Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"Doom and Gloom" Begins?

As a followup to the weekend's okay but not boffo opening for "Open Season," there is this article in today's New York Times...

It begins thusly:

HOLLYWOOD, Oct. 2 — Mike Hernandez has had it with the new offerings of animated movies. Other than “Cars,” the summer hit from Pixar Animation Studios, he would rather watch the re-released animated classic “The Little Mermaid” with his 4-year-old daughter, Alicea.

“They had a good message,” Mr. Hernandez said of “Cars” and “The Little Mermaid” after attending a recent matinee of “The Little Mermaid” at the El Capitan movie theater here. Of other, newer films, he said, “I don’t pay too much attention.”

With more than a dozen computer-animated movies being readied for release by next summer, Hollywood is facing viewer fatigue worthy of Sleeping Beauty. Analysts and industry executives have long warned of a coming glut of computer-animated movies. That time has come.

Now, with so many movies for audiences to choose from, some are failing to meet expectations or are flopping outright.

This summer’s “The Wild,” from the Walt Disney Company, proved anything but for moviegoers, bringing in only $37 million at the domestic box office. The bigger disappointment was “The Ant Bully,” produced by the actor Tom Hanks and distributed by Warner Brothers Entertainment. That movie’s powerful ant wizard could muster only enough magic to garner $27 million.

By contrast, the debut of “Open Season,” the tale of a defiant grizzly bear and feisty mule deer who battle hunters, brought in $23 million over the weekend for Sony Pictures Entertainment, putting it in first place. But only the coming weeks will tell whether it will be widely embraced by moviegoers....

And so on and so forth. The problem here, is that Hollywood Studios tend to take a successful film and replicate it into the ground. A dozen years ago, Disney did it with the animated Broadway musical. It was fresh, original and zesty the first time we saw it ("Little Mermaid"), but the sixth or eighth ("Quest For Camelot"??) not so much. And studio heads seemed to be dumbfounded when grosses went down...and down...and down.

Now, in the year 2006, we are seeing a variation of that earlier scenario. It's not musicals this time around, but zany, wise-cracking animals. "Ice Age 2" "The Wild." "Barnyard." "Over the Hedge." "Open Season." And the audiences are starting to get a mite, ahm, restless.

When I was a kid, there were twenty-five western television series on the three networks, everything from "Lawman" to "Gunsmoke to "Rifle Man." There were steely-eyed heroes riding into town, guarding the town, or driving cattle far away from town. One of the few cowboy epics that stood out was one about a cowardly cardshark entitled "Maverick." It was wildly popular, and looking back it's not hard to discern why. "Maverick" was considerably different from the other oaters - satirizing them and sending them up instead of taking Western conventions seriously. But its wildly popular star, James Garner, was wildly unhappy being in it, and sued Warner Bros. to get out of his t.v. contract. H moved onto films, and "Maverick" faded away. Soon thereafter, most of the other westerns disappeared from prime time, taking their jut-jawed heroes with them.

When I'm in a dark mood, I sometimes think that producers of animated features are a lot like the television producers of the late 1950s and early 1960s. They look at what's popular and emulate it, then they emulate it unto death.

The problem with today's animated features is not that the audience is tired of animation. It's that they are tired of looking at the same film over and over again.


Anonymous said...

Out of all the releases this summer that made decent (if not blockbuster) numbers, this article refers to the two bombs of the whole bunch. There truly does seem to be a universal desire in the critics circles for animated films to remain in the background when compared to live action.

Anonymous said...

People also seem to forget, this is not the first year when cg movies started to flop. Remember "Dinosaur" or "Final Fantasy". Or how about when a good movie like "Iron Giant" fails, or "Curse of the Were Rabbit". No doubt they were great films, but failed to reflect that on the BO. Which means that even good films can fail.

As far as the movies looking too much the same. Well, how many types of characters can there really be? Humans, animals, insects, fish, aliens, monsters and robots. All done before. Somebody might want to add microscopic germs and such. Even those have been animated.(Osmosis Jones)
What else is there to animate?
It's been said before: animation is not a gendre, it's a medium.

And another thing. What I see in general is a lack of imagination in animated films done in America. Well, that was a little too harsh maybe, but they do seem very conventional.
Take Miyazaki, for example. That's what I call flexing your imagination muscle!!!!

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