I watched a Glen Keane lecture online and wanted to study it more closely so I drew this along with the video to see how it plays. I really love that build up to the jump, the way she leads with her head and then the force moves to her chest. And drawing this out helped me appreciate what smooth arcs he makes.
I don’t take credit for anything nice about this; it is all Glen Keane.
I was looking at you list and saw the big hero 6 one and I got to ask why are you not much of a Disney fan any more?
I find Disney a monumentally important company, one which has brought us many wonderful, cherishable classics over the years, and continues to bring forth some great films like Big Hero 6. I love Big Hero 6, and I’m greatly looking forward to upcoming movies from Disney like Zootopia and The Incredibles 2. Other movies like Aladdin and The Lion King are amongst some of the best movies I think I’ve ever seen period. What is so great is that Disney is well-known and respected for its animation; animation has become very close to my heart in the last few years, so I think that regardless of which studios’ movies we like the best, there is something highly worth celebrating in Disney.
Disney has many great traits. While they have had times of experimentation - Atlantis: The Lost Empire, The Emperor’s New Groove, Big Hero 6 - by and large they stick to some well-known devices to produe a number of successful movies. Regardless of whether we’re talking Disney Renaissance time or the Bronze Age or so forth, there are some pretty “set” principles that make a Disney film easily recognizable as a Disney film. The adaptation of fairy tales in many stories. The presence of a cute animal sidekick. The general lighthearted feel, the progression of the plot, the style of narrative. By and large, Disney is situated rather than experimental, firm in its scope of output rather than branching new grounds, consistent rather than wildly helter-skelter.
Yes, we can talk about periods of Disney that have been more successful than others. Yes, we can talk about a number of stories that have flopped by Disney both in the past and recently. Yes, we can talk about stories that have greatly diverged from the Disney paradigm, or even, in the case of “Enchanted,” outright mocked it. Nevertheless, by and large, I would say that Disney has a very “set” way of making their movies.
The movies tend to be fun entertainment, cute, feel-good, hero-definitely-wins-in-the-end-no-problem, princess-gets-the-prince sort of tales. They’re optimistic and lighthearted, they’re simple and sweet rather than cerebral, they’re clean and neat rather than messy, gritty, grim, or depressing.
Personally for me I respect Disney for what it does well. I also recognize that Disney has some weaknesses, and that other production companies like DreamWorks have a different set of strengths and weaknesses. I don’t want to speak hatefully or negatively of anything, and I want to celebrate Disney for the great good it has done. I also don’t want to accidentally spark any anti-Disney or “Disney versus DreamWorks” sentiment. However, personally, when I said in that one Big Hero 6 post that I’m less of a Disney fan than I used to be (as in, when I was a child), it is referring to the fact that I have a different set of preferences and values for what I like to watch in a movie.
I often find Disney’s stories too light and not deep enough for my personal tastes. They seem to skim the surface or skirt around issues rather than dig into the meat and bones of human existence. They dance over topics, and sometimes their “answers” to problems are superficial, ideal, and a little bit too “happily ever after” for me. It doesn’t feel very… real… I guess. I know that Frozen is a bit of a touchy subject, with huge lovers and haters on both side of the divide, but I will simply speak with all kindness intended that Frozen didn’t gravitate towards me because of how much it skimmed everything - plot problems, story progression, relationships, emotional issues. The end of the movie seemed to completely sidestep Elsa’s emotional struggles, to magically heal the rift between sisters, and to solve all problems a little bit too quickly, too easily, and none too realistically. I do not mean to pick just on Frozen, though, for many Disney movies have done likewise. It’s just not the type of story they tell.
In addition to skimming over plot points or life’s baggage, Disney can often have very simple and basic plots, too. When you sit down and analyze how the plot unfolds in a Disney movie, it’s often not very complicated nor intricate. There is something to be said about the sweet simplicity of a tale, but for someone like me who likes to dive deep, dig, and analyze, there’s not too much material for my mind to sink into. It’s the reason why Brave never resonated with me. It was a very simple plot that didn’t have much grit, nor did the plot even have that great of depth and explaining power. It’s fine in passing but not in analytic depth. Disney’s plots, old and new, are very simple, happy-go-lucky adventures, but don’t usually bring up deep life questions, the depths of human struggles, or other things to which I more relate. The fact Disney movies’ formulas make them so predictable, too, also takes out some of the intrigue in watching them.
