The Greed Age of Animation
Joe Tracy, Publisher of Digital Media FX Magazine
the magic of Disney's all time classic as Walt Disney Home Video
presents Snow White 2: When Will My Prince Come? Coming
to video on April 1, this classic follows the adventure of Snow
White's daughter as she searches for her prince. And if you thought
that the evil queen in the original classic fell to her death,
think again. We'll show you what really happened as the evil queen
returns to seek her vengeance on Snow White, her daughter, the
Prince, and the Seven Dwarfs. Featuring none of the original talent,
this direct to video sequel is sure to be magical for Disney's
It's a scary
thought that Disney would desecrate such a classic as Snow
White with a poorly produced sequel, but why not? Disney seems
bent on mining all the classics in order to turn "magic"
into "mula". Right now Snow White II is just
a bad "April Fool's joke", but what's scary is that
it could become a reality. In fact, there's a nightmare rumor
that Disney started pre-production on Snow White II earlier
movies used to be about quality family entertainment that was
original, creative, and fascinating. However, as Earth progresses
through different ages, so does the Disney Empire. Right now Disney
seems to be in the Greed Age, where money is the motive for all
decisions. Disney has discovered a gold mine during the Greed
Age known as "the animated sequel" and in some cases
"the animated sequel to the animated sequel."
this mean? It means that beloved classic animated movies are being
butchered in sequels that lack originality and vision. In fact,
a formula seems to have emerged for the Disney sequel consisting
of two main ideas:
Bring back the same villain (or a very close relative that
looks the same) even if that villain "died" in the
Give the main characters children that face the same type
of obstacles as their parents did.
animated movie is safe from the sequel treatment because Disney
sequels make a lot of money going direct to video. Take, for example,
Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, which is stirring a lot
of controversy in the animation industry (click
here for a Digital Media FX discussion on this subject).
The promo for Cinderella II says, "The Magic didn't
end at midnight." It may not have ended for Cinderella, but
it seems to have ended for Disney.
take a quick look at the list of animated sequels Disney has released
over the past several years or will be releasing in the next few
months (links point to Amazon.com listing):
Return of Jafar
and the King of Thieves
and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas
Little Mermaid: Return to the Sea
King II: Simba's Pride
II: Journey to a New World
II: Dreams Come True
Hunchback of Notre Dame II
and the Tramp 2: Scamp's Adventure
Peter Pan: Return to Neverland (Theatrical Release: February 15,
more Disney animated sequels currently in production for future
Snow White 2 (unconfirmed)
If you clicked
through on the Amazon.com links you'll notice the terrible reviews
many of the sequels receive, which only reflects on Disney animation
as a whole. Take for example, Aladdin. Amazon.com reviewers
give the original Aladdin 5 out of 5 stars. Yet the sequel,
The Return of Jafar averages 2 out of 5 stars.
sequel business for Disney is so huge that it even has the following
question as part of the Disney site FAQ:
can I find information about one of your new movie sequels to
a classic Disney animated feature?"
is to simply link to the site's DVD/Video home page (which isn't
very helpful). The question is an indication at how big the market
is for Disney and how Disney has become a master of "animation
What is animation
dilution? Well, theme parks and many fast food joints learned
years ago that they could make more money from selling soft drinks
if they added a lot of ice to the drinks when giving them to a
customer. Ice is virtually free and by conditioning people to
believe they need ice to keep drinks cold, these places were successfully
diluting the soda to make more money. That's why I always get
my soda without ice (and it's just as cold as the soda fountains
are refrigerated). Disney has mastered the same concept with its
direct to video animated sequels. It is diluting its own marketplace
to make an extra buck. The movies are more watered down and without
substance but as long as the public doesn't care, Disney will
continue to do it. Disney's ultimate goal would be to create a
brand image where people expect (and perhaps even want) an animated
just like many people come to expect ice with their
So when will
this all end? Well, we already know that Disney does not care
about its image during the Greed Age; it cares only about money.
And this isn't just in its animated sequels. Take a look at its
theme parks. How many years has it been since Disneyland was given
a new ride? Yet Disney continues to shut down rides and attractions
while not opening new ones. Disney has also cut out customer service
perks like Early Bird Entry for resort guests. Disney's California
Adventure was built more like an elaborate fair than a magical
Disney destination. Disney is cutting corners to make a fast buck
with no care about what it is doing to its image. The Greed Age
trickles through the whole company, not just animation. But animation
is one of the most visual mediums of this injustice.
