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Feature Film

Animated Features That Killed Studios

Over at OMGlists.com is an article on Seven Films That Killed Studios. Two on the list are animated features.

There is no denying that the box office reception to Titan A.E. and Final Fantasy ended further production at their respective studios. Whatever the individual artistic merits of a project are, the truth is that hit films keep our medium going, box office bombs can have a devastating effect.

What other animated features sunk the prospects of their Hollywood producers? Treasure Planet? The Secret of Nimh?

  • Carlos

    Home on the Range.

  • I blame the mindset of “Cartoons are only for kids” as the reason why those two features bombed (well, Titan AE anyways).

    How do the numbers for Titan AE and Final Fantasy stack up against those WONDERFUL direct to home video cartoons?

  • Chuck R.

    What other animated features sunk the prospects of their Hollywood producers?…….The Secret of Nimh?

    Really? I thought “The Secret of NIMH” did just the opposite —brought the only serious challenge to Disney’s dominance in feature animation since the Fleischers. I don’t know how much money it made, but I think it had better critical reception than The Fox and The Hound. NIMH was the first feature film of Bluth’s career, not the last. It belongs with The Iron Giant on the short list of all-time underrated animated films.

    Or do you mean “The Secret of NIMH” sunk Disney?

  • top cat james

    “Gay Puree”
    “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown(and Don’t Come Back)”
    “Cool World”

  • I’d say “Quest for Camelot” was kind of a punch in the gut to Warner Bros. They did “Osmosis Jones” and “Iron Giant” too, and neither of those did well. Seen any 2-d WB animated movies lately?

  • Didn’t Secret of Nimh put Don Bluth on the map and pave the way for his 80’s successes like Dragon’s Lair and American Tale? (I was a kid at the time, so my perspective of those days is somewhat limited…)

  • Chuck R.

    Does “Shinbone Alley” count?

  • On an unrelated topic, are the comments acting up? I posted one but didn’t get it showing with the ‘waiting for moderation’ thing. So I pressed Back and tried it again but it said I had already posted it. So I’m not sure if it is in the system or not.

  • Weird… that one shows up fine. Yet I tried posting the original again and it didn’t show up. Am I missing something?

    I apologise for messing up the comments with this.

  • Chuck R.

    And “Cats Don’t Dance” is the classic example of what happens when a really decent film is unlucky enough to get finished just in time for a corporate takeover.

  • Kevin H

    I was under the impression that many of the Fox Animation crew was laid off before Titan A.E. was even released…

  • Peter

    “Seen any 2-d WB animated movies lately?”

    Heck, not many CG animated movies from them, either.

    (Yeah, I know ‘Clone Wars’ opened today, but they’re really only distributing it.)

  • The Animator

    It’s sad that Final Fantasy didn’t do well it was a breakthrough in CGI animation. To bad the story wasn’t as amazing as the CGI though it was still an ok story. Titan A.E. had an interesting story but didn’t seem to be marketed well, and the pacing was a bit off at times. All in all it was still a fine feature. Another film that seemed to kill off WB was Looney Tunes Back in Action which I kinda enjoyed.

    I don’t see why Treasure Planet got such mixed reviews to begin with it’s become one my favorite films y Disney. It could have been I was around the same age of the character who knows anyways. The blend of CGI and 2D animation worked rather well if you asked me. Only a trained eye could really spot the dramatic difference.

  • Brad Constantine

    There should be a new list called “worst major studios marketed animated films of all time”. Many of the above mentioned are good films but either had poor, or no marketing or lousy timing(up against LOTR) or both.
    Turner had “Cats Don’t Dance”…another good film and marketing casualty.

  • “The Ant Bully” was the last film that DNA Productions in Dallas TX made, this after making the Jimmy Neutron movie as well as 5+ seasons of the Jimmy Neutron TV show. After TAB there wasn’t anything else and any projects in development got back burnered. Not sure there was a definitive cause/effect in that or if it was just a matter of correlation.
    The Jonah Movie was a film that had a direct hand in bankrupting the original Big Idea Productions in Chicago. it failed to deliver at the box office sufficient to recoup it’s (overrun) production costs. The company and VeggieTales properties were bought out of bankruptcy and continue on in some form today, still making DVD’s and even a new film earlier this year. However that film (The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything) was another box office dud that pretty much seals the deal against any further Veggie big screen offerings.

