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The Death of THE SECRET LAB / DREAM QUEST IMAGES Fx Company... The Story from the Inside! REIGN OF FIRE!

Hey folks, Harry here... In my review of REIGN OF FIRE, I asked who THE SECRET LAB was. Somewhere along the way that name never stuck in my head, DREAM QUEST IMAGES, however, is one of my all time favorite Visual Effects Houses. I knew they were on DINOSAUR, but somehow I missed or simply forgot that they were folded up into Disney's gigantic digital company. Watching REIGN OF FIRE, you just can't help but be in utter awe at their work. Bar none, this is the best digital creature animation I've seen. Living breathing creatures, completely alive within their settings affecting everything. The company poured everything they had into REIGN OF FIRE... It is a shame that that crew couldn't of stayed together somewhere... When you see the 'arch-angels' sequence in REIGN OF FIRE, you'll see one of the very best digital effects scenes ever committed to film. DREAM QUEST understood how to fool the eye and the brain with their tricks. Personally, I'll never ever think of them as THE SECRET LAB... They will always be DREAM QUEST to me. I hate it when things get renamed. It'd be like calling DISNEY... EISNER'S. It might be under new management, but his name will never be on the company. Everyone, settle down... This is the story of The Secret Lab...

Harry,

You liked Reign of Fire.  I'm glad.  I worked on the Visual Effects. I used to work at the Secret Lab.  You wonder who we were, and where we came from, and how we created dragons that at least can be mentioned in the same breath as Tippett's go-motion god of a dragon from another Disney movie so long ago.  I'm writing you to tell you that sadly we are no more, and all film geeks should know this loss.  

The Secret Lab was Disney's new name for the visual effects company that used to be called Dream Quest Images.  Dream Quest was founded by Hoyt Yeatman and Abdi Sami back in the mid 80's.  Hoyt is the very essence of visual effects coolness.  Abdi was the guy with the business knowhow. Together they started in Hoyt's garage and built whole worlds of amazing visuals.  I know many of my favorite moviegoing moments were courtesy the old Dream Quest.  The red red canyons of Mars in Total Recall... the too-real-to-be-believed submarines in The Abyss... the Black Lectroids' spaceship in Buckaroo Banzai-- the way it moved!  

Disney came to Dream Quest more and more to do its bigger and bigger summer blockbusters.  Crimson Tide, Con-Air, The Rock... So it made sense for Disney to buy Dream Quest from Abdi and Hoyt...  Hoyt would stay on, to make the movies for Disney... and the team they built would keep the cool visuals coming.  

The next big step for Dream Quest was digital characters: George of the Jungle's elephant, Deep Rising's sea monster, Mighty Joe Young.  All of them today still hold up as great digital creations, with Dream Quest's digital Mighty Joe still unsurpassed.  

Then came the big one: Armageddon.  Almost all of the Asteroid and shuttle shots done by Dream Quest under the supervision of Richard Hoover, oh, and the destruction of Paris in one beautiful shot that is among the best effects of all time courtesy the master, Hoyt Yeatman.  Dream Quest got two Oscar nominations that year, for Armageddon and for Mighty Joe Young (we lost to What Dreams May Come).  

We were making these effects in a small building in an industrial park in Simi Valley, CA.  It was a scrappy little outfit, and sometimes it seemed like way out there in the boondocks we were creating just to please ourselves.  A bunch of film-loving geeks working for Hoyt in his garage.  

About this time, Disney was making a film called Dinosaur at their Feature Animation division.  They spent hundreds of millions of dollars building a luxurious, lushly-appointed building, and tricking it out with computer hardware.  They paid top-dollar for the talent, and put them in a building with (I kid you not) a sand volleyball court, a jogging track, a putting green, a gym, a video-arcade and cable tv in every cube.   

When Dinosaur finished, Disney had a really expensive building, and no new film to start making in it.  A lot of eyes were on the expenses, and the powers that be decided to absorb Dream Quest and put us in the big expensive building with the people who made Dinosaur.  They would call us the Secret Lab, and they put the Secret Lab logo on the credits for Dinosaur almost as an afterthought.  

Fancy building aside, this was when Dream Quest and The Secret Lab would do its best work ever.  This is because the character animators at Disney are second to none in the world.  The amazing technology the people created for making dinosaur muscles and bones and fat and sinew, and the amazing lighting and shading tools -- and the people who know how to use them, made this a marriage from heaven.   

