Oh man. I don't mean Walt Disney was dumb. I mean the management AT Disney, for the past 15 or so years, hasn't been all that bright. Here's why:
1. Celebrity voices don't matter
2. It's about the story
3. It's not about eye candy
They don't understand any of those rules. The same could be said about Hollywood in general, but the reason Disney has been spectacularly crappy of late is primarily because they just don't get the whole "story" thing.
Case in point: "Valiant." It was a cute movie. But the main character, Valiant, is just a simpering sod the whole time. He "does what's right" from beginning to end, and never really sees any character development. See, no story! Just a bunch of stuff that happens. Great for documentaries, not so good for narrative film.
I always show my students the "making of" doc on the Incredibles DVD. It has Brad Bird explaining why he did a movie with Pixar. "They protect stories here," he says. He goes on to explain how movies are like gambling, and that scares the business suits in the industry. You don't get any suit-ee-er than the current Disney Poobah, Eisner. Megalomania aside, he really wants to churn out formulaic schlock because he figures it's good for the stock. Well, guess who's laughing all the way to the trading floor?
And if all this wasn't enough, I found this on digg.com:
Pixar tells story behind 'Toy Story'... Basically the gist is that 10 years ago Disney execs canned Toy Story because all their well-meaning corporate-meddling notes had turned it into another formulaic schlockfest. Once Lasseter begged for more time to fix (and he removed all their asinine suggestions), they screened the movie proper and the execs liked it. Ugh. I feel bad that John, Steve, and the rest of them had to go through all that. I can't imagine the stress. Vindication today, but what a pain.
Here's to Woody, Buzz, and the entire crew in Emeryville, CA. If'n y'all didn't live in such a nasty spot I'd love to join you...