Disney has their hands in a large variety of markets, from their parks and resorts to movies to cable TV channels, international markets, and consumer products, and their newest endeavor with the Walt Disney Internet Group. Each of these components contributes to their overall financial success. Featured on the title page of the the section on “Media Networks: Cable Networks” is a two-page spread picture of the cast of “High School Musical,” claiming that nearly 90 million viewers have seen the movie since its debut on the Disney Channel.
Overall, the company boasts revenues at $34,385 million for the year, a seven percent increase since 2005. For perspective, 2005’s revenues were a four percent increase from those of 2004. Their net income weighed in at $3,374 million, which is thirty three percent higher than last year’s income. The percent difference between 2005 and 2004 was only eight percent (p.57). Obviously they’re heading in the right direction, up. But when I was looking at the numbers for their Media Networks section, nothing seemed unusual or different from the previous year. The eleven percent increase to revenue of $14,638 million is close to the twelve percent increase last year (p.59). The increase specifically from cable networks (as opposed to broadcast television) was ten percent, whereas last year’s revenues increased by thirteen percent (p.60). At least when looking at the numbers, it doesn’t look like the cable networks experienced any sort of huge jump from previous years.
The note about Disney’s purchase of Pixar, however, shared some relevant insight into the company’s philosophy of the nature of feature animated films: “Disney believes that the creation of high quality feature animation is a key driver of success across many of its businesses and provides content useful across a variety of traditional and new platforms throughout the world.” (p.83) Not only do they consider feature animation important in its own right, but they see the multitude of possibilities that it creates in their other markets. Disney is already used to the idea of cross marketing, because they’ve existed across so many different forms of media for a long time already. I’m glad to see that they’re sticking to tradition in putting feature animation at the top of their priorities, because it has been proven to be their most successful endeavor as well as a valuable fuel for the rest of their departments.
Note: Page numbers are based on the print version of the Annual Report. To download a PDF copy, click on the tab labeled “Financials.”
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1999.W27 S62 1999
The nineteen forties left Disney headed toward failure with the loss of their international markets because of the war. They invested everything they could in a new feature animation: Cinderella (1950), and they ended up with a huge success. The fate of the company rode on the success of the movie because of all of the labor and money put into creating it, and with both its score and the song “Bibbidi-Bobbidi Bo” nominated for Oscars, Disney realized that their salvation was in the creation of more feature animated musicals.
Of course not every feature was as profitable. Disney invested over six million dollars in creating Sleeping Beauty (1959), its “most lavish and costly” film up to that point, but its initial release did not do as well as they’d hoped (p. 85). Luckily, Mary Poppins (1964) flew in with her umbrella and created a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious film that received thirteen Oscar nominations and five awards.
The authors mark 1984 as the lowest point financially for Disney theatrical releases in thirty years. Under the new leadership of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells, though, the company started turning around. By 1989, The Little Mermaid put Disney back at the top. It was the first of five Disney feature animations in a row to win the Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Song, and it caused for “renewed excitement in the animation and musical genres” that set Disney straight for the next decade (p. 151). Beauty and the Beast, which was also nominated for Best Picture in 1991, Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), and Pocahontas (1995), followed equally strongly, and reinvigorated Disney’s animation department. Again, the cause for success was feature animated musicals that brought back both audiences and awards.
Following the entry for the final year, 1999, the authors take a look into the future at what Disney has planned for the upcoming century. They spelled out every bit of advance information they could get their hands on, and looking back, they were pretty dead on. Two of the major disappointments that they could not have anticipated were the movies Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) and Treasure Planet (2002). Their predicted success was based on the fact that they would have the same directorial and production staff that made the movies of the early nineties so incredibly successful. The missing piece? Music.
Call#: Annenberg Library Reference PN1995.9.M86 H57 2001
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first movie musical to produce a best-selling soundtrack album in 1944, and it changed the way audiences and studios alike saw children’s movies and animated movies in general, since it was the first feature length animated movie, at 83 minutes long. (p. 304). Mary Poppins was also one of Disney’s largest successes, with Oscars for Best Song, “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and Best Actress, Julie Andrews. For years afterwards, Disney and other studios attempted to copy the successful formula that went into the making of this movie. (p.209).
The entry in the encyclopedia for The Walt Disney Company continues the timeline, noting the enormous success of Mary Poppins (1964) as the musical that “rivaled those of Hollywood’s golden age.” (p. 343) Following that movie, though, few were really notable until a major resurgence in the early nineteen nineties with year after year of animated musical hits, featuring: The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Mulan (1998), and Tarzan (1999). Many of the individual entries for each of these later movies compare the scores to Broadway musical scores and credit them for reviving what had been a long stretch of unsuccessful attempts in the Disney feature animation department.
It’s so wonderful to see the scores and songs of Disney animated musicals get the credit they deserve for first creating the identity of Disney features and then reviving that identity after many years of hiatus.
JSTOR: Music Educators Journal: Vol. 32, No. 5, p. 18-19. April 1946
This article analyzes the use of music in animated cartoon movies, contrasting its use with that of live action films. Since animated movies are more exaggerated and are filled with constant motion, a composer needs to make his music do the same. Rodriguez begins by examining the role of music in movies more generally. He defines the difference between a screenplay with music and a musical by stating that screen plays use music to enhance the emotion of a scene or clarify a point to the viewer, but they keep the plot is still the central focus of the movie. In musicals, however, the plot can be completely swept to the side to make room for a musical number that has little to do with the actual story of the movie but is there for pure entertainment.
Because cartoons are by their nature based in fantasy rather than reality, Rodriguez states that a composer working on a score for an animated movie has a much greater task ahead of him than if he were working on a live action film. The actions of the animated characters are timed down to the frame, which is 1/24th of a second. In order to fit the action perfectly, then, a composer must change his frame of reference from the usual beats per measure approach to beats per frame. This argument seems to work for live action as well, since in the end everything is broken down into frames to be projected, but Rodriguez claims that synchronization of action with music in live action films is coincidental and unlikely while it is “almost a rule of life with animation composers.” (p. 19) The music must be constantly active and moving, simply because the characters are. A good composer must know how to make his music as humorous and exaggerated as Donald Duck of Goofy but also be able to convey the tenderness and emotion found in many animated films. Rodriguez specifically mentions Dumbo, Bambi, and Pinocchio in the latter category.
Although the subtitle of the article reads, “Will ‘Cartoon’ films have a place in music education?” the author only mentions music education in passing in his last paragraph. He laments that not enough researchers or critics are writing about how well cartoons can teach music to children. His idea of music instruction is creating an animation that is didactic in nature, instructing children about notes, musical structures, harmonies, and other complicated elements of music that are not easily explained otherwise. The fact that music can be added to animation would only serve to illustrate the different sounds that would be taught in the animation. In my opinion, his focus on education is quite limited to high level music theory and could be extended much further. Rodriguez mentions Fantasia in a reference to animation set to pre-composed music, but he failed to note how the animation visually conveyed the different elements and tones in the music, making the music’s qualities apparent both to the ear and to the eye.