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It was interesting to learn that Beauty and the Beast was screened at the New York Film Festival before it was finished. How involved were you in that decision?
I wasn’t too involved in the decision because I was knee-deep in finishing the movie. It was a chance to start posturing animation as art. We also had a show at the Whitney Museum in New York. It started to make people think of animation as an art form. The movie had actually been completed a little more than we wanted to show, so we had to retrograde it back a little bit. It was an amazing night. People stood up and came unglued. We were up in an opera box overlooking the audience. People wouldn’t stop – I felt like Eva Perón, standing in a box while people are cheering. This was a cartoon. There was a huge appreciation, and that was one of the first hints that this era was going to be different.
Waking Sleeping Beauty debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. Have you screened it at many other festivals? What is the importance of film festivals in animation?
Not many festivals have screened the film. It won the audience award at the Hamptons [International] Film Festival. Film festivals are important to the world of movies, period. Aside from the commercial aspect, there are a tremendous amount of movies made that might not see the light of day, particularly when it comes to short films. There are so many animated short films that wouldn’t get seen if it weren’t for film festivals. The same goes for documentaries. If it weren’t for festivals like yours, they wouldn’t get seen.
What are you working on right now? How many years have you worked for Disney?
I started working for Disney in 1976. Right now, I’m working on two films. I’m executive producing both. One is a film called Oceans. It’s coming out on Earth Day next year. It’s a nature documentary. I executive produced Earth, which came out last year. They are both part of Disneynature. [Oceans] is spectacular. We’re finishing it up now. I’m also working with Tim Burton on a stop-motion animated film called Frankenweenie. It’s the Frankenstein story with a boy and his little dog. We’re deep in pre-production now. The movie will be out in 2011.
What should audiences know about Waking Sleeping Beauty before they see the movie?
I hope when people see the movie they understand the joy and struggle that goes into any creative endeavor, whether it’s making an animated film or building a building. Sometimes the gloss and glamour of Disney loses the fact that Disney is really just a bunch of guys in the room with a cold pizza in the middle of the table trying to figure out how to tell a story.