No, I’m not claiming John Lasseter is as prolific, nor as groundbreaking in vision, as Walt Disney. But Lasseter’s vision has had as big an impact on the state of animation, especially feature animation, as anyone since 1986 when Lasseter joined Pixar. Also, Lasseter is the first person to head Walt Disney Feature Animation who got his start in the biz as an animator since Walt Disney was head of the Studios.
Since the Pixar-Disney merger, Lasseter occupies what essentially was Walt Disney’s seat right now. Well, when Walt was taking an interest in Feature Animation, at least. As such, the fate of Walt Disney Feature Animation is riding on his shoulders.
An insightful story in the New York Times looks at the impact Lasseter is having on WDFA. For instance, one of the ways Lasseter is different from Walt is his background. Walt had to struggle to make his art. All the way through Mary Poppins he was never sure if the next film would be the studios last. Lasseter, on the otherhand, is a direct product of Walt Disney’s art. He was raised on the stuff, it is a part of him, and it influences his every decision. Lasseter’s stories typically move beyond the traditional movie structure, they don’t spring from fairy tales, but they are informed by them.
One note about the interview. It’s funny how they talk about Lasseter’s policy of nothing happening behind closed doors and sticking to the truth, then two paragraphs later he has to consult the publicists to see what he can reveal about Chris Sanders’ removal from American Dog. I’m sure Sanders’ will land on his feet somewhere, but it’s obvious who is in charge at WDFA now.