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Disney drawing on N'awlins charm - Variety 3/9/07

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  • Disney drawing on N'awlins charm - Variety 3/9/07

    Dis drawing on N'awlins charm

    'Princess' sets up well for locals

    By Georg Szalai and Paul Bond
    The Hollywood Reporter
    March 9, 2007

    In New Orleans for its annual shareholder meeting, the Walt Disney Co. announced Thursday that "The Frog Princess," the company's first hand-drawn animation project in years, will be set in the Crescent City and feature what John Lasseter called "the very first African-American Disney princess."

    Disney Animation has started production on "Frog Princess," which harkens back to classic Disney fairy tales and is set for a 2009 release. "Aladdin" and "The Little Mermaid" creators Ron Clements and John Musker are the creative forces behind the musical, which will also have a "soulful singing alligator," said Lasseter, chief creative officer for Pixar and Disney Animation Studios

    In a surprise, Randy Newman, who spent his childhood in New Orleans and is writing the music for the film, performed a song from "Frog Princess" for the shareholders and received big applause.

    Lasseter also noted that "Toy Story 3," now in production, is set for a 2010 release via Pixar Animation Studios.

    During the 2 1/2-hour shareholder meeting, company executives and shareholders lauded CEO Robert Iger for his leadership, people skills and ability to blend the traditional Disney magic with a strong financial performance.

    Iger made several gestures to show that his team is committed to including old and new fans of Disney and connecting the company's legacy to its future. He welcomed Roy Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney, saying: "It is good to have you with us." Shareholders gave a round of applause to Disney, a former company executive who battled Iger predecessor Michael Eisner.

    Chairman John Pepper later took a shareholder question about whether the company could add a member of the Disney family to its board or executive team. "We're really not looking at a member of the Disney family" even though the firm always wants to have the "best talent in place," he replied.

    Iger also stated that "great creative success is at the heart of financial success" and that he wants to build on the Disney legacy. He lauded Lasseter for his contagious passion.

    Lasseter told the audience that Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are back on board for the "Toy Story" sequel to voice Woody and Buzz Lightyear. The film is written by Michael Arndt, who recently won the original screenplay Academy Award for "Little Miss Sunshine."

    "We got a great story," Lasseter said.

    Discussing other animation projects, Lasseter mentioned Pixar's "Wall-E," written and directed by Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo"). The film is set 700 years in the future and centers on Wally, a little robot on Earth cleaning the trash-covered planet after the humans have evacuated it.

    Lasseter also plugged Disney Animation's "American Dog," directed by Chris Williams, about a dog with superpowers who suddenly realizes he is only a TV character and must learn to live in the real world.

    Iger plugged Disney's "exciting slate of movies" this year, including "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," "Meet the Robinsons" and "Ratatouille," with the company showing well-received clips from the latter two.

    Several shareholders thanked the board members on hand for staging the meeting in New Orleans, and Disney announced that ESPN and ABC Sports plan to bring 50 executives to the city next month to the Slidell Boys & Girls Club to build a playground, refurbish a basketball court and donate sports equipment.

    One particularly cantankerous shareholder, Evelyn Davis, who has earned fame for traveling the country to harangue board chairs and CEOs at shareholder meetings, made herself heard. She objected to "this Internet nonsense," demanding that Disney issue proxy and other shareholder materials the old-fashioned way, not digitally.

    She also interrogated Pepper about whether putting TV product on the Internet hasn't been cannibalizing Disney's business.

    Davis complained that Disney accepts "communist propaganda" in the form of advertising from Venezuelan companies and said that board compensation consisting of stock options is "the root of most evil."

    Pepper took her comments in stride, though at one point he had her microphone shut off so he could squeeze in some responses to the numerous issues that she raised.

    As has been a recurring theme of late, another shareholder pleaded her case for Disney releasing "Song of the South" on DVD, which Iger said last year he would not do because the 1946 animated film is considered by some to be racially insensitive.

    This time, though, Iger said that several requests have encouraged him to revisit his decision. "We have decided that we would look at it again," he said.

