Friday, May 19, 2017

Crest Animation

Crest Animation began as Rich Animation Studios in 1986, founded by Richard Rich, a former Disney employee. I am going to fight the urge to type his name as Richie Rich for the rest of this post. He started out by animating for Nest Family Entertainment, creating Animated Stories from the New Testament, Animated Hero Classics, and Animated Stories from the Bible. No joke, I had all those videos and watched them to death as a kid. I even remember bringing some of the Animated Hero Classics into school. Rich sold to Nest shortly after creating the studio, a partnership that lasted until one of their animated films bombed too hard and Nest had to sell Rich Animation to Crest Animation. Rich still developed Christian videos for Nest, even after they were sold to Crest. Crest Animation decided in 2007 to get into the CG business, though that didn’t keep them afloat. They folded in 2013 and had other companies finish off their unfinished projects, including 2016’s abysmal Norm of the North, a film finished by Splash Entertainment. I refuse to speak anymore about Norm of the North. It’s Rob Schneider as a polar bear. Come on!

Rich Animation’s first theatrically released film with Nest Family Entertainment was The Swan Princess, based on the classic ballet Swan Lake. The film took four years to complete due to Rich’s team hand-painting each cell. Released in fall of 1994, the film struggled mightily with the other films coming out at the same time, including The Santa Clause, Miracle on 34th Street, Star Trek Generations, and a re-release of The Lion King. Some critics considered this to be sabotage on Disney’s part, as The Lion King had debuted only 6 months before and didn’t need to be re-released already. The Swan Princess bombed, only grossing $9 million, with critical reception being tepid at best. Despite all this, Rich saw this as a viable franchise and to date the series has six films, with a seventh in production (by another studio).

Rich and Nest then partnered with Rankin/Bass to make an animated version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I. The film ended up being an unmitigated disaster. The film was completely trashed by reviewers and the film bombed at the box office, grossing $12 million against a $25 million budget. It’s not often a good idea to adapt a beloved musical into an animated feature and add things to make it entertaining for children. This was the bomb that killed led Nest to sell Rich to Crest. Crest renamed the studio RichCrest. In 2001, Rich collaborated with Nest one last time, for an adaptation of E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan. I had assumed when I saw the poster for this film that it was straight-to-video, but no, they released it in theaters...at the same time as Shrek. The film had a very limited release and grossed a paltry $102,202. Reviews were scathing, with most focusing on the fact that the movie did not follow the plot of the book. Yeah, I think I’ll skip watching this one.

In 2007, Crest renamed the studio to just Crest Animation Productions and decided to focus exclusively on CG films. Their first, and only theatrical, attempt was 2010’s Alpha and Omega. Rich’s luck continued to be terrible, as the movie was critically panned, focusing on the bland story and animation. The film did, however, make a profit, grossing $50 million against a $20 million budget. This led to a few straight-to-DVD sequels, but not anymore theatrical releases. Richard Rich continues to direct the Alpha and Omega series, though his studio is no more.

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