Sunday, November 12, 2006

VARIETY Declares DreamWorks and Aardman on Brink of Divorce

Okay, not a huge shocker considering the recent rumblings, but reporter Ben Fritz at VARIETY now reports that it's all but over between DreamWorks and the well-loved British stop-motion studio...

AN AARD-KNOCK LIFE

Brit toon Banner's not a big draw for D'Works

Just two films into a five-picture deal, DreamWorks Animation and Aardman are on the verge of calling it quits.

After the second commercial disappointment in as many years from the quirky British claymation studio, insiders say DreamWorks Animation is unlikely to put any more Aardman 'toons on its sked. Instead, the Blighty company is believed to be looking for a new theatrical partner -- likely one that doesn't have Shrek-sized expectations for its releases...

Last year's Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit did well overseas, but grossed just $56.1 million at home, forcing DWA to take a writedown...after two subsequent misses, DreamWorks Animation seems to have concluded that the Aardman style just isn't appealing enough to American auds...

As for Aardman, it's hard at work on upcoming CBS series Creature Comforts. Studio does have one project still in development at DWA: John Cleese-penned caveman pic Crood Awakenings. But unless that film becomes a lot more sarcastic and a lot less British, it doesn't stand much chance of getting released by DreamWorks Animation.

Me, I don't think that Flushed Away can be considered some major box office disappointment. It's British, it's quirky. And given the competition that was out there on its opening weekend, it must have landed about where studio execs expected it to. (And sure, every studio always hopes their flick will do better, but none of the Aardman product has pulled vast hordes of American movie-goers through the turnstyles. So why would Flushed Away?)

OTOH, Aardman and DreamWorks will probably be going their separate ways. Who gets custody of the kids?

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

maybe if the executive PINHEADS at Dreamworks hadn't released "Curse Of The WereRabbit" a mere 14 days after the release of another stop motion movie(Corpse Bride) then its returns would have been beter. they were conceding a lack of support to the film with that action.

the fault hardly lies with the product Aardman delivered. it won more awards and critical acclaim than.. any other animated film in recent memory. from Wikipedia:

"It was released to almost universally rave reviews, including 'A' ratings from Roger Ebert and Ty Burr. On rottentomatoes.com the film won 2 Golden Tomato awards for "Best Wide Overall Release" and 'Best Animation'. The film received an outstanding 95% from the website"

its a simple equation: the film didn;t come out of their california studio, so they weren't going to get behind it.
if it had been made here, they wouldn't have released it on the heels of Corpse Bride.

Kevin Koch said...

If the above argument is true, that DW went against their own financial interests to dump W&G, then why did they do such a great job on Chicken Run? Unfortunately, there are films that garner tons of great reviews and awards (like anything by Miyazaki) that don't get North Americans to buy tickets in theaters. From talking with people who like movies, but aren't within the animation community, W&G just didn't register for many of them, even after they saw it.

From what I've been hearing, the "divorce" (if it really is that) between DW and Aardman has been brewing for many months, and has much more to do with the difficulties on the collaboration on Tortise v. Hare (a cancelled project) and the protracted production of Flushed Away. I don't think it really has much to do with the financial performance of Flushed Away, which is actually better than anyone's projections.

Anonymous said...

thats fine.

but i'll side with Aardman seeing that their creative output is consummately superior to the full on crap that Dreamworks has put out.

Nick Park can build a table with the four oscars he has won and Dreamworks still can't make a good movie.

Steven E. Gordon said...

It's nice to see you're so quick to slander a whole company and their employees (artists included) without using your real name. Very professional of you.

Anonymous said...

i just saw Flushed Away and it was much better than what i was expecting. Aardman makes a very solid product consistently.

Steve Hulett said...

Chicken Run grossed over a $100 million domestic, Wallace and Gromit took in $56.1 million. Using Dr. Koch's box-office projector (patent pending), I think we can say that Flushed Away will garner somewhere between $60 and $80+ million, depending on the breaks*.

*The breaks, to my mind, would be how Happy Feet opens, and how large a bite it takes out of FA

Anonymous said...

where is this variety article at? a link would be nice.

Anonymous said...

truth hurts Steven.

the fact of the matter is that Dreamwrks has the budget, the artists, the advertising, and every tool necessary to bring creative compelling films to the screen the same way that Pixar has... but it hasn't.

when the big book is written Dreamworks will be seen as average or less - and thats not my doing. its Dreamworks.

your propensity to shoot the messenger is why the truth is usually stated by an anonymous post in these forums.

