Friday, December 03, 2010

Horrid Sequels

Down in comments, Spam Boy has been nattering on endlessly about DreamWorks sequels.

I'm wondering when you're going to post the new dreamworks slate just announced? ... (etc.. etc.)

So has the internets:

How to Train Your Three Dragons ...Plus, six Pandas and a quartet of Madagascars ...

Sequels, what a shocker! But for the mental midgets among us, I will explain ...

Long ago, before movies could talk, there were these things known as "star vehicles." They were, simply put, movies that had Mary Pickford or William S. Hart or Charlie Chaplin or Douglas Fairbanks Sr. acting in the same kinds of roles doing the sames kinds of things in movie after movie.

Because that's what audiences wanted to see.

Like for instance, Mary plays a spunky young girl. And Doug rides a horse and swings a sword. And Bill Hart looks stern and fires six guns, while Charlie runs around as strange little hobo, over and over again.

Fairbanks even made some ... errggh ... sequels.

Then came talkies, and new movie stars, and whattayknow? More tailor-made star vehicles that were much like sequels, in that they repeated the same elements and similar set pieces again and again. For some reason, the studios had it in their heads that the public wanted to see their screen favorites in certain kinds of roles. The characters' names might be different, but the structure and tone of the films are much the same, with similar subject matter. For example:

From Jack L. Warner

To Wallis:

... Flynn in modern dress clothes just doesn't seem to go over. Am a bit frightened as it seems public only wants Flynn in outdoor productions we have been seeing him in. Think it over. Could we get "They Died With Their Boots On" as Flynn's next, or have you any suggestions? ...

Funny thing about movie companies. Year after year, decade after decade, they keep making pictures they think will make them money. How capitalistic of them. Even Uncle Walt, who said he didn't like making icky sequels, made "The Three Little Pigs" and then did this:

So here we are in the midst of the Third Golden Age of animation, and icky sequels seem to rule the roast in live action, also at money-grubbing studios like DreamWorks Animation. But thank God we have other studios like Pixar and Blue Sky Studios that possess the pure souls of Renaissance art shops and (happily) have nothing to do with features that, you know, repeat themselves in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Oh, wait! ...

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh and don't forget the much anticipated: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFTfAdauCOo

But wait, that wasn't a suggestion made by Jeffrey Katzenberg, so it must be okay. Remember, only Jeffrey can do wrong and everything John Lasseter suggests is directly from the mouths of the animation gods. Just ask Brenda Chapman and Chris Sanders and Jan Pinkava.

Scott said...

I find the whole Katzenberg v. Lasseter power struggle that seems to dominate the blog world to be increasingly played out and tiresome.

When I hear sequels announced by ANY studio it causes me to cringe. From that point on, it is the studio's job to justify the need for a second take by means of a quality, well-thought-out, and fresh take on their original idea. There just aren't that many instances in which this has been the case (Shrek 2, Toy Story 2, and 3 being the few exceptions). Each Ice Age was less enjoyable than the first.

I loved both Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon; however, in both cases the story was resolved to the point that a sequel could tarnish the appeal and charm that each of the originals had. This is also true for Monster's Inc.

While franchises and sequels may cause distress within the animation community, tickets sell, and money talks. I just hope at some point people can find it in themselves to support each film that strives to explore inventive and fresh stories, and ways of telling them (something that Pixar has a strong track record of, something that Katzenberg is still very much capable of, and something that Disney has rediscovered with Tangled).

In response to director changes at Pixar... it is in no way an anomaly in Hollywood. Directors are replaced all the time. Though I admit that I am as appalled as anyone at the idea of a Cars 2, it is no more appalling than the idea of Madagascar 2 or Puss In Boots.

Anonymous said...

Pixar's sequels were done comparatively out of necessity (except for the non-Circle 7 one, which came out of Bob Iger persecution complexes), but at least they only did ONE each--
To say "We're going to make six KFP sequels because you loved it so much!", what age would you normally fix that desperation for public love and attention at?--Nine, ten?

Because that's what audiences wanted to see.