Harry, stop reading this now, and go look at the movie 102 Dalmatians.  I know, I know, kid's stuff.  But look at the dogs.  Scene after scene after scene of digital dogs interacting with real dogs --  some in close-up! You heard me.  Digital dogs, and you can't tell the difference.  That is the result of great animation, great muscle/skin systems, great lighting, great shaders, great fur-rendering tools and great compositors.  The dog is the one animal that everyone knows -- so easy to mess up, because everyone has one.  The dog is second only to the human being for the hardest digital creation to fool the eye.  Disney didn't promote this as an effects movie, so it got totally missed.  It deserved the Oscar, but it didn't even get nominated because everyone assumed they were real dogs.  

So where are we now?  Defunct.  Disbanded.  Layed-off.  Why?  Because some bean-counter decided that outside companies can do effects cheaper.  Duh!  We WERE cheaper when we were in our industrial park in Simi Valley!  It was you guys who moved us into the palace with the video arcade and the putting green!  

The Secret Lab is no more.  The building is empty now, the talent is gone, dispersed...  Lots of us went to go work on The Two Towers or the Matrix sequels.  Some of us will probably be forced to take work on Scooby Doo II.  The people will go on to other things at other places... but that magic mix will never exist again.   Everywhere people wind up, they have a wistful tone in their voice.  "Yeah, it's alright here," they say.  "But nobody here really gets it about effects."  Nobody knows how to make CG not LOOK like CG.  How to make dragons and dogs and giant gorillas move like animals rather than marionettes.  How to make images that stick in the memory for years and years.  Well... maybe Weta does...   Thank God for Weta.  

This week, Reign of Fire will come out, but most of the people who made it don't work for Disney anymore.  I'd love to see an Oscar nomination for effects.  People worked for over a year on this show.  Lots of blood and tears were shed creating what you see onscreen.  People worked late nights and weekends fully knowing they would be out of work when it was done. That's love. Everyone wanted these dragons to be real, to live onscreen just like the Vermithrax.  Tons of technical innovations went into these dragons.  Real scales on the dragon, not just texture maps, muscle and skin systems to die for, fluid dynamics that allow the dragon's wings to actually stir the smokey air around as they flap, and for the first time ever, CG fire that looks utterly real.  The shot where Van Zan jumps off the top of the truck with a fireball all around him: that fire's digital.  FX supervisors Rich Hoover and Dan Deleeuw deserve an Oscar in a big way, as do the dozens of people like me under them, who all work for Disney's competitors now.  The saddest thing is, no matter how big a hit they have with this film, they can't do a sequel, because the people don't work there anymore. Disney's suits don't understand that once you lose the momentum, you can't ramp it back up for one movie without enormous expense. Reign of Fire looks so good because the dragons are built on top of dalmatians and the dalmatians were built on top of Dinosaur.  

A piece of movie geek history has gone away this week.  Dream Quest Images is no more.  The company was never the household name that ILM or Digital Domain or even Weta is.  We concentrated on the effects, not the magazine articles.  I wanted film lovers to know that we were here, and now we're gone -- hope you enjoy the dragons.  

Reign of Fire won't be the last film from The Secret Lab. Hoyt has one last surprise up his sleeve.  A film starring a CG kangaroo.  The working title is Down & Under, and it's a Jerry Bruckheimer film.  One last bit of magic from the folks that brought you the dragons.  This kangaroo is better than the dragons, if you can believe that.  It is the best effects creature we've ever done, and it's our martini shot.  A skeleton crew has stayed on board to finish the last couple of shots from that film, working in a little industrial park in Glendale -- working with Hoyt.  If I know Hoyt, something about the dusty small place and the tight crew makes him smile.     

Sign me:

Sunset Moment      

Dream Quest/The Secret Lab's credits (a partial list).  If you count any of these films among your favorites, raise a glass and give a toast of thanks to Hoyt Yeatman.  

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

D.A.R.Y.L.

Short Circuit

Total Recall

"V"

The Fly

The Blob

Moonwalker

Predator

Robin Hood: Men in Tights

The Abyss

The Mask

Better Off Dead

Toys

Crimson Tide

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Con Air

The Rock

The Crow

Kundun

Defending Your Life

Flubber

Bicentennial Man

My Favorite Martian

George of the Jungle

Deep Rising

Armageddon

Pee Wee's Big Adventure

Mighty Joe Young

The Sixth Sense

Twilight Zone: The Movie

Inspector Gadget

Dinosaur

Shanghai Noon

Unbreakable

Mission To Mars

Gone in 60 Seconds

102 Dalmatians

Reign of Fire

Down & Under

Readers Talkback
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  • July 10, 2002, 11:53 p.m. CST

    first

    by strap

    what a shame

  • July 11, 2002, 12:09 a.m. CST

    Fare thee well......

    by Borloff

    Those guys did great work. *raises beer mug* ...... this one's for you guys. Now i have another reason to hate disney.

