Disney

The New Disney: What The Merger with Fox Means for the Studio

March 20, 2019 wasn’t just the first day of spring–it was also the day Disney officially bought a majority of 20th Century Fox, including a good deal of their film and television properties. Perhaps the biggest merger in Hollywood history–Disney bought Fox for over $71 billion dollars, there will be repercussions in the entertainment industry for years, if not decades, to come. While some of these will become more apparent in time, other changes have been obvious since the moment the deal was even being talked about.

So what does the merger with Fox mean for the new Disney? Here’s just a few likely scenarios:

A host of new franchises for Disney’s theme parks

Many would argue that Disney already has plenty of iconic intellectual properties ripe for the picking when it comes to creating new attractions. For example, with just Pixar alone there are many sentimental favorites that fans would love to see more representation of at Disney’s iconic theme parks, including: Up, Wall-E, Inside Out, and Brave.

But now that Disney has acquired 21st Century Fox, the House of Mouse has an even bigger pool of popular characters and worlds to use. Boasting around a dozen theme parks across the globe, Disney can now include mascots from The Simpsons or Ice Age, and people would love it.

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Disney will have two giant streaming services

In 2017, Disney announced Disney+, a streaming service set to compete against Hulu and Netflix. As more and more details come out, Disney+ is looking mighty tempting for Disney aficionados when it lands later this year, including animated classics as well as original series from Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The vast library of Fox properties will give Disney+ even more intellectual property to draw from for their original content.

Additionally, Disney now essentially owns 60 percent of Hulu, which Disney+ originally intended to compete with. Rather than merge the two, Disney plans to keep both, allowing Disney+ to remain a more family-oriented platform while Hulu can be used to stream more mature content, such as the films from the Alien franchise, or television series from the FX network.

Small-budget vs. big-budget

There’s a lot of excitement for comics fans now that previously Fox-owned Marvel characters like the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Deadpool can finally appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But 21st Century Fox also offers Disney more intimate, smaller-budgeted affairs. Fox was the studio behind films like Slumdog Millionaire, Birdman, and 12 Years A Slave–types of films Disney has shied away from as it became more focused on tentpole franchises. While these budgets can still be a lot larger than smaller, independent films, the releases through Fox and its Fox Searchlight label pale in comparison to the megabudgets of Disney’s summer blockbusters, ranging anywhere from a few million to $50 million.

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While Disney has already been paring down its Fox resources as it combines the two massive studios into one, plans have already been announced to release four theatrical films annually through Fox and four on streaming services. While this isn’t as many smaller films an art house aficionado would prefer, it’s perhaps more than Disney would normally put out in a given year. Perhaps one of these films will finally give Disney something the studio has never had–a Best Picture win at the Academy Awards.

The new MCU

With Avengers: Endgame likely saying goodbye to some of the stars that made the MCU and characters like Iron Man and Captain America household names, many have been wondering what Phase 4 (and 5 and 6 and 7) will look like for the epic franchise-spanning film series. While sequels to Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy were a given, it’s likely that the MCU will gradually start populating with characters previously-owned by Fox.

Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic, is a genius inventor who lives in a big tower in New York City–and would easily fit the whole Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark will be leaving. Similar, his archnemesis Doctor Doom could be a great follow-up villain to Thanos. While Marvel head Kevin Feige says the X-Men will probably take longer to show up in the MCU, he also didn’t rule it out, so don’t be surprised if in a few years Spider-Man and Ant-Man are fighting alongside Wolverine and Nightcrawler.

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Inspiring Advice from 3 Top Animation Studios

No matter whether you’re about to start your program at The New York Film Academy’s 3D Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) School or are already deep into your journey into the magical wizarding world of professional animation and effects, we are sure that the hard work and long hours you put into your work are motivated by a lot of passion and a lot of creativity.

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Because you work so hard at what you love, we rounded up some inspiring advice to give you a boost. So regardless of where you are on your path as an animator or effects artist — whether you’re gearing up for class, tackling a tricky challenge on a project, or hunting down your next professional animation job — we thought you could use some extra insight and inspiration from animators who work for Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, and Dreamworks.

