Right now I am currently reading The Heart of Darkness, and upon reading it I immediately grew my own personal connection to it. However, this connection might be an odd one and not the most scholarly, because it is the Disney film Tarzan. Since I was a kid, Tarzan has been one of, if not my favorite Disney (non-Pixar) film. Not only does it remind me of my days at my dad’s movie theater, as I attended a ShoWest premiere in Las Vegas of Tarzan along with a concert afterwards by Phil Collins, but its a genuinely excellent film with a legendary soundtrack. As a kid, I remember owning this film on VHS and it brings back memories of sitting in front of the TV and watching it, then taking it out the VHS and rewinding it so I could watch it once again. The opening scene always left me in awe with the shipwreck scene and the montage of Tarzan’s parents building their tree house all to the magical voice of Phil Collins in the song “Two Worlds”. This memory was triggered while I was reading Marlow sailing along the African coast as he tries to go into the Congo River. Besides the African setting, the imperialistic theme that goes on in Tarzan is also in The Heart of Darkness. Both of these works deal with European conquest and imperialism, as in Tarzan it is the English that try to exploit the native species and land; in Heart of Darkness it is about the conquest of Africa by Europe in general. These two works also explore the concept of savagery and the idea of perception. In The Heart of Darkness, there is the idea that the Europeans believe that the natives are so primitive that they are referred to as animals. This is very similar to how Clayton views Tarzan, as nothing more than basically a gorilla and not the man that he is underneath. So far I have only read the first third of The Heart of Darkness, but one scene in particular sticks out. The scene where Marlow gives one of the natives a biscuit and perhaps this act of kindness with continue throughout the novel. Hopefully the effects of imperialism will be revealed to the masses and the errors of their ways will self correct. One must also remember that the book the movie Tarzan was based off of was a book that was much more similar to The Heart of Darkness. Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, was written in 1914 and focused much more on Africa as an untouched land that is then disturbed by civilized man. This can be seen in how Tarzan and the natives are able to live in harmony with the jungle until the Europeans come and spoil it.
Innovation is something that doesn’t just come out of no where, ideas do but real innovation doesn’t. What sets innovation apart is that it’s the process of taking an idea and making it happen. As I have heard time and time again: coming up with ideas is easy but bringing them to life is the difficult part. In the context of the film industry, Pixar is a perfect example of how creativity can yield an idea worth taking the extra mile and making it happen through perseverance.
Pixar Animation Studios is the brainchild of John Lasseter and his team, in the early Lucasfilm animation department, and they wanted to propel animation to what they think it could be. They saw it is a new medium for expression and something that was undervalued at the time. The creators of what would be Pixar wanted to expand animation and experiment with it through the use of computer software. They desperately sought funds to get their project off of the ground and after many denials they eventually ran into Steve Jobs. Jobs would fund Pixar and also gave them access to whatever technology they needed. Pixar nearly lost everything and Jobs kept investing money to try and save the company. In fact, Pixar would get its name from one of the computers they developed. The idea that computer generated animation would cut production costs fascinated Pixar and it also intrigued buyers of their computers and software, such as Disney. Walt Disney Animation Studios was looking to computer animation and eventually made a $26 million dollar deal with Pixar for three films. Before this deal, Pixar was lucky enough to create a few commercials for companies like Tropicana. One of Pixar’s earliest ideas for their partner was about toys, yes Toy Story.
While pitching the idea for Toy Story, Disney had specific mandates it wanted Pixar to adhere to, mainly that it would be a little edgier so it could appeal to more than just kids. Pixar, trying its best to please its bigger brother, followed these directions and the resulting film was a disaster. Aside from landing Tom Hanks and Tim Allen to voice Woody and Buzz, the movie was not what Pixar envisioned for their idea and Disney wanted to stop all production of it. However, Lasseter decided to just make the movie how he originally wanted to and ignored all of Disney’s prior advice. The resulting movie is now the beautiful masterpiece we call Toy Story. It was a a milestone in animation as it was the first computer generated animated feature film. Animators in the industry gave a lot of heat to Pixar because they felt threatened that their jobs as animators (those who drew by hand) were in danger. However, Toy Story was a huge commercial success and only strengthened the partnership between Disney and Pixar. Pixar allowed Disney to distribute touching tales to captivate fans and also new merchandising opportunities. After the overwhelming success of their first movie, Pixar was given full artistic license with their next project, A Bug’s Life. The pressure was on Pixar to deliver with yet another commercial hit and they did not disappoint. The rest was history as Pixar continued to deliver hit after hit with the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters Inc, the Incredibles, Finding Nemo, the Cars franchise, Up, Ratatouille, Wall-E, and Brave. Here is a tribute video to Pixar: