Movie Musings: Animated Movies and their Celebrity Voices, Part Three

credit: Disney/Pixar

In this final installment, I’ll start by addressing a question posed by one Rebecca Dawn in Part 2.

The Business of Movies

Let’s get to the root of this: Is hiring celebrities another tactic to de-risk a film in terms of future success? The movie studio’s attempt to bring in whatever big bucks are out there?

I think if you asked most people, the movie industry these days is a little…. lacking in the creativity department. I feel like every other movie out today is either a remake like Pete’s Dragon, or part 7 of a movie that was originally successful and they’re still trying to milk it. (Yea, I’m looking at you Fast and Furious 8).

Pete’s Dragon was a really weird movie. credit: Disney

(But on a side note, OMG PETE’S DRAGON! Was anyone else shocked Disney even remembered this weird gem was in the vault? Kenickie from Grease is in it!)

In theory, remakes/sequels are a good idea. I get it. People love what they’re comfortable with. The nostalgia factor and all. How else do you explain why people love watching reruns?

So yea, studios will do whatever it takes to make money and minimize risk. Whether it means churning out remakes of all shapes and sizes, or hiring Angelina to voice a fish. (Oh Angelina…)

But when you think about it, now that actors have discovered the gold mine of expanding to a much younger fan base while sitting in their pajamas in a voice studio, hiring celebrities must be just as much of a financial risk due to the money they’re commanding. Not to mention that it’s never just one. There’s always a celebrity “cast” people look for to round it out.

Digging a little deeper, the animation game is SO not what it once was.

Not Your Grandfather’s Cartoons

When discussing animation, we’ve been looking at it from the perspective of those classics we know and love. But when was the last time you saw a movie animated in that Snow White style? No offense to her and the 7 dwarfs, but that kind of animation is just not something people are paying to go see these days.

With advances in computer technology, “animation” (a word I will now use to refer to all “not real” people/objects/things) has given us worlds like the one in The Lego Movie, or the computer-generated mind fest that was Avatar. Worlds TOTALLY different from what we grew up with.

This picture was literally titled “Making of Elsa’s Hair in Frozen.” Credit: Iamag

These movies are no longer created by just a crew of animators putting pen to paper, but involve software engineers and CGI artists. To get all of this right can prove to be just as much of an investment as it would be to blow up a truck and hire a stuntman for a Michael Bay movie. According to Bloomberg, animated films cost in the $100 million range to make and then there’s an additional $150 million in promotional costs. (Fun fact: most expensive things to animate? Water and hair.)

Suddenly, I’m not seeing the real cost-benefit to hiring celebrities.

OR, (say it with me now) you better pray it’s a good story to make that investment worth it.

Give Me PLOT

It’s the ocean but it’s LEGOS AT THE SAME TIME! credit: Lego

When I first saw The Lego Movie, I was really impressed by the “animation” and how they really just, brought legos to LIFE! LEGOS LOOKED LIKE REAL OCEAN, but still like LEGOS! And what really stuck with me the most was not the all-star cast (which it admittedly was) but how damn clever that entire story is.

Everything really was awesome.

So I say, if studios are looking to lower their risk in the animation category, go minimal on your voice actor budget, go big or go home on story and visuals. Technology has allowed for so many amazing new worlds to be created on the big screen and today, expectations are higher for those great visuals to get the most bang for that ever rising buck (Seriously, why does it cost so much to go to the movies?).

I know we’ll never escape re-makes. Hell, it’s because of technology that we’re getting what is in my opinion the BIGGEST reboot/makeover to date: the live-action Beauty and the Beast. Variety reported the director saying that one of the reasons they’re re-making it is “technology has caught up to the ideas introduced in that movie.” They’ve already done The Jungle Book, plans are on the way for The Little Mermaid. The cycle continues.

It is a business in the end after all.

But if the business side is listening, the real de-risking happens when there’s something on the screen that people feel a connection to. This year alone there was another installment in the Nemo and Ice Age franchises, but apparently nobody can stop talking about Zootopia (I haven’t seen it but seriously, my family is obsessed with it). This movie was described as “one of the least-anticipated movies on the calendar,” yet it had a record-setting debut for Disney. Like, Frozen numbers. I could not tell you who did the voices. Only that I’ve heard how hilarious it is.

Maybe true risk is in a different area than the studios thought. Let us not forget, WALL-E HAD like, NO VOICES! And that movie was AMAZING.

So aim for greatness! Whether it be through great voices, great stories, stunning visuals, or hopefully the trifecta.

Here’s to great story-telling, however it comes about.

And to dancing candlesticks FINALLY becoming a reality (sort of).

Can’t WAIT to see how they do this live-action. credit: Walt Disney Studios

— Delia