Sunday, May 31, 2009

Animation's Latest Soaring Success

While I was away not paying attention, apparently Pixar had another successful opening:

Pixar's perfect streak at the box office continued this weekend with "Up," which opened to a studio-estimated $68.2 million.

That puts the quirky tale directed by studio veteran Peter Docter just behind the Disney-owned company's biggest films, "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles," which both debuted with $70 million. It also puts to rest any fears that a movie starring an old man won't appeal to kids.

Helped by 1,530 3-D screens with higher ticket prices, "Up" came in above last year's "Wall-E," which opened to $63.1 million, and 2007's "Ratatouille," which started off with $47 million. Both those movies went on to gross more than $200 million at the domestic box office, and "Up" will almost certainly do the same ....

So let's see. DreamWorks Animation's last effort came in at $195 million, and Pixar's new entry will no doubt do the same.

Animated features appear to be on a roll, despite "DreamWork's pictures not being as good as Pixar's" ... and "People are getting tired of all the c.g.i. features out there" and the usual nattering from negative nabobs.

Apparently the always-dim general public hasn't gotten the memo.

(Reuters and Variety weigh in here and here.)


robiscus said...

Did anyone else have the ridiculous and desperate extended preview for Cartoon Network's new reality program slate?
A feature of a change for that network that looks like a train crash in slow motion. Let me get this straight, they've put together reality shows that are watered down versions of shows from other networks that have already come and gone.
2 questions here:

-When do they put the CN studios building up for sale in Burbank(I'm sure its filled with sub par reality producers(redundant) walking around and asking, "Can we get rid of all of these desks?"
-Who talked them into starting a new reality direction with SIX shows right off the bat?
It'll be interesting to watch the firings from the top all the way down, but then the firings never seem to stop over at CN....

Noel said...

Nobody wants to see a movie about an old, elderly man. What kid wants to watch that? Only old people will want to watch it, and they don't go to the movies. And he looks too blocky and squarish. Up will be Pixar's first bomb.

Who would want to watch a movie with no dialogue for 30 minutes? Everyone will get bored if the characters don't talk. And robots are inherently unlovable--people can't emotionally relate with mechanical objects. Wall-E will be Pixar's first bomb.

Who wants to see a movie about a rat? Rats are gross. Rats in the kitchen are even grosser. And it sounds boring. Ratatouille will be Pixar's first bomb.

Only NASCAR fans will want to watch Cars. It will be Pixar's first bomb.

A post-modern, ironic superhero family? Hasn't that been done, like, 100 times already? Mothers and girls won't want to watch it, and it looks too violent for kids. Incredibles will be Pixar's first bomb.

Fish are ugly. People can't relate to fish. And these designs look too plastic. Finding Nemo will be Pixar's first bomb.

Etc, etc.

Anybody recognize themselves in some of these comments?

These are all actual comments I have heard, both from animation colleagues, and "industry insiders" quoted in various media articles. A lot of people seemingly never learn that it should never be what the movie is about, but rather, how you tell that story, which determines whether it resonates.

Suffice to say, a lot of "experts" once again have a lot of egg on their faces this weekend, not least the toy manufacturers who didn't think kids would be the least bit interested in an old man in Up.

Anonymous said...

What I find most interesting is that for the first time in awhile teens are actually interested in seeing a Pixar film.
You couldn't drag my daughter and her friends to see Cars, Ratatouille or Wall-E. But they were there on opening night to see Up.

She doesn't know why, but something clicked with them and Pixar might want to try and figure that out.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with pixar films. I think they are great.

What I do have a problem with is fluffers like you above. Those of us who work in the industry would really enjoy working on pixar films. But I think it is ridiculous that people are willing to take pay cuts just so they get get fluffed by fanboys.

Pixar should share in the success of their films and frankly other studios are more generous when it comes to that.

Anonymous said...

who you calling a 'fluffer'?

Noel said...

I'm assuming the "fluffer" above must be me, Noel. Actually, as a member of TAG, I'm not a fanboy, and I enjoy making 30% more than Pixar's folks.

I also recognize that Pixar has the smartest story team in the film industry. This would be why they now have the best track record of any production house anywhere, live-action or animation. I wish my studio's story team were as good.

And rather than fluffing, my point was simply that every Pixar movie has been preceded by dire predictions of doom, based on the most superficial triviality, but which is repeated ad nauseum as received wisdom by both colleagues (who should know better) and industry gurus alike.

When we hear this same crap the next time around, don't hesitate to stuff it back down their throat. I also worry that this kind of demographics-obsessed crap is the reason why more original, off-beat, unconventional stories aren't being made.

Anonymous said...

my point was simply that every Pixar movie has been preceded by dire predictions of doom.

