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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Will 'Little' open big?

Three big questions are looming over Disney's `Chicken Little,' which opens on the Friday following Halloween.

Thing 1: Can Disney make a computer-generated movie that brings in audiences, young and old?
Thing 2: Will audiences gravitate toward the 85 theaters showing the film in 3D, moreso than the screens showing the standard 2D version?
Thing 3: How much will Disney need its partnership with PIxar in the future? (Pixar is, of course, the leading cg animation studio, and the partnership is now being renegotiated.)

Gina Keating has a piece that ran over the Reuters wire today, headlined `Chicken Little' critical for Disney reputation.' Keating writes:

    "My gut instinct is they need to do something in the $350 million range to be seen as 'Disney's on its way back in animation,"' Rich Greenfield, an analyst at Fulcrum Global Partners, said. "If it does $200 million or $250 million worldwide, it will not be seen as the way to replace Pixar."

    Disney dabbled in CG for its 2000 film, "Dinosaur," which featured animated characters on filmed backgrounds, but was slow to adopt the technology that generated blockbusters like "Finding Nemo" for Pixar and "Shrek" for DreamWorks.

    Although about 150 animators had to be trained in CG to make "Chicken Little," the studio says it has closed the gap and is on track to release one CG animated film for each of the next three years: "Meet the Robinsons" in 2006, "American Dog" in 2007 and "Rapunzel Unbraided" in 2008.

The movie apparently got a positive review from Time critic Richard Corliss, who called it funny, charming, and exhilarating.

I also liked the quote the story ends with:

    "Chicken Little" director Mark Dindal, who watched the transition from hand-drawn to CG animation at Disney during the making of his film, said studio founder Walt Disney, who championed new technology, would have been proud.

    "It was like horses at the starting gate waiting to get their chance," Dindal said of the animators. "We just caught a wave of all this pent up excitement of people saying, 'We'll show you what we can do."'