February 06, 2006
I've always felt that Disney hadn't released a single memorable non-Pixar animated film since "The Lion King", which is not coincidentally when Jeffrey Katzenberg - himself fed up with Eisner - left the company to start Dreamworks SKG with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. Eisner was the worst possible CEO for a company that was founded on a commitment to quality family entertainment. He wielded his power like a tyrant, pushing out any source of dissent including forcing Roy Disney off the Board of Directors. It was no secret that most of people who worked under Eisner despised him.
While I was initially skeptical that Iger could engineer a turnaround for the media giant, I was glad to see this recent merger happen as a step in the right direction. Pixar CEO Steve Jobs made out pretty well too. In the deal, he garnered a 6% share of Disney stock and a seat on the Board of Directors. And the understanding between the two men is that Disney management will not interfere with the creative style of the Pixar group - a style that Disney had embraced in its earlier years. Maybe the Pixar culture could actually rub off a little on the current Mouse House.
The biggest plus for Disney in that John Lasseter will be in charge of the new business unit. Michael Levine describes today in the Washington Times why this is so significant:
Mr. Lasseter is the creative genius behind the Pixar animated films, and will bring back to Disney what the company's entertainment has been lacking in recent years -- strong story sense and characters children especially can find adorable.For the record, I thought "Chicken Little" was pretty decent. But on the other hand, it paled in comparison to such Pixar features as "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles", both films that go to the heart of the importance of family and the meaning of parenthood.
That's no small thing. Characters drive the animated films, for sure, but they also are the major force behind many of the theme-park attractions and myriad products, television programming and corporate identity Disney has traded on so successfully in the past. Think about Buzz Lightyear, the entire Incredibles family, and Dory, the absent-minded fish voiced by Ellen Degeneres in "Finding Nemo." Now, try and think of one character from "Chicken Little" or "Atlantis: The Lost Continent." See the difference?
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