Lasseter can't shut up about Ghibli, and I can't stop listening.
Some Pixar employees have looked to Ghibli for guidance. I've read that when they feel stuck on a particular movie, they'll pop in a Ghibli film for inspiration. Pixar has benefited greatly from the wisdom of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.
Disney, too, can learn from Ghibli.
Studio Ghibli is an organization with principles, and they actually stick to them. Disney received much applause for killing the practice of releasing awful direct-to-video sequels. Miyazaki never did sequels in the first place.
While there have certainly been great sequels, most are rehashes, suggesting a dearth of creativity. What does Cars 2 have to offer the world besides profits to shareholders? Is Pixar selling its soul to do great films that don't lend themselves well to merchandising, such as Wall-E and Ratatouille?
Disney is receiving much praise for bringing back 2D-animated features. Some animation fans are hoping that The Princess and the Frog may usher in a new era of Disney animation. 2D animation never died. Studio Ghibli was doing 2D all this time. Where were you?
But this update is not about movies. It's about theme parks.
The Walt Disney Company once boasted that they replace all of the light bulbs on Disneyland's Main Street when they reach 80 percent of their lifespan. Today they shine until they burn out. Is it too much to ask Disney to live up to their own principles?
When Lasseter became the Principal Creative Adviser at Imagineering and an overall head honcho at Disney, I hoped that he would bring some of these principles and ideals he learned from Ghibli to Disney theme parks. Instead, valuable real estate has been gobbled up by all manner of Pixar franchises, from Cars to Toy Story. There was even a concept in the works for a Wall-E attraction according to the usual rumor mills, which leads me to ask if anyone at Disney actually watched the movie.
Were movie tie-ins what made Lasseter fall in love with Disneyland in the first place? While Disneyland has always had rides based on Disney films, I'd wager that his affinity for the park would have more to do with the great original works of WED like Pirates and Mansion that made Disneyland what it is today. Who knows, he would never talk to a fan like me. If I could I would ask him, can Disneyland not be a launching ground for original works instead of a dumping ground for every movie tie-in ride Disney wants to infest the parks with?
In this 1991 interview Hayao Miyzaki speaks about creativity.
We live in an age when it is cheaper to buy the rights to movies than to make them. Rather than suffer all the problems of making movies, it often seems more expedient to buy them from abroad. In fact, movie producers in Japan have the impression they can buy what they want as easily as if from a vending machine. People often come to me and say point-blank: "Make a film for us as you can see fit. We'll pay whatever you ask." I think Japan today is in an age unsuited to creativity.It is much easier and cheaper to take an established world, such as Toy Story, and fit it into a themed environment, than to make one entirely from scratch. It's also cheaper to transplant that attraction (especially if you don't care where it goes or if its location even makes sense) into other Disney theme parks than to create a new one entirely from scratch.
The result is that there are fewer opportunities for artists to create. Walt's famous quote, "Disneyland will never be complete as long as there is imagination left in the world." is used to defend awful projects such as the addition of characters and a USA scene to It's a Small World.
Why not use that quote to combat the proliferation of cloned attractions at Disney theme parks? While cloned attractions may be good for Disney's bottom line, it's not good for the artistry of its theme parks. This one-size-fits-all mentality to attractions is the result of a drought of creativity and imagination.
Rattling around in some young artist's brain is the next Pirates of the Caribbean, Tiki Room or Horizons. If Imagineering's only job is to figure out how to plop Woody, Stitch or Nemo into Disney theme parks and then copy-paste them all over the world, then what business does it have calling itself a creative organization? Money can't buy creativity. The power structure at Imagineering and Disney itself must be adjusted so that original ideas may come to fruition, even if they come from the most unlikely of sources.
Another blog will suggest that Imagineers be Disney. I've got another suggestion. Be Ghibli. Be like Ghibli and be proud. After all, this is an organization that respects its works enough to maintain a museum celebrating them. They don't go back and insert Totoros into Nausicaa. Disney is an organization that is only now figuring out where to put The Disney Gallery, a collection of works that showcase Disneyland art, past and present, when it should have never been displaced in the first place, especially for a soulless marketing campaign.
Be Ghibli. It worked for Pixar. It can work for Disney theme parks.
To watch Lasseter freak out over Miyazaki's visit to Pixar watch this video.