## It’s Time for Some Queueing Theory

Queueing theory is the scientific study of waiting in line. It can apply to familiar lines like those at the grocery store or bank but also to things like web servers, highway traffic, and telecommunications…basically any situation where you have things entering a system, being processed by a system for a certain period of time, and leaving the system.

The study of queueing is necessary because the effects of waiting in line often run counter to our intuition (which causes people to get cranky about it). Take this example from John Cook of tellers serving customers at a bank:

Suppose a small bank has only one teller. Customers take an average of 10 minutes to serve and they arrive at the rate of 5.8 per hour. What will the expected waiting time be? What happens if you add another teller?

We assume customer arrivals and customer service times are random (details later). With only one teller, customers will have to wait nearly five hours on average before they are served.

Five hours?! I would not have guessed anywhere close to that, would you? Now, add a second teller into the mix. How long is the average wait now? 2.5 hours? 1 hour? According to Cook, much lower than that:

But if you add a second teller, the average waiting time is not just cut in half; it goes down to about 3 minutes. The waiting time is reduced by a factor of 93x

Our lack of intuition about queues has to do with how much the word “average” is hiding…the true story is much more complex.

Aside from the math, designers of queueing systems also have to take human psychology into account.

There are three givens of human nature that queuing psychologists must address: 1) We get bored when we wait in line. 2) We really hate it when we expect a short wait and then get a long one. 3) We really, really hate it when someone shows up after us but gets served before us.

The boredom issue has been tackled in myriad ways — from the mirrors next to elevator banks to the TVs in dentist’s waiting rooms. Larson mentions a clever solution from the Manhattan Savings Bank, which once hired a concert pianist to play in its lobby as customers waited for tellers. “But Disney has been the absolute master of this aspect of queue psychology,” says Larson. “You might wait 45 minutes for an 8-minute ride at Disney World. But they’ll make you feel like the ride has started while you’re still on line. They build excitement and provide all kinds of diversions in the queue channel.” Video screens tease the thrills ahead, and a series of varied chambers that the queue moves through creates a sense of progress. Another solution: those buzzing pagers that restaurants in malls sometimes give you while you’re waiting for a table. Instead of focusing on the misery of the wait, you can go off and entertain yourself-secure in the knowledge that you’ll be alerted when it’s your turn.

Whole Foods had to work around our expectations when it switched to “serpentine” lines that seemed longer but actually served customers more quickly.

By 7 p.m. on a weeknight, the lines at each of the four Whole Foods stores in Manhattan can be 50 deep, but they zip along faster than most lines with 10 shoppers.

Because people stand in the same line, waiting for a register to become available, there are no “slow” lines, delayed by a coupon-counting customer or languid cashier. And since Whole Foods charges premium prices for its organic fare, it can afford to staff dozens of registers, making the line move even faster.

“No way,” is how Maggie Fitzgerald recalled her first reaction to the line at the Whole Foods in Columbus Circle. For weeks, Ms. Fitzgerald, 26, would not shop there alone, assigning a friend to fill a grocery cart while she stood in line.

When she discovered the wait was about 4 minutes, rather than 20, she began shopping by herself, and found it faster than her old supermarket.

See also How to Pick the Fastest Line at the Supermarket, Queue Theory and Design from 99% Invisible, and this paper from Bob Wescott, Seven Insights Into Queueing Theory. One of his insights:

It’s very hard to use the last 15% of anything. As the service center gets close to 100% utilization the response time will get so bad for the average transaction that nobody will be having any fun. The graph below is exactly the same situation as the previous graph except this graph is plotted to 99% utilization. At 85% utilization the response time is about 7x and it just gets worse from there.

For grocery stores or call centers, that means you’re going to have operators or cashiers sitting there “doing nothing” sometimes because if you don’t, you’re gonna be in trouble when a rush hits.

Update: John Frost shares an anecdote about his grandfather’s team designed the queueing system for the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland:

Another fun family story is the invention of the Matterhorn’s first of its kind switchback queue. Vic Greene and his team of Imagineers developed a system that would have the entrance to the switchback part of the queue be lower than the exit. When you stood at the entrance, the exit would appear closer to you in an optical illusion. The idea was to make your wait seem less cumbersome by visually shortening the queue.

