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BusinessCGIEssentialsFeature Film

‘Delgo’ Has One of Worst Openings in the History of Cinema

The CG animated feature Delgo opened last weekend and nobody went to see it. According to Box Office Mojo, Delgo had the worst opening ever for a film that opened in more than 2,000 theaters earning just $511,290 or $237 per theater.

Moments like this really make one pause and reflect. What is the world coming to when an animated film with the voices of Freddie Prinze Jr., Jennifer Love Hewitt, Chris Kattan, Anne Bancroft, Eric Idle, Val Kilmer, Lou Gossett Jr, Malcolm McDowell, Michael Clarke Duncan, Burt Reynolds and Kelly Ripa isn’t a box office blockbuster? A story that makes sense and visuals that don’t make you want to heave are quaint touches, but the filmmakers behind Delgo understood where it really counted: celebrity voice actors. They hired every B- and C-list actor this side of Dancing With the Stars and somehow still failed. You know the recession is affecting Americans deeply when they no longer want to see Chris Kattan and Kelly Ripa voicing their CG characters.

Here’s a little taste of what all of America missed last weekend.

  • Marc G.

    Harsh, but deserved. Being an independent film is no excuse for mediocrity. This film is just a laundry list of bad ideas.

  • What makes studio heads think people go to see animated movies because of a ‘star’ voice actor? I couldn’t tell you who any of those voices were. They all sounded so plain and generic it could’ve been anyone.

    But I’m sure nobody will find out because the character design is aggressively unappealing.

  • tobor68

    WTFF was that??

    i only made it to 1:18. i stopped caring shortly after the green thing.

    aggressively unappealing is just too kind. i’m even more sorry that it was independent.

  • Joe

    They clearly neglected to advertise Burt Reynolds’ role enough.

  • Ted

    I think the almost complete lack of advertising (I didn’t know the movie existed until Thursday, and I read things devoted to animation) might have something to do with it too.

  • ugh.. I have cringebumps.

  • robert

    I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

  • Mark

    From the clip posted, I think watching grass grow would be more interesting. How some things get greenlit I’ll never know.

  • Well, to their credit, some of those actors could be considered big names waaay back when production started.

    (I lived in Atlanta when production of “Delgo” began, there was a big cover story about how Fathom was going to be “the next Pixar”. There was no mention of storytelling experience in anyone’s background and no one questioned why they were going to jump right over the important stage of making short subjects to a feature length film.)

  • I loved it.

  • Steve

    Fathom is the studio to animate “Spunky and Tadpole The Motion Picture” if they can just raise the money.

  • Hmm, do I detect a note of sarcasm? Not you Elliot ;) This movie has apparently been in development since 1999; CGI animation has made leaps and bounds since then. I can’t defend the story, but I’ve yet to see anyone explain how Everybody Loves Raymond is so hilarious. The animation looks good enough and the character design is, um, a new direction? Besides, as far as I can tell, the studio seems to have spent less than the box office gross on promotion.

  • Dave

    Looks like a Lucas film .

    Is this really any worse than The Phantom Menace ?

  • Mookibaba

    Well, there’s something to be said about audiences when a star-studded cast doesn’t reel in huge profits.

    As far as Delgo goes, I have special place in my heart for independant ventures, and I was willing to overlook Delgo’s outdated visuals and storyline, but I don’t understand how Delgo even got released without anyone on the production team giving a second though to the character designs. They look utterly horrific. I cannot imagine this film working with anything but the greatest plot.

  • Student

    They should’ve just given it a “Direct-to-DVD” release instead of Theatrical. What a waste!

  • Sara

    “What is the world coming to when an animated film with the voices of Freddie Prinze Jr., Jennifer Love Hewitt, Chris Kattan, Anne Bancroft, Eric Idle, Val Kilmer, Lou Gossett Jr, Malcolm McDowell, Michael Clarke Duncan, Burt Reynolds and Kelly Ripa isn’t a box office blockbuster?”

    Its senses?

  • Iain

    I actually did see it last Saturday, on the same day when I went to see an advance screening of “Desperaux”, it was preee-ty bad.

  • Well, I think people didn’t go see it because for once, america had a sense of taste. And it was just too horrible anyways. I’m mean, honestly, the ideas Hollywood’s putting out for animation just plain sucks as of late. First that chihuahua’s movie, and Delgo. Honestly, when I first saw the trailer I wanted to gag. It doesn’t have to do with the recession. Plainly put this movie looks like crap.

  • I also love Everybody Loves Raymond.

  • Amazing! Can’t wait for the sequel. And I won’t! Who finances this kind of drivel, and how soon can they show up at my house with their checkbook? I’ve got a pitch I want to share.

    Nevermind. It would probably wind up looking like this piece of garbage.

  • The choice to have the film take place in the lowest depths of the uncanny valley was clearly a bad decision.

  • Dust Mites in a Thomas Kinkade painting.

  • aronimation

    I think the problem apart from the boring character designs is that it kinda looks like a film for boys but all the characters are fairies…

  • Sam

    Plain and simple…. the Character design is horrific!! Look at every main characters in the trailer…. they are just so unlovable….

