Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Disney Buys Lucas

You can read the details everywhere, so I won't bother with them here.

I have no doubt that Wall Street and investors will see this as a good move, as all they are concerned about is money.  However, I'm concerned with artists and Disney's trend is not artist friendly.

Why not?  Well, if you happen to be somebody working in computer animation in the San Francisco bay area, there is now one less employer in the market.  Pixar and ILM have been charged with collusion, cooperating to make sure that they didn't hire employees from each other.  Now they're the same company and they can do what they like with hiring policies and pay scales.  As neither studio is union, there is no floor to pay or benefits.

The problem goes beyond that, though.  While Disney and Pixar continue to turn out some original films, Pixar has already been strong-armed into making sequels because Disney needs to pay off the purchase price.  There will be many, many more Star Wars and Marvel films to pay off those purchases as well.

That takes money and oxygen away from original projects that potentially could become as big as Star Wars or the Marvel Universe.  The company is clearly committed to milking existing intellectual property and acquiring more of it than creating new intellectual property.  And so much of what Disney is buying is from the last century. 

Robert Iger is clearly looking backwards more than forwards.

But don't forget that the Muppets started out as a small troop of puppeteers on local television, Marvel started out as a handful of creators working out of their homes, and George Lucas got turned down by everyone until Alan Ladd, Jr. took a chance (but didn't realize the value of sequel or merchandising rights or he would have kept them).  What Robert Iger doesn't see is that great creations don't come from large companies, they come from people committed to their own ideas who work out of basements, garages, warehouses and other out of the way places.  Sort of the way Walt Disney started.  Remember him?

Which means that while Iger is busy grinding out Muppets, Marvels and Star Wars, the great creations of the 21st century will be happening elsewhere.  Seek them out.


paul said...

well said mark.

Steven M. said...

That seems to sum it up nicely.

Anonymous said...

ILM is Union. Pixar is not. They cannot be mixed. Unless Pixar Unionizes, which they could.

Anonymous said...

I disagree about one point, slightly. Lucas has a handful of properties that can be milked. I, for one, look forward to Howard the Duck 2 (!). Marvel, at least, has a large cast of characters. And while audiences will soon tire of superhero movies (yes, they will), Pixar and Disney's own animation divisions are the only ones providing new, original (at least in the case of Pixar) material. If Disney respects originality (even if they're followed by sequels), they can keep growing. ILM will probably be shut down--Disney isn't interested in owning a top heavy, money losing effects unit, especially when the work can be done as well elsewhere much cheaper.

Leif Jones said...

Disney's never been in the business of creating original ideas: Alice and Wonderland, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Snow White, Tarzan, and on and on and on and on, and it's all a new take on something else.

Independent creatives come up with original IPs, Disney buys them. Marvel has so many stories yet to tell on film (that it's already told in one way or another as comics, though much of that swiped from others) that Disney would not repeat itself after a hundred years of non-stop Marvel movie making and an entire Marvel TV soap opera network devoted to it.

What you wrote about forcing Pixar to make sequels to pay off the purchase price might be right, but Robert Iger is looking backward because he's a businessman and that's where the money is.

The art and success of storytelling is always about looking back, remixing past experiences, trying to understand them. Like memory, that is what storytelling is for. That and, like religion, filling the gaps in knowledge.

Disney is quickly becoming what the Catholic Church was 500 years ago, a powerful storytelling entity, reinvisioning old myths for new generations. And yes, like the church, it narrows the choices creatives have. If they don't want to live and work in obscurity, they may have to play into the current corporate take on our ever changing mythology.

But if all they want to do it create, then they're as free as anyone has ever been.

Steven Kaplan said...

"ILM is Union. Pixar is not. They cannot be mixed."

Unfortunately, this is not true. ILM's union contract has long since lapsed. The artists at both studios will have to stand and demand unionization.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that update, i truly was unaware/info out of date.

"What you wrote about forcing Pixar to make sequels to pay off the purchase price might be right, "

The Disney/Pixar deal paid itself off several times over already, with the Cars and Toy Story franchises. Especially where consumer products are concerned.

Michael Fukushima said...

Nicely done, Mark. Particularly your closing lines about where good ideas come from. Good reminder.

Anonymous said...

Not necessarily. If Disney continues to dominate market share like it currently does, the same brands or iterations on the same brands will continue to be made throughout our lifetime. Everyone will want to come in to do their own take on iconic characters.

Maybe youtubers will get some fans, but those seem like flash in the pan, 15-minutes of fame things. And ad-blockers make revenue from them very very difficult.