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Why “Foodfight!” Cost $45 Million And Was Still Unwatchable

The CGI trainwreck Foodfight!, which has been a perennial favorite on Cartoon Brew, finally hits the bigtime with this New York Times article. If there’s one lesson to take away from the production of the film, it’s that people without animation experience shouldn’t be trusted to produce or direct animated features.

The NY Times descibes how businessman/producer Larry Kasanoff (pictured below) raised $45 million to make Foodfight!, and then decided to direct the film himself, despite having no prior experience directing animation. Kasanoff declined to comment to the Times, citing legal reasons, but by other accounts, the production was a torturous experience for its crew:

[Kasanoff’s] approach, because he had gotten the money for it, and no one could say no to him, was very idiosyncratic,” said Kenneth Wiatrak, a layout artist on the project. “You didn’t know from day to day what would occur. Would there be a review? Would he suddenly want to change the whole thing?”

People who worked on the film said that Kasanoff’s notes were often along the lines of requesting a scene to be “more awesome” or “30 percent better.” When Kasanoff failed to deliver the film after years of delays, a completion bond company stepped in to salvage whatever pieces they could. The cobbled-together Foodfight!, which includes many shots that weren’t even completed, was released onto DVD last year.

  • Jonah Sidhom

    This is all just so depressing…

  • Skip

    I refuse to believe that 45 million dollars was spent on this project. The over-all production value looks to be somewhere around the first year animation student level. What was the money spent on?

    • Nicholas John Pozega

      Probably actors like Charlie Sheen and all the product tie in cameos.

      • I would think the companies would pay to have the products/characters shown…though then they could sue for slander or libel, lemme ask JJJ which it is

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Don’t forget the Christopher Lloyd’s bit too!

    • Brent Tyler

      I heard so many horror stories from co-workers that worked at Threshold over the years. It’s easy to drop 45 million if you live the extravagant lifestyle I’ve heard happened there.

  • M Rahman

    this is beyond “this just looks bad”

  • BongBong

    OMG… This looks even worse than Hoodwinked!

  • z-k

    There was the discussion here a couple of days ago about neither animators nor designers being to blame for horrible art direction, but rather those with the purse strings more often than not. And here we are.

    Good God, this is like an Aesop’s Fable: The ass, laden with cash, who directs the rider.

    Or maybe Dr Seuss.

  • My Ocean

    This production was an in-joke for years. It even spawned a drinking game simply called, “WTF?!” Which, if you watch the trailer, you can see very quickly how the game works.

  • Edan

    Foodfight! is The Thief and the Cobbler of crappy movies.

    • Emily

      The Thief and the Cobbler was absolutely gorgeous, though. The end product that was released in theatres was just the majority of an existing great film cut out and cobbled together poorly and sullied with voiceovers for originally charmingly mute characters. Foodfight was an artistic wreck from just past character designs, apparently.

  • AmidAmidi

    Wes Anderson was the nominal director of “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, but the film had an A-list veteran stop motion director Mark Gustafson who oversaw the day-to-day animation production.

  • AmidAmidi

    Imagine a person a who has never ran the 100 metres want to begin practicing by running in the Olympics. We would think that person is a complete fool. But this happens every day in animation. People with no experience want to jump straight into the most complex and demanding form of animation: features.

    Those who think it’s possible to do this without having developed a storytelling voice or visual style through prior experience are idiots, plain and simple. There has never been a single example of someone successfully pulling this off in the century-long history of animation. Like you say, this is America and if you have the money, you’re entitled to do whatever you want. That’s why we have that saying about ‘a fool and his money’.

    • Tom Hignite

      Your point is well taken Amid, but imagine if your scenario resulted in the wanna-be 100 meter runner won the event. Highly unlikely, but if he did win, or place high, this “idiot” would be viewed as a “genius”. What if the wanna-be runner at least finished the race in the middle of the pack? He would be viewed as a success even if the runner finished the race. Now, what if the runner failed to finish? Are we to then view him as a fool for even trying? Walt Disney was called a fool by many highly experienced amusement park operators for Disney having the gall to think an inexperienced carnival businessman could possibly run an amusement park. Walt had never even operated a merry-go-round! The critics were many, the odds were against him, yet he forged ahead to do something that had never been done before. Had he failed, he may have been labeled a fool parting from his money.