    As far as story goes, there’re plenty of bad /stupid story movies making big money…. this one is just a combination of every bad element that you could possibly think of….

  • matt

    For once I’m with Amid on the anti-cg. I remember when this was first announced, I remember when I first saw the ugly character designs, and I remember when I first read the clichéd storyline. And the only reason I can think it kept going that whole time is because ‘it’s CG’ and fills a programming/distribution gap. It serves them right they went with such a wide release. Funny the studio is called fathom. I sure can’t.

    Damn you Katzenberg and Eisner with your self-fulfilling prophecy about 3d animation (considering K & E were the ones with the power who made that happen) – THIS is your legacy, no matter WHO made it. And as a character designer I find this a bit offensive. It basically looks like they wanted a certain thing but the modellers weren’t proficient enough to give it to them.

    Having said all that, would this have been any better in 2d? I doubt it…

  • Blasko

    We’re sharpening our knives a bit on this one, aren’t we? Personally, I just hope all this negative press for an independent CGI sci-fi film doesn’t hurt Meni Tsirbas’ chances of getting “Terra” distributed to a larger audience. Anyone seen that yet — I’ve heard good things.

  • Tim

    This is how films like this get made (over-simplified version):
    1. Visionary animator is able to talk a good enough game to get several investors who have never done a film before to pay for his personal project over 10 years or so. (Which means it was “greenlit” by the producer/director/writer – not a studio).
    2. Film slowly gets completed. Mr. Fathom begins to court distributors.
    3. An Independent Distributor finally makes a deal to take the film. Distributors like completed films…. because they are FREE! They only pay for prints and advertising and make back their costs first.
    4. Fathom will be lucky to see anything from this. Of course, it’s their own fault for spending too much time raising capital and not enough creating an engaging story.

  • Is it just me or does Delgo look like John McCain?

  • Not defending Delgo but the film careers of Freddie Prinze Jr and Jennifer Love Hewitt were at their peak when production started in 1999 (‘I know what you did last summer’ is hardly saying much). Casting becomes so critical. You’d really have to foresee the career trajectory of your ‘lead talents’

  • David Levy

    No need to love something just because its from an “indy.” Especially when that indy makes a film that borrows from the worst Hollywood animated and live action features. This looks like a sad rehash of the already sad Star Wars prequels…

  • Pete

    I doubt this has anything to do with casting. Everything about this movie makes you cringe. It has 0 appeal. That said, if it didn’t take 9-10 years to complete it might have been received better.

    I’m guessing this film also had a pretty limited ad campaign.

  • I am not surprised that this film is a huge dud. What’s more is that it’s a good thing that people are coming to their senses. If you’re going to make an animated film why not use a good and amusing story that is not condescending to the audience with quality character designs and with voice actors who know what they’re doing and aren’t desperate stars or “doing it for the kids” (although sometimes a celebrity can do well like Billy Crystal or Ben Stiller).

  • So…they’re kind of like lizards…but people! Except some of them are a little more like bugs/fairies! Yes, some stultifying design there. The lizard people don’t even have long zappy tongues, or sticky feet for wall-climbing. So many wasted opportunities….

  • Elliot and I are organizing an Everybody Loves Raymond marathon for the first meeting of our Delgo Fan Club.

  • david

    The film did make it in to the Rome Film Festival, Annecy, and won best feature film at Anima Mundi.

  • Jen

    Who cares about famous actors voicing? It’s like sticking an Abercrombie logo on a Fruit of the Loom shirt and then trying to sell it for more. I really don’t think anyone cares anymore. I’ve only seen people talk it up about actors if it’s a live action flick. If I bat an eyelash at celebrity voice actors it’s out of annoyance. People only care if the job is done well. If it’s a voice actor who’s great, but not a household name because they aren’t in some live flicks then so be it; doing the job well matters more than an expensive name acting as a brand.

  • BringingSexyBack

    Wow I remember reading about this in Animation Magazine several years back. When I saw the trailer for this before “BOLT” I swear I thought they were advertising a Playstation 3 game or something

  • RAB

    I understand everyone is focused on the character design and voice acting here, but can we take just one moment to listen to the dialogue?

    This is a massive breakthrough: a script written entirely via cut and paste of generic statements, without any further typing or anything that smacks of thought or wit or any guiding brain functions whatsoever.

  • MattSullivan

    Boy, you’d think the makers of DELGO had pooped on the Mona Lisa the way people are reacting.

    Yeah, it’s a bad film. Yeah, it failed miserably, but why kick em while they’re down? It’s one more feature film than I’ve ever sold…or most of you guys for that matter. That alone deserves respect.

    I DO agree that with the money they spent on Hollywood actors, they could have hired equally effective unknowns…and the financial impact would be far less when all is said and tallied. Hell, even films that perform poorly at the box office can sometimes break even on video. I mean they had to spend..what…at least 10 million paying these actors? Maybe more?

    i guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the real fallout is.

  • yeah…..the characters where enough to frighten me off.
    the trailer didn’t help.

    P.S. Elliot also likes cheeseburgers and beer.