It means that I much prefer movies from DreamWorks. DreamWorks has a different set of strengths and weaknesses - in fact, almost the reverse of Disney’s list of strengths and weaknesses. Some people argue DreamWorks is not very consistently successful, but has had a number of movies in animation that were flops, ridiculous, or quickly-forgettables. However, while Disney has a set of storytelling devices they use time and time again, DreamWorks is very original and approaches each story from a wholly new approach. I hugely admire their creative output. They’ve done everything from musical classics like The Prince of Egypt to the crude and irreverent Shrek to the magical world of Rise of the Guardians. DreamWorks is inventive, experimental, creative, and curious. And while Disney enjoys the world of clean fairytales and ideals, DreamWorks intentionally sinks into crudeness, grit, and pain.
I highly admire the creative output DreamWorks has. They’re willing to try anything. Sometimes it means Bee Movie. But sometimes it means How to Train Your Dragon. We can talk about how DreamWorks has had “forgettables” or “failures,” but Disney has, too, on MANY occasions, to the point it’s sort of unfair and biased to say that DreamWorks screws up more than the other company. We don’t talk about Disney movies like Mars Needs Moms, The Wild, or Chicken Little - and those were all recent Disney productions! And when DreamWorks succeeds, they succeed BIG. How to Train Your Dragon. The Prince of Egypt. Shrek. The thing with DreamWorks is that, while they’re young in animation, just a little over two decades, they’re also the second biggest and most successful animation company after Disney in the USA. DreamWorks has received rewards and success for their ingenuity.
And the things that DreamWorks movies do tend to have in common are things I appreciate: the grit. Shrek was monumental in that it showed how crude animation can be - not just a sweet fairy tale platform. DreamWorks has pushed being “edgier” in animation from the very beginning, and to write stories that may usually be considered good “family films,” but push the boundaries and take on many adult mentalities. And so we get a lot more in-depth grit and sensation of the human condition. Rameses II and Moses’ bitter rivalry. The slavery of the Hebrews. Shrek’s innuendos. HTTYD 2 with Stoick’s death. How to Train Your Dragon did not skim over the grime and dangers of war: what was so monumental about this animated movie was that Hiccup lost his leg. In the second movie, Stoick DIED, and the main character was moved to tears, and didn’t ever fully emotionally recover by the end of the film. DreamWorks takes grit, and in that, it captures a very deep sense of the human experience. I am a fan of these things because it shows an enormous level of thought, reverence, care, and analysis on the parts of the writers… and it makes it more relatable and real to me and my heart.
DreamWorks is innovative beyond story. Their animation is incredibly realistic, and they often pave the way to new technologies and breakthroughs. I would say by and large Disney’s animation is beautiful but a little simple, whereas DreamWorks’ is a bit more thorough.
And whereas Disney is light, DreamWorks is all the muck and mire of what it means to be a human. Whereas Disney movies all have a similar “feel,” there’s a huge difference to me between something like Sinbad and Madagascar’s Penguins. Lastly, I also feel as though recently, DreamWorks’ movies have been more consistently good, memorable, and cherishable than Disney’s latest releases. Disney’s latest movies, at least for me, have started losing their flavor. Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Brave, and Frozen all have their appreciable facets, but none of these really resonated with me; the plots, emotions, and depth leave something to be desired in most of these. The plots especially are “off” and too skimmy for me, not enough actual thought and content. On the other side, movies like The Croods, Rise of the Guardians, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Megamind, and Mr. Peabody and Sherman have all been memorable and lovable tales.
The last thing that has made me a little leery of Disney is, admittedly, the Disney versus DreamWorks competition. These two studios have created similar films for many years in a row. Corporate spies, regrettably, are a thing. Unfortunately some of the discussion I have heard about Disney recently, in their competitiveness, has made me lose a little respect for the organization. It’s grown tiring of me that a company like DreamWorks lives a bit in the shadows with harsh criticisms and disrespect, whereas Disney gets “all the credit” and admiration for animation (note this sentence is an exaggeration). I wish I didn’t know about those discussions, though, for as a child it was more fun just to go in and watch a movie without thinking who made it. So I’ll bypass this stuff here and let the point lie low on my argumentation.
I don’t ever want to post anti-Disney hate on my blog. I don’t ever want to deny that Disney has many strengths. I don’t want to deny that DreamWorks has weaknesses. I want to embrace the fact we can be fans of Disney, DreamWorks, and any and every animation studio out there. I’ll celebrate Big Hero 6 and Aladdin at the same time I celebrate How to Train Your Dragon and The Prince of Egypt. We all have our own sets of preferences in stories, and both Disney and DreamWorks do many things well. There’s good reason both these companies are successful. For people who better appreciate the mood and style of Disney, let them celebrate Disney to the utmost fanhood! For people who love both, let them celebrate both! As for me, I’m not as much of a fan of Disney since I’ve started overanalyzing films, and it’s the grittier, more three-dimensional, more relatable world of DreamWorks which captivates the core of my imagination.