## Disney princesses reimagined as electoral maps

Pretty much what it says on the tin. Not much else to add.

## The best of Disney cinematography

Jorge Luengo Ruiz has collected what he calls the most beautiful shots in the history of Disney. The scenes are pulled from nearly every Disney feature-length animation ever made, including Snow White, Peter Pan, The Lion King, and Moana. There’s a simple shot early on of Dumbo’s shadow passing over the ground that I really liked.

Buzzfeed did some stills of the best shots from Studio Ghibli movies, but it would be great to see a video collection. Both studios have produced amazing work, but Ghibli might best Disney in terms of sheer artistry and beauty.

## Disney’s multiplane camera, an innovation in illusion

In a short film shot in 1957, Walt Disney described the multiplane camera, one of the many inventions and innovations his company had developed in order to produce more realistic and affecting animations. Instead of shooting single cels of animation on a single movable background, the multiplane camera could shoot several independently moving backgrounds, creating a sense of depth and perspective. A 1938 article in Popular Mechanics explained how the camera works.

Disney wanted to increase the eye value of the many paintings making up a picture by achieving a soft-focus effect on the backgrounds, illuminating the various levels of each scene individually, and separating” background from foreground, thus keeping background objects to their proper relative size.

His production crew labored for three years to perfect the novel picture-taking device to achieve these results. It consists of four vertical steel posts, each carrying a rack along which as many as eight carriages may be shifted both horizontally and vertically. On each carriage rides a frame containing a sheet of celluloid, on which is painted part of the action or background.

Resembling a printing press, the camera stands eleven feet tall and is six feet square. Made with almost micrometer precision, it permits the photographing of foreground and background cels accurately, even when the first is held firmly in place two feet from the lens and the lowest rests in its frame nine feet away. Where the script calls for the camera to “truck up” for a close-up, the lens actually remains stationary, while the various cels are moved upward. By this means, houses, trees, the moon, and any other background features, retain their relative sizes.

After being deployed on a short film as a test, the multiplane camera was used to film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length animated film. In the chapter on “Illusion” in his newest book Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World, Steven Johnson writes that the use of the multiplane camera (along with other innovations in animation developed since the days of Steamboat Willie) had a profound effect on audiences.

All of these technical and procedural breakthroughs summed up to an artistic one: Snow White was the first animated film to feature both visual and emotional depth. It pulled at the heartstrings in a way that even live-action films had failed to do. This, more than anything, is why Snow White marks a milestone in the history of illusion. “No animated cartoon had ever looked like Snow White,” Disney’s biographer Neil Gabler writes, “and certainly none had packed its emotional wallop.” Before the film was shown to an audience, Disney and his team debated whether it might just be powerful enough to provoke tears — an implausible proposition given the shallow physical comedy that had governed every animated film to date. But when Snow White debuted at the Carthay Circle Theatre, near L.A.’s Hancock Park, on December 21, 1937, the celebrity audience was heard audibly sobbing during the final sequences where the dwarfs discover their poisoned princess and lay garlands of flowers on her. It was an experience that would be repeated a billion times over the decades to follow, but it happened there at the Carthay Circle first: a group of human beings gathered in a room and were moved to tears by hand-drawn static images flickering in the light.

In just nine years, Disney and his team had transformed a quaint illusion — the dancing mouse is whistling! — into an expressive form so vivid and realistic that it could bring people to tears. Disney and his team had created the ultimate illusion: fictional characters created by hand, etched onto celluloid, and projected at twenty-four frames per second, that were somehow so believably human that it was almost impossible not to feel empathy for them.

Interestingly, the multiplane camera also seems to be an instance of simultaneous invention (a concept also covered by Johnson in an earlier book, Where Good Ideas Come From). In addition to Disney’s multiplane camera, there were a few earlier earlier efforts and it’s unclear whether they were invented independently or how one inventor influenced another. But one thing is for certain: only Disney’s camera was deployed so skillfully and artfully that it changed cinema and our culture forever.1

1. Without getting into it (too much), I can’t help thinking of Pixar’s push to make Toy Story. There’s always an emphasis on the technology with Pixar, but Lasseter and the rest of them were huge animation nerds…and Walt Disney nerds in particular. They were interested in telling stories and they believed, like Disney, that developing new technologies could help them do that more effectively. Toy Story was Pixar’s Snow White and their subsequent movies (Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Ratatouille) have shown how successful they were in telling affecting stories with 3D computer animation.

