Thursday, May 18, 2017

Film Roman

Phil Roman was a veteran of MGM Animation/Visual Arts and Bill Melendez Productions when he decided to create his own studio in 1984 to continue working on the Garfield TV specials. The first couple Garfield specials were released by Bill Melendez Productions and Lee Mendelson, but they could no longer produce both Peanuts and Garfield. His animation studio, Film Roman, found early success creating the cartoon series Garfield and Friends. Their success would continue with Bobby’s World and their most recognizable show, The Simpsons. Klasky-Csupo had originally done the animation for The Simpsons for The Tracey Ullman Show, and the show’s first three seasons, but disputes with Gracie Films led to Film Roman becoming the animation company making The Simpsons. The studio continues to this day, being a part of countless animated TV shows, and was eventually bought from Starz Distribution by Waterman Entertainment. Waterman’s creator, Steve Waterman was the executive producer for all the Chipmunk movies, except The Chipmunk Adventure.

Though Film Roman has had a hand in many franchises, they have only released two feature-length movies. The first, released in 1992, was Tom and Jerry: The Movie. It was the first full-length Tom and Jerry film and was the first time anyone had seen them in theaters for 25 years. As the creators of Tom and Jerry, Joseph Barbera and William Hanna served as creative consultants. Phil Roman would ultimately direct the movie. One huge difference from the original Tom and Jerry cartoons was the cat and mouse’s voices. Largely mute in earlier incarnations, the movie gave them voices for the first time. Critical reception was not great. Many were turned off by the fact that Tom and Jerry did not fight, but teamed up in the movie. Other complaints focused on the voice-acting, musical numbers, and even Roman’s directing. So in general, people didn’t like it. I owned this as a kid and remember being a little weirded out by it. Droopy was the best part of it. It made a little more than its budget, but again, you want to get at least twice as much as your budget to make a profit.

There was a long break in between Film Roman’s animated features, with the next coming in 2007, The Simpsons Movie. This was in partnership with 20th Century Fox Animation and Gracie Films. The movie had been in development for many years, and was put on hold several times. Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, always meant for the series to end with a movie, but the series’ popularity kept that from happening. Eventually they just decided to go for it without ending the series afterward. Arguably The Simpsons lost a little of its luster in the early part of the 2000’s, so fans were worried about the movie. Luckily for everyone, many of the show’s original writers came back to make the movie and it turned into a hit, thanks also in part to the extensive advertising campaign. Critics loved the movie, claiming that it hearkened back to the show’s golden age, while giving it a fresh story. Audiences must have also liked it, as the movie grossed $527.9 million against a $75 million budget. Not too shabby. Film Roman continues to work with TV shows, but seems to not be too concerned with coming out with anymore movies. That is until the next Simpsons movie comes out.

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