Disney Live-Action: Not As It Once Was

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Remember Meet the DeedlesSnow DogsMax Keeble’s Big Movie? Me neither, because I never saw them. These are all products of the debacle that was Disney live-action films of the early 2000s.

It seemed the company was just churning out whatever cheap film they could make to get the attention of persistent 8-year-olds to drag their parents to the latest family comedy.

The Disney studio had become what Walt Disney himself never intended: cheap entertainment that pandered to the lowest denominator of audiences.

(No offense if you happen to like any of those movies; I confess I’m quite partial to Heavyweights.)

But those days are long behind us.

Just like Disney’s animation division, their live-action films are giving the rest of Hollywood a run for their money, especially in the realm of their sub-genre – live-action remakes of old Disney animated classics.

It started with the odd, yet bewildering Alice in Wonderland in 2010. That was improved on with 2014’s Maleficent, a bit formulated, but more impressive than most people expected. Last year’s Cinderella confirmed that Disney has hit upon something great with this remake franchise by delighting us all. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

And now the studio’s newest release, The Jungle Book, is taking the box office by storm. And well it should! I saw it the other day and was seriously blown away. It was like watching Peter Jackson’s King Kong all over again, only, dare I say it? I bit more dazzling.

Sure, it follows Disney’s original ’67 animated version, but the detours are delightful! It was hard to believe that these animals are completely CGI (be warned parents of young ones: this is not Babe – far, far from it). Nothing at all looks fake in this movie. As impressive as it was to look at, I’d say the most wonderful thing about it is that there’s literally not a single dull moment. I never checked my watch, I never even bothered to scratch the itch on my ankle for fear of missing something.

And you will never see Shere Kahn the same way again. This new version of him just may be the most fearsome villain in the whole Disney pantheon.

And the franchise, it looks like, has just begun. Disney has confirmed that they will be remaking many of our childhood favorites (Dumbo, Peter Pan, Aladdin, Pinocchio, etc.). And if they keep on doing whatever it is they’re doing right, I say bring it!

Have you seen The Jungle Book? Share your thoughts.

 

Disney Animation and Baseball

I think every parent wants their kids to show an interest in what they’re invested in. I’m no different.

With my kids being just 1 and 2 their minds are young enough to mold. Obviously, if they show an interest in licorice making or the study of different types of sand in Mid-eastern countries, then I will support them and show an interest in their passions. But until then, I want them to know what their father loves so maybe I can pass that love onto them.

5My first passion is Disney animation. In the next couple of years I will be watching a lot of Disney animated films from Snow White to Gigantic in order to study and analyze them. I’m even writing a book about the history and current success of the Disney Animation Studios, so my kids are going to be well-versed in Disney lore as I read aloud to them Walt Disney biographies and animation books.

Perhaps it will inspire one of them to be an animator. Or a screenwriter. Or a storyboard artist.

My other passion is baseball. I don’t watch it on TV or root for any particular team (if I had to pick, it’d be the Dodgers). In truth, I couldball never figure out the point or excitement in televised sports when you have the ability to actually play them or go to the stadium. Instead, I’m talking about playing baseball. I’m hoping to find a local baseball team to join this summer so my kids can watch their old man attempt to knock one out of the park. Or sprain his ankle trying to get past first base.

I’ve been taking the kids to the nearby park so they can chase the balls I hit and bring them back to me. I even bought them a T-ball stand, but they still think it’s fun to hit the stand and not the ball. I’m working with them.

But I hope to infuse the love of baseball in them because it’s one of America’s greatest pastimes and one of the elements that helped make America what it is today. The same goes for Disney animation.

They may not be interested in my passions, but really my goal is simple:

I want them to discover their passion while they’re young so that I can have time to encourage them to pursue it with all their might before they get out in the real world. Too many of us discover our passions too late and I don’t want that to be the case for my kids.

So for now, we’re starting with the basics: A few colorful movies and a baseball.

Don’t forget about our new writing contest that’s currently going on for a chance to win $200. The deadline for submissions is April 18th.

That Match-Out Moment

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You know in Back to the Future, how every opportunity to return Marty to 1985 is thwarted until the last possible minute? Like, the Delorean not starting, and the chord getting unplugged, and the movie just keeps you on the edge of your seat and doesn’t let you go until you finally see those flaming tire marks lead into a bright blue flash.

And then, similarly, in Toy Story, when every hope of Woody and Buzz returning to Andy is completely dashed, with RV’s batteries running out and that ridiculous car putting out the flame on Woody’s match (I’ve always had a strong dislike for whoever’s driving that car). But that moment between the match going out and Woody using Buzz’s space helmet as a magnifier, as devastating as it is, is just so much fun! Right? Because, you know, that somehow everything just has to work out, but – how?

