Draw Me to Life

My friend Kim blogged this post about Pixar director Mark Walsh, whose recent short Partysaurus Rex is playing before Finding Nemo in 3D.

Here’s a peek at Mark’s film.

I love animation.  Pixar in particular.  But something I miss – something I think a lot of my generation misses – are the Howard Ashman/Alan Menken animated movie musicals from the 90’s.  Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin.  I’m gonna throw Lion King in there as well, though that’s Elton John and Tim Rice, and was the beginning of a drift away from true “musical structure.”

Howard Ashman

If you’ve seen Waking Sleeping Beauty, you know that Peter Schneider was the man who spearheaded Disney Animation’s journey back from the brink.  (Anecdote: I had the pleasure to work with Peter Schneider recently.  The man responsible for my childhood happiness. It was like meeting Willy Wonka.)

  It was Peter’s idea to hire musical theatre writer Howard Ashman to create these animated films.  And what Ashman brought with him was an impeccable sense of musical structure – literally, story-structure specific to musicals.

To me, nothing kills a musical like bad structure.  An “I Want” song has to be there.  HAS TO.  It can be disguised, it can be non traditional.  But you need a song that defines the main character(s) want.

If you think of a musical like a house, then this is, oh I don’t know, Dance of the Vampires:

And this is Beauty and the Beast:

But I digress.

My point is how much I love animation.  I love it because of the endless possibilities – because you can go to a spaceship where human being are fat slobs; or the bottom of the ocean where an orchestra of fish accompanies a singing crab, or a rat can become a great chef in Paris.  Even TV shows like Family Guy and South Park (and Simpsons before them) have characters randomly break out into musical numbers, or have characters graphically murdered, or all sorts of nonsensical things occur.

And these days, nonsense is the only way to really take a look at what’s happening around us.  We live in such absurd times.  We might as well be animated.

Sorkinese Spoken Here

I would never refer to myself as a Hardcore Sorkin Fan, but it’s hard not to admire the guy for his style and prolificness.  I never fully caught The West Wing train, but I do (mostly) love what I’ve seen of The Newsroom.

But his ability, and courage really, to deal with difficult, complicated political issues while maintaining an emotionally dramatic arc and appealing to a fairly wide demographic is truly commendable.

Especially when this is what his writing can achieve:

Now that’s what I call the power of art!