By Tom Macy
December 18, 2009
When The Princess and the Frog won the box office battle this past weekend with about $24 million, a small but very significant battle was won in a war being forged in the cinematic universe. While it may be seem like a somewhat paltry tally, I believe we will look back on this outcome as a turning of the tides. This conflict has been ongoing for decades now, and the future of animation as we know it is at stake. One side, Pixar, stands for good, the other, Disney, sadly has turned to the dark side (That is the first of many Star Wars references I will make today. Because honestly, is there anything that can't be made into a Star Wars reference? No.)
True, these companies work under the same roof. But only in title. To fully understand the magnitude of this event requires some exposition that I laid out in a column I wrote back in June. After I saw Up I tried to reasonably explain the sustained brilliance of Pixar films. If you aren't one of the seven people that I suspect read it here's the gist.
Pixar is run by an alien race whose comprehension of how to blend entertainment and art comes from a higher intelligence too complex for our lesser minds to understand. My reasoning for this is that their movies are too good to be made by humans. But that's not all. Their predecessors in animated genius, Disney, are of another world as well, originally traveling to Earth in the 20s. Unfortunately their power hungry leader - one Walt Disney – led the company astray due to his aspirations for World domination. Disney was famously frozen – to be risen when the time was right – and gave instructions for the company to implement his devious plan over the ensuing decades. This plan hinged on converting the youth into to Disney loyalists without any original ideas whatsoever - i.e. Dumbo 2, the horror. But then Steve Jobs arrived, aka Luke Skywalker, with his advanced knowledge of narrative structure and character development and that threw wrench into things.
Jobs purchased Pixar from an equally formidable foe in George Lucas and sought to build it up to rival Disney with the hopes of ultimately bringing them back to the light side of the force, if only for a few redeeming moments before they die (god, aren't you glad George Lucas didn't have Hayden Christensen redo Darth Vader's death scene and edit it into Return of the Jedi? I could totally see that happening. I should shut up, though. I don't want to give him any ideas).
Jobs' plan really went into full swing when Pixar became part of Disney - a Trojan Horse type deal. With their vastly superior films, Pixar used Disney's massive marketing engine and universal brand recognition as a tool to reach the audiences they needed. As the consistent excellence of their films persisted, folks started to recognize that the brand to really look for was Pixar's. In essence, Pixar used Disney's brainwashed army they had been building for decades against them.