Original Animated Films Aren’t Dead After All! – Animation Scoop

Original Animated Films Aren’t Dead After All!

FOX is doubling-down on animated films, but the really interesting part is that many of those proposed are original adaptations of books! Such news is stunning for its notability if not for the regrettable nature for it being so.

The feature segment of the animation industry has had a bad case of sequalitis for a good many years. The recent acquisition of DreamWorks and the subsequent announcement of yet more Shrek features, one suspects we’ll continue to suffer for a few more years yet. So you have to hand it to FOX for not only trying to grow their animated feature business, but to do so rather substantially based on original ideas. In this modern age, original ideas, especially when you’re talking about animated features, is incredibly risky. Live-action studios are doubling-down on known entities and predictable franchises such as Star Wars (yes, I know that’s Disney) or comic book heroes. Both types are almost guaranteed success even if the only ones that pay to see them are fans.

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Original ideas don’t have that luxury, and despite Pixar’s stellar track record and proven creatively lucrative environment, even they retrenched in the face of economic realities. So it’s refreshing to see FOX at least willing to explore original adaptations. There’s a chance that not all the acquired books become films, but the recognition that they offer potential is very welcome indeed.

Other details are somewhat scarce, but the fact that the live-action/CGI hybrid format is mentioned speaks to how the studio intends to mitigate risk. Animated films are expensive to produce, and as DreamWorks amiably demonstrated, unless a studio can get its costs down low enough, their films can flounder all too easily. Other, recent original films from the likes of Illumination suggest that anything in the $50-75 million is manageable, but above that is asking for trouble; something DreamWorks knows all to well.

Ironically enough, we’ve seen a lot of original animated films released this year that are gunning for an Oscar. Sequels are thankfully outnumbered, although they continue to grab the majority of the media buzz and box office dollars leaving the remaining films to fight over the scraps. In order for more original features to succeed, the balance needs to shift. The Incredibles II will clean up shop when it gets released, but how many hundreds of millions will it siphon away from an original feature? What hope does such a film even have against the marketing might of Disney?

Yet again, economics is a big factor. Some of the most endearing and creative original features don’t even come close to the low budgets of Illumination. The Secret of Kells was made for less than $10 million, and Sausage Party cost about $19 million (just ignore all the free labour that the animators ‘donated.’) Only one of these two films made a significant amount of money, but the risk/reward ratio was definitely skewed in its favour thanks to good reviews and a high degree of audience anticipation. Both films were risky undertakings and both succeeded, just in different ways.

The point is that original features keep the industry segment as a whole, turning. Disney is currently on a bit of a roll with original films such as Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and the forthcoming Moana. These big-budget blockbusters in the Pixarian mold cement the status of the original feature in the minds of the public and fans alike. FOX is merely anticipating that as the industry grows, audiences will be looking for greater choices in original films, and they’ll be there to satisfy that demand. Thankfully, their desire to do so, demonstrates that we have many more exciting features to look forward to in the years ahead.

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Charles Kenny

Charles Kenny

Being tall, Irish and a civil engineer by trade, Charles stands out in the animation crowd, hence his position as the Animation Anomaly.
Charles Kenny
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  • Kureisan28

    Considering that Tonko House approached 20th Century Fox to help develop The Dam Keeper film with work done in Tonko’s place in Berkley, CA and Japan due to Dice and Robert’s Japanese artists networking, it makes sense for Fox to do it to find adapted works from shorts and books.