      It is the fear of failure or the fear of what others may think, that stops many from success. Then again, the runner may not really care how he/she is viewed by others, but may be doing it just to fulfill his/her goal.

      As for you not knowing an example of anyone who has produced a successful animated feature , there are millions of examples many things, big and small, that have never been done before some finally does it. just because a thing has not been done before, is no reason not to do it.

      • Bob Harper

        Disney hired the best people to execute his vision in his animated films and in his theme parks. I wouldn’t care any modern filmmaker to Disney no more than any scientist to Einstein.

        A crappy movie, that also bombs financially, hurts all of us who want to make indie features. Although I don’t propose that anyone who hasn’t had experience shouldn’t produce an animated feature, I have to ask myself why would they would do that. If someone loves animation so much and is dying to tell a story through that medium, then why not learn the craft.

        A different analogy than a long distance runner would be that of a symphony composer/conductor. Sure I appreciate Mozart and Beethoven, but I would be foolish to think that I could compose anything of any high quality when I have never even learned to read music or play an instrument. I would however trust John WIlliams to come up with something that I would think is amazing based on a description of what I am looking for.

    • bob

      The reason this article doesn’t sit well with some people is because of, once again, your tendency to rely on fallacies of logic to help define your argument. In this case it’s a hasty generalization, which for many people feels unjust because deep down inside it suggests a quick and far too simple judgment.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but the director for Rango didn’t have prior animation experience, right?

      Obviously different people have different skill levels- this has to do with their individual thought process and intelligence, their education, and experience (not only in animation, but life, or another complex, applicable skill).

      For instance a great journalist deciding to get into showbiz and becoming a key component in creating a compelling t.v. series- “The wire.”

      Someone who understands a craft, how to be disciplined and how to use creative problem solving is a versatile individual.

      Next, sometimes I feel like animation could use a nice dose of directors from live action or some other outside source. In my opinion, the stories in animation are designed to be simple, non-threatening and accessible to the average person of a diverse age group thus they rarely do anything truly new, and often create a regurgitated and incestuous product that is sure to sell- or be bland and too familiar.

      Judging and condemning every would-be director based off of this joke of a film isn’t fair. It is hard to find college students who make work work this bad.

      I think it is also a mistake to assume that animation is the intellectual height of art and entertainment. Of course for everyone who works in or wants to work in animation it feels really nice to assume that they’re a bunch of geniuses, but really animation is a piece of a large assortment of entertainment options and there are some great minds that work outside of cartoons. People working in animation are frequently greatly skilled, but they aren’t always the best either. Just as not every director with live action experience would be a good animation director, not every animation director can make the leap to live action like Brad Bird… not to point any fingers at John Carter.

      Anyway… like I said, please don’t judge a huge number of potential creatives based off of a rare train wreck like “Foodfight.” It’s a bit like bigotry, but for film…

      • Bob Harper

        The Director of Rango had plenty of previous experience directing animated characters and effects in some of his earlier efforts and wisely picked a studio that had the same sort of background to “Speak the same language”.

  • z-k

    “This is America and it is his perogative to spend his money any way he sees wishes.”

    Given that the movie property itself was sold at auction a couple of years ao due to a couple of the key players defaulting, I tend to doubt that this was all done out of one persons’ personal bank account. Thus was the credit boom and Ponzi schema of Babylon a decade or less ago.

    There’s also a saying: “Free is cheap, and cheap is easily thrown away”.

    • Tom Hignite

      Sorry z-k,

      I meant to say “This is America, and it is his prerogative to spend his money any way he sees fit.” I changed my statements end to “…any way he wishes”.

      I inadvertently combined the two. Sorry for the confusion.

      Tom Hignite

  • Hey Now

    Hillary Duff is quickly becoming the Meryl Streep of shitty, bargain-bin animated movie voices. Her IMDB page lists her on ‘Foodfight,’ ‘Wings’ (the cheap knockoff of ‘Planes’, the cheap knockoff of ‘Cars’) and ‘In Search of Santa.’

    • Animator606432

      Yes but Meryl Streep is good her movies. As much as I loved Lizzie Mcguire as a kid, she was never a good actress.

  • Ant G

    I can make my scenes 29% better, or reach 31%, but getting them just right at 30% is tricky. I barf when directors ask for 30% better, don’t you hate it when that happens?

  • Aust

    People who worked on the film said that Kasanoff’s notes were often
    along the lines of requesting a scene to be ‘more awesome’ or ’30
    percent better.'”

