Friday, June 24, 2011
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen the trailers or commercials for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. It’s likely the most anticipated film in the last decade, since perhaps The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. As such, most analysts and film critics expect Harry Potter to bring in lots and lots of money when it opens on July 15.
What you might have missed, even if you’re a Disney fan, is that the all new hand drawn animated film from Walt Disney Animation Studios comes out that same day. Yes, a brand new version of Winnie the Pooh arrives in theatres on July 15, the exact same day as Harry Potter. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
The last Disney hand drawn film was The Princess and the Frog. Some love it (me) and some hate it, but it was a moderate financial success, grossing $104 million dollars during release in the United States. That did not accomplish the task of recouping its production costs. Consider a marketing push and various other tie-ins, and you can see how people viewed the film as a failure.
Going back to Winnie the Pooh was considered a safe bet for Disney. Hand drawn tales of everyone’s favorite stuffed bear should be money in the bank, right? Not if you are going up against the boy wizard. Harry Potter will be a financial juggernaut, and we should not pretend otherwise. But what are the consequences if Winnie the Pooh does not do well at the box office?
Consider this – there are no other hand drawn films that have been announced by Disney. Andreas Deja, one of the key animators at the studio for the last two decades, has left the studio, for reasons he has not stated. No other animation house is doing hand drawn animation anymore. Is it possible that the reason Disney has put Pooh at this release date that they want to kill hand drawn films?
To be sure, there’s no love of tradition in today’s Walt Disney Company. There’s no Roy Disney there fighting to keep animation alive. Pixar has replaced hand drawn animation in being able to churn out viable characters. But I have to say that putting Winnie the Pooh out on the same day as Harry Potter seems like malpractice.
So, here’s what I propose we do about it. I know we’re all Harry Potter fans out there. All I will ask of you, my Disney loving friends, is to go and see Winnie the Pooh first. Weekend box office can make or break a film. When the Friday numbers for July 15 come out, Harry Potter will crush Pooh. But if all of us, as Disney fans, make a vow to go to see Winnie the Pooh first, perhaps we can make a difference.
I’m not saying that you should not go to see Harry Potter, just go to see Pooh first. If you can put Potter off until Monday, even better. If we want more hand drawn films, we have to demonstrate to Disney that hand drawn is still viable. If Pooh fails, they will have the excuse they need to shut it down. Let’s not give them that opportunity.