Y12: Paramount follows the Disney model

The following article provides an excellent explanation of how Disney has become so successful and why one of the big 6, Paramount have been unable to keep up. Here are the key points (if you don’t have time to read the article!):

  • Paramount made a $455m (£365m) loss in 2016
  • They have turrned to the former chief of Rupert Murdoch’s 20th Century Fox, Jim Gianopulos, whose releases include Fox’s biggest-ever hit Avatar and the X-Men series, to learn the lessons of its rivals
  • 6 years ago Paramount was the most successful of the big 6
  • Disney is now a template for other studios to follow due to its incredible recent successes
  • Disney has spent $15bn building a multi-genre hit machine, buying Finding Nemo and Toy Story creator Pixar, Marvel Comics’ sprawling superhero universe and Lucasfilm, maker of Star Wars and Indiana Jones
  • Universal, topped the industry in 2015 taking almost $7bn at the box office, has developed a string of franchises in-house including Fast and Furious, Jurassic Park, Despicable Me and spin-off Minions
  • Intellectual property licences are extremely important – studios need to find un-utilised IP. Converting teen books such as The Hunger Games into franchises can help maximise revenues for institutions.



AS Presentations :)

Image result for presentation funny

In threes, your task is to present a ‘spoken essay’ response to the class.

Each presentation must include:

  1. At least 15 slides (5 each)
  2. At least 6 media terms (use your glossary)
  3. No more than 20 words on each slide
  4. Reference to institutions and audience on each slide
  5. At least one precise film example for each slide

Group 1 (Noah, Jason and Danny): The increase in hardware and content in media industries has been significant in recent years. Discuss the effect this has had on institutions and audiences in the media area you have studied.

Group 2 (Pelin, Kez and Morgan): How important is technological convergence for institutions and audiences within a media area which you have studied?

Group 3 (Hannah, Eliot, Alec and Maisie): What significance does the continued development of digital media technology have for media institutions and audiences?

Group 4 (Tony Adams, JaThis and Loz): To what extent is technology the most important factor in a film’s success?

PLEASE PRINT YOUR GROUP’S NOTES FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS AND EMAIL ldavies@hazelwick.org.uk with your PowerPoints


1. “Steamboat Willie” (1928)

While most remember this as the first film to feature Mickey and Minnie, the real importance of “Steamboat Willie” lies in its technological innovation. It is, after all, the first film to feature synchronized sound. This meant that, for the first time, the action and dialogue of the characters (done mostly in an unintelligible garble by Walt Disney himself) were in sync, instead of background music wallpapering the action. The nearly eight-minute-long film is a marvel, for sure, but like every other innovation listed here, its true magic is in its winning combination of humor and heart.

2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)


In the decade that followed “Steamboat Willie,” Walt and his creative confederates had mastered the short-form medium, pushing the limits of what was possible and coming up with pieces that were critically adored and publicly embraced. But that wasn’t enough. So Walt set out making the first-ever feature-length animated film. This was such unwalked territory that many in Hollywood began referring to the feature as “Disney’s Folly.” The project consumed massive amounts of time and resources at the studio, and it was unclear whether audiences were even interested in a feature-length cartoon. Well, they were. Critics hailed it as an instant classic and audiences gobbled it up; at the time it was the highest-grossing sound film of all time. (Adjusted for inflation, it would still be in the all-time top ten.) Again, technology was just one hurdle to jump; Walt and his team had to figure out a way to engage an audience for a prolonged amount of time through strong emotional undercurrents, believable characters, and an engaging narrative.

3. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Aurora pricks her finger on the spinning wheel in Sleeping Beauty

A little more than 20 years after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs revolutionized the film industry, Walt was still experimenting with how to give animated features more depth and make them contemporary. Two years before Sleeping Beauty was released, Lady and the Tramp became the first animated film exhibited in the anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. With Sleeping Beauty, though, an even bigger breakthrough was introduced: It was the first animated film photographed in the super-wide Technirama 70mm widescreen process. (The first theatrical engagements also featured immersive 6-channel stereophonic sound.) The process of making an animated film was so time-intensive that by the time the film was finally released, many of the theaters that could have played the full 70mm version had been retrofitted. This led to the original, super-wide aspect ratio of 2.55:1 being largely truncated to 2.20:1 or the more CinemaScope-compatible prints, which had a more traditional 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Later restorations would reinstate the 70mm grandeur that Walt and his animators, who animated characters on giant pieces of paper the size of bed sheets, intended. And the effect is undeniably striking; the modernity of the 70mm aspect ratio shape perfectly highlights the graphic art style of Eyvind Earle and Mary Blair. (Disney used 70mm again for TRON but wouldn’t release another animated film in the format until 1985’s The Black Cauldron.) And the entire thing is absolutely luscious to behold. But, of course, the movie’s jaw-dropping beauty would be nothing if the characters and story weren’t so strong.

