The man who would be Walt

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.

5 thoughts on “The man who would be Walt”

  1. When Nemo came out I looked at my family and said, “Pixar is the new Disney!” I am an old Mousketeer from way back, but I can’t find “my Disney” anywhere on the Disney Channel. Has Disney forgotten me? I am the one paying for season passes, the Disney Vacation Club, the meals in the parks, but I can’t find anything remotely resembling the Disney I knew as a child on the Disney Channel. Lasseter was the only guy out there producing anything close to the original Disney stuff and it was a breath of fresh air. Roy Disney knew it and they should listen to him because he knows what Disney is supposed to be better than anybody. I for one am thrilled that Lasseter is at the helm of WDFA. Now I wish they would give him the Disney Channel and put an end to the endless string of low budget, tween sit-coms that play 24 hours a day.

  2. As a former Disney animator but most of all as a Disney traditional animation fan, I always thought that ditching out “hand drawn animation” was an unforgiveable crime ; to say that it is out of fashion is ludicrous ; in France last week among the top five DVD sales were : jungle Book, sword in the Stone, the Aristocats, and The Rescuers ; not one 3D film ! well, I know the French are a strange breed ; they still love good hand drawn animation ; I would hope that Mr lasseter will persevere in bringing back that tradition at Disney ; I am not suggesting that 3D be abandonned, knowing full well that it won’t ; but as they still make Louis the XVI chairs or portrait paintings in some parts of the world, why can’t we have the best of both worlds co-existing together? Anime still lives on in Japan for God sake ! the mere suggestion that Disney can’t afford it is a laugheable, pityfull no excuse argument made by blind incompetent managers ; if someone can afford it, it is definitely Disney !

    Jacques Muller ( former Roger Rabbit animpator )

  3. Hope I didn’t imply leaving hand-drawn animation behind. I consider hand-drawn the higher art and your point is well taken. When I said “old mousketeer” I meant that I love the stuff before 1966. I was primarily referring to Lassiter’s imagination and focus on quality story building. If they think hand-drawn won’t sell, they should check the success of all the stuff coming out of Japan.

  4. In response, I agree ; you are correct ; I believe you are a fine connaiseur of good hand drawn Disney Animation ; but without becoming a bore to the reader, I meant to say (in my ever struggle about “justice be done to the debate 2D Vs 3D”) is : it’s a debate about apples and oranges ; it’s a debate about personal taste, not to say that Beethoven was better than Mozart ; I am glad we have both ; 3D is definitely great for SFX like in king Kong and the like ; superb ! ; I wouldn’t say necessarily the same about cartoon style characters and storys ; aside from some great exemples like the Pixar or some Dreamworks achievements, cartoon 3D, to me, lacks the freedom of exageration that good old cartoons had ; the overlaps on the chicks of Snow White’s dwarfs when they shaked their heads, the full range of crazy poses of a Goofy 1940 style and so on ; I know that to the common eye, all these beautiful textures and lightings that 3D delivers steal the show ; but look at rough animation of a Jimmy Neutron without textures and lightings, and compare it with any of the above mentionned classical animation pieces from the golden days ; what a huge loss !!!! to me 3D cartoony Animation is usualy still too stiff and not as interresting as beautiful solid drawings coming to life ; the morphing transitions between the most elegant and rich poses in the drawing form become mechanical and puppet like in 3D ; the eye accepts the unlikely logic of cartoon progression which in 3D terms is bending the rules of space and shapes integrity all the time ; in opposition, the computer is far too literal in its logical interpretation of shapes and volumes in space ; once again I am not advocating that there should be only the 2D Disney Feature Films kind on the market, but honnestly, it is a shame that there are none anymore (I am not commenting on the dreadful Cinderela III and the sort out of kindness).

    Jacques Muller

  5. May I add one slight comment, if I may ? of course it’s only one person’s opinion but :
    aren’ t people getting tired with the themes we get in cartoon films recently ??? Bugs, Toys, goldfishes, cars, robots ! …what next ? ” The incredible adventures of my bedroom heater” or the “amazing Journey of a subway ticket” or “attack of the giant stapple machines” or “somewhere where no adhesive tape dispenser has gone before” ; let’s not forget Animation is an Art form at best ; literrary creations abond with gems of storytelling, plots and characters ; something a little more interresting than what happens to my hair dryer or my porch barometer !!! …at least that’s what I think.

    Jacques Muller

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