A funny thing happened on the way to the foregone conclusion that the public was sick of Computer-Animated Talking-Animal Pix . . . yet another CATAP dominated at the box office. All year Steve has been pointing out the dire and knowing and repetitive and superficial news articles decrying the supposed glut. It makes one wonder why these newspapers don't save some time and money and just keep reprinting the same article.
So this weekend, against all the expert's opinions, another CATAP put up huge numbers (as in a $42 million opening). Happy Feet bested James Bond, and it crushed the contention that we (the animation industry), had long ago maxed out our audience with too much product. . .
None of this is to say that making a CATAP is a guaranteed success. Lord knows they're ridiculously expensive and difficult to make, and there have been some genuine failures this year. But what have we really learned?
The conventional wisdom was that, for the viewing public, animation is animation. That they see all these films as a big, blurred whole. That's it's a zero-sum game at best, and if you put out too many animated films, they'll just cannibalize each other, or, worse, the audience will fatigue and ignore all of them. That, clearly, is false.
The real lesson is the same thing that many of us have been saying for a long time: Audiences respond to appealing movies, not to filmmaking techniques. Animation, whether CG or hand drawn or stop motion or some crazy combination, succeeds not because the audience is wowed by a new technology, but because a film promises to give them what they want for a couple of hours -- escape, excitement, entertainment, emotional catharsis, etc.
With animation, we have an ideal set of techniques to provide that. And based on the repeated successes of animated films this year, by a wide variety of studios, I have a feeling we'll get the chance to keep doing that for a while.