Last night in Burbank, I had the opportunity to introduce a delegation from the National Religious Broadcasters to the folks at Walt Disney Studios. Dr. Frank Wright led the group from the NRB, and we met with Disney Chairman Dick Cook; also the President of the Motion Picture Group Mark Zoradi; legendary animator Glen Keane (Little Mermaid, The Beast, Pocahontas); and Jody Dryer, Disney’s point person to the faith based community.
It was really an incredible evening. After a tour of the studios and Disney archives, we met with Dick Cook and Mark Zoradi to see a preview of upcoming Disney projects like “Prince Caspian,” the next of the Narnia series of epic movies; the new “National Treasure” installment, and latest Pixar venture “Wall-E,” and others. One of the highlights of the evening was a 4 minute segment of rough scenes from the new Prince Caspian project – which showed just how epic and grand this latest episode will be. Shot on location in New Zealand and the Czech Republic, it promises to be a beautiful movie.
Then, we screened their upcoming Thanksgiving release “Enchanted.” I have to admit, after raising two daughters in the prime of the “Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Pocahontas,” princess era of Disney, this was an incredible experience. Mixing live action with state of the art animation, it’s a brilliant take off on all the princess movies ever made. Kathleen and I laughed for 90 straight minutes. Don’t miss this remarkable new musical – and definitely take your kids.
The most fascinating part of the night was hearing from Cook, Zoradi, and Keane discussing Disney’s new commitment to Walt’s founding principles of family entertainment. They’ve reduced their output to only 10 films per year, and with the acquisition of Pixar, at least 2 will be animated. Their goal is pure family entertainment – great storytelling without adult language, sexual situations, or gratuitous violence. They still will push the edge of action and adventure, and are focused on epic stories, but their goal is to reach an audience from 8 to 80 years old.
Interesting stuff. I found Dick Cook to be the real thing, and I’ve known Mark Zoradi for years. Our kids went to the same schools, and he’s proven to be a truly stand up guy, with great integrity. I’ve also known Glen Keane for a long time as well. In fact, years ago, just off “The Little Mermaid” juggernaut, he penciled a sketch of Ariel for our daughters that still hangs in a frame in the hall between their bedrooms. It’s one of their most prized possessions. Glen’s currently directing “Repunzel” – the fully animated fairy tale that will be ready for 2008. Don’t miss it.
Give Disney a hearing this year. Hopefully, the NRB members in the meeting will share this through the radio and TV outlets they own, and let people know that the ship is turning, and remarkable things are happening.