Joined: 11 Jan 2005
Location: dx*dp ~ h
Mon Feb 07, 2005 5:29 pm
Hi fellow VA fans,
I just saw this in my paper, the Star Tribune today, regarding Disney's upcoming stock meeting in my area:
|ANIMATOR'S FILM AIMS AT DIGITAL 'MICKEYS'
By Deborah Caulffield Rybak
Star Tribune Staff Writer
Feb 7, 2005
When one of Hollywood's biggest dramas hits town this week, a former Twin Citian will provide a provocative opening act. Dan Lund, one of 300 animators laid off by Disney amid corporate turmoil, made a movie about the wrenching experience. Now he has invited the company's stockholders to see its premiere Thursday [Feb 10] - one day before Disney's annual meeting convenes in Minneapolis, following a shareholder revolt that shook the world's second-biggest media conglomerate. Dream On Silly Dreamer covers the abrupt demise of Disney's 75-year-old hand-drawn animation department - once the heart of the company - as told by the animators themselves.
"It's not just an attack on management," said Lund, a graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) who worked as a special effects animator at Disney for 15 years. "I didn't make the movie just to tick them off."
Although a publicity photo for Dream On does portray an animated mouse squashed by an executive's wingtip shoe, Lund describes his 40-minute documentary as "a Valentine to how lucky we were to live in a fantasy world like that." In the 1990s, the department created such hits as Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King, for which animators received bonuses of up to $100,000.00. Some got greedy, acquiring agents and lawyers. But soon their fortunes changed. While they labored on expensive flops such as Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet, Disney's partner Pixar and its rivals DreamWorks and Fox scored smashes with computer-animated features, including Toy Story, Shrek, and Ice Age.
On March 25, 2002, Disney told its hand animators that their jobs were being eliminated; the company that Mickey Mouse built would focus exclusively on computer-generated animation. Lund recorded interviews with various animators during the layoffs but did all of his filming off the studio lot.
"Quite a lot of lawyers have looked at the film, and I think we're okay," he said. "A lot of documentaries do tough investigative approaches with hidden cameras, but my little fairy tale shouldn't bother anyone."
A Disney spokeswoman said she "hasn't heard anything about the film." But Lund's effort has drawn support from one of the company's most vocal critics: Roy Disney, nephew of founder Walt and a former board member.
"I have to say how very human a face it puts on an institutional tragedy ... the slow, cruel, and insideious death of Disney animation over the past several years," he said in an article posted on his SaveDisney.com website. "It should be seen by everyone who still believes in the magic of Disney."
Roy Disney was traveling abroad last week and could not be reached for comment, but Lund said that Roy Disney "saw the film and is 100% behind it, emotionally and creatively."
On his site, Disney urges shareholders to see 1 of 5 screenings scheduled Thursday at Crown Theatre's Block E complex in downtown Minneapolis. The screenings are free and open to the public. Lund, who will be on hand to answer questions at the screenings, hopes shareholders see his nostalgic look at the end of an era, and then go to their meeting "with a sense of loss" and suggest to management that "maybe that division means more than just a financial thing."
Roy Disney's crusade to save hand-drawn animation is unlikely to formet the kind of shareholder rebellion he stirred last year with his highly publicized criticisms of company boss Michael Eisner. A year ago, Eisner relinquished his role as chairman of the board and later announced that he will step down as chief executive next year.
There's good financial news for shareholders. Disney's movie division had a happy ending to 2004 with 2 big hits, National Treasure and The Incredibles. Business at Disney's theme parks is improving despite the hurricanes that devastated Florida. And the ABC television network, which has struggled since Disney bought it a decade ago, is finally looking strong thanks to the ratings smashes Desperate Housewives and Lost.
If I get the chance, I'm going to try and see one of the Thursday screenings. I just hope I can get time to do so!