Don’t bury Fairy Tales at Disney just yet

Yesterday the LA Times had a front page story that reported Disney Animation is closing the book on fairy tales. I immediately thought that this was either an over-reaction by the reporter or a purposeful statement by Disney to set expectations on Tangled, or both. Turns out both is likely correct.

First, a few comments from the LA Times piece:

…the curtain is falling on “princess movies,” which have been a part of Disney Animation’s heritage since the 1937 debut of its first feature film, “Snow White.” The studio’s Wednesday release of “Tangled,” a contemporary retelling of the Rapunzel story, will be the last fairy tale produced by Disney’s animation group for the foreseeable future.

“Films and genres do run a course,” said Pixar Animation Studios chief Ed Catmull, who along with director John Lasseter oversees Disney Animation. “They may come back later because someone has a fresh take on it … but we don’t have any other musicals or fairy tales lined up.” Indeed, Catmull and Lasseter killed two other fairy tale movies that had been in development, “The Snow Queen” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

The rest of the article contains some interesting insight on the current state of animation in Hollywood. It’s release just before Tangled opens can’t be a coincidence.

However, that first bit about the end of Fairy Tale stories? Well Ed Catmull had a clarifying statement yesterday afternoon, on his facebook page.

A headline in today’s LA Times erroneously reported that the Disney fairy tale is a thing of the past, but I feel it is important to set the record straight that they are alive and well at Disney and continue this week with Tangled, a contemporary retelling of a much loved story. We have a number of projects in development with new twists that audiences will be able to enjoy for many years to come. – Ed Catmull

I think this is a good sign for Walt Disney Animation Studios. Looking back over the whole history of Disney animation, one thing is certain, it’s not easy to produce a box office hit. It seems WDAS is on the right path now.

In fact, this weekend I was quoted in a separate newspaper story on Tangled about how Disney has managed to appeal to both boys and girls in previous princess films. It really comes down to story.