4. 101 Dalmatians (1961)

Roger and Anita laugh in 101 Dalmatians

Before 101 Dalmatians, the process of animation looked something like this: Animators would draw their characters on paper (24 of these drawings are required for every second of finished animation). Drawings would be transferred from the animation department to the ink and paint department first, where the animator’s lines were meticulously traced by talented artists in that department, onto cels. These cels would then be photographed, in quick succession, and the illusion of life was born. With 101 Dalmatians, though, a new process called Xerography was introduced. This technique, developed by Chester Carlson in 1942, had only been sparingly used in animation but never on a feature film. The new process allowed a clean production style that would replicate the artists’ work via dry photocopying. Animators, for the first time, were seeing their pencil strokes appear on film. This process was so successful, and the look so charming, that it would be the standard for Walt Disney Animation Studios for decades to come (more on that in a minute).

5. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Walt Disney had been fascinated with combining live action and animation; years before “Steamboat Willie,” he had created a series of shorts inspired by Alice in Wonderland that featured a human child interacting with cartoon characters. Later Disney projects like The Three Caballeros, Mary Poppins, and Bedknobs and Broomstickswould feature this process extensively. But there had been nothing like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which mixed live action and animation liberally, and with an unprecedented level of realism and interaction. Post-production on the film took more than a year, with animators having to animate around director Robert Zemeckis’ active camera movements, and compositing being finished by Industrial Light & Magic. The entire process was exhausting and, in the end, revolutionary. Not only did the film win the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Editing, but it was nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Sound and received a Special Achievement Academy Award for “animation direction and creation of the cartoon characters.”

6. The Rescuers Down Under (1990)


By the time the studio made The Rescuers Down Under, the Xerography process developed for 101 Dalmatians had been utilized and refined. (Veteran animator Floyd Norman told us that it had been pretty much perfected.) But by the end of the ‘80s a new process was being tested at Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Computer Animation Production System, or CAPS. The system (developed by Pixar, years before Toy Story) was used for digital ink and paint and for compositing purposes. It was first tested out on the rainbow at the end of The Little Mermaid, but The Rescuers Down Under was the first fully CAPS colored and composited film. Cels were now a thing of the past, with animators’ drawings being scanned and manipulated inside a computer. This allowed for more sophisticated imagery and a more artful blend of computer animated and traditionally animated elements. It also looks gorgeous and brings the audience into the story in a fuller, albeit subconscious way.

7. Beauty and the Beast (1991)


Up until Beauty and the Beast, computer animated effects had been utilized mostly on scenery – the opening shot of The Rescuers Down Under, for instance, or Big Ben at the end of The Great Mouse Detective. And, yes, technically the CGI ballroom in Beauty and the Beast is a piece of stagecraft, but it was also the first time that a piece of CGI was used to elicit an emotional response. The reputation of the computer as a cold machine was still lingering but the sequence in Beauty and the Beast gave it warmth. Try thinking about Beauty and the Beast and not remembering this sequence; it’s impossible. It proved the viability of CGI as a storytelling art form instead of just a visual effects tool, and one that cannot be overstated.

8. Tarzan (1999)


The multi-plane camera, developed by William Garity for the Walt Disney Studios, was first used in the Academy Award-winning short “The Old Mill.” The camera moved through different pieces of painted glass, giving the illusion not only of motion, but of three-dimensional depth. It was later used in movies like Pinocchio, Bambi, and The Little Mermaid. And in 1999 a new version of this process was introduced, with a much cooler name: Deep Canvas. What Deep Canvas did was create 3D backgrounds that had the look and feel of traditional animation. The software keeps track of digital brushstrokes and allows for animated characters to be more fully integrated into these digitally created backgrounds. This was particularly helpful for Tarzan, since the title character does so much swinging and careening through the largely CGI background. Again, the innovation was driven by a storytelling need and rewarded accordingly, with a special Academy Award given to the creators of the new program.

9. “Paperman” (2012)

times disney restored our faith in love -George and Meg from paperman

Computer generated imagery and traditional animation had, by 2012, been intermingling for decades. But never in the way that “Paperman” presented them. The Academy Award-winning short utilized software that Disney had developed, called Meander. Inspiration came from director John Kahrs watching master animator Glen Keane draw over animated images from Tangled. For “Paperman,” two-dimensional animation was mapped over 3D spaces and forms. Hair and cloth was drawn by hand, and the computer generated underpinnings of each character or environment could be manipulated or removed if the animator saw fit. The resulting film feels both organic and cutting edge, with the technology heightening the already intense emotionality of the piece.

10. Big Hero 6 (2014)


There’s so much fun and adventure in Big Hero 6 that it’s sometimes easy to overlook how many technological breakthroughs are nestled inside of it. A program called Denizen populated the massive urban cityscape, with a complementary program called Bonzai used to create the trees. But the biggest breakthrough came in the form of Hyperion, a new rendering system that allowed for complex lighting scenarios (like Baymax’s semi-translucent vinyl skin or the illumination of the entire city). Not only did it add to the adorableness of Baymax, but Hyperion gave the movie a distinctively gorgeous look that perfectly mimics big budget live-action superhero movies. Hey, it is based on a Marvel property after all.



