Friday, April 24, 2009

Like Jeffrey K. Cares

One of the dumber recent articles.

... [D]espite the life lessons kids have learned from Shrek and Kung Fu Panda over the years, people have come to think of Pixar as the "good for you" studio, despite the fact that there is still a fair amount of moral and educational value in many of Dreamworks' "for a good time" movies ...

The frustrating thing is that the Dreamworks movies share many of these elements. But they also have fart jokes and pop culture references, and that seems to prevent them from getting the respect they deserve ...

I'm sure Mr. Katzenberg is devastated. I'm sure Mr. Katzenberg weeps bitter tears ...

Kung Fu Panda

Production cost: $130 million

Worldwide gross: $631,908,951

Wall-E

Production cost: $180 million

Worldwide Gross: $534,767.889

...all the way to Fort Knox.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not sure why the article is "dumb."

The writer isn't talking about money. He's talking about the substance of the movies. Believe it or not, not all of life is about money. Except your's, of course.

Yes, the two studios have taken different paths. Both have been successful. And one tries to avoid low-brow fart jokes, while the other embraces them.

And I'm betting the higher-brow stuff will stand the test of time a lot better, in the long run.

Steve Hulett said...

This is a labor blog.

And we have a motto around here: No successful movie, no labor to make the next successful movie.

Samuel Goldwyn and his studio made high-brow films of substance (not counting the Danny Kaye and Eddie Cantor films.) And Sam's studio is as dead as he is.

The crass, money grubbing Darryl Zanuck, however, made crowd pleasers that the critics often sneered at. Same for the brothers Warner.

Their studios are still out there, creating new movies, and creating jobs.

So you bet money is important. Thanks for noticing.

Yrs in labor,

S. Hulett

Anonymous said...

2 pages.

Any more than that and the studio that is hiring needs to find new, qualified, intelligent people for its human resources department

Whats the average length of a test in this town? 15 pages? Its bleak.

Anonymous said...

^Oops.

This reply is for the post below this one...

(someone just throw a tarp over me)

Mark Mayerson said...

Steve, I have no argument with your basic premise, but I hate it when history is simplified or muddled.

Zanuck also made The Grapes of Wrath and Gentleman's Agreement. Warner Bros. also made I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang and Confessions of a Nazi Spy (the latter before the U.S. entry into World War II).

The studios that were strictly in it for the money like Republic, Monogram or PRC are as dead as the Goldwyn studio.

The reasons for a studio's death or survival are a lot more complex than just what type of films it made.

Anonymous said...

Steve, that's great, and yes, money is important.

But I'm not sure why you chose to highlight this particular article on a labor blog, since it makes no reference to any issues of money or labor, other than simply discussing the story sensibilities of Pixar and Dreamworks, and whether one "teaches" kids more than the other.

Frankly, you could do the same thing to any review of a Dreamworks movie. No matter how the reviewer felt about the substance of the film, it's kind of silly to always retort with "BUT IT MADE MONEY AND EMPLOYED PEOPLE!!!!!!!!"

Anyway, it's not really that important. Carry on.

Steve Hulett said...

Okay. Now, that I've put up my short, snappy piece of snark, allow me to present another reason I find the article stoopid.

It's trite. It's obvious. It's repeating what's been said for years.

And it adds nothing to the critical white noise that's long since morphed into conventional wisdom:

Pixar = Classy, critically loved, fresh, breaking new ground, award winners (etc.)

DreamWorks = low humor, sequelitis, topical gags, uninspired, seen it before (etc.)
Yawn.

The problem is, the cs is not necessarily true. I thought Over the Hedge, one of DWA's lesser productions (in terms of box office) was terrific.

I thought Wall-E, for the first 45 minutes, was inspired. Then it turned into 2001 with fat people.

I liked both films. The DreamWorks film I really liked, but it didn't make enough money to trigger a second. Wall-E was a huge success from top to bottom. Kudos to Wall-E.

Did I think it the best Pixar release ever? Not by a country mile.

De gustibus non est disputandum.

Steve Hulett said...

Uh, above it should be: the cw is not necessarily true.

Anonymous said...

You are correct that both studios have made great, and less-than-great films.

Personally, I think "Over the Hedge" and "Kung Fu Panda" were terrific. And I even enjoyed "Madagascar."

And with Pixar, I personally thought that "Wall-E," "Cars," and "Bug's Life" were not as good. And some of their shorts have been inconsistent.

HOWEVER, when I look at the overall trend of the output of both these studios, I have clearly enjoyed Pixar's movies far more than Dreamworks'. Furthermore, the 'high's' have been higher for Pixar, and the 'low's' have been lower for Dreamworks.

Although some of Pixar's films have been not as good, they have never put out a film as bad as "Sharktale" or "Bee Movie". Meanwhile, not even a great movie like Kung Fu Panda can quite equal the brilliance of "Incredibles," "Nemo," or "Toy Story 2."

Of course, these are all subjective opinions, but I know they are widely shared (and expressed often on blogs like this). While Dreamworks is NOT deserving of the bashing and criticism it often receives, I DO think that Pixar takes the overall 1st Place prize in quality storytelling. And in the end, that is just as valid a discussion as profits and employment.

Steve Hulett said...

Don't disagree with anything you've said.

But here's the tiny bug in the lemonade: There is no doubt somebody in the world who thinks all of DreamWorks's cartoons are totally flipping great, and all or most of Pixar's are awful.

How do we prove him (her) wrong? There is no way, because it's what he/she thinks.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but they're stupid! ;)

Anonymous said...

The one BIG thing being left out of this discussion (and almost as hard to quantify) is the maturity of the film and the audiences that will go see them.
DW, although not always successful, goes for a more mature storytelling and audience (yes, the humor also tends to be more mature) and Pixar tends to go for the younger (notice I didn't use immature) storytelling and family audience.
ie: When has Pixar pulled off a romance on the level of Shrek? Have they even really tried? And whether you like it or not Shrek is at it's core a mature, romantic comedy. As is many of their films (some successful and some not)
In a lot of ways Pixar is aiming at a younger audience than many of the 90s Disney films (all except the Incredibles)and their sense of adult romance isn't very adult at all and is very immature (there, I said it)

I suspect this might be why DWs films often do very well with an older audience and can make good BO (when they hit it right, of course).

Can yoiu imagine anyone in a Pixar film having intercourse and yet it seems easily accepted in DW films (offstage, of course).

Just thought I'd toss another twig on the fire.

Anonymous said...

...one more twig on the fire:

as a father of a teenager I know for a fact that it is not cool to see a Pixar film once you get older (same with Hanna Montanna), but it is still cool to go see a DW film.
That's the bed Pixar has decided to make for itself (with the help of Disney) and they seem satisfied with the results, but I'm guessing many of the directors want a wider (older) audience - Brad? Andrew? Maybe that's why they're moving away from Pixar?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Not sure I buy that. Ratatouille is conceptually a far more sophisticated film than anything DW has ever done, and features a romance that has far greater depth and nuance than anything in Shrek. Wall-E, for all its numerous flaws, at least attempted a concept more mature than any animated film before it.

Even the relationships in "Incredibles" (tension in the marriage, suspicion of an affair, etc.) dealt with romantic themes which surpass strictly fairy-tale level of relationships of Shrek.

Pixar may be more "cute," which I think is what you're reacting to, but deals with multiple layers of thematic complexity which probably sail over the heads of most kids.

Anonymous said...

Wow...complex romantic relationship in Ratatouille? ROFLMAO
There was romance in Ratatouille? Between who? Remy and Emile? Emile and Colette? How? Emile had the maturity of 12 year old...you can't be implying they were trying for a romance with that character? You must have seen a different film than I did.
I thought you would've at least pointed to Cars since they tried to steal the relationship (along with the plot) from Doc Hollywood - at least that would've been a valiant try on your part. Though they were really unsuuccessful with it.

I'll grant you (as I did before you came in with "Pixar is better nyahnyahnyah")that the Incredibles is mature - easily more mature than any other Pixar film in regards to adult relationships, but the other Pixar films have nothing remotely close to an adult male/female relationship that goes past the 5th grade (and that's being rather generous), but I don't think Pixar is trying to do that. They are going for family/non teen audiences and also might be accidentally losing some of the adult non-family aidience. It's a choice that I'm pretty sure they've made and don't seem unhappy with.

BTW I'm not suggesting that Shrek was a complex 'realistic' relationship (though many critics hailed it as such - especially when combined with S2), but it is what passes for a mature film relationship.

Geez, I thought it was pretty undeniable that Pixar made films for younger audiences than DW.

Jeremy said...

Get back to the money please.

What are you trying to prove here by posting those figures? That DreamWorks wins at the money? In two years before Kung Fu Panda DreamWorks' films (Bee Movie, Flushed Away) did terrible at the box office, and MvA isn't getting as much as JK wants.

He might not weep bitter tears but he sure sweats some. Pixar is with Disney, even if its films don't make much money (and $530 million is not a tiny little amount) it can still survive. Another one or two Flushed Away DreamWorks will be done. That's why they have to rely on their franchises (Shrek, Madagascar and now Kung Fu Panda) to get the money.

