Tag Archives: Michael Peraza

Oliver & Company (1988)

Oliver, wide-eyed at the world.

Oliver & Company continues the Disney Renaissance in good style. Taking a popular story and adapting it for the screen without binding themselves too much to the source material is a tried and true Disney tactic. With the addition of celebrity voice talents and the courage to return to the Disney formula of story-telling, Oliver was perfectly suited to steal the hearts of a generation.

But the film still has its drawbacks as the studio prepared for a full-on animation rebirth. The Black Cauldron was still fresh in everyone’s memory and even with the success of The Great Mouse Detective, the best from that project were already hard at work on The Little Mermaid, slated for a 1989 release In fact, one of the lead animators and the brains behind the computer-generated clock tower sequence in The Great Mouse Detective, Michael Peraza, was tapped to lead the design team on The Little Mermaid at the wrap party for Mouse Detective. Work started shortly thereafter.

That left many of the same brains who worked on Black Cauldron, including art director Dan Hansen, director George Scribner and several story writers, as the team of second stringers working on Oliver & Company as a stop-gap until Ariel could take centre stage the following year.

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The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

Basil and Olivia

If The Black Cauldron was the film that almost destroyed Disney feature animation, then The Great Mouse Detective was the film that saved it.

The film, which is a Sherlock Holmes-like story that follows detective Basil as he helps the young Olivia find her toy-maker father who had been kidnapped by the evil Ratigan, marks the start of the now-famous Disney Renaissance. Junior animators found their footing, the new executives found their courage and new technology was integrated into the process. Film making had finally returned to Disney.

The Great Mouse Detective is by no means perfect. The budget cuts ($12-million down from $44-million for Black Cauldron) and time squeezes (the whole thing needed to be completed in only 18 months, compared to four years, on average, for many previous projects) meant corners were cut.

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The Black Cauldron (1985)

A taste of Disney’s darker side

With The Black Cauldron, animation at Disney had officially hit rock bottom. “That film was supposed to be our ‘Snow White.’ But we just weren’t ready for it,” Ron Clements reportedly said at the time. But a behind-the-scenes tale of struggle that would ultimately bear triumph was brewing at Walt’s beloved company. And it’s important to recognize this film, not for what it wasn’t, but for what it represented for the studio at the time.

Based on Lloyd Alexander’s award-winning teen lit series The Chronicles of Prydain, the events of the film follow a young assistant pig keeper named Taran, his oracular pig named Hen Wen and a powerful cauldron that could raise a dead army for an evil king. Disney optioned the rights to the whole series in 1971, but the studio’s intense aversion to sequels meant it would try to do all of Prydain’s five volumes justice in just 80 minutes.

The film took seven years to complete, largely because chief executive Ron Miller (Walt’s son-in-law) didn’t feel his new Cal Arts recruits (including the likes of John Lasseter and Tim Burton) were up to the epic challenge. In some ways, Miller was right, but it was the whole company that turned out not to be ready for a film of such scale, and there was still much strife to come before the magic returned to Disney feature animation.

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