First, some background. Jeffrey Katzenberg was responsible (mostly according to him, partially according to his studio nemeses) for the resurgence of Walt Disney animation during the Michael Eisner administration (resulting in everything from Beauty and the Beast to The Lion King).
But when he wasn’t promoted after the death of Disney prez Frank Wells, he left the studio to become the “K” in DreamWorks SKG, and headed their animation department with malice aforethought.
Since then, a good percentage of DW cartoons were put (or rushed) into production to either undercut or satirize Disney films (DW’s very first animated feature in 1998, Antz, was conceived and executed to beat A Bug’s Life to the screen).
How to Train Your Dragon (2010) – a film I love – seemed to carry on that legacy … despite the fact that the Swedish “Vikings,” who weren’t speaking with American accents, had thick Scottish brogues….
And then I saw Brave … which had been announced in 2008, two years prior to How to Train Your Dragon‘s release – plenty of time to alter the latter’s Swedish tones to Scottish ones. But why (it was also interesting to note how much Dragon’s Cobber looked like Brave’s Fergus … peg leg and all…)?
That’s the DW why. The Disney why is about copying a good chunk of Brother Bear to paste into Brave.
Neither make sense … unless the bear intrusion only came as a last moment repair – an all-too-common situation in animated movies (Aladdin’s age was altered from pre-pubescent to teenage in the last year of production).
What if the bear killer in Brave had originally been a dragon slayer? Of course that would mark the film as a successor to Dragonslayer (1981) and DragonHeart (1996), but at least those films were more than a decade old, unlike Brother Bear, whose last appearance was a mere half-dozen years ago.
Had the mom in Brave been turned into a dragon rather than a bear, it would’ve made for a film of an entirely different level (as well as a minor encroachment on the mommy dragon in the Shrek series, which was, of course, an obvious broadside on Disney’s fairy tale films).
So had How to Train Your Dragon been a subversive attempt to again undercut Disney’s production sched, not just a wonderful film (directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, two more fellows who had been sorely used by Disney following their underrated gem Lilo & Stitch)?
Ludicrous, right? Unfeasible, yes? Absurd, no?
But Scottish-speaking swedes? Brother Bear borrowings? I wonder….