|BURY THAT FILM!!
Starring Michael Eisner
|Hey, whatever happened to Roger Rabbit? The guy seemed to be well in line for a promising career, with an ongoing series of shorts before many Disney films and his own section of Disneyland, "Toontown." Normally once Disney has a hit idea they grab it, shake it upside-down and wrestle every penny from it. They suddenly just....STOPPED with Roger; but why? One would assume the character just ran out of steam. Not really; if Disney is still pushing Ariel. The truth is, Roger was dipped -- by the company's own Judge Doom, Michael Eisner.
What happened was, after making the last Roger cartoon in 1993, "Trail Mix-up," Jeffrey Katzenberg left Disney(the last feature film under his watch was The Lion King). Then later on, Katzy met with Spielberg and some other unknown person and founded Dreamworks Pictures. Now Katzenberg was in direct competition with Disney, and don't forget in 2001 he made Shrek, which was pretty much a direct slam on his former employers.
|Spielberg's other company was Amblin, which made the Roger Rabbit film. In fact, you pretty much have his influence to thank for the fact that the movie showed cartoon characters from every studio and company rather than just the Disney ones. The stiffest opposition came with the fact that the movie had to have both Mickey Mouse AND Bugs Bunny. Both companies laid out their rules: Mickey and Bugs had to appear onscreen at the same time every time they appeared, and they even had to speak the same number of syllables in every scene. Reminds you of two siblings whining that one got an atom more of ice cream than the other.....
Anyway, in 1992 plans went underway for a sequel; but that was soon killed by the fact that it would be too expensive. Instead more cartoon shorts were ordered to play in front of films; but after "Trail Mix-up" some key people left, like Katzenberg and Spielberg, and according to the contract no future cartoon could be made without the involvement of both. Eisner got furious at Katzenberg for leaving, and actually decided never to let him back in any way, shape or form. Now, it was contractually impossible to do anything else with Roger Rabbit, for all eternity.
What was Disney to do? Remove all future influence of Roger, that's what...no more toys, books or even references were made(although there was a fast ref in the third Aladdin film). They had to make people forget about Roger Rabbit, because if they demanded anything else Disney would have to explain. And when RR was released on DVD, not as big a deal of it was made as they make over other films of this type.
This wasn't the first time Eisner buried something. No, there are SEVERAL things Disney would rather have you forget. How about these?
|THE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE|
|A Disney animator team worked on an "epic" film about the Incas called Kingdom of the Sun for about 2 years. In it, a prince and a peasant trade places; meanwhile this villain person tries to destroy the sun because it ruined her complexion. Oh yeah, and the peasant falls in love with a princess. Yadda, yadda, yadda.|
|After The Lion King, it seemed all Disney ever wanted was dead-serious epics; surely one would be able to match up. So far, none really have. And the team could tell how dull this was; they hated working on it. The overseers didn't like their results either, so they gave them a deadline of 2 weeks to shape up the movie, or else they'd pull the plug and cancel the whole film.
With their heads now in a vise, the producer now shrugged and said, "Hey, if we're gonna go down anyway, why not actually have FUN with this movie for once?" So they changed the whole thing around; and shortly it became what you know now.
Eisner said, "Okay, fine; make it that way," but he was mortified. This silly thing wasn't the epic he was hoping for by any means.
So, when Groove came out, Disney did everything to make sure you DIDN'T know it was there. When they came out with their Groove trailer, they released the trailer for Atlantis: The Lost Empire at the same time to overshadow it. Atlantis wouldn't arrive for a whole year, but anything was better than people noticing this one weird film.....
Then, when it was released, none of the usual merchandising or Happy Meals resulted. No deals with advertisers; nothing. The attitude was, this is going to obviously bomb; let's just get it over with quietly.
Disney focused all their marketing on their "sure-fire hit" that holiday season, 102 Dalmatians. Why they keep putting their hopes in rehash crud I have no idea, because Groove went on to outgross 102 Dalmatians and become their most critically praised movie of 2000. If they hadn't released this, they would have had NO critical praise that year. Ha!
Seeing a "surprising" growth in sales because of this movie, Disney quickly made some hype posters and advertising for it for the Martin Luther King 3-day weekend. It made $6 million that week; in it's 6th week at the box office.
Eisner still wanted his way, so they quietly released the film onto video, and then put it on network TV rather early. Too bad. The only ones too dim to laugh at Kuzco were the people in charge. In future years, this one film will still be an underappreciated cult hit; much like Earthbound is to video games.
|SONG OF THE SOUTH|
|Disney has now released every film they ever made onto video, except for ONE: this one. From 1946, it had live-action and animated segments. Have you ever seen a character called Brer Rabbit, or heard a|
|song called "Zip-a-dee-Doo-Dah"? Both are from this film, so you can't say it didn't leave its mark. Why hasn't it appeared at all? Because the stories are told by Uncle Remus, who lives in the South at a time shortly after slavery was abolished; but there are still slaves. And since the film kind of portrayed Remus and his pals as happy, slavery as a cushy job, and used the N-word once, it was banished from Disney's PC world, never to be mentioned again. Brer Rabbit toys and books ceased production in the 90's, but the film itself was banned way before that.
Brer Rabbit isn't the only cartoon character to get a burial due to offending someone; recently Warner Bros. banned Speedy Gonzales. Yes, that's right. They put him back in cartoon rotation, however, after the Mexicans said, "Huh? When did we say we hated Speedy?" These policies are ridiculous.
|THE BLACK CAULDRON|
|They actually worked on this one, on and off, for almost 15 years. Then they released it in 1985 and it blew up in their faces.
Alllll the way back in 1971, Disney bought the rights to Lloyd Alexander's recently released
|book The Chronicles of Prydain. (If you haven't seen a picture of Lloyd, trust me on this--his nose is HUGE.)
Anyway, they sat on it for a few years and released some other stuff, then they began work on it. Sales of Disney films at the box office were really starting to sag without Disney himself to make them somewhat memorable. Eventually they stopped trying and just released halfhearted movies one after another, and not one a year like they used to--just whenever they felt like it. This led to the resignation of animator Don Bluth from the company; who huffed off and started his own along with some other people displeased with the sad state of the place at this time. Get this....Bluth used to tell people he worked for Disney, and they would say back to him: "You mean Disney still does cartoons?" It was that bad.
Of course, the early 80's was a black era for animation anyway, but things like this didn't help. The resignment of some of their best talent did get some press, and Disney decided to do some epic movie, unlike any cartoon they'd done before, to try and make people forget what happened and prove they were still the tops in the cartoon biz.
So they started working on Lloyd's book again, and decided to do a decent adaption. They made a pretty dark fantasy film, with lots of action 'n violence and with no songs whatsoever(this was the first time songs were left out), and for once they let the girl in the story do some fighting on her own instead of sit in a castle and yell Help Me. (But hey, if my name was Elionwy I'd be pretty sore too.)
They got it done, but it wasn't without its imperfections and weirdities; they had sat on it for too long and made too many script revisions. Then something even worse happened--yes, it was Eisner, who had taken the reins of the company by now, and this was the first animated film released under him. Katzenberg was also recently hired as the man in charge of animation around there, and he decided to watch the film before its release and take his scizzors to it. This was the first time a movie by Disney had been snipped after all the work was done since Snow White. The results weren't good at all, but that didn't matter to some guy who just felt he was doing his job and didn't even pay attention to the plot of the movie he was censoring. To this day nobody really knows what was cut out; but it was a lot, and the film still recieved a PG rating anyway. Unfortunately, the cuts made some scenes really make no sense, especially the ones toward the end.
The film was put out, and they had now spent $44 million on it. It dropped like a rock and bombed. This was their first attempt to get interest renewed in their movies; it really didn't work. A few years later, with the release of the Little Mermaid, their movies took off again and they tried to bury the fact that they had made The Black Cauldron just 4 years before. By contract it had to be re-released in the theaters in 1990, but they renamed it "Taran and the Magic Cauldron" so nobody would think it was the same film(suuuure.) A video release didn't happen until 1999 or so; and it wasn't a majorly hyped release either.
|DISNEY'S ENTIRE ANIMATION DEPARTMENT|
|No, really. They once actually thought of doing it.
The Black Cauldron was their big attempt at revitalizing their animation market; and when it only made half the money they spent on it, several people on the Disney board considered ceasing their animation department entirely would be a good investment.
|If it wasn't obvious by now they were only thinking of money....well, now it is. Several Disney officials were outraged by the thought of that; what's Disney without animation anyway?? But there were many reasons for the failure of that film; more than their thick heads could absorb. In addition to being censored and revised to make no sense, it was released with NO fanfare at all. There were virtually no ads, there were absolutely no Burger King or McDonalds tie-ins, no action figures, no nothing. The only way you could know it was there was if you looked at movie reviews. Now, if they did THIS, then how did they expect kids to even know about it?? I don't really know; but I've always regarded the modern Disney company as very stupid.
It was at this time, when they were about to cut the rope on the noose they'd put on themselves, that Don Bluth's revenge became complete. He rose from the ashes and brought out An American Tail; which turned into a HUGE deal and beat the pants off The Great Mouse Detective, which was Disney's offering for 1986(and that had no hype either, and came out on the same day as Bluth's picture). An American Tail, however, had hype out the wazoo. McDonalds sold toys, ads covered the kids hour, it was backed by Steven Spielberg himself, and on top of that, it introduced the now-often-used idea of using a new soft rock song by a popular artist to boost the attention of the movie. I walk into clothing stores(although not often) and they're STILL playing "Somewhere Out There" on radio stations. And every time they do, I think of Fievel Mouskewitz because I can't help it.
The Disney dopes just stood there watching all that and their jaws dropped. Shortly after, they put new hope in their animation department; and of course a few years later they came out with The Little Mermaid, which sparked a new interest in their stuff. But just think about that. We should be grateful Bluth had the guts to back away; otherwise he would not have saved Disney from themselves and perhaps some of the films we saw in the early 90's would not have happened. They were rescued by their rivals. Egad.
And those are the things Eisner doesn't want you to know about. The time now could actually be his last months in office, though. He's severed good relationships with several important directors, lost Pixar, and lost his chairman position. One critic suggested Eisner might not last the year. Well, good riddance, you dope....now let's just hope they don't replace you with someone worse. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay......my-oh-my, stupidness doesn't pay.....