## The evolution of Disney animation, from Snow White to Zootopia

This video quickly sums up almost 80 years of Disney animated movies, from Snow White and Pinocchio to Big Hero 6 and Zootopia. It’s astonishing how good the animation was in the early days and then got less so until fairly recently.

## The Simpsons pay homage to Disney

In this Simpsons couch gag, the show pays homage to some classic Disney animation styles. Featured are Steamboat Willie, Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Jungle Book and Fantasia. The animation was done by Eric Goldberg, who worked at Disney on films like Aladdin and Pocahontas.

## Product companies were told to exclude Rey from Star Wars related merchandise

This is maddening if true: according to an industry insider, vendors making tie-in products for the new Star Wars movie were directed by Disney1 to exclude Rey from Star Wars related merchandise.

In January 2015, a number of toy and merchandise vendors descended on Lucasfilm’s Letterman Center in San Francisco. In a series of confidential meetings, the vendors presented their product ideas to tie in with the highly-anticipated new Star Wars film. Representatives presented, pitched, discussed, and agreed upon prototype products. The seeds of the controversies Lucasfilm is facing regarding the marketing and merchandising of The Force Awakens were sown in those meetings, according to the industry insider.

The insider, who was at those meetings, described how initial versions of many of the products presented to Lucasfilm featured Rey prominently. At first, discussions were positive, but as the meetings wore on, one or more individuals raised concerns about the presence of female characters in the Star Wars products. Eventually, the product vendors were specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise, said the insider.

“We know what sells,” the industry insider was told. “No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.”

What good does it do our culture if JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy work to make popular movies with progressive characters if the cowards in marketing are not going to follow suit?

Update: Lots of people are sharing this story, and I wanted to highlight and explain the “if true” in the first paragraph. There are good reasons to be skeptical of the article I linked to. It relies completely on a single anonymous source. I have no idea what Sweatpants and Coffee’s fact-checking procedures are. There are also many Star Wars related products featuring Rey (like Lego), so clearly the directive to “exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise” was either not issued in such a restrictive manner or was disregarded in some cases.

1. The article was annoyingly unclear on who was doing the directing, but you have to assume it’s Disney. Who else in the room would have the authority to so direct?

## Dismaland Bemusement Park by Banksy

Banksy has opened an apocalyptic theme park called Dismaland in an abandoned resort in an English coastal town, Weston-super-Mare.

Are you looking for an alternative to the sugar-coated tedium of the average family day out? Or just somewhere a lot cheaper? Then this is the place for you. Bring the whole family to come and enjoy the latest addition to our chronic leisure surplus…

The entrance fee is £3 and the park will be open for five weeks. Colossal has the scoop, including a list of artists who contributed art to the park, er, show.

A demented assortment of bizarre and macabre artworks from no less than 50 artists from around the world including Damien Hirst, Bill Barminski, Caitlin Cherry, Polly Morgan, Josh Keyes, Mike Ross, David Shrigley, Bäst, and Espo. In addition, Banksy is showing 10 artworks of his own.

Colossal’s own Christopher Jobson curated the park’s short film program. Congrats! (Also, super jealous!)

Update: For a closer look at the park, check out the trailer:

## Walt Disney’s corporate strategy chart

From 1957, this is a drawing of the synergistic strategy of Walt Disney Productions, or what Todd Zenger of Harvard Business Review calls “a corporate theory of sustained growth”.

The boxes on the chart have changed, but since the appointment of Bob Iger as CEO, Disney has seemingly doubled down on Walt’s old strategy with their increased focus on franchises.

Disney’s dominance can be boiled down very simply to one word: franchises. Or rather, an “incessant focus on franchises” in the words of former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo.

“Everything we do is about brands and franchises,” Rasulo told a group of financial analysts last September. “Ten years ago we were more like other media companies, more broad-based, big movie slate, 20 something pictures, some franchise, some not franchise. If you look at our slate strategy now, our television strategy, almost every aspect of the company, we are oriented around brands and franchises.”

Franchises are well suited to extend across multiple parts of a big business like Disney, particularly because it’s a repeating virtuous cycle: movies drive merchandise sales and theme park visits, which in turn drives interest for sequels and spin-offs, rinse, repeat, reboot.