Steven E. Gordon said...

Since when did personal opinion (opinion that doesn't even coincide with the general public's) is 'truth'? I haven't had such a good laugh in awhile...thanks.

Steve Hulett said...

where is this variety article at? a link would be nice.

And I would supply one, if a link was to be found. The article quoted is in the Sunday print edition of VARIETY. The rag usually runs a lot of Monday articles in its Sunday edition (why, I don't know.)

If a link shows up on www.variety.com tomorrow, I'll put it up.

floyd Norman said...

I honestly had no plans to see "Flushed Away." From the trailers, it just didn't grab me. However, my grandsons wanted to see the film today, sooo...

Man! I was impressed. I haven't enjoyed an animated film this much in a long while. If DreamWorks and Ardman decide to go their separate ways, it's gonna be a loss for DreamWorks.

Anonymous said...

print edition? people still read those?! :D

Anonymous said...

>>the fact of the matter is that Dreamwrks has the budget, the artists, the advertising, and every tool necessary to bring creative compelling films to the screen the same way that Pixar has... but it hasn't.<<

another opinion claimed to be fact.. sad..

Anonymous said...

i'm hardly alone in my convictions:
http://tinyurl.com/tpm9r

klahd said...

I'm going to have to side with "Anonymous" here, I've never enjoyed a Dreamworks animated movie (not even "Shrek").

The numbers on W&G are unfortunate, but not surprising; the british sensibility doesn't always mesh with American audiences. I had no desire to see "Flushed Away" though, I pretty much agree with MSNBC's Dave White.

Anonymous said...

just saw Flushed Away yesterday. And it was a refreshing surprise to see a solid CG film again. i wasn't expecting to like it...but...

I really liked it!

Anonymous said...

rufus says:

Dreamworks has had it's moments though. a few. Specially when writing humour.
Their character design is getting better and better. Remember Prince Farquaad? Ouch!
The animation is improving by leaps and bounds as well.
But Aardman is,imo, the studio who is doing the best work out there. Too bad the american audience is in love with crap like "Jackass 2" or "Borat"...shows how much taste they have!

rufus out!

Anonymous said...

I don't care how many people are in agreement, a million common opinions dont make a fact.

Steve Hulett said...

Two comments have been deleted due to profane flaming.

Anonymous said...

to correct the first post on this list, Flushed Away *was* done at the Glendale studio.

Kevin Koch said...

I think the first poster was referring to W&G: Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Anonymous said...

Disappointed with 50-60 million? How much has been spent on this movie? I wonder how much was spent on two big name actors whose voices I didn't even recognize?

Anonymous said...

The divorce between the two companies makes sense on so many levels. Aardman wishes to make good movies with a solid story with charming characters... Dreamworks doesn't. They like to fool themselves into thinking theyr'e doing just that. The executives need to realize just because they have their respective job positions gives them the power to put there deflated 2 cents into every idea. If I were a plumber I wouldnt tell a doctor how to perform an apendectomy. Come on people!

Anonymous said...

There are several confusing errors(apparently)in the Variety article. First, "Flushed" is the third film, not the second, in the 5 picture deal.

Secondly, there haven't been "two subsequent misses" after last year's Wallace & Gromit feature--Flushed is the only subsequent release, and it's been far from a "miss" so far(barely 2 weeks!). The writer seems to have completely forgotten about "Chicken Run" and the fact that that film was a hit.

The assertions of the previous poster are simply ignorant. Obviously he has nothing to do with DW or Aardman, because if he did he'd know that all 3 films have used Dreamworks story people, and Flushed Away was made entirely by the Dreamworks studio, with Aardman's producers on board as well as DW's. One-half of the directing team was a DW, not an Aardman employee(albeit a british citizen who'd worked on Aardman films before--in fact, DW is a pan-EU studio, with more ex-pat artists there than anywhere else in Hollywood), and all the story artists and animators on it are DW's. The idea and much of the final words and supervision were Aardman's, but it was a true co-production of which BOTH studios are both proud of and responsible for.

Anonymous said...

The animation on 'Le Toad' and 'Le Frog' was great!

Rufus.

Kevin Koch said...

