I don't often sit around thinking about the artistic and financial fate of major media conglomerates (no more than two, three times a day, anyhow), but between The Wild's release last Friday and last weekend's scathing TV Funhouse mockery of all things mouse on SNL, I've been thinking about Disney Animation, their merger with Pixar, and where they're going.
First off, I don't know if The Wild is the last film to come out of Disney Animation before Pixar takes over, but regardless, it's a great demonstration of why that deal seems so necessary. The Wild was, perhaps, the most tired animated film I've seen in a long time; boring, bland, re-hashed and recycled, with a tag-team script that had been bounced between writing pairs for so long that you could see the bruises. Wow, break-dancing lions! Ooh, inter-species romance! Carmen Miranda jokes that no one under the age of 60 is going to get! What's worse than the script is the look of the film -- clumsy, inelegant, bumbling; we're getting to the point where computer-animated films essentially look as cheaply-made and dull as cut-scenes from videogames, and not like works of art.
So, something had to happen to change Disney Animation-- I guess the question is if the Pixar deal is going to be enough to do it. I keep thinking of Hong Kong's transfer to China -- when a solid, inertia-bound object takes on a small, new motor, which gets affected more? Making a change at a movie studio normally is like trying to turn an aircraft carrier by dangling your hand in the water behind it as a rudder; I can't even imagine what it's like at Disney, where the normal long-term development pipeline of a studio is lengthened by the work required to craft animation … and stretched even longer by the years of tradition in the company's past.