I wonder if more tech companies could be using this strategy more effectively. Apple does pretty well; their various hardware (iPhone, iPad, Mac), software (iOS, OS X), and services (iCloud, App Store, iTunes Store) work together effectively. Microsoft rode Office & Windows for quite awhile. Google seems a bit more all over the place — for instance, it’s unclear how their self-driving car helps their search business and Google+ largely failed to connect various offerings. Facebook seems to be headed in the right direction. Twitter? Not so much, but we’ll see how they do with new leadership. Or old leadership…I discovered Walt’s chart via interim Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

## The sameness of Pixar’s women

For years, one of the knocks on Pixar was the lack of main characters who are women in their movies. 2012’s Brave and this summer’s Inside Out have addressed this criticism to an extent1. But Alex of every flavored bean noticed that, in contrast to the diversity of male faces, female characters in Disney/Pixar’s recent movies all have the same face.

Boys in animated movies have faces that are square, round, skinny, fat, alien-looking, handsome, and ugly. The only face that girls get to have is some round snub-nosed baby face. That’s not right.

Great observation.

Update: This piece has generated some interesting comments on Good, including this one from Dan Povenmire, co-creator of Phineas and Ferb.

This is idiotic and obviously written by someone who (A) can’t draw and (B) has an axe to grind. The female characters they show have very varied faces. Yes the face shapes are all softer feminine shapes, but they purposely didn’t include female characters from those same movies with less feminine faces, like Edna Mode in The Incredibles, or the Witch or the Cook in Brave, or any of the older female characters, like the fairy godmother, or… whatever. All the princes and male romantic leads in these movies have the same face shape as well but NO, she takes old men and villains and comedy relief characters to “prove” how sexist animation is. This is just stupid.

If you want literally dozens of examples of other characters omitted from the list see the other comments below.

(via @ckoerner)

1. Although the gender stereotypes on display in the first trailer for Inside Out is not helping matters.

## The 12 principles of animation

During the 1930s, animators at Walt Disney Studios developed a list of 12 basic principles of animation through which to achieve character and personality through movement. These principles were laid out in The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. #6 is “slow-out and slow-in”:

As action starts, we have more drawings near the starting pose, one or two in the middle, and more drawings near the next pose. Fewer drawings make the action faster and more drawings make the action slower. Slow-ins and slow-outs soften the action, making it more life-like. For a gag action, we may omit some slow-out or slow-ins for shock appeal or the surprise element. This will give more snap to the scene.

Animator Vincenzo Lodigiani recently visualized the principles using a simple cube shape. You can see them individually here or all together in this video:

In a nod to the increasing prevalence of animation in app design, Khoi Vinh notes:

It’s a good reminder that as the overlap between interface design and animation grows wider, designers would do well to take note of the many decades of insight and knowledge that animators have accrued.

(via hn)

## The man that Disney built

When Owen Suskind was three, a switch flipped within him and he went from a typical chatty rambunctious three-year-old to autistic.

I had just started a job as The Wall Street Journal’s national affairs reporter. My wife, Cornelia, a former journalist, was home with him — a new story every day, a new horror. He could barely use a sippy cup, though he’d long ago graduated to a big-boy cup. He wove about like someone walking with his eyes shut. “It doesn’t make sense,” I’d say at night. “You don’t grow backward.” Had he been injured somehow when he was out of our sight, banged his head, swallowed something poisonous? It was like searching for clues to a kidnapping.

After visits to several doctors, we first heard the word “autism.” Later, it would be fine-tuned to “regressive autism,” now affecting roughly a third of children with the disorder. Unlike the kids born with it, this group seems typical until somewhere between 18 and 36 months — then they vanish. Some never get their speech back. Families stop watching those early videos, their child waving to the camera. Too painful. That child’s gone.

But a tenuous connection remained between Owen and his pre-autistic self: Disney movies. And through them, Owen slowly learns how to communicate with the outside world again.