  • July 11, 2002, 12:13 a.m. CST

    Couldn't HAVE

    by moe_syzlak

    It's "couldn't have" not "couldn't of." Uhg, that drives me crazy. Sorry, go about your business.

  • July 11, 2002, 12:24 a.m. CST

    Fuck Disney, Go Weta!

    by Red Giant

    I hope all the quality people like this guy (or gal) get work at a place like Weta. And I love their apparent respect for PJ and team's work as "their kind of stuff". I like this person and I don't even know them.

  • July 11, 2002, 12:29 a.m. CST

    Hey, that was pretty interesting reading

    by wasp

    As soon as I heard The Secret Lab was doing Reign of Fire, I was confident that the digital creature modelling and animation would be top-notch. Back before FotR came out, I rented 102 Dalmatians so I could see what Visual Effects Supervisor Jim Rygiel's latest work looked like (Rygiel went on to WETA for FotR, of course). The movie wasn't much to write home about, but I had never been concerned with the entire movie in the first place. The visual FX were almost flawlessly convincing. Well, now Rygiel has an Oscar. And Secret Lab's dragons in Reign of Fire look AMAZING.

  • July 11, 2002, 12:30 a.m. CST

    sorry alexandra

    by whiteboyrage

    Best written article on AICN. Ever. Can we get a hall of fame for great articles?

  • July 11, 2002, 12:31 a.m. CST

    damn, look at those FX!

    by Tall_Boy

    christ thats impressive

  • July 11, 2002, 12:31 a.m. CST

    Grammar/spell check

    by moe_syzlak

    As a follow up to my grammar "couldn't of" mini-rant, here is a suggestion. Type your article or even your posts in MS Word or a similar word processing program. It will TELL YOU when you've made an error such as "couldn't of." It's really the least you could do as a PROFESSIONAL WRITER.

  • July 11, 2002, 12:52 a.m. CST

    [...]

    by FD Resurrected

    I'm stunned. Sometimes small homebrewed business houses with genuine philosophy of blood, sweat and tears can be eaten up by giant corporate monsters with philosophy of overambition and greed. Thanks for contributing to great effect movies - Abyss, Banzai Buckeroo, Total Recall, Predator...you will be missed greatly by visual effect & F/X fans. R.I.P. DQI and Secret Lab.

  • July 11, 2002, 1:06 a.m. CST

    FUCK DISNEY UP ITS CORPORATE ASS WITH A CHAINSAW!!!!!

    by EDSTRAKER1

    That's what goes through my mind everytime I see that damn "Country Bears" trailer. Bloody hell! Now these clowns shutdown DreamQuest. How the hell does a movie like "Signs" get made by Disney all the while that damn mouse is making the shittiest decisions and the shittiest films in the last twenty years?

  • July 11, 2002, 1:19 a.m. CST

    sad, very sad

    by jactor007

    Very sad and disgusting. May Disney end up like Enron and Worldcom. I have a pot of water boiling now,,with just enough room for a mouse and a duck.

  • July 11, 2002, 1:20 a.m. CST

    Damn it, and I was going to apply there!

    by empyreal0

    Seriously. Not under the name Secret Lab, however - I confess I hadn't heard of it until RoF. But Dream Quest has been a studio I've long desired to be a part of. CG animation is a hard field to get into these days. Only a few major studios exist here in the Phoenix area where I live, and some of them are struggling terribly. I count myself as extremely lucky to be doing this kind of work at the video production place where I DO work. Alas. The competition gets tougher. I think I was right to stay here in Phx.

  • July 11, 2002, 1:25 a.m. CST

    um, guys, this is nothing new...

    by I87D

    Look at an issue of any FX magazine published more than two years ago and count the number of houses that are no longer around... Tons. the FX industry has the highest turnover in all of film. To make matters more complex, back in the mid-90s, when FX shots were really taking off and becoming a part of ALL movies, not just sci-fi and action/fantasy, studios started investing in their own in-house FX teams. This was great and all, except for one thing... Running your own in house Effects team is expensive as balls. If independent effects houses, able to take on as many jobs as the market will allow can't stay afloat, how is a house supposed to stay in business if it's especially limited to just films made within the one studio? Not very well... so many went broke or were spun back off. Sure, there' still ILM and Rhythm & Hues and Digital Domain, but you won't find too many more that have been able to stay afloat. That's just the nature of the biz -- not part of some corporate greed conspiracy. Until computer effects can become as routine as lighting and sound (or even practical effects), they will have a hard time staying cohesive as teams because the project-based turnover will simply be too high. Just look at places like Digital Domain for example -- they might be a "singular" company, but on any given film, anywhre from a quarter to half the people working on it are freelancers doing just that one project, and then they're gone...

