Today, Disney is known as the company that can do no wrong. It owns animation heavyweight Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and creates its own mega hits several times a year. Not to mention its lucrative theme park and merchandising business.
This is a far cry from the Disney presented in 2005's Dream on Silly Dreamer directed by Dan Lund and produced by Tony West. The film was created as Disney announced a devastating series of layoffs targeting its traditional 2D animation department. The house of Mouse gave up on its roots, but the story doesn't start there.
"...the success of The Little Mermaid came as a shock to Disney"
The film takes viewers through a storybook journey complete with narration telling how Disney rose to prominence. Things really kick off though once we reach what is commonly known as the Disney Renaissance . The Disney Renaissance refers to a period of time between 1988-1999 when many of the hits we know of like Aladdin and the Lion King were released. Animators from the time recount how Disney had almost given up on the idea of producing animated films. Imagine, a company that had gained its fame through animation then giving up on animation. It's no wonder that the facilities given were basically trailers in Glendale California. In fact, the success of The Little Mermaid came as a shock to Disney and it quickly started the Renaissance. The Broadway style and grand sweeping epics lead to executives ordering more and more films in that vein to keep up with demand.
"Disney aficionados know it as the film that killed 2D movies for Disney"
Soon, every Disney film was marketed and expected to be a blockbuster. The animators became industry celebrities and even acquired agents to handle their affairs. As this was going on, animators were pushed aside and Broadway experts were brought in along with non-animators and quickly gained stronger voices on the projects. Animators objections were over ridden and Disney began to water down their brand. Remember all of those terrible sequels? Cinderella 2 and Peter Pan: Return to Neverland among them. These films were created as a cheap and fast way to capitalize on the brand names that had been built up, but it inevitably weakened the overall Disney name. This combined with executive decisions and rushed productions lead to Home on the Range. Don't remember the title? Don't feel bad. No one does. That is,no one does except for Disney aficionados who know it as the film that killed 2D movies for Disney. Reviews were not great and it didn't even earn back the money spent on its production.
This all culminated in Disney looking at the success of Pixar and deciding that kids want 3D movies and that 2D movies are a thing of the past. It's a heartbreaking story and at the time, things were very uncertain for Disney's animation division. Of course we all know how things ended and Disney is on top of the world. This short synopsis doesn't do the film justice. It must be seen. In fact, Roy E. Disney ran free screenings of the film for share holders before the vote to oust CEO Michael Eisner. The film is a bit expensive on DVD. A copy goes for $37 used on Amazon.