Pet Gets Leg Up on Godfathers

In an ironic end to a tumultuous week that saw the Walt Disney Co. all but abandon 2D animation, the studio’s 2D-animated feature Teacher’s Pet goes into wide release today on 2,000-plus screens across North America.

The film is sure to add fuel to the fire of controversy surrounding Monday’s closure of Disney’s Florida animation division and the consequent lay-off of 260 animators. Pet was animated off shore in the vastly cheaper labor market in the Philippines at Toon City Animation Inc.

For its part, Teacher’s Pet is getting strongly positive reviews in the trades and in the general media at large. It certainly gets Animation Magazine’s seal of approval for its unbridled energy, its witty and memorable songs, its fun and heartfelt storyline and its wonderfully eccentric art design. It’s the kind of film that should appeal to a broad base of fans, from teens to tweens and even some boomers. The story centers on the travails of a dog named Spot (voiced by Nathan Lane) who wants to be a real boy. In a further irony for hardcore Disney-philes, Pet opens with a clip of the Mouse House’s groundbreaking 1940 2D ani feature Pinocchio (which is playing on the TV Spot has fallen asleep in front of).

Pet is a Buena Vista release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Walt Disney Television Animation production featuring the voices of Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally, Jerry Stiller and others. The film is based on the multi-Emmy-winning series of the same name, created by Los Angeles-based artist Gary Baseman.

On a completely different note, today also sees the narrow release of Satoshi Kon’s anime feature Tokyo Godfathers, which is distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films in the U.S. This is Kon’s third anime effort. As far from the sentimental landscape of Disney animation as one can get, Godfathers tells the story of three homeless characters in Tokyo who stumble upon (and adopt) a baby they find in a dumpster.

Anime films have yet to score big at the U.S. box office, but Kon’s latest film solidifies his growing rep as a master of the medium. DreamWorks’ new specialty arm, Go Fish, released Kon’s Millennium Actress last year, making him the only director with two animated features competing in this year’s Best Animated Feature Oscar race. To learn more about both Tokyo Godfathers and Disney’s Teacher’s Pet, pick up the new March issue of Animation Magazine.