mva1 mva1

We Swear, It’s Not A Gimmick

Monsters vs Aliens

To paraphrase a well-worn saying, With employees like these, who needs enemies? The DreamWorks employees interviewed in last weekend’s NY Times don’t exactly exhibit the type of enthusiasm for 3-D filmmaking that their boss Jeffrey Katzenberg appears to have for the technology. Nowhere in the article do they even attempt to describe how 3-D is integral to the film’s narrative or creative structure. That’s probably because, according to the article, 3-D was added midway through production.

In the piece, Monsters vs. Aliens director Conrad Vernon recalled how he felt when Katzenberg told him that they would be switching to 3D: “We were totally taken aback. I didn’t sign up to do something garish.” Producer Lisa Stewart had a different reaction when she heard the news: “I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, great, I’m going to have a headache for the next two and a half years.'”

The Times also explains how Katzenberg told the artists that 3-D shouldn’t be used as a gimmick, but that when the film was nearly finished, he asked the filmmakers to go back and add more 3-D “pow.” Stewart, who prepared herself for 3-D by studying Beowulf, says that they put in a paddleball sequence at the beginning of the film, because “that was basically us telling the audience, ‘Look what we could do to you, but we’re going to control ourselves.'”

  • rhinotonight

    “the missing link” in 3-D = extra ugly, right in my lap.

  • Mark K.

    Imagine Van Gogh, completing a painting of vivid color, composition, and contrast, and then being told to dull the color by 25% and the contrast by 30%. The compositiion is fine.

    This is what even the BEST Stereo film glasses to to the image. It’s horrible. And I’m not even against making a film in stereo (although I’ve yet to see a real dramatic reason to).

    I don’t understand why more animation artists aren’t SCREAMING for this to be fixed before falling for this. Jeffery just peed on his own movie. And it stinks.

    By the way, where will this film be shown NOT in Stereo? It looks like fun.

  • Victor

    American Animation lies in the power of it’s independent animation, not feature animation.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Did anyone ever realize that “Bob” the blob couldn’t watch the film in 3D because he only has one eye?

  • J Lee

    So, basically, they’ve got the same attitude towards 3-D that Chuck Jones had while making “Lumber Jack Rabbit”.

    (Too bad “M vs. A” isn’t been distributed by Warners or Katzenberg could have borrowed the over-zoomed shield for the start of the picture.)

  • Jeffrey Katzenberg strikes again.

    He won’t rest until all the fun is squeezed out of the word and replaced by lumpy fake polygons

  • Man, I can’t wait for this fad to die

  • Actually, I think the movie is very funny, but I’ll be looking for a theater that will show the film the “old fashioned way.”

    I already wear one pair of glasses — and that’s plenty.

  • Matt Sullivan

    I’ve only heard good things about Monsters vs Aliens. 85% on Rotten Tomatoes so far. A good sign.

  • jordan reichek

    ah, Dreamworks……………………………………………………………….

  • J-dog is just giving the people what they want, which is disposable entertainment and LCD pop culture schlock.. That stuff rakes in the BIG BUCKS. So everyone just chill.

    we got monsters vs. aliens in theaters. we got some nasty white girl named “lady gaga” along with Flo-Rida at the top of the billboard charts… and places like subway telling us to “eat fresh.” And a cool new president/poster boy for hipsters and change.

    I’d say life is pretty good right now. Who can really complain?

    You guys are such pessimists. MAD PROPS TO JEFF AND THE DREAMWORKS for putting out ANOTHER WINNER!!! BOOYA!!!

  • Lionel

    “I didn’t sign up to do something garish.” Well, working for Dreamworks, in the first place, and directing “Shrek II”…

  • BT

    Why not embrace the gimmick? I’m pretty sure they’re not trying to make Grave of the Fireflies anyway. I enjoy 3-D movies and I hate that everyone who makes them now has to pretend like they’re above actually using the medium to entertain people.

    If you make a good movie it’s going to last anyway. After all, I still enjoy watching House of Wax (the Vincent Price version) on DVD even though it’s full of hilarious 3-D tricks. That’s the fun of 3-D. If you’re not going to take advantage of it you shouldn’t bother. (I’ll give an exception to Coraline though since the stop motion looks so great in 3-D.)

  • Graham

    It’s certainly not a gimmick. It hasn’t been around for 50 years and failed each time due to being used for bland films and customer complaints of eye strain and dizziness.

  • I remember the Muppets 3D show at Disney World having a paddle ball sequence just to take the mickey out of using 3D for cheap gimmicks.