  • July 11, 2002, 1:28 a.m. CST

    The Secret Lab + Tron : Killer App = ???

    by justmyluck

    The 20th Anniversary "Tron" DVD has a trailer for "Tron: Killer App" that's starts with, "New from The Secret Lab". Not knowing who The Secret Lab were was ultra-lame...now why no mention of the fate of "Tron: Killer App"?

  • July 11, 2002, 1:30 a.m. CST

    What's with...

    by Mumford Jr.

    guys like Moe Syzlack (you'll forgive my lack of want to look up the correct Groening spelling for something so trivial Moe) ragging on the spelling of what was a very touching homage to a great special effects company not enough of us knew about. There was nothing in that article that anyone who wasn't an anal jerk in the first place would lose sleep over. I can understand the occasional "releasing of the hounds" on people who spell and use grammar in ways that make you flinch, but when it comes down to it...most of the insulting of grammar and spelling on here are small acts by small people pulling at straws for something to bitch about. And..there's NOTHING to bitch about in that peice, other than what seems like a few nice guys and women getting the big one by a greedy mouse.

  • July 11, 2002, 1:47 a.m. CST

    Shit...

    by 007-11

    they really were the best, all those movies up there are the one's i've bookmarked as "Why can't everything look that real?". Half of them are movies that I didn't even realize had CG work. The Disney Holocaust marches on.

  • July 11, 2002, 2:02 a.m. CST

    What a fantastic and heart-felt article...

    by jackrabbit

    That was quite a story... Straight from the heart... I honestly have never really felt the emotional impact of an AICN article like I have with this one. I feel very bad for all the amazing artists who were rounded-up, used and subsequently scattered by the Evil Mouse. That rare magical quality that Disney purports to deliver onscreen has certainly been irretrievably lost by the dismantling of Dream Quest. What a crime.... What a terrible crime..... Shame on you, execs at Disney. By the way, you sure as hell better make sure your books have been kept up. I'd sure hate to see you ass-clowns get sent to a federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison...... And fuck you talkback idiots who complain about spelling... When has this site *ever* been about being polished? Its roughness is part of its charm. Kind of like the working environment was at the now-defunct Dream Quest... Definitely a toast to Hoyt Yeatman and the rest of the crew........... Here's to you....

  • July 11, 2002, 2:29 a.m. CST

    Wish I'd of written that

    by mookiedood

    (sorry, couldn't resist due to the fact or my being an asshole and all)

  • July 11, 2002, 2:39 a.m. CST

    who could forget the stunning effects work in DEFENDING YOUR LIF

    by AlecBings

    seriously, though, this article tugged on the ol' heart strings. it's sad that we can write this sort of finances-first, talent-second behavior off as "typical" of the system that puts out most American films. but, then, that says a lot. ~~~ the inconsistent use of CG has been mind-boggling for years now; some of it has been succeeding enormously since the late eighties, yet you can still go to the multiplex and find movie after movie filled with inexcusably bad CG. (examples that spring readily to mind are Johnny Knoxville's turn in MIIB and that horrible abortion of a CG Scorpion King at the end of THE MUMMY RETURNS.) and i think this article sums it up about how some CG houses "get it" and some just don't. and not "getting it" can be the fault of just a few people who don't really care about what they're doing. ~~~ Secret Lab truly got it (DINOSAUR was amazing to look at, and still is, as long as you turn down the sound and put on some classical music, and try to pretend the dinosaurs aren't talking to each other and even sometimes referring to each other by their scientific names...plus REIGN OF FIRE looks absoulutely terrific from what i've seen) and it's a fucking tragedy that they're not around anymore. rest in peace, fellas. great letter.

  • July 11, 2002, 2:55 a.m. CST

    is strange nobody has mentioned...

    by drompter

    Perhaps Dreamquest Images's best work: Starship Troopers

  • July 11, 2002, 3:28 a.m. CST

    Another one bites the dust...

    by Darth Pixel

    Thats a shame. Perhaps we will get lucky and some of the Magicians for this company will create their own and give us some kick-ass effects flicks.

