Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bits Journal #22

First up, a new round of trailers…

The Book of Life's look is jaw-dropping, I haven't praised it enough before. However, I feel that this trailer doesn't really sell it properly. Fox did a decent job putting the first trailer together, as its first half was mostly quiet. This trailer on the other hand is all over the place, and I bet it doesn't represent the movie's story and script properly. I'm still psyched for it, as I've learned over the years that even something that looks bad can turn out to be great. *cough*ParaNorman*cough*

Penguins of Madagascar now has me sold. Very rarely does an animated movie trailer make me laugh and smile all the way through, this one did. I've been criticizing Fox lately for their marketing of DreamWorks' recent films, but this trailer oddly enough was well put together in my eyes. The film looks really funny, and I already like the new characters they've introduced. The bit at the end where the villainous octopus Dr. Octavious Brine attempts to communicate with the penguins and their allies was gold, Cumberbatch's Classified's comment tops it all off.

Also, I'm hoping it's a big success because DreamWorks is in need of a pick-me-up…

DisneyToon Studios is currently facing problems, which was inevitable because Planes: Fire and Rescue isn't set to duplicate the success of its predecessor. Their staff is now down to around 44 people, and Deadline got information from a staffer who said the "next round of cuts could be closing us down," along with additional info from Steve Hulett.

The sequel, which got better reviews than the first one, opened with a disappointing $17 million and its legs are nowhere near as strong as the first film's… Planes had all of August and September to itself, and when an animated film - no matter what audience it aims at, be it whole families or just the tykes - has that luxury, it has strong legs. Really strong legs, because it's coming from families who have nothing to see for months, slowly but surely bringing the film up a bit. It grossed a pretty impressive $90 million, which wasn't too bad for a DTV-level title in theaters that was pretty much only for kids.

Worldwide it took in $219 million, more than covering its $50 million budget. This film's budget was the same, but it looks to finish up with less than $60 million stateside and it's gaining very little traction overseas, though there's a good chunk of major markets it hasn't opened up in yet. The third Planes is apparently still a go, but what does the future hold for the studio? None of the Tinker Bell films, despite getting better reception than the Planes entries, were theatrical. Odd. The Tinker Bell series was also supposed to continue beyond next year's Legend of the NeverBeast, but the seventh installment was cancelled as it was in development last autumn.

The home media industry is not what it used to be either… The days when The Lion King II sold around 15 million units are long gone…

I think Planes did okay enough because you still had some families out there that like the Cars brand. Most adult filmgoers had no interest, hence "Pixar's" Cars 2 grossing upward of $66 million on its opening weekend. The Pixar name, known for quality animation for adults and kids alike, gets folks in the seats. Many audiences had faith in Pixar making a good Cars 2. A Pixar-less Cars spin-off, coming after the poorly-received and weak-legged Cars 2, wasn't bound to set the box office on fire. But for a modestly-budgeted film, it did fine enough and had legs on par with the original Cars.

I suspect part two didn't quite do so well because one was nothing special, and it was just for the tykes. Adult moviegoers stayed away, but its opening wasn't much lower than the first film's, so some families must've still been there. Its legs on the other hand are a different story, but this film had barely any competition, animation-wise. I guess a lot of parents took their young'uns to see the fighting robots instead, or maybe decided to save their money for something better down the line.

Whatever reason it didn't do well, it didn't do well… Perhaps DisneyToons Studio should be tasked to make good films, and not obvious cash cows. Yes Disney is a business, but c'mon, gotta have some quality coming out of those outlets, ya know? I found it strange that Tink's latest outing was not upped to theatrical status, but after Planes 3 wraps, what's left?

Does production at DisneyToon come to an end after a 26-year run? Or do the higher-ups give them good theatrical projects to work on that'll keep them afloat? What will home media be like in a few years? Will it suit non-theatrical animation?

I personally think that DisneyToon should be given fresh, original projects to do on lower budgets that appeal to all ages rather than just the tykes, or even better - experimental, lower budget animation for older audiences. DisneyToon's products always aimed at the rugrats, the direct-to-video sequels were more for them than they were for the whole family (yes, even The Lion King II!), even the Tinker Bell films. But feature animation isn't just for children, Disney animation was never just for children, and the biggest animated films make money because (here we go again, broken mp3 mode!) adults flock to see them. Most moms and dads will look at a kiddie flick and just wait for it to hit home media, so they can put it on in the other room and not have to subject themselves to it. Something like Frozen did so well because everyone saw it, everyone from 3 to 33 to 133!

