ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 3.8 - November 1998
by Heather Kenyon
Disney, Disney, Disney...
It is true. One cannot discuss animation without discussing Disney. From early marketing plans to today's newest animated feature, Disney has played a major role in our industry. While many may wrinkle their nose at the monolith, one must admit that the impact of this one man and his company is amazing.
In our Feature Animation section, Tom Sito discusses the turmoil at Disney Feature Animation in "Disney's The Fox and the Hound: The Coming of the Next Generation." The Fox and the Hound was a film made during the transition between the Old Men of the Classic Era and the newcomers of today's animation industry. While the film was made during the doldrum years, it helped spawn a generation of animators that would reinvigorate the field. We hear from two of these "young newcomers" who are now the grand poo-bahs of animation. Brad Bird discusses "Director and After Effects: Storyboarding Innovations on The Iron Giant," the film he is currently directing for Warner Bros. Feature Animation. We have a very special treat as Mike Lyons interviews A Bug's Life director in "Toon Story: John Lasseter's Animated Life."
Concerning Licensing and Merchandising, J.B. Kaufman has treated us to a very well-researched and interesting case study in "The Tanglefoot Chronicles: A Case Study." He sheds light on a relatively minor Disney side character, Tanglefoot, whose popularity in comic strips and books led to a licensing campaign on a limited number of items in the 1930s. Jennifer Kotler also offers kudos to Disney Television in her article, "The Ingredients of Prosocial, `FCC Friendly' Animation."
Furthermore, in this month's "Dig This!," Zahra Dowlatabadi relates how powerful the home video market really is. Yes, we all know Disney sells a lot of video tapes...but have you ever stopped to think about how many video tapes that really is? Think of the last household you entered with children. Didn't they have a slew of Disney videos? Now, think of all the households worldwide with kids -- that's millions of households and millions upon millions of Disney tapes. Zahra begins to put numbers and scope to this thought and it is mind-blowing.
So almost all roads, surprisingly, lead back to Disney in this issue. I'd like to say I was very clever and had planned this to show the long standing superiority of Disney in the realm of this issue's two themes, Feature Animation and Licensing and Merchandising. Instead, it is what they call a happy accident that proves a point -- Disney has been the absolute leader in feature animation and licensing and merchandising, pushing us toward the heyday we are currently experiencing. In fact, one could make a case that Disney was too good at doing what they do. By creating such profits, "everyone" wanted a piece of the animated feature pie, and the resulting L&M earnings. Eisner and Katzenberg's rejuvenating approach was so well executed and defined that now Disney finds themselves competing with the likes of DreamWorks (now helmed by Katzenberg, of course), Fox and Warner Bros.
As late November and December unfold we will have a better idea of whether or not Disney will hold onto this title against the onslaught. Perhaps one day we will remember the Eighties and early Nineties as when Disney reigned supreme, before other companies, like DreamWorks, joined them in the secure positions that the market has grown to support. Certainly, something will always be special about Disney's well-crafted "brand."
Another article well worth reading this month is Buzz Potamkin's review of the "Advertising to Kids Conference." Buzz makes heads and tails about a crucial shift that is happening in television viewing. Always insightful and witty, Buzz's article will be sure to prompt quite a few conversations in coffee shops and conference rooms.
Until Next Time...
Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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