  • July 11, 2002, 3:32 a.m. CST

    They created some great stuff...

    by Darth Siskel III

    ..but they're no ILM. It seems alot of the effects guys that don't work at ILM are jealous of ILM. JP T-Rex will always hold up, and it was done years before everyone else could pull off quality on that level. Reign of Fire looks like the bomb.

  • July 11, 2002, 3:44 a.m. CST

    Secret Lab

    by Baalzebub

    Too bad! Though ILM are good at what they do, you always have this "this-is-CGI"-feel when watching, something I find hard to feel when watching work done by DreamQuest/Secret Lab. (Don't get me wrong, I loved Yoda, but Anakin riding on the X-large bedbug - think not!) Let's hope they don't treat Pixar the same way - go, Johnny L, go!

  • July 11, 2002, 4 a.m. CST

    Holy flurking shnit

    by schulerbop

    That is horrible. I cannot believe I had never even heard of these guys, they did work on so many cool movies. I mean, Predator, fer chrissakes! The Abyss. One of the things that struck me was the remark about how no one knows how to make cgi look like anything other than cgi. From having seen Dinosaur a few times and even just the trailers for Reign of Fire, I think these guys really got how to make cgi look like something real, with depth and texture. And the cg fireball they've put in every Reign of Fire thrailer. That is something.

  • July 11, 2002, 4:32 a.m. CST

    'Anaconda', 'Starship Troopers', 'Bring it O

    by Billy Talent

    Last night, for some stupid reason I watched 'Ghost Dad'. I kind of liked it. I was grateful to have watched it, in a way. This evening I went to the video store and saw a copy of 'ZigZag', and on the box it said something like "'One of the best movies you will see this year!' - Harry Knowles, AICN". And so I rented it and, you know, as these things go it was better than 'I Am Sam', but not as good as 'Finding Forrester' and if it's one of the years best, well... I haven't seen all this years' movies. As for the writing on this site, I've been critical of it as well. But Harry is quite honest about his technique; he's a free writer. He believes that spell check and such compromise the honesty of the work. He also feels that the rawness of the writing on the site is a part of its appeal, and apparently it's done him quite well. So what the hell do i know?

  • July 11, 2002, 5:27 a.m. CST

    Go Disney. Go far, far away...

    by paulio

    Why is it you never hear of the bean counters who make these monumental bodge ups getting layed off...? My praise to sunset moment for this moving and interesting report...Surely a book (not neccesarily anti-disney but hey it wouldn`t hurt) should follow?

  • reason: it is not written by Harry...

  • July 11, 2002, 6:43 a.m. CST

    Thank you for "keeping it real"

    by curvespace

    The world is split into two types of people: those who understand culture and give a damn about what they do (the perfectionists), and then those who simply don't and couldn't care what a finished article is like, as long as it is finished (the fools). So many people live lives without passion. Being a musician I experience this all the time, at all levels. I can't listen to top 40 music, it makes me sick it's so bland. I'll go to a local venue and see a musician play a little set at an open mic session or whatever and I'll see their heart and soul before my eyes. They might not be the most talented musician on the planet, but watching them you know that they've shed tears while writing this song, it's real. It's the same with all arts and culture. For every Sunset Moment and Dream Quest there are ten fools who through naivety or lack of talent will blunder their way through something, either not noticing or not caring about their errors. It saddened me greatly when I read this article. Here's a bunch of guys who sweat blood for their artform and this is the thanks they are given. As long as people remain honest to themselves there will still be culture. Thank you Dream Quest for having a heart in a world where there is little.

  • July 11, 2002, 7:33 a.m. CST

    Very informative and quite sad

    by Mister McClane

    What a great article. Have to agree with other talkbackers, the best thing I've read on AICN for a long time. Could more pieces be like this please? AICN needs to drop the fanboy-speak, the 'drooools' and all other irrelevant language because it seems to becoming a parody of itself. Let's just get on with talking up the facts and giving considered opinions on the latest releases.

  • July 11, 2002, 7:41 a.m. CST

    G*DD@MN S*NOV@BITCH!!!!!!!!

    by Dr.Zeus

    Another prime example of corporate America not caring what it tastes like, as long as you lick all of the shit off the spoon!

  • July 11, 2002, 8:52 a.m. CST

    What about the demise of Film Four?

    by workshed

    Look on the bright side, at least America still has a film industry. We get crap film after crap film from the U.S.A. clogging up the British cinemas and now, to top it all, the main backer of British features is dead and there's not a whiff of it reported on AiCN. Now that's sad. I could make a list of the brilliant films that came directly from their backing that, in terms of real substance, would blow away the list of average tripe put forward by Sunset Moment. Of course, it's a shame when any creative team comes to an end, in fact the work on Reign of Fire IS a new pinnacle for Dream Quest, but, hey, they didn't have to SELL OUT to Disney - right? Harry, if you read this, I hope you show a little more concern over the demise of Film Four International - a company that showed you don't have to take your audience for a bunch of idiots the whole time. Respondez Vous?

