Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shallow Musings

If you listen to a lot of critics and some commenters around here, DreamWorks Animation's features just aren't as good as the Pixar product.

Most of those [DWA features] are OK films, some a little racy for kids, some just plain bland. Biggest disappointment: There’s no progress.

On the other side of the CGI coin, Pixar has been steadily evolving on both visual and story lines: “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” “Cars,” “Ratatouille,” and the sci-fi masterpiece, “Wall-E,” which should’ve been nominated for Best Picture instead of just Best Animated Film ...

This is similar to critics' comparisons between Jay Leno and David Letterman over the years: "Jay's all right, but David is the zesty, cutting edge comedy guy ..."

But of course, Leno consistently beats Dave in the ratings. Sort of like .... well, you know.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is more like comparing a luxury car company with a spit it out, mass produced GM car.

Sure GM outsold the luxury car company for years, but eventually the lack of quality caught up with them.

In history, people remember quality and things that last...not mass produced, cookie cutter products.

Unfortunately, that is what DW does. They can bring in the money, but out of everything they have ever done, I can only think of 2 things that I can say are good.

Multiple, meaningful movies could have been made for what they paid to make Monsters vs Aliens.

Anonymous said...

Once again, proving that the snarky anti-DW commentators on this board and others DO NOT know what the American public wants in any sense.
And, if they want to tell themselves that Pixar is always 'changing things' and only interested in 'furthering the art' then they are only fooling themselves.
If you want to count the number of memorable films from DW then maybe you should count then number of memorable films from Pixar - that count would fall a lot shorter than the Pixies would like to believe and much lower than a 50% ratio.

Why fans of animation and those working in the industry can't just be happy that, for once, more than opne studio is producing big BO and it allows for a lot more participants.

I would hate to think of an industry where only Pixar had hits. You think times are tough now go head an imagine how things would be if that were the case.

Floyd Norman said...

I just want everybody to make tons of money.

And, that includes me.

Steven E. Gordon said...

You're just talking CRAZY, now, Floyd!!

Anonymous said...

No one begrudges DW for making money, or keeping tons of artists employed. That isn't the point.

The point is that we all wish DW (ie Jeffrey) would spend more time focusing on telling good stories, instead of throwing something up on the screen for the sake of saying you make animated movies.

Especially when you have the resources and talent to do it.

Anonymous said...

"The point is that we all wish DW (ie Jeffrey) would spend more time focusing on telling good stories, instead of throwing something up on the screen for the sake of saying you make animated movies. "

You haven't worked there, have you?
You have NO idea how the films are made. For that matter I'm sure you have no idea of the process at Pixar, either. Nothing is "thrown up on the screen". Of course, you believe that, so it must be true. I wonder...since you're sure that Dreamworks-that is," Jeffrey", merely hires some guys to write a script and the films are "thrown up" as fast as possible...why then does it take the same amount of time as a Pixar film to make them? 3 years or so?

All of Pixar's films aren't as fantastic as they're made out to be and not all Dreamworks' films are as horrible as they're supposed to be. The prevailing beliefs of some fanboys and critics have hopelessly skewed any kind of non-biased reactions. They've become predictable and self-perpetuating, so much so that it's the emperor's new clothes for both studios' output.

Steve Hulett said...

I've encountered many animation artists who thought that Kung Fu Panda was superior to Wall'E. Are they wrong?

Of course not. Because in matters of taste, it's pretty much everybody to her or his subjective judgment ... so there can be no argument.

If you think Citizen Kane is a pretentious piece of crap, that's what you think. Hard to debate what you think.

Tinsel Town, however, has a handy solution. Its way of delineating good from bad from indifferent is M-O-N-E-Y.

DJ said...

It's not a surprise at all to hear this blog draw a comparison like that, but it's like Apple/Microsoft, Pepsi/Coca Cola and TimeWarner/Disney. They're all big and evil, no matter which wins what.

If you want to cheer for DW, better make alliance now, in 5 years they will be the new Disney empire, and Pixar will fall into obscurity. Because money and boxoffice numbers is everything in this world.

Why is there no DW fanboys' site? I'd love to read one, because Pixar pays for its fansites to spread the Kool-aid, heh.

robiscus said...

"Tinsel Town, however, has a handy solution. Its way of delineating good from bad from indifferent is M-O-N-E-Y."


Unless you are talking about a little movie called "The Shawshank Redemption" which had a paltry showing at the box office, was seen as a failure, and then exploded years down the road from home rentals.

Or unless you are talking about "John Carpenter's The Thing" which also sank into obscurity upon its initial release and then was embraced years later and is now considered 'the Citizen Kane of science fiction' films.

Or countless other movies which didn't rake in MONEY right from the get go. So clearly all things taste wise are not subjective. A quality film has merits that most people respond to and the box office alone - thankfully - does not measure that accurately.


