Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Saved Disney?

(Bumped from September 12. Note correction in green and new update at bottom):

The ever-astute Matt from over at Defying Gravity points out that a new website is seeking to fill the void in the wake of the July's closing of Roy Disney's Save Disney website. Saved Disney has been created by Tom Hignite, a Minneapolis Wisconsin (sorry, Tom) home builder with a passion for Disney and 2-D animation. A passion so strong that, after a year of research, led Hignite to start his own animation studio. This summer, Hignite started Miracle Studios, a Wisconsin-based 2-D animation house. Thus far, the studio has created commercials, brochures, and ads for Hignite's home building business, but it appears that they have far loftier goals. The studio has an animated feature in the works, slated for release in 4 or 5 years hopefully to the big screen, but otherwise to the DVD shelves.

Sounds like a flash in the pan, right? Oh, and did I mention that he hired several Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida vets? Hignite has employed nine animators so far, mostly from WDFAF, with a few having experience at other major shops (Hanna-Barbara, DisneyToon, WB, etc.). It appears that he's serious about this thing. My interest is definitely peaked, especially seeing names like Troy Gustafson, Kathy Schoeppner, Grant Hiestand and Dan Daly on the list, who have worked on the likes of Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, Brother Bear, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Rescuers Down Under, Aladdin, Hercules, Tarzan, Fantasia 2000, Atlantis, and Treasure Planet . Heck, Michael Lowery and Greg Peters worked on my all-time favorite, Pinky and the Brain, so they're all right in my book as well!

The only concern I see here is that Disney is looking into whether to sue over the look of the main character in their proposed movie, and the star of the commercials, Miracle Mouse. I've gotta say that I can't blame them at first glance, as the character bears a passing resemblance to our favorite rodent. Sure, the ears are at a different angle, but Disney may have cause here.

As for the SavedDisney website, it will certainly fill a void for me. Even when frustrated by the sudden change of heart by Roy, I found that I really missed the concise Disney news summary that SaveDisney provided. This site mimicks the format to a T. In fact, you would almost fear that they would get sued by Shamrock as well, since the site layout, design, and look-and-feel imitates the SaveDisney site almost exactly.

Oh, well. I'm interested and will monitor these ventures. I hope for success for the site and the studio, but time will surely tell...

Update (9/20/05 11:20CT): I recently received a kind note from the aforementioned Mr. Tom Hignite related to this article. He pointed out the correction in green above (Wisconsin... Minnesota... they're pretty much interchangable, aren't they?!? ;) ) and also passed along the following:

If you are interested in an exclusive "news-flash" we will be traveling with-in the next 2 months to the soon-to-be-closed last true Disney animation studio in Austrailia. We intend to interview potential candidates to bring to our studio.

Best of luck to Tom and the Miracle Studios on this venture. The Australian studio put out some nice product in the last several years and should provide some great talent for this new studio to mine. I hope for success for them and will look forward to monitoring their progress, but even if they ultimitely don't succeed, maybe they will serve to shake the Disney studio up a touch and get them back on track, much like Bluth did in the 80's IMHO.

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