Over the years I've heard complaints about how the animation business just isn't what it used to be, how the quality of films has tanked, how all the studios care about is a buck and the bottom line, etcetera.
Decades back, I listened to Disney artists gripe how management was lousing up Walt's cartoon legacy by putting the feature library
To hear some of them talk, it was the end of civilization as upright carbon life forms knew it. But the studio made a hell of a lot of money putting its longer cartoons on video tape, and so the studio continued the practice. And before you could freeze frame the Playboy centerfold in The Rescuers, most of the back catalogue was on cassette. (The horror!)
So here we are in the 21st century, and the purists whine on. Amid of Cartoon Brew gripes about how an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature is a bad idea, but guess what? The Oscars stopped being about "Best" around 1936. Today, more than ever, the little gold man is there to goose the grosses of nominees, and as such, I think "Best Animated Feature" is a splendid idea.
If it adds fifty million dollars to DreamWorks Animation or Pixar's final take, then I'm for it, because more animators and tech directors and pre-visualization artists will be drawing paychecks when the next animated feature is greenlit for production.
And lately Rope of Silicon has wondered if Pixar, shining fountainhead of creativity, has jumped the shark by making all those icky, unoriginal sequels.
My answer would be "not hardly." As Kevin Koch points out, plots are made and remade. As there was Dances with Wolves, so is there now Avatar. Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (the copyrighted title from the 1922 epic) begat The Adventures of Robin Ho0d in 1938, and a string of Robin Hoods thereafter. And Shakespeare wrote Hamlet from an earlier play (how unoriginal of him.)
Live with it. The practice has been going on since ancient Athens started constructing buildings with marble. It won't be stopping anytime soon.
But sequels are beside the point. What counts is the quality of the tale retold. If Cars VII grabs an audience by the shirt front and compels tears and laughter, nobody cares if its version #7 or sequel #20. And if a movie bores opening night theater-goers stiff, being the First of Its Kind won't help a bit.
So let's stop mewling about purity and originality, shall we? Studios are in the business to make a profit. And if they have to destroy the idealists' fantasy of the high road to do it, they'll cheerfully obliterate miles of asphalt without batting a greedy eyelash.
No creator is ever given a blank check anyway. Everyone is constrained by the system in which they find themselves. Charles Dickens wrote serials. Jay Ward had miniscule budgets on 1960s television; James Cameron had tight schedules and money with the first Terminator. The trick is working with whatever literary form or television show or movie you've got and turning it into something that entertains and delights. (And also make the congloms big bucks.)
If you're clever enough, and lucky enough, to succeed, then you'll be invited back to create yet another profitable success. Whether or not that first one was pure and original or not.Click here to read entire post