Here are 8 great tips to inspire your animation and effects work:

1. Research

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Just like actors who do research for their role, animators should do research too. Even if you’re just jumping into a shot, take the time to draw or do video research. Make sure that it becomes a habit.

2. Animation Motion

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Chances are that at some point in your career, you’ll have to animate something that you aren’t familiar with creating. If you need to, break the animation down into simple components to help you.

According to Andrew Gordon and Robb Denovan, directing animators for Pixar’s  “Monsters University,” the team had to color-code Terry-Terri’s tentacles to help during the process.

3. Drawing It Out

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Aaron Blaise, an animator for Walt Disney Animation Studios, tweeted, “Try forcing yourself to draw by just laying single lines down. No searching lines. This will force you to think about every line.”

4. Mastering Technology

According to Scott Wright, an animator for Dreamworks, always look to enhance your skill set. He wrote on Twitter, “Technology changes fast. Don’t rely on mastering one program. You never know how the next software package will enhance your imagination.”

Don’t be afraid to use the different types of tools that you have. Computers and software can do CGI well. Put your efforts into the performance and let the computers help you fine-tune everything.

 

5. Polishing Your Work

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If you prioritize correctly, you will know what aspects of your project may need more polishing. Animation requires a great deal of time and effort to bring an idea to life, and you will need to spend a lot of time to achieve a level of work that is polished and ready to share.

6. Show Your Work

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It’s better to show your creation early on versus keeping it under wraps: you can gather valuable feedback, see your work from a new perspective, and find new opportunities to collaborate or flesh out an underdeveloped part of your idea. Creating solid animation is teamwork and that means being open to critiques.

7. Seek Out Advice

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There will be times when you feel stuck while working on an animation project, and there may be a time when someone else’s work fits better in a scene. If that is the case, go find the person who created the work and talk to them. Some animators will open up and go over scenes to show another animator how they made a scene work. Again, collaboration and critique are vital tools to help you grow and improve your work, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your colleagues and peers whose work you admire.

8. Live Your Life

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Animation is similar to acting in that it requires emotional understanding, a passion for storytelling, and an awareness of life experiences to develop believable characters.

Your creativity and discipline at work will draw from how you live your life, so take the time to travel or go see a show, watch people, and write about memorable experiences. Your own life can serve as a valuable resource and support for you as you develop animated scenes, whether you excel at creating funny scenes or subtle and dramatic scenes.

Either way, it’s important to learn to draw from real life, as that can give you immense insight into understanding what makes a scene entertaining for the audience. After all, your audience is full of people living their lives, too.

Do you have any inspiring advice for our animation students? Let us know below!

3 Disney Renaissance Lessons on Animation

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The Disney Renaissance changed the way the world experiences animation. Of all the companies that need no introduction, Disney is perhaps at the top. Boasting one of the world’s greatest libraries of highly marketable intellectual property, Disney will no doubt continue as a household name for years to come. What can aspiring animators learn from this company’s continuing success?

There are many answers to that question, but today we’re focusing on lessons from the Disney Renaissance — a time period that led to the creation of some of the most iconic Disney films. From 1989 to 1999, Walt Disney Animation Studios was putting out hit after hit that to this day still serve as some of the best animated films of all time. In fact, many of them are receiving anticipated remakes, including a live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Below are three things both animators and the industry as a whole can learn from the team of animators responsible for the Disney Renaissance era:

1. Animation Is Competitive, and That’s a Good Thing

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It’s easy now to look back and see how successful Disney was during this period. But before the studio began their creative resurgence, they found themselves in a tough spot. Disney struggled for a while; some of their films (like “The Black Cauldron”) failed while new rivals emerged. One of these rivals was Don Bluth Productions, which was founded by an ex-Disney animator who left with 17% of the animators working on “The Fox and the Hound” at the time.

Don Bluth’s team began producing successful films like “An American Tail,” “The Land Before Time,” and “All Dogs Go to Heaven.” This put pressure on Disney to compete at the box office. Many believe the intense competitiveness with Don Bluth Productions is one of the reasons Disney pushed hard to create memorable classics. Though Don Bluth Productions closed its doors in 1995, Disney clearly benefitted from the competition thanks to the work of individual animators who clearly wanted to prove they were the best in the industry.

