Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reel Facts & Opinions: End of an Era for Disney

FACT: In what may be one of the final nails in the coffin of the traditional 2D animated film genre, Mr. Glen Keane has announced that he is leaving Walt Disney Animation Studios after 38 years. Keane had worked on THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989), BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991), and ALADDIN (1992).

Keane, who is son of the late cartoonist Bil Keane (THE FAMILY CIRCUS), was largely responsible for the creation of Ariel, the Beast, and Aladdin characters, and the title characters in POCAHONTAS (1995) and TARZAN (1999). He also worked on THE RESCUERS (1977), PETE’S DRAGON (1977) , and THE FOX AND THE HOUND (1981). His last credit with Disney was TANGLED (2010), and is departing to pursue other interests.

OPINION: Here’s some Reel Speak trivia: THE RESCUERS was the first film this Blogger ever saw on the big screen, via a drive-in (remember those?), so it’s sad to know that the man responsible for that classic charmer of a film will no longer be bringing his touch to Disney productions.

Ever since the rising of Pixar as the undisputed king of animated films, the traditional 2D animated genre has become an endangered species. Computer-generated films are now widely accepted as the only way to go for an animated movie. Most kids may be entertained by an old 2D film for a short spell, only to raise their own bar once they see the eye-popping textures generated in TOY STORY 3 or RANGO.

Whether or not Pixar started out with the intention of obliterating decades of Disney’s animated-film history with the click of a mouse (pardon the pun) is debatable. This Blogger believes that Pixar intended not to radically change animated movies forever, but to offer new tools to make the process work better, and tools are only as good as the persons who are using them. Some of those old 2D animators made the conversion over to the digital age, some did not. It would be a sad thing to think that Glen Keane fell into the unfortunate position of the latter, for Disney hasn’t been able to figure out what to do with its old animators for the past twenty years. Maybe Keane made the decision for them.

Keane’s departure may very well mark the end of a long and magical era for Disney and the movies as a whole. It’s ironic that this would happen in this year, the 75th anniversary of SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS; arguably the film that really started it all. Out with the old and in with the new, as they say…but it will be exciting to see what Glen Keane manages to create for us next.

What say you?

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