were a few companies there hyping
Disney-related products. Take — for example — the Disney Wikkeez people.


Photo by Jim Hill

I'm assuming that some Disney Consumer Products exec is
hoping that Wikkeez will eventually become the new Tsum Tsum. But to be blunt,
these little hard plastic figures don't seem to have the same huggable charm
that those stackable plush do. But I've been wrong before. So let's see what
happens with Disney Wikkeez once they start showing up on the shelves of the
Company's North American retail partners.


Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of Disney's retail partners … They were
meeting with Mouse House executives behind closed doors one floor down from the
official show floor for this year's Licensing Expo.


Photo by Jim Hill

And the theme for this year's invitation-only Disney shindig? "Timeless
Stories" involving the Disney, Pixar, Marvel & Lucasfilm brands that
would then appeal to "tomorrow's consumer."


Photo by Jim Hill

And just to sort of hammer home the idea that Disney is no
longer the Company which cornered the market when it comes to little girls
(i.e., its Disney Princess and Disney Fairies franchises), check out this
wall-sized Star Wars-related image that DCP put up just outside of one of its
many private meeting rooms. "See?," this carefully crafted photo
screams. "It isn't just little boys who want to wield the Force. Little
girls also want to grow up and be Lords of the Sith."


Photo by Jim Hill

One final, kind-of-ironic note: According to this banner,
Paramount Pictures will be releasing a movie called "Amusement Park"
to theaters sometime in 2017.  


Photo by Jim Hill

Well, given all the "Blackfish" -related issues
that have been dogged SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment over the past two years, I'm
just hoping that they'll still be in the amusement park business come 2017.

Your thoughts?

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading

General

It takes more than three circles to craft a Classic version of Mickey Mouse

Published

on

You know what Mickey Mouse looks like, right? Little guy,
big ears?

Truth be told, Disney's corporate symbol has a lot of
different looks. If Mickey's interacting with Guests at Disneyland
Park
(especially this summer, when
the Happiest Place on Earth
is celebrating its 60th anniversary), he looks & dresses like this.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc.
All rights reserved

Or when he's appearing in one of those Emmy Award-winning shorts that Disney
Television Animation has produced (EX: "Bronco Busted," which debuts
on the Disney Channel tonight at 8 p.m. ET / PT), Mickey is drawn in a such a
way that he looks hip, cool, edgy & retro all at the same time.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights
reserved

Looking ahead to 2017 now, when Disney Junior rolls out "Mickey and the
Roadster Racers
," this brand-new animated series will feature a sportier version
of Disney's corporate symbol. One that Mouse House managers hope will persuade
preschool boys to more fully embrace this now 86 year-old character.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

That's what most people don't realize about the Mouse. The
Walt Disney Company deliberately tailors Mickey's look, even his style of
movement, depending on what sort of project / production he's appearing in.

Take — for example — Disney
California Adventure
Park
's "World of Color:
Celebrate!
" Because Disney's main mouse would be co-hosting this new
nighttime lagoon show with ace emcee Neil Patrick Harris, Eric Goldberg really had
to step up Mickey's game. Which is why this master Disney animator created
several minutes of all-new Mouse animation which then showed that Mickey was
just as skilled a showman as Neil was.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc.
All rights reserved

Better yet, let's take a look at what the folks at Avalanche Studios just went
through as they attempted to create a Classic version of Mickey & Minnie.
One that would then allow this popular pair to become part of Disney Infinity
3.0.

"I won't lie to you. We were under a lot of pressure to
get the look of this particular version of Mickey — he's called Red Pants
Mickey around here — just right," said Jeff Bunker, the VP of Art
Development at Avalanche Studios, during a recent phone interview. "When
we brought Sorcerer Mickey into Disney Infinity 1.0 back in January of 2014,
that one was relatively easy because … Well, everyone knows what Mickey Mouse
looked like when he appeared in 'Fantasia.' "


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"But this time around, we were being asked to design
THE Mickey & Minnie," Bunker continued. "And given that these Classic
Disney characters have been around in various different forms for the better
part of the last century … Well, which look was the right look?"

