Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Mantra of "Too Many 'Toons" Becomes Cliche

The following AP article is not only inaccurate, but also wrong-headed. But it's basic through-line has been repeated so often that it's racing past "conventional wisdom" to "cliche" without pausing for breath. But I'll let reporter David Germain weave his own fallacies...

...As with the initial novelty of talking pictures nearly 80 years ago, computer animation's early appeal resulted partly from its fresh look. Now, CGI films have become the standard, so commonplace that the story — not the style — is more crucial than ever in a movie's success or failure...

I've got news for Mr.Germain. Story has always been most of the ball game.

Does Mr. Germain honestly think that the first CGI feature Toy Story would have succeeded if the characters hadn't clicked, if the story hadn't added up to a satisfying whole? A hundred-plus years after motion pictures were invented (when audiences were happy to watch a train pulling into a station on a big white sheet) nobody would have plunked down money to see computer-generated toys if Woody and company hadn't riveted audiences. And it wasn't the artifical sheen on simulated wood and plastic that did it (although it helped with the overall effect.)

"What's happened is, no longer will people go see CG animation simply because it's CG-animated as they did when they first saw `Toy Story.' Everything will have to work on its own merits," Miller said. "Sure, when `The Jazz Singer' came out, people turned up to see sound pictures. In a handful of years, people no longer turned up to hear movies. They just turned up to see a movie they thought was good. The same thing is happening with animation."

Ten years ago, Hollywood released as few as three or four animated movies a year, with Disney the only steady player. This year, 16 films are expected to be eligible for the Academy Award for feature-length animation, only the second time in the six-year history of the animated Oscar that there were enough movies for a full field of five nominees, rather than the usual three.

"Happy Feet," the story of a penguin ostracized because he can't sing like his brethren but who can dance up a storm, features a voice cast led by Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Robin Williams. If the movie meets industry expectations and becomes a holiday hit, it should lift overall domestic revenues for this year's animated films well above $1.2 billion, according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

That would beat Hollywood's previous best of $1.18 billion for 2004's animated movies, which included the blockbusters "Shrek 2" and "The Incredibles."

Ah, I see. No animated features did very well this year, but overall animation box office is going to set a new record. Gotchya. Cars and Ice Age 2, mid-sized hits like Barnyard and Open Season were all optical illusions.

But no animated film in 2006 came close to the $300 million and $400 million returns of the all-time leaders, "Shrek 2,""Finding Nemo" and "The Lion King."

Apparently brother Germain didn't get the word about the $400+ million that Ice Age 2 took in overseas. Or the big bucks it took in domestically. And...oh, but why waste precious finger-time writing more? You get the idea.


Anonymous said...

Boy, there's just no way to battle these bizarrely wrongheaded articles, is there? Certainly not with the most basic and easily found facts! Still, I tear my hair out every time.

I really wish that the lame idea that "Toy Story" initially got people into theatres due to its novel "look" would be forever retired; I'd guess that the amount that "novelty" factor played in its success was probably something like 10% at most the first couple of weeks--dwindling to zero when the word of mouth was out that TS was just. plain. great.

Reel Fanatic said...

The call that there are too many animated movies comes out every six months .. I think the AP just has a master list of entertainment stories to write, and they just keep recycling it, whether the stories are true or not

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