Last evening was open house at the “Hat Building” in Burbank. You probably know the building as the home of Walt Disney Animation Studios. This was the second opening of the animation facility. I attended the first one some years ago while working on the animated feature, “Mulan” or maybe “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Anyway, it was back in the nineties and I must confess I truly disliked the facility. Of course, you’re talking to a guy who worked in the finest animation facility in the world. I’m speaking of the original animation building on the Walt Disney Studio lot. Walt Disney and his team designed the perfect animation facility back in the thirties and no one has topped it yet. It’s nice to know that when John Lasseter and Ed Catmull arrived to take charge of Disney’s struggling animation department they hated the building as much as I did. Thankfully, with a massive renovation, the building has been given new life and we can now get back to the task of creating feature animated films. And believe me, that job is tough enough by itself.
You see, creating a feature length animated movie is an incredibly daunting task. Should you be making your film within the system of a large mainstream studio, the task is even more so. I do not exaggerate when I speak of the enormity of the job. There is pressure sufficient in this job to destroy one’s health and one’s sanity. I do not joke when I say directors have been hospitalized while making a movie. Some soothe their pain with alcohol while others have wept at their desk. I’ve often joked that directing a feature film is not a job anybody should want. Foolishly enough, I’ve wanted the job myself. However, you already know how crazy I am.
With this in mind, I have to compliment any filmmaker who brings his or her film in on time and on budget. And, that includes a movie that is pure crap. If you can manage to finish the damn thing then you’ve earned my congratulations. I’ve shaken the hands of directors, and even knelt before others. I honestly have that much respect for the men and women who toil to bring an animated movie to the big screen. Naturally, most animation artists are not aware of these things because their job is to sit in their office and create magical content. If you’ve ever worn the director’s hat …or worse, the producer’s hat …it’s even more of a challenge. I’ve had the opportunity to do both in years past. Of course, these were only what I would call, very small films. As much as I would like to take on the task of a feature film, my partners and I knew there was little chance of that ever happening. However, that didn’t stop us from creating several scripts, taking meetings and pitching to every movie boss we could contact in Hollywood. We created our own independent company (Vignette Films, Inc) because we knew this was our only possible way to get a foot in the door.
However, let's get back to Walt Disney animation and their cool, new animation facility. Believe me, there's some pretty awesome stuff currently in the development. The first feature out of the gate will be "Moana" which is ready to go. I’m sure “Moana” will delight audiences when it opens this month. The motion picture is amazing in so many ways and has its own aura of Disney magic. I can’t help but wonder what the Old Maestro would have thought about this unique animated feature film. I guessing Walt would have liked it so much he’d probably be planning to build a new theme park on a tropical island. Hardly a crazy idea, I can already see Walt brainstorming something he might call, “Disney Island.” Don't laugh. It could happen.