  • acetate

    The main killer of 3-D this time round will be peoples wallets. My friends have skipped the last couple of 3-D films simply because it’s too expensive to go ! A cartoon for a family of 4. $52.00 ! Thats 13 bucks a piece. If anybody wants popcorn or a drink they’re up to 75 dollars. “Wait for DVD” is the usual response.

  • Bob Brouhaha

    Sure Amid you go ahead and pile on against DreamWorks as is your custom but I bet when Pixar comes out with “Toy Story 3” you’ll be singing another tune.

  • greg m

    Can’t wait for the Hologram edition on DVD!!

  • Ah yes… that sounds like the shoot-from-the-hip/ego-centric Katzenburg I knew when I worked there.

  • Steve

    Arch Oboler is still the king of 3D filmmaking. Booya!!!

  • Jason

    No way I’m watching this flick in 3D. Those characters are hard enough on the eyes as it is.

  • Anonymous

    “I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, great, I’m going to have a headache for the next two and a half years.’”

    LOL !

  • Daniel M.

    Obviously with home theaters becoming what they are, of course filmmakers are exploring different ways of upping the theater experience. If u could pull your heads out of the pile of trash talk you throw towards DW, you may see that what DW is trying to do is add a level of immersion to the film, exactly what James Cameron is doing with Avatar. Every other company is doing this 3D with way more of a gimmicky/cheap process (yes this includes the all mighty Pixar) by adding it ON TOP of the already completed film, whereas DW is laying the whole movie out with 3D in mind. Instead of it being ‘shown in 3d’, its being made for it. I wonder if everyone said the same types of comments when color was added to film.

    And how can u not realize that using a paddle ball scene is simply a homage to the past 50 years of 3d gimmicky fun. If u wanna trash that, trash Hitchcock first before jumping on DW. Get your panties out of a knot people and have some fun with a movie for once, geez. I cant wait till you all actually have fun watching the film and eat your words, without milk.

  • Charles

    I might have seen this movie if it were in 2D. I’m not bashing 3D or anything, but it seems like big studio 3D animation has found its creative safe zone and doesn’t want to leave it. Unfortunately that just means a dull experience(for me anyway).

  • Saturnome

    52$ for a film! Wow, not being a family man never made me realize the cost. Hooray for DVDs.

  • Blake

    I’m not a fan of the way animation is going into this 3-D universe but…

    It will be interesting to see if all of you have the same reaction to the release of all the Pixar and Disney films that will be in 3-D. For some reason everyone wants to critisize Katsenberg for doing this sort of thing, when at the very same time John Lasseter is supporting the very same technology and was also behind the new Tinkerbell movie. I’m just curious to see how you all will spin this into a good thing when the Disney / Pixar movies are released this way.

    I personally don’t have a dog in this fight, I just hate double standards.

  • If Sanders did a 2D animated film, released in 3D stereo while at Dreamworks, I think Amid’s head would explode.

  • I agree with Floyd Norman: I enjoyed the movie, and saw it in 2D. I noticed that paddle-ball scene looked to me as tacked-on and obviously playing with the audience in regards to using the 3D as a gimmick. However, the movie is fine without the 3D and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. And Missing Link is an interesting character. Bob pretty much stole the show.

  • christy

    Pedro Nakama says:
    “Did anyone ever realize that “Bob” the blob couldn’t watch the film in 3D because he only has one eye?”

    HYAHAHAHAHHA-you made me laugh out loud when i read that! good joke.

    i also think the monsters look really crappy.

  • Mark K.

    “If Sanders did a 2D animated film, released in 3D stereo while at Dreamworks, I think Amid’s head would explode.”

    Who is “Sanders?” Is she a producer?

  • Rance Mandarin

    3D in a movie like this is like saying spraying mace in someone’s face will help they feel like part of the assault in a suspense film.


  • “…whereas DW is laying the whole movie out with 3D in mind. Instead of being ‘shown in 3d’, its being made for it.”

    The NY Times article states: “AFTER work on the movie was well under way, Mr. Katzenberg…informed (directors Letterman and Vernon), that they would also need to deliver the movie in 3D.”

    So no, this movie was NOT “laid out with 3D in mind.”

    The Times states matter of fact: “Tickets for 3D screenings can be sold for a premium.” THIS is the reason for 3D. Movie Studios are charging more money per-ticket to “cover” the cost of the 3D glasses. This is not just exclusive to Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks; 9 animated features, from various studios, will be released this year on 3D screens. 3D is simply a business solution to increase ticket sales. This has nothing to do with making a more enjoyable movie experience, or even to “standout in a marketplace increasingly cluttered with computer animated movies…”, as the Times asserts. (One can’t stand out if everybody’s doing the same thing.)