  • July 11, 2002, 9:05 a.m. CST

    Well, Harry. . .

    by andrecrabtree111

    that was one of the best articles I've read here in a long time. Thanks! (Just giving you props, since people are usually criticizing you for crappy stories)

  • July 11, 2002, 9:48 a.m. CST

    Great Article

    by L'Idiot

    What a great article. We neeed more of this kind of stuff on the site.

  • July 11, 2002, 11:11 a.m. CST

    words

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:11 a.m. CST

    cannot

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:11 a.m. CST

    describe

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:11 a.m. CST

    how

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:12 a.m. CST

    annoying

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:12 a.m. CST

    these

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:12 a.m. CST

    talkbacks

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:12 a.m. CST

    can

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:13 a.m. CST

    get

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:13 a.m. CST

    when

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:13 a.m. CST

    all

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:13 a.m. CST

    people

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:14 a.m. CST

    do

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:14 a.m. CST

    is

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:14 a.m. CST

    bitch

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:14 a.m. CST

    about

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:14 a.m. CST

    someone's

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:15 a.m. CST

    typing

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:15 a.m. CST

    or

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:15 a.m. CST

    grammar

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:15 a.m. CST

    mistakes!

    by jsp2000

  • July 11, 2002, 11:58 a.m. CST

    Very moving and very sad

    by Damitol

    I was familiar with the name Dream Quest but never knew that they touched so many films I have enjoyed. If makes me sad that I didn't round up 100 million or so friends to go see Dinosaur. If I had, the article's writer would have been telling of future projects rather than eulogizing the past. Disney is not "evil" - they are a business providing a product. Someone in their ranks made a stupid recommendation to spend a gazillion dollars based on a mediocre (but visually stunning) movie. Once Disney stock lost a point or two, The Secret Lab was an easy expense to cut. Pixar has three untested properties coming up before another *safe* "Toy Story" sequel can be released. Make no mistake - if they don't do Toy/Monster numbers, we will be reading a similar article about Pixar mid-decade. Walt is dead and has been for many, many years. Disney is a business and Eisner (and his eventual replacement) is a business man. As long as the stockholders make money, the artists will be allowed to work.

  • July 11, 2002, 12:42 p.m. CST

    Actually, jsp2000

    by andrecrabtree111

    Complaints about grammar are not nearly as annoying as assholes who come in and fuck up the talkbacks like you did with your dumbass posts. Leave and never come back, fuckwad.

  • July 11, 2002, 1:05 p.m. CST

    As long as the stockholders make money ...

    by FrankCobretti

    ... everything would be hunky-dory. The problem is, the stockholders aren't making money. I've held Disney stock for about 7 years, and I've pretty much taken it in the ass. Coming from my perspective as a committed capitalist, this article really pissed me off. My company bought out a tightly run, excellent organization with which it had a productive and mutually profitable relationship, wayyyy overspent on a resort for them to work in, then demolished the corporate knowledge they'd gained just so they could start over again with another tightly run organization from the outside? It makes me want to pick up the phone and chew Mike's ear off, but then he wouldn't listen. I'm not rich, partially because my Disney shares aren't worth shit anymore! Cobra out.

  • July 11, 2002, 1:18 p.m. CST

    whatever

    by jsp2000

    I'm not in here throwing personal insults at anyone. Just making a point. That would be the first time and the last time you see something like that from me. I just think it's sad. That was a great article about Dream Quest, and instead of an engaging talkback, we get people complaining about grammatical errors. Personally, I think the loss of Dream Quest is a great one for Hollywood. Good luck to the company's individual employees in their future projects.

