Monday, September 15, 2008

At the House of Mouse

By the happiest of coincidences (well, not really) I was in the Disney Hat Building today, and got these observations from long-time Diz staffers regarding The Princess and the Frog. Since it fits in with the thread below, I relate it here:

"I think that they're going to hire a lot more artists to get the picture out. I mean, they've hired more people for layout as they've gone along; I think the same thing will happen with other production departments as the picture gets closer to its release date. You ask me, they won't send as much of the work out as people think they will, because they won't be able to."

I floated a facsimile of the above quote past another Disney veteran who is also working on the picture. He had a different opinion:

"Management wants to get this feature out with a lower budget than the hand-drawn pictures were costing ten years ago. They don't know if they're going to get Aladdin and Lion King grosses, they just can't depend on those kinds of returns, and aren't expecting them. Me, I don't think that kids have the same desire to see hand-drawn features that they used to. They want the 3-D stuff. Just look at the grosses. They've been higher for c.g.i. animation.

"If the company can make money on a moderately budgeted hand-drawn film, it'll make more. If they can't, then they probably won't make more. I don't think they'll make hand-drawn features if they can't make them more inexpensively than they were produced for in the nineties, and have them make money ..."

My take: No company is a charitable organization. Corporations exist to make profits and get a return on equity for their shareholders. Disney, on the advice of John Lasseter, is trying its hand again at a hand-drawn feature. (And I can tell you that the company had no plans to make any more hand-drawn product before Mr. Lasseter's arrival.)

I hope that Princess and the Frog is the first of a long string of new hand-drawn features, since nothing would please me more. But how many pencil-created flicks are in Disney's future hinges, I think, on the success of The Princess and the Frog.

(Personally, I don't think audiences have a big preference for c.g.i. over hand-drawn. I think it's more a matter of the quality of individual films. But the recent history of various animated features' box office performances doesn't necessarily bear me out, so my thinking could be wrong ... and wishful.)

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know, Steve, I really think that audiences are getting a little weary of the CGI animation (which pretty much looks all the same no matter which studio produces it), and might very well welcome a good 2D Disney film again. I think people are hungry for that signature Disney cartoon look. God knows I am. I like CGI, but...well, look at Kung Fu Panda. I think most people would agree that the best part of the film by far was the 2D opening. It was far more vivid, had a wittier execution and was just plain superior to the admittedly excellent CGI that followed it. I agree with you that there is room for both technologies. We'll just have to wait, and see, and hope...

Floyd Norman said...

Whether traditional or CGI, it only makes good business sense to keep costs down.

Disney's past problems were not caused by the medium. They were caused by the management!

If they want a guaranteed profit, maybe they should go into banking.

Then again -- maybe not.

Steve Hulett said...

If they want a guaranteed profit, maybe they should go into banking.

Kind of a bad day to bring up banking as a profit center.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't think audiences have a big preference for c.g.i. over hand-drawn. I think it's more a matter of the quality of individual films. But the recent history of various animated features' box office performances doesn't necessarily bear me out, so my thinking could be wrong ... and wishful.

Really? Aside from the sequels (which typically will make money regardless of quality) - what animated feature didn't perform the way you thought it would?

So far I think the last few years have been pretty accurate - no huge "fluke" box office successes. Good films seem to make around $200 million, the not-so-good ones hover around $100 million. The only wide-released animated movie in recent history I can remember that was good but failed to show it in box office money has been Surf's Up.

Anonymous said...

The reality is Disney has not had a CG hit come out yet. Dinosaur, Chicken Little and Meet the Ronbinsons. Its last critical and company successes were traditional animated films like Lilo.

...and we all remember to well what happened after films like Treasure, Home on the range and Atlantis.

good story, cool characters and appealing look will always be successful on some level.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Chicken Little made more money than Lilo and Stitch. People like to think that film was a bigger hit than it was. Cute little movie, but no blockbuster. NOT that Chicken Little was exactly Citizen Kane!

Floyd Norman said...

Did it really?

An old producer once told me never believe what a studio tells you. Since they control the books, they’ll provide the numbers that best fit their agenda.

Sure, all these films made money. That much we know. Which -- made how much -- we’ll never know.

Arlo said...

I think people are sick of CGI too. I sure am and every kid I come across isn't really squealing to see the dazzling technology of a computer animated movie.

Family animated films have a guaranteed profit margin because its a proven american movie genre.

Every summer families will go to those films because its something for the whole family to do thats still affordable. There aren't any profits that prove that CGI is the better medium. If a good movie came out in 2D right now it would do well.

Anonymous said...