    What the debate should focus on is whether or not this is a viable solution to a competitive animation marketplace, and if so: will it work? The production/marketing cost of these movies has reached an average of $150 million per pic. Even a movie grossing more than $200 million, in the U.S., at the box office is not making a profit for the company. Only around 55% of domestic ticket sales go back to the studio. Easy—albeit idiotic—solution? Find out how to raise ticket prices, without “raising” ticket prices.

    Interesting to note, this year’s Jonas Brothers 3D movie (backed by the Disney marketing machine, and a built in audience) has failed at the box office and one of the reasons keeping people away was cited as an increase in ticket prices. Could this have been a contributing factor to the dismal box office sales of ‘Bolt’, last fall?

    That said, I still feel ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’ will gross somewhere in the $175 million dollar range.

  • Said it before and I’ll say it again, stereo film is a vile gimmick that de-emphasizes framing and composition by stopping viewers from exploring the screen. By giving the eyes a voluminous projection, there’s only one point of focus rather than an infinite in a traditional 2D screen, and it’s biologically unnatural to try and force your eyes to study something that’s telling them it’s out of focus. Your eyes will always gravitate back to the focal point, because that’s what they do. Just look around your room and think about how you take in visual information in respect to what your eyes are focused on, and you’ll see how utterly backwards stereo is. 2D cinema uses visual representations to tell us what in and out of focus and one of the foundational benefits to film is its exploitation of our ability to view all of it without problem.

    3D may be titillating and packed with more visual information, but it’s less valuable information. And its true purpose is to produce an increase in ticket prices. The sooner people start balking at this shit the better.

  • Brew

    To all the naysayers, I bet you all are complaining that we don’t have outhouses to take a shit in anymore. It’s called progress people and as long as the audiences are in favor of it, it’s here to stay. I bet the people who made those outhouses or the people who made the old horse shoes did their fair share of complaining but we know what happened so I say get with it or the door will hit you on the behind if all you do is piss and moan about this new technology.

  • acetate

    “New technology”….um yeah okay tell that to the people that made House of Wax in 1953 !

  • Brew

    ^ I suggest you watch the damn thing instead of flapping those old f’in geezer lips of yours. The technology has changed some since you saw it back in 1953.

  • Brew

    ^ The technology has changed a lot since 1953.

    I suggest you take a look at it and then judge as opposed to just taking pot shots.

  • Rodrigo

    I echo Brew’s sentiments.

    I thought the film itself kind of sucked, but the 3D worked spectacularly. I imagine this technology in more skillful hands could produce something very memorable.

  • Joseph C

    Does the big 40ft tall woman in the movie remind folks of the little girl in Bolt, but grown up?

  • Rance Mandarin

    Does every thread need someone to say ‘wait and see’.

    Obviously these people are the ones who don’t understand the technology. The internet is the place to rant and speculate.

    I mean everyone who says wait and see is really missing the whole point of a forum based comment system particularly on a thread for a film pre-release.

    If you truly believe wait and see then only police threads for things which are released. :-P

  • acetate

    If it makes people feel any better, I did see the film Monsters vs Aliens. The only difference between this film and the 3-D films of the 50’s is that films like Creature from the Black Lagoon and House of Wax were waaaaay more entertaining.

  • peter

    This kind of 3D will NEVER improve the story in anyway! The same has happened with children pop-up-books: they are not more successful than the flat ones and the story doesn´t become better.
    This is the reason we don´t have 3D comics all around in the marketplace. Will be “La Mona Lisa-3D” more entertainment?

    I´m sure we all, as audience, have experienced sometimes the “total inmersion state” while watching a film. When the film is over you “wake up”, return to “reality” and say “¡wow! this movie is amazing!” During that state, you don´t “notice” you are watching a 2D film, or even that “you-are-watching”. You become the action is taken place, and the 2D images, the cinema itself, the screen disappears.

    Do you imagine yourself saying after an amazing 3D movie something like this?
    “Wow! I was SO involved into the story that I didn´t notice the 3D effects!! ¡So this must be REALLY a gooood movie”

    What they are trying with 3D is reach a superficial inmersion experience, based only in the visuals. It´s like painting a car´s surface with the “new fashion PAINT for cars”, believing you are going to enjoy a better driving experience!

  • Daniel M.

    ‘The NY Times article states: “AFTER work on the movie was well under way, Mr. Katzenberg…informed (directors Letterman and Vernon), that they would also need to deliver the movie in 3D.”

    So no, this movie was NOT “laid out with 3D in mind.”’

    Hey Steven, keep reading your articles, try talking to someone who actually worked on the movie. The idea for the film wasn’t ‘Lets make a 3D film about monsters vs. aliens’, but I guarantee you that it was AUTHORED in 3D, not added in post, LIKE your lovely other golden studios are doing. Keep sipping your coffee and flippin those Times pages, you’ll at least sound knowledgeable while playing chess in the park.