  • Dock Miles

    Well, this Wiki entry and this box-office-totals chart indicate that NIMH, if not a disaster, fell short badly as a feature release. It rebounded so well on home video that its shaky start is often forgotten.

  • Jose Manuel

    What about cat dont dance?

    that was the first and last feature movie. from turner animation studios

  • I never liked Titan AE. Not because it wouldn’t be an awesome film, but because the pacing on the film was so awful I couldn’t folllow and be invested in the storyline. But it’s a sci-fi animated flick! Go – THAT!

    Final Fantasy was a film that the American Audiences just weren’t ready for, though. An interesting film and someday our children’s children will drool about it’s ahead-of-its-timeness.

  • As I recall reading, “NIMH” did not do very well at the box office. It was it’s life on home video that is where it gained attention from animation enthusiasts.

  • Parker Franklin

    If Don Bluth had only quit making features after “The Land Before Time”, today he’d be as revered as the great Mister Whipple. He might even have landed those commercials with the Charmin bears who wipe their furry butts all over the product, oozing cuteness. A few of Bluth’s former animators have vastly improved the look of the Lucky Charms commercials, so Bluth did not live completely in vain.

  • Tira

    Rock and Rule. (I still love it.)

  • Tira

    Actually, wait, ‘Rock and Rule’ didn’t kill Nelvana, but it was a pretty nasty blow. That and Babar are just enough to make up for the crap that was the ‘Card Captor Sakura’ dub.

  • Vanguard’s “Valiant.”

    Although “Happy Never After” seemed to not to so bad..we’ve also got “Space Chimps” happenin’ now.


  • Dave

    “What other animated features sunk the prospects of their Hollywood producers?”

    Box office failures:

    “The Wild”


    “Everyone’s Hero”

    “Doogal” (aka “The Magic Roundabout”)

    “The Ant Bully”

    “Meet the Robinsons”

    “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything”


    “Flushed Away”

    “Space Chimps”

    “Surf’s Up”


    “Arthur and the Invisibles”

  • Andrew

    I can name at least three others.

  • Esn

    I haven’t seen “Final Fantasy”, but maybe Titan A.E. failed because it was a bad film? I quite liked it when I first first saw it, but I tried watching it again about a year ago and had to turn it off; I couldn’t stand it. The voice acting and character animation felt very fake, things that I didn’t notice the first time around because I was younger and focused on the graphics.

  • Matthew Hunter,

    The “punch in the gut to Warner Bros.” came from LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION (which I didn’t like much), although it also dates back to THE IRON GIANT and THE POWERPUFF GIRLS MOVIE (which killed any more Cartoon Network films), and it was Warner’s fault, not surprisingly. When the directors of both films had their way, Warner held a grudge and decided not to market the films.

  • Arnaldo

    Another movie which killed at least the future prospect for more
    animated features on the american south was DNA’s “Ant Bully”
    weak box office.

  • Tommy E. Brierly

    Yikes, Final Fantasy… I still want my 8 bucks back. At least Square Pictures made a good short with “Final Flight of the Osiris”.

  • Dan

    When Treasure Planet came out, the writing was on the wall. I don’t think that picture could have saved or killed the segment at the time. Strangely, I have a animation-critical friend who loves Home on the Range, and thinks it’s one of the best! I would point to the direct to video onslaught of mediocre animation as the main reason people lost interest and got fed up with trying to decipher the good from the bad. That, and that films at that time were trying to play to an older audience discounting the fact that most people regard the medium for kids-like it or not.

  • Gobo

    “Secret of NIMH” didn’t do terribly well at the box office (as it was released at the same time as “E.T.”), but it was so critically successful that Spielberg brought Bluth “American Tail”.

    “Pebble & the Penguin” helped kill Sullivan/Bluth Studios, though.