I’ve researched this particular kind of climactic moment that doesn’t seem to get used enough. I’ve asked people in the drama field what this particular arch in the story is called. And I’ve never gotten an answer.

If you watch the commentary for Monsters, University. (I cannot stress how important it is for every writer or story lover to watch these valuable features), you’ll hear them talking about this type of moment. When the door closes on Mike and Sulley, locking them in the human world, the commentators refer to this as a “Match out” moment – referring to Woody’s match going out.

That brilliant moment when all hope not only seems lost, but is lost.

The Delorean could have simply just worked. The match could have lit the fuse to Buzz’s rocket. Mike and Sulley could have just walked back through the door without Dean Hardscrabble unplugging it.

But that’s just too easy.

Authors, writers, don’t make it easy for your protagonists! Set every obstacle you can possibly think of between them and that happy ending we all know is coming. In fact – make it completely impossible for them to get there. And then find a way!

Go into overtime as a storyteller and work out how your protagonist can accomplish the impossible. Make it a “match out” moment.

If you’ve read The Man in the Boxyou’ll recognize several such moments in the third act. It fuels the story, gives it that extra umph, and most of all, it shows the reader that you care about their experience.

You care enough to go that extra mile, to push your character that much further, and to entertain your audience for just a few more moments before handing them that happy ending.

Writers, get good at that “match out” moment. It could be the moment a reader falls in love with your work.

And don’t forget to enter our writing contest for a chance to win $200!!

One of the Greatest Companies in the World

There is a book I’d like to write about one of the greatest businesses in the world, and I’d like to eventually publish it under Endever’s name. Thing is, it’ll take a few years to write, and the time expense will be big. So I’m throwing the mock-introduction out there to you readers to see if it is a book you would be interested in reading. 

Also, don’t forget to enter our writing contest for a chance to win $200! Choose any famous fictional couple and write their continuing story. Click here for details.

INTRO TO BUSINESS BOOK:

In just over two centuries America has delivered a long line of legendary figures who have contributed mightily to the sustaining growth of creativity and innovation. Out of the collective brainchild of these American leaders, we have been given the telephone, baseball, model-T’s, cardiac pacemakers, and Cocoa Cola, to name a few. Business, imagination, and innovation have been the cornerstones of American greatness stretching as far back as the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

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When viewing American history in terms of industry clusters, there is one enterprise, one empire, that is larger than most of the others and has touched and inspired growth in more industries than any other. One would be hard-pressed to find a single person in America who does not know the name Disney, and probably very few people in the world who have not been touched by his creations in one way or another.

Walt Disney built the first-ever themed amusement park for millions to enjoy, make Walt_Disney_1946memories, get engaged, get married, and reconnect with their families. He invented the nature documentary, spawning a multi-billion dollar industry that is dedicated to documenting and preserving life forms we share planet earth with that we would otherwise not have known about.

More specifically, and most famously, he created the first feature-length animated film. He did this despite a plethora of naysayers and fierce criticism. And one man’s folly became a worldwide phenomenon, which evolved into a cultural obsession. Soon, animated films became the gold standard in entertainment. And so, on the shoulders of seven little men and a gullible princess, an empire was built.

Through vivid storytelling, state of the art technology, and sophisticated artistry, animated movies delighted audience members of all ages and magically touched the world one life at a time. People everywhere discovered that their deformities could propel them to heights above their peers as they marveled at Dumbo’s flight. Peter Pan reminded people that it’s okay to never grow up. Alice taught audiences to never stop exploring. And Walt himself implored everyone, no matter what, to “keep moving forward.”

But after the dark and dismal days following Mr. Disney’s death in 1966, his empire lived on, but only barely so. The men and women left behind to run it were, essentially, left without an emperor. They were lost and leaderless. Their fearless visionary had sailed away to new adventures on his pixie dust-coated pirate ship. The artists and storytellers left to run the kingdom struggled to match their leader’s expectations as they floundered to create one mediocre animated film after another. Slowly, the medium was dying out because of a lack of vision, and brick by brick, the kingdom that Walt had built began to crumble.

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Animated movies, feeling like high-budget lengthier laugh-o-grams by that point, were being cast aside as no longer cinematic marvels for the masses, but as simple-minded childish affairs. This is a class of thinking Walt would have despised. Animation was never meant to be solely for children. It was meant to be experienced and enjoyed by all, despite class, race, gender, and especially age.

Hope was undoubtedly waning for the Disney Company. Artists packed up their bags. Desk lamps were shut off for the last time. Sketchpads were closed, and the dust began to settle. It seemed feature-length animation was now a thing of the past.

tumblr_mdidktSb9G1qfin3mBut somewhere in the distance, a wave began to form and it brought forth a ship that seemed to carry Walt Disney’s very spirit and it set anchor in Burbank, California, which would become the home to a humble grotto under the sea where a little mermaid would dazzle the world with her voice and bravery.

