Robert Bush 6:31 p.m., May 18
Disney Exec Has a Word for Their Product
Andy Hendrickson: Enemy of Cinema!
That's what Disney Animation Studios chief technical officer Andy Hendrickson has to say about the outlandish concept of people actually wanting to see a movie for its story.
Sadly, his comments, delivered at last weekend's Siggraph Conference, are not meant to be looked upon as a call to arms. If anything, he's advising fellow studio honchos to bankroll effects-driven eye-candy as opposed to films that have stories to sell. In Hendrickson's opinion most people would rather spend their entertainment dollars on "spectacle," not storytelling.
Watch out for the tentpoles, Dumbo!
Cinematically speaking, just what is a "tentpole?" Is that what was once referred to as an "event movie," a mindless popcorn picture with enough innovative technological razzle-dazzle to draw even the laziest, most jaded viewer from their living room? Hendrickson defines it as "one where you can seed the desire to see the film to everyone in every distribution channel.”
This isn't movie-making, it's a classroom dissertation on marketing. Who cares if a movie is nothing but two-hours of digitized smoke and mirrors, so long as there is a good-looking 30 second clip to post on YouTube? This type of thinking can only lead to fewer choices at the box office. Why bother producing five low budget $30 million features that have explosive narratives instead of explosions, when one $200 million blockbuster will do the job?
Hendrickson used as his text a list of the top-twelve grossing films of all time. Slash Film published Box Office MoJo's tally of the all-time box office champs and I am proud to say that I have successfully avoided 9 of the top 25. Of those films, only one (The Passion of the Christ) received an R-rating and I will argue that all of them are pitched to a 9-year-old's mentality.
Hendrickson even went so far as to bite the hand that feeds him. He used Disney's recent Alice in Wonderland as a defense of his theory: “The story isn’t very good, but visual spectacle brought people in droves. And Johnny Depp didn’t hurt.”
Hendrickson should have closed by triumphantly pounding his chest while shouting, "I don't care if our picture sucks; we're gonna' to make a billion bucks."
Will your life change that much if you never again waste time on a Pirates of the Caribbean or Transformers sequel? I promise to do the legwork for you. When something superior like Captain America or Rise of the Planet of the Apes comes along, I'll shoot off a flare. Until then, send a message to Hollywood telling them where they can stick their tentpoles.