Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Mighty Horton (and Feature Animation Industry)

Why do I know that American animated features will continue to be drivers in animation employment? This:

'Horton Hears a Who!' has performed well at the foreign box office even though the original Dr. Seuss book is relatively unknown outside the U.S.

"Horton Hears a Who!" wore the international crown for the second straight weekend, easily topping a moderate frame with $11.7 million at 6,583 playdates in 54 markets. ... [F]antasy adventure "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and caveman actioner "10,000 B.C." -- were the only other films cracking the $5 million mark during the frame.

... "Horton" has totaled $223 million worldwide so far, underscoring the ongoing strength of CGI animated fare. The last major animated entry, "Bee Movie" totaled $286 million worldwide, including $160 million overseas ....

Big animated films from the United States have been consistent winners at the world box office, and my take is this:

Studios are almost always squirrely about breaking the mold of a winning formula. And c.g.i. features produced stateside have been big winners over the past several years.

If the time comes when a big animated film made in say, Bangladesh makes an international splash by raking in heavy coin, then corporate calculations may change, but until that happens, the domestic animated feature industry will stay robust.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who is classic, i forgot how much that guy packed into such simple storylines...

Anonymous said...

Good to hear that Blue Sky's latest is going strong domestically and in overseas markets . That can only help everyone .

I'm still puzzled about how mainstream entertainment writers think about animation:

""Horton" has totaled $223 million worldwide so far, underscoring the ongoing strength of CGI animated fare."

[emphasis added]

CGI animated fare ... so , um , that's why Horton is successful ? Because it's CG ? Oh. I thought computers were a tool for making films , not a genre . (can we say this too much ? Is anyone getting the message ? ) Gee, maybe Horton is successful because it's a well-made , entertaining film . Period.

So if Horton is an indication of the "ongoing strength of CGI animated fare" then what does it mean when a CG animated film flops ? ( Everyone's Hero, Meet the Robinsons, Ant Bully, Arthur and the Invisibles, Flushed Away, The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything ) I would have said that CG is not to "blame" in the case of a flop (the story and characters are the problem, not the tools) , and on the other hand the mere use of CG animation is not the reason a film is a hit. (maybe in the early days it was still enough of a novelty to draw people in on that alone , but that time has faded. )

Would Variety's editors ever let pass a sentence which praised the performance of some live-action film by saying: "Movie-X" has totaled $223 million worldwide so far, underscoring the ongoing strength of films shot on Panavision cameras with KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film." ?

Anonymous said...

As long as animation continues to be a boon for the launch of the 'franchise' - the hallowed golden ring of ancillary rights and licensing fees - and continues to be driven by endless new generations of fresh, unspoiled and easily impressed new child and parent audiences, it will continue to be referred to as 'CG animated fare.' Sorry, but without question, that is who's paying the bills. You work for McDonalds, friend.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say, but CGI just continues to look better and better, with greater technical advances pushing its ability to tell any story it wishes. Visually, it continues to be exciting.

I just don't see any effort by anybody, corporate or independent, in making traditional 2D visually innovative and exciting. It just keeps presenting the 1940's as its high water mark.

It would appear that CGI is chess, and traditional is checkers. Both can be appealing, but chess is infinitely deeper with a far greater toolset at its disposal. I urge 2D filmmakers to MAKE THE CASE visually why traditional is not only relevant, not only equal, but superior. Make the film that proves it.

Anonymous said...

I suppose that when you go to a gallery or museum you ignore the paintings and just look at the sculpture.

Anonymous said...

As stated above. It's pointless to argue over the number of spacial dimensions visually represented in films.

As for relevance, CG is indisputably relevant with regard to box office and critical success. As is traditional animation. There's an enormous library of 2D animated films that have been made to prove it.

As for your chess/checkers analogy - I take it that you find the hologram chess game R2-D2 plays with the Wookie in Star Wars is infinitely superior to traditional chess.

And that you thought Anthony Hopkins should have won the Emmy for Beowulf.

Anonymous said...

(cough, cough) ...Oscar, Emmy. Whatever.

Anonymous said...

As paintings became more visually impressive, sculptors met the challenge with new and more interesting creations in their medium. They didn't remain static to what was done 50 years prior. For every Picasso, there was a sculptor similarly pushing the boundaries.

Someone, please, create a traditional animated film with all the visual "coolness" of Gollum, or the dynamism of "Incredibles." I'm not arguing 2D is inferior, I'm arguing that no one is pushing its boundaries, content to recreate what Disney was doing 60 years ago.

And until someone does, it will not be viewed as relevant next to CG. Do something that only a drawing can do, the way the Impressionists did when photography threatened to make traditional painting irrelevant.

And yes, the hologram chess game in Star Wars is infinitely superior to traditional chess.

Anonymous said...

you are arguing that 2D is inferior. you are making the assumption that traditional animation has some kind of "catching up" to do in order to equal 3D when the fact of the matter is that 3D has only caught up to the accomplishments of 2D.

there is nothing about 3D that makes it superior to 2D. its different. period.

I guess Steven Spielberg is a complete idiot for filming "Schindler's List" in black and white when he could have used color!

the maverick of CGI animation; the man who pioneered it to where it is today, John Lasseter is gearing up to work in 2D. he's not doing it because 2D needs improving, he's doing it because there is a misconception that what is new in the art world immediately renders something else old. a lot of people have lost a lot of money in the many applications of that belief.

3D movies didn't replace regular films.
Imax didn't replace standard format.
scuplture didn't replace painting

...and 2D didn't die out because it couldn't come up with anything new. the studios jumped on the flavor of the day and the market is already flooded with CGI.
2D doesn't have to compete with CGI. it has its own time tested merits and aesthetic - which is better than those of CGI in many cases.

just touching on a wide array of stylistic approaches 2D is better. the characters in 90% of the CGI films that have been made all look like they could inhabit the same world.

Anonymous said...

"And yes, the hologram chess game in Star Wars is infinitely superior to traditional chess."

Yeah, even though it was animated with Stop-Motion animation instead of CG I guess it was pretty good. ;- )

So, how did this thread turn into another pissy rant against 2D ? All I pointed out was that the writer in Variety was marginalizing CG (sort of the same way the industry marginalized hand-drawn before it ... that's the only connection to 2D) by focusing on the tools . I was trying to say the film makers who made Horton into a hit deserve a little more credit for their craft than being kept down in the animation ghetto. But I guess everyone at Blue Sky and Pixar and all should realize they really just "work for McDonalds" . That's what it's all about , eh, friend ?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that what people in the animation ghetto are working for is worthy only for McDonalds. I have seen and heard the most amazing performances.

Unfortunately most of them do not reach the theaters or appear on television simply because of market pressures. The financial range of the type of films I believe we are talking about are exposed to the same market forces as a cheeseburger. And these are very substantial pressures that affect the creative impact of a film. They dull down a variety of original, sharp, and forward-thinking voices in any number of ways. The American market for animation (and many other mediums and venues) is both a blessing and a curse in that way. And I don't see us Americans quitting McDonald's anytime soon - even after China and the entire Middle East own it and sell the burgers back to us. What is needed to blunt the blockbuster mentality of the studios is more small budget animated films and small, more varied platforms to distribute them on. Oh, were it not just a dream....

I do love Pixar films, but Persepolis deserved the Oscar. Beautiful film;)

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