  • John

    You can make an argument that the poor box office reception “Hoppity Goes to Town” was the final nail in the coffin for the Fleischer Studio, though judging from the way things were going between Max, Dave and Paramount, even if the movie had been a success the Fleischers might have still lost the company.

  • Graham

    I remember seeing Titan A.E. in theaters. I saw previews for it, and it looked really interesting to me. Then I saw it and was completely let down. I just couldn’t get into it; the film used every cliché in the book and bored me almost to tears. To the people who commented on the end of Don Bluth’s career, I think this was the film that did it, not NIMH. I don’t recall him directing any further movies after this one.

    As for Final Fantasy, even if the film WAS a success, I don’t think the studio would’ve lasted, anyway. Sure, the animation was shocking for its time, but it basically started the “let’s make everyone look like emotionless machines” trend that plagued CGI films following it. It also had a bad story and had almost no relevance to the famous game franchise, anyway, so the studio would’ve been doomed, regardless of ticket sales.

    Oh, and as for more studio killers…

    Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Instead of pumping up their production values, DreamWorks took the cheap way out and borrowed some tips from Eisner.

  • Kelly

    “Iron Giant” may not have done well at the box office, but it wasn’t because it was a bad movie, I think it fell prey to non-promotion.

    I’d forgotten about “Cool World”… ehk

    I’d nominate “The Black Cauldron”… that brought a couple of careers to a screeching halt, and Disney was simply big enough to weather the fallout. I have to imagine if anyone smaller than that had produced it, it would’ve been curtains for sure.

  • The Pagemaster

  • Fausto

    Yeah, in fact Secret of Nimh was pretty much the film that help Bluth establish his animation studio. It was Pebble and the Penguin, a Troll in Central Park, Thumbelina, Rock-a-Doodle that ruined it. Titan A.E was the final nail on the coffin.

    I don’t think Treasure Planet’s big failure closed down any of the Disney animation studios. They just went with CG graphics after Home on the Range. I think their studio in France closed down but I don’t think it was because of the films. At least that’s what I think, I’m probably wrong.

    What sucks about Warner Brother’s fate is that they had some good movies that later became cult classics. I loved the Iron Giant and Cats Don’t Dance, but they did so poorly in the box office that it ruined the studio. Well at least there’s those DC straight to DVD movies still coming out.

  • Altred Ego

    Rock and Rule killed Canadian animation.

  • Oh, Valiant was horrible.
    Saw it recently on one of the cartoon channels. I’ve never seen such stiff animation and character design since… well, never. Those brave pigeons deserved so much better.

  • Peter

    “Rock and Rule killed Canadian animation.”

    If only. Unfortunately, we Canucks were also responsible for the abomination that is Heavy Metal: FAKK2.

  • Kevin

    “I’d nominate “The Black Cauldron”… that brought a couple of careers to a screeching halt, and Disney was simply big enough to weather the fallout. I have to imagine if anyone smaller than that had produced it, it would’ve been curtains for sure.”

    Actually, since the black Cauldron was the first Disney animated film released under Eisner and Katzenburg’s administration, you could list that as another film whose death knell was an untimely corporate takeover of sorts.

  • tom

    Didn’t kill Aardman or DW, but Flushed Away sure killed their mutual admiration society. Aardman will reemerge greater than ever, I’m sure. No studios were permanently harmed in the making of Flushed Away.

  • Dave

    I saw “The Secret of Nimh” in Las Vegas the day it opened and there were all of three people in a medium sized theater. It certainly was no hit. Had those two laser disc games not come along and later Mr. Sullivan and his money, Bluth would have ended right then and there.

  • Scaramanga

    Box office is overrated … as many have stated before me I really do think it’s a matter of marketing.

    Hell, I’m even quite fond of more then a few of the movies being mentioned here and enjoyed quite a few of the rest. E.g. Saw Meet the Robinsons yesterday … not bad at all IMO, … ok, so it wasn’t quite as good as Ratatouille or The Incredibles (both story-wise and animation-wise), but even so it was more then OK. I’ve seen worse, a lot worse.

    Kinda suprised so many people dislike Valiant. That being said it’s not a Hollywood produced feature, so there’s no point in mentioning it here :)

  • Dave

    Scaramanga says:

    “Box office is overrated … [snip] “Kinda suprised so many people dislike Valiant.”