    Rainbow Dash: It needs to be 20% cooler.

    • SarahJesness

      I like to think that the moments between Kasanoff and the animators went the same way that scene in MLP did.

      Is something wrong?
      Yeah, it’s fine, just make it more awesome!
      Do you want me to change the colors?
      I said, make it more awesome!
      What do you want me to change?!
      It needs to be about 30% more awesome.

  • Ant G

    Between Kasanoff saying “for us, this is Casablanca” and this bit in the NYtimes article: “a portion of the film was reportedly stolen during a break-in at Threshold [studio.] With no backup available, the production started from scratch”

    I find his journey admirable. His story is a common one always plastered in the very medium he attempted to make his movie as. There are so many animated stories about the underdog whose naivety and not knowing what he’s doing is what makes him special; he or she has the unique outside-the-box vision that inevitably saves the world. In real life however, we… not necessarily villainize those people (though Kasanov’s animators who were well payed for their effort seem to think so) but we don’t see them as heroes, we tell them stick to the rules and stick to the formulas. How dare you try to direct or produce your OWN movie.

    So the movie sucked and he “failed”, but he damned tried and he believed in himself regardless, I applaud his effort for at least trying, because a lot of animators who at least know more than he does, would never even attempt to risk what he did, they would much rather just work for a big studio than start their own.

    • SarahJesness

      He probably didn’t try very hard.

    • TheGreatWormSpirit

      Nope sorry. Someone who wastes millions of dollars on a failed vanity project can go live in a dumpster.

    • SteveSegal

      I do appreciate that a project gives work to animators, but a project like this gives the medium a bad name and makes it more difficult for future ones to get funded, even ones with a director who might know what he’s doing. And it makes it more difficult for animators who may want to mount their own film.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        It some ways, it sets things back so many steps when we should be moving forward.

    • Ken B

      Meanwhile, elsewhere on Cartoon Brew, there’s a link to that Atlantic article about how today’s animation overuses “the magic feather” concept, and compares and contrasts “Peanuts” to show how animation can convey the more important lessons of dealing with failure and humility.

  • z-k

    The last sentence, a thousand times over. Line producers in particular.

    Reminds me of the line from Casino, describing the KC underboss who started the whole downward spiral: “This guy could f*ck up a cup of coffee.”

    Unfortunately, given how underbid and underscheduled some projects are, and how much unpaid overtime is expected even after all of these years, the disinterested suit’s assessment isn’t too far off – just replace “kids” with “artists” or “animators”, and you have their business model and general outlook on the world.

  • Wow, just the colors and gradients make this unwatchable. But it has famous voice actors!

  • Ant G

    you’d die of alcohol poisoning the first 5 minutes of the movie

    • Zach Adams

      *first 30 seconds of the trailer

  • Chris

    If the same film was in 2d, it wouldn’t be any better…

  • Cheese

    This is no CGI movie. It’s a video game movie!

  • mick

    me too. ‘30% more ethnic’ these people are morons and will be considered so in whatever realm they land in… same people gave a note which read ‘give the character a yoga mat, you’ve heard of yoga right? It’s that new exercise method from california’

  • Leslie

    You never know, maybe this will take off the way Sharknado did: its member reviews on Netflix are hilarious.

  • James Fox

    The film is crap
    – The voice actors tried and failed to make their characters work
    – The plot is bland as a 10 year old box of Wheat Thins
    – Worst licensed crossover film ever!

  • imdgman

    I’m just happy it was a CG film, so that they couldn’t blame it on being handdrawn!

  • Mike Scott

    Oi. Oh well. ‘Fool and his money’ I suppose. Kind of glad I saw this story. There was a feature thing I got an offer to work on recently, went to check it out – was someone in a government department with access to funding (from a bank I think) that wanted to put together a feature. She had never done anything in animation, but she had teams all over the world doing little bits, she had already sunk quite a bit of money into it and not a usable of second of animation to show (the various teams from around the world were doing work in different styles too). She later was deciding whether to make a series or a movie. While I admire her gumption and gung-ho attitude, the whole thing made me quite bleak but I kind of got over it. I’ve noticed that the people with the bux sometimes don’t necessarily make the *best* decisions. I’m surprised that the bank decided to fund the thing. Anyways. I explained how things were going pear-shaped and suggested some options as to what she could do to try and rectify things. I think the nice lady may have realised her folly / expensive learning exercise and may have handed the project over to a more experienced studio. The End.