  • Dustin

    I wish bad movies would go on clearance once they failed to make their expectations.

    Seriously, cut those damn ticket prices in half, everyone loves a good sale especially with todays economy.

  • I have a friend who worked for many years with a European comics company. He and his team, editors of a weekly comic that had gone on for decades, battled the bean-counters’ demand to package the comic with a “free toy bonus.”

    What’s this? There’s no tradition for it here in the States, but a lot of mainstream European comics are sold in grocery stores and newsstands shrinkwrapped; that is to say, bagged together with an extremely cheap Cracker Jack-type toy.
    Bagging the comic with this toy raises the price a little and has two significant drawbacks: older kids resent the childish aspect of the toy, and new readers now can’t open the comic to see what the stories inside are like.
    BUT the CW among publishing industry suits out there is extremely strong that when the toy is added to the comic as a regular feature, sales among young children shoot up so high, and so fast, that it makes up for the drawbacks.
    For awhile, anyway. The truth is that after awhile the novelty grows old, sales return to where you started, or lower… while the added difficulty that now you can’t go for new readers by removing the toy and selling the comic sans bag, because then you lose the preschoolers who’ve grown used to the toy will cry bloody murder. Once you’ve added it, you can’t take it away.
    And you still have a comic that’s bagged so new readers can’t look inside. You’ve cut off an important means of growing the market in exchange for a short-term benefit.

    For American animation suits, celebrity voices are the “free toy bonus.” We added them, bringing initial success (Aladdin); they’ve gotten old; there’s a lot of evidence that they’re no longer a draw for audiences; but suits are too insecure to be sure, so there’s no taking them away, and sometimes they are forced on a movie where they’re plainly 100% detrimental (Horton springs to mind).
    I bet I’d be rich if I had a nickel for every Fathom suit who’s probably lecturing someone else now with the wisdom that if DELGO hadn’t had celebrity voices, it would do even *worse!*

    I’m only exaggerating a little when I adopt my rumbly, fake pirate-gives-a-warning voice and cackle that “once you add the toy, there’s no going back.”

  • Keith Paynter

    Derek M says:
    Is it just me or does Delgo look like John McCain?

    That character second from the left looks like Corey Feldman!

    Way-y-y-y too busy. Design means nothing if you can’t make out anything distinct. Sadly, I believe this is the final credit for Anne Bancroft.

  • Ad

    What are those things? Monkeys or lizards? Im not hassling the guys who made it, I just couldn’t tell.

  • s.

    Delgo movie reminds me a bit the movies of Barbie, but I think that Barbie movies are better than this thing :D !

  • Jonesa

    What do you know, I got one of my Christmas wishes. I guess there must be a Santa Claus after all.

    Now if I’ve been good enough this year, expect to see a news article soon about how all motion capture technology has suddenly turned into coal…

  • EatRune

    Kinda weird, since I read about this movie YEARS ago. I saw this weird trailer were during the “this film is not yet rated” bit it added “In fact, [the companies or something] don’t even know it exists!”

    Although I didn’t think this looked that interesting, I was thinking “Is this EVER going to come out?”

    And it did and it flopped. Even though I saw ads for it on TV.

  • tom

    They’ll blame the economy, and they’ll somehow get funding for another movie at least this bad in a few months. That’s sadly the animation industry in a nutshell.

  • Kevin Martinez

    This was inevitable; We had a big celebration for Doogal when it became the first CGI bomb. Now we have one for the biggest CGI bomb to date.

    The whole thing seems like some hackneyed attempt to do a Lord of the Rings-style fantasy. The protagonists look like anthropomorphic dinosaurs, there’s fairy stuff all around, and a generic two-race-battle, stop evil from taking over the world plot. The contrived bodily function humor doesn’t help either.

    If the film’s budget is anything resembling big (and with all the celebrities in tow it has to be), then it’ll be incredibly hard for the film to make back it’s budget. It’s doubtful that the movie will make much more in the box office if its putrid opening is any indication, and its home video release will have to compete with Bolt, Madagascar, Wall E, Kung Fu Panda, and all of the other high-profile films.

  • FP

    The characters look like Shrek’s wife’s retarded siblings.

  • matt

    Yeah David – I hated the main voices in Horton – I love both Carey and Carell, but their voices are so tonally similar if you weren’t watching the screen you wouldn’t be able to tell who was talking. Which is surely a cardinal sin for animation. Also Carey’s voice seemed too tinny and harsh for Horton. At least when Pixar do it they choose voices with different timbres.

    They might be big stars, but you can’t mistake Hanks for Allen. And those voices also have a definite sonic ‘personality’. I guess Pixar have their cake and eat it too with the mix of celeb voices and using their own employees. It’d be nice though if they availed themselves more often of the skills of the professional voice actors from TV animation. Those guys are so talented and sonically flexible. I understand there are a lot of lousy ones that bring a boatload of clichés with them, but hell, that’s true of most professions. The Ratzenberger thing is in danger of becoming a very ironic in-joke though, “lucky charm” or not. At least they turned Harrison Ford down for Craig T. Nelson. Love Ford but…

    The thing is, Prinze Jr. doesn’t even have a distinctive VOICE!