  • July 11, 2002, 1:28 p.m. CST

    a little overzealous

    by whiteyj

    but I can understand where the guy is coming from. My heart goes out to all the small effects companies that are no more. A couple comments: To the person above that said Starship Troopers was their favorite Dreamquest/Secret Lab pic - what did they do on that? Tippett Studio did 100% of the bug work (and it was the movie that really put them on the map) and my understanding was that Sony did all the spaceships. This article actually made me want to check out 102 Dalmations, now that's pretty amazing. Have to say, Mighty Joe Young wasn't exactly the height of CG... But anytime a CG company puts their heart into something, it make such a difference. Reign of Fire took over a year, including late nights? That's great, I can't wait to see it (though by the look of the dragons they should probably give Phil Tippett a special thank you in the credits) The guys at WETA Digital worked for what, 2 years on FOTR? And let me tell you, those guys work late ever day and work EVERY weekend. What really fucks it all up is the movie going public. I mean, why should studios care about spending money on FX when audiences go in droves to see the Mummy movies? If I were a bottom line kinda guy (as all the studios are) I'd have to look at the grosses on the Mummy/Mummy Returns and say 'See! We don't have to spend all that money on FX, audiences will go anyway!' Hence the reaon New Line is still pinching pennies with WETA Digital after they created one of the top grossing films of all time and won the oscar. Do you know that through the entire process, New Line has been looking for excuses to pull the FX work away from WETA Digital and farm it out to some little companies in LA that might be slightly cheaper (and easie to keep tabs on) For all I know they're still trying to do this. They'll never get it. If anyone deserves the volleyball courts and putting greens it's those Kiwis and American expats working out of an old icecream factory in NZ. I mean, come on Newline, these guys are still making two more movies for you, the movies that will give your company guarenteed box office over the next two years.

  • July 11, 2002, 2:57 p.m. CST

    Money talks - but a touching story.

    by ShoesUK

    As the guy above said no one forced them to suck the buck,but what a fascinating story which could make a great little film in it's own right !

  • July 11, 2002, 8:21 p.m. CST

    Are you kidding me????

    by Kwame

    As much as I love dragons & Disney, this breaks my heart! How the hell are they gonna allow this to happen, especially when Disney is hyping a rollercoaster that's supposed to go along with the movie??! Give me the gym, & put those designers back to work!!!!

  • July 11, 2002, 8:58 p.m. CST

    DQ

    by Garyman

    While it is tragic that DQ has gone the way of the dinosaur(no pun intended), this is nothing new at all. Like an earlier poster said: vfx houses shut down all the time. What about Boss Film and Apogee? Equallly as important if not more so than Dream Quest. These stories are sad, to a point, but it's just the nature of the business.

  • July 11, 2002, 10:10 p.m. CST

    Damn, and Dream Quest does good work too...

    by CoolDan989

    I mean, not Industrial Light and Magic good, but really, really good. And by the way, I don't know anything about this Jerry Bruckheimer kangaroo movie, but already it looks like a terrible, terrible movie.

  • July 11, 2002, 10:12 p.m. CST

    You just made a very annoying talkback scrolldown that will fuck

    by CoolDan989

    The irony gods are rolling on the floor.

  • July 11, 2002, 11:04 p.m. CST

    eisner

    by kojiro

    "You are the one who is a ball licker!" I'm sorry, that line just brings a smile to my face every time I read it. But seriously, Eisner is the girly little hand maiden of Satan.

  • July 11, 2002, 11:06 p.m. CST

    frank, just be happy you don't hold tyco

    by kojiro

    Gods I'm such a dipshit.

  • July 11, 2002, 11:33 p.m. CST

    Best AICN article of all time...

    by Vance Castaway

    ... been around since day 1 of this site, and this is the best I've ever piece I've ever read here... to all the miracle-workers who made these things I've seen, thank you, you've changed my life for the better a thouand times... vc

  • July 11, 2002, 11:35 p.m. CST

    thousand

    by Vance Castaway

    oops

  • July 11, 2002, 11:38 p.m. CST

    But why'd you give away the store to Disney?? Everybody kno

    by Johnny Ahab

    While this is indeed a sad story, the part that made me shake my head is when Mr. Sunset says that it made sense for Disney to buy the company. Made sense?? Didn't the top guys realize the risk of losing their independence to the cheapest corporate bastards in entertainment?? Sounds like work was flowing in steadily before they sold -- but that the owners (not the Mouse, as talkbalkers have accused) were the greedy ones. Look, I'm not sticking up for Disney by any means, but hey, you sell your company to corporate overlords, you're at their mercy. I'm happy to rail at the Mouse for being shortsighted (I worked for them as a writer on a sitcom for one season and they were ROUNDLY HATED by all involved), but your bosses need to shoulder some blame here too. I will see ROF this weekend and look forward to marvelous work, and sigh at what might have been.

