A watershed event took place last week in the wonderful world of color: Nick Bertke, a.k.a. "Pogo," delivered two "Toy Story" mixes. If you're as yet unfamiliar with Pogo, here's what you need to know:
1. He assembles dreamy, hypnotic downbeat electronic dance tracks wholly from sampled sounds,
2. many of which come from Disney and Pixar films,
3. and he now has enough of those songs to assemble a full album —
4. much to the chagrin of Disney's legal department, which exists largely for two reasons: to settle theme park lawsuits out of court, and to support and defend Disney's increasingly creative attempts to rewrite copyright law.
As near as I can determine from the cheap seats, Pogo's last couple of mixes were commissioned by the Mouse to promote product (the DVD of "Up" and the theatrical release of "Toy Story 3"). What I don't know is if Disney actually paid him anything, or if that legal department is currently clearing Pogo's existing Disney tracks for proper release. As it now stands, the only way you can hear the songs listed below is in YouTube videos, or in low-quality MP3 downloads.
(There are three additional mixes based on "Alice," plus mixes based on "The Sword in the Stone" and non-Disney films like "The King and I" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"; you can download many of them here.)
I would dearly love to have Pogo's Disney tracks on a properly-mastered CD (or LP, or in lossless downloads), but I'm fearful that it won't happen. Disney only seems to know that Pogo is good because many, many YouTube users have told them so. If Disney actually understood the vagaries of the Internet, Virtual Magic Kingdom would still be online and Go.com would never have happened.
Both parties stand to reap enormous benefits from these songs if they're properly released. Disney can throw a line to an audience segment that's too old to dress up like princesses and too young to feel the nostalgia that encourages spending. Pogo could put a fitting cap on this stage of his creative growth and move on (he's beginning to show an interest in remixing "the real world," as he recently did, to astonishing effect, with his mother and her "Gardyn"). And I'd be able to hear "Expialodocious" and "Toyz Noize" as the artist would probably like for them to be heard — at a sound quality that allows every bass sound to find its own level and every melodic syllable to roll off the ear naturally, without distortion.
So, if you're out there, Disney Legal — and yours is probably the only division of the company that can actually admit to reading the blogs without getting sued for lifting ideas, so howdy-do — I'd like for one of you to pass this wish list along to Robert Iger or one of his lieutenants just as soon as they get out of court:
Kindly give Nick "Pogo" Bertke whatever the hell he needs to make a full album of Disney/Pixar dance tracks, including but not limited to access to original audio masters and a bucketload of advance monies.
Please put yourselves — your resources, your legal will, your patience — in the service of the artist, and not vice-versa. I know you're not accustomed to doing that; how else do you explain "Chicken Little?" Pogo has proven that he can create goodwill around your brand without your help; just imagine what he could do if he had it.
Have the record ready by Christmas. I have a number of friends who need to get it stuffed in their stockings, if you know what I mean and I think you do.
At the very least, clear the legalities around the existing tracks and put them on iTunes. Does somebody over there know Steve Jobs' number?
Let the man get paid. The music that Pogo makes isn't dependent on your product, but the continued reach of your product may prove dependent on him and others who are taking your existing, all-but-moribund works and investing them with new life through fair-use remixes. Set a precedent for the future by acknowledging that you don’t own "Mary Poppins," Mickey Mouse or Buzz Lightyear once they get into our hearts and transform into something else — something too fantastic and wondrous for your marketing, branding and legal divisions to imagine.
AUTHOR’S NOTE, 12/02/11: Shortly after this piece was written, Pogo found a way to offer nearly all his Disney tracks without running afoul of copyright law: a pay-what-you-like system. If you’re so inclined, you could download “Toyz Noize” and many others here and pay nothing at all. But do give Pogo something, so he can keep up this great work.