It’s probably much too soon to call the next set of Disney films after Chicken Little (but possibly including it) an renaissance of animation. But judging by the clips Disney Animation brought to SIGGRAPH this year and the other assorted preview artwork I’ve seen, it might be happening.
The advances in animation technology are certainly there. That has always been one side of the Disney triangle of success. The other two sides are Story and Talent. One of those sides have been the weak link many times in recent Disney history (The Black Cauldron, Treasure Planet, and the flight to Dreamworks spring to mind). And the Box office has reflected it.
The clips from the upcoming films look amazing. Yes, they’re CGI, a form that up until now has essentially been taking classic 2D animation and rendering it in 3D with motion control. But these clips add richness and texture to the sets, the scenery, and the characters (American Dog feels like I’m watching an animated Norman Rockwell painting, and Rapunzel looks like a realized painting) that I’ve never seen before. All that remains to be seen is if the story has come along too.
The reason I’m not including Chicken Little here is because the animation seems to be done in Pixar style. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s done very well for Pixar and I believe it will do well for Disney too. Still, as a lifelong Disney fan, I’m beginning to get a little bothered by the success of Pixar films and the complete forgetableness of the Disney ones.
I’m starting to see a generation of little children raised on Pixar instead of Disney. Yes, Pixar has earned it (and yes, Disney let Pixar get away (at least twice)). This crevasse between Pixar and Disney is pulling America’s youth away from the magic of Disney. A visit to see Mickey Mouse won’t be as important anymore. There won’t be a desire for them to bring their children to see Disney reruns or Disney themeparks except as they showcase Pixar characters (Eisner’s smartest move in the last decade was to secure the themepark rights to Pixar). This is a serious hole the next CEO of the company needs to plug or soon the boat will be sunk and there is nothing they will be able to do about it.