DreamWorks vs. Pixar is BS. Shrek 2 is now the best animated film if it's all about the money. But in total a Pixar film average more than a DreamWorks film and consistently so when Pixar has produced less film than Dreamworks. One can wonder if there's a Finding Nemo 2, however stupid that is, it would gross even more than Finding Nemo, but Pixar ain't doing that. Instead they go for the most merchandise-able series: Toy Story and Cars, both outdo anything DreamWorks has for merchandising their film.

Both studios have problems to deal with, and if you really want some competition, wait until next year, the last installment of the two flagship CG animated series, Shrek 4 vs. Toy Story 3. With 3 DreamWorks films and only one Pixar film in a year, that battle will open many eyes and even the outcome may surprise many.

Anonymous said...

You are equating love stories and romantic relationships with "mature" storytelling. I would argue that mature storytelling can be manifested in a variety of ways, not necessarily entailing love stories.

I doubt that many kids would truly have a deep understanding of Remi's passion as a foodie. Few would understand his drive to succeed as a chef--frankly these are all rather adult, professional motivations. And frankly, I would argue that this rather cerebral premise is a more sophisticated line of thinking than Shrek's blossoming love affair with Fiona. We've seen that in any number of animated films.

Anonymous said...

ROFLMAO ...what a bunch of Pixies!!

Anonymous said...

All this Pixar vs Dreamworks discussion, and all I can think about is poor Blue Sky...when are they going to get out from under Fox's shadow and produce some meaningful work? They have the talent for it...

But hey, their movies make tons of money with super low budgets, so who's really winning...

Anonymous said...

Wow. If it doesn't make money then 'labor' doesn't have work. How incredibly cynical and trite. Sounds exactly like the implicit argument management makes day after day after day. Thanks for making it a mantra of labor, too. And doing us, and management, the favor of making it explicit. Why should they say it when they don't have to. Steve H. can say it for them.

If TAG spent more time protecting the value of our collective creative contribution to the success of these films instead of just twiddling your thumbs playing traffic cop to OT during crunch time, perhaps you might have less reason to be cynical.

Our work has more value than simply what they paid for it or what profit they decide to state for their quarterlies. For you to declare that our value falls under the same standards and rules is offensive. Keep your own score to yourself, please.

Anonymous said...

Newbie....

Anonymous said...

ROFLMAO ...what a bunch of Pixies!!Guess it's too hard to keep defending DW's "mature" storylines, eh? Go back to watching MvA for the seventh time--that ass on the scanner was hilarious!!!

Anonymous said...

"Wow. If it doesn't make money then 'labor' doesn't have work. How incredibly cynical and trite. Sounds exactly like the implicit argument management makes day after day after day. Thanks for making it a mantra of labor, too. And doing us, and management, the favor of making it explicit. Why should they say it when they don't have to. Steve H. can say it for them."

You may be in it for the "art," but your employer certainly isn't...

Steve Hulett said...

Wow. If it doesn't make money then 'labor' doesn't have work. How incredibly cynical and trite. ... How reality-based.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one that realizes that Pixar has its share of fart jokes in each of their movies?

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one that realizes that Pixar has its share of fart jokes in each of their movies?So? Please educate us.

Anonymous said...

__You may be in it for the "art," but your employer certainly isn't...

Well, management isn't, IATSE has stated clearly in this blog that they are with management on this one. So who exactly is left to be in it for the art?

Who is it then? Is it you?

Anonymous said...

There's no reason to negatively compare films like Shrek 4 "vs" Toy Story 3-remember, there was a time not too long ago where the entire argument against Dreamworks was predicated on the mere existence of a "Shrek 2" (way before anyone had seen it) vs a Pixar 2 much less a three of any of their titles. Guess why they've done it? Because "there are more stories to be told"? Really?
Or because "there's more money to be made from a proven franchise"? Which do you think?

The fact is the "there are always more stories" idea is as true of Dreamworks as Pixar, whether you think the other films are any good is another matter, but imho Shrek 2 was pretty funny, Shrek 3 was not as good at all and #4 looks to be very good so far. Comedy is comedy. You laugh and enjoy them, or you don't. Option #1 makes money, option #2 not so much.
On the other hand the idea of Cars 2 makes me and plenty of others cringe. We think one Cars was plenty from an "artistic" standpoint. But it did a shitload of business and even more in MERCHANDISING, so full steam ahead.

Anonymous said...

