…down the drain 2.0

29 09 2013


it is funny to read all different articles and speculations why an apparently so interesting looking project was shelved. as I wrote in my post – it was pure incompetence, believe me. I am not talking about the FRAIDY CAT that JOHN MUSKER and RON CLEMENTS restarted in 2004. I am talking about the very first version that was offered to me late in 2000 as a 3 page treatment. I started with a lot of environmental and a few character designs and after I showed the story to ANDREAS DEJA he wanted to contribute some character explorations. he loved the treatment as well.

let me explain the reasons why a project like that could fail. one major reason – because the management at that time was for some never explained reasons convinced that a good final story develops out of over and over destroyed story-versions. I remember a meeting after a screening of some major sequences of another project, where TOM SCHUMACHER, at that time sr.vice president and head of feature animation, answered a statement of a storyboard artist that it looked great and worked well, ‘then let’s do it all over again, because it only can get better’. – I don’t think so!

to be frank, I always thought that this procedure was completely stupid and had only one effect – immense costs and a lot of wasted trees. I remember on MULAN were in the end about 10 different writers involved. coming back to FRAIDY CAT – the poor writer who had come up with this stunning treatment would have never had a chance to write the final script. unfortunately he was not too well known, but more important – he was the first one and to continue you need to throw dollars after a second one. after story-discussions in a team of vice presidents in development ( I always thought they were there for decoration and to fill some luxury offices ) the story had to move to another writer and that could happen several times.

but that was not really the main reason for the systematic destruction of a good idea. that reason was obvious in another department, but nobody else apparently saw it. usually a script ends up first in the storyboard department. one storyboard artist takes care of a sequence. as far as I remember in FRAIDY CAT’S case about 6 or 7 were involved. now there is a major problem – all the top talent in storyboard is busy to fix the disasters in the running production(s). that’s why usually only ‘apprentices’ are thrown into a starting new project. I don’t want to say that there couldn’t be a major hidden talent in such a fresh team, well, usually that is not the case. that means that, what this team comes up with as an interpretation of a third generation script, is not the best of possible versions. in a presentation to the highly competent jury of vice presidents this interpretation must look like a story that needs to be fixed, – back to another writer, and the game starts all over. you can imagine, after several redo’s there is nothing left of an original and once charming story. unfortunately nobody ever had the idea to at least look what others might have done in earlier versions. FRAIDY CAT is not the only project where I saw this happen, it was the same with MY PEOPLES, RAPUNZEL ( inclusive other major problems ), WILD LIFE ( with a ton of more and very serious other problems and directors too arrogant to listen to warnings ) and SNOW QUEEN ( OMG ). the FRAIDY CAT affair ended after I left in 2003 and ron and john tried to fix it afterwards with major artistic talent like CARTER GOODRICH and PAUL FELIX. apparently it did not help because some of the ’emperor’s new clothes’ guys thought it was not a good idea afterall. after 5 yaers and probably 50 million dollars, not to talk about thousands of pieces of art – down the drain.

usually it’s not my style to write that much, but – this had to be said




7 responses

29 09 2013
Larry MacDougall

Hans – Thanks for this honest, behind the scenes look at the mysterious process of making animated films. It would seem that Pixar is now in danger of falling victim to this same kind of story tinkering and self destructive behavior.

29 09 2013
markus L

`Thanks for interesting info. Just wonder why that kind of things happen? Is that they search some “perfect story” which could be the next version of script? Or is that eveyone wants credit about movie?

30 09 2013

It seems, all too often, there’s this struggle between business and creativity on the razor’s edge of sanity that is pervasive in any job where creative entertainment is concerned and big money is being spent.

30 09 2013
Iker Paz

Thanks for this post. I really hope it can help other studios stick to a great idea instead of destroying it.

1 10 2013

It is so true, and in a lot of companies.
But at least at disney, people can do what they are paid for.
In some other studios, presidents feel so “involved” that they prevent you to do your job. But come on, who needs 2D chara design for 3D animated characters ?

27 10 2013

I’m unsure of what you mean by not needing 2d character designs for 3d animated characters. 3d characters are modeled after 2d characters. Without that pencil and paper drawing you’d be trying to model every kind of exploration you could think of on maya/zbrush/any 3d program and that would take forever. Every animated character has a 2d design.

22 11 2013
Floyd Norman

The executives have convinced us that this is the only way to make an animated movie. I think the bosses know better. This broken system only makes them richer. Don’t expect changes anytime soon.

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