Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Thoughts on "SpongeBob SquarePants 2" and Paramount's Future in Animation

A couple of weeks ago, Paramount Pictures announced the first production from their in-house animation studio: A second SpongeBob SquarePants film. It's supposed to be released sometime in 2014, approximately eight years after the first film came out. Paramount launched their in-house animation studio after the success of Gore Verbinski's Rango in 2011, a co-production between GK Films, Blind Wink and Industrial Light & Magic. Another reason why they launched this studio is because they are losing DreamWorks soon because the contract is expiring in December.

Rango might not have appealed to family audiences, but the risky Western adventure grossed $123 million domestically and $245 million worldwide. It also took home the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature of 2011. (If you ask me, being someone who believes animated films should be recognized alongside live action films, it should've been up for Best Picture, but I'll save that for a rant) Paramount is probably more than happy. When I heard that Paramount was launching their own animation studio, I was excited about the possibilities, but instead their first project will be a SpongeBob movie.

I'm a bit disappointed by this. I understand that Rango was a risky production that they picked up, but I was hoping Paramount's first in-house animated film would be something similar to Rango. A daring risk of sorts, something original. A SpongeBob sequel? There's really no ambition in that project, and it just feels safe. This could be a mere test, though. Paramount probably hopes that a movie based on the hit Nickelodeon series will be a safe start, a surefire hit. If it's a hit, Paramount will probably go forward with more ambitious projects. One project that's in the works is a film adaptation of The New Kid, a Penny Arcade webcomic about a young boy who is the only human in an intergalactic high school. (There's a lot of potential in that project)

Animated films based on animated television shows usually don't make much at the box office, and the only films in this category to cross $100 million were The Rugrats Movie and The Simpsons Movie, in 1998 and 2007 respectively. When The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie debuted in November 2004, it had a good-sized opening weekend ($32 million) and decent reviews, but the film ended up making $85 million domestically. That was over seven years ago, and now, since SpongeBob is still running, perhaps the film could out-gross its predecessor. The show recently became Nickelodeon's longest running original show, beating the original record held by Rugrats.

Paramount probably hopes that something like this could kick their in-house animation division off to a good start, but personally, I was hoping that they would do something original and not a sequel to an animated film based on a hit TV show. It just seems like a safe move, but if its success leads to ambitious projects, then I'm all for it. SpongeBob might be on a network that calls itself a "kid's" network, but SpongeBob has a lot of older fans as well. However, I don't expect this to be a huge blockbuster, but a profitable film that will give Paramount confidence in feature animation since the first film wasn't that big of a hit but it still made its small budget back.

Aside from the in-house animation division, Paramount also has the upcoming sequels to Steven Spielberg's performance capture adaptation of the classic comics by Herge, The Adventures of Tintin. Since the first one was a hit overseas, they have another success on their hands. A sequel to Tintin is expected for 2014, so that will probably do very well overseas. (It's too bad it wasn't a blockbuster success stateside) Perhaps Industrial Light & Magic could produce another animated film for them, so Paramount will be getting animated films from three sources: Their own in-house studio, the studios behind Tintin (Amblin, WingNut, etc.) and ILM. Now this may or may not happen, but it's something to look into.

Anyways, how much do you think the sequel to The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie will make? (Or will it be a reboot and have no connection to the first?) Do you think it will be a smash hit? Or a disappointment? What are your thoughts on Paramount's animation division starting off with a SpongeBob movie? Also, do you think it will be a hand-drawn film or a CGI film?

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