So we join him upstairs, all of us, on a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon in November 1994. Owen is already on the bed, oblivious to our arrival, murmuring gibberish…. “Juicervose, juicervose.” It is something we’ve been hearing for the past few weeks. Cornelia thinks maybe he wants more juice; but no, he refuses the sippy cup. “The Little Mermaid” is playing as we settle in, propping up pillows. We’ve all seen it at least a dozen times, but it’s at one of the best parts: where Ursula the sea witch, an acerbic diva, sings her song of villainy, “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” to the selfish mermaid, Ariel, setting up the part in which Ursula will turn Ariel into a human, allowing her to seek out the handsome prince, in exchange for her voice.

When the song is over, Owen lifts the remote. Hits rewind.

“Come on, Owen, just let it play!” Walt moans. But Owen goes back just 20 seconds or so, to the song’s next-to-last stanza, with Ursula shouting:

I’m a very busy woman, and I haven’t got all day.

It won’t cost much, just your voice!

He does it again. Stop. Rewind. Play. And one more time. On the fourth pass, Cornelia whispers, “It’s not ‘juice.’ ” I barely hear her. “What?” “It’s not ‘juice.’ It’s ‘just’ … ‘just your voice’!”

I grab Owen by the shoulders. “Just your voice! Is that what you’re saying?!”

He looks right at me, our first real eye contact in a year. “Juicervose! Juicervose! Juicervose!”

Walt starts to shout, “Owen’s talking again!” A mermaid lost her voice in a moment of transformation. So did this silent boy. “Juicervose! Juicervose! Juicervose!” Owen keeps saying it, watching us shout and cheer. And then we’re up, all of us, bouncing on the bed. Owen, too, singing it over and over — “Juicervose!” — as Cornelia, tears beginning to fall, whispers softly, “Thank God, he’s in there.”

This is the best thing I’ve read in a month, so so heartbreaking and amazing. Just pre-ordered the book…can’t wait to read the full version.

## Paperman

Paperman accompanied Wreck-It Ralph in the theaters last year but was released online yesterday. The short film is nominated for an Oscar in part because of its aesthetic: it’s a CGI-animated film from Disney that looks like it’s hand drawn.

Director John Kahrs told Cartoon Brew that the origin of Paperman “really came out of working so much with Glen [Keane] on Tangled.” After looking at the work of Keane — a classic Disney animator who worked on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast and Aladdin, among many other projects — Kahrs found himself with a new appreciation for traditional animation and drawing techniques. “I thought, Why do we have to leave these drawings behind? Why can’t we bring them back up to the front of the image again? Is there a way that CG can kinda carry along the hand drawn line in a way that we haven’t done before?”

The answer was yes. It just required a technology that no one had actually created yet.

Reminds me a bit of what Wes Anderson did with th stop motion animation in Fantastic Mr. Fox…he went back to a more traditional look that made the whole thing look less polished than it might have with newer techniques.

## Movie filmed entirely in Disney theme parks premieres at Sundance

‘Escape from Tomorrow’ is a film by Randy Moore shot secretly at Disneyland and Disney World. Part of the buzz around the movie is that no one can imagine Disney allowing the movie to be released.

To attempt to describe the plot of “Escape” is to go down a rabbit hole as disorienting as any amusement park ride. Basically, the film is about a down-on-his luck fortysomething father (Roy Abramsohn) on the last day of a Disney World vacation with his henpecking wife and their two angelic children. As he takes his children to various attractions, the father is haunted by disturbing imagery; he is also, in the meantime (and with his children in tow), tailing two young flirtatious French girls around the park. Airy musical compositions you might find in classic Hollywood films play over many of these scenes, giving a light shading to the darker moments.

Moore shot the movie over 25 days and said production was never stopped by anyone inside the park.

To make the movie, Moore wouldn’t print out script pages or shot sequences for the 25 days he was filming on Disney turf, instead keeping all the info on iPhones. This way, when actors and crew were looking down between takes, passersby just thought they were glancing at their messages.

Here’s a scene from the movie:

(via ★interesting)

## Disney bought Star Wars

I’ve been offline for two days and Aaron already posted this (and had the information relayed to me via land line into my power-less house) but this is just too, like, wow to pass up. Disney is buying Lucasfilm for \$4 billion.

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and “evergreen” Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.

And they’re gonna release a 7th Star Wars film:

Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.

Crazy. A non-Lucas non-prequel Star Wars film will hopefully be pretty great, but the purchase price is puzzling. Only \$4 billion?