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    Any time the subject of Celebrity Voices comes up, I have a flashback to when I was a kid in the 60s and I remember “The Man From Button Willow” being advertised with its roll call of celebrity voices. For some reason, the one that really sticks in my mind is “Herschel Bernardi!” Don’t ask me why, it just does.

    The right celebrity doing the right voice can help make the picture and doesn’t need to be showcased (e.g., Robin Williams as the Genie in the first “Aladdin”). But if the story doesn’t work, no amount of celebrity voice work can save it.

  • VioletR

    Honestly, I think that they had too many ideas. The whole Lizard/Fairy thing, for example. Reminds me when I was younger I’d have all these *GREAT* ideas and like mash them into one thing, and then it wasn’t really great anymore. The designs could have been thought on a little more.

    Something delicate, like fairies, and something (that can be perceived as, especially by little kids) scary, like lizards, I really dont see how that was a great Idea.

    I remember seeing the trailer, and i didnt get anything out of it. I actually thought the designs were horrible, especially at first glance. I wasn’t sure what the movie was about. “Ok, there’s a green weird thing named, er, Delgo? Yeah and this purple lady..? I guess she’s a princess? She runs into him because of something…?”

    Honestly, yeah. It could have been better.

  • Ted

    Don’t blame celebrity voice actors on Aladdin; Rescuers had Bob Newhart and a Gabor, and Phil Harris was used for the same basic character in the Jungle Book, the Aristocats and Robin Hood. And then there was Gay Purr-ee before all those examples…

  • J Hobart B

    Well, it certainly looks abysmal, but I suspect the lack of any marketing whatsoever had more to do with it. I mean, I’m a pretty big animation geek (as I assume most of us are), and I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of this thing before today.

  • RoscoJ

    Well, that’s officially only the Second advertisement I ever saw for that film. Not that advertisements are everything, but Lil johnny isn’t going to be in a hurry to see the film if the characters don’t jump out of his happy meal box …

    Plus, this holiday season is too dense to release a film that is not of the highest quality. The kids have played too many games that look like this, and the Adults can see the difference, too.

    as for the comment that this looks like a PlayStation game… I was thinking more like a wii.

    Happy Holidays Everyone!

  • I’ll jump on the “bad character designs” and “awful script” bandwagon here. I just don’t find the appeal in “Barbie Seamonkey.”

    MattSullivan said:
    “It’s one more feature film than I’ve ever sold…or most of you guys for that matter.”

    I’m not a pro, I don’t pretend to be, and I’m certainly not saying I could’ve done it better; that doesn’t preclude me (or anyone else) from calling it as we see it. Take the opposite case: does that mean we all should have a big-budgeted movie in our belts to *praise* a good film?

    The kudos for “selling it” should go to the PR guys at Fathom anyway… if the movie hadn’t tanked. I just don’t see a reason to applaud a Little Studio That Could when it actually Couldn’t.

  • Everybody Loves Delgo is a sitcom I’m working on with my animation brethren…

  • Celebrities often work for scale just for the fun of voicing an animated character (sometimes it’s for their kids). And all the carping about the second rate voices is unwarranted, all those actors have talent (a few credits down they have Anne Bancroft, Eric Idle, Val Kilmer). In addition when you are promoting a film, the mainstream talk shows only want face recognition, they don’t even want Brad Bird or John Lasseter for interviews, and those guys are really entertaining speakers.

    I guess the producers/distributors looked at the finished film and wisely decided to cut their losses and not to promote it. A theatrical release is not such a bad gamble because when the DVD is released, it’s a DVD of a theatrical production not a direct to DVD release. Unfortunately in this case it may have an unshakable reputation as the Plan 9 of animation.

    Do you suppose that since the election the public suddenly has taste?

  • In fairness to the film and voice talent, the studio did nothing to promote the film.

    I run a movie website, yet had never even heard of the film when I saw it listed, Thursday afternoon, as opening Friday. There had been zero advertising for it, not even a print ad in the local paper. Since I follow movies closer than the average movie goer, how is anyone else supposed to know about it?

    And why did the studio release it on 2,100+ screens with no advertising? Surely they could have thrown out even a 15 second TV ad just listing the voice talent and gotten SOMEONE to see it.

  • Aleksandar Vujovic

    I dread just thinking how much money has gone to waste, that could’ve been used to make a much better movie…

  • Sepo

    Lands on his crotch! Goes crosseyed even! Gold!

  • And Bill Plympton’s Idiots and Angels can’t get US distribution? Talk about myopic!

  • Mr. Hunt

    I doubt recession or the like had anything to do with this failing. I had no idea it existed until I was checking the local times for movies and looked it up following my never hearing of the film.

  • Tom

    The characters were too ugly; there’s a reason why Disney’s “Hunchback” did not-as-well domestically.

    And unless you’re into Al Gore’s Kool Aid, you’re not going to spend $12 to be lectured to about “diversity” on date night. Pure and simple.

  • PCUnfunny

    I just heard this news on Paul Harvey. YOU KNOW it’s bad when you hear from him.

