From the November 2 issue of The New Yorker:
“The trick is, from the business side, to try to be fiscally responsible so you can be creatively reckless.”
– Tom Rothman, president of Fox Filmed Entertainment, on why the $40 million budget of Fantastic Mr. Fox allowed them to be more creative.
Rothman’s comment couldn’t be more common sense, yet I’ve never heard an exec say this about an animated feature. The mega-budget Pixar/DreamWorks features are not a sustainable business model for other studios. When smaller studios without an established creative infrastructure attempt to emulate the model, like Planet 51 ($60 million budget) and Astro Boy ($65 million), they typically end up with a half-assed product that falls flat on its face at the box office. Audiences are increasingly demanding variety in their animated features, and the studios that figure out how to offer original and unconventional animated films that are modestly budgeted will find themselves amply rewarded. One of the major keys to keeping costs down and maintaining originality will be to implement a top-down creative strategy by hiring directors with a strong personal vision, like Anderson, instead of the usual approach that consists of building bloated creative teams. Mark my words, the $15-40 million animated feature will be the big thing of the next decade.