Born of fierce com­pe­ti­tion and hailed as one of Dis­ney’s best-ever films, is ex­pected to win this year’s best an­i­mated fea­ture cat­e­gory

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES - RO­MAIN RAYNALDY

Acritical and commercial suc­cess, Frozen marks a sec­ond re­nais­sance for Walt Dis­ney’s leg­endary film stu­dio – and is widely tipped to win its first Os­car for best an­i­mated fea­ture at the weekend.

The movie, which has made nearly $US1 bil­lion ($A1.12 bil­lion), is the cul­mi­na­tion of a re­vival driven by fierce com­pe­ti­tion and the stu­dio’s pur­chase of ri­val Pixar in 2006, bring­ing boss John Las­seter into the Dis­ney fold.

Crit­ics have hailed Frozen as one of Dis­ney’s best-ever movies, fol­low­ing the suc­cess of The Princess and the Frog (2009), Tan­gled in 2010 and 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph.

If the movie does win at next Sun­day’s 86th Academy Awards, it will be Dis­ney’s first best an­i­mated fea­ture Os­car since the cat­e­gory was cre­ated in 2001.

Dis­ney has come a long way since the turn of the mil­len­nium, when the stu­dio had been side­lined by Pixar and its string of block­buster hits from Toy Story and Cars to Find­ing Nemo, Rata­touille and Up.

“Just like Great Mouse De­tec­tive was a step up from the nadir of Black Caul­dron, so Princess and the Frog was more suc­cess­ful than the ear­lier films like Home on the Range and Meet the Robin­sons,” says Tom Sito, pro­fes­sor of cin­ema at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia (USC).

It is not Dis­ney’s first come­back. The 1970s and ’80s were tough for the stu­dio, un­til a new gen­er­a­tion of an­i­ma­tors ar­rived to cre­ate films like The Lit­tle Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991) and 1994’s ma­jes­tic suc­cess The Lion King.

Iron­i­cally, the Prince Charm­ing of this lat­est re­birth had been the stu­dio’s main ri­val: Las­seter, co-founder of Pixar, who was named Dis­ney’s an­i­mated cre­ative di­rec­tor af­ter his com­pany be­came part of Mickey’s em­pire eight years ago.

“Since the merger with Pixar in 2006, Dis­ney An­i­ma­tion is once more un­der the di­rect guid­ance of an an­i­ma­tor, John Las­seter. This had not been the case since the death of Walt Dis­ney in 1966,” Sito, a for­mer Dis­ney an­i­ma­tor, told AFP.

The Toy Story and Cars cre­ator “brought in a lot of new talent to the sto­ry­telling de­part­ments: clever young writ­ers and di­rec­tors ... We also (saw) a re­turn to the movie-mu­si­cal for­mat af­ter a 20-year hia­tus, which for Dis­ney has al­ways been a spe­cialty,” he adds.

Mu­sic is at the heart of Frozen: the movie’s key­note tune Let It Go is a fron­trun­ner to win the best song Os­car. Peter Del Ve­cho, pro­ducer on the film, said Las­seter changed the cul­ture at Dis­ney An­i­ma­tion: “We’re a dif­fer­ent stu­dio than Pixar, but a lot of the same ideas that he learned there, he im­ported to us.

“The main thing he im­ported was that we as film­mak­ers have to take own­er­ship of our prod­uct. John sets a very high bar in terms of story, in terms of re­search, and you al­ways want to hit that bar,” he says.

The other fac­tor driv­ing Dis­ney’s re­nais­sance has been in­creas­ingly tough com­pe­ti­tion from ri­vals like Blue Sky ( Ice Age, Rio), DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion ( Shrek, Kung-Fu Panda, Mada­gas­car) and Il­lu­mi­na­tion, which makes the De­spi­ca­ble Me films – the sec­ond of which is also nom­i­nated .

“A ris­ing tide raises all boats. It is very im­por­tant for the art of an­i­ma­tion to have com­peti­tors at other stu­dios,” says Sito. The 86th Academy Awards: Mon­day, 11.30am, 8.30pm, Nine, NBN; Frozen Sing A Long is in cin­e­mas on Satur­day week.

Dis­ney's an­i­mated hit Frozen is tipped to win an Os­car

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