A Dreamer Walking

The Disney Problem!

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on September 11, 2010

There has been a lot of controversy around Disney animation lately. The next Disney Animation movie Tangled seems to be looking shallower and shallower every day. The reason is “safety”. The executives at Disney, have changed the title of the upcoming animation movie from, “Rapunzel Unbraided” to the much safer “Tangled”. Also, after watching the last few trailers for Tangled, it seems that Glen’s Kean’s (The original Director who recently needed to stepped down) original vision of a artistically unique film has turn into a more dazed “Traditional Disney” style of a film, where the color schemes and character designs are similar to many animated movies we have seen in the past, such as Dreamworks Sinbad and Disney’s Treasure Planet and Bolt. Also the only advertising I have seen for the movie seems to be built entirely on gags, where the characters do not seem to have any depth and the “entertainment” comes from characters getting beat up or from pop references that will be forgotten in five to ten years.

The problem is Disney is playing it SAFE. There are still many good artists at Disney, however the artists are not the ones calling the shots the executives are the ones calling the shots and they are all business majors with hardly any artistic background. Money is the top concern for the decision makers at Disney. To be guaranteed good money you need to have a reliable formula, the only problem is there is no formula to good film making. So instead of good films we get mediocre films, where metaphorically, some of the top chiefs in the world are reduced to cooking hot dogs. The artists at Disney are capable of so much more then what they are doing now.

A similar kind of thing happened in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. There was a whole slew of talented artist that had just began to graduate from the school CalArts. CalArts was founded by Walt Disney (the actual man) and taught by mostly old Disney artist who worked during the Golden Age of animation in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Students who are now looked up to as masters at animation such as John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, and Brad Bird, were taught in CalArts to keep on pushing the limits of animation, to always strive to be unique and look at storytelling in different ways, so they could push the animation medium forward. These CalArts students had some big visions and wanted to apply their visions to the Disney Studio.

The Disney studio did not want to push the medium of animation forward in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The graduates from CalArts were extremely disappointed. Brad Bird, Tim Burton, Joe Ranft left the Disney Studio. John Lasseter was fired because he had too high of ambitions.

The Disney heads denied people like John Lasseter and Brad Bird, because John’s and Brad’s ideas were not “traditional Disney”. The heads of Disney wanted to have a reliable formula they wanted their workers to create reliable movies like the ones done in the late 1930’s through the mid 1960’s. However, the reason why the movies from the 1930’s through the 1960’s, were successful, was because the artist were always striving to do something new. It was the people who taught John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, Tim Burton and Brad Bird, that created the masterpieces in the 1940’s, such as Pinocchio and Bambi. The way the artists created those masterpieces was through NOT following a formula but instead taking risks and driving the technique of storytelling forward.

How ironic it is that the executive heads of Disney are using “traditional Disney” as a excuse to stay the same. Walt Disney was one of the first people to try new things and push his medium forward. The Disney problem is that those in charge, are no longer interested in traditional Disney. The heads of Disney need to play it SAFE and by doing that they are slowly dying away. Their movies don’t last as long anymore, there has not been a huge hit at Disney animations sense the Lion King and the great artists at Disney are given less and less freedom. Creativity requires risk. A risk seems to be exactly what Disney is not willing to take.

Johnny Depp

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies by Jacob on April 27, 2010

Johnny Depp is a very interesting fellow. But, I think that one goes without saying.

When I started to research Johnny, I found out that he has always been drawn to characters that had flaws, that were considered by many “losers”. However, in the beginning of Johnny’s acting career, he only took roles to support his first love, music. Because Johnny did not take acting seriously or as something he was wanting to go places with, Johnny excepted roles that did not necessarily draw him in. The first big hit Johnny got as an actor was playing one of the lead roles in the hit TV show 21 Jump Street. By taking this role Johnny became a Teen Idol. He became a product of Hollywood, something that he was extremely uncomfortable with.

After getting out of the TV show 21 Jump Street, Johnny began to take acting seriously and he made a promise to himself, that he would stay true to his path and not steer away no matter the outcome. During the next decade Johnny picked some very unique roles all were different from each other. One thing did stay the same, all the characters would be considered outcast by most of our society.

Johnny got a lot of recondition for his talent when he played the character Edward Scissorhands in the Tim Burton 1990 movie Edward Scissorhands.  It was a pretty big deal for a young actor like Johnny to be cast in the main role of popular Directors film, like Tim Burton’s. Tim Burton took a liking to Johnny and cast him as a main character, in many more movies in the future. We see Johnny go from being the cowardly Ichabob Crane in Tim Burton’s 1999 film  Sleepy Hollow to the evil monster Sweeney Todd in Tim Burton’s 2007 musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Johnny talked about having a different language with Tim Burton, where both of them finish each others sentences and knew what each other wanted without needing to verbally pick at each others brains.

Johnny said that Tim Burton is able to give you suggestion and plant seeds, but still allows you to be free with your acting. Freedom is what Johnny wants the most with his acting. In every character he has played, Johnny seems to take the character places that most Directors would be uncomfortable with. Johnny talked about the “first impression” you get while reading a script or listening to a story, being a gift. Johnny is big on letting his first impression guide what he does. He takes characters in mostly unique places so you never know exactly what is going to happen or how the character will turn out. Most executives and even directors are scared when they do not know the results, it means they are not in complete control. With Johnny’s acting, you do not know what the result will be, the executives and directors need to rely on the talent of the actor.

Johnny has shown much talent through out his career. His dedication to stay true to himself has allowed him to go down paths that very few Hollywood stars can walk. Johnny has made it a priority to know the story the Director wants to tell, so that his performances can help push the directors vision forward. This balance of taking the role in his own direction but also staying true to the directors Vision, is what I think makes Johnny such a good actor.

In every movie Johnny has done, he has put the Character he is portraying first. He said that he strives to be a character actor. Johnny is not huge on the prince charming who does all the great action but does not have any depth as a person. As I said before, Johnny took a liking to the outcast. Most of the films that Johnny did at the beginning of his career were not considered the “happily ever after” kind of stories. In fact, many of the stories he did showed a pretty accurate but negative  look at the world.

Johnny’s seemingly negative look at life did not interest me. I do not understand why you make a film just to show how bad things are. I listened to Johnny talk a few times in his young career and he seemed to be a very sad man. Johnny was hurt by Hollywood and by how aggressive the paparazzi were toward him and his family. Johnny said that he never had many friends during his childhood, everyone considered him a bit odd. Something however happened during the second half of Johnny’s career. He still was picking characters that were very unique, but I began to see a life in these characters, that I did not see in the past.

Johnny began to act in movies such as Chocolate, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Finding Neverland, where there was a life the characters he played. I was especially touched in the movie Finding Neverland, where Johnny played the main Character James Barrier. James Barrier was the creator the the stage play Peter Pan and Johnny played the role magnificently. In this movie Johnny played a character who was about living life through the power of the imagination. In this role I finally saw Johnny play a man who stood for life no matter how hard it got.

In 1999 I saw an interview of Johnny Depp. They asked him what the most important thing to him was, and Johnny replied, “Family is Everything”. Johnny then talked at length about his daughter just being born and how she meant everything to him. Johnny said that his daughter being born was like breathing for the first time. He seemed to finally find a reason to live and a reason to create the stories that stood for life. Johnny talked about roles like Captain Jack Sparrow being for his children.

This “hope” that Johnny seems to have found is what I like the most about him. I think that Johnny Depp is a extremely talented actor, and occasionally he puts that talent to good use when he creates characters and works on movies that have life at the center.