Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Low-Output Animation Studios

There were a few studios that had only one, or very few movies and I didn’t want to write them all separate and have them be really short, so I just combined them into one post. Some of these studios are just starting out, some just couldn’t hack it, but for whatever reason, they haven’t produced much yet.

ToonBox Entertainment

Animation studio that got its start in 2008 and is headquartered in Toronto. The studio started out by doing TV shows, namely Bolts and Blip and The Beet Party. They have two movies under their belt currently and are working on one more. Their first, and most well known is The Nut Job. Boasting a cast including Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Maya Rudolph, and Liam Neeson, it focuses on woodland creatures trying to steal some nuts. If the premise sounds thin, critics thought so too. The film was panned by critics, but grossed a serviceable $120 million against a $42.8 million budget. A sequel, The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature will be out this August. Their second movie, Spark: A Space Tail, steals An American Tail’s pun and for that, this movie should be punished. Punished it was, making only $196,458 in theaters. Coming out just two months ago, it didn’t get a wide release and was not advertised, so that most likely doomed the movie from the start. Reviews were even worse than The Nut Job, so I guess the movie got its due. Unless Nut Job 2 ends up being a complete reversal from their fortunes, I don’t see ToonBox lasting very long.

Assemblage Entertainment

Assemblage, along with Splash Entertainment, released 2016’s Norm of the North. It’s Rob Schneider voicing a Polar Bear that goes to New York City. It has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. There is nothing else that needs to be said about this movie.

Tim Burton Productions

Again working with Disney, Tim Burton wrote, produced and directed Frankenweenie, the remake of his infamous live action short from the 80’s. The movie wasn’t released until 2012, but it had been planned since 2005. Burton took many of the animators from The Corpse Bride crew and used them for Frankenweenie, another stop-motion film. Burton was able to take a short story and add to the story without making it feel tacked on or making the plot seem too thin. The cast was rounded out by actors that had previously worked with Burton, including Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, and Martin Short. The film was critically praised, and it managed to make a little over twice its budget, which is probably all that Disney could have hoped for.

C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures

Talk about a poorly timed movie. The Wild came out in 2006, just one year after Dreamwork’s Madagascar came out. According to some, it had been in development longer, but corporate espionage kept The Wild from coming out soon enough. Nevertheless, The Wild was not a success the same way Madagascar was, even if they do have a lot of similarities. Critics mostly didn’t like The Wild, though some said it was much better than Madagascar. It barely made more than its budget, so it was clear that audiences didn’t need more than one movie about talking zoo animals in New York. Let’s all keep in mind that both movies are terrible, so it doesn’t really matter who came out first. This is another film that people hem and haw over it being part of the Disney canon, but if it wasn’t made by Disney, it ain’t canon!

Cartoon Network Studios

While Nickelodeon has made numerous movies over the years, Cartoon Network didn’t go for that as much. They have released two movies theatrically, and the second was only in a few theaters. The Powerpuff Girls Movie came out in 2002 and served as a prequel to the television series. The movie got decent reviews, but was a box office disappointment, only grossing $16 million against an $11 million budget. Regular Show: The Movie is basically a TV movie, but they decided to release it in a few theaters. There is no critical reception or box office gross available.

Jumbo Pictures

Doug, first shown on Nickelodeon, was later taken to ABC, which is owned by Disney. The Disney version of the show proved to be very popular, so a movie was made. Doug’s 1st (and last) Movie was created by Doug’s animation company, Jumbo Pictures. Jumbo was founded by Jim Jenkins and David Campbell in 1990 and went on to create Allegra’s Window, 101 Dalmatians: The Series, and PB & J Otter. Jumbo went defunct in 2001, with Jenkins creating a new studio, Cartoon Pizza. It was thanks to The Rugrats Movie's success that Disney decided to release Doug’s 1st Movie in theaters as opposed to direct-to-video. They lucked out with that, grossing almost $20 million against a $5 million budget. Like all movies meant to be TV episodes or straight to video, critics blasted it for being too much like the show and not its own thing, animation and story-wise. If you’re going to make a movie out of your TV show, give it a reason to exist!
Big Red Dog Productions

Clifford's Really Big Movie was based on the Clifford the Big Red Dog TV show which ran from 2000-2003, with the movie being released in 2004. Made by the same animation studio that did the TV show, the movie grossed $3.3 million and got so-so reviews from critics. It was like a long TV episode and nothing more.

Toon City

Toon City is the overseas studio that works on most of Disney’s TV shows. They, along with Disney Television Animation created the Teacher’s Pet movie. Not sure why this show of all of Disney’s shows was made into a movie. I remember watching a few episodes, and besides having Nathan Lane voice the main character, there wasn’t anything particularly special about it. The movie served as a series finale for the show, being released a year after the show ended in 2002. While the movie received mostly good reviews, it failed at the box office, not even matching its budget.

Fathom Studios

Delgo, released in 2008 and directed by Marc Adler, held a record only recently broken. More on that in a minute. Adler was convinced that he had a masterpiece on his hands. This wasn’t a stupid animated comedy like Shrek. This was a serious drama for kids that dealt with real issues. It just happened to not deal with humans at all, but humanoid aliens. Fathom had been working on this movie since 1999 and were convinced that their animation was going to be the new benchmark. Adler was sure that his movie would be even bigger than Shrek’s gross. This wasn’t a typical Hollywood animated film, instead being made by a small CG animation studio and distributed by an independent film studio. Though it took forever, they finally released the movie in December of 2008. People had much better things to watch around Christmas that year apparently, because Delgo broke the record for least amount of money made when playing in over 2,000 theaters. The average was two audience members per screening. Yeah, that’s really bad. The record would be broken four years later by The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure. Delgo, in the end, grossed somewhere between $600,000-$900,000. The movie’s budget was $40 million and they didn’t even make it to $1 million. Ouch. Reviews were scathing, ultimately sweeping this into the dustbin of history. Heck, if I didn’t remember seeing ads for this, I wouldn’t have included it.

Sparx Animation Studios

Igor is Sparx Animation and Exodus Film Group’s only animated feature. Sparx, a French animation studio, has mostly worked on TV shows, including taking over Star Wars: Rebels. Igor, like most animated movies, has an all-star cast, including Steve Buscemi, John Cusack,
Eddie Izzard, Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall, Molly Shannon, and Christian Slater. Producer Max Howard remembers being surprised that so many stars signed on, as they were just a small independant studio. They sent the script out to a bunch of actors and Steve Buscemi signed on almost immediately. After that, all the other spots filled up quickly. Unfortunately, the film didn’t do well when it was released in 2008, grossing just $30 million against a $25 million budget. Critical reception was also not great, thus burying any hope Sparx had for continuing in the movie business.

That is my animation studio series! I had a lot of fun researching all of these, and it just shows how many people out there are trying to make it in this business. We are currently super flooded with animation studios right now, and there are plenty more outside the U.S. I did hit on a few in Canada, Europe, and Australia, but wanted to keep it to ones that had releases in the U.S. That is one of the reasons that Studio Ghibli wasn’t part of the series. I may still do a write-up on those movies, but I’d like to watch all of them first. I’ve seen a good portion, but not enough to feel I can write about Studio Ghibli as a whole. Hope you liked the series and let me know if there’s something you would like me to write about!

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