  • Amid, you’re the Grinch that stole CG ;-)

    Nah, I’m with you with this one. A polished turd will always smell, no matter how many layers of lacquer you add.

    They should have named the movie “Aladdar II” and they might have doubled their profits XD

  • Larry T

    Lands on his crotch! Goes crosseyed even! Gold!

    The second I saw that gag, I clicked out of the preview.

    Interest level in seeing anything whatsoever to do with this movie now = 0.

  • There is always debate as to the box office draw of celebrity voices in animated features. We forget that Robin Williams was never advertised as the voice of the Genie in ALADDIN in 1992. But his performance was the talk of the film and did help boost the grosses. I’d argue the recent trend of star voice actors started with Pixar’s TOY STORY and exploded when Dreamworks started up (PRINCE OF EGYPT, ANTZ, SHREK, etc).

    As Ted mentioned above, the gimmick dates back well beyond THE JUNGLE BOOK and GAY PUREE. I’d say Disney started it with his 40s compilation films like MELODY TIME and MAKE MINE MUSIC, using popular singing stars like Roy Rogers and The Andrews Sisters. Bing Crosby and Basil Rathbone were used to lure folks into THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD, Ed Wynn and Jerry Colonna to ALICE IN WONDERLAND, but I digress…

    DELGO is one bad movie.

  • Of course, even the Walt Disney Studio is not guiltless when it comes to bad voice casting.

    You should have heard Milt Kahl bitch about some of the lackluster voice talents he got stuck with years ago.

    With a few exceptions, celebrity voices are a total waste of money, but don’t expect things to change — ever.

  • High Dog

    I wanted to see this just because of the voice over talent but after hearing all the bad reviews I don’t think I will bother.

    Most of the actors should only ever do voice work. I got Burt Reynolds on my GPS the other day and I love having him give me directions but I can’t stand watching him. I believe it was navtones or something that does celebrity voices for GPS and I think they should sign all the stars in this movie as I’m sure they will be looking for work now!

    Anyway, I do feel sorry for the makers of the film as I’m sure years of work went into this!

  • ha hahahahaha… omg.. i fucking love it!!! def falls into the “so bad it’s good category” i’m buying this on dvd (next week i’m sure) and playing it as wallpaper for parties. ROCK ON FATHOM!!! i hope the artists at least got paid well.

  • Gerard de Souza

    At least they tried. Let he who has made an independant feature post the first comment. ;)
    I’m sorry if I post my favorite quote again by Jerry Lewis:
    “If you want to make no mistakes then do nothing.”

  • Michael

    I don’t know if celebrity voice talents are a total waste of many, Floyd. I know this will sound like I’m just following the popular kids, but I like the Pixar approach to voices, particularly with regard to Ratatouille. Anton Ego was Peter O’Toole, and good god was he perfectly cast. I’d have a hard time hearing any other voice out of that character. But Linguini and Emile were both Pixar guys, Lou Romano and Pete Sohn respectively. Who ever heard of either of them? Yet they both fit the characters they played perfectly. It all comes down to performance and story. If the story and performance are good, it doesn’t matter who’s voicing the characters. If the story and performance are bad, well, I’d like to say it doesn’t matter who does the voices, but Shrek has proven that you can have crappy stories, crappy animation, but get Cameron Diaz and you’ll make a mint. So, wait, what was my point again?

  • tgentry

    I think if this had ANY advertisements whatsoever it would have made more money. The only thing I know about this movie is that they started making it sometimes around 1956 and just now finished. Reading the synopsis made me gag a little, as it sounds like a mishmash of some of the most generic plots in videogamedom, and yes the design work is very bland. That said, I still have to admire the tenacity to see it through till the end.

  • This is one of the worst things about animated features. Voice acting and Acting are two entirely different realms, but they’re purchased under the same envelope. “Name Recognition” is not an artistic skill, even if it’s a marketable skill.

    This has been one of the best side effects of Pixar’s strong track record. They no longer have to justify or validate their movies with celebrity voices. The reason is because the name “Pixar” sells a lot more seats than “The voice of Brad Pitt.”

    I think that’s what other studios need to focus on, in the classic modern tradition of just copying whatever Pixar does. Build up your studio’s name, rather than your studio’s name-drops.

  • Brad Bird

    Assorted thoughts about voices:

    1) Robin Williams alone was not the key to ALADDIN’s success. Very few people remember that Williams was also the voice of a key character in FERNGULLY that same year and it didn’t help the film’s boxoffice. The key was Ron Clements & John Musker’s brilliant idea of casting Williams in a role ( a shape shifting Genie that had been cooped up for thousands of years and finally let loose) that both made sense character-wise and took advantage of William’s penchant for stream of consciousness riffing– and then animated by the great Eric Goldberg (and others under Eric), who controlled the visual half of William’s performance.

    Also didn’t hurt that the movie was well made by Ron & John and a fine crew.

    2) I would also argue that Hanks was not that big of a star when he was signed for TOY STORY. Tim Allen was actually the bigger start AT THE TIME. But I would also say from experience that star power means very little at Pixar. It’s all about who’s best for the role– Well known, unknown, or in between.

