The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - Disney vs. Warner Brothers
August 11th, 2010
09:53 am

[Link]

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Disney vs. Warner Brothers
Why does Mickey have a world-class theme park to himself, while Bugs has a crappy set of rides stuffed in the corner of Six Flags? Bugs Bunny has better cartoons and is funnier... And I think that's his downfall.

Disney works because Mickey, Goofy, and Donald are inexpressibly bland.

Who is Mickey Mouse? A nervous laugh and a nebulous good nature. Donald Duck is irascible. Goofy's, well, goofy. But each of those character traits are so vague that they could be almost anything. And because of that, you can put Mickey in just about any situation and people will buy it. Mickey as an efficient orchestral conductor? Sure. An inept sorceror's apprentice? Sure. A noble knight? Absolutely. Mickey's such an empty bag of nothing that he's nothing more than the air to inflate any suit you choose.

Don't believe me? Try putting Bugs in all of those situations. He's got such a personality that he wouldn't want to be an orchestra conductor (but is a mean one when threatened), would be a more competent apprentice than the wizard (or gets into trouble when he starts fooling around), and would make a terrible knight. The mind rebels at seeing Bugs in certain positions, because you know who Bugs is. (This is why "Duck Amuck" is a classic, but "Rabbit Rampage" is not.)

(There are limits, of course - every comedic character mutates to fit the punchline. I ran into that a lot on Home on the Strange, when Tom's personality changed depending on what laugh was needed. Still, as a comedic entity who needs to be squeezed into various situations, Bugs is startlingly well-defined.)

Mickey? Whatever. He can be anything because at his core, he's nothing. The central Disney stable of characters aren't characters, but ill-defined traits. And when they're given firm characterization, they don't really make it into the stable - Scrooge McDuck has more character than Mickey, Goofy, and Donald put together, but you don't see him at Disney. You can't slap Scrooge's face onto Pirates of the Caribbean and sell it.

Disney works as a bunch of cartoons because Mickey's a nobody.

But it's more than that - it's the whole competing culture of the two companies. At Disney, the genius always started at the top - Walt was a visionary, full of ideas, and almost all of Disney's great ideas can be traced directly to Walt himself. As such, the entire company revolved around management having good ideas, and the company leading.

Warner Brothers' funniest moments came when they were rebelling against management's stupid ideas.

You know the cartoons where Bugs fights a bull in the ring? Started because management declared flatly that bullfights weren't funny, and nothing could make them so. Daffy Duck's lisp? Done to make fun of Leon Schlesinger, their inept manager. Everything good Warner Brothers has done has come because management was either ignoring the animators, or - more often - because the animators looked management straight in the eye and said, "No. You're wrong."

So why would we ever expect poor, beleaguered Warner Brothers to be able to put together a good theme park? They never really understood what made their cartoons funny, and their theme park attempts were as inept as their attempts to create cartoons. Even now, Disney grows and Warner struggles to revive Bugs. And that's a damn dirty shame.

(43 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:elissa_carey
Date:August 11th, 2010 02:05 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Actually, I think it's even simpler than that: Disney's business and marketing sense is savvy and rapacious.
[User Picture]
From:jfargo
Date:August 11th, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I don't have anything to add but wanted to say that I think you're very much right on the nose with your analysis.
[User Picture]
From:sacramentalist
Date:August 11th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC)
(Link)
You make great points.

Yeah, WB characters are too subversive and anti-establishment. They would be more appropriate in a park where they can blow shit up.
[User Picture]
From:polymorphism
Date:August 11th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
(Link)
HOLY FUCK I WANT TO GO TO SPLODEY PARK
[User Picture]
From:vyolynce
Date:August 11th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Alternate name: Mythbusterville.
[User Picture]
From:polymorphism
Date:August 13th, 2010 07:26 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, the waivers we would have to sign. But I will sign them all.
[User Picture]
From:scarfman
Date:August 12th, 2010 05:24 am (UTC)
(Link)

too subversive and anti-establishment

Which is to say, American. Or what Americans used to be. Here from my LJ memories is an essay with a more ominous thesis on why we don't see more of Bugs Bunny any more.

[User Picture]
From:darksumomo
Date:August 11th, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I think Warner Brothers is more interested in the properties they acquired from DC via Ted Turner than in the ones they created themselves. Hell, they're more interested in spoofing the properties they acquired from Hanna-Barbera via Ted Turner, too.
[User Picture]
From:radiumhead
Date:August 11th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Mickey doesnt work as anything-i saw a drawing someone did of him as Wolverine (vs Donald as the Hulk)-i was just like, um, no.