AS Audience and Institutions: Disney Bets $1 Billion on Technology to Track Theme-Park Visitors

Disney Bets $1 Billion on Technology to Track Theme-Park Visitors

MyMagic+, Walt Disney’s $1 billion experiment in crowd control

At Disney theme parks vistors are now issued with My Magic bands:

It’s a complete game changer,” says Douglas Quinby, vice president for research at PhoCusWright, a travel consulting firm.

MyMagic+ promises far more radical change. It’s a sweeping reservation and ride planning system that allows for bookings months in advance on a website or smartphone app. Bracelets called MagicBands, which link electronically to an encrypted database of visitor information, serve as admission tickets, hotel keys, and credit or debit cards; a tap against a sensor pays for food or trinkets. The bands have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips—which critics derisively call spychips because of their ability to monitor people and things.

That tracking power also is what makes them so important for Disney’s $14.1 billion theme park and resort business. Intelligence collected using the bands coupled with what visitors input into the related My Disney Experience app and website—all voluntary—help Disney determine when to add more staff at rides, what restaurants should serve, which souvenirs should be stocked, and how many employees in costume should roam around at any given time. Data about customer preferences could be used to craft e-mails or text messages alerting them to restaurant menu changes or sudden openings for reservations in an expedited queue at Space Mountain or the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.


Soaring Disney Studios hopes for $7bn fairytale ending to its year


Yet another example of the success of Bob Eisner’s successful business strategy:

Its systematic buying spree to acquire franchises and talent has now put the company in sight of a global box-office record

READ ON: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/nov/12/disney-hopes-for-fairytale-ending-7bn-box-office-moana-rogue-one-finding-dory?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Email


The Early Years of Disney Magic (1923-1937) — Champagne for Lunch

Animation is not recognized as a serious art form very often. Oh sure, there are exceptions: Pixar, Disney, Ghibli, Laika, and the acclaimed R-rated Anomalisa. But the misconception persists that animation is kids stuff. Animated films are 90 minute diversions for kids with some clever jokes scattered throughout for the grown ups to chuckle over. […]

via The Early Years of Disney Magic (1923-1937) — Champagne for Lunch

AS Essay

We will discuss this question in class and you will tackle the question in a week’s time for homework.

“Media production is dominated by global companies” What are the implications of this statement for the film industry?

(Aim for 750 words – in the exam you will have 45 minutes)



Discuss the background of the world film industry. Which place is the most powerful film industry in the world? How many institutions dominate the industry? Describe some of these companies – what types of company are they? Give a little bit of background about The Walt Disney Company and identify that you will be primarily focusing on this institution. Now return to the question, what is this essay going to explore: Are American conglomerates damaging for the film industry? What are the consequences of their ability to saturate the advertising, dominate multiplexes etc? Can independent film survive?

Disney domination

  1. Vertical and horizontal integration – explain what these are and give examples of why this gives Disney such an advantage. For example, why is owning ABC of benefit for Disney when they are marketing a film? Or what are the consequences of Disney buying successful film institutions such as Marvel and Pixar? Why is so useful for Disney to be able to control all aspects of film production, marketing and distribution?
  2. Globalisation – describe what globalisation is and consider how the USA has been able to exert cultural imperialism over the rest of the world through Hollywood. In particular, you should consider the idea of Disneyfication – why is Disney’s dominance damaging for other cultures but also children in general?
  3. Decline in diversity – what genres of film are conglomerates such as Disney creating? Can they be considered varied? Are a variety of audiences gratified by these films? Are films by Disney are the films made by other conglomerate companies creative? Can commercial film really be considered an art form?
  4. Dumbing down – do Disney make films that are challenging for audiences or do the films largely stick to tried and tested money making formulas? Remember to consider the quote by the Disney CEO Michael Eisner – We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective. - Michael EisnerIs this true today? Are Disney films all about making money?

The consequences for independent film

  1. Are there any examples of successful independent film institutions?
  2. What are the challenges facing indie film?
  3. What is the situation with the British film industry? Consider the example of Aardman Animation, a British success story. Who distributes their films – why can’t they do it?
  4. Why are so many other indie film makers struggling?
  5. Why has the internet helped the indie film industry?


How do you envisage the future of film? Will conglomerates continue to dominate or might there be a renaissance of indie film? Are companies such as the Walt Disney Company crushing creativity and diversity or is it possible for companies such as Disney, 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios to create challenging film in addition to more commercial film? How do you personally consume film – do you watch indie film on Vimeo for example? Or perhaps stream films on Netflix? Do you attend art house or multiplex cinemas?

Further reading:






AS: Convergence and synergy

Here are some useful links:

Cross media convergence and synergy:



Technological convergence: