July 22, 2003

Dreamworks swears by CG, swears off hand-drawn animation

According to a NYTimes article on the recent poor performance of several expensive, hand-drawn animation films, and the success of such CG films as Pixar's Finding Nemo, Dreamworks (with voice provided by animaster Jeffrey Katzenberg) is calling hand-drawn animation "a thing of the past."

Another nugget of apparently accepted wisdom: as the poor box office of Sinbad, Treasure Planet, and Titan A.E. demonstrates, animated action films targeted at boys will fail. Hmm. Or else, these three films blew chunks. As Final Fantasy showed, you can make a bad action movie with CG, too.

The major studio solution, comedies and sequels (Shrek 2, anyone?), betrays the blockbuster mentality that's ruining live action films, while ignoring the world where action and animation are thriving: anime. The gorgeously hand-animated, Oscar-winning Spirited Away cost only $12mm to produce and scored $10mm in US box office, $12mm in Europe, and like a hundred trillion dollars in Japan.

Animation can learn a lesson from both anime and indie producers. Danny Boyles' horror/thriller 28 Days Later has earned $33 million in the US, performance which means failure for a $140m juggernaut like Treasure Planet. For a DV production with an $8 million budget, though, it signals wild success.

[update from Saturday's NYT: animators Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt aren't taking this studio lameness lying down. They're touring The Animation Show around the country, setting out to drum up audience--and to make themselves the go-to guys--for indiemation.
And on Studio 360, Kurt Andersen basically gives you the audio version of this post.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: July 22, 2003.

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