    Ok, but I don’t think that’s the point. I don’t think Jerry’s post was about the artistic merits of any of these films and whether or not anyone “liked” the films mentioned.

    It’s about the financial impact on the studios (and ultimately on the industry) which produce animated films that are either outright box-office bombs or “underperform” to the point that they take a long time to actually show a modest profit. These days the industry is all about short-term big profits . That’s why so much emphasis is given to the opening weekend numbers and films are rarely given a chance to open soft and build an audience by word-of-mouth.

    You can’t say “box-office is overrated” … tell that to the studio heads trying to decide whether to greenlight a new animated feature or to an individual producer/director trying to get another film off the ground after they’ve done a couple of bombs . Many smaller studios can’t survive a major flop and even at the larger studios the impact of flops is felt in the form of staff lay-offs and salary reductions for those who remain.

    Now that said, it is true that box-office is not relevant to whether or not a film is artistically successful. Plenty of films which are eventually recognized as classics , from “Bambi” to “Iron Giant” , were initially box-office disappointments . And just because a film makes a lot of money at the box-office does not mean that it’s necessarily a good film (Shrek anyone ?) .

  • Greg

    “What about cat dont dance?

    that was the first and last feature movie. from turner animation studios”

    No. Pagemaster, and Once upon a Forest were done there. All pretty bad.

    And Nimh didn’t bomb because of E.T.

    It bombed because of the same reason almost every other bluth film bombed: HE CANNOT TELL A STORY. Without Speilberg and Lucas (both with their fair share of bad films), neither American Tail or Land Before Time would have worked. For what it’s worth, Land Before Time is the best film Bluth ever made–by a long shot.

    And it’s still horrible.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    > Rock and Rule killed Canadian animation.

    Ha, just like one Canadian bud of mine said once! He though had stated he felt the movie could’ve led to a boom in Canadian animation that might rival that of Japanese efforts if they had continued to focus on adult/contemporary themes.

    Funny someone praised the Final Fantasy flick. I hate to admit, while I thought the CGI was OK, I didn’t much care for the story and only wished they had developed a story closer to one of the games instead of creating some original deal the way they did.

    In the case of Titan AE, I remember seeing that the first day or so it came out and came out slightly disappointed and felt there was a few places in the film I could’ve improved greatly with some touches for dramatic effect and all. Kinda wanted to give Korso a death scene redeeming the hard time he gave the boy in the film, too bad the film decides instead to cut away before such a scene could be done. It took me days to get it out of my mind over having my brain rewrite the movie into something resembling a cross between Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Arrivederci Yamato.

    Secret of NIMH was one of those that was a fav of mine since I first saw it some 25 years ago. Aside from it’s mentioned box office woes, it at least got Bluth’s name out there for others to take notice of his talent, if only as a rival to the ‘Mouse Factory’. I do think he ended up going down that slide he couldn’t crawl out of completely once he started churning out stuff like Thumbelina, Rockadoodle and Troll from Central Park. Yes, he hasn’t directed anything since Titan AE (unless you don’t count the animation in Dragon’s Lair 3D but that’s about it, I’ll believe it when I see a full-length feature finally completed for that franchise).

    “Cats Don’t Dance” probably was one of those that came out at the wrong time and place when Turner merged with Time Warner, leading to WB not knowing what to do with it in the end. Course with Iron Giant, it was poor marketing choices that prevented it from the full exposure I felt it needed.

  • Not a studio, but didn’t see much from producer/writer Martin Rosen (Watership Down) after The Plague Dogs. There was a Watership Down TV series produced by him about 13 years after the film.

    I interviewed Rosen for my student paper, and had a lot of respect for him. Thought the rabbit film was also very innovative and adult for the time, when you didn’t see many animated features.

  • Chuck R.

    I appreciate Dave’s attempt to bring us back on topic. Given this post’s initial thesis (movies that kill their studios) Secret of NIMH doesn’t qualify by a long shot. No, it wasn’t a major hit on the level of Snow White, but it was an impressive debut for a newcomer, and did make money despite bad marketing. It was certainly good enough to get noticed by some important people who know a thing or two about filmmaking. Thanks to NIMH, American Tail and Land before Time got made, which brought the studio some real (if fleeting) financial success.

