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Disney Exec Has a Word for Their Product

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Andy Hendrickson: Enemy of Cinema!

"Bullshit."

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.

Image

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.

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Andy Hendrickson: Enemy of Cinema!

"Bullshit."

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.

Image

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.

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"Captain America" and "Apes" were both tentpole pictures, but both had great storylines and good direction. With positive word of mouth, you can make more money in the long run if your tentpole picture has good storytelling. That is why "Apes" was #1 two weeks in a row. The problem with movies like the "Pirates" and "Transformers" sequels is that they are made to be "nine-day wonders". Make the money in the opening two weekends, then watch the fall. Andy Hendrickson clearly has his head up his ass and you can guarantee his job is not secure after that little excursion.

Aug. 17, 2011

Very well said, John!

Aug. 17, 2011

The problem with movies like the "Pirates" and "Transformers" sequels is that they are made to be "nine-day wonders".

Considering the last Pirates sequel made over $1 BILLION dollars world wide-75%+ from foreign markets (#4 of all time foreign), I don't think it can be called a failure or nine day wonder.

Apes has shown an incredible strong showingm far better than expected. America has done average at best, but it was ceratinly not a flop like Lantern was, but far from a mega block buster.

Aug. 18, 2011

I think John is referring to the artistic failure of the "Transformers" franchise and criticizing how films are marketed.

Aug. 18, 2011

Indeed, Scott. The studios don't put much thought into the scripts of those franchise pics. They aren't films; they're filmed deals. Just because they make money doesn't mean they are good pictures. The people who want to see those movies will see them opening weekend but won't see them more than once nor spread the word to their friends; therefore, the huge drop off on the second weekend.

Aug. 18, 2011

Just because they make money doesn't mean they are good pictures

But it is a very good indication it is a good pic if it makes money. P

ictures makes money when people buy tickets and enjoy themselves. I agree much of what gets filmed may not be A+ material, but I don't think that just because some pics are sequels that they are bad pics. Many times just seeing a pic on a huge screen with awesome special effects is worth the price of admission-even if the pic does have a theme used a million times before and is unoriginal-Avatar fits this to the T. Avatar was wortht he $8 I pad just for the special effects-it was a visually stunning experience.

I think it was Sherwood Schwartz who said (in response to the horrible reviews critics gave his TV series Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch) that in four weeks he could make a series the TV critics would LOVE and the people would hate, and it would be cancelled after 2 weeks.

Aug. 18, 2011
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