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Observations and Analysis of Disney in the News

News Commentary from October 30

Can't Get Enough of Shopping?

Kevin Yee

The Orange County Register reports that the on-again, off-again project formerly called Pointe Anaheim is on-again. Rather, it will be next month, when developers take the revised project (now called "The Garden District of Anaheim," before city planners to pitch their proposal. The proposed boisterous theater and live entertainment type environment — really just a mirror of Downtown Disney — has been downsized into a lushly landscaped shopping experience due to noise and traffic concerns.

Does Orange County need yet another mall? My initial answer is a resounding "no way." Yet when it was first announced, Downtown Disney seemed a similar project, and it has lured in crowds from its first day. Still, if you look at the type and flow of crowds at Downtown Disney, you'll see a critical difference: these are mainly clubbers. The area is packed on weekends for the live entertainment and dancing at Y Arriba and the House of Blues — the people are not there to shop for sunglasses and freshly baked bread.

Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney

The fate of the Garden District may be far less rosy. Without the emphasis on live entertainment, what will lure in shoppers? Still, there is hope. Perhaps the parking will be easier and cheaper at the Garden District than it is at Downtown Disney (currently you only get 3 hours free). And if it does manage to lure business away from Downtown Disney, watch for an annoyed response from the Disney Corporation.

Actually, watch for that response when the developers try to sell the concept to the city next month. Disney has a lot of lobbyists.


A Case Claimed

Lani Teshima

If you are like a lot of MousePlanet readers, you probably went out to see Pixar's newest release, Monsters, Inc., when it hit theaters this past weekend. Before you thank Pixar for a great movie, thank a judge in Wyoming. Last week, U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer heard a case against Pixar, by a Wyoming resident Lori Madrid, who claims that Pixar stole the idea of a child and a monster in his closet from an 11-line poem she had written.

According to an article in the Arizona Republic, Ms. Madrid had submitted her poem to a number of publishers in the fall of 1999 for consideration. One of these publishers was Chronicle Books of San Francisco, whom Ms. Madrid believes is the Pixar connection because it had the movie's manuscript, and Disney hired it to publish the movie's official companion book, "The Art of Monsters, Inc."

An article in the Torrington Telegram from Ms. Madrid's local town of Torrington reveals a heartbreaking story that pits her as Goliath against the giant that is Disney. In the article, she says, "They are Goliath and I am David, and without a slingshot," Madrid said. "The bottom line is, I really believe something has happened here and this is the only way to find out what."

Promotional art © Disney / Pixar
Promotional art Disney / Pixar

The Telegram article details how Ms. Madrid used her 11-line poem as a basis for the creation of a musical, entitled "There's a Monster in my Closet." Friends who worked with her or saw the musical later contacted her when they noticed a similar theme in the trailer to Monsters, Inc.

According to her, "That night when I first started watching the trailer to the movie, I thought that one-eyed monster is kind of adorable and then I saw the closet door, and the little kid, and I just started to get this unbelievable sick feeling in my stomach," she said. "That part is my story, I thought as I watched it. I just went into shock. I've never had anything like this happen before. I realized I was looking up at a movie screen and seeing my manuscript in living color. Except that it didn't have my name on it. The closet, the child, the monster, the expressions, the scene the total feel of the story was just like my creation."

On hand to testify were Pete Docter, the movie's director, and Richard Cook, who heads Disney's motion picture group. Judge Brimmer is quoted as saying that Richard Cook's testimony was "very convincing." And with a strong argument from Disney regarding the importance of the limited window for releasing a movie during the holiday season, the judge agreed to allow Disney to distribute the movie. Judge Brimmer did however, allow Ms. Madrid to continue pursuing her case, even though he said he did not see evidence of alleged copyright violations.

The bottom line for the judge seems to be that Ms. Madrid's chronology does not seem to pan out compared to the five years of planning and development it took for Monsters, Inc. to hit the screens.

Now, I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV, but I do consider myself a fairly accomplished online researcher. But it doesn't take a graduate library degree to do a little poking around. A quick date- restricted search on Google's newsgroup archive (formerly DejaNews.com) revealed a number of newsgroup posts that talked about Monsters, Inc. well before the October 1999 date that Ms. Madrid states was when she submitted her original poem to Chronicle Books.

One of these, posted originally to alt.tv.simpsons, was a copy of a press release that appeared in Yahoo News, back in May 8, 1999, six months before the October date. In this post, titled "Pixar, Disney Will Scare Up 'Monsters'", are the following:

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Pixar Animation Studios, the company behind box office hits "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life," will this month start work on "Monsters, Inc.," its next computer-animated co-production with Walt Disney Co.

The picture is a comedy set in a surreal realm, where chaos ensues after a hapless monster lets a human child into the secret world by mistake. It is tentatively scheduled for release in 2001.

It would seem to me that most companies don't send out press releases about products until they are, well, almost ready for prime- time. That Pixar was already publicly announcing this information makes me question how much validity Ms. Madrid's claim has. After all, monsters in closets (and under beds) scaring children is a theme even Stephen King can lay claim to.

I don't question Ms. Madrid's sincerity. I do however, wonder why this case went this far. Perhaps they didn't do a search on Google when they were initially preparing the case?


Reader Response to the Last Column

Al Lutz's "Dumbo 2, Audience 0"

Dear Al,

Generally I do not read this column (forgive me), but gave it a chance today and was very pleasantly surprised by it's interesting subject matter.

I have always been irritated by Disney's SHAMELESS plugging of itself relentlessly on each of it's home video releases. I found amusing the bits about all the sequel ideas that Disney hasn't developed yet. It is dangerous publishing those ideas on the net though. I would not put it past Disney to cannibalize, if not use, all of your preposterous, humorous plotlines in mining the once brilliant library of films, characters, and songs.

Sincerely,
Norm

Hunchback II promotional art © Disney
Hunchback II promotional art Disney

Hello!

I'm writing in regards to a piece that was written by Al Lutz on Thursday, October 25, titled, "Dumbo 2, Audience 0." I couldn't agree more with Al on this subject. Every morning when I get to work, I go to Dvdfile.com and check out the latest DVD news / releases and for the past two months, I've seen the mention of not one, but two sequels to classic Disney animated features. The question I have to ask is, "How many more sequels are we going to see?"

It has become increasingly obvious to me that the Walt Disney Company as a whole have lost their creativity (not to mention financial means) in making a quality product.

Let's go over some of the sequels to see what I mean:

  1. Lady and The Tramp 2 - It's about Tramp's and Lady's kids.
  2. The Little Mermaid 2 - It's about Ariel's and Eric's daughter.
  3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2 - It's about Esmeralda's and Phoebus' little son.
  4. Peter Pan 2 - It's about Wendy's daughter.
  5. The Lion King 2 - It's about Simba's and Nala's daughter.

What creativity! I can't wait to see how they deal with sequels to Alice In Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, etc!

Someone over in Feature Animation needs to retire. The stuff that they're throwing our way is absolute crap!

Mick



ABOUT THIS COLUMN

One of the lesser-known features of MousePlanet is our News headlines in our MousePad discussion forum, where we try to direct you to any important news stories about the entire Disney company.

One thing we can't provide in that resource is an idea as to how those stories, generally about very specific portions of the company, may fit into the larger Disney picture. Towards that end, the Reporter's Notebook provides brief comments on those recent stories that are of interest.

We welcome your questions and comments, but keep in mind that all submissions to the Reporter's Notebook become property of this Web site. They may be edited for length or style and in consideration of a family readership. Questions may also be quoted on other parts of the site.

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