When one thinks of David Stainton, the former president of Walt Disney Feature Animation, what are the first two descriptive terms that come to mind? According to his website DavidStainton.com, it should be “creative leadership” and “strategy.”
To his credit, Stainton IS very creative when it comes to rewriting history and making his reign during one of Disney’s lowest creative moments seem like an accomplishment. The bio on his website includes these fancy bit of revisionism:
At Feature Animation, David transformed the division financially, creatively, and technologically. During his tenure, he cut overhead, production costs, and operating losses in half. At the same time, he revived the culture of creative excellence at the studio with a new line-up of films. Finally, his leadership drove the historic transition from hand-drawn to computer-generated animation at Feature Animation and his other divisions, bringing animation at Disney fully into the digital era.
So how much of Disney’s creative inadequacy was directly Stainton’s fault and how much of it could be attributed to the dysfunctional corporate infrastructure that had been in place since the early-1990s? That’s a question that will have to be answered by those who are much more knowledgeable about the inner workings of the studio. It was a new one on me though to read in Stainton’s filmography that Hunchback of Notre Dame was based on his pitch and adaptation. That fact alone should have been an adequate warning that he didn’t have the first clue about what types of material are best suited to animation.