Last week the Academy celebrated Toy Story’s 20th anniversary, with a sold out audience, who watched the original theatrical trailer and a conversation between John Lasseter, Ed Catmull and Jon Favreau. You can read all about the amazing celebration and what they discussed here. I just can’t believe it’s been 20 years already! It got me thinking about how I felt when CGI animation changed everything.
I didn’t take to it very well, I was very much a “traditional” fan and lover of the hand-drawn animation that Disney was still doing. Hand-drawn animation was a very big part of me. It was part of, what I felt, Disney was all about.
At the time Toy Story came out, Lion King was being released on VHS, and Pocahontas was released in the cinema. So Disney was still very strong and producing life-long classics. We were in the middle of Disney’s “Renaissance”, but lurking in the mist was, what we didn’t know at the time, the future of animated films.
Towards the end of the 90’s Disney was coming to the end of their “renaissance”. They released Tarzan in 1999 and started the Millennium with Fantasia 2000. Where as Pixar Studios released Toy Story 2, introducing new characters, and a back story to Woody’s character and the toy’s career. And let’s be fair, Pixar hasn’t released an unsuccessful film since, because even if there’s one that didn’t do as well in the box office, in terms of merchandise sales, they haven’t been beaten. (until Frozen that is).
In 2000 Disney attempted their first CGI animated film: Dinosaur. Now as a massive fan of the Jurassic Park films, I really enjoyed this film. It was different, no fairytale story, or sing-a-long songs. And the animation wasn’t bright, colourful and “cartoony”. But the graphics were AMAZING! It was the first CGI animated film I fully embraced with love and amazement. It was no where near as successful as “the competition”, which was surprising, as most children are into Dinosaurs. But it wasn’t to be, and Disney went back to what they do best. Although they never got the success back they had had in the 90’s.
Now my mum and dad moved us to Spain in 2003, and it was while we were living in Spain that Disney released solely CGI animated films. I think with the success of Dreamworks’ Shrek, they had to get on board. However, I didn’t seem to miss much while I was away. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the films. Well apart from The Wild, which I don’t even have on Blu-Ray. But they seemed to have lost some of their magic. You could see they were trying to compete with other studios, rather than make a “Disney classic”. I was getting worried. The films I grew up with and loved so much were becoming ghosts. People were to talking about Disney in the past tense, “Oh I remember when…blah blah blah”. The Shrek films were such a success, and Pixar studios was full steam ahead!
Hand-drawn animation seemed to be coming to an end. All the successful animated films, at that time, were CGI animated. I was very upset to see this change happening, and to see Disney Animation Studios not doing as well as everyone else. I mean Disney started it all, but the change was damaging their reputation.
In 2008 I moved to Leicester, and I got a job in The Disney Store as a Christmas temp. Now one of the perks for working for The Mouse is, you learn about future projects. And one that was released at the end of that year in the US was Bolt. At the time Hannah Montana was massive, so knowing Miley Cyrus was one of the voices was a good choice. Especially in terms of audience. And for the adults, John Travolta provided his voice for the lead character, Bolt! It was released here the following January. I took my husband to go see it along with his sister. We loved it! I felt Disney had found the magic again.It had songs, good voice talents, adult humour, and cuddly animals!!! It wasn’t a massive success at the box office, but it got people talking.
It was late 2009 that gave me hope. Princess and the Frog was released, AND, it was hand-drawn animation! With sing-a-long songs, a new princess with a modern setting, and lots of Disney magic! It was a success and I witnessed it with great pleasure! Watching small children fall in love with the brand for the first time, all because of classic Disney ingredients. Disney then began the new decade with a bang with Tangled! It was also the 50th animated classic!
Disney is back! And, John Lasseter, who created the game-changer, is now Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios! He has brought Disney back into the race. Recently they raised the bar in game-changing technology again when they released their short, Paperman.
Paperman won the Academy Award for best short, and was created forming 2D and 3D animation. Traditional and computer animation were put together to make this beautiful film. This is why Disney will always be at the top in my eyes. They have had a few bumps in the road from time to time. But when they do it right, they do it better than anyone else!
One word: Frozen!
The classics will continue to be played in my house, and Jacob will learn to appreciate what came before and what is yet to come. And all the great songs that go with them. But I do acknowledge that Toy Story was “The Game-Changer”, and it encouraged all the other studios, including Disney, to move forward.
“Technology becomes the magic trick to tell a story that’s timeless.” – Jon Favreau
Originally posted OCT 5th 2015 on previous website