Two decades after their work on The Little Mermaid ushered in a renaissance for hand-drawn animation, directors Ron Clements and John Musker are at the forefront of a new movement to resuscitate the art form yet again. The Princess and the Frog is Disney's first non-computer animated feature film since 2003's Home on the Range, and in addition to competing artistically with Pixar's stellar roster of releases through their shared parent company, the film may ultimately serve as a test among studio executives all over Hollywood who want to see if audiences really want to watch movies where pencils and ink reclaim the place now occupied by ones and zeroes.
Given this enormous pressure, Musker and Clements seem remarkably calm, and most importantly, pragmatic about the film's potential success. Cinematical recently sat down with a small group of journalists to discuss the future of Disney's hand-drawn animation department, vis-à-vis the directors' latest film. Following a day at Disneyland and a tour of the studio's Animation Research Library, Cinematical posed questions to the filmmakers as they enter the final days before the film's release. (While the interview was conducted as a group, questions asked specifically by Cinematical questions are indicated in the transcript below.)
This is the second opportunity for you two to bring traditional animation in at Disney. Can you talk about what's different for you on this one, particularly in terms of technology allowing you to raise the bar?