Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ok, My two cents...

First off, sorry for the delay in getting stuff posted. With the move, the new job and half a million other things...honestly, the websites been kinda low on the priority list. Now, onto other things...

Over the course of the last couple of weeks lots of people have posted their feedback on why AntBully has burst into a fiery ball and taken a nose dive at the box office. Most of it I pretty much agree with. Mr Lango has a great post on his site. Keith has always been one to say exactly how he feels about something. Sometimes I think he's being a little to cynical about the industry, but this time he's pretty much on the nose. If you haven't read it I would advise taking a little trip over, as with most of Keith's'll learn somethin'.

I've had some time to think about this. I've intentionally held off on saying a lot about the subject. Mostly to keep myself from having a kneejerk reaction and maybe saying something that might hurt a feeling or two but also to seperate myself a bit from the end product and try to get a clearer idea of what really bothered me as a whole with the experience and why I think it didn't do as well as some people thought it should have, including myself.

First off I want to say that AntBully didn't "fail" for lack of effort of those involved. Every department busted their ass to put something great on the screen. Even when we were feeling beat down and knew the layoffs were coming when the movie was done...people still came in and put their backs into it and were true proffesionals...yeah, we bitched about it but we're human.

Unfortunately the problems started early on when the project moved from Universal to Warners. I'm not saying that Universal is this god send for animated projects but, come on, Warner's?!?!?!?! I can almost understand why "Looney Tunes: Back in Action" was a mess story wise. So many people want to make sure that these icons of animation (Bugs, Daffy...) are handled with kid gloves...gotta sell those lunch everything is watered down till it's as bland and unoffensive as possible and you end up with..."Looney Tunes, Back in Action"...I can almost understand the short sighted executive MBA thinking behind that. Agree with it?, understand how it came about?...yeah. But, and everyone knows what I'm going to say, what the hell was up with "The Iron Giant"?!?!?!?! Arguably one of the best animated films ever...EVER! I can't even begin to understand the (insert expletive here) inaction on Warner's part for dropping the ball on that one. And with AntBully we all saw it coming like the light at the end of the tunnel that you know is really a train. I'm not saying that Warner Brothers intentionally dropped the ball. They are in this business to make money after all. It was more like they left the ball laying there, thinking maybe somebody else would take it and do something with the damn thing. Yeah, there were commercials but if you're going to go to all the trouble of having some of the "biggest stars" in the industry do your little movie then you should at least plaster their faces all over the place. I thought that was the point of all this "star power" Peter Parker said, "With great power comes the great responsibilty of using them to promote your damn film."...ok, maybe he didn't use those exact words. They didn't even have Bruce Campbell doing the damn talk show route...good lord. And what the hell were they thinking with that release date? "Hey, every other CG film is going to be released this summer, we better get ours in there too and get some of that money before it's all gone."...huh? I'm actually gonna come back to this thought in a second.

Now, on to other things. In an earlier post I asked if other folks in the industry have seen a project that they've worked on go from something promising with heart to a pile of the "same old, same old ". I didn't get too much feedback but by asking the question you can tell I had an opinion. In my heart, I don't think AntBully is a bad film. It's a fun, good looking roller coaster ride but, ultimately, not anything unique. This is hard to talk about because it really had the potential to be something really, Being fortunate to start early in production I saw so many iterations of the story as the film developed. From character designs (Sarah Mensinga, you rock the block) to voice talent (Tress MacNeille is still the best Mommo) to back stories that gave purpose and meaning to characters...all for the sake of pacing. What good is snappy pacing if you've cut out the heart of the film? And that's where Lango hit's it on the nose. It got "committeed" till it was, what it was...candy. And as much as I hate to say it, it's not even the kind of candy you want to go back for a couple times.

And this is where I go back to the whole "release date" thing. Why? Why do you have to put it in the middle of all that? If you're not going to use any of that star power to promote your film how do you expect it to stand out of the crowd and give parents a reason to go see it? At least you could concider the idea of waiting till the crowd is a little less full. I know this may sound a little "too simple" but I honestly think if they had pulled an Ice Age and released in a less "typical" time of the year they could have easily increased their box office. Look at the numbers..except for Pixar who owns the holiday season, most of the CG films that have done any business have been early summer (usually mid to late May.) And that time frame has just gotten more and more congested. The ones who have dared to release outside that window fall into two and crap. Blue Sky has been incredibly smart in release dates. So far all of their films have released in March and , so far, all have done pretty damn good (even Robots.) Not because they're great films, animation wise they're freaking brilliant...but story wise, well...uh, yeah. But because they were, for the most part, entertaining and they picked a time with little to no competition they set themselves up very nicely. A couple other films have tried this ("The Wild", "Doogal") but the difference is those movies had no clear direction...even less that set them apart and made them unique...put simply, they sucked. See, I'm not saying AntBully is a great film...but it is a good film, a really good film. And if some thought had been put into actual competition and not trying to get in with the rest of the crowd I believe it would have had a better chance...I hope it would have anyway.

And finally...DAMNIT!!! Some of the best damn people in the world to work with blown to the four corners. I know that doesn't have anything to do with the post but, hell...that part really sucks the most. DNA had a vibe that most of us doubt we'll find again at a studio. I really want to see DNA rise from rubble of all of this and go on to do great things.

Well, at least I've got my Burke and friends in Portland and Vancouver. All I can say is I hope that the DVD for AntBully has some of the heart put back into it so that folks can get a glimpse of what could have been.

...oh, and if you worked on one of the two films that I said sucked..yeah, not a lot I can say about that. It's not a reflection of the folks on the floor who actually made the film. In this industry you will more than likely find yourself working on a project that, well, just isn't that good. Your efforts will be affected, your moral will sink and your love for what you do will be tested. On top of that not everyone will like your least they didn't say your film was a communist manifesto, man that's a kick in the crotch.


(If you read this post over the weekend you will notice some editing on my part. I was told I was being a little Burke of all people. If Burke says you're being too harsh then somethings up.)


Kristie said...

Oye is going to kick your ass.

Matthew Russell said...

He's gotta find me tell him and I'll kick your ass.

Keith Lango said...

Well said, Mr. Russell. Your heart and passion come through, as always. It's the greatest of pities that TAB ended up so much less than it could have been, especially considering the talent of the crew.

Say Hi to Seattle for me. :)

Matthew Russell said...

Thanks Keith, I'm missing our lunchtime conversations about the industry and the art. I hope Brazil is treating you well. You're a hell of a man for doin' what you're doin'...tell anyone I said that though and I'll kill ya.

Oh, and Seattle say's "Hi" back.