  • July 11, 2002, 11:52 p.m. CST

    Morons!

    by King Schnook

    If you are going to comment on FX shops, you should actually know what you are talking about. Some dope mentioned STARSHIP TROOPERS as DreamQuest's best effort. DQI had absolutely nothing to do with that film. Tippett and Sony Imageworks were the main suppliers. ILM and Boss also contributed. Someone else mentioned Banned from the Ranch's FX on DANTE'S PEAK. BFTR did the on screen graphic displays. Digital Domain did the miniature and digital work. Not to smear DQ's fine work on MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, but all of the CG daytime Joe shots were done by ILM. REIGN OF FIRE looks fantastic. Too bad a mouse did in the dragons.. R.I.P. Dream Quest

  • July 12, 2002, 8:24 a.m. CST

    Billy Talent you rule saying "STARSHIP TROOPERS" is a good film.

    by screenplaywriter

    Starship Troopers was a cool film and if they ever decide to make sequels I'll be ready with my $5 bucks ready.

  • July 12, 2002, 8:33 a.m. CST

    Disney is like Martha Stewart...you just can't help, but hat

    by screenplaywriter

    Disney gets me sometimes when they market their old films, put them in new covers, but don't do a single thing to them like add new scenes and shit. They also bug me because of "ABC" which lets some actors reframe from doing bad, saying bad, or acting badly. Take "Who's Line Is It Anyway?" they get so close to say "fuck", but you have Drew over here going "The network won't allow us to say that." Because it's DISNEY!!! They get to be a pain in the ass also when "Pearl Harbor" was toned down to a PG-13 instead of an R, but luckily they've redeemed theirselves by putting out the Director's Cut (which is by far now a great war film). I also don't like this whole deal where they put their films on IMAX screens, make you pay another $5 bucks to see it again, just to see what changed. The "Beauty and the Beast" one was highly avoided, because there's only one new song (oooh wow! big whup!) now next year they're putting out a "Jungle Book 2" in theaters and a newer version of the "Lion King" (what are they going to do with both of these films? Mowgli is a old man and is married? They tone down the "Shakespeare-likeness" in Lion King?) I mean come on, somehow they just gotta keep on wanting more, gotta keep on begging for more and more dough. You're already fucking rich give the American people a break. That's why Disney and Martha Stewart are workers of the Devil. Amen.

  • July 12, 2002, 2 p.m. CST

    Pixar & Secret Lab are two very different beasts

    by Toonimator

    If Disney "cuts loose" Pixar, you know what'll happen? They'll keep on making good films, because THEY make the films. Secret Lab may have animated some films, and/or FX/characters in other films, but Pixar conceives, writes, boards, designs, animates, produces, etc etc all their films. Because of their deal with Disney, the Mouse House approves the stuff I'm sure, and probably pushes for certain things (like Eisner's demand for a Toy Story 3), but Disney's chief contribution to Pixar's films are marketing and distribution. And if Disney cuts 'em loose, either Pixar will take up the marketing/distribution slack, or some other, wiser studio will jump in with a favorable deal that'll make both companies a ton of money. Pixar's got millions in the bank. They've got 4 mega-hit films to their name, and since Pixar's all about telling a good story (whereas Disney, recently, has been all about showing off some new computer toy to make 2D animation look (needlessly) more "realistic"). Pixar will fare well, with or without Disney. It's very sad to hear about DreamQuest/Secret Lab, but in the animation community this has been common knowledge for more than a year, at least, that they were on the way out. The kicker is that most of the few traditional animators in Burbank who WEREN'T laid off, are being retrained for 3D. Essentially learning new tools to do the jobs DQ had been doing wonderfully already. DQ/Secret Lab was decimated because, after the budget-sucking Dinosaur, they didn't have a 3D film to work on. Burbank's 2D staff was laid off or retrained because they didn't have a 2D project to work on. Disney's just mismanaging everything. FX houses may come & go, but what happened with DQ here is NOT the same. It's not the industry. It's the company that brought them in and screwed it all up. But with all their talent, the artists shouldn't have too much trouble finding new jobs, or setting up new FX houses. But there's something to be said about having that particular team, in a field (FX/animation) where team efforts are essential... greater teams may be born from this, but DQ had something special.

  • July 14, 2002, 6:10 p.m. CST

    thank you

    by version2

    thank you for telling dq's story so perfectly- having spent the last 8 years there i know you got it dead on. i wish you would have bashed disney a bit more.

  • July 15, 2002, 10:01 p.m. CST

    Sunset Moments

    by donald_duck

    Having been a part of sunset moments and a member of the scrappy family we called DQ, I raise a glass to toast Hoyt, Fred, Tom, Keith, and Abdi. For their vision, their creativity, their imaginations are what made many of us get into the fx business and stay in it. Cheers!