    Many aficionados (myself included) rank it as Bluth’s best, and better than most (post-Walt) Disney films. It had a singular artistic vision, interesting characters, great craftsmanship and it even dared to be scary. I won’t defend Bluth’s later output, but you can’t deny he was a major player in animation’s late-century renaissance. I think the record needs to be set straight on this important chapter in animation history.

  • Tsimone Tse Tse

    Does shuttering the Florida & French animation studios by big “D” count if so – Home on the Range

    And if Roy D had not been able to stop the dismantling of Disney in 1984 then Black Cauldron would have been it.

    There needs to be a separate Bluth post – there seems to be such a soft spot for him.

  • Anna

    “the truth is that hit films keep our medium going, box office bombs can have a devastating effect.”

    but…. half the ” box office hits” are the most brain-dead movies ever made! (and then all the bad sequels, remakes, and prequels too!)

  • Jason

    “Cats Don’t Dance” wasn’t a decent film IMO. It was a ripoff of “Roger Rabbit”, and its main character was blander than diet mayonnaise. In fact all the major characters were uninspired, including the seemingly-sweet-but-secretly-bratty Shirley Temple stereotype. Yawn, like we’d never seen THAT idea before in other movies, toons, books, comics, you name it. And you know what? Fred Astaire-like dancing is impressive when an actual human does it. When an animated character does it, and you’re well aware that that character can rip its own head off and stick it back on with no harm done, the effect is somewhat muted. “Cats Don’t Dance” is a fine example of what happens when Disney’s rivals try to do Disney movies: they generally suck at it.

  • Diana Green

    I could not disagree more vehemently concerning Cats Don’t Dance. I found the 40s throwback characters refreshing,especially in light of the (then beginning) onslaught of snarky characters aimed at high school boys. And Cats was driven by traditional animation, not the animation/live action hybrid of RR.
    And as for the dancing, Gene Kelly was a consultant on this film. If that’s not good enough, well, then, there’s just no pleasing you.
    In general, I’m an old softie and I love this warm-hearted revisiting of the themes and tones of 40s musicals.
    As for the commercial failure of Titan AE, it didn’t help that it was released five days before Chicken Run.

  • Brad Bird

    Fausto said: “I loved the Iron Giant and Cats Don’t Dance, but they did so poorly in the box office that it ruined the studio. ‘

    Just so you know…

    …CATS DON’T DANCE and IRON GIANT didn’t “ruin the studio”.

    CATS was inherited by Warners when they bought Turner (so they had nothing invested in it) and the Feature Animation studio was essentially closing down AS we were making IRON GIANT.

    I think Warners was already convinced to get out of animation (they had had a series of people running it, a LOT of money was spent unwisely, etc) and the bad reception CAMELOT got at the boxoffice spelled doom for the division while we were making GIANT.

    All indications were (since they kept delaying giving us a release date–which not only hurt the movie, but hurt us badly in making any merchandising deals) that they were making GIANT because it was cheaper to finish it than to shut it down and that they were planning to simply put the film on the shelf until a hole needed to be filled in their release schedule somewhere down the line.

    When we finally did a test screening and it received the highest scores Warners had gotten in decades they were taken by surprise… and the film was rushed into the theaters with little to none of the careful build-up animated features need (our teaser poster was the only poster ever made for the film in the U.S.). The few people that had actually heard about GIANT weren’t exactly sure what it was. Some thought it was a Japanese film.

    We opened the same day as THE SIXTH SENSE, and the rest is non-history.

    In either case– t’wasn’t (IRON GIANT & CATS DON’T DANCE) boxoffice that killed the beast.

  • It’s a shame that box office sales are the defining rod to labeling a film “successful”. I understand why this is but honestly there are so many variables as to why some movies win at the box office and other don’t that I think it’s unfair to include all low box office movies in one lump category entitled “failure”. For example, IMO, both Iron Giant and Treasure Planet suffered from variables outside of good filmmaking that impacted their box office sales. I understand that box office numbers drive the market but I just hate the fact that it then drives the artform and the entire creative decision making process. But that’s the American way. I am going back into my everything is beautiful cacoon now. Thanks for posting this article.