Boy would it suck if everyone viewed the world that way.

Anonymous said...

It isn't box office alone that defines a film, but it sure as hell means something. Jesus-the Dreamworks hate is so ingrained that there's just NO possibility for some of you that hit movie=people wanted to see it-and ENJOYED IT. Go ahead, call the mass audience stupid sheep, brainwashed, no-taste morons... But be prepared to restate the exact same belief when it's a film YOU liike from the studio you don't despise that makes the great boxoffice money. Because otherwise you're full of shit.

Anonymous said...

Can you seriously compare a "Madagascar 2" with a "Wall-E" or "Shrek the Third" with "Ratatouille"? I am very happy that all four did great at the box office and each found their audience but I doubt "Bee Movie" will last the stand of time the way "Toy Story" will/has. Jeffrey Katzenberg is a very talented business man and John Lasseter is the Walt Disney of the 21st century. It doesn't make DreamWorks less of a successful studio but having worked at both I can honeslty say they are in animation for different reasons... nothing wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

Will Bug's Life, Monster's Inc, Doc Hollywood (I mean Cars), and even Ratapooie stand the test of time? Not if they weren't being shoved down the publics' mouth through the theme parks.

Anonymous said...

"Unless you are talking about a little movie called "The Shawshank Redemption" which had a paltry showing at the box office, was seen as a failure, and then exploded years down the road from home rentals.


Yes, yes, yes, and yes. The Wizard of Oz did not occupy its current place in history until it was rediscovered by television. Freaks and Geeks practically launched an entire comedy movement.

No risk, no reward. The problem with lots and lots of "M-O-N-E-Y" is despite how much you spend or how much you make, it is not the thing that truly keeps the art alive in the long run.

Bloated box office and bloated budgets and bloated labor is, nine times out of ten, a signal of bad things to come. Go ask Detroit, GM, and our brothers at the UAW.

Seeking truth and comfort in the swirls of the Box Office Toilet Bowl is for studios and producers. For labor to prey at the same bowl is asking for trouble. Just begging for it.

Anonymous said...

_Once again, proving that the snarky anti-DW commentators on this board and others DO NOT know what the American public wants in any sense.

Taken straight out of the American free market playbook - JUST GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT. Give them cola, Britney Spears, farts, and 5/1 ARMS.

Kill the audience with crap until there is no audience at all.

I thought I recognized that classic DW cynicism.

Anonymous said...

I've worked at Dreamworks and I really think the problem there is a lack of good directors. They are overflowing with talent. They just need someone to focus and channel that talent in the right direction. I'm hoping Chris Sanders does something amazing over there. They also just got Simon Beaufoy to write "Truckers" for them. That's a good sign.

With that being said I think we all need to agree that DW is not living up to its potential. I don't think Pixar is perfect, but they are a director-driven studio which puts them way ahead of the game. Which scenario do you think will be more likely to produce a better movie?

A. Hey John, I've got this idea for a movie!

B. The creative executives read a script from some guy on the outside. Its not perfect but they pitch the guy a few ideas and he changes it to get the script sold. They pitch it to Katzenberg. He likes it. They assign two directors to it.

Anonymous said...

"...creative executives..."

yes. you see the problem here. the head of the rotting fish.

Anonymous said...

Or how about this scenario:

"Hey, guys, let's make Doc Hollywood except with cars!!"
"Ahh, John, do you really think that's a good idea....I'm fired? oops..."

or how about this one: "this film about a rat who wants to be a French chef is a real mess...let's fire the creator and twist Brad's arm into taking it over and put band-aids all over it instead of shelving it and letting the geniuses come up with something that does work"

Anonymous said...

This seems to be the only part of the film industry where studio name automatically qualifies a film a good or crap. I never hear people say Universal movies are great, but WB films are crap. They tend to judge individual films on their merit except in the Dixar/Pixney vs DW situation.

Disney and Pixar are now one. This means tha Lassiter oversees everything. Bolt, Meet the Robinsons, all of it.

To me, the last great Pixar/Disney film was the Incredibles, it was just awesome. Cars blew, Ratatoulie lost me with a rat who wants to be a chef. Too pretentious for my tastes. Basing a movie on that premis is ballsy considering how much it cost to make, and how likely they were to get that money back if it failed. Wall-e... take Luxo jr and put him in a Johnny 5 getup and add an environmental message...no wait, hit them over the head about the environment and how fat and lazy we are...Really heavy handed to me. Do I judge the Pixar/Disney brand by this? No. I know that it's a hit and miss process, I judge each film on it's own merit.