  • Michael Fox

    I listened to the We Hate Movies podcast about this episode and man does it seem awkward. The movie appears to have poorly-designed characters, questionable writing and an extremely conflicting message that makes no sense. They even played back an audio clip about someone apparently bringing up that a character was Jewish even though it wasn’t relevant to the plot (it was the only sound bite they played unfortunately, they usually play a few bites for the movies they talk about). Needless to say, the movie just looks and sounds so bad that I gave a small tip to the podcast website out of sympathy.

  • Orion Dommisse

    I was just at a church carnival that had Dogtective plush as prizes and was so happy I knew what it was from reading this.

  • Matt

    All it needs is some chrome balls rolling across some checkerboard floors with a nice lens flare, then BOOM, you got a blockbuster hit.

  • 30 Per Cent Better would be a great company name

  • Ron Stanford

    The idea of an army of animated food spokepeople isn’t a terrible one – it could actually be fun. Why then are those characters shoved into the background for this dog nbody’s ever heard of?

    • Brad

      Why were Slinky and Mr. Potato Head given second billing to Woody and Buzz? No one had heard of them before Toy Story.

  • JeanbearTheImmasculator

    Or you could have just made them act cuter….

  • bob

    lol… except clearly this isn’t “the best millions can produce.”

  • Kusakun

    Guys. This movie “Metegol” -Foosball- full cost was USD 21 Million. Made in Argentina and day and night compared with Foodfight. I guess all the money went to the voice actors.

  • Ken Martinez

    Tin Toy looked better than this. The Adventures of Andre and Wally B looked better than this.

    This was a misbegotten project that deserved to fail, and I thank the stars karma was on our side for once.

    • canimal

      They looked better (and ARE better) because at the time the were the top of the line in CG animation…. not that there was much, if any, competition. But something like “Foodfight” in 2013? …what a joke.

  • James Fox

    This would make for a great documentary

  • SarahJesness

    Maybe, but… Having a bunch of crappy animated films getting released makes it more difficult to get more animated films made. Gives animation a bad name, ya know?

  • Tom Hignite

    Hello Wannabe,
    I understand your reference towards me and our studio’s project. I am not sure however how much you know about our story and characters. Yes, our story does have a mouse character in it, but I am not sure this character is any closer to Mickey, than any other animated mouse characters such as Mighty Mouse, Fivel, Speedy Gonzalas, Great Mouse detective, and so forth.
    Our staring character is a crane(Ernest Borgnine), and our third a beaver. Those artists who are working on the project do not feel that our film is like any Disney film we can think of. Maybe we are too close to it to be objective. We do have a clip that was recently completed which does a fairly good job showing the nature of our story. I would be interested in knowing your thoughts after you view that 2:45 clip. You may be correct. As I said, perhaps we are just too close to see the similarities at this point.

    Thank you in any case for you comments.

    Tom Hignite

    • Wannabe

      I have no doubt that you have made a few adjustments in the last ten to twelve years. However that can not change the past nor cover up the obvious. I’m sure part of the reason it changed is that most of those poor, lost ex-Disney artists left when you forced them to comply to a uniform and then could not pay them. I’m sure part of them left because they realized how incredibly desperate their situations had become. Either way…your website banner says it all in one spooky image. I won’t go into all of what is says but I will say. You are not Disney. Sorry. Now to your main character. He may not look like Mickey now… Oh but he did originally. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. I know more about your “studio” than you think. I know more about you than you think. We can argue this here because you will never be anywhere near Hollywood. But I would give anything to make an example of you and Larry so that no more Megalomaniacs jump into this end of the pool. I know that a lot of people who read the comments and post on here are young and some aren’t even in the Biz. So Let me yell this from the rafters. Know our biz. Love our biz. Or stay the hell out!

      • Tom Hignite

        Hello again Wannabe,
        Your comments are simply not correct. We did have a negative article written about us, and many unfortunate things did happen during our lay-offs in 2006, but I have never read about, nor been accused of not having paid everyone involved in the production. We gave everyone involved a few month discussion period that the lay-offs might happen so as to lessen the impact, If you have heard about anyone who was unhappy with the situation, that may be very true, but I have never heard that anyone was not paid.
        Amid, I am not sure that these type of comments are best addressed in a thread about FOOD FIGHT.I would be happy to continue here if you allow, or be available for commentary in whatever way you see suitable.
        I will therefore pause here awaiting your take.

