Like the old saying goes, the only constant thing in life is change, and the world has changed in many ways since I was a child. One of the most unwelcome changes has been the demise of toy stores. (Ask FAO Schwarz or KB Toys how things are going these days.) But there’s another unwelcome change that is starting to rear its ugly head, and that is the demise of hand-drawn animated movies. Worst of all, I am partly to blame, as well as everyone else who has ever purchased a movie made by Pixar or its ilk.
The disturbing fact is that The Lion King was Disney’s last major hit that was hand-drawn. Since then, most of Disney’s hand-drawn animated films have not done well at all. (Lilo and Stitch was one of the few exceptions.) Computer-generated movies, on the other hand, have raked in the bucks, and that’s not just true for Disney. DreamWorks and Fox have also cashed in on the computer-generated craze with Shrek and Ice Age, respectively.
The numbers don’t lie. If you’re running an animation studio, the best way to keep a healthy bottom line is to get rid of all the animation artists and get yourself aligned with a good computer animation company. Disney, the studio that brought us the first computer-generated feature film, recently split with Pixar, bringing into question what kind of future the company has. Without Pixar on their side, and with their recent decision to shy away from hand-drawn animated movies, what exactly do they plan to do? Churn out more cheesy direct-to-video fluff? I guess if it makes money…
Disney recently released Home on the Range, which is a hand-drawn animated movie. It made $14 million last weekend, which is disappointing for a Disney production that reportedly cost at least $80 million. This could be one of the last hand-drawn animated movies that will ever be made. The almighty dollar won’t allow it anymore. I know animation studios are ultimately businesses with accountability to their investors, but I wasn’t thinking about any of that when I saw Fantasia and The Lion King.
I know change can often be a good thing, and I’m generally not very adverse to change, but this one is hard to take. Can you envision Snow White or Dumbo as computer-generated movies? I have always thought of Toy Story as a classic, but it will never feel to me like the pure art form that hand-drawn movies like Bambi will always be.