Director: Don Hahn
Released: March 26, 2010
This is a fascinating documentary about being an animator at Disney that spans from 1984 to 1994. It starts right around the time Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg joined the team as CEO and studio head of Disney. With the dismal box office of The Black Cauldron (which is a movie I think is VERY underrated) and their competition blowing them out of the water, they knew it was time to turn things around.
They hired more animators and Roy Disney promised an animated feature to be released every year. This started in 1988 with the release of Oliver and Company, which made more than its competition at the time, The Land Before Time. (I loved that movie! Remember the little triceratops named Cera? Haha!)
To help with The Little Mermaid, a film that had been denied to make before because Disney had recently released Splash (in 1984 - quick sidenote: there was a clip of a news anchor saying that Splash had made six million dollars at the box office its first weekend and that implied it was a hit. Wow. If a movie only made six million dollars in a weekend today, it would be a huge bomb!) Maybe it was lucky they waited a few years to make The Little Mermaid because they got the music team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman to write and compose the memorable songs from that movie. I learned that Katzenberg wanted to take out "Part of Your World" because it didn't get good reaction at a screening. That may not be the most popular song in the movie, but it's certainly an important one - it tells the audience what Ariel's hopes and dreams are, and plus I love that song!
So of course The Little Mermaid is a huge success and wins the Oscar for Best Song ("Under the Sea"). The next year, is not so with the release of their next animated film: The Rescuers Down Under. It barely gets any advertising and they move on with their next film, which is their most critically acclaimed and the first animated movie to be nominated for an Oscar: Beauty and the Beast. They showed an unfinished version (just pencil drawings, nothing had been colored in yet) at the New York film festival and received a standing ovation. They're on a roll and their next movie is Aladdin which was also a big hit.
The funniest part of the movie for me was when they were next working on The Lion King and Pocahontas (to be released in '94 and '95, respectively) and Katzenberg wanted them to concentrate more on Pocahontas because he thought would be the bigger hit because people would love the "Romeo and Juliet" type love story and didn't think African animals would translate to the screen as easily. Hmm, I'm beginning to think this guy should never bet on anything! Because we certainly know how that turned out! Let's see: Pocahontas: made 141 million domestically. Certainly not bad at all. But compare that to The Lion King which made about 300 million domestically.
I highly recommend this documentary.