  • tom

    One thing has to be considered here: many of the films mentioned are actually pretty good, but the studios bungled the promotion of the projects and the filmmakers took the blame.

  • Tsimone Tse Tse says:

    “Does shuttering the Florida & French animation studios by big “D” count ? if so – ‘Home on the Range’ . ”


    Ok, just to keep things straight historically (geez, we’re only talking about the time period since 2004; memories are short. ) — “Home on the Range” was NOT made by the Florida Disney studio. HOR was made in Burbank.

    Florida made “Mulan” , “Lilo & Stitch” and “Brother Bear” as well as helping out on films like “Beauty & The Beast” , “Aladdin”, “Lion King” , Pocahontas” , “Hunchback of Notre Dame” , “Tarzan”, “The Emperor’s New Groove” , but “Home on the Range” was made at the main Burbank studio, not at the Florida Studio.

  • Larry

    No one has mentioned Bluth’s “Xanadu” animated sequence, set to ELO music, the sole high light of that regrettable movie.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    Titan AE deserved failure. Just like alot of Bluth’s fillms, it’s a storytelling mess with plot holes you can drive buicks through.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    CATS DON’T DANCE I wasn’t too fond off either but I it deserved better reception then what it got.

  • I didn’t see “The Iron Giant” until years later on video. Don’t know how I missed it. Wish I’d seen it on the big screen. However, I do remember an unfortunate placement of movie titles in a listing for the local newspaper. Directly below “The Iron Giant” title was one for the movie “Dick.”

    Ahem, like I said… unfortunate.

  • ridgecity

    Anyone that says that Final Fantasy was good must be crazy, specially since the DVD commentary is filled with comments like “we had to cut a big scene here that explains the whole beginning” “we had to cut the background info for this character since it wasn’t that important for the whole film” “we had this scene that explained the 7 spirits, which is of course the important part of the movie, but it was too long and boring and we needed action”.

    In the end, the movie was supposed to be the story of an extraterrestrial invasion that almost finished with all living things, but there are 7 spirits that are the fundation of all life, if you put them together, everything will be reborn (there wasn’t much they could do against the extraterrestrials), so when Aki starts searching for them, she gets dreams about the aliens (since she got some kind of sensitivity towards them after an attack infected her but did not kill due to unknown circumstances* a big plot twist in the end) and how she can understand what they are. The soldiers that help her are under command from Gray, which was Aki’s fiancee before she started looking for the spirits, there’s a scene where they kiss (and they were going to have sex but got the axe) so she becomes pregnant…

    After looking finding the 6 spirits they understand that she carries the 7th spirit in her, so it attached to the unborn baby and becomes the weapon to get rid of the alien spirits (which in the end are just a meteor full the souls of a raging race of extraterrestrials that fought to no end and didn’t even notice their planet was dying, so they kept fighting after death) so they “open” the energy and it starts working getting rid of them…

    The General Hein, a president self-nominee, wants to use weapons to get rid of the aliens and has been creating a satellite than will only attaacks energy not living things, but he is being dismissed for more peaceful solutions… So he opens the shields so they listen to him but, too many aliens enter and start killing everyone inside so he needs to fix his mistake and goes into the satellite and starts shooting the planet, but hits the Earth energy (which was absorbing the spirits) and creates a major disaster, so once they understand the 7th spirit is inside Aki, Grey sacrifices himself to release the spirit inside her (and the unborn baby is saved by that, since that spirit was going to be attached to him) and The mana gets powerful enough to absorb the aliens, which I guess can rest in peace now…

    Of course as you can see from my lack of sentences, that a ton of stuff is happening at the same time and most of the boring stuff (you know, the plot) gets cut and most of the characters get their background nailed also, since they movie is beautiful to see and you probably won’t notice the story holes (of course that didn’t happen). square had to get to work on finishing Final Fantasy X and Sony needed a good showcase for the DVD format, so the very rushed and amazingly long (a 6 hour plot had to be cut to 2 hours and then to 100 minutes) project was sent to print. The promotion relied to the Final fantasy name (almost popular culture in Japan) and the Playstation franchise name in America (something only gamers care for) and very little marketing budget which they felt was not needed for this type of movie (CGI movies are still the Ace Card of the Studios 7 years later) and looked 10x better than Pixar stuff (Toy Story, bug’s Life & Monster’s Inc at the time).