## At war with the Magic Kingdom?

Remember when a Reddit thread about an imaginary military situation was turned into a movie? I think this could be Quora’s chance. The top answer by USMC Sergeant Jon Davis is filled with detailed charts and seems like it might work. The extreme dissonance that results from mixing Disney World landmarks with descriptions of military maneuvers is delicious.

The next phase would be the first two infantry companies sneaking in through the wooded area in the Southeast between Tomorrowland and Mainstreet, USA. Their primary targets are the train station and entrance to the park (to prevent enemy escape or reinforcements.) The Tomorrowland company’s objective is to secure the square and and buildings, as well as any advanced technologies it may hold. Marines and soldiers are advised to not use the teleporters. They’re a trap. They will only kill your unit and replace him with an evil alien. Their main attack route will be through the stage. Also important is that troops remember to take all underground entry points and gas them to prevent surprise attacks from the tunnels.

(via ★dens)

## Planes, a “sequel” to Pixar’s Cars

Pixar’s not involved — DisneyToon Studios is making it — but a direct-to-video Cars spin-off that features airplanes will go direct-to-video in spring 2013.

This movie is mostly a commercial for the inevitable billion-dollar toy/theme park tie-ins, but in general I am in favor of any kids movie that features White Zombie in the trailer. (via devour)

ps #1: This is probably going to get yanked from YT pretty quick. Sorry.

ps #2: My 3-yo son calls the main character in Cars “Lightening the Queen”. That would be an interesting movie.

## Fallen Princesses

The Fallen Princesses project imagines Disney characters if their stories didn’t end happily ever after.

As a young girl, growing up abroad, I was not exposed to Fairy tales. These new discoveries lead to my fascination with the origins of Fairy tales. I explored the original brothers Grimm’s stories and found that they have very dark and sometimes gruesome aspects, many of which were changed by Disney. I began to imagine Disney’s perfect Princesses juxtaposed with real issues that were affecting women around me, such as illness, addiction and self-image issues.

Not so Charming. (via avenues)

## Pixar doesn’t care about Disney’s investors

Disney investors are getting a little antsy with Pixar and their irritating need to make movies that are good without worrying about their commercial success or how many action figures of the main characters can be sold. Says Disney’s CEO:

We seek to make great films first. If a great film gives birth to a franchise, we are the first company to leverage such success. A check-the-boxes approach to creativity is more likely to result in blandness and failure.

Invest in Dreamworks for that check-the-boxes creativity, why don’t you. (thx, kabir)

## Disney/Pixar progress

The NY Times has a look at the progress made by Disney since their 2006 acquisition of Pixar, a purchase some say Disney paid too much for.

“There is an assumption in the corporate world that you need to integrate swiftly,” Mr. Iger said. “My philosophy is exactly the opposite. You need to be respectful and patient.” Key to the successful integration, analysts say, has been Mr. Iger’s decision to give incoming talent added duties. Instead of just buying Pixar and moving on, Mr. Iger understood what made the acquisition valuable, said Mr. Price, the author. “If you are acquiring expertise,” he said, “then dispatch your newly purchased experts into other parts of the company and let them stretch their muscles.”

It also sounds as though Pixar has loosened their high standards since the acquisition…they’re outsourcing some animation, doing more sequels (Cars 2, presumably for the merchandising), and making several direct-to-DVD movies.

## Disney is back

Some say the Disney magic is back. Hit TV shows (Hannah Montana), increased revenue from movies (Enchanted), and the acquisition of Pixar are all contributing factors, but new CEO Bob Iger is getting the most credit.

Mr Iger’s management style is said by many to have unlocked Disney’s creativity. “There was already creativity inside Disney, but Bob removed the barriers to it,” says Peter Chernin, chief operating officer of News Corporation, a rival media group. “Michael Eisner was all about his own creativity,” says Stanley Gold, a former Disney board director who led a campaign to oust Mr Eisner in 2004, referring to the way in which the former boss meddled in the detail of Disney’s parks and movies. In contrast, he says, “Bob pushes creative decisions to the people below him.”

Said it before and I’ll say it again: hire good creative people, let them do their thing, and ye shall reap the benefits. And Christ, no wonder Disney was sucking so bad:

Before Mr Iger took over, Disney had a factory-like process for animation in which a business-development team came up with ideas and allocated directors to them.