"hat are you trying to prove here by posting those figures? That DreamWorks wins at the money? In two years before Kung Fu Panda DreamWorks' films (Bee Movie, Flushed Away) did terrible at the box office, and MvA isn't getting as much as JK wants."

In that same period you're cherry-picking from, Dreamworks had huge hits in "Madagascar" and Shrek 3". It's true "Flushed Away" didn't make money, but you can lay that at Aardman's door, as they got to do exactly what they wanted with it. Same goes for the Wallace & Gromit film, which lost a lot of money. No one was more sorry than Katzenberg, who loved that film. And also gave Park carte blanche to do exactly what he wanted with his most famous property(as JK should have). So much for soulless commerce.

But anyway, convenient to pretend the two big hits didn't exist. It helps your "argument"

Steve Hulett said...

[M]anagement isn't, IATSE has stated clearly in this blog that they are with management on this one. So who exactly is left to be in it for the art?

Who is it then?
... Uh ...

It's never been a labor union.

Was SAG ever an artistic player? The WGA? The DGA?

Every guild and union is about protecting wages, benefits, working conditions, artists' rights.

Sometimes they do these things better than other times, but that's what they're about. To pretend otherwise is silly.

Art and storytelling are useful and wonderful things, but they are within the purview of individuals, not labor organizations.

The closest any of the talent guilds have come to getting into aesthetics is over editorial and "colorization" issues of existing properties. And they've been pretty much ineffectual. It's individuals (like Spielberg, for instance) who have been able to protect features' artistic integrity became of their individual clout.

Steve Hulett said...

Make that ... "BECAUSE of their indvidual clout.)

Jean Hersholt said...

When I saw the headline of this post I thought it would be about Jeffrey K. closing the rest home in Woodland Hills.

What a disappointment.

;P

Jeremy said...

But anyway, convenient to pretend the two big hits didn't exist. It helps your "argument"I didn't pretend anything. Madagascar spawned a franchise for DreamWorks, and Shrek the Third was a monsters as always. What I meant to say is that DreamWorks had its share of worrying and stumbling. A lot of time, outside their 3 franchise (with Kung Fu Panda only recently). This year with only MvA and if it can't crawl pass $200M with its budget and marketing, JK will have to explain some.

I despise Cars 2 as much as the next guy, but it'll make money. Not just as the box office, as the first Cars has proven, you don't need to be humongous at the box office to sell ****load of merchandise.

All I want to say is to see it by box office numbers alone and depend on those figures to call one studio better (or make more money, to be exact) than the other is BS. Pixar is Disney. It won't die. DreamWorks has to make it on their own. They couldn't care less about this "versus" thing as long as they can make money to guarantee their existence. And for that JK has a lot on his mind. He has to care.

OldEuropean said...

Am I the only one that realizes that Pixar has its share of fart jokes in each of their movies? So? Please educate us.FINDING NEMO definitely has a fart joke, it's even in the trailer. RATATOUILLE has Linguini spitting out his horrible soup, I think that's the closest Pixar has come to a puke joke. Otherwise, not much body-humour comes to mind.

And for the dude who keeps insisting that Dreamworks films are mature: you're misunderstanding the term.
Maturity is not about what or who the surface level attracts (which, in the case of Dreamworks, is usually children, teenagers and young adults; and in the case of Pixar is children with their parents, college students and older adults), but about the complexity of what lies beneath. Maturity has nothing to do with sex or violence, with cursing or easy humour or double-entrendres, and everything with complex themes and adult realism.
RATATOUILLE may be suitable for children, but it's not a children's film at all; it mainly speaks to adults, at least those willing and able to listen. Most of Dreamworks' output aren't really suitable for children because of the adult references, but are nevertheless kids' entertainment. It's not the company's fault that even many adults never reach the level of maturity required to understand what Pixar really does (to illustrate my point, take a look at the box office of PAUL BLART 90 MINUTE FAT JOKE).

Anonymous said...

I'd say maturity in film is obtained through an individual filmmakers constant passion and attention to his/her craft over many, many years.

Circumstances for high budget Hollywood 'movies' just don't allow for individual filmmakers to mature to full potential. In Hollywood animation, the odds are quadruple against.

Even so, Ratatouille was far from mature filmmaking. As a film, it was a bore. As typical animation fare, it also fell far short. In it's attempt to satisfy both, it failed to hit anything. MVA is at least honest about what it is.

Anonymous said...

First Pixies now serious Film students...it's a shame none of them have a clue...

For those that can't seem to wrap their minds around the word 'maturity' let's use instead 'adult romance'. And that is something that Pixar has never even tried.

