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Amid Talks Disney vs. DreamWorks

Amid Amidi

This morning I appeared on the Fox Business channel to discuss the rivalry between Pixar and DreamWorks. The other guest was esteemed animation director (and fellow blogger) Michael Sporn. It was impossible to say anything revelatory or original in the brief timespan of the segment and they managed to misspell my name onscreen, but I don’t appear on TV often so I’m posting the video here for posterity. The real excitement of the morning was in the green room where I tried to eat a bagel while sitting next to Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper and having his security detail breathing down my neck.

  • tom

    Did you put in a plug for the Ottawa Festival to the PM.

  • Owen

    Wow, I’ve never heard anyone ever compare Dreamsworks’ approach to comedy to the Warners in my entire life and I hope to never hear it again.

  • Terrance

    Too bad it was on Fox. More people might have seen it elsewhere. Nice clip, though.

  • pizzaforeveryone

    Ha. I really like how that woman has “1000 questions to ask about animation but we’ll get to that another time.”

    What’s up with that funky set?

  • lookin crisp, youse guys.

  • Badjoojoo

    Here’s the difference between Pixar/Classic Disney and DreamWorks:

    In a Pixar/Classic Disney movie, you get a variety of different kinds of characters — a Winnie the Pooh, a Piglet, a Rabbit, an Eeyore, and an Owl , or you might get seven very different dwarfs.

    In a DreamWorks picture you usually get one Christopher Robin and a bunch of Tiggers. (Actually, sometimes you don’t even get the Christopher Robin.)

  • Pedro Nakama

    Wow! Well that said nothing!

  • Great! Thank you to post the video here because we dont have Fox Business channel in Brazil. And congrats!

  • galacticadude

    At least animation was talked about on a network other than an ET style show.

  • OtherDan

    Movin on up! Congrats Amid! But, I have to take issue with the depiction of the “rivalry”. You didn’t say it, but to cast Dreamworks as the Looney Tunes equivalent is a stretch. This is the studio that did Prince of Egypt! I just think it’s important to look at the breadth of work, because that is really what defines a studio.

  • Corey

    You sure you weren’t on the Onion ?

  • I won’t speak for Michael, but it’s pretty clear his parallel was meant in approach to animation and character. Not surprisingly, it’s a pretty aastute observation.

    Dreamworks, like Warner Bros., focuses on gag based films from stock, one dimensional characters.

    He clarifies this further by adding that Pixar, like the Disney of the 40s and 50s, is concerned with overall story arcs that they draw characters out of.

  • Brian Kidd

    OtherDan, yes PRINCE OF EGYPT is a fine, even, at times, glorious animated film. I saw it three times in the theater and each time convinced other people to come with me because I felt it was a wonderful film that was getting overlooked. This from a professed Athiest. I even really liked ROAD TO EL DORADO. It certainly did not have the epic scope of the first film, but it was a well-told story and completely charming. What happened to the studio that made those films is that SHREK came along and made a boatload of money. SHREK is amusing, but paper-thin. I can’t name a single Dreamworks Animation film that has come along since then that hasn’t followed the SHREK formula, except sometimes leaving out the amusing parts. I had high hopes for Dreamworks when they began, but any regard for the studio that I once held is long gone. I think they have talented animators, but when there is no faith or finance put behind talented artists and story people, then they will continue to produce disposable entertainment.

  • What was Harper there to discuss, the rivalry between the Canadian Liberal and Conservative parties? That’s like comparing Nelvana to Grantray-Lawrence.

  • Has someone found a new career as a talking head?? Next stop, VH1!!

  • “Name some of the films as we’re talking about this.”

    So she could only come up with the name of one Dreamworks movie and it’s the one that’s yet to be released. That’s sad. Couldn’t somebody have written up a cue card for her?

    Did she ever ask Michael her animation questions? Maybe after the segment? If so, please share…

  • Great Job Amid!

    Rob & Kat

  • Amid, you came off very smart and together. Well done.

    I still think the WB reference is apt. I’m not talking about anything more than populist humor in Dreamworks/WB and not in Pixar/Disney. That’s what separates the films.

    What you saw is what we got. The woman didn’t ask us anything else, and I have no idea what the hell we were doing on the show. It was truly a waste of time doing it and a waste of time watching it. I’m convinced the world doesn’t need 24hr. cable network news – especially not business news!