They could also possibly turn DisneyToon into a second unit for Walt Disney Animation Studios. Remember the one in Orlando that got closed down a decade ago? Well, this could be the successor to that Orlando studio. Keep the same people, maybe even bring back recently laid-off animators… But I'm getting ahead of myself. The dreamer in me wants Disney to make DisneyToon a WDAS wing that specializes in smaller-scale, maybe perhaps traditionally animated films. Remember, the Florida studio kept the budgets under $100 million for the films mainly made there. (Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, Brother Bear.) I think Disney should seriously consider opening a second WDAS to make smaller films that are very profitable.

But I think the two of those options would be great. I know the current brigade running the studio has become so risk-averse lately (unless risks that were in production before this recent aggressive anti-creativity rush are making them money, like Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy), but this could really work out. They can even make *GASP* Mickey and friends films. Films similar to the 2004 Mickey Three Musketeers feature. If Walt Disney Animation Studios won't make a Mickey Mouse film, then Toon Studios should handle modest Mickey films and keep him going in more ways - animation-wise - than the Paul Rudish TV series. But don't make them into kiddie flicks, make them solid good family films that all ages can enjoy!

Warner Bros. and DC have two scripts for Aquaman being written right now, and they'll pick the one they think works the best. One is being written by Kurt Johnstad (300: Rise of an Empire) and the other by Will Beall (Gangster Squad). I have a feeling the former's script will make the cut, since he wrote a sequel to a Zack Snyder film. Beall has a two-film deal with WB, so I'm guessing this script and the Lethal Weapon reboot are just that…

This news implies to me that Aquaman may be the next DC Cinematic Universe installment after Batman v Superman. The film that will open August 5, 2016…

Why's that? Well, first off, Jason Momoa's Aquaman will appear in Batman v Superman. Second, two scripts are being written right now. Third, it hasn't been confirmed who will be playing Shazam and there has been no talk of a script. Sure all signs point to The Rock playing the character, but also…

Justice League is expected to come out in 2017. It's going to be filmed back-to-back with Batman v Superman. This implies that it may be a summer 2017 release, but I'm thinking DC will have it be the 11/17/2017 release with Aquaman and Wonder Woman preceding it. Now wouldn't that be great? Introduce the two in Batman v Superman, then develop them even more in their own solo movies before Justice League hits. That way, you're not throwing everyone at the audience at once, and Green Lantern and The Flash are the only new faces in the Justice League film.

Then after that, Shazam could come out in March 2018 followed by either The Sandman or the Green Lantern / Flash team-up film. Rumors point to the new Batman getting his solo film in 2019. So…

Batman v Superman - 3/25/2016
Aquaman - 8/5/2016 (this spot could work for a property like this, like Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy)
Wonder Woman - 6/23/2017 (WW, I think, works better as a mid-summer event)
Justice League - 11/17/2017
Shazam - 3/23/2018 (not in Justice League… Yet…)
Green Lantern / The Flash - 7/28/2018 (again, perfect for June-July)
The Sandman - 4/5/2019 (works well here, I think)
Batman Solo - 6/14/2019

I just hope - if that 2016-2017 line-up turns out to be the real deal - that the films themselves will turn out to be pretty good! Again, I'm holding back on the extreme skepticism. Batman v Superman can be a real 180 from Man of Steel, I won't rule it out. WB/DC clearly has a plan…

Simon Cowell's animation studio, Syco Entertainment, will be teaming up with Animal Logic (Happy Feet, The Lego Movie) to produce a Betty Boop film with the help of the Fleischer Studios (they're still running today as the rights-holder of Betty Boop). As expected, it'll be a live action/animation hybrid, though I wish it was fully animated.

Still, it's good to see that someone's interested in keeping the character going in some form. She's iconic, she's on a lot of merchandise, almost everyone knows her - but she hasn't been in a cartoon or anything for decades. Plans for a Betty Boop film go as far back as 1993…

Let's just hope the film itself, which has been described as "music-driven", is respectful to the original Fleischer cartoons. No overly-modernized stuff, no stupid humor… Sony will be distributing it, which shows that the distributor is willing to handle product from more than one animation studio: Sony Pictures Animation, Nitrogen (who are making Sausage Party), and now this…

Oh, and I wonder if Bimbo will be in it.


  1. It's quite strange that the Tinker Bell films didn't get theatrical releases in the US, but it did in Europe (they just started playing Pirate Fairy in my area). But I agree, a new direction would be the best for DisneyToon.

    As for that Betty Boop film, all I could say is: "Told ya I still got it, Eddie!"

  2. I think if Disney does a full-length Mickey Mouse feature, it should be done in Meander (the technique used in Paperman). Ever since I saw Paperman when it was attached to Wreck-it Ralph, I always wanted to see what Mickey would look like animated in that technique.

  3. Fliescher Studios? Making a movie again? That just might be the world-record-holder for "longest gap between movies" for a film studio!