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Feature FilmIdeas/Commentary

‘Deadpool’ Shattered Box Office Records, But Here’s What No One Is Talking About

The $135 million opening weekend of Deadpool shattered a ton of of box office records, among them, biggest R-rated movie opening of all-time, biggest February opening, and biggest opening for Fox. The film notched an extra $125 million from international markets for a massive $260 million global launch, a pretty good start for a film that Fox didn’t even want to make.

There was one other record that hasn’t been mentioned as much: the biggest opening ever for a first-time feature film director. And even less acknowledged: the film’s director, Tim Miller (picture above, right), is a guy who’s spent his entire career creating animation.

Miller is one of the owners of Culver City, California-based Blur, the 21-year-old commercial studio known for its in-game cinematics on titles like “Mass Effect 2,” “Halo Wars 2,” and “Star Wars: The Old Republic.” Blur’s feature film experience runs deep, too, including the prologue sequence for the Marvel sequel, Thor: The Dark World, not to mention the titles for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the Heaven & Hell sequence of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

Films are a team effort, and you have to give kudos to the film’s star Ryan Reynolds, scriptwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and the hundreds of other crew who contributed. But at the end of the day, it’s the director’s name on the film, and Miller, who has a self-professed $400-a-week comic book habit, deserves the lion’s share of credit for creating an unapologetically quirky superhero film at a fraction of the budget ($58 million) of other big-studio superhero films.

And don’t think that Miller’s experience working in animation didn’t have anything to do with his ability to deliver a vfx-heavy film at a reasonable cost. (Deadpool incorporated the work of 8 vfx shops, including Millers’ own Blur as well as Digital Domain, Atomic Fiction, Digiscope, Image Engine, Luma Pictures, Rodeo FX, and Weta Digital.) Animation directors have to fabricate entire worlds from scratch, which is why they understand almost better than anyone in Hollywood how much labor is involved in creating every element in a frame of film. Motion capture artist Greg LaSalle alludes to Miller’s animation savviness in this interview when he explains how the CG character Colossus was inserted into the film at the tail end of production after the shots and editing had been locked down.

For his part, Miller credits not just his animation knowledge, but his experience running an animation studio for helping him survive his first live-action feature. “This production is about the size of business my company does in a year sort of crammed into a six month period,” he told Collider. “So, I think just managing people and not having them hate you, utterly, a little bit maybe, but not completely, that was a big help.”

In that same interview, Miller talked about how directing Deadpool was fairly similar to mo-cap work he’s directed for animation, with perhaps a few key differences:

Ryan [Reynolds] is running this whole pizza scene in an apartment and it’s a three page scene and I could come over and go, “Could you look a little more depressed there and a little happier here and a little doubtful there,” and Ryan would just fold that into this into the whole performance in a way that, if it was an animator, I would’ve had to wait four weeks to see it, and Ryan does it thirty seconds later.

Over the next few days, we’ll be reading and hearing plenty about the outsized success of Deadpool at the box office, and a lot of people in Hollywood will attempt to take credit for its success. So, let’s not forget that the man at the helm, the director who delivered the goods, is one of our very own.

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  • Sant

    Hopefully he’ll gain more leverage to push Blur’s intent of making animated films for mature audiences

    • Stilluff Fogg

      Indeed. I am blown away by Blur and their incredible talent. Watching their show reel makes my inner and outer nerd squeal of happiness.

    • ea

      Yeah. If an R-rated CBM can be a success, so can an R-rated animated film. Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, etc have made great movies but their family-friendliness gets tired after a while.

      • Austin Papageorge

        The problem with trying to make an R-rated animated film is that animated films have cornered the G and PG market. The medium is just too associated with family entertainment.

        If they aimed for a PG-13 or R rating, they’d have to compete directly with movies like Deadpool or Batman v Superman.

        • ea

          If Japan can do it, so can the west. With the right marketing and timing anything may happen.

          At the very least they could play in festivals and during award season, like Anomalisa.

          • Derik

            Is Sausage Fest supposed to be R rated animation?

          • Lola

            It’s intended to be, and resemble Seth Rogan’s usual comedies.

          • Austin Papageorge

            Japan or not, would you abandon a lucrative market just to prove a point?

            Well, I guess you would, but Disney pays $180 million for these feature films. They’re not going to invest that much into a type of project that has never made that much money.

            Not to mention, if they use their resources to make a PG-13 or R movie, they’d just be handing market share to their competitors. Zootopia is going to be the only family friendly movie in the USA until The Jungle Book is released more than a month later. If Zootopia weren’t family friendly, another production company would try to fill that month long hole.

          • Metlow Rovenstein

            Maybe Disney could, just for the hypothetical PG-13/R-rated animated film, outsource animation production to cheaper places?

  • Indeed.

  • Mark Walton

    Still hoping that Blur’s “The Goon” will get off the ground. Who knows – maybe this will help! Nice article, Amid.

    • Pedro Nakama

      I thought I recognized him from the photo above. I saw an animation test for The Goon a few years ago. It looked interesting.

    • Yeah, hopefully he now has some sway and can get the Goon going again.

    • Lola

      Dude, that’s him, too? I loved that short.

    • white vader

      I’m guessing that the Goon connection is what prompted David Fincher (and apparently James Cameron) to push this to the suits.

  • Gabreya Bradley

    Congratulations to Tim Miller and his team for a job very well done on this movie. Seen the film the other day and it was AWESOME!

    • Rick Osmon

      Here, hear!

  • horatio

    From a artistic view Miller has created a new structure to tell a story and it worked exceedingly well.
    Saw the movie and it made Zoolander2 look like typical studio schmaltz or a sunday morning kids show. No laughs really in Z2. The direction combined with Reynolds and the incredible writing had me falling out of my seat….and the rest of the audience also.

  • Elsi Pote

    Say what you will but Colossus acting came out lifeless and flat.

    It was some minor flat poses with a tons of recycled mouth shapes again and again.

    • Lola

      To be fair, he is a pretty stoic character.

  • Rae

    OH GOOD!!

  • Mightyflog

    What ever happened to the GOON? I remember that 450,000 animatic they wanted to have fans fund so they can try to get the movie going.

  • Strong Enough

    damn bruh what did you say?!?!

  • Strong Enough

    creating a walk cycle is a living nightmare. any animator i give props too

  • Shaun Middleton

    He also directed and created that Arkham Origins TV commercial a couple years back of Bruce Wayne growing up before our eyes that I thought was brilliant. He’s done awesome work way before Deadpool. Congrats on the success.

  • Ian Failes

    Blur and Tim Miller are incredible – what’s really interesting is how much work they have under their belt already even before Deadpool got made. The cinematics, the trailers, the shorts. Plus they pitched on The Lego Movie I think and did some cool Marvel teasers, from what I’ve read. I guess the point is…they know what they’re doing.

  • Otakon

    The credit goes to Marv Wolfman and George Perez, who created the character Deathstroke that Liefeld renamed and stole. Slade Wilson=Wade Wilson