2. Never Settle: Instead, Do Better

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Of course, those animators we just mentioned wanted more than to simply “beat” the competition. They also strove to surpass their previous work, which is why so many films released during the Disney Renaissance period seemed to have just as much creativity and passion, if not more, than the last.

Imagine releasing “The Little Mermaid,” which earned a whopping $84 million during its initial release, and then being told to do it again — only better. The Walt Disney Animation Studios team did just that, releasing “Beauty and the Beast” two years later, only to follow that up with with “Aladdin.” The next six films of this era, which include “The Lion King” and “Mulan,” were also great box office hits. The lesson? No matter how well you do, try to do better next time.

No matter what field or industry, success can sometimes be a studio’s downfall. Pressure to repeat the same success can be devastating, but it can also push animators to new heights. As an aspiring animator, follow in the footsteps of the animators of the Disney Renaissance era and work to always do better than before, whether your last work was a success or failure.

3. Animate Because You Love It

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Even though Walt Disney had passed on decades before the Disney Renaissance era, his influence is arguably one of the reasons Disney has continued to grow. In fact, many of his principles are still applied throughout every Disney branch more than 50 years later, including his motto: “Do what you love.”

Disney himself began as someone who enjoyed drawing in his spare time. When he decided he wanted to do what he loved for a living, he had to go through many random jobs — including working as ambulance driver for the army during World War I — just to fund his passion. With a desire to draw for a living as his focus, Disney pushed ahead until he had his own animation studio. His love for animation fed his perseverance.

We’re confident that the animators during the Disney Renaissance era felt the same way. Despite growing pressure to release success after success, they simply went on doing what they loved and didn’t hold back. Now, Disney is one of the largest and most successful companies in the world. Coincidence?

What great lessons have you learned from the Disney Renaissance? Let us know in the comments below!

 

NYFA Screening: Lessons Learned From “Queen of Katwe”

Recently, New York Film Academy students had an opportunity to attend a screening and live Q&A with the cast and crew of Disney’s “Queen of Katwe.” The film is based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who became a champion chess master after selling corn on the street. Both Mutesi and her teacher Robert Katende, were in attendance.

Throughout the Q and A portion, each creator dropped some knowledge on the crowd. Here are some of the highlights from that discussion.

1. Sometimes the Best Story is in Your Own Backyard

Film director Mira Nair lives in Uganda 15 minutes from Katwe, but the story came to her through Tendo Nagenda, a Ugandan Vice President at Disney. Nair said she liked the story because, “I was just struck by this plucky girl who refused to stay in the little place that she belonged — that she was born into — and dreamed of larger things.”

2. It Takes a Village

Nair continued speaking about what inspired her to tackle this project. “It also struck me that it took a village. It took a teacher, the remarkable coach, Robert Katende, to understand her genius. And it took her mother, Harriet, and her whole street, literally, to harness the power that Phiona had, and has, in her.  That’s the story of everyday life in Kupala, Uganda. That captures the joy and dignity of everyday people … That is the story of an Africa that we never see on our screens.”

3. Help can Come From the Most Unlikely Sources

David Oyelow was taken aback after reading the “Queen of Katwe” script that Disney would be taking on this project, “This is exactly the kind of film that myself or Lupita Nyong’o or Mira would put on our backs for 10 years and try to get made and no one would want to make it. They would say, ‘What? Chess? A Ugandan girl?’ But Disney did it.”

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4. Make Art for the People You Love and You’ll be Rewarded Two-Fold

Oyelow gushed about his children igniting his desire to see this story brought to the screen. “And then I have a four-year-old daughter as well … I read this and it just felt like a beautiful love letter to my daughter. All those things made me want to be a part of it.”

5. You Can Be Discovered Anywhere Working Any Job

Lupita was asked if she had any experience shooting in Africa. “I was part of the crew on ‘The Constant Gardener’ a few years ago. I also worked for her (Nairs’) film school as a production coordinator.” Nair joked. “I wonder why? None of the students wanted their travel booked they just wanted her.”

Any more insights you’ve picked up from watching great films lately? Let us know in the comments below!