No, because that's what Katzenberg wanted to see--A dozen franchises to convince himself that audiences remembered the studio for something besides Shrek. Audiences don't make movies, remember.
It's gotten to the point that you almost want to keep Jeffrey from finding out that Dragon or MvA got a share of good word-of-mouth from actual human beings, or it'll end up like the kid who burped at the table.
(Oh, and Steve, you posted the exact same Douglas Faibanks post, verbatim, back when you thought Pixar had sequel-itis...Kinda makes you want to take it back now, doesn't it?)

But then, as fate had it, we never DID get that two-part Shrek 4+5, leading into the big #6 wrapup, after #3 was supposed to pave the way--
Old saying about pre-greenlit multi-sequels, "Never count your chickens before they hatch. Into turkeys."

Steve Hulett said...

(Oh, and Steve, you posted the exact same Douglas Faibanks post, verbatim, back when you thought Pixar had sequel-itis...Kinda makes you want to take it back now, doesn't it?)

Actually no. I referenced "Don Q., Son of Zorro" in the earlier post. Here, I was referencing Doug's "Three Musketeers" sequel. (In point of fact, Fairbanks made three films based on the Dumas books, "A Modern Musketeer" (1917-Alan Dwan, director) being the first, and "The Three Musketeers" (1921) being the second. Imagine. A movie star-producer striving to repeat an earlier success. How craven.

But you miss (or choose to ignore) my larger point: Studios have ALWAYS built franchises around popular films. "Captain Blood," "The Adventures of Robin Hood," "The Sea Hawk," and "The Adventures of Don Juan" are not, strictly speaking, sequels. But they all have the same star (Fairbanks heir Errol Flynn), similar story arcs and story elements (big escapes and dueling sequences, etc.) But scratch the surface and they are not much different than the sequels, live or animated, being done today.

My point is that catering to perceived public tastes is what Hollywood has ALWAYS been about. Gable made "Parnell", which turned out to be far outside audiences' expectations for a "Clark Gable movie." It flopped, and MGM never made the mistake of making a film with Gable in a "non-Gable" role again.

Catering to popular tastes is what Hollywood is about. It's done because it's profitable and reasonably reliable. And profits are the name of the game.

Kinoo said...

Katzenberg also revealed in Paris that they're working on a animated musical inspired by Bollywood and the Indian tale Ramayana with Stephen Schwartz writing the lyrics:

http://www.hollywoodandco.com/article-sccop-dreamworks-developpe-un-musical-bollywoodien-baptise-r-m-yana-61984698.html

Did'nt Disney once thought of doing a feature on this tale ?

Anonymous said...

Making sequels of current hits makes more sense than making another Muppet movie, decades after the last one came out, and which FLOPPED. Who thought THAT was a good idea?

Oh, right, Jason "See-My-Doodle?-Ha-Ha-Ha!" Segal. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

however, in both cases the story was resolved to the point that a sequel could tarnish the appeal and charm that each of the originals had. This is also true for Monster's Inc.

Did Godfather 3 somehow diminish The Godfather and The Godfather Part 2? Last time I watched them both, which I do regularly, it hadn't. Did all the stupid Jaws sequels make Jaws a less spectacular movie. Not for me--I just declined to see any of them. It appears to me that people who hate sequels usually don't see them, or tune out and quickly forget the ones they do see.

I just hope at some point people can find it in themselves to support each film that strives to explore inventive and fresh stories, and ways of telling them ... something that Disney has rediscovered with Tangled).

What I saw in Tangled was the kind of star-vehicle 'sequel' that Hulett wrote about in this post. The star is Glen Keane's designs/animation and a Disney Princess-movie cast, and it's an energetic, satisfying riff on previous Glen Keane characters and previous Disney princess movies.

Films like Atlantis, Chicken Little, and Robinsons were good examples of Disney consciously trying to explore fresh and inventive stories. Katzenberg consciously tried to change the feature animation mold with films like Prince of Egypt and Shrek. The more original a film is, the higher the risk. Most studios that have tried to be too different have failed badly. A mixture of original content and quality sequels is overwhelmingly clear as the model for studios that survive in the long run. We should all grow up and acknowledge that reality.

Anonymous said...

Per the Dreamworks/Pixar sequel debate - I don't think you'll find a Pixar fan who's THRILLED that a majority (all?) of the upcoming slate is sequels. However, in thinking purely of the studio's track record the few sequels they've done were pretty darn good films; which isn't necessarily something you could say of Dreamworks' attempts.