And so, like the prince-kissed maiden, the sleeping spell lifted and Beauty awoke. The dragon of despair was slain, and life and energy prevailed once more in the Walt Disney Studios.

With the release of The Little Mermaid, resurgence was under way. Ariel was Snow White for a new generation. Suddenly, the theater houses were packed with just as many adults as kids, just like in years past. That old forgotten magic filled the air and new songs filled people’s hearts and it wasn’t uncommon to hear someone whistle “Under the Sea” when you passed by them in the grocery store.

That infectious spirit of Walt Disney had been reborn and almost everyone was accepting of it. And that wasn’t all. In the mermaid’s wake rolled in even bigger box office and critical hits such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King—films that remain embedded in America’s psyche even decades later. People today teach their kids what Hakuna Matata means, just like their grandparents can still recite the significance of wishing on a star.

Parents took their families to see the latest animated movie with nothing less than childlike enthusiasm. The reigning king of animation, it seemed, had reclaimed its rightful place in the movie industry.

All had thought Disney Animation was here to stay, but no on foresaw the slow and michael_eisner_disney_celadorimminent second death the company would suffer for the next ten years. It would slowly decompose from a cancer eating it from the inside out. The magic was squelched once again, but not due to the vanishing of a great man, but this time because of the arrival of a man who was driven by pride and bureaucratic rituals.

Everyone, from the studio to the general public, watched the decline of the twice-great animation studio as year after year it produced films that displayed lesser and lesser artistic quality and lesser depth. It wasn’t noticeable at first. The Hunchback of Notre Dame broke new ground in animation by giving movement to every person in large crowd scenes to provide a sense of realism seen only in The Lion King. Tarzan provided memorable music and displayed beautiful animation by esteemed Disney artists.

But like plucking pedals off a rose, it seemed there was a certain magic, or touch, that was less and less prevalent in each subsequent feature animated film. The characters were becoming less relatable, the stories were no longer connecting with audiences, the tales were no longer as old as time but were just enough to make a quick dent in the weekend box office only to fall away into distant memory. More than ever the animation style was reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons.

What was happening here?

What was the cancer that was destroying this vibrant, lucrative, creative machine? At one point it seemed as though the Disney empire was unstoppable, that it would continue to deliver memorable movies for generations to come. And now it was being pitifully bested by other, less experienced, animation studios.

Just when even the youngest children, it seemed, weren’t too thrilled with Disney’s latest cinematic attempts (does anyone remember a single line from Atlantis: The Lost Empire?), fate stepped in and offered a second revival for the company.

They say everyone deserves a second chance, and now the Walt Disney Animation Studios was being given a third. With fresh new management in place, a complete restructuring of the buildings, and the reimplementation of Walt Disney’s innovative spirit, the animation behemoth transformed from a Beast to a flourishing kingdom once again.

During these changes, Disney’s forty-eighth animated film was underway about a dog who believed he was a super hero. His nemesis was to be a Girl Scout cookie-selling zombie serial killer—quite a jump from the conventional tradition of family-friendly entertainment. But the new management arrived just in time to step in and reroute the project, shaping it into a much more acceptable premise with enduring characters and, ultimately, bringing in a nice sum for the studio (an impressive $310 million, almost doubling the previous film’s intake).

From there, the company’s prospects grew from good to better, and eventually to a greatness never known to the Walt Disney Animation Studios before in its seventy-nine year history. As of the very day of this writing, the media is exploding with exultations over Disney’s newest animated effort, Zootopia. And my social media notifications are about to burst my phone, alerting me that Zootopia has just become the highest-grossing animated Disney release ever—a record not easily broken considering the greatness that emerged from the studio’s previous resurgence.

Los Angeles Premiere Of Walt Disney Animation Studios' "Zootopia"

HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 17: (L-R) Singer Shakira and actors Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman pose with Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps characters during the Los Angeles premiere of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootopia” on February 17, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Disney)

One has to ask, then, when looking at the long history of Disney animation, why is it back on top after years of muddling in the mire of mediocrity? Usually, as businesses go, they get one chance to pull off something great. One flub, one misstep, is enough to send the company off to file chapter thirteen. Why has Disney Animation been given so many chances to turn itself around? What caused the change? What does the management look like now compared to that of the abysmal late 90’s and early 00’s?