Even for a cartoon its a ridiculous idea.
[User Picture]
From:darthparadox
Date:August 11th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I think "anything" here is referring to roles, not specific people. Mickey doesn't work as Wolverine because Wolverine has a very specific personality - but you can put him in a cape and mask and pass him off as a bland, generic superhero without a problem. Mickey doesn't work as, say, Tesla because Tesla was quirky and neurotic - but you can put him in a lab coat and pretend he's a scientist working on vaguely defined experiments, and there you go!
[User Picture]
From:lots42
Date:August 11th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I heard Sylvester was basically mocking one of the management drones. You couldn'g get away with that today.
[User Picture]
From:lawchicky
Date:August 11th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I won't disagree with your explanation of the cartoon characters' traits, but I don't think that's the main reason for Disney having grown so much more substantially than Warner Bros. Disney grew at an alarming pace due to the visionaries and risk takers who were involved in the organization. Walt had a long standing dream of building a theme park and was extraordinarily talented in conveying his visions, not only with his own commentary, but through the use of talented artists, architects and businessmen who had their own glimpses into these imaginary worlds. Disney became an empire, expanding itself into movies, television, theme parks, etc., and while the cartoon characters may have played it safe, the business structure did not.
[User Picture]
From:edgehopper
Date:August 11th, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC)
(Link)
What she said--Disney built theme parks because Disney wanted to build theme parks; Warner Brothers never did. It has less to do with the characters than with the management and their vision.

When it comes to modern cartoons, it is the better defined Disney cartoons that have done better--when was the last time you saw Mickey in a cartoon? Scrooge was the heart of Ducktales, Baloo was the heart of Tailspin, and when Goofy was the star of Goof Troop, he took on a more defined father role to make it work. (If you look at the really old Disney cartoons, Goofy was never an independent character; he was an amusing "everyman" placeholder used in cartoons like "The Art of Skiing", "Victory Vehicles", and "How to Be a Sailor".) Donald had the most personality in those early cartoons, and his cartoons were Disney's best. There's a reason that all of Disney's WW2 propaganda films used Donald, not Mickey.
[User Picture]
From:zillah3
Date:August 11th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Mickey (and his friends) are currently seen in "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse", a CG show for little ones. It reviews colors, counting, sequencing, and the like. Daisy is on there a lot, and Clarabelle Cow is often paired with Goofy for a weird foray into interspecies romance. Since it's a series the characterizations are pretty stable, but there isn't much needed for little tykes. Interestingly, Pete appears but isn't always a mortal enemy- he seems to top out as "rival".

They were also on "Disney's House of Mouse" for a few years too. This was an attempt to frame various Disney shorts within a story, rather like the later Warner movies. In this case, Mickey runs the House of Mouse with the rest of his friends working backstage, and even more characters in the audience. The "show" they were there to see was the older shorts. I haven't seen the show since they started playing the show for the younger set. Mickey, et al. did show more defined personalities on this show, as required for a role to happen in more than one episode.

I've actually seen a few new shorts being made to run between shows on the Disney Channel. Specifically I can think of one where Goofy reprises the Everyman role while buying a home theater system.

So Mickey and friends were kept on the downlow for a long time, and they showed repeats of House of Mouse for a few years, so they probably went 3+ years without animating him for the US market.

It seems to me that Mickey and Bugs are almost drowning in the competition from their own studios anymore.
[User Picture]
From:chuckro
Date:August 11th, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Mickey runs the House of Mouse with the rest of his friends working backstage,

So...they turned him into Kermit the Frog?
[User Picture]
From:anivair
Date:August 11th, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC)
(Link)
What better model?
[User Picture]
From:cathubodva
Date:August 11th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Absolutely. Disney is also forever expanding its cartoon character repertoire, has a wide range of universes to pull from for its parks, and has far more family appeal.
[User Picture]
From:wdomburg
Date:August 11th, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I can't help but think of an early Louis C.K. bit.
[User Picture]
From:gows
Date:August 11th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Disney works as a bunch of cartoons because Mickey's a nobody.

. . . and therefore an Everyman?
From:sorcerer_mickey
Date:August 12th, 2010 05:15 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yes! We watch Mickey in a variety of occupations (clock cleaner, orchestra conductor, band concert conductor, magician, fisherman, ghost chaser, etc.) and we see ourselves. Mickey overcomes adversity, officers of the law, laws of physics, and inept companions,. only to emerge essentially unscathed at cartoon's end; Mickey never fails.
We see ourselves as Mickey, but we want to hangout with Bugs as his sidekick, just as we would with any other Warner Bros. hero (Flynn, Bogart, Cagney, Powell, etc.)
[User Picture]
From:wyndhover
Date:August 11th, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
(Link)
...so, essentially, Micky and Bella Swan are the same.

