Thursday, March 17, 2016

Missing the Big Screen: Netflix Picks Up 'The Little Prince'

A pretty sad day, I must say. But a telling one...

The Little Prince is based on a classic French novella, a 73-year-old novella that's like a staple overseas and other parts of the world. A great story no less, one that everyone should know, a great story about growing up and losing your spirit. Kung Fu Panda director Mark Osborne and a team of animation houses, mainly On Animation and Onyx Ent., put together a critically acclaimed animated adaptation that combines CG and stop-motion.

It easily got its international release dates this past summer. Paramount, who was set to handle its distribution in the US, stalled and stalled and stalled on giving us a concrete release date for the film. They finally did give it a date not too long ago, saying it would hit tomorrow... Then at last minute, they pulled the release and stated that they weren't going to distribute the film anymore. There seemed to be some hope that it could still hit theaters under another distributor, but now it looks like the film won't be hitting silver screens here in the states.

A real shame.

Netflix has picked up the film, when it'll hit the platform isn't known yet.

In a way this kind of sums up the dysfunctional side of the American animation industry. The industry doesn't want something like The Little Prince, and when they do pick up something like it, they give it a small release and don't give it much of a marketing push. Some of these films, such as Fantastic Mr. Fox and Shaun the Sheep Movie, are surprisingly given wide releases... Only to get little-to-no marketing push from their respective distributors, and they just disappear. Film aficionados hold them near-and-dear, but the general public should embrace them too.

Then there's the smaller bases like GKIDS, who can't get a film into more than 500-1,000 theaters across the country. Speaking of them, how come they didn't pick it up? They could've run it for awards season for next year. Hey, Boy and the World being a 2013 film didn't stop them from running in the 2015 race!

On the bright side... Us Americans will at least get to see it without having to import a Region 2 disc or whatever. And sure, The Little Prince probably wasn't ever going to make Zootopia numbers stateside, or Rango numbers, or even Boxtrolls numbers. It still deserved a theatrical release, though. I get it. What sells is what sells. Executives see movies about babbling yellow creatures make $1 billion, they want that. There's really no room for something a little more offbeat, and the best you can get is a limited release or a wide release with no marketing push.

Paramount also sidelined the acclaimed adults-only stop-motion film Anomalisa, telling us it would get a wide release, only to roll it out into less than 600 theaters stateside. That film could've made a tidy profit, since it was very low budget.

Paramount's own animation division has had nothing but rocky starts. They set it up in 2011, when DreamWorks' contract with the distributor was coming to a close. (The official end of that run was late 2012's Rise of the Guardians.) Rango, a quirky little movie that they believed in, turned out to be bigger than people expected despite the fact that it didn't really turn a profit. Paramount seemed to not care, they were reportedly proud of it. That same year, again 2011, they released The Adventures of Tintin. A big hit overseas, Paramount dumped it here and put it in the shadows of their major holiday title: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

Their first movie was an understandably safe bet, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water. That one always seemed to stick, as it made its intended release frame on time, but Monster Trucks kept getting pushed back. The hybrid's live-action portions were shot in spring 2014, supposedly all of that is done! It was once set for 5/29/2015, then Christmas Day 2015, then tomorrow! Then it got pushed back to next January... Once Monster Trucks got that date, the studio finally scheduled other movies: Amusement Park and SpongeBob 3 for 2019, and Sherlock Gnomes - really just an acquired project - for 2018.

I still get the sense that they're trying to get off the ground, and are still figuring out what to push forward. Projects announced long before this Amusement Park movie seemed to have stalled, projects like The New Kid and Beastlies. The Little Prince being dropped like this, I think, is more evidence that shows that they don't quite know what to do.

Anyways, at least we're getting it somehow, someway. We could argue that Netflix will land it a bigger audience than a theatrical release would've ever done, and for other animated titles like it...

1 comment:

  1. On one hand, yeah, it sucks that you guys won't get it on the big screen, though I'm sure it'll have a very limited release, so it can compete for the awards.

    On the other hand, I'm actually very happy that it landed on Netflix. I've been seeing a lot of potential in the streaming giant. With their quality programs and now movies, one can only wonder if they will bring something new to the animation scene in the future, and they probably will.