Which is why Jeff and his team at Avalanche Studios began watching hours &
hours of Mickey Mouse shorts. As they tried to get a handle on which look would
work best for these characters in Disney Infinity 3.0.


Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"And we went all the way back to the very start of Mickey's career. We began
with 'Steamboat Willie' and then watched all of those black & white Mickey shorts
that Walt made back in the late 1920s & early 1930s. From there, we
transitioned to his Technicolor shorts. Which is when Mickey went from being
this pie-eyed, really feisty character to more of a well-behaved leading
man," Bunker recalled. "We then finished out our Mouse marathon by
watching all of those new Mickey shorts that Paul Rudish & his team have
been creating for Disney Television Animation. Those cartoons really recapture
a lot of the spirit and wild slapstick fun that Mickey's early, black &
white shorts had."

But given that the specific assignment that Avalanche Studios had been handed
was to create the most appealing looking, likeable version of Mickey Mouse
possible … In the end, Jeff and his team wound up borrowing bits & pieces
from a lot of different versions of the world's most famous mouse. So that
Classic Mickey would then look & move in a way that best fit the sort of
gameplay which people would soon be able to experience with Disney Infinity
3.0.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"That — in a lot of ways — was actually the toughest
part of the Classic Mickey design project. You have to remember that one of the
key creative conceits of  Disney Infinity
is that all the characters which appear in this game are toys," Bunker
stated. "Okay. So they're beautifully detailed, highly stylized toy
versions of beloved Disney, Pixar, Marvel & Lucasfilm characters. But
they're still supposed to be toys. So our Classic versions of Mickey &
Minnie have the same sort of thickness & sturdiness to them that toys have.
So that they'll then be able to fit right in with all of the rest of the
characters that Avalanche Studios had previously designed for Disney Infinity."

And then there was the matter of coming up with just the
right pose for Classic Mickey & Minnie. Which — to hear Jeff tell the
story — involved input from a lot of Disney upper management.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"Everyone within the Company seemed to have an opinion
about how Mickey & Minnie should be posed. More to the point, if you Google
Mickey, you then discover that there are literally thousands of poses out there
for these two. Though — truth be told — a lot of those kind of play off the
way Mickey poses when he's being Disney's corporate symbol," Bunker said.
"But what I was most concerned about was that Mickey's pose had to work
with Minnie's pose. Because we were bringing the Classic versions of these
characters up into Disney Infinity 3.0 at the exact same time. And we wanted to
make sure — especially for those fans who like to put their Disney Infinity
figures on display — that Mickey's pose would then complement Minnie.

Which is why Jeff & the crew at Avalanche Studios
decided — when it came to Classic Mickey & Minnie's pose — that they
should go all the way back to the beginning. Which is why these two Disney icons
are sculpted in such a way that it almost seems as though you're witnessing the
very first time Mickey set eyes on Minnie.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"And what was really great about that was — as soon as
we began showing people within the Company this pose — everyone at Disney
quickly got on board with the idea. I mean, the Classic Mickey that we sculpted
for Disney Infinity 3.0 is clearly a very playful, spunky character. But at the
same time, he's obviously got eyes for Minnie," Bunker concluded. "So
in the end, we were able to come up with Classic versions of these characters
that will work well within the creative confines of Disney Infinity 3.0 but at
the same time please those Disney fans who just collect these figures because
they like the way the Disney Infinity characters look."

So now that this particular design project is over, does
Jeff regret that Mouse House upper management was so hands-on when it came to
making sure that the Classic versions of Mickey & Minnie were specifically
tailored to fit the look & style of gameplay found in Disney Infinity 3.0?


Copyright Lucasfilm / Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"To be blunt, we go through this every time we add a new character to the
game. The folks at Lucasfilm were just as hands-on when we were designing the
versions of Darth Vader and Yoda that will also soon be appearing in Disney
Infinity 3.0," Bunker laughed. "So in the end, if the character's
creators AND the fans are happy, then I'm happy."

This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page on Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading

Trending