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The Fifth Estate

One of the year's most exciting movies. —Matt Anderson (review...)

Cumberbatch assumes he's the Fifth Estate

" I was standing inside of a footprint "
— Matthew Broderick, Godzilla

MRQE Top Critic

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Tim Burton recently told the San Jose Mercury News, “In Hollywood, they think drawn animation doesn’t work anymore, computers are the way. They forget that the reason computers are the way is that Pixar makes good movies. So everybody tries to copy Pixar. They’re relying too much on the technology and not enough on the artists. The fact that Disney closed down its cel animation division is frightening to me. Someday soon, somebody will come along and do a drawn-animated film, and it’ll be beautiful and connect with people, and they’ll all go, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do that!’ It’s ridiculous.”

Burton’s right.

Coincidentally, The New York Times published a lengthy article this week on Disney’s move to computer-animated features. The article compared Disney’s box office performance to that of Pixar and DreamWorks.

Among the titles on the roster for Disney: Treasure Planet, The Jungle Book 2, Piglet’s Big Movie, Brother Bear, and Pooh’s Heffalump Movie.

Those batting for Pixar and DreamWorks include: Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Shrek, Shark Tale, and Madagascar

Disney’s animated fare generated mediocre box office at best and most of them were roundly panned by critics. Having spent time licking its wounds over the poor box office, Disney has, in response, abandoned hand-drawn animation for “the foreseeable future .”

The Times article, by Laura M. Holson, reports that Michael Eisner, the embattled CEO of Disney, wanted Disney’s releases to be “wittier, contemporary computer-animated comedies with a dramatic twist.” It sounds like the thoroughly unoriginal and uninspired desires of a CEO who drove to the “witty, contemporary hand-animated musicals” trough one time to many with junk like The Jungle Book 2.

Here’s a clue: It’s the story, stupid.

It’s a certainty that if the direct-to-video storytelling of The Jungle Book 2 and the Pooh spin-offs were computer animated, they’d still flop. This is a case of a major corporation trying to break everything down into a numeric formula and looking only at the bottom line numbers, thereby failing to take into consideration things like quality and creativity.

So what will Disney do if Corpse Bride (a Warner Bros. release) succeeds? Plus, DreamWorks has Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, a claymation production, set for release next month.

What was old is new again and Disney’s sure to look like a dog chasing its tail. Perhaps Disney’s next big move will be to abandon computer animation in pursuit of clay because in clay you can make witty, contemporary movies.

Bringing things full circle, remember this: Many moons ago Burton worked as an animator at Disney. Also, Disney released Burton’s previous two stop-motion features, The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach.