Monday, December 3, 2007

Disney Gets Innocent.

They just get it. And they get young talent too. As Enchanted stretches it's take over the 70 million mark and completes it's second weekend at the number one spot, it's obvious once again, that Disney seems to understand a nuance of show business that has eluded so many others. You have to keep wondering though, how long this intuitiveness can go on? You also have to wonder where it comes from. Though Robert Iger has shown some inventiveness back in his ESPN days, (and a keen sense of respecting Disney properties that Eisner once drilled like a drunken wildcatter), who's really behind foreseeing the popularity of projects like High School Musical, Hannah Montana and Enchanted? It's as if Walt's ghost is still pushing his agenda somewhere in the hallways of the old Burbank studio. (It would be comforting to think that nephew Roy may still be a source of influence.)
For all the talk that Disney has modernized the fairytale formula with Enchanted and profited by poking fun at themselves and their long revered princesses, I don't think so. Having some fun with conventions, yes, but this isn't anywhere close to Shrek's anything-to-get-a-laugh sight gags. The humor in Enchanted is as innocent as its inspiration. In these days of Disney Princesses taking on the selling power of a champion sports franchise, no one's about to trash the idea for the box-office take on one movie. 

Then there's that other expertise that Disney seems to be thriving with, and that must be bringing Walt dozens of smiles. That inexplicable knack for developing and grabbing up, true-to-life genuine talent. Especially when the talent can sing. In the case of Enchanted, that's Amy Adams. Yes, every critic under the sun pointed her out in 2005's June Bug but it was Disney that put her front and center and gave her a score to settle, musical that is. One of Disney's animation directors put it best when he raved that she was as close to finding a real life version of a Disney princess as one could ever hope. Anyone seeing the film would have to agree and in every review of Enchanted I read, the reviewer made a point of saying exactly that, along with lauding Ms. Adams voice, her innocence, her humor, her talent and her mere presence, which elevated the film with each frame she graced, and that was very nearly all of them. Amy Adams is a screen treasure and for now, Disney is the finder.

Take a look at everything on screen or coming to your local theater in the next few months that has kids somewhere in it's crosshairs. You'll really have to dial in your scope to find any innocence. Typical is The Golden Compass, opening this weekend and already getting press about being anti-catholic. CGI beasts battle, evil lurks in truly spooky places and it's a little girl swirling in the center who is constantly in jeopardy. I have nothing against any of that and it may make for exciting and entertaining moviegoing, though a parents judgement should be exercised. Disney certainly did just fine with their partnership in Narnia. But innocence requires a more deft touch, a sense of self, unusual at the movies and even more so in corporate business. Disney just gets it. By careful stewardship or just dumb luck, they seem to be doing far better lately at understanding how valuable a legacy that is.

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