At the height of the Disney Renaissance during the mid-1990s, the company Walt built stood almost completely unopposed in the field of animation. Their only major competitor from a creative and financial standpoint was arguably Don Bluth Animations, and even they were beginning to replicate the Disney formula in order to attempt to achieve some level of equal financial success, to middling results. By the release of Beauty and the Beast, it seemed like Disney was on top of the world and absolutely unstoppable under the triumvirate leadership of Michael Eisner, Frank Wells, and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Then came the unfortunate passing of Frank Wells in a helicopter accident. Suddenly the unifying element of the Disney triumvirate was broken and a power vacuum formed in the wake of Wells' passing. A battle raged for the soul of Disney between Disney's CEO Michael Eisner and the head of Disney animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg. As you can no doubt imagine by their positions within the company, the winner was a foregone conclusion and Katzenberg soon found himself fired and with a major chip on his shoulders.
Normally, that might be the end of the story. But Katzenberg had many friends in Hollywood and had been the largest force within the Disney triumvirate behind the Disney Renaissance. So when he made an alliance with Stephen Spielberg and David Geffen, DreamWorks Pictures was founded. For the most part, DreamWorks established a reputation as the edgier CGI counterpart to Disney, with some of their first outings like Antz and Shrek being either near rip-off of other Disney/Pixar projects or a criticism of the Disney corporation as a whole. And so was Disney's hegemony over the industry destroyed, ironically by the politics within their own rank-and-file.
However, in the early days of DreamWorks, a few traditionally animated films did pass through its halls. Nowadays, traditional animation is not very common from any of the studios. But I feel that the films that are spoken of tend to be exclusively from Disney.
And it is with that in mind, that today's Let's Talk... will discuss the short list of traditionally animated DreamWorks films. They don't make them anymore, but they were a vital part of the company's early history and represent a very unique aspect of the company's identity.
- The Prince of Egypt, released in 1998
- The Road to El Dorado, released in 2000
- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, released in 2002
- Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, released in 2003