## Photos by Taryn Simon of hidden and

Photos by Taryn Simon of hidden and unfamiliar places in the US, like the marijuana crop grow room at the National Center for Natural Products Research in Mississippi. Here’s a somewhat overlapping selection of photos at Wired and another at The Morning News, which includes a great letter from Disney denying Simon access to their theme park’s underbelly.

After giving your request serious consideration, even though it is against company policy to consider such a request, it is with regret that I inform you that we are not willing to grant the permission you seek…As you are aware, our Disney characters, parks and other valuable properties have become beloved by young and old alike, and with this comes a tremendous responsibility to protect their use and the protection we currently enjoy. Should we lapse in our vigilance, we run the risk of losing this protection and the Disney characters as we know and love them…Especially during these violent times, I personally believe that the magical spell cast on guests who visit our theme parks is particularly important to protect and helps to provide them with an important fantasy they can escape to.

## In the battle of Steve Jobs (CEO

In the battle of Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple) vs. Steve Jobs (former CEO of Pixar and current Disney Board member), Steve Jobs (Apple) was the clear winner. Apple sold an estimated 500,000 iPhones this weekend — grossing somewhere between \$250 million and \$300 million — while Pixar’s Ratatouille grossed \$47.2 million.

Update: Some more interesting iPhone statistics, including Apple’s stock price increase since the iPhone was announced (\$32 billion increase in market cap) and that iPhone was mentioned in 1.25% of all blogs posts over the weekend. (thx, thor)

Update: Apple’s stock price went down this morning in heavy trading. I guess Wall Street wasn’t so over the moon for the iPhone?

## A classic article by Stephen Jay Gould

A classic article by Stephen Jay Gould on the changing biological features of Mickey Mouse. Over the years, Mickey has become more well-behaved and his appearance more juvenile (larger eyes, short pudgy legs, relatively large head, short snout, etc.). “When we see a living creature with babyish features, we feel an automatic surge of disarming tenderness.”

## Cars

[Warning, might be some spoilers.] Cars was perfect. The problem is that it was a little too perfect. After seeing the movie on Friday, Meg and I came up with three reasons why Cars missed.

1. Perfection. Some people don’t like Wes Anderson’s movies because of his emphasis on creating set-driven movies instead of plot- or character-driven movies (ditto George Lucas). With Cars, Lasseter has made himself a perfect world of cars — the petulant young racer, the lawyer Porsche, the Hispanic lowrider, the hick tow truck — but it’s a world without soul, without surprise. Everything was a little too obvious.

2. Inanimate characters talking. This was the first Pixar movie in which non-human-like or non-animal characters talked. In Toy Story, Buzz, Woody, and even the T. Rex talked, but the TV didn’t, nor did the Etch-a-Sketch. In A Bug’s Life, only the insects talked. In Cars, you’ve got these inanimate objects talking to each other, and while they did a great job making them seem human, I just couldn’t get into the characters; it felt fake and inauthentic.

3. Unlikable main character. For the first half of the movie, Lightning McQueen is a flat-out jerk with zero redeeming qualities. I remember reading an interview with John Lasseter recently where he was talking about one of the first rough cuts they did of Toy Story in which Woody was too sarcastic. After seeing it, they realized this and tempered Woody’s sarcasm with some like-ability, so that the audience would be pulling for him to change his ways, a deep-down good guy that needs to see the light. Lightning didn’t deserve redemption…he was just an asshole.

Cars is a fine movie with a lot to recommend it, but it’s just not up to Pixar’s normal standards. I was disappointed.

## First trailer for Ratatouille, by Pixar and

First trailer for Ratatouille, by Pixar and Brad Bird (who did The Incredibles and The Iron Giant). ps. Cars opens today! Zoom!

## An extensive listing of all the promotional

An extensive listing of all the promotional merchandise from Pixar/Disney’s Cars. Over 70 licensees will be offering themed merchandise like toy cars, cross stitch kits, books, staplers, shower curtains, sippy cups, and a boatload of Kellogg’s cereals. Holy overload.

## Fine interview with Pixar/Disney’s John Lasseter,

Fine interview with Pixar/Disney’s John Lasseter, who is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. “I believe in the nobility of entertaining people, and I take great, great pride that people are willing to give me two or three hours out of their busy lives.”