None of which is to suggest Pixar's sequels will be amazing (Cars 2 looks pretty awful if you ask me), nor is it suggesting that Dreamworks' future franchises will be terrible either. It's just reactions operating off what we've already experienced.

Thinking 6 or 7 sequels down the line seems a bit too much if you ask me. Focus on the next film to the best of your ability and move on from there.

Anonymous said...

I've never understood this distaste for sequels. It's like saying "Ugh, they're making a second season of [insert name of successful tv series here]."

As if the first movie was the single, solitary interesting moment in these character's lives. "I've spent 90 enjoyable minutes with these characters. Now I never want to see them again." I just don't get it, and I never will.

Anonymous said...

Films like Atlantis, Chicken Little, and Robinsons were good examples of Disney consciously trying to explore fresh and inventive stories.

0_0

(Well, they were examples, anyway...Robinsons was the good one.)

stevenem said...

Sequels can be seen in a totally positive context. They are a sign that the animators were completely successful in creating appealing, fully dimensional, credible characters who the public identifies with and wants to see more of. What's wrong with that?

I think the people who object to animation sequels on principle are preoccupied with the way Disney did things as if there were some kind of ideology behind it. I think the truth is that Walt Disney had a restless imagination and simply found it more interesting to explore new things.

Anonymous said...

I say "Bring on the sequels". Nobody forces you to watch them, and if there is demand, why not? Plus it keeps a lot of people employed.

Anonymous said...

If Tai Lung isn't in the Panda sequel, I ain't seeing it. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Here's some trivia for you kids: Rescuers' original villain was going to be Cruella DeVille and they changed it because they came up wityh a better villain (in their mind) not because anyone objected to the 'sequel' nature of reusing Cruella.
Kind of ironic that Rescuers was the only 2D feature from Disney that spawned a feature sequel

Anonymous said...

When Ed Catmull retires in the next year or so, who replaces him?

Anonymous said...

Ed Catmull is retiring?

Bruce said...

Steve

why do you always take criticisms and judgments so seriously? I see it all the time. If someone calls you our on something, whether they are wrong or you are you just come across as arrogant and narrow minded only valuing your own opinion above others.

Sometimes it seems like you're just as bad as the trolls around here who do nothing but call people names and make rude, offensive and sometimes racist comments about others.

Sure this is "your" blog (actually it's the animation guilds) and you feel you can write, say, feel, express whatever you want. But I must say 99% of the time, I disagree with it.

Perhaps you could try being a little more tactful with your posts regarding others objections with yours.

Anonymous said...

To Bruce--
As someone not involved with the union, and a regular reader here, I have to say that Steve puts up with an amazing amount of nastiness and nit-picking. He usually either ignores it, or responds with self deprecation. He certainly has never responded with racism, as you accuse him in a round about way.

And I believe he's made clear that this blog isn't the property of the Guild, and that when he labels something as his opinion, it's his opinion alone.

Anonymous said...

"escuers' original villain was going to be Cruella DeVille and they changed it because they came up wityh a better villain (in their mind) not because anyone objected to the 'sequel' nature of reusing Cruella."

That's not true. They came up with that idea late in development in a plan to save money (re-use some animation). The original Villain was the Communist Cuban Government. There are lots of boards showing this. It was also a problem in that it was a "threat" but not a personality. And Disney just wasn't ready to get mixed up into politics.

Steve Hulett said...

why do you always take criticisms and judgments so seriously? I see it all the time.

Bruce:

Give me a couple of specific examples, and I'll strive to correct.

Anonymous said...

"Katzenberg also revealed in Paris that they're working on a animated musical inspired by Bollywood and the Indian tale Ramayana with Stephen Schwartz writing the lyrics:

http://www.hollywoodandco.com/article-sccop-dreamworks-developpe-un-musical-bollywoodien-baptise-r-m-yana-61984698.html
"

I've never been a real fan of Katzenberg, found him a bit egotistical, no offense to fans.

DW has done some outstanding work especially with PoE, Shrek, and HtTYD. But if this is true, it is kind of bizarre that they're doing another animated musical. Not just that but one that Lasseter and Disney wanted to do for awhile now.

Well it looks like the Lasseter v. Katzenberg debate has some new fuel to add to the fire.

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