Disney Logo Digitally Revamped by Weta

Moviegoers who saw Walt Disney Pictures’ “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” over the weekend also discovered an unexpected bit of treasure.

Buried beneath the usual movie trailers, just as “Dead Man’s Chest” started, Disney unveiled a new, computer-animated logo that the Burbank-based studio spent a year designing.

In just 30 seconds, Disney’s digitally revamped curtain-raiser travels from a star high above the clouds to reveal a jewel-colored landscape at dusk. The animated camera glides over a glistening lake to arrive at a glowing Disney castle where the studio’s classic logo is spelled out in a silvery new 3-D typeface.

Disney’s revised film insignia is a departure from the studio’s decades-old, two-tone blue-and-white logo centered on a spartan white castle, animated by traditional 2D methods. But the new logo also hearkens back to such timeless Disney iconography as pixie dust, Pinocchio’s star, a bank of fluffy clouds that Mary Poppins would recognize, a pirate ship and a mythical castle topped with luminescent spires.

“The goal was to create the most elegant, beautiful, magical castle that would represent not only Disney past but also Disney present,” said Oren Aviv, president, Buena Vista Pictures Marketing. “The new logo is filled with breathtaking visual sweep, charm, scale and grace that we believe best represents the movies the studio is making today, movies like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘National Treasure,’ that have a bigger scope and scale.”

Aviv and Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, first discussed the idea of a computer-animated logo makeover during a marketing meeting a year ago.

The execs tapped Disney producer Baker Bloodworth and director Mike Gabriel, both Oscar nominated in 2004 for the animated short film “Lorenzo.” Gabriel devised three different treatments, created animatic storyboards, showed Aviv and Cook the frames and re-worked the designs until everyone was on board. Academy Award-winning studio Weta Digital in New Zealand was chosen to animate the story and add visual effects. “We chose to go to the world’s best (visual effects) studio, where they specialize in live action/real-life simulation,” Aviv said.

Aviv also tapped John Sable and John Blas from within Disney’s marketing division to design the logo’s new 3-D typography. When the imagery was 80% complete, the studio enlisted composer Mark Mancina (“Tarzan”) to write a new musical score that was recorded with a full orchestra. The score’s production was overseen by Chris Montan, president of Walt Disney Music.

“There are updates and upgrades,” Aviv said. “But the trick, for us, is to honor the past logo, Disney’s past as a studio, and Walt Disney himself. At same time, we tried to make it stunning and relevant for moviegoers not just today but decades into the future.”

According to studio insiders, repeat viewings of the new logo yield a number of winks to those in the know — one of the castle’s flags, for example, is said to bear Walt Disney’s family crest.

The cast and crew of “Dead Man’s Chest” was the first audience to view the new logo on the big screen.

“They just exploded,” Aviv said. “At every screening I’ve attended since, it’s gotten applause. It’s visually so stunning and scored with a stirring piece of music, so it’s easy to get excited. It also means a lot to be a Disney-branded movie, which represents quality, a high level of entertainment and what people have come to expect — that you can bring the whole family. It has real meaning for people.”

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