  • I think in order to succeed with 3D you’ll need to not treat it like your only way to make a successful movie (which leads to gimmicks ashore! Examps: “Jonas Brothers” and “Fly Me to the Moon”) and actually center on your characters and situations first before you get to your three-dimensional eye candy.

    From what I read before, I think Katzenberg is at least trying to prove to the film industry that 3D isn’t just a way to get people back into the theatre in a gloomy economy (where your best bet is to throw a decapitated chicken onto a round board to make a decision,) but you see something like “Coraline” recently, where it was filmed with 3D cameras and hides the gimmicks into the story, and that’s just a wonderful blue-print for good 3D filmmaking.

    I’m still excited to see “MvA” though in Real D and IMAX. I like it’s concept of spoofing 50’s monster and alien movies with a modern theme and I’m actually also a fan of that genre from a time-period where one of your best ways to survive a nukeblast is to hide in a sealed fridge. (I would like to point out that I actually liked “Crystal Skull”)

  • Bob Funn

    “If it’s not a great story, all the bells and whistles in the world are not going to make it successful,” Katzenberg said. “3-D can’t make a bad movie good.”

  • Daniel M.

    To add to the misinterpretation of the Times article Steven, production HADN’T really started when the switch was made. Yes the story had been written, character designs, etc., but no shots had been finalled before this was done, if my sources are correct.

    The directors had to reevaluate their thinking, before production went into full force.

  • My point—and I think the point of the post—remains; will this work, and is this necessary?

    Monsters vs. Aliens will be projected in RealD 3D, and moviegoers will be wearing the same polarized glasses used in all prior RealD projected movies. Regardless of authoring or rendering the movie in 3D. This becomes a mute point. Especially when Captain 3D McNally, and Robert Neuman both emphasize the same point of having 3D: to add spatial depth. So is it necessary to the film’s narrative or creative structure? Or merely a way of increasing revenue, by way of increased ticket prices?

    Jeffery Katzenberg is quoted in the Wall Street Journal (I just can’t help reading those pesky newspapers) as saying, “3D Technology raises ticket prices by $2 to $5 (per ticket).” Dreamworks net income for 2008 dropped by 35% as revenue fell 15%. And the industry as a whole has seen admissions down 5% last year and 9% in the last decade. Could 3D just be another way to raise ticket prices, and revenue?

    Studios want more 3D screens, but the average cost for a theater to install digital cinema required for 3D costs between $75,000 to $100,000 per screen, these must be financed using the “Virtual Print Fee”. In addition, Studios pay an agreed fee per screen, per movie, to offset the theater’s cost. The more VPF’s, the more justification to raise ticket prices.

    The question remains will people go out of their way to see a 3D movie if tickets cost more?

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a chess match in the park.

  • Mark K.

    “It’s called progress people and as long as the audiences are in favor of it, it’s here to stay”

    Audiences haven’t been in favor of it yet. As a matter of fact no Stereo film has made money in Stereo alone. And the traditional projection reciepts FAR outweigh stereo receipts.

    Audiences don’t want this. They didn’t ask for it. They don’t want to pay for it, and many don’t enjoy it. They’re being force fed it by a bunch of Hollywood egos seeking to A) get theater owners to pay for conversion to digital projection and B) prevent piracy.

    That’s about it.

  • acetate

    Excellent post Steven as I think you’ve hit the real reason for 3D…more money. The only spatial depth added was the deeper hole in my wallet. Not that I’m against paying for a good 3-D film. Can you imagine Star Wars in 3-D with T.I.E. fighters hovering out over the audience’s heads? To reference the post by BT, embrace the gimmick if you’re going to use it. Has anyone here seen the 3-D film Mickey’s Philharmagic at Disney World? To me thats a great use of the medium with characters literally reaching out of the screen towrds you or Aladdin’s magic carpet floating out over the audience. Great stuff there.

  • MattSullivan

    Saw it last night. Pretty good and entertaining. It also made me sick.

    I never get motion sickness. But by the time the credits rolled I had a monster headache and was incredibly nauseous. When I got home I had to lie down to avoid puking.

    I’ve been defending this film from the 3D critics. But…I may have to agree with them on this one. Maybe it’s the TRU3D process, or something. It ALMOST seemed TOO in depth. Maybe that has something to do with it.

  • Mandy

    “Sure Amid you go ahead and pile on against DreamWorks as is your custom but I bet when Pixar comes out with “Toy Story 3″ you’ll be singing another tune.”

    Didn’t the guys Disney took from Pixar for Toy Story get replaced?