The Indianapolis News from Indianapolis, Indiana on November 25, 1992 · 26
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The Indianapolis News from Indianapolis, Indiana · 26

Indianapolis, Indiana
Issue Date:
Wednesday, November 25, 1992
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C-8 THE INDIANAPOLIS NEWS Wednesday, November 25, 1992 M M M M H M M M M M M M M - M -r M , M ': M -M ' M M - M ' '- K M M - M , . M , M M M ' M ' M . M s ' M M"' ft) M(Ba Cartoony look is 0 CenSLnued from CI The movie, which opens across the country today, is a departure for Disney and, some insiders say, a creative risk. At its heart, "Alad-din," calculated as costing more ;than $35 million, is a contemporary blend of comedy, action-ad-enture and romance from a stu-;dio that has always cautioned its animators to think classically, so 1 their work could stand the test of ; time. This film's loose, cartoony look -is the visual antithesis of the tra-,'ditional realism of Disney animation.. "Aladdin" is also wildly ir-" reverent, at times poking fun at the" studio and its animated traditions, with short comic bits that feature everyone from Pinocchio to Groucho Marx. There was a struggle to keep a near-runaway performance by the comedian Robin Williams, who Is 5 iMXj Unbelievable due! 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And in what proved to be a deeply emotional as well as an artistic blow to the project, the lyricist Howard Ashman, who had been so fundamental to the success of three previous Disney animated films "Oliver and Company," "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" died last year. "Aladdin" comes at a time when the feature animation Industry is experiencing a renaissance. Disney's stunning success last year with "Beauty and the Beast" has raised hopes for the industry. That movie broke financial barriers by earning $141 million at the domestic box office (a figure unheard of in animation), got an Academy Award nomina- 31,1992 -j our home for and help protect your home for I of $19 95 per month. You must present this coupon upon contract signing. Only one coupon per security system. VISA, MasterCard, and American Express Cards accepted. Not valid with any other offer. Original coupons only. Plus $19 per month Monitoring fee. Where Quality, Value & Service is a Tradition! 9oMau Specials For that very special gift... Furs Leathers Micro-Fibers From our very special Holiday Collection Sun. 12-5 tion In the category of best picture rather than animated feature and sold seven million copies in its first few days of release on videotape. But success has also raised expectations. And what was once exclusively Disney's turf is now filled with a cacophony of artistic voices. For nearly 60 years, Disney defined feature animation for most moviegoing audiences. But when Walt Disney died in 1966. the company's animation division began to drift, reaching a low point in 1985 with "The Black Cauldron," a box-office disaster five years in the making and millions of dollars over budget. It was Roy Disney, Walt's nephew, and a management team led by the chairman Michael Eisner and Katzenberg, who brought Disney's animation to life again. But while Disney came up with such successes as "Oliver and Company" in 1988. "The Little Mermaid" in 1989 and finally "Beauty and the Beast," virtually every other major studio also was getting into the business. Twenty feature-length animated films are in various stages of development elsewhere. Steven Spielberg's Amblimation studio has produced ambitious movies like "Fieval Goes West" and has an animated version of the Broadway musical "Cats" in the works. Such competition keeps Disney unsettled. "It does always scare us to think that somebody else is going to come along and do better," says Katzenberg. While Disney will not release budgets, those familiar with the studio peg the budget for its animated movies at an average of $35 million, easily a third more than the competition's most enterprising projects. Katzenberg has four animated movies in the works besides "Aladdin." They range from "King of the Jungle," to be released next year, to a project titled "Silly Hillbillies on Mars." "Animation has totally seduced me," says Katzenberg. Schneider adds: "Jeffrey frustrates the artists because he'll say, 'No more money: don't do it,' and two minutes later he'll come back and say, 'Make it better,' and he'll spend the money. It's the one area where Jeffrey will spend money to achieve what he wants." The lessons Disney learns on each film are always factored into the next. After "Beauty and the Beast" had been in preproduction for a year, Katzenberg dumped the first script, because, he says, he learned with the disappointing 1990 film "Rescuers Down Under" that the story must be as strong as the animation. "Our business is laid out so far into the future, if 'Aladdin' tanks on us, if we have made some terrible miscalculation here, which is possible, it's going to be years before we get it fixed," says Katzenberg. "Whatever the movie gods decide is the fate of 'Aladdin,' the die is already cast." 