An open letter to Disney Execs...
I just got back from seeing the latest Pixar masterpiece Wall-E. Congratulations on another great success from Pixar. You are going to make so much money.
I'm not writing to stroke your ego, however. Before the movie, there were the usual precursive advertisements and trailers. I saw the trailer for Bolt; your latest foray into the world of non-Pixar CG animation. When you compare that 5 minute preview of dribble with the hour and a half that followed it, the truth becomes abundantly clear. Let me state this as simply as possible. YOU HAVE PIXAR! They are your outlet for CG animation. They are above and beyond the best in this industry. Nothing else has EVER come close, and everything they do has been the best. These people believe in their craft and practice their art in a way I've only ever seen one other place. You know where? At Disney(yes You) BEFORE you stopped making traditional animation movies. I'm sure you remember it as that time you made all that money. For those of us in my age group, we remember it as "our childhood." The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King; These are some of the best pieces of cinema ever, and you made them. I know CG is all the rage, and everyone's doing it, but the thing is, no one's doing it well. EXCEPT for Pixar, and you already have them under your corporate umbrella. Have them make you money, trust me, they know how. Below I have a three step process for fixing this problem. It will work, and it doesn't involve any souls switching hands.
Give Pixar your money, the full backing of your great publicity machine, and nothing else. Let them keep doing exactly what they do now. They tell stories using CG. Wonderful, engaging, heart-string pulling stories that can be enjoyed by anyone. Do not interfere in their operations or their creative process. Do not give them deadlines. Do not question their judgment. Do not think you are on their level and you don't need them anymore. You already tried that, remember?
Stop making crappy movies. Your in-house CG department is a joke. Your direct-to-video sequels to your old beloved classics are desperate cries for "attention" (read - money). If you can't be bothered to do something right, don't do it. If the original voice actors are "too expensive" and the animation is being done by people who also do Saturday morning cartoons, the project is not worth it. My childhood is precious to me, and a little piece of it dies every time a classic Disney film is raped by you and it's horrible, 11-toed, cross-eyed, direct-to-video offspring litters the shelves of my local video store. Oh, and no more Lindsay Lohan remakes. I liked The Parent Trap, but come on!
Start making good movies again. You used to be the undisputed kings of feature length animation. You still could be. You need to get back your writers and traditional animators. You can keep some of your CG guys to enhance certain scenes like you did in Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast, but the driving engine should be traditional cell animation.
On the live action front, you've done well in recent years with Pirates of the Caribbean. Do more of that, and I don't mean another sequel. Reinvent an old genre, and make it good again. I haven't seen a really good Western in forever. How about that?
Follow these three relatively simple steps, Disney, and you can recapture your former glory. When I see your castle logo, and Tink goes over the top as you hear the melody of "When You Wish Upon a Star", I'm instantly a child again. I become giddy and excited about the great movie I'm about to watch. I don't want this nostalgic feeling fighting with my gag reflex. Only you can prevent that. I know you can do it!
Yours, most sincerely,
P.S. - If you happen to be a Dreamworks executive reading this, step it up. Antz was great, and I'm okay with Shrek, but you're so hit or miss(mostly miss). Make every project about the subject, not about the money. As you've proven recently with KungFu Panda, you've got enough promise to be in the same league with Pixar. Right now, you're not even playing the same sport. Oh, and Sony Animation? Stop. NO! Bad Sony! We do that outside. Just stop! No minutes, no waiting. You're embarrassing yourselves. Please, I beg of you. Think of the children.
P.P.S - Read my review of Wall-E
First, the Pixar short before the film. This outings entry was called Presto. It's the story of a magician's rabbit who isn't given a carrot before a show, and decides to play hardball with the magician. I don't want to ruin it, but let's just say that the ensuing high-jinx are very reminiscent of a classic Warner Bros. cartoon. It's almost more like an homage. The music style, the slapstick, the gags; it all reminds me of a Bugs Bunny cartoon in the most wonderful way. Savvy viewers will also recognize a huge tip-of-the-hat (pun intended) to Portal. Oh, and watch for the posters in the background at the beginning. The name of the magician's act is a GREAT pun. See if you get the joke.
On to the main attraction. Wall-E is about a garbage cleaning robot of the same name. It takes place more than 700 years in the future. The earth has been overrun by the garbage that we humans create, and as a result, the humans have left earth for an orbiting cruise liner. Wall-E, whose name stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth class. Is one of the fleet of robots left behind to clean up the mess. As far as we can tell, Wall-E is the only one left. The only other living being on earth is his pet, the seemingly indestructible cockroach. One day, a ship lands on Earth and leaves behind a probe-droid named Eve (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). Wall-E is intrigued by Eve and falls in love, but she seems uninterested in him as he is not the focus of her directive; to find living plant life on Earth. When he rescues her from a dust storm, she starts to warm up to him. Wall-E shows Eve all the things he has collected in the ruins of civilization, including a plant growing in a boot he found recently. Eve recognizes the plant as the fulfillment of her directive and takes it. She then calls for pickup from her ship, and shuts down. Wall-E cares for her lifeless egg-shaped carcass for what seems like months before her ship comes to pick her up. When it does, Wall-E stows away on the outside of the ship. The ship takes them to the Axiom, the cruise ship where the humans now live. The humans, having all their needs cared for by machines on the ship, have become fat, lazy, layabouts who are oblivious to the world outside their hoverchairs. They sit all day talking with each other through videochat, and drinking their meals in the form of shakes. Wall-E and Eve reach the captain of the ship who is just as clueless as the rest of the human race. The plant Eve has brought back is supposed to allow the ship to return to Earth once more seeing as how it's once again capable of supporting life. The robots on the ship, however, have been programmed not to allow this to happen, as the humans stand a better chance of surviving on the ship than they do back on Earth. They steal the plant and try to destroy it. Many great adventures ensue. I won't ruin the rest of the movie for you, but it's a very satisfying conclusion.
I have no real complaints about this movie at all. Everything is, as we've come to expect from Pixar, awesome. The first half-hour is almost like a silent movie. Wall-E doesn't speak hardly at all. In fact he only says three words that I can think of in the entire movie, and they are mostly to Eve, who is likewise fairly mute. The ability of the animators to bring out emotion and tell the story using no dialog, and unconventional facial expressions is amazing. Wall-E uses his eyes like eyebrows to convey emotion, and Eve has just two LED animated eyes. None of the emotions are in any way hard to read, however.
It's also very worth mentioning that just because they don't speak, doesn't mean there's no sound. Wall-E is credited as being voiced by Ben Burtt, who most people will recognize as the lead sound designer for the Star Wars films. He is responsible for everything from the lightsaber sounds to R2-D2's unique communication skills. His skills are not wasted on Wall-E, either. Through a top-class sound scheme involving grunts, whines, and mechanized sounds Wall-E, Eve, and the rest come to life. I experienced the same feeling I get when watching well written subtitles on anime. I hear, in my head, the character speaking with their voice, in English. It almost seemed that Wall-E and Eve were likewise speaking English sometimes. Even once there are humans in the story, the writers don't seem to lean too much on their ability to talk as a means of exposition. It's amazing how you "get" the story without it being told to you.
Add to that the biting social commentary just below the surface, and there's nothing that's not good about this film. The sobering look at the fate of Earth and the human race as a result of our decadent, disposable lifestyle really makes you think; much like a Michael Moore film or Al Gore's movie. I highly recommend this film to ANYone. You'll love it. It' doesn't matter what you're into. True to it's roots as a (pseudo-)Disney film, adults will find just as much to entertain themselves as their children will. Go see it. Do it now!