Pardon me a moment while I go Keanu....

whoa.
[User Picture]
From:bart_calendar
Date:August 11th, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I thought the reason that Scrooge McDuck is so much better than any other Disney character is that he was completely written and drawn by Carl Barks and that the reason he's not used in much of anything is that the Barks estate retained some creative control (and also that the way Scrooge behaves doesn't fit with any other story narrative in the the Disney cannon. "Christmas For Shacktown," for example is brilliant, but goes against almost every Disney formula ever.)
[User Picture]
From:gows
Date:August 11th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Also, totally unrelated but I'm not going to find your original post about the sauna championships: they have been called off due to an entrant's death.
[User Picture]
From:theferrett
Date:August 11th, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I saw that! I was very sad. But it does prove the dangerousness of the sport.
[User Picture]
From:gows
Date:August 11th, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC)
(Link)
After reading the article you linked to, I'm pretty sure I didn't need any more convincing. :P
[User Picture]
From:xinamarie
Date:August 11th, 2010 04:05 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Disney was floundering for a while, too, but has been carried along by the success and vision of Pixar. Even the recent improvements to Disneyland and California Adventure (I can't speak for Disneyworld) are largely themed after Pixar characters and movies.

I think Six Flags' problem was that the tie with Warner Brothers was tacked as an afterthought, while Disneyland was designed with the characters virtually from the beginning. Apart from the kids area, the rest of the Warner Brothers "theme" was, as far as I could see, to play cartoons to the people waiting in line. Meanwhile Disney has elevated waiting in line to an art form, designing the enviroment around it to reflect and enhance the anticipation of the ride. At Six Flags, you just wait.
[User Picture]
From:xiphias
Date:August 11th, 2010 04:08 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Genius is almost impossible to duplicate. Mediocrity can be cranked out indefinitely. Therefore, a product based on mediocrity can last much, much longer than a product based on genius.

Every once in a while, you end up with something that keeps attracting genius to it -- heck, the Muppets are putting out pretty good material to this day. And they're owned by Disney

But I think that's the less-common case.
[User Picture]
From:zillah3
Date:August 11th, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I totally agree with you. I'd like to add that another reason that Mickey is on everything is also because for a long time he had no show of his own, so if he was going to be on the merchandise he had to co-opt something and make it his own. And you know Disney wants Mickey on the merch. Since the show he does have now is for preschoolers, I doubt that will stop anytime soon, if ever. (Since it's a series there does have to be some sort of personality for Mickey and friends, but preschoolers don't demand much of one.) If it weren't for the merch, he'd be drowning in the competition from his own studio, just like Bugs is.

My son's school runs the occasional "stay after school and watch a movie" fundraiser, and he is now in the grade that runs this. I am hoping to add a short or two to the beginning of the movies so they can be seen (and in their original context, no less). Even then, I'd put a Disney one before the G movie and a Warner before the PG.

My kids all like the Disney shorts, which is a rare thing considering the kids range from 4-9. Interestingly, they also all like the Pink Panther. Warner will come back soon, we had a bad experience when our son was 4- he tried to BE Bugs and got into a lot of trouble. He has seen them since, and still loves Bugs, but it's the Disney ones that get played in the car.
[User Picture]
From:justbeast
Date:August 11th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Interesting! I could totally see it.
From:bobmacpharson
Date:August 11th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
(Link)
While it's an interesing idea, lump me in with those who disagree. Disney makes good theme parks because they simply make good theme parks. My family recently had the misfortune of going to the NASA "park" the day after we went to Epcot. The difference was (if you're pardon the pun) astronomical. The entire Disney experience is crafted like a perfect video game. You have an intro cinematic (Welcome to Tomorrow Land, or whatever it as called, can't remember) that establishes the theme of the world you're entering, you then are given limited freedom to explore different zones at your leisure, each introducing you to new subthemes, culminating in a ride that captures the personality and charm of the particular area.

NASA had a few random interesting things to look at, but it was not presented with nearly as much flair. As for Six Flags, it was a bunch of colorful rides with some random characters walking around. Six Flags is an amusement park. Disney world is a narrative.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 11th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Indeed, it is not just corporatespeak that the people who work in public view at Disney parks are "cast members." Other places are amusement parks; Disney attempts to be theater (and often succeeds).

-Alex
[User Picture]
From:caudelac
Date:August 11th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Who is Mickey Mouse?

The Boss, at the end of this month for me. ;)

Also, I can do a wicked Mickey impression.
[User Picture]
From:Ezra [aol.com]
Date:August 11th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I suppose there are a number of roles Mickey can play more easily than Bugs—but his range has one solid limitation: Bugs makes a much more convincing woman.
[User Picture]
From:eslington
Date:August 11th, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC)

World Filter

(Link)
So Bugs is a Trickster Avatar and Mickey's a Personomancer?
[User Picture]
From:poxy_report
Date:August 11th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)

Warner Bros. Movie World

(Link)
There's a WB park in Australia, with maybe a 3rd of it dedicated to the toons, and their faces are everywhere as well.