    3) As for some of Pixar’s competitors/fellow animation companies– at least the ones that spend large sums of money for their star voices, I don’t think that they pay stars for their marquee value (no one goes to an animated film to listen to celebrities) as much as they pay them to go on the talk show circuit and yack about the film.

    4) None of this has anything to do with DELGO, which I haven’t seen.

  • Been watching the “production” of that movie for over 5 years… all the while hoping it would either get scrapped, get better, or go direct to video tape (not dvd). It failed on all accounts. Who funded this mess. And that chick looks nothing like Jennifer Love Hewitt.

  • Chris J

    I hate to see this one go down, because I’m hopeful that the independent business model they used will eventually lead to some remarkable American animated films, but a turd is a turd, and I can smell the stink from here.

    Truly, a shame.

  • PCUnfunny

    The only thing I enjoy from ALADDIN today is Goldberg’s animation of the Genie.

  • tom Stazer

    Some movies are so bad the stench seeps through the trailer; this one was pretty obviously awful. Tell you, though, I wonder what the original character designs looked like? We all know how Bolt got designed down, but what this really reminds me of is Nelvana’s Rock N Rule. An otherwise remarkable animation severly hogtied by massively unappealing lead character designs – like delgo, they look like humans with funny noses and mouths. Yet, as in Bolt, when you browse the Rock N Rule DVD’s sketches for the characters – OMG. Brilliance. Had ANY of the initial designs been used, the movie could have been big. But, when the producers worry that the audience won’t identify with non-human characters.. well.. wrong producers.

  • Paul K.

    “ugh.. I have cringebumps,” “The characters look like Shrek’s wife’s retarded siblings,” and “Dust Mites in a Thomas Kinkade painting” are going to appear on the packaging for this garbage. Fantastic!

    “In fairness to the film and voice talent, the studio did nothing to promote the film.” –Moviezzz
    Well, you certainly can’t blame the studio– it is a common practice to put a lid on something that stinks.

    I fear “Delgo” will become a new pejorative synonym unappealing characters much like “Hoodwinked” is slang for shoddy animation. Exempli gratia, “Wow, they really delgoed the character design for that Antz made for tv sequel.”

    Anyway, I cannot understand why a studio would use hinge success on solely celebrity voice acting– there really isn’t credible evidence for “star power = boffo box office.”
    Maybe it was a feeble attempt to make up for the glaring ugliness and ultra-generic-ness of Delgo.
    Or perhaps it has to do with a television producer’s mind set of selling shows based on the talent, seeing how most sitcoms arrive from the reorganization of a comedian’s popular stand-up routine. I guess they didn’t consider their project to be a timeless medium that must withstand passing trends.

    That said, I wish I didn’t make a personal obligation to see every animated feature in theaters– I need to stock up on eye-bleach.

  • For those who claim the movie was not well promoted – it’s been advertised on television quite regularly around these parts (these parts are NYC).

  • If the crime is that Delgo is a me-too animation venture, consider that that’s how Walt Disney started out.

    If the crime is that Delgo hired known actors for the voices, consider that they all probably just worked for scale and had a proven ability to take direction and deliver lines and bring free buzz with them.

    If the crime is the character designs… how many fuzzy bunnies does a movie really need?

    If the crime is that they dreamed big… well, that’s common among artists.

    Delgo doesn’t look Ed Wood bad, or Monogram Serial bad or even Joan Collins B-movie bad. It looks like it may be more entertaining than any of the Star Wars prequels. It may just be that it’s not remarkable among the few examples it’s being compared to in a very advanced niche of movie-making.

    It appears that a lot of talented people put work into Delgo, I hope they all got paid and I’m sure it’s heartbreaking to have the outcome of all that work be the way it is.

  • Stephen

    Wow…so they finally went and made a movie full of Jar Jar Binkses?

  • For a real eye-opener, read some of the old news stories and interviews about Delgo that are still floating around on the Internet, like this one from 2001.

    Marc Adler and Fathom are the spitting image of the people who came to CG from the trendy tech sector circa 1995-2000. If you want a gander at how CG was perceived back then, look no further. The guy running the show is a tech-wiz entrepreneur who earnestly thought he had an original idea, and that absorbing mantras like “story is king” would be enough to deliver it to the screen.


    “For instance, in technology we endeavor to solve problems and fulfill a need. With filmmaking, we create a problem on the screen or in the script and then resolve it. However, there are as many differences as there are similarities. In the business of technology, the product is more important than the people attached to it, whereas in the film industry, star power is key. The theory is that while a good movie does better than a bad movie, a good movie with a big star will do best. I could go on and on with parallels and distinctions between the businesses of technology and filmmaking, but I think that above all else it boils down to the core of each industry.”


    “We aim to have a compelling, socially responsible, yet entertaining story with universal themes that impart moral virtues in a way that touch audiences both young and old. In addition, the fantasy-art look of the film also lends itself to something unlike anything audiences have seen before; a very human story told in a non-human world. Thus far, every CG feature film has been set on Earth. Our story is set in an original world and therefore we have immense freedom in taking our audience to the depths of imagination.”

