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by Ken Pellman (archives)
June 27, 2001
Ken is all over the map this month - Layoffs, Atlantis, Disneyland, Walt Disney World and more.

First off, I wanted to point out that this obviously isn't the second Monday of June. Kenversations™ has moved to a new schedule, appearing on the fourth Wednesday of each month. For those of you who noticed when Kenversations™ didn't appear on the second Monday of this month: thank you.

Anyway, enough of that. This edition has a different format than previous editions. My concept for Kenversations™ included the idea of not sticking to the same format month after month. If you're looking for that kind of consistency from me, you ain't gonna get it here. So, on with comments on the passing parade…

Summer's here. [The obligatory Alice Cooper's "School's Out for Summer" plays in the background.] It's time for weeks and weeks of consistently high crowds at Disneyland Park. It's time for beautiful women in their best Summer outfits strolling around The Disneyland Resort. It's time for theme parks to strut their stuff. It's time for beautiful women in their best Summer outfits strolling around The Disneyland Resort. It's time for event movies to keep us going to the cinema week after week. It's time for beautiful women… well, you get the idea.

Ahhh…. it is my favorite time of year. When I was a young lad, use to lose myself in the Summer. I'd forget the day and date, swimming nearly 'round the clock at the beach and at the high school's pool, basking in the Sun, tanning to a near crisp. Those were the days. I didn't think about things like…

When I last wrote to you in this column, I wrote that Disney needed to reorganize itself as an organization, something that would help it for the long term, instead of going through layoffs. I firmly believe this. Maybe some of the many things I don't know would change that belief if I came to knew them, but as I see it now, I don't see these layoffs and voluntary terminations as something that is going to help all that much.

Of particular interest to me was the loss of staff at Walt Disney Imagineering and at Walt Disney Feature Animation. I sat in the AMC theater at Downtown Disney (Anaheim), watching credits roll up the screen, knowing that a lot of the names I was seeing were of people who were no longer employed by Disney, or who would be taking pay cuts if they were. Such was their reward for working on…

Atlantis - The Lost Empire
The reviews are out, and the reviews are mixed. The box office take has been okay, but not up the standards of many previous Disney animation films. Quality animation is expensive, so such films have to bring in a lot of money to justify themselves. Some critics like the film, some are lukewarm. I don't know what Sony's imaginary critic has to say about it, or what Doug Danger's review said. What I do know is that it isn't making the kind of money at the box office that it needs to in order to be considered successful.

Can you name an animated sci-fi film that has made a lot of money? I enjoyed Titan A.E., but 20th Century Fox considered it a big enough disaster to send Don Bluth and his team packing.

Disney has pushed Atlantis more than it did Groove, but it looks like they still held back. Remember when the debut of a new animated feature meant the debut of a new stage show or parade at Disneyland Park? Well, not this time. Oh sure, there are the windows displays at the Emporium shop in Disneyland Park, and a photo location next to the unused Submarine Lagoon, both things that Groove didn’t even get. But there wasn’t the big push we’ve come to expect, and certainly no overhaul of an existing attraction, like what was done with Tarzan.

This film lends itself well to adaptations into real attractions at Disney’s theme parks, but I won’t hold my breath. How many have we seen with the other recent animated features?

That’s not a critique of the actual film, though, of course.

Atlantis, like Hercules, is based on such widely known mythology that has been used in countless creative works. Indeed, Sea World Florida and Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas had had their own Atlantis attractions for a while. If you're going to put out a film based on such a well-known, well-used mythology, you'd better do a heckuva job with it, especially when there is so much to play with. Otherwise, people will be apathetic at best, angry at worst, and you've then failed to make the material your own.

Unfortunately, Atlantis is just okay.

There are a couple of really great sequences and shots, but many more missed opportunities.

Clearly Disney has given up striving for photorealism in design and movement, unless it is a CGI effect. Instead, Atlantis is another stylized film with a distinct look. It is inevitable that "hand-drawn" animation would head this way. It is facing tough times these days as technology marches on.

Even mainstream publications like Entertainment Weekly are asking if traditional animation is dead. (They must have seen my previous edition of Kenversations™ where I covered that topic.) It’s no wonder, with Disney’s Feature Animation unit in a slump, Fox’s unit long gone, the fact that a movie can be as good as The Iron Giant and still not draw big box office, and with the success of CGI animation, including…

I wonder if the day will ever come when the folks at Dreamworks will tire of poking fun at Disney and the culture that is associated with it. Part of me hopes not.

Shrek is one of the biggest box office hits of the year, and another example of the big strides being made in CGI animation. Disney and PIXAR are presenting another CGI film, Monsters, Inc. later this year, and Final Fantasy has caught the eyes of many with its impressive look.

Yes, Shrek has Disney-related jokes and pop culture satire in general - some of which has already dated the film. It’s a fun movie, though, in spite (or because) of making fun of…

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