    A representative from the Parents Television Council presented an award to Disney board members for the company's family-friendly approach to TV programming. The representative, though, then complained that ABC Family Channel is a misnomer because there is too much content there that is inappropriate for young children.

    And, as also has become customary, a shareholder complained that Disney too often allows actors to be seen smoking on TV and in films.

    At the meeting, all 11 board members that Disney had nominated were elected. Shareholders also agreed with the board in rejecting shareholder proposals regarding anti-green mail payments and a stockholder rights plan, also known as a "poison pill."
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006

  • #2
    Re: Disney drawing on N'awlins charm - Variety 3/9/07

    Disney re-elects directors

    Lasseter unveils 'The Frog Princess'


    By Steven Zeitchik
    March 9, 2007
    Disney re-elected all its directors, rejected a poison pill provision and took the wraps off its first hand-drawn animation project in years at its annual meeting in New Orleans Thursday.

    Walt Disney Feature Animation chief creative officer John Lasseter officially unveiled "The Frog Princess," Disney Animation Studio's 2009 toon release, to shareholders.

    Toon was previously known to be in development (Daily Variety, July 26), but this was the first time Disney discussed the project publicly. "Frog Princess" will be a hand-drawn musical, the type of pic that defined Disney's triumphant animation run in the '90s, but was abandoned by the Mouse in 2005 after a string of flops. Like every other major studio, Disney has since focused on CGI toons, such as "Chicken Little" and this month's "Meet the Robinsons."

    "The Frog Princess" is being directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, helmers of "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin" and "Hercules." They left the studio several years ago but were wooed back last year after Lasseter and Ed Catmull took over Disney animation following the acquisition of Pixar. Original songs and score are being penned by Pixar favorite Randy Newman.
    Alan Menken, who wrote the music for many of Disney's '90s toon musicals, had previously been attached to write the songs when he re-joined the Mouse last year.

    Pic will be set in New Orleans and tell the story of a young girl named Maddy, whom Disney described as "the newest Disney princess." She'll be the first African-American in the Mouse's lucrative princess line.

    Poison-pill provision, which would have defended the company against a hostile takeover, was rejected by shareholders.

    Such provisions essentially trigger a new stock issuance when one shareholder snaps up a large amount of shares, diluting the new stockholder's stake in the company.

    Vote, which avoided passage by a relatively narrow margin, is a signal that Mouse House is not especially concerned about a single shareholder making a play for the company.

    Largest Disney shareholder at present is Steve Jobs, who owns about 7% of Disney stock.

    While poison pills haven't been exceedingly common at congloms, News Corp. made news several years ago when it enacted a poison pill to fend off encroachments of John Malone's Liberty Media.

    Disney also turned down a proposal that would have protected against greenmail, a practice in which a raider snaps up stock and then sells it back to former shareholders at inflated prices.

    All 11 sitting directors were re-elected, including Jobs, topper Robert Iger, energy exec John Bryson and tech honcho Judith Estrin. Georgetown U. professor Leo O'Donovan retired from the board at the meeting.
    Company reps said the meeting was held in New Orleans as a show of support for the city. Decision also ensured there were few business reporters in the room.

    Also on Thursday, Disney's investment arm announced that it was one of several investors in Chinese video site UUSee, as U.S. congloms continue to make tentative steps to push into the market despite piracy and censorship fears.
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006


    • #3
      Re: Disney drawing on N'awlins charm - Variety 3/9/07

      Looks like New Orleans will have the opportunity, as it did for 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame', to host another huge Disney World Premiere!
      "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006


      • #4
        Re: Disney drawing on N'awlins charm - Variety 3/9/07

        Originally posted by ALIASd View Post
        Looks like New Orleans will have the opportunity, as it did for 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame', to host another huge Disney World Premiere!

        That would be so cool. I would so go to that. I enjoyed the Cars premiere in North Carolina and welcome the opportunity to attend more on this side of the country. I hope it becomes reality!