OldEuropean said...

How has Pixar never tried "adult romance?" Have you *seen* THE INCREDIBLES? The film starts out with two soon-to-be newly-weds and spends the rest of its running time showing how this fresh, youthful romance can grow boring over time, what rifts can develop in such a relationship, and how husband and wife can get closer again.

That's far more adult than the typical "romantic comedy" crap of "two people are destined for each other, don't realize it, then they realize it but one of them makes a mistake, in the end everything's forgiven." Now *those* are unrealistic fairy tale tropes.

Anonymous said...

Wow...I suspect even Brad would be surprised to hear someone describe The Incredibles as an "adult Romance". It had adults in it and they were romatically involved, but that doesn't make the film an "Adult Romance".

OldEuropean said...

It's not a romance, it *has* romance. That's one of the themes of the film. Love of family vs. love - and lure - of adventure.

And I'm pretty sure Brad Bird wouldn't be surprised by my interpretation, since his other Pixar film is actually not dissimilar to that; there, too, family is put into opposition to art and to "being special," only to come to the hero's rescue at the end, when both worlds are harmonized.
From a literary perspective, that's actually very Romantic (with a capital R), the relationship of artists and their creations being a prime Romantic motif.
As a consequence of this aspect being so much stronger in RATATOUILLE, the relationship of Linguini and Colette takes a bit of a back-seat (which is why I wouldn't necessarily characterize it as romantic with lowercase r), but, there, too, are shadows of the love of people / love of profession conflict.

*That* is intellectually sound and interesting, without compromising the basic thrills of the respective stories. That's what grown-up, mature entertainment should be all about, not mindless sexual innuendo, extremely simplistic morality and cookie-cutter characters.

If you're so sure of yourself and your opinion, why don't you give some examples of Dreamworks' superior "adult romance skillz?" I'm not unconvincable.
Though it would require some intellectual effort to convince me that SHREK's relationships are romantic and mature. The first film was a fairy tale parody parodying fairy tale love, before giving in to the dark side and conforming to the very same clich├ęs that had just been mocked. And every single one of the halfway-decent ideas introduced in the sequels (like the reaction of the in-laws and the introduction of children) crashed and burned thanks to extremely sloppy execution.

Look, I know this is a union blog, and I'm not knocking the animators who worked on those scenes. But Dreamworks' story department cannot hold a candle to Pixar's operation. Even their best films (like PRINCE OF EGYPT and KUNG FU PANDA) pale in comparison. Which is a pity, because Pixar is showing that you *can* introduce intelligent, thoughtful animated films for *all* ages into the marketplace, not just for toddlers and teenagers.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, dude, but you over-intellectualize it till you're blue in the face, but the simple fact remains that Pixar's main audience is families and children (by choice) and DW's audience while including some families and children is basically made up of teens and adults (by choice).

Go ask any teenager which film they'd rather see: Madagascar2 or Wall-E.
I'm not suggesting that one is a better made film than the other or DWs story crew is better than Pixar's - actually they're both equally good and equally bad - or which films have more 'mature' themes or not. That's not the point. I'm talking about audience perception which means more than all your efforts to quantify the sheer genius of Pixar. I won't even get into all the bad storytelling that Pixar is guilty of because DW is just as guilty.

I don't need to convince you of anything since that wouldn't change reality. You're one in a relatively small minority that feels that Pixar can never do any wrong and DW will always be inferior.
Most of the people in the industry understand that both studios have good and bad aspects.

OldEuropean said...

Dude, I'm not the one who started claiming that Dreamworks > Pixar in "maturity" or that Pixar had never tried "adult romance." Both claims are demonstrably false. I never talked about audience perception; it's clear from the box office that the audience likes being talked down to. Hollywood makes a tidy profit from even many adults being immature when it comes to entertainment.

And it's not as if I *need* intellectual stimulation to enjoy a movie, far from it. One of my favourite Pixars is MONSTERS,INC., which doesn't really lend itself to thorough analysis, and one of my least favourite is CARS, which does have an interesting concept but only so-so execution. And I like some of the Dreamworks films (ANTZ, PRINCE OF EGYPT, OVER THE HEDGE, KUNG FU PANDA), too. They're fine for what they are. But I can also recognize what they are not.
It was the premise of the original article that somehow Dreamworks movies are just as complex as Pixar's; no, they're not. I see Pixar's films, and especially Brad Bird's, with an intellectual eye because I *can* with those films, they *can* be enjoyed on this level *and* many others. Just try that with Dreamworks. One shouldn't blindly trust "the critics," but they have it right in this respect.

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