    Apparently, having the courage to go for independent financing and production isn’t enough propulsion to get away from the studio-boss mindset that has run big-budget CG into the ground everywhere outside of Emeryville. In this mindset, there is no distinction between animation and special effects.

    Curiously, Adler was right about one thing in that 2001 interview: it’s strange that even now, one of the things that CG has never pulled off is an out-and-out, un-ironic genre romance spectacle in the vein of Sleeping Beauty. Right now, audiences are in that strange post-romance phase where irony is the new cliché, partly because filmmakers don’t have a clue how to do genre straight-up without looking like they’re ripping off the masters. This is why I’m hoping Disney gets its act together with Rapunzel (which, if you remember, was once in grave danger of falling into the trap of trying to be all Shrek-like and hip).

    Pixar succeeds because it’s more interested in good filmmaking than contrived industrial success, and because it comes up with dreams that we couldn’t all think of ourselves.

  • Sara

    robcat> Maybe I haven’t read the comments here thoroughly enough, but I kind of doubt that anyone’s beef with the character designs in this movie is that all the characters aren’t fuzzy woodland creatures. There are ways to make the design of a character appealing, whether its a fuzzy bunny, a deformed hunchback, a monstrous beast, or a heroic lizard guy. Taking a human face and messing with the proportions a bit does not do it for me. My biggest beef with the character design is that all of the characters look very similar, which seems like a poor choice for a story that evidently places a lot of weight on the character’s differing species.

    I’m not sure where you got the assumption that the live-action actors who provided voices for this film worked for scale. It’s possible that it was the case, but its equally possible that a good percentage of the film’s budget went to getting the voice cast. Some of them may have been chosen for the ability to take direction, some may have been selected exclusively for the potential publicity their names would bring. But it’s not “free buzz.” Like Brad Bird points out, part of what you pay for when you get a name actor is the publicity.

    I haven’t seen the film, but watching the trailer, I feel like the movie is trying to be to many thing at once. Parts of it – the narration in particular – suggest a completely serious “Lord of the Rings” style fantasy epic, but then someone belches or gets hit in the crotch or some other slapsticky thing. And the parade of the actors’ names after the post title “zinger” feels like a last ditch effort to sell audiences on the film.

    Is “Delgo” the worst movie ever made? Probably not. Does it deserve to have possibly the worst opening weekend of all time? Perhaps not. Did the crew of the film care about it and try to make the final product good? I’m sure in some cases they did. But none of that means the film should not be criticized, and most of the criticism I’ve seen here has been pretty justified.

  • This one of the few times I will ever go negative.

    The character designs, animation, trailers and just overall “vibe” of Delgo screamed “bad movie.” I know it’s wrong to judge a book by its cover but Delgo dropped enough clues about its quality to assure a quick demise.

    Its probably not the worst movie ever made (that honor goes to either “Gigli” or “Smart People”) but it’s bad enough to warrant that great Bart Simpson quote: “I didn’t think it was scientifically possible but this both sucks and blows!”

  • Delgone.

  • Dan

    What the heck, they should just keep Delgo in the 2000 theaters this weekend. It’s bound to do better with the “slow down and see the car crash” crowd.

  • Ted

    Gigli is not an especially bad movie. The gossip whores into the Ben Affleck- Jennifer Lopez relationship it was marketed to hated it because it’s a guy movie (think second rate True Romance), and convinced everyone else it was awful sight unseen.

  • My *theory* that the voice cast worked for scale is based on the premise that compared to other acting jobs that require exclusive multi-month commitments, hours every day in makeup, and long stretches at unpleasant locations… animation voice work is low-risk and low commitment. It’s an easy job that they can schedule into what would otherwise be down time. So they aren’t put out by the low pay and there’s probably a clause to pay them more IF the movie does well.

    If Delgo was a hit, the deals for Delgo 2 would be different, but this is still Delgo 1 and only.

    People get all bamboozled by star names and figure they must all make millions, but none of those star names on Delgo are A-list names and I doubt any of them could command as much as $1 million even for a part in a major live action pic. Remember Terri Garr? She was a name star when she was in a big movie called “Close Encounters” but she only got paid a hair above scale* for it. A lot of stars aren’t making what we think they are making.

    Also, none of those stars were indispensible for Delgo. Nice to have, but Delgo could say “take it or leave it” and if they left it… there’s always another B-lister in Hollywood ready to step in.

    I still think “scale” for Delgo. I can’t imagine any of them getting as much as $50,000 up front, probably WAY less.

    And IF they got paid scale (just my theory) the buzz (admittedly small with B-listers) they bring with them *IS* free because it’s something extra that comes with the actor that you wouldn’t have gotten with a no-name voice actor that you still had to pay scale to.

    I’m not an insider. I’m just thinking thru some obvious factors in the situation. If someone has a full budget leaked from Delgo headquarters that would be interesting to see. I too wonder how $40 million was spent.

    *How do I know this? Only because long ago on a local talk show they had a guest who had swiped a complete line-item budget for the film. Mostly they were guffawing at absurd sounding expenses like “donuts” or “dirt movers”, but didn’t fail to notice how little Garr got paid.