Even the press
is getting sick of the continual Disney animated sequels. Earlier
this month the Star Tribune said the following in a detailed opinion
column titled, "Sequels Don't Fuel Kids Imaginations":
is what we've come to, as far as imagination stretches these days.
Kids, and we parents, are being played for chumps. Disney wants
us to believe that somewhere in the Magic Kingdom, there's a magical
turnip from which it can wring nostalgic water at will. And only
a sour old adult would call it drivel
are made for children young enough to accept them at face value
and not realize that they are warmed-over retreads. Or maybe,
just maybe, they will -- and there's the tragedy
tragedy is Disney trying to force its partners to churn out sequels.
In public statements, Disney is trying to force the idea that
part of Pixar's contract with the studio is to create two sequels
(in addition to Toy Story 2) of its movies. Pixar has found
itself in a position of having to issue corrections to such statements.
Just late last month, Pixar issued the following statement in
response to Michael Eisner saying they were owed three more movies
and two sequels by Pixar:
to questions arising from a comment made by Disney CEO Michael
Eisner during Disney's quarterly earnings call today, Pixar CEO
Steve Jobs issued the following clarification, 'Pixar has only
three pictures left to deliver under its current deal with Disney,
and all three of these pictures are currently in some stage of
production. While Pixar has the right of first refusal to make
sequels of its films, it has no obligation to do so. Pixar enjoys
a very successful relationship with Disney and we look forward
to completing the remaining three pictures of our current deal.'"
Disney trying to force Pixar to do a Toy Story 3 only damage
future chances of the companies working together. But in the Greed
Age that doesn't matter because the company is only thinking of
now and not what the future consequences will be to its current
actions. When Disney built a cheap Disney's California Adventure
theme park (and there are exceptions like the beautiful Imagineered
Animation building), it didn't think of the possibility that people
wouldn't like it. Now tens of millions of dollars is having to
be spent to fix the problems so that people will start going to
the new park in numbers needed to make the park profitable.
the man, was a true visionary that cared more about being true
to the public than about the bottom line (trivia question: how
many animation sequels did Walt Disney the man make? Zero? Why?).
And through focusing on originality, vision, and service he was
able to build the Disney Empire during "The Visionary Age".
Walt cared about the experience and because he made the experience
great for all - without cutting corners - he was rewarded with
huge success. The future of Disney was always secure when Walt
was in charge of the company because he knew how to generate loyalty.
2000 Animatasia Awards, many people were shocked that Disney Feature
Animation was not one of the three companies nominated for the
"Best Animation Studio of the Year" award. This is not
the fault of the excellent Disney animators or artists, but rather
corporate decisions that are leading its animation division down
the wrong path. It's no wonder that Pixar, DreamWorks, and Aardman
are now held in higher regard than Disney Feature Animation. By
choosing a path of destruction, Disney Feature Animation is shaping
up to be The Emperor's Last Groove.
of this opinion column is not to demoralize what has become of
Disney Feature Animation (even though it may seem that way). The
purpose is to show Disney that it needs to reconsider the path
it is going down and to learn from companies like Pixar. Disney
has always been The Lion King of animation and it is saddening
to see them Scarred by their decisions. Michael Eisner would be
wise to form "The Animation Knights of the Round Table"
of creative Disney greats still at the studio (i.e. Don Hahn,
Glen Keane) and begin to truly tackle the issue of what it will
take to bring the magic back to life -- to recapture The Power
of Imagination. A good starting point would be to cancel any perceived
plans of Snow White 2 and to invent new, interesting, and
original animated stories with strong characters and execution.
Disney should hire someone to write a biography on John Lasseter,
then read it multiple times and learn.
to get back to the basics:
+ Imagination = Current and Future Financial Strength and Viewer
I'd love to
be writing an editorial two years from now on another new Disney
Age - "The Animation Imagination New Age Movement".
After all, animation is about The Power of Imagination and not
the ability to recreate the same story in sequel form. Please,
Disney, let Snow White and her prince live happily ever after
so that we may live happily ever after too.
here to discuss this story in the Digital
Media FX Forums.
Tracy is the publisher of Digital
Media FX, author of four books and former editor of
the visual effects print magazine, NewTekniques. He is
also a visual effects columnist for The Hollywood Forum.
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