    After all that explanation, the movie ended up being the biggest piece of crap, even if it is still a technical achievement to this day. Square became Sony’s bitch for the next 5 years, which wasn’t interesting to buy after such a failure, and the Final Fantasy creator ended up fired and retired for years, now he had to get a job with Microsoft years later, an almost non-existant company to japanese, so it’s like a career suicide…

  • One of the problems we have is the general audience treats us all together as a genre. When some really bad sci-fi film comes out like Battlefield Earth and Angry Red Planet, no one gave up on Sci-fi flicks. They merely waited for a better one. But when we have some animated feature disappointments, right away the media starts writing the epitaph for our entire medium!
    I’d like to think that Box Office didn’t matter, but the problem is, the Hollywood Players, who can greenlight or sink movies, play that game.

    Shamus Culhane taught me the most prosperous studio is two flops from disaster.

    If you want to support a filmmaker, the best compliment you can give them is to go see their film the first friday or saturday. They take those figures and an estimate of sunday and publish it as the three day take. Thats when they declare you a hit or flop, no matter what the final tally is.

  • I totally agree with you, Tom. For me, animation is a medium, a means of production or a look, not a genre. Unfortunately, the majority of the output of animated films actually are of only one genre (the children’s mostly-animal comedy adventure, or children’s comedy musical adventure when it was all Disney films) so it gets very easy for all animation to be lumped as one.

    But your point about is spot-on – it’s the age old perception of animation.

  • messy

    Charles Solomon’s new book is mostly about “Club Wild Life” which destroyed Dreamquest studios. I was shocked that they actually let the art out.

  • Chuck R

    I love Tom Sito’s comment (esp. that last P.) but I think animation has more clout today than he is willing to admit, and it’s getting better.
    Iron Giant is a case in point. (oh man, I hope I don’t regret writing this) Whatever the reasons for it’s box-office troubles, Brad Bird got a second chance. Perhaps he wouldn’t if it had not been for Pixar, who knows. But I think actors and actresses get typecast, pigeon-holed and written off more quickly than animation techniques or directors. We bitch and moan that animation is categorized or called a “genre”, but there’s an upside to that. As long as you’re going to be mislabeled or categorized, “family-friendly” is not such a bad thing to be.

    For instance, for the price of sticking to G and PG-rated material, animation allows you can tell almost any story you want: western, cooking, superhero, sci-fi, wuxia or historical fiction. We are now at a point where almost any subject matter or any level of sophistication is fair game, as long as some books can be sold on the side. Other true genres can suffer for decades before they are rescued by some Messiah (it took Lord of the Rings to save fantasy from the ghetto, and Pirates of the Carib. to save swashbucklers.) Animation hasn’t been out of fashion since the mid-eighties, and thanks to anime, its reach is growing.

  • How about the Adult Party Cartoon finally killing the Spumco studio? (I can’t help myself.)

  • Oliver

    The story of how Bluth wrested the film awy from original director Art Vitello during the development phase of “Titan A.E.” has never been told (there’s a book for Charles Solomon to write!) but the poetic justice is Bluth wound up directing subject matter he didn’t understand, and he hasn’t directed anything of consequence since. Fox was suspicious of Bluth’s mise-en-scene since the megaflop of “Anastasia”, which not even the last minute hiring of high priced Hollywood live action scribes could salvage. Fox was just not suspicious enough.

  • messy

    The thief and the cobbler…Richard Williams and Completion Bond company.

