23 August 2019
Under the guidance of John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Disney, Frozen became a big step in the revival of the firm's animation business. Photo:,
Under the guidance of John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Disney, Frozen became a big step in the revival of the firm's animation business. Photo:,

The magic wand that brought Disney back to life

Once upon a time, Disney movies relied on age-old storylines such as a beautiful princess swept off her feet by a charming prince.

Over the years, that formula started to seem a little creaky, and Walt Disney Co.’s young audiences began to move to more innovative films made by its rivals.

Then a wise wizard took over as the company’s creative guru. He encouraged his people to free their imaginations and build more authentic stories that resonated with the experiences of young people today.

His magic wand brought the sleepy brand back to life, and new movies like Tangled and Frozen brought the kids back to Disney, together with their parents.

In a sign of the company’s revival, its earnings for the fiscal third quarter to June 28 jumped 22 percent. 

Traditional children stories require princesses to wait for a prince to love and help them, John Lasseter, who became chief creative officer of Disney and its Pixar Animation Studios unit in 2006, told reporters on a visit to Hong Kong.

But that doesn’t happen in today’s world, he said.

Lasseter said his wife and female friends are tough and competent, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Wednesday. 

He said he combined traditional and modern elements in Frozen, in which Princess Anna meets Prince Han, who later reveals his hidden purpose of taking over the regime. She then falls in love with the poor iceman Kristoff.

Rather than romance, the movie’s main theme is the sisterly love between Anna and Queen Elsa, and the female characters are independent and don’t have to rely on men, Lasseter said.

At Disney, creative freedom and authenticity have triumphed over bureaucracy and competition, he said.

The transformation of the company’s animation arm into a producer-oriented creative environment has resulted in a spate of successes since Lasseter took the creative helm. He is also the principal creative adviser of Walt Disney Imagineering.

“Many people in Hollywood are so afraid of criticizing me, upsetting me, so it’s crucial to help them feel comfortable to express themselves freely,” the report quoted Lasseter as saying. 

He doesn’t have much time for yes men but would rather hear authentic criticism.

Lasseter reinstated the freedom of creation for producers and boosted their status by holding open discussions every three to four months on their work. He emphasized the lack of a hierarchy among staff in the organization.

Big hugs and compliments from their peers help to motivate producers to strive for improvement and tell great stories, he said. 

Last year’s Frozen was a major step in the revival of Disney in its long battle with rival Dreamworks SKG, which produced Shrek.

The Walt Disney blockbuster, which earned over US$1 billion in global box office, was honored with two Oscars.

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Freelance journalist

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