Whoa...I had no idea whatsoever that God's real name was Arlo! Surely you must be God since you speak so omniesciently.
I had NO idea that these things were indeed facts. Everyone sick of CGI and CGI doesn't have big profits and a good 2D movie will do well.
Maybe you hope these things are true, but unless you are indeed God I doubt that you KNOW these things are indeed true.

I, myself, would like CG and 2D to do very well and neither at the expense of the other.
But I'm not as omniescient as you so I don't know if my dream will becme a reality or not.

Anonymous said...

@ anon Sept 15 7:57:00 PM

via boxofficemojo.com

Chicken Little
Domestic Total Gross $135,386,665
Production Budget $150 million

Lilo & Stitch
Domestic Total Gross $145,794,338
Production Budget $80 million

Anonymous said...

Thanks anon. Enough said I guess about the chicken Lilo comparison.

Arlo said...

"I had no idea whatsoever that God's real name was Arlo!...
I had NO idea that these things were indeed facts. Everyone sick of CGI"


Do me a favor, brush up on your reading comprehension before posting. He'res a start, go back to my post and re read it and you will see that I stated:

"I THINK people are sick of CGI..."

I never presented anything as fact. I expressed my opinion. With you unable to comprehend simple english, I'll spare you my opinion of you.

Anonymous said...

How convenient. You left out the worldwide box office totals.

From Box office mojo.

CL wwbo- 314million

lilo wwbo- 273million

Anonymous said...

CL wwbo - 314
CL pb - 150
314-150=164

LS wwbo - 273
LS pb - 80
273-80=193

Anonymous said...

" Me, I don't think that kids have the same desire to see hand-drawn features that they used to. They want the 3-D stuff. Just look at the grosses."

Yeah, just look at those grosses on pictures like "Meet the Robinsons" . (did "moderately" well at box-office, but the production budget was HUGE , so balanced against the gross it didn't do very well. Officially considered an under-performer if not an outright flop by management).

And the usual litany of CG flops:

The Wild

Valiant

The Ant Bully

Everyone's Hero

Happily N'Ever After

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything

Surf's Up

Space Chimps


Which makes no sense if what they want to see "is the 3D stuff" .

What "they" (kids and adults) want to see is good entertainment, 2D or 3D or stop-motion, whatever.

Anonymous said...

"I had no idea whatsoever that God's real name was Arlo!...
I had NO idea that these things were indeed facts. Everyone sick of CGI"

Do me a favor, brush up on your reading comprehension before posting. He'res a start, go back to my post and re read it and you will see that I stated:

"I THINK people are sick of CGI..."

I never presented anything as fact. I expressed my opinion. With you unable to comprehend simple english, I'll spare you my opinion of you.
________________________

Sorry, dude...you came off as pretty omniescient to me too.
You stated very few opinions and far more 'facts'.
You pointed to your ONLY sentence that could maybe be construed as an opinion - the rest of your post sure seemed pretty cock-sure.


Sorry, God...I mean Arlo...

Arlo said...

Maybe you're just stupid then. Didn't you think of that?
Yeah, you're probably just stupid.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it time some of you kids got ready for school?

Kevin/Steve: make this board open to 839 members only and we'll see what kind of comments we get here.

It's my union. I'll take baloney from my brother members-they've literally earned the right, but it's such a bore from kids.

robiscus said...

The fact of the matter is that all formulas get stale, and whether you like it or not(and the CGI artists on here will not like me saying this), the overwhelming majority of CGI family films released in the last 6 years are all following a formula. A formula that has gotten stale as eight week old bread.
"Ice Age,"
"Ice Age 2"
"Madagascar,"
"Shark Tale,"
"Over the Hedge,"
"The Wild,"
"Surf's Up,"
"Barnyard,"
"Bee Movie,"
"Kung Fu Panda"
"Open Season,"

same formula, same celebrity voice crutches, same old crap. Whats in the pipeline? Why its "Madagascar 2"!!

If-and thats a likely "if" because we've seen a backlash to animated formulaic films before- if people stop paying to see these films, the studios and their employees would be real dunces if they didn't know why. The road ahead is one that animation has travelled down before.

Anonymous said...

Whats in the pipeline? Why its "Madagascar 2"!!

I take it you're lumping all the talking animal movies in together. Okay.

Then let's look at the non-sequel pipeline after Madagascar 2:

Monsters V. Aliens
How to Train Your Dragon
Crood Awakening

Princess and the Frog
Rapunzel
King of the Elves

Coraline

Up
Newt
The Bear and the Bow

The road ahead is the one less-traveled. And that will make all the difference.

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