Monday, July 07, 2003

Fade to Black

The WSJ has a story today about the decline of “old-style” animated movies prompted by the poor showing over the weekend of DreamWork SKG’s “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.”
The Sinbad film, which cost $70 million to make, pulled in just $6.8 million during the July 4th weekend and the studio is already preparing to write it off as a $50 million loss. This comes on the heels of Disney’s disasterous “Treasure Planet” which cost $140 million and prompted a $98 million write-off for the Mickey Mouse company.

Now, the WSJ is reporting, Dreamworks is sworn off of the old 2-D animation and has nothing but computer-animated films in the pipeline. Disney still has a few traditional features in the works - including “Brother Bear” and “Home on the Range” - but is increasingly reliant on its relationship with computer animated champ Pixar for box-office hits.
Perhaps this is an inevitability - like color pictures taking over from black and white - but it still seems like a shame. “Aladdin” is still one of my all-time favorite films and I just can’t see it being done with computer animation. I like computer animation just fine - I’m a big Pixar fan - I haven’t even seen “Finding Nemo” yet and I’m already sold on the movie - but why can’t I have both?

In the end, I believe that quality makes more difference than the medium. I can’t really speak about Sinbad and Treasure Planet since I haven’t seen either one, but somehow I think that they just don’t measure up quality-wise to something like Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” which won the Oscar for best animated film this past year. I think Miyazaki demonstrates that there is still life left in the old-style animation as long as you have a powerful story to tell and the talent to pull it off.

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