Along with the toons it has all the other properties WB owns or has something to do with: Shrek, Scooby-Doo, Gremlins, Lethal Weapon and all the DC stuff.

I'm not sure if that's similar to Six Flags, but it's my favourite out of the theme parks on the Gold Coast.
[User Picture]
From:allah_sulu
Date:August 11th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Why does Mickey have a world-class theme park to himself, while Bugs has a crappy set of rides stuffed in the corner of Six Flags?

Bugs has a crappy set of rides stuffed in the corner of every Six Flags. There are more Six Flags parks than Disney parks, and odds are most Americans are closer to a Six Flags than Disneyland/world… So there are pluses and minuses. Yeah, Disneyworld's a much better park; but my son's been to Six Flags more often. Volume, volume, volume!

I agree with everything else you say. I'd rather watch just about anything with Bugs in it over just about anything with Mickey in it.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 11th, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I think you're forgetting an essential piece to this puzzle:

Bugs' shtick got old. Fast.

I remember as a kid watching the Warner Bros. cartoons without recognizing the fact that the WB set had pioneered animation on TV and perfected it. Being a kid I couldn't acknowledge this fact because the market was over saturated with cartoons and animation while I was growing up (mid-to early 90s). It was something I took for granted. I couldn't acknowledge just how amazingly important the WB was to pioneering this because it didn't really matter to me at that age.

But why did I want to watch Bugs as I matured? Did a smartass character who never got his comeuppance appeal to me anymore as I got older? Not really. We were never told, in the cartoons, why we should root for Bugs. He was a complete asshole most times. Why should we view him as the hero? Why should we hope he wins the "Duck season" "Wabbit season" argument? The WB never gave us a compelling hero in Bugs. And he never lost. So as I got older, and I'm sure a lot of kids around my age did, I wrote bugs off. He was annoying. The same went for the other hero's we were spoon fed in the WB universe. What made Tweety's plight any more valid than Sylvester's? Do you know how annoying it was to constantly watch the Roadrunner get away?

Disney was a genius in the fact that he plastered a set of characters who kids could sympathize with as heroes all over his theme park. Sure, Mickey, Donald and Goofy were without definition. But it also made them perfectly malleable to be the hero. Someone that kids had a reason to root for and empathize with. Sometimes we had to draw our own conclusions, but Mickey, Goofy, and Donald were never as acerbic as any of the WB stable. This is why the WB toons had no staying power. After a while they just became annoying.
[User Picture]
From:nightingal_echo
Date:August 13th, 2010 03:13 am (UTC)
(Link)
this!

I can watch WB cartoons in small doses (exception, animanics! Love it) as with Disney, we can have days long marathons and still want more. They're so rich in history and story line and back stories. Disney has, is and always will be magic.
[User Picture]
From:cynic51
Date:August 12th, 2010 12:10 am (UTC)
(Link)
>Warner struggles to revive Bugs

Although they do good stuff occasionally. I really liked Looney Tunes: Back in Action.
[User Picture]
From:sols_light
Date:August 12th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)
(Link)
Here in Australia, it's the other way around. We have no House of Mouse, but we do have WB Movie World, which has all the classic characters wandring around the park, but most of the rides are based on the movie properties like Batman, Lethal Weapon, etc.

It's much like Universal Studios in the US, except with well recognised WB characters wandering around and it does obscenely good business on the Gold Coast. I think Universal beat WB to the punch in the US, so they didn't really see the point.

[User Picture]
From:wiredwizard
Date:August 12th, 2010 03:44 am (UTC)
(Link)
Of all the "orginal" Disney characters, the only one I ever liked was Goofy. In the old animated shorts like Goofy goes to the Olympics etc. he came across a lot more like a WB character than a Disney.
[User Picture]
From:cynicalcleric
Date:August 13th, 2010 01:31 am (UTC)
(Link)
Another factor is that I don't think any parent thinks anything is wrong with Mickey Mouse.

Bugs and Daffy - while not adult - are also not something that I think many straight-laced conservative parents want their kids watching. Warner Brothers has alot more cartoon-violence-without-repercussions and vaguely adult references than Disney. (I remember one Bugs cartoon where he freaks out when he puts the wrong film into a projector and nearly shows a Stag Reel).
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 17th, 2011 11:02 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Muy agradable de hecho probablemente voy a descargarlo. Gracias
The Ferrett's Domain Powered by LiveJournal.com