I have a new special place in my heart for one Mr. Steve Jobs.
With a spouse who is a raving Disney fanatic, not to mention three young children, I am well-versed in Disney cinema. I marveled at the innovation of the multi-plane camera; I thought the Fantasia concept was genius; I was captivated by the resurgence of the movie-musical, both in film and on Broadway. What I could never stomach, however, was the modern trend of direct-to-video sequels.
Now it’s only fair to mention that I usually abhor sequels to begin with. And before you start shaking your heads indignantly at my current love–nay obsession–with all things Pirates, keep in mind that the Pirates movies (at least 2 and 3) were planned well in advance as continuing chapters of the initial story. They were a series, not sequels. My hatred of sequels comes from crap like House Party 17, which would be the same tired plot, just with new stupid characters that you care about even less than the characters that came before. See the difference?
The first time I can recall Disney trying the direct-to-video sequel was following the very successful Aladdin. We even bought both sequels, figuring hey, they’re Disney, they’re not going to be bad, right? Hooo boy, wrong-o. The animation was crap, the songs were terrible, and never mind the fact that they couldn’t get Robin Williams back until the 3rd installment. His replacement in #2 was simply hideous. (Well, you try imitating the comic genius of Robin Williams and see how you do!) Apparently, though, the Aladdin sequels made piles of money, because we soon saw more of the same–Little Mermaid 2, Hunchback 2, even Cinderella 2 for crying out loud! Just what the hell was wrong with leaving a happy ending alone?? I’ll admit, we did try Lion King 2, mostly because they got all of the acting talent back. But without Elton John’s music…again, not very good. Better than the Aladdin sequels, but you can’t get much worse than those.
Enter Steve Jobs, Disney’s largest shareholder since their merger with Pixar (and thank God for that merger!!). E! Entertainment reported on Friday that Jobs has nearly singlehandedly done away with the concept of direct-to-video sequels, effectively dismantling the studios responsible for such drivel and giving some of the folks to John Lasseter (another genius in the industry) to produce higher-quality “features” rather than “sequels.” Though I’m still not quite in love with this concept either, I can understand why Jobs doesn’t quite want to commit to not only killing but roasting and devouring the Disney cash cow. For example, Disney is working on a direct-to-video “feature” surrounding Tinkerbell from Peter Pan, exploring her world as it might exist outside the familiar story. Whatever, as long as they leave the original story alone.
It’s just so nice to see that there is leadership at Disney who is not afraid to call a spade a spade; Jobs was quoted as saying the quality of the DVD sequels was “pretty embarrassing”–no kidding! We’re not blind, after all. I did hear that plans were in the works for another big-screen sequel for Toy Story, though. If Toy Story 2 is any indication, with Jobs and Lasseter at the helm, Toy Story 3 should also be pretty darned good.
Are we really witnessing a return to quality at the Disney Studios? A return to films created to be artistic, not just to gain revenue? According to Jobs, you bet.
“If you keep on believing, a dream that you wish will come true….”