Just a further clarification of the long post above -- there were 6 or 8 Aardman animators on Flushed Away, working side-by-side with a few dozen DreamWorks' animators. As stated, all the production work was done in Glendale at DreamWorks, but there were key creatives from Aardman on board at every stage. As said, it was definitely a co-production.

Regarding the Variety article, was the 5-picture deal struck after Chicken Run? I think it might have been, but I'm not sure. Anyway, the point remains that the article was a tad too quick to brand Flushed Away a financial disappointment, to put it mildly.

Anonymous said...

my original post was regarding the indisputable tpoint that has been made by other posters - Dreamworks is not as good at making films as Aardman regardless of box office returns By that rationale the Iron Giant as a bad movie when in fact is suffered from lack of promotion just like W&G suffered from being released right after another claymation film.

here is an article from Animation magazine detailing the difficulty working with the aforementioned executive pinheads at Dreamworks:

http://animatedfilms.suite101.com/article.cfm/dreamworks__aardman_split


"Anonymous sources claimed there were many reasons for the split. Aardman was reportedly upset with DreamWorks' attempts to wrest creative control of Flushed Away from the British studio, while DreamWorks was unhappy with the box-office performance of Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

However, cracks in the relationship developed during production of Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. DreamWorks demanded that Aardman replace Wallace voice actor Peter Sallis with someone who American audiences would recognize. The British studio saw no reason to replace Sallis, who had voiced the beloved character since 1989. Aardman compromised by casting more familiar names, such as Helena Bonham-Carter (Corpse Bride) and Ralph Fiennes (The Constant Gardener), in other roles but DreamWorks still wasn't satisfied.

Things apparently got worse with Flushed Away's production. The two studios also clashed over creative differences and constant revisions to the script."

hence my poor opinion of Dreamworks.
(as if their slew uninspired "following the trend" movies isn't enough)

Anonymous said...

think about that:

Wallace & Grommit has 3 Academy Awards under its belt, is known practically around the world, and has established characters that deliver incredible imaginitive stories at every turn...

and Dreamwroks wants to dumb it down by replacing the voice of the main character. one can almost see the round table of executives eating a power lunch Big Macs and considering Ashton Kutchner as the "hot new voice" for Wallace. You'd think Eisner was running the studio.

Kevin Koch said...

Regarding your first paragraph, that "indisputable point" would in fact be widely disputed by many millions of cash-paying theater goers.

Regarding your last paragraph, it's my impression that, whether you like the films or not, several DW films have in fact "created the trend," not followed it.

Anonymous said...

again... initial release figures do not cement a film's performance. "The Shawshank Redemption" bombed in the theaters and yet it lingers as one of the most loved movies in the last 25 years. "The Iron Giant" di horribly at the box office - and yet, those who are lucky enough to have worked on this classic have found many more doors open up for them than someone who toiled away on "Antz".
as employees in the animation industry, we don't benefit only from box office - we benefit from the quality of the pictures we work on no?

s.r. hulett said...

We slide down a slippery slope when we start declaring Studio X is great, Studio Y is awful.

I think "Shrek" is a charming film, full deserving of its high box office. Am I right? Not if you think I'm wrong, not if you think the film sucks. Then I'm an ignorant lout who knows nothing.

We're dealing with subjective opinions here, folks. The old saying, "In art there can be no argument" applies to animated features, just as it does to plays, paintings and calligraphy, because none of us can prove with total certainty that our pet film is the best ever. What's fabulous to one set of eyes is god-awful to another.

Anonymous said...

no, no, no.

all arguments are not equal. thats a duplicitous moebius strip of reasoning. film has come long enough through its history that we can clearly say - without a doubt - that Eisenstein had many valid points.

when you start subsidizing self evident truths about content with popularity, then you do the entire art form a disservice. only that kind of rational could make me sound like such a stick in the mud. i'm not.

the reasoning you are furthering is that a movie like "Independence Day", a movie with dialogue plucked from the back of a cereal box, a plot so predictable its painful and pathos for its characters so idiotic that its downright insulting, would rank next to "Jaws" as a quality film.
it doesn't.
Jaws is a fine film and Independence Day is spoonfed schlock with no risks, no challenges to the viewer and no inventiveness.

see: Dreamworks attempts to manipulate the films of Aardman Studios. a studio that the Academy(our peers) had awarded three Oscars before their deal was set.

If critical praise is a slippery slope, then its funny how critical praise is what prtompted Dreamworks to sign a deal with them...

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