  • doug holverson


  • acetate

    It’s hard to feel sorry for anybody when I read through the list of films. Most of them as many have already pointed out were terrible. I can’t understand how half of them were greenlit in the first place. Try to picture yourself pitching the idea for Titan A.E. or one of the other films listed. Is there a great story? Appealing characters? Not really.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    Thad: Well that was one of the contributing factors to SPUMCO’s demise.

  • Didn’t see Quest for Camelot anywhere on here, so decided to chime in with that.

  • ridgecity

    what about Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas? That one killed the Dreamworks Traditional Animation Efforts…

  • drmedula

    “Wuxia” is essentially Asian “sword and sorcery” – fantasy martial arts films.

  • Dan

    Monsters or Finding Nemo. Because, that was about the turning point. And, those two films made every other film look dismal by comparison. Just like Google shined the light on yahoo, netscape, aol, excite…In other words, I think we are looking at it backwards. It wasn’t the flops that ruined studios, it was their competition.

  • The poster who mentioned the crew getting the axe before “Titan AE” came out is correct. Fox let most go before the film came out, then axed the rest and closed the studio when the film did poorly.

    They followed the same pattern at Blue Sky with the first “Ice Age” film, laying off most of the staff (going from something like 175 – 40) before the film was released. Most of the crew were on unemployment and had the #1 film at the same time. Luckily for Blue Sky, the film did well and Fox changed their minds. Unluckily for the crew members that were let go, they were for the most part replaced by Big Idea folks who were put out with the close of that studio and younger animators months later when Blue Sky ramped up again.

  • marbpl

    TWICE UPON A TIME didn’t kill the Ladd Co., but it suffered from it’s death throes.

  • Alfons Moline

    GULLIVER´S TRAVELS (1977), a correct but uninspired live action/animation combination based on Swift´s tale (not to be confused with the 1939 Fleischer version) and starring Richard Harris as the tile hero, killed off Brussels-based Belvision studio, which previously had done PINOCCHIO IN OUTER SPACE plus the first Asterix, Tintin and Lucky Luke features, as well as THE SMURFS AND THE MAGIC FLUTE (well, actually Belvision didn´t close shop after GULLIVER, but didn´t do any more features, becoming shrunk from a studio with 100-plus employees to a small operation restricted to commercials and TV pilots).

  • messy

    –––Fox was suspicious of Bluth’s mise-en-scene since the megaflop of “Anastasia”, –––

    Actually, “Anastasia” made money. Not a megaflop at all.

  • Chuck R.

    If you surf around on Wikipedia long enough, you come up with all kinds of examples:

    Did “Balto” doom Amblimation?
    “Bebe’s Kids” was the last animated project for Hyperion, who did the “Brave Little Toaster”.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Being reminded of what Alfons Moline pointed out about Belvision. I remember that version of Gulliver’s Travels as a tyke, and was just reminded of it due to it’s unique attempt at combining a live-action Gulliver with animated Lilliputians. Being reminded the movie ends on a cliff hanger as well that left me hanging (yet I didn’t bother reading the book at all).

  • Vanguard Battle Hydra

    I suppose Disney, Don Bluth, or almost any animation studio who has lost its quality should start doing traditional animation again. As most of you might be aware, The Black Cauldron and many other dark animated films didn`t do well in the box office because people were used to lightweight and fluffy cartoons at the time (a bit ironic though, because the best cartoons in 70s and 80s were quite bittersweet, dark and depressing). But nowadays, lightweight, immature and characterless CGI films like Madagascar and Shark`s Tale have grabbed the big profit on cinemas.

    If one could only resurrect traditional animation, and focus more on the story than the useless CGI effects, I guess they could get both critical and financial success.

  • Emma

    A little late on posting, but no matter.

    I was pretty young when Cats Don’t Dance and The Iron Giant were released. I didn’t go to see them, and I’m going to blame lack of promotion. I remember only seeing one very short TV spot for Cats, and maybe a couple more short ones for Iron Giant. And this is coming from a little girl who went to see almost every animated film released.

    The only reason I ever saw Cats is because my uncle hastily bought it as a present for me. Coincidentally, I loved it. Iron Giant I saw on TV one night, and I loved that one too. Warner Bros. should have had more faith in their animated films, instead of proclaiming them dead on arrival.