These are questions we will explore in the following pages. In hindsight, some answers may be obvious, but keep in mind, every business decision seems rational at the time. After all, the Walt Disney Animation Studios is more than a business. It’s one of the most trusted brands in the entertainment industry, and a beloved hallmark to millions across the world. In this book we’ll speak with Disney executives and employees and get their firsthand accounts of the changes the studio underwent that caused such a rollercoaster of highs and lows. We’ll examine the things that worked and the things that didn’t, and we’ll attempt to draw the conclusion of whether it was dumb luck that keeps getting them out of trouble or if it’s due to specific, proactive decisions and changes made on behalf of the management and cooperation of the employees.

This is more than just a business book or an interesting inside look at one of the most successful companies in the world. This is the story about an empire which was poisoned by an apple but then miraculously awoke. Then it lost its glass slipper, but in the eleventh hour, it was found. Through it all, it continues to reclaim its happy ending. This is the story of hope, courage, and reformation. This story is our story—America’s story. A story which Walt himself wanted to be infectious to millions across the globe: “…with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

Writers: Win $200!

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Homer and Marge, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Ross and Rachel, Shrek and Fiona…

These are all iconic fictional couples whom we are familiar with. We adore them, we love them. But what happens after their “Happily ever after?” Do they stay in love? Do they have an unfortunate fallout? Does conflict disrupt their lives? Perhaps the threat of a third world war challenges their devotion to one another?

You tell us!

For a chance to win $200, writers are encouraged to pick any iconic fictional couple made popular by a book, movie, or TV show and enlighten us on what happens after their “Happily ever after.”

Are you not a writer? No problem, we’re sure you know plenty of writers in your life, so please pass this contest along to them so they have a chance at winning $200. Who knows, they might even take you out to dinner…

Contestants must be over 13 years of age to enter. Do not exceed 1,000 words. Deadline is April 18.

CLICK HERE to submit

And please feel free to contact us at Endeverpublishing@gmail.com for any questions you may have or leave you comments in the section below.

Silly Rabbit, Animated Movies Aren’t (Just) for Kids

 

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Zootopia is Disney’s 55th animated feature film, and it broke records as being the highest grossing Disney animated opening of all time.

Why is that? Personally, I think it’s because Disney has been delivering better and better films after their decade of mediocrity (1995-2004). The animation powerhouse, with the help from Pixar geniuses, has worked hard over the past twelve years to regain the world’s trust. Each film, from Bolt to Big Hero 6, has steadily gotten better and better, and diving deeper and deeper with substance and superior quality.

After seeing it with my son today, I can see why it’s garnered a near 100% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes by both critics and audiences alike (many even claiming it’s the best Disney film ever), and why it’s broken the record as the studio’s highest grossing opening.

Zootopia is not your typical animated film. Sure, it’s anthropomorphic, which is not uncommon in the medium, it pulls as many quips as it can, and… well, that’s pretty much where the similarities stop. Outside of that, it’s a seriously fun and entertaining crime drama.

In fact, it’s so reminiscent of my favorite buddy-cop movies, Lethal Weapon, that I no lethal_weapon_3longer feel a need for Riggs and Murtaugh to team up for a fifth installment because a sly fox and a “dumb bunny” beat them to it.

If you’re one of those closed-minded weirdos who write animated films off as being “kid movies,” you need to rethink your approach. If this movie doesn’t convince you that select animated films can be way better than your typical live-action release, then you’ve got some rewiring to do. (There’s a scene where a main character cries and it’s better than any crying I’ve seen any real actor pull off…yeah, I watered.)

Most of the jokes are subtle. Many of them I won’t notice until future viewings (and there will be many…by choice), but I caught enough to know that they’re there. And yes, it’s got that warmth and heart Disney is known for, but it never, ever feels cheesy.

Judy-Hopps-disneys-zootopia-38966363-777-777I can foresee myself choosing Judy Hopps as my favorite Disney character after a more timely analysis of her character. I want her to be my daughter’s role-model. She is strong, humble, and determined to be the best she can be doing what she wants to do. And no bull-headed water buffalo is going to get in her way.

Is Zootopia my all-time favorite Disney movie? I don’t know, but it’s way up there. But then again, A Goofy Movie isn’t technically considered part of the Disney animated movie lineup. So… of the official 55 releases… I guess I’ll just have to watch it a few more times to decide. And I can’t wait!

Disney does not make kid movies anymore, and this is just one more proof of that. If Hollywood didn’t segregate animated films in their award ceremonies, Zootopia would easily be in the running for best film categories just as Inside Out would have been earlier this year.

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite short story to cap off Endever’s first writing contest!

Finalists Announced! Vote For Your Favorite!

Here are the finalists for the writing contest! Watch the video then read the rules below for  rules on voting!

To vote, go to Endever’s Facebook page, read the three stories posted, then LIKE your favorite. Please vote only once. If we see you vote for more than one, your votes will be disqualified.

Good luck, finalists!

Any questions, contact us at endeverpublishing@gmail.com

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