Not too many guys can say they’ve worked for both Walt Disney and John Lasseter, so I can offer a unique perspective.
Different cultures at Disney and Pixar? Naw, it’s the same culture. Eisner’s managers simply choked all the creative life out of Disney. The Disney culture is finally returning to Disney. Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs and John Lasseter will be returning it shortly. This is good news for all of us who love animation, and the Disney legacy in particular.
From a ‘CalArts alumni’:
Can you believe that? An animator in charge of Feature animation? Am I dreaming? Is Walt smiling right now? An artist, who has made short films, and feature films, studied figure drawing, can draw and animate, used an Oxberry camera, went to Cal Arts, and loves the medium to death…is in charge of animation? Is there anything better that this? Pinch me I’m dreaming. I can’t sit still, I can’t wait any longer…give me more great stories and characters!All hail John Lasseter!
NY director/animator Michael Sporn:
Ever since the advent of PIXAR, animation has been in flux. The computer continues to readjust the medium. PIXAR, again, is the player and it can only help the artform (for at least a short while). Jobs will be lost and shifted and reprogrammed. Hopefully, the films will get better. Hopefully, 2D will show up somewhere on the horizon and that will grow as well (I have a vested interest in 2D).
At the very least, Disney now has someone who knows the problems and knows the different media we use. That can’t be bad.
Remember that Eisner and Katzenberg, revitalized animation before they brought it down to where it is now. It only took a few years for that part of the soap opera to happen. Before them, there was only Don Bluth and maybe Spielberg and a lot fewer jobs.
From an ‘old-school’ Disney Feature artist who has worked there since the 1980s:
After seeing John Lasseter attempt to introduce computer animated film techniques at Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1983 (the Where The Wild Things Are test) to no avail, and after living through the two-picture-a-year toon boom flood of the 90’s, and then watching in amazement the strange paradigm shift that forced some of the best 2D talent in the world out the door along with the award winning directorial team of Ron Clements and John Musker, has made my 23 year career with Walt Disney Feature Animation quite a ride. But the thought of John Lasseter coming back home to Disney at this time of loss and creative confusion is nothing short of a miracle. WOW…
(click on image for larger version)
The drawing above is from somebody who prefers to remain anonymous. He also writes:
As a former Disney Feature Animation artist, my initial reaction upon hearing the news was expressed in this little doodle. Just soaking it all in at the moment…I can’t really see a downside at this point, given that it seems as if the creative reins at Animation are being handed over to Pixar. I almost have to pinch myself: John Lasseter is now Creative Head of both Disney Animation AND Pixar Animation Studios (and Principle Creative Advisor to WDI )…wow !
Amazing what a corporation will pay to purchase an outside company that will arrive to effectively implement a tried-and-true (then forgotten) production philosophy of concentrating on story, development of characters and letting the directors be the final word… So, what WILL become of the soon-to-be-laid-off (banes of the industry) “creative executives?” Hey, they’re so damn creative, maybe they’ll get together to start their own entertainment company. This is simply the best news to come from Disney in at least ten years – although Eisner’s recent departure is a close second.
I used to work for John Lasseter at Pixar and I can tell you there is no greater supporter of animation, both computer and hand-drawn than Lasseter. I am a bit surprised at the buyout. I would have preferred Pixar stay small and keep doing what they do well. I am also concerned that he will spread himself too thin. But I am happy about Pixar having control over sequels of their own films. I would love to see Brad Bird do another Incredibles adventure. Toy Story 3 is in production at Disney without Lasseter’s involvement and the staff must feel uneasy right now (of course, they should have felt uneasy when they took the job). I look forward to some great improvements in Disney animation and some cool new ideas in the parks.
What bugs me the most is that this is just such a slap in the face to any idea of artistic integrity. Over the years, Disney has transmogrified from an animation studio into a global empire of consumerism whose main product these days is some kind of vague sense of ‘family-ness’ or something. They’ve forgotten their roots to such a degree that they thought the reason nobody wanted to see Pocohontas 2 is that it wasn’t, y’know, /computer pictures/. So shut the whole thing down. No wait, let’s just buy the best animation studio out there, and then WE will be the best again right?
The problem is that this is a company who has become so fucking bland that their very name has entered everyday English as a word meaning something along the lines of ‘to sanitize something to the point that it sucks.’ I just can’t see how that won’t happen here.