WB cartoons have one style, Max Fleisher had another, so did Hanna-Barbera, and Jay Ward. Some are good, some are better depending on what you like. This studio comparison crap by fan boys and critics(critics really are just fan boys who get paid for it) really misses the point. Animated films are being made, and are successful so more can be made. Millions of people are being entertained, lots of people are being employed in the process, and hopefully the medium is moving forward as an artform in the process.
Relax and enjoy the show folks, it's just a cartoon.

Anonymous said...

"You haven't worked there, have you?
You have NO idea how the films are made."


Umm...actually I do know how they are made there. When the freaking CEO has to look at every frame and have his say on every sequence, and in the process runs through about 4 directors every movie until he finds one that does what he says. And because he can't help but mettle in the story causing the animators to re-do shots and even sequences over and over again. Which by the nature of working that way means every film has to go into crunch at the end and takes every bit of the 3 years that was originally scheduled to do the film.

Yeah, I'd say something is wrong with the way Jeffrey does it.

But hey, he sure is raking in the cash...

Anonymous said...

Big difference between Doc Hollywood and Cars?

Cars has generated over $5 Billion.

Yes, with a "b."

When the new Mattel Pixar cars come out, they sell out right away. STILL. And it's incredibly popular with kids and families. I like the film ok, even if it's no Wall-e.

Anonymous said...

"Umm...actually I do know how they are made there. When the freaking CEO has to look at every frame and have his say on every sequence, and in the process runs through about 4 directors every movie until he finds one that does what he says. And because he can't help but mettle[the word is "meddle", btw] in the story causing the animators to re-do shots and even sequences over and over again....."-and blah, blah, blah.

Okay, thanks for confirming my belief. You don't and have never worked at Dreamworks, nor at any other feature studio I'm sure.

The "CEO" doesn't look at "every frame of film" or every sequence in the manner you imagine at all. The directors have a lot more freedom than you think. Sometimes it doesn't work out. That happens with every studio, if you bother to know what's going on in the industry.
If you have issues with the movies there, you'd have to talk to the producers and directors and the story people.

I'd love to know where this idea of Katzenberg as the antichrist got started anyway. I wonder how many people know what a booster he was for Pixar, back in its early feature days? Or that he hasn't replaced any more directors than Lasseter or the powers that be at Disney have in the last 15 years? Or that he stuck his neck out and built a studio devoted entirely to feature animation instead of live action as he could have done, taking a big risk by doing so at the time?
That he built a huge animation campus instead of renting crappy buildings on the cheap, trying to make it as nice an environment as possible for the artists with amenities that no one on the outside sees or cares about?
That he needn't have done ANY of that as it doesn't "make more money" to treat his staff decently, but he does it anyway? That someone is doing something right because the damn place is still there and doing very well. That the employees-the animators-share in the profits of every success via bonuses and stock. Man...what a jerk, huh?

Is it perfect? Hell no. No place is, anywhere. Making films is hard. Everyone tries their best, everyone experiences frustration, and everyone hopes to do better next time. Holding onto nasty attitudes avails you nothing.

No, you don't know anything. Go ahead and hate on the place, it makes no difference, but enough posting the bs nonsense.

Anonymous said...

" Or that he hasn't replaced any more directors than Lasseter or the powers that be at Disney have in the last 15 years"

Uh, yes. He has. I've worked at all three places. That doesn't make him the "antichrist (he can't BE the antichrist anyway, he's Jewish!)." It makes him indecisive, and allows chaos to rule while he directs the films. He's loosening up, though--and the films are getting better. When he kicks the bucket, the films will either get MUCH better, or worse because the Damaschke's of the world don't know anything about making films.

DJ said...

There was an article on Variety in 2005 about DWA's film slate then, DreamWorks grooming toons, it had a very different take on MvA, then called "Rex Havoc" (get it? get it?)

"Rex Havoc," based on the classic horror comicbook, is about a monster hunter called upon to battle aliens who have disrupted cable TV service. Rex assembles a team of monsters to help including Ick!, Dr. Cockroach, the 50,000 Pound Woman and Insectosaurus.

I'm just so glad it turns out like it is.

BTW, How to train your dragon seems to change director a lot. Anyone works at DWA please tell me how it doing. It's the only thing I'm eager to see next year.

Steve Hulett said...

How to train your dragon seems to change director a lot. Anyone works at DWA please tell me how it doing. It's the only thing I'm eager to see next year.


Doing fine. They've been reworking story, have a relatively short production schedule, a starting to roll into it now.

Production-wise, it's farther back than "Shrek Goes Fourth," which is well into work. Yet it's out two months before "Shrek."

The production crew knows they'll be cranking.

Anonymous said...

"Or that he hasn't replaced any more directors than Lasseter or the powers that be at Disney have in the last 15 years"

You don't know shit.

What, are you Katz' boy toy or something?

The guy is exactly right. That is how Jeffrey runs that place. He is worse than Al Davis with the Raiders. Jeffrey wants to be the director.

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