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BV toons up down under

Buena Vista invaded Melbourne earlier this week, as company exex descended on Roadshow Film Distributors to huddle over release strategies for “Aladdin” and forthcoming Disney titles.

As part of that, Walt Disney Feature Animation prexy Peter Schneider gave a seminar on the making of “Aladdin” and what’s coming from the studio. It’s the first time the seminar has been given to non-Disney staffers, and was a revealing insight into the company’s animation plans.

Schneider was accompanied by five other exex — including Bob Levin, Buena Vista Pictures marketing prez, BV Intl. prexy Mark Zoradi and Jeff Forman, BV Intl. director of sales (Far East) — plus “Aladdin” producer/director/co-writer Ron Clements.

While Roadshow is used to going to L.A. to huddle with Disney, Warners, and other suppliers, this is the first time such a large contingent has come to Oz, says RFD managing director Alan Finney, who hopes it will become a more regular event.

While the marketing meeting was off-limits, Schneider’s seminar was open to press. He started by saying Disney Animation was “almost bankrupt” a decade ago, with the release of “The Black Cauldron” representing the company’s “low point.”

The well-documented rise since then to the successes of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin” were in part due to bringing back the earlier Disney style of having one creative talent — a”storyteller”– in charge of most aspects of the film. It also signaled a return to a philosophy of bigger and better, not faster and cheaper. He then took the audience through various stages of “Aladdin’s” production, before moving to previews, via storyboards and rough promos of titles “The Lion King” and Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Former features the voices of Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, and Whoopi Goldberg, and is due next year. Schneider says it’s also the first Disney film to have a character die on screen.

“Nightmare” will follow, and signals Disney’s first major step into stop motion animation. Roughs were also shown from an adaption of “Pocahontas” for 1995. And for 1996 a sci-fiction offering is being prepared.

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