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Eric Goldberg's flamboyant style, heavily Influenced in this film by the illustrator Al Hirschfeld, results in a more cartoony character than the realistic, humanistic animation the studio is known for. s The style was quickly adopted by the other animators, who agreed on certain underlying design principals they would maintain throughout the film. Stylistic consistency was a colossal task, since, by the time the film wrapped, more than 600 animators, artists and technicians had worked on "Aladdin." When, in the past, the handful of lead animators went off by themselves, "the characters didn't look as if they really belonged together," says Andreas Deja, lead animator on Jafar, the villain. "Early on, we began meeting to compare our designs so that it would look like one world, one style of rhythmic, flowing lines." One of the driving forces of "Aladdin" is the Genie, a giant cloud of smoke that transforms itself into more than 70 characters, from Jack Nicholson to a harem girl. As with all animated characters, success depends on the talents of the animator and the actor doing the voice. Animators play the voice tracks over and over, sketching the action until they visualize what is being said and how. With the Genie, who was very much at the mercy of Williams' mercurial style, the job was monumental. The Genie was the only character Goldberg wanted to draw. "I love comedy," says Goldberg, breaking into a laugh that sounds suspiciously like that of Woody Woodpecker, the first cartoon character he learned to draw, at age 4. Goldberg, 37, has spent most of his career in London, in recent years heading his own commercial animation house, Pizzazz. After several years of trying, Disney finally convinced Goldberg to Join the studio in 1990 to begin work on "Aladdin." With the Genie, who mimics Williams's standup style, Goldberg has created a fast-paced, stream- y PLUS FREE LOW GLASS WITH ARGON Harding St., Indianapolis Minimum Purchne Required 'with approved credit r ir2r'3nl pi 'in "E- GET ME THRU THE WINTER SALE! 0 FINANCING NO PAYMENTS 'til JUNE! ENCLOSURES SIDING DOORS SI II II II 1 I 1 4 III II Ii3 f - III II II II' I K ' I IL ( arranged 0 interest for 6 "1 HrXSr iViZ? months for my customers. We want you to enjoy new custom replacement windows or a new enclosure all winter payments til June! I personally stand behind my employees and my products." : 5 i Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Co. he rubs the magic lamp. of-consciousness visual comedy that at times threatened to take over the film. John Musker and Ron Clements, the co-directors, were also the creative force behind 'The Little Mermaid." The Mutt-and-Jeff pair Musker tall and lanky, Clements short and compact had to work 12-hour days that were scheduled down to the minute. Eight months before the mov-, ie was scheduled to open. "Aladdin" was further behind schedule than any of the three previous animated features were at that point. Musker, the more gregarious of the two, and Clements, who at times is barely audible, tend to operate with a sort of repressed panic. They conducted two- and three-hour sessions with Katzenberg, Schneider and the animators, in which "Aladdin" was dissected frame by frame. The meetings would swing between exhilaration and disappointment, as sections of the film were expanded, rehashed, refined or discarded entirely. There have essentially been three separate scripts for "Aladdin," the first based on a treatment by Ashman, who with composer Alan Menken wrote six songs for the movie, three of which survive in the finished version. The two had begun working on "Aladdin" before taking a break to write all the music for "Beauty and the Beast." The second version of the story, which was written after Ashman's death last year, required three new songs. That began the collaboration between Menken and H Hi is when Genie's gone O Coniinugd from C-1 Merman, William F. Buckley Jr.. Pinocchio and a salesman of Dead Sea Tupperware. Sometimes his drawn image looks like Lyndon B. Johnson. Williams' wacky avalanche of humor and his Genie's ability to transform itself into any shape (thanks to British animator Eric Goldberg) is the overriding factor in the success of "Aladdin." The movie slows when the Genie is off-screen and the love story between the teen-age Arabian "street rat" Aladdin (Scott Weinger) and the almond-eyed Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin) is emphasized. Jasmine, like Belle in "Beauty and the Beast," wants to choose her husband and marry for love. Her father, the sultan, and his evil advisor Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) have other designs. FAERBER'S --?rJ i 1 2 A LJl I , WINDOW, INC.