Can you explain the rationale for having three animation divisions – Pixar, Walt Disney Animation, and Disneytoon Studios? That might not make obvious sense to outsiders, but what’s the reason for keeping them separate entities?
What doesn’t make obvious sense? The fact that we have three different animation studios?
Yeah, what are the different responsibilities for each?
Part of it is heritage, right? You know Pixar Animation Studios was an independent company started by Steve Jobs, Ed Catmull and myself and rest of the Pixar team — inventing computer animation and being the first to do it out there in the world. Seven years ago, Disney purchased us and one of the reasons they purchased us is they really wanted to protect and maintain that culture and keep what we do going. So that’s the reason why that continues and we love it and it’s up in the San Francisco Bay area. The Walt Disney Animation studio is the studio that Walt Disney started himself in 1923 and it’s never stopped and never closed its doors and never stopped making animation and it keeps going as kind of the heart and soul of the company.
And then there’s the direct-to-DVD market, which the previous version of Disneytoon Studios concentrated on. Is that still the main focus there?
Disneytoon Studios was started a number of years ago to feed into the direct-to-video market, but as the home video sales have continued to decrease rapidly we are looking at the evolution of the studio going more theatrical. With Disneytoon Studios we start from the beginning by thinking of it as a series in a world — it’s a continuation: the Tinkerbell films, and now with Planes, inspired from the world of Cars, but with airplane characters … You really have to spend time upfront to make sure the world is robust enough and interesting enough to be able to hold many different stories.
If these were your three kids, apart from the differences in when they’re born, or where they live, what are the distinctions in their personalities?
A lot of it does have to do with heritage. With Pixar, it’s still a studio of pioneers and kind of rebels. It really feels like a big institution. In all the world of things that have been invented there’s this culture of anything is possible, and it permeates. When Steve Jobs was so much a part of the company were always pushing the envelope and pushing to new ground. It’s really an exciting place and always striving to do new things, that’s it’s personality. And even though it has this tremendous success over the years, and the name means so much out there in the world, we still like to have that kind of pioneering and kind of a little bit a rebel spirit.
Is Walt Disney Animation then the more traditional studio?
Everyone who works there is working there because it has things that are Disney, and what Walt Disney created. They just love being a part of that and doing things within that. For instance, Tangled, the story of Rapunzel, when that movie came out it was like you don’t even need to put the name on it — nobody wonders, what studio made this, you know it was Disney because it has that beautiful blend of storytelling and design and beautiful images and music and song and all that stuff it’s so classically Disney. But not everything is going to be like that, like we had Wreck-It Ralph and we’re very proud of that.
And Disneytoon Studios is all about creating a series of sequels?
It’s like when you think of these great series on HBO where there are these incredible characters that you love and you just want to see more and more stories of them.