  • Uli Meyer

    Joe Average wouldn’t be able to sum up what was said in this “discussion” and probably doesn’t really care. The girl interviewing Amid and Michael probably can’t recall what was said either if you’d ask her. As she said at the end, she likes all of the movies and so do her kids.
    But never mind Amid, hey, you got to be on telly, and you came across really well, well done.

  • I would have much preferred seeing Amidi and Sporn discuss the art of animation on the set of Charlie Rose. It’s as if there’s a 2:1 ratio between the level of discussion on a show and the number of flashy gizmos in the background. In the case of Charlie Rose, all he has is a black curtain to disguise the film crew, but you can’t beat the discussions that emerge on that program.

  • droosan

    re: Brian Kidd

    Well, there were these two films called SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON and SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS. Both of which (at least, IMO) were excellent divergences from the SHREK formulae .. and had gorgeous animation, to boot.

    Too bad there doesn’t seem to be anything of that ‘mold’ in Dreamworks/PDI’s upcoming slate. But CORALINE would seem to prove that one need not necessarily look to Disney/Pixar & Dreamworks/PDI exclusively when it comes to wanting something different in american animation.

  • Yeah, I’d have a hard time saying your name if I were interviewing you too.

    The two of you are very knowledgeable about this stuff and it really shows. I think it would have been great if you both talked possibly about the difficulty of a third party getting into the mix. Is it because Disney and Dreamworks are too dominant, is it because some studios are smaller (i.e. Focus working with Coraline and 9) or because their films are total crap? (i.e. Space Chimps and Delgo)

  • Michael, I see what you’re saying, and I know I’m being knit-picky, but to my mind Warner Brothers established strong personalities-just as strong as any of the Disney characters of the time. Plus, Disney was as gag driven as Warners during those “golden” days. Except, Warners took a different path with the humor and execution. Dreamworks is a different animal. I mean I think they put as much consideration into story and character arcs as Disney does…I would have a hard time defining their overall scheme. For the most part I think they’ve been hunting for ways to be competitive with each film. And, now it seems maybe it’s simply irreverent humor? Nothing wrong with that.

  • Viridis

    Nice segment, even if nothing really was said.

    I can’t say I agree with the relation to Disney in terms of developing stories– Disney certainly developed the visual art of animation leaps and bounds beyond anything else for awhile, but their stories tend to be rather lacking: they’re almost all adapted from something else (minus a few exceptions like Lilo & Stitch/Emperor’s New Groove) and usually really dumbed-down in the process. Pixar, on the other hand, really is taking a lot of chances developing new stories (like WALL-E and Up!) with very non-traditional characters, but that’s what makes them interesting.

    I enjoyed Shrek/Shrek 2 and Kung Fu Panda, but they’re not really lasting films (how many kids in 10-20 years are going to get all the pop culture references? Even Disney films age better than that) and they’re pretty base humor. It makes money, but that only takes you so far. I couldn’t argue with Pixar winning the Oscar for WALL-E, but it looks like hopefully next year we’ll see a little more competition there, with Coraline and 9 possibly challenging Up for a spot. (I can’t honestly say I think “Monsters vs Aliens” is even going to make it up there. It looks pretty flat.)

  • a reader

    I enjoyed Shrek/Shrek 2 and Kung Fu Panda, but they’re not really lasting films (how many kids in 10-20 years are going to get all the pop culture references?

    Where were “all the pop culture references” in Panda?
    Po (via Jack Black, in a really good performance) does speak in a colloquial way. But apart from his manner of speaking, where were all the “you have to be a supposedly-hip 20 something TV-fixated consumer” jokes? There weren’t any.
    I saw the film twice. The only thing I can remember along those lines (and it’s a stretch) is Po playing with his action figure toys of the furious five. Kids have been playing with toys for a long time, so I wouldn’t exactly call that a pop culture reference. I think the little kids and the grandparents in the audience get the idea the panda worships these legendary fighters and wants to be like them.

    There are Dreamworks movies that go for those kinds of jokes and there are ones that don’t. Panda-the film I saw-relies on character and storytelling. Dreamworks is a big studio and they’ve got different directors making different films(including Chris Sanders).

  • Ryan

    Wow, so that’s what Amid looks like. I dunno, I always thought he’d be a bit… hairier?

  • Julian Carter

    @ Ryan

    Well, in his profile pic he does have a bit of stubble. Does that count? :P

  • Amid=Stud.

