INSIDE OUT aka Inbetween the Lines (in its entirety)

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Posted by BOSCO on August 12, 1999 at 22:46:26:

So, ŒIron Giantı is not taking in the staggering figures of such winners as ŒQuest for Camelotı and ŒAnastasiaı? Seem strange?

This is very typical of the current condition within the "animation industry". Because this field of entertainment has become more about Œcommerceı than producing films that truly entertain the public, great films such as Iron Giant are not supported with the proper marketing that unfortunately todayıs consumer needs to make his ticket purchasing decision.

In order to explain the ŒIron Giantı situation, please bear with me as I diverge for a moment to reveal the current condition of which this film may be a victim. When I say Œcommerceı, Iım talking about a major problem within this field. In this writerıs opinion, the current animation biz is here to support the executive level by keeping them in BMWıs which take them to power lunches. The films they churn out are of little consequenceŠ..just another sausage link. The "artist" of course, not being of the same caste, is only accepted in this equation as a necessary evil. This is quite normal, it always has beenŠ..Fred Quimby, Leon Schlesinger and the like. The difference between these executives and the current, is one simple attribute: greed. The older execs had something to gain financially by success with their product. Sure they were cheap, but they were smart enough to not kill the golden gooseŠ.the artists were relatively left alone to make their films. After all, it was the direct product of the artists that the consumer was purchasing. This type of freedom for their film makers was simply good business.

Somewhere along the cartoon timeline, it became the "animation industry". With films such as ŒWho Framed Roger Rabbit", nostalgic baby-boomer big-shots such as Steven Spielberg and Joel Silver realized a childhood dream of dabbling in cartoonsŠ.this too was good because their interest was genuine and they concerned themselves with making good pictures. Their films were successful and shone light on a dormant, untapped market. Thus enters the current executive, an inexperienced suit that Œtalks the talkı but hasnıt the faintest idea how to Œwalk the walkı. These suits stand on the Œshoulders of greatnessı and because the commercial temperature for animated product is still warm, they seem as if theyıre doing their jobs. "Seem" is a keywordŠ..when your product is making profits itıs difficult to Œseemı incompetent. Surly, the financiers wonıt argue with success. Every year, these middle management executives justify their positions and ever increasing budgets by raising their own costs and personnel support for their own departmentsŠ..all the while, the actual production personnel and stages of production get chiseled away. Most animation is not done domestically. Layout has also become a dinosaur. Soon (and in some cases already) storyboard. With this the case, how is it that the current animated film budget whether itıs feature or television has doubled and tripled since the not so distant days of full crews and "quality" production values? Someoneıs squeezing the teet dry and it ainıt the financiers or the people actually making these films. Finally, these same executives also derive a great sense of power, making creative decisions within this now Œhipı field of animation. Because of the stature of their positions, they egotistically force themselves into the creative helm and have the professional artist take a subservient back seat. Why hire the artist then? If the execs can handle so much why put up with these bitchy-primadonna artist types? Answer: the hardest endeavor in this business is starting from a blank page. In effect, the artists are creative hosts for the executive parasiteŠ..pretty, iddinıt it?

This brings us to Brad Bird and his ŒIron Giantı. (*before I go any further, let me state that the following occurrences within the WB/Brad Bird relationship is from personal speculation and dialogue with witnesses). Without getting into the history of Brad Birdıs past, letıs just say he is a talented artist who holds creative values highly. Entering into a development deal with Warner Bros. Feature Animation, he was dicked around in the development of another feature called , ŒRay Gunı. Probably because he wouldnıt sell out his artistic integrity to random executive ego, the feature was shelved. Within his contract, Brad probably had creative autonomy which may have been a sticking point with the executive level. Let me assure you that nothing creates more fear among executives than an artist with power that is not willing to Œplay ballı. Because of this, when ŒIron Giantı was green-lit, the budget and schedule were slashed along with the size of the crew. In other words, the great resources lavished on the executive creations, ŒSpace Jamı and ŒQuest For Camelotı were spared on ŒIron Giantı. Surprise, surprise. With token support from Warner Bros. Management, the film continued to progress and flourish under Bradıs direction. The meager crew was willingly pushed to the limit as they believed in what they were doing. At this point, usually mid-way through production a huge marketing arsenal is rolled out and 1990ıs style Hollywood-hype is shot out into the stratosphere to announce to the universe the anxiously awaited newborn. The production mid-point on ŒIron Giantı was probably over a year agoŠ.yet, the first open promotion of ŒGiantı was within a month of itıs premier. Iıd say thatıs six months too late. In the eleventh hour, the Warnerıs execs realized that they had a potential winner on their hands. The critics and insiders unanimously agreed upon advance screenings that this was a terrific film. What to do? How do you compete in a summer film market where blockbuster upon blockbuster saturates the market months in advance of your film?

After lackluster box office numbers on itıs opening weekend ŒIron Giantı can hopefully come back as the underdog-sleeper hit of the summer. Word of mouth, the best kind of advertising, seems to be helping to pick up the ball where the WB Marketing Executives dropped it. If this summerıs box office is any indication, the small, independently good idea can pull in the numbers just as good as the super-hyped Hollywood Œproductı. ŒThe Blair Witch Projectı, produced for under $50,000 brought in comparable box office figures to ŒStar Wars: The Phantom Menaceı on itıs opening weeks.

Good luck, Brad. Itıs very important to the future course of this business that your film do well in spite of executive neglect. If we continue to poison the well that quenches the public, that thirst will cease. The publicıs interest in this field of entertainment must be nurtured and maintainedŠ be creatively tended to ensure itıs survival. Not unlike the farmer who must not over-plant his soil or the fisherman who mustnıt over-fish his territory, the animated entertainment we in this business release to the audience must be pure and fruitful.

Mr. And Mrs. Executive, please understand and correct this growing problem if you want to keep that BMW and those swell power lunches.

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