Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's the Animation, Stupid

Yet another Simpsons Movie post.

Fox, we're informed, was expecting a $45 million gross on opening weekend (and yes, this could be retroactive spin. But there's probably a kernel of truth to it.) To their delighted surprise, the flick raked in $74 million, and lo and behold, Fox-News Corp has another tent pole on their hands.

But why is this? Is the writing a big cut above the teevee version? The story? I think, probably, it is. To a degree. But here's a film critic who gets a major reason:

The answer lies in the animation. Unlike the TV show, the characters have shadows and the color scheme is larger – which makes it a truly different visual experience. As a cartoon, The Simpsons’ animation has always been very crude. “It’s deliberately imperfect,” said creator Matt Groening, and “a tribute to the art of hand-drawn animation, which is basically disappearing.”

While the film producers kept the animation similar to the show, there was a subtle upgrade in its quality that gave it a far more professional feel. I was very lucky to watch the film in a large multiplex theatre, and got a seat in the very back row. While I didn’t feel that the storyline was all that special, the animation quality was really what kept my interest captivated for 90 minutes.

So I'm guessing that Fox this morning is clapping itself on the back about keeping the "money animation" for the picture here in town. That they're aware that "quality paid off."

Which is why the next Simpsons feature (and there will be a next, bank on it), will be done in the same manner as the one that is now burning up the box office.

And there's the other bit of conventional wisdom that has been upended by The Simpsons Movie: "Nobody wants to look at hand-drawn animation anymore."

The new meme should be: "Nobody wants to look at hand-drawn animation anymore. Except when they do."

8 comments:

Joe Shelby said...

The $45m number came from multiplying the standard sunday audience numbers (8.9 million on average this season) with the average ticket price (6.50) and then cutting back a percentage (about 20%) for those who don't go.

the thing is, the prediction worked on current Fox simpsons numbers, not the more casual fans of the show who own the dvds and/or watch the show continually in syndication and just don't have the drive or ability to be religious about watching it every sunday.

casual simpsons fans, those who like the show enough to pay for the dvds but don't love it enough to lock themselves down to that weekly ritual, came out in droves because they knew it would simply be a fun time.

it also helped that it didn't any significant competition as far as new releases go.

Joe Shelby said...

I also thing he's giving reasons for why he liked it AFTER SEEING IT, which is not explaining why people are going to it in the first place. word of mouth of "quality" as he's describing it doesn't make for this big an opening weekend - it makes for legs.

quality is why people go again, taking their friends with them, leading to followup weekends that don't drop an instant 50% the second week. quality is why Ratatouille is holding on.

but quality alone won't get them to go to the film in the first place - they have no idea what quality to expect.

Paul said...

Maybe the new meme should be Nobody wants to look at hand-drawn animation anymore. Except when it's a movie based on a long-running hand-drawn TV series."

Sorry, but I don't see the opening weekend success of this movie, as encouraging as it is, as the first step in the return of 2D features. To truly gauge whether this movie is the beginning of a 2D renaissance, the two things to watch will be:

(1) This movie's second-week dropoff, and
(2) How well the next hand-drawn movie does.

s.r. hulett said...

I don't see the opening weekend success of this movie, as encouraging as it is, as the first step in the return of 2D features. To truly gauge whether this movie is the beginning of a 2D renaissance, the two things to watch will be:

(1) This movie's second-week dropoff, and
(2) How well the next hand-drawn movie does.


My original statement was meant as i-ron-y. In my usual sarcastic way.

My basic thought: if you make a movie people want to see, then they'll go see it. Whether it's hand-drawn, cg, or live-action.

The sages come in afterwards and explain why it did/didn't do well. But they're often as pig-ignorant as everyone else.

The William Goldman rule almost always applies: "Nobody knows anything."

I always take this to mean: nobody knows with precision what will be successful and what not. They make semi-educated guesses and hope for the best. Otherwise, Disney wouldn't have sold off a big chunk of Sixth Sense, Universal wouldn't have passed on Star Wars, etc., etc.

Anonymous said...

The sages come in afterwards and explain why it did/didn't do well. But they're often as pig-ignorant as everyone else.

Yeah. If The Simpson Movie had flopped, they woulda said: "See? Nobody is gonna pay for what they can see for free at home."

But because it's a hit, they say: "See? Big pre-sold audience. Everybody loves the Simpsons! I knew for sure it was gonna do great!"

David said...

"If The Simpson Movie had flopped, they woulda said: "See? Nobody is gonna pay for what they can see for free at home."

AND they would have been saying: "See? No one wants to see 2D animation anymore. Not even a pre-sold property like The Simpsons can bring them in to a hand-drawn cartoon".

How many financial flops (Everyone's Hero , The Wild, Valiant, Meet The Robinsons , Surf's Up, Flushed Away, Happily N'Ever After) have to happen before CG's teflon shield wears thin and the conventional wisdom starts "blaming" CG animation for the flops like they tried to blame hand-drawn animation for the financial failure of Treasure Planet, Titan A.E. , Quest For Camelot, Home On the Range, instead of maybe figuring out that , as Steve rightly noted, "if you make a movie people want to see, then they'll go see it. Whether it's hand-drawn, cg, or live-action."

Anonymous said...

"...there was a subtle upgrade in its quality that gave it a far more professional feel."

Just saw the movie and noticed some impressive names in the screen credits. With artist's like Rasoul Azadani, Michael Humphries, Frans Vischer, Jay Jackson, Mike Inman, Jeff Johnson, and John Pomeroy working on the movie, the production value was bound to exhibit a "subtle upgrade" from the average Film Roman/Rough Draft/Klasky Csupo type product. Bringing these artist's in was a smart move, it shows that the Fox execs really put some thought into getting a more exciting big screen, cinematic look, rather than defaulting to the cheap, typical low budget, eastern european look we all associate with these studios. Let's hope this trend continues when the Valley studios try to cash in on the success of the film. Way to go Rasoul, Michael, Frans, Jay, Mike, Jeff, John, you were the"designated hitters" brought in to add some subtle changes to the look of a primitive/flat styled aging tv show. it really worked! You made it something special.

Anonymous said...

thank you to the few that were able to do some of the work here, I still wish this film was done in the states.

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