Mood: Daily Needs
WARNING: Long-arse post for those who dare to read it.
Things can really change in a mere decade. Speaking of which, I just remembered that I've been on DeviantArt for a whole decade! Though, it took another two years before I became an active member.
When I first joined, it was during a time when the pool of animated features was opening up in a big way. Dreamworks had become the new champion, having scored big off their overrated Shrek series. This helped set the current procedure of CGI being the primary cartoon medium, which sunk the paper-and-pencil process at almost every studio. That included the Walt Disney Company.
Thanks largely to chaos in company management, Disney was in serious trouble a decade ago. Their animated films were not performing as well as Dreamworks or Pixar. Their partnership with Pixar was failing. Hundreds of their animators worldwide were getting fired over the capricious decision to end paper-and-pencil animation. Low-budget video sequels threatened to devalue the prestige once enjoyed by their animated canon.
All of this drama, to some degree echoing problems Disney faced during the 1980s, would be settled with changes in management.
Meanwhile, Dreamworks had completely reinvented their own animated roster, when most of their earlier, hand-drawn efforts failed to find an audience. With Shrek winning the first Oscar for Best Animated Feature, all of their subsequent features would not only be all-CGI, they would also take on a much snarkier, sarcastic tone. Sequels became a given for their most successful films. Imitators would follow throughout the 2000s.
Disney, of course chose to follow Dreamworks' path for a while, before the company gained second thoughts. Upon acquiring Pixar in 2006, it was determined that Disney had to learn how to make better films on their own, rather than copying the competition. This included a brief effort to revive hand-drawn films.
While that became a lukewarm endeavor, the studio DID manage to reinvent their storytelling for their CGI features. Tangled became their first major success from this new process, followed by Wreck-it Ralph. With the success of Frozen, Disney had officially re-established their standing in animated features, which culminated with their very first non-Pixar Oscar win for Best Animated Feature.
Disney is unique in the fact that the company has operated on a series of peaks and valleys in its 90-year history. In their most recent instance, they have reaffirmed their standing as a major competitor in animated features. This time, instead of being the standalone champion, they are now one of several mainstream competitors in a much wider field including Pixar, Dreamworks, Laika, Blue Sky, and Illumination among others.
Dreamworks, in spite of its successes, does not have the heritage that Disney has. When even one of their animated films underperform at the box office, it causes a ripple effect for the entire studio. That has been the case since about 2012, which has ironically come at a time that they have begun telling more sincere, and in my view, better stories.
After Shrek 2, I stayed away from Dreamworks altogether. While I do enjoy the occasional snarky stuff, mainly thru Seth MacFarlane's shows, there was something about DW's films that simply did not appeal to me. That would change beginning with Monsters vs. Aliens. It had a somewhat sarcastic feel, but had a strong set of characters, not limited to the captivating heroine that made this movie fun to watch. How to Train Your Dragon was another one of their great films, coming from the directors of Disney's Lilo & Stitch. One of their best films to date would be 2014's Mr. Peabody and Sherman, their first adaption of their Classic Media collection.
There's plenty reason why I declare shenanigans on the current "downfall" of Dreamworks' features: It is only because their recent films have not been making as much money as their previous films. Which seems relatively trivial, considering how their movies consistently earn at LEAST the amount of their production budget, and how they usually earn an Oscar nomination each year. The company had long been considered an alternative for many ex-Disney artists, where even some non-Disney members would go to make names for themselves.
Given my personal preference for Disney features, and what the scenario was a decade ago, does Dreamworks' current troubles mean that I'm rooting for their failure?
As I said, Dreamworks HAS been doing a lot better when it comes to storytelling. It seems like they would simply have to condense the budget on their upcoming features in order to rake in a bigger profit. I personally never understood why animated features have to cost more than $100 million, sometimes pushing $200 million, outside complications in the development process.
Plus, they have a large library of vintage characters that they have yet to explore. When DW purchased Classic Media in 2012, they acquired such iconic characters as Rocky & Bullwinkle, from which the aforementioned Peabody & Sherman originated from, as well as Felix the Cat, the UPA collection, and the Harveytoons collection. It wouldn't surprise me if they had enough material to launch their own cartoon channel.
I am hoping for the best in whatever problems Dreamworks is facing. They did have to layoff hundreds of their animators, and some of their upcoming movies are put on hold as they change their production pipeline. Just as long as they don't misconstrue their remedy as say, a return to Shrek-styled features, or a million-billion sequels to their existing films. And as long as their recovery doesn't result in yet another downfall for Disney, or really, ANY animation studio.
Because of the increase in competition, each studio actually has the freedom to experiment with whatever medium they choose. Laika prides itself with stop-motion subjects. Maybe at some point, Disney or Dreamworks, or a new studio will be willing to give paper-and-pencil another try. A wider variety in artistic choices will be something to look forward to over the next decade.