-4' 283-8522 INDIANAPOLIS Manufacturing Plant & Showroom 1002 E. 52nd Street 1-800-BEE-0169 S. BEND FT. WAYNE LAFAYETTE COLUMBUS iror stud Rice. The entire movie was then storyboarded. in which a rough sketch was drawn to accompany every line of dialogue and every lyric. The sketches were filmed and shown to Katzenberg. "Jeffrey said, 'It doesn't work; start again,' " says Schneider. In the third major revision, Aladdin's mother was written out of the script and he was changed from a boy to a teen-ager. The animators were also asked to deal with the fact that, whenever Aladdin and Princess Jasmine were on the screen together, Aladdin seemed to fade into the background. "Jasmine's so charismatic," says Katzenberg, "she Just put this guy away: he was like a milquetoast." That put the burden on the lead animator for Aladdin, Glen Keane, whose last major project was designing the Beast for "Beauty and the Beast." Aladdin was changing so fundamentally through the story revisions that Keane kept losing touch with the emotions driving the character. The answer finally came, and it was Tom Cruise. "In Top Gun.' Tom Cruise carried himself with a kind of confidence and an air of invincibility," says Keane.. "All of our men have tended to be princely, but soft and delicate like the prince in 'Sleeping Beauty."' he says. "With Aladdin, we've given the male lead more of a masculine quality." Most independent studios are forced by time, staffing and budget to go straight from script to story-board to animation to film, with little latitude for significant changes. Rarely can an entire character be written out, new songs written in, new plots devised, as they have been for "Aladdin." After the July test screening in Pasadena, Katzenberg, Schneider, Rice and the others in the Disney group head across the street to De Lacey, a trendy local restaurant and bar. Despite the children's vociferous approval of the picture, its makers are still worrying, and still planning improvements. "At this point in 'Beauty and the Beast," I was a scared puppy," Katzenberg tells the group before leaving them to digest his criticisms. "I don't have that same fear with 'Aladdin,' but I'm not dancing on the table either." With Walt Disney's legacy to carry on, and the recent string of animated hits to measure up to, success for Disney is far more than merely breaking even. Indeed, there is considerable pressure for the studio to deliver not just a film. Katzenberg must deliver a blockbuster. N.Y. Time New Service If slows To its credit, Disney creates dark-skinned Arabian characters in "Aladdin." getting away from the idea that all cartoon characters spring from the same Euro-American gene pool. To its discredit, Disney over-emphasizes noses and lips and keeps its hero and heroine looking very much like routine American teen-agers and opens the movie with its hero, Aladdin, stealing and singing he's "got to steal to eat." The supporting characters rank among Disney's best. There is a marvelous chess-playing tasseled flying rug with a personality, an To its credit, Disney creates dark-skinned Arabian characters in "Aladdin," getting away from the idea that all cartoon characters spring from the same Euro-American gene pool. angry parrot named Iago (comic Gilbert Gottfried, who sounds a lot like Danny DeVito), a monkey Abu (Frank Welker) and a Cave of Wonders where Aladdin makes an "Indiana Jones" escape. With only two of the six songs in "Aladdin" clicking, it is unlikely parents will be driven mad by wee ones endlessly singing "Be My Guest." The two winners, both by "Beauty and the Beast" team Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, are the show-stopping "Friend Like Me" the Genie sings and "A Whole New World," a love song Aladdin and the princess sing as they ride the magic carpet. The other songs, with lyrics by Tim Rice ("Evita"), are forgettable. The colors are bold in "Aladdin," the relationships among the characters are complex it's a very busy story from co-writers and co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements (who co-created "The Little Mermaid") and the comedy Is very contemporary. Rated G. the iiovie opens todat in area theaters.

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