Friday, August 19, 2011

I am Going to Judge Movies on the Content of their Character (Disney is on the Naughty List)

While looking around the different blogs I read I stumbled upon a story where Disney executive Andy  Hendrickson stated the following:

"Profit equals the ability to capture more than the average share of viewers. A tentpole film is one where you can seed the desire to see the film to everyone in every distribution channel. It's the only kind of film you can spend $100 million marketing. It's all about the story? When you're making tentpole films, bullshit. [Take Alice inWonderland], the story isn't very good, but visual spectacle brought people in droves. And Johnny Depp didn't hurt."

[Alice+in+Wonderland.jpg]I have a tremendous problem with this statement.  I will cite movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Alice and Wonderland because they were mentioned by this executive, and I will agree with him on one point they "look" stunning, and are visually marvelous.  Didn't Andy learn anything from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his "I Have a Dream" speech.  Dr. King stated "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." 

 Now I do not want trivialize the words of Dr. King, but I think they can apply to film.  Mr. Hendrickson wants to make movies that only make money because they "look" a specific way not because the content is actually good.  The statement he made is extremely problematic, and why I think executives ruin films, and the industry they are trying to keep a float. Andy criticizes films made by his own company and the people who work on them.

The inner critic within me says "Bravo" criticizing these films is a great (because they are bad), but why couldn't the poor writing be fixed?  Was the studio too concerned with the flare of the look of the film to forget there was a story attached.   I know people who watch films to see something intentionally bad, but when films are marketed and intended to be good, and they fail, and you know they will in regards to content, why not strike a balance? I think producers are so consumed with the bottom line that the creativity in Hollywood is at an all time low.  Alice in Wonderland is a live action version of another film (different plot) and Pirates is the fourth in a series.  Disney like other companies wants things they can market, and the brand matters more, because it will get people to their theme park.  Guess what Disney?  People will go to your theme park anyway!

I am tired of Hollywood and companies like Disney treating quality films like the girl in a movie who people see as less desirable because she is wearing glasses and has a ponytail.  Personality and content matter.  In looking at box office numbers for this year, people have been more discerning with their money than ever before, and they are not going to always waste their money on bad films.  Bad word of mouth will prevent a films success, for example Green Lantern.  Green Lantern was a bomb in quality and in box office numbers.  This past winter and spring saw some terrible box office numbers, those two seasons also had very few quality films available for audiences.

What about when what Andy says is true, like with Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon (second highest grossing domestic film of the year) or Pirates (huge international box office with a take of over a billion dollars.  What does that mean?  Well it means branding works and people just can't give up on things.  It makes sense that both these series of films would have large box office numbers like their predecessors.  Then there was Avatar one of the single highest grossing films of all time (not with adjusted inflation) which also follows this trend.  Avatar is in concept poorly written, but is visually stunning.  Avatar, while not one of my favorite films, is not an awful film.  So what does this mean?  There needs to be a balance and executives and the teams that work on the movies need to find a balance so that better movies are made.

I am sure Andy cares about his films, but as executive his main concern is the bottom line.  So how can creative people in Hollywood push back?- The bottom line matters.....but people are smart and want quality films (most of the time).  Watching a bad movie can be fun, but I would rather have a movie where the writers, directors etc focus on the content more than look of the film.  With bad word of mouth the fifth Pirates film could suffer, or sadly people could continue to follow another franchise blindly.

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