Your point is also total and complete BS. Most of the early Pixar films weren't even on anyone's radar, so no one was predicting anything dire. Most of Pixar's films have been eagerly awaited, which you can see by the long pattern of Pixar stock surging in the weeks and months before a film release. A couple of Pixar films have had a FEW pundits suggesting that this next film would be the one that didn't do so well, but it's been surprisingly rare.

I've even heard some of the Pixar leaders make this same claim, that "everyone" has consistently been predicting their failure. If "everyone" is Jim Hill or some nameless marketing tool for a competing studio, maybe there's some truth in it. But having watched Pixar's growth and success closely, I call bullsh*t.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Jim HIll got tied to a bunch of UP publicity balloons. Too bad they didn't let them go (although they might have a bit of difficulty with all that weight).

My 2 Cents said...

I think all of this talk of studio or director branding is ridiculous. To most movie goers it's just a lot of irrelevant "inside baseball." The history of Hollywood, and film making in general is filled with examples of colossal hits immediately followed by colossal failures and vice-versa, not only from the same studio but by the same director. All you have to do is look at Woody Allen as an example. He is constantly alternating big hits with miserable disasters. Very few movie goers buy a ticket just because it's a Woody Allen film. All they want to know about is THIS film. Is this one worth seeing? Some mysterious combination of publicity, reviews and word-of-mouth makes the difference. It's nice that you have a sense of team spirit about the studio you work for, but the people who buy the tickets don't give a shit. They just want to get their money's worth.

Wonkey the Monkey said...

'Animated features appear to be on a roll, despite "DreamWork's pictures not being as good as Pixar's" ...'Okay, you harp on this point a lot in this blog. Are you just being contrary, or do you really not get it?

When someone says "Dreamworks' pictures are not as good as Pixar's," they aren't saying that they won't make as much money. They aren't even saying that they WISH that Dreamworks made less money (though I confess that there are probably some haters that do wish that). That opinion has to do with the quality of the individual films. Period.

I love that there are multiple studios making successful animated films. Hollywood CG features are currently dominated by two studios. Both of them make a lot of money. This is awesome. One of them makes better movies than the other. This is an opinion. Agree with me or don't, but PLEASE stop trying to use box office success to measure the quality of a studio's output! It's maddening!

r said...

Well, I love Woody Allen films, and I will go to see all of his movies, if they are being shown...otherwise I'll just buy the dvd.

On another topic, the Charles Muntz design was a joy to watch. Wether it was based on Kirk Douglas or not, that is exactly what they mean by "appealing design". I just wish the main character was as appealing.


Anonymous said...

story and message of film was thin. style and tone was absent. the self-described film-maker's animation studio needs to work harder to live up to the claim. a truly monumental task for this big budget genre, if not completely impossible. the never-ending search for the industry to to be taken seriously is full of more pitfalls than the pixar apostles bargained for. their desire to not stick to talking animals and the like is to be congratulated. but craft is born more out of independence and resourcefulness than box office and stock rallies. they are both blessed and cursed by hi-tech overhead and investment.

Anonymous said...

Pixar films do make more than Dreamworks films. They're in it for the very long haul. Pixar films get a premium when it comes to pay tv and cable and broadcast rights. They sell lots of toys (stores are selling out of Dug toys, according to USA Today). Cars alone has made more than all of Dreamworks films put together. They have more outlets for toys (the parks) and chances to keep their characters alive and in the public.

I like some of Dreamworks films (especially Kung Foo Panda), but those are just the facts. Dreamworks is following Pixar's lead by pushing the hilarious penguins from Madagascar into their own tv show to keep the franchise alive. I'm looking forward NOT to the next Shrek movie (ugh), but to the Puss and Boots film. Here's hoping it's not ugly like the shrek films.

r said...

to anon 1:39,

The story and message were NOT thin!

Style and tone absent?!? What movie did you watch?!

What a croc of s#@$t!

Anonymous said...

just an opinion. it felt more like an early pixar short spun into 90 min. i appreciate that it goes for something deep, but didn't feel like it cleared the gap to do it. again, i respect the push to expand 3D animation into new story vistas, but it exposed the same traditional shortcomings this type of animation production has with depth of meaning, individual voice of craft, and ability to transform audiences perception of narrative mediums.

Anonymous said...

Does the Anon Pixar hater live in Austin??

My 2 Cents said...

I was very frustrated by Up, not because it was bad, but because part of it was so good. I had a similar reaction to Wall-E. It started with ground breaking, innovative, craft and story telling, then jumped down a level and became a "cartoon."

Up starts with an incredibly original and effecting portrayal of the nature of relationship, then inexplicably shifts gears into flat cartoon slapstick. And becomes repetitious; how many times will the dogs chase the ball? How many times will the bird swallow the cane? How funny is Alpha Dog's distorted voice the third time it's used? How long can we watch the old man pull his house over landscape that barely changes?

After that promising beginning I felt like I had the rug pulled out from under me.

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