Skip to main content

Goodbye, Magic Kingdom

Via Alas, a blog comes the news:

Sadly, the Walt Disney company is gradually shutting down its 2-D animation department. They’ve decided that the reason Treasure Planet failed and Finding Nemo succeeded is that Finding Nemo was animated in 3-D. That Finding Nemo featured a fresh, funny script and brilliant voicework by Ellen DeGeneres, while Disney’s 2-D features lately have had mediocre scripts or worse, apparently has nothing to do with it.

All Disney really needed to do was hire some great writers and then (and this is the crucial part, the part that executives generally mess up) get out of the way. Instead, they’re shutting down one of the best hand-drawn animation studios in the world.

Moreover, Mouse Planet earlier this month reported “Michael Eisner’s official decree: ‘2-D is dead.'”

The breaking-up of Disney’s classic animation works is news in and of itself, of course, but Eisner’s comment leads me to ponder the mechanisms and processes by which new media forms supplant older ones. Bolter and Grusin would suggest that such a process of supplanting is never complete, that old forms and new ones cannibalize one another’s useful characteristics and find ways to coexist in an increasingly complex media ecology.

But I’m wondering now about media forms that we’ve lost entirely (or nearly entirely), media that were in certain respects “better” (more expressive, more flexible, more whathaveyou) than those that replaced them. For instance: the turntable — not so much for the quality of sound, though of course true audiophiles will argue that point, but for the replaceability of the needle, which made the piece of equipment durable in a way that no CD player (like the VCR, a “disposable” technology, made such because the costs of repair far outstrip the costs of replacement) will ever be.

Hand-drawn animation seems to have a similarly durable quality — clearly a representation of and not an attempt at simulating reality, to be sure, but beautiful in its representational qualities. Will advances in computer animation technologies make the products of the new 3-D animation studios as disposable as the CD player?


No mentions yet.