  • >>Dreamworks, like Warner Bros., focuses on gag based films from stock, one dimensional characters.>>

    I wouldn’t call characters like Bugs Bunny “one dimensional”. Yeah, LT don’t “evolve” or have “emotional moments” but they sure have strong personalities and they can show many faces (especially when different directors work with them).

    If only Dreamworks were really like Warner Bros…then, I’d love Dreamworks!

    I must admit KFP is a little closer to Looney Tunes than Shrek. And Monsters Vs Aliens looks a little cartoony and satiric too. But KFP still feels like a mixture of a Disney movie and a Warner Bros movie, which is really good and entertaining but not completely brilliant in any department. I liked it a lot and it’s the best of Dreamworks and one of my fave CGI movies, but the “serious” part could be a little more deep and the funny part could be more imaginative and hilarious. It’s an entertaining and well-crafted combination of both elements, but it’s not Disney or Warner Bros at their very best.

    I like Dreamworks more now than before, but they still have to work a little more to gain my respect. With that huge cast in Madagascar 2 one would expect there’d be a lot of funny characters, but most of them are incredibly one dimensional and dull.

  • Jorge Garrido

    I wish Cartoon Brew TV had an episode that involved one on one discussion between real knowledgeable industry types. Sort of like this, but with substance.

  • Andrew

    It takes hard work to appear on television. We learned today that it takes harder work to get your name spelled correctly, boys and girls!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    > It takes hard work to appear on television. We learned today that it takes harder work to get your name spelled correctly, boys and girls!

    Like mine!

    I think Michael Sporn’s comment best sums up the experience watching this. It’s your typical fluff piece that goes “Hey, did you know there’s a rivalry between Disney and Dreamworks?… No? Well stick around we got a couple guys who know something about it to share for a few minutes!”

    Somehow I think that’s the first time I’ve heard of FOX having a ‘business’ channel. When did that happen? :-)

    And yes, Charlie Rose would’ve been a great platform for animation discussion.

  • The two of you did your thing and complied to the dull questions of the host. Probably it would have been better with a third guest, an economist or someone addressing the rivalry from a financial point of view.

    But the best part of the interview was the very last: when she says her kids love both of them, which was a very honest way of saying your opinion means absolutely squat to the likes of her ;-)

  • Fred Cline

    Amid, you and Michael were a calming presence in front of that caffeinated host. Good, job – both. Too bad the host was so manic that I don’t remember a word of what was said! She was like Kristen Wiig’s “Just Kidding” character on SNL. And Amid, I hope you sue them for spelling your name with a “Y” on the chryon!

  • re: the disney & dreamworks definitions.

    Lest we all forget, these guys had minimum time to make their points and make them clear to a wide non-animation crowd. I think they did very well considering!


  • ovi


    nicely done! considering the time limit AND the host questions.

    i like the “new” amid new york look. sharp.

  • Truth be told, I think the sole purpose of “wasting your time” was to plug Monsters vs. Aliens and a feeble attempt at hyping a rivalry that doesn’t really exist among the studios-maybe the fans though. I was trying to extract any real content that made it through their edit.

  • Wee Boon Tang

    Viridis says:
    ‘they’re almost all adapted from something else (minus a few exceptions like Lilo & Stitch/Emperor’s New Groove) and usually really dumbed-down in the process.’

    Whoa, hold up there. What about The Lion King? It was the first original story Walt Disney Studio has ever came up with, and it was brilliantly done – and definitely not ‘dumbed down.’

    By your definition of ‘dumbing down,’ I assume you are referring to the light humor and the occasional illogical plot-holes that appear in the Disney features of the later age. I couldn’t agree more, actually, that both Lilo & Stitch and Emperor’s New Groove, even when combined, are no Lion King.

    This emphasize that point even more, that Disney must go back to formula. Where are the heart-throbbing stories we all knew and love back then which struck even the minds and souls of those of adulthood, causing strikes of tears to be inevitably jerked forward? Why couldn’t (the) Disney (studio) produce films of in-depth story lines any long without the aid of the godly Pixar?

    It truly saddens me, as a long Disney fan to see its best feature so far this year to be about alien children and a hike up Mount. Witch.

    Oh, and nothing beats Pixar – not even Coraline or erm… 9 (of which I barely heard much about), I would strongly believe.