Recently, we learned that animation visionary Genndy Tartakovsky was no longer on board Sony Animation's Popeye. His film based on the classic character looked very promising, as a sizzle reel prepared for it showed that it would be more than respectful of the classic, hilarious Fleischer cartoons based on the E.C. Segar comic strip...
That clip was a blast and apparently it tested well, but Tartakovsky noted last month when the trailer for Hotel Transylvania 2 debuted that he was off the project, changes were happening at Sony Animation following the disastrous Sony hack, and that he didn't know if the studio heads were still keen on making his Popeye or not.
Well, WikiLeaks has stored all of the emails from the Sony hack. I've read through several of them, and they are pretty damn revealing. For instance, if you ever wanted to know why last year's The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was such a cluster-cuss from top to bottom, just read the emails! The emails shed light on many things going on at Sony Animation. For starters, they revealed that writer Robert Smigel and the "Adam Sandler camp" gave Tartakovsky trouble over Hotel Transylvania 2's jokes, and even the animation itself. Some of the emails said he had a very specific vision for the sequel. Imagine that, the writer (I could care less if he created Triumph the Insult Dog) and the "Adam Sandler camp" telling Tartakovsky how he should animate gags. Unbelievable!
Anyways, here's a rather telling email from last November sent by former Sony Digital president Bob Osher to former co-chairman Amy Pascal...
"I had a conversation with Genndy yesterday where he made it clear that he is concerned that if the studio doesn't move forward with Popeye that our commitment to animation and to him is not strong. He feels that his original ideas will never get made because of marketing concerns etc. His view is that Popeye is well known and loved around the world and his version will be modern in attitude, dialogue, comedy and action but the physical world should be timeless. The kids in the focus group were strong and worrying about a general audience who rarely attend animated features is misguided. They will come if the movie is funny and sticks to its DNA. When we show the test animation (on-line or in the focus groups) we get a very positive response.
He has been an amazing trooper on Hotel T 2 working through the Sandler camp's multiple notes, including to his animation choices. I think a word of support from you would be helpful. B"
So... The previous management were the ones who were unsure of Mr. Tartakovsky's vision, eh? Meddling on Hotel Transylvania 2? Sheesh, Tartakovsky just can't get a break! I'm sorry, but you don't mess with people like him. You let people like him create and realize their vision, or else you don't get brilliance like Dexter's Laboratory and Samurai Jack. He also gave the studio a big success with Hotel Transylvania. His love for Popeye and his ideas for that film aren't things you reject... Then again, if you read the other emails from those upper management clowns, it'll all just make sense.
New people are in charge of Sony now, and Sony Animation has DreamWorks alumnus Kristine Belson as their president. However, Tom Rothman is co-chairman of Sony Pictures, and... Well... Here's everything he did during his tenure at Fox. Why Sony would put him in Pascal's position is beyond me, and I fear he'll destroy what's the left of the studio, because he doesn't seem like a guy who learns lessons, and he's also a guy who thinks he can just meddle with everything. He's as bad as Avi Arad!
Hopefully Genndy's Popeye and his original Can You Imagine? survive under Rothman, hopefully he'll be able to make the films he wants to make whilst other directors at the studio (Lauren Faust, Timothy Reckart) get to do what they want, too. I'm probably asking for too much, but... The studio needs a creative, productive environment. Can they have one with the new people in charge? I sure hope so...
Here's to Popeye and here's to Mr. Tartakovsky making more animated feature films!