  • Apart from being all-round mediocre, the lack of advertising & licensing tie-ins etc. helped keep the movie all but invisible to the public. (Lucky public…)

    Saw it at a film festival last spring. Any movie that opens with a minute or so of narration setting up the world and the backstory has script trouble right off the bat, and/or went through more than its share of post-production revisions. If they can’t fill you and sell the premise as they go along, they’re in trouble from the get-go.

    Just to change the subject… anybody see that DTV CGI “Nutty Professor 2” that snuck onto the shelves the other week?

  • PCUnfunny

    Joe: You mean a sequel to Jerry Lewis’ film ? It’s CGI ?????!!!!!!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO !!!!!!!!!!!!! DOES NOT COMPUTE !!!!!!!!!!

  • animazzata

    From the article brought up by Nicholas Tam:

    “In technology, companies exist in a liberated climate with no fears and no rules. The only reason we learn the rules is to know how to break them – to go against the grain and alter tradition in search of new pastures. Technologists are, and will always be, pioneers learning from the past to help us create our future. Conversely, the business of filmmaking exists in a universe of formulas and risk-averse, proven methods. This is the reason behind remakes and sequels. If there is a well-worn path, it will be followed until there is a new one.”

    Nice way to follow the formula, Adler.

  • Christopher Panzner

    Just to put things in perspective, let’s not forget a forerunner and possibly an inspiration for this colossal flop, Xilam Animation’s (Marc du Pontavice, France) “Kaena” (2003)… check out that staggering box office:

    Kirsten Dunst? Richard Harris? Anjelica Huston?

    Hollywood voices are neither the solution nor, it appears to me, the problem … at all. The problem is that first-timers/techno geeks/non-animators ALWAYS want to do heroic fantasy… and it’s always financial and social suicide. Because that’s what THEY like, they assume that’s the case for everyone and don’t do their homework. It’s the costliest genre with the least profit. LOTS of numbers, very little return on investment. And it’s all or nothing at all, quality-wise… very expensive. And usually starts with a book.

    Or, God forbid, they try COMEDY.

    It amazes me that people want Hollywood success but won’t use the Hollywood formula: development. Which, if they did, would theoretically allow them to “compete.” Just not at what Hollywood does, of course, because Hollywood owns the distribution. (AND if it’s a choice between your sorry ass and a Hollywood major, I think we know where the writing talent is going.) And so the vicious cycle continues of outsiders/newbs falling on their faces into a bad script, a stack of bills and humiliating reviews trying to “rival” LOTR. The worst part being one more steaming heap of CGI shite to pollute the gene-pool. Fortunately, the public forces you to auto-flagellate with your own wallet so you can’t repeat the same ghastly visual mistake.

    And to think, if these producers led with their heads instead of their hearts, they’d do horror… of course! Least amount of money, most return on investment. NOT Hollywood. New, fun, cool, orginal? Nah, get your head handed to you doing the samo-samo. The Indiana Jones “bugs on your back” gag? Why does everyone do these “winks” to other films? It’s like singers who sing about how cool it is to be a singer… who gives a frying fart?

    That said, at the end of the day, only animators can do animation. It’s not like an indie can’t do great animation, be original and funny, make money at it, keep an independent spirit, use celebrity voices, etc.: Blue Sky.

    If you ask me, to be a successful indie you have to master the formula–something only a few rare auteurs are capable of–or reinvent the wheel… otherwise the juggernaut of that formula (known as “story”) will just crush you like the wanabee insect you are. Fortune favors the bold.

  • Ted

    “Any movie that opens with a minute or so of narration setting up the world and the backstory has script trouble right off the bat, and/or went through more than its share of post-production revisions”

    Star Wars? Lord of the Rings?

  • PCUnfunny

    Ted: I think both those films are tremendously overrated.

  • Star Wars is a crawl & only a few paragraphs long, more a nod to the old Flash Gordon serials. If it wasn’t there you’d still be able to figure out what was going on just by the first image of that plucky little ship on the run from that big, big BIG evil ol’ spooky Empire star destroyer or whatever the hell it was.

    As for Lord of the Rings, uh, er… I’ll get back to you on that one Ted…

  • PCUnfunny
  • matt

    Getting back to Character Design, (oh and the Brew article on the CG Nutty Professor showed at least the design is superior to something like Delgo or Hoodwinked or even most of Shrek) as much as I loathe most of Dreamworks’ and Imageworks’ animated output, I have to give credit where it’s due:

    First we had KFPanda which was a definite step in the right direction (and nice of them to have the consistency of one artist’s style). But seeing the character design of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs makes me very hopeful. That look was a complete surprise, and very nice and loose. I wonder if it can eek some praise out of even Amid? ;)

    P.S. PCU – Yep Star Wars sidesteps the narration thing for reasons such as what Joe has already mentioned. The title crawl is also essentially a title CARD for a predominately initially silent movie. You also ignore that the actual first half hour of the movie (aside from the Vader stuff which is still sparse) is Robots with pretty much no dialogue. Hmmm, where have I heard praise for THAT before…? ;)