        Wannabe, I wish to be respectful of your thoughts and comments as I am not saying your comments are without merit. I still would be interested in your thoughts on the direction of the production itself. I hope you will take a look at what we have been doing via our recent video clip.

        Tom Hignite

        • wannabe

          Tom, I nevr said you owed anyone money. Only that you could not pay them any more. While I beleive that commenting on here opens you to being called out, you’re right about this thread not being the right place. You don’t need to go to the administrator for help. I’ll bow out of this conversation now.

  • animate

    clearly you’ve never worked in animation.
    you should not site the exceptions to the rule as examples of the norm. it’s a weak argument.

    • I don’t see any weakness in arguing that Foodfight was doomed from the start because of its director’s lack of artistry, and his blindness to how animation studios function. And who defined the “rule” that to direct an animated film, you must have worked in the animation industry? There’s a difference between jumping into an animated film with no real knowledge of how the film will be produced, and understanding the intricacies of the modern studio process well before taking such a project on, even without hands-on experience. I’m sure I’m giving directors who do the latter too much credit, and simplifying the undertaking of an animated feature, however I am certain that when surrounded by other supervisors who DO have hands-on experience in the medium, and can guide the more technical aspects of production, any director who knows how to tell a story well can do such in an animated form.

      • Kendrick_Dooley

        “And who defined the “rule” that to direct an animated film, you must have worked in the animation industry”

        I’m not sure any said this rule exists but certainly having some filmic ability and sensibilities, not to mention talent in one’s filed surely is a requisite? Would I feel comfortable going into a logistics company and managing a project. Nope, because I don’t know a thing about it. Kasanoff has shown himself to a complete hack and actually deluded here.

  • Crazy Beto

    Juan José Campanella’s “Metegol/Foosball” is another example of what you said. A live action director with a great first animated experience. But obviously he has an open mind, a lot of common sense and an a fine artistic feeling to help in the process, and confidence on the rest of the (more experiences) people of the team. Those are the keys of success, more than the lack of experience.

  • Cory

    Good points. And thanks for the shout out! :)

    (For some reason, Amid hates my movie, no matter how much money it made.)

    Yes, this movie seems to have been made for the wrong reasons and without the right experienced people behind it.

    Yes, you should learn your craft.

    But don’t stop yourself from trying something just because you’ve never done it before.

    — Cory Edwards
    Director, “Hoodwinked”

  • Nightmare Whimzy

    I can tell why the movie sucked just from looking at the picture.
    I swear, I thought it was a fake trailer. I don’t know what shocked me more.The fact that this whole movie alone cost $45 million, or that they got Charlie Sheen to VA in this film. Why, Charlie!?

  • Alicia Done

    45 million. 45 MILLION? For THIS?? What’d he do with it, spend 45$ then pocket the rest??

    • Thomas Paul Jennings

      Spent a lot of money on licensing prodcts/mascots and big-name actors and at some point they had to start ALL THE WAY over again, so when they did they had barely the budget to do so decently.

  • Kendrick_Dooley

    This is the same story as the Bill the Vet movie.Almost an exact mirror in fact. Someone with no history in the business, no experience and most importantly , zero artistic talent and vision, taking on all the important creative rolls and executive decisions. Doomed from the very outset.

  • Kendrick_Dooley

    Not surprised. Those folks are utterly shameless. That whole project was simply a glorified outing in self promotion.

  • k

    He’s the Tommy Wiseau of animation.

  • dingus

    The hole backstory to this movie feels like the story of the famous stage play “the producers” to refresh some memories here, its basically the tale of 2 men’s crazy idea to produce a play so terrible in order to carry out a scam, this horribly backfires whem the play actually does well.
    Foodfight is like the “springtime for hitler” of 2013, except his guy actually got away with stealing $45 million and spending none of it on this crap movie.

  • Adzl33t

    Nostalgia Critic review was amazing, totally make the 45 million worth it for me

  • Johnny2071

    Was this version of Foodfight the original one from 2002-2003? Was it supposed to be this bad, or was is a result of the “act of industrial espionage” and the original version (that was lost) was actually decent in quality?

  • Daniel

    have you ever watch Logorama? similar premise, excellente work and
    animation, very funny and Oscar Award Winner shor film. That’s how its

  • Dex