Friday, March 03, 2006

Toon Costs #1: Animated Feature Budgets

Film studios cook the books with film budgets.* There's a revelation. When I worked on 'The Great Mouse Detective' (Diz – 1986) producer Bernie Mattinson was proud that we brought it in for $12 million. And not happy that the studio shifted half a million bucks from early story costs on 'Oliver & Co.' to 'Mouse, ' resulting in 'TGMD’s' final budget coming in at $12.5 million. Warners 'fessed up to $85 million in budget costs for the box office triumph 'Quest For Camelot' in the mid-nineties. A studio exec told me it cost at least fifty million more than that, but the costs were tucked away in studio overhead charges. So what did it REALLY cost? Who knows? Pinning down actual animated feature budgets is like nailing tapioca to the wall: Fun but fruitless. Some budgets of years gone by: 'The Rescuers' - $7.5 million. I have vivid memories of Woolie Reitherman (the director) coming into a story room in the old animation building, shaking his head and moaning about the high cost of it all, and how we couldn't keep spending so much damn money. This was in 1977. 'Fox and the Hound' - This pup ended up costing $12.5 million. 'The Black Cauldron' – Big spike here. Something around $35 million. 'The Little Mermaid' - $25 million. Or thereabouts. 'The Lion King' – Somewhere around $79 million. 'Chicken Little' – The studio said $60 million? The crew told me much more than that. The point here is: From the outside, it’s HARD to know what actual budgets actually are. (The above budgets come from many sources: film execs, the internet, my faulty memory. No doubt some of them are "wrong.") *And have since the beginning of motion pictures. My friend Robert S. Birchard has a letter from a film producer dated 1912, explaining to a buddy how to pad costs and charge them back.


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