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Being Moved From Longtime Home, New Series to Be Done Overseas : Disney Animators Fear for Future

February 07, 1985|ELLEN FARLEY | Times Staff Writer

Baer, who is working on preliminary designs for "The Gummi Bears," has mixed feelings about the venture.

"In a way, Eisner and Wells are very good for the studio because they're doing so much more now and it's kind of been (good) for everybody," she said. But, she added, "The Disney quality has always been so unique, and it's what set the studio apart. To see it deteriorate would just be a tragedy."

"The Gummi Bears" series is based on a candy product of the same name that is made by Heide, a West German company. Disney is presently developing toy bear characters for both the program and a toy line to be sold by Disney.

"The Wuzzles" is a co-venture with toy manufacturer Hasbro Bradley Inc. The program is based on six different characters that were developed by both companies for both the series and a plush toy line to be marketed by Hasbro. "Wuzzles" are combinations of two animals-- for example, a bumblebee and a lion becomes a "bumblelion." The toys will be unveiled next Monday at a toy industry convention in New York.

Both series are expected to attract unfavorable attention from Action for Children's Television, the organization headed by children's programming advocate Peggy Charren, who has fought against children's shows developed around merchandise. "I have been predicting for a long time that if we let programs sell toys on TV, the next thing they're going to do is sell sugar, and sure enough, here we have a program ("The Gummi Bears") that is based on sugar," said Charren.

"One would assume Disney is going to be benefitting from the sale of the candy," she said.

Disney officials were not available to comment on the Gummi Bears arrangement, but a spokesman for Hasbro said the "Wuzzles" contract calls for Hasbro and Disney to split the profits 50-50 from both the series and the toys.

To be sure, the classic Disney animation style won't disappear. It is scheduled to appear in at least two of the studio's feature films, "The Black Cauldron," which will be released next summer, and "Basil of Baker Street," which is just beginning the animation process.

According to animator Stanchfield, "(Disney President of Motion Pictures and Television) Jeffrey Katzenberg gave a talk to us and tried to assure us that it wasn't that we were being ousted in any way. They (the management) have been talking about doing things like a sequel to 'Bambi,' and they seem to be very serious about enlarging the staff and doing these other shows."

But Stanchfield added that "they're going to be more cost-conscious from now on, and to do a picture like 'Bambi' (the original version) would be impossible now."

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