Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tenth Anniversary

The successor to Will Vinton's studio hits the ten-year mark.

When LAIKA began we had a simple goal: to make movies that matter,” says Travis Knight, LAIKA’s President and CEO, who also is lead animator and a producer on its films. “LAIKA is devoted to telling new and original stories in new and original ways… We aspire to make films that are bold, distinctive, and enduring." ...

Few would debate that LAIKA's features aren't distinctive. But there's the profitability issue:

... Laika hasn’t had the kind of near-billion-dollar grosser that marks the histories of Pixar, DreamWorks Animation and Illumination Entertainment. It seemingly hasn’t even really tried. As it develops projects, is the company even aiming for such a four-quadrant smash? ...

[CEO Travis] Knight says the company’s future titles — not yet announced — will prove the company is serious about branching out, not sticking to macabre, quirky stories. “Rather than a taste for the macabre,” he says, “I like the full range of human emotion in a story, which means darkness and light. It means warmth, but it also potentially means scares. Within a safe environment, the theater, you can have a big ride, big ups and downs, intensity, warmth, humanity, laughs, tears — you want that full range of emotion.”

Here's the trouble: LAIKA has made and released three features. Each has cost, give or take, $60 million. Henry Selick's effort, Coraline, is LAIKA's highest grosser, bringing in $124 million at the box office.

That might have been sufficient to pull in profits back in 1966, but it doesn't really do the job now. The other two features, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls, have brought in $107 and $108 million respectively, but let's get real.

You are not making money if the product is budgeted at $60 mill and grosses a little over $100 mill. After overhead, after advertising, the company can't be cruising along in the black, can it? Or am I being too much a green eyeshade type here?

Maybe it is, after all, about the art. The hell with the money part of it.


Svonkin said...

In the words of Charles Foster Kane: "You're right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars *next* year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I'll have to close this place in... 60 years."

Unknown said...

Now if only laika can figure out how to tell a story (something travis knight has yet to prove he can do, shepherd, or even shown propensity for). General audiences just do not care what films look like--only when they're not engaged with the characters and the storytelling.

Svonkin said...

I have enjoyed Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls. All had "stories." With beginnings, middles, and ends. Something, by the way, that I can't say about much bigger grossing films, such as that last Minions film. I guess it ain't all about the plot.

Unknown said...

They all flopped at the box office. Obviously, they didn't have interest to the majority of the paying public. It's never about "plot." It's always about CHARACTER, and STORYTELLING. And their connection to the audience....all of which laika still must prove they can do in order to be successful.

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