Feature: Sony needs an intervention
Let’s say you are a film producer and you have multiple millions to spend. You are given the choice of an established, beloved property handled by one of the foremost creators in animation or a silly idea based on a novelty that is likely to be dated on arrival and almost universally derided. If you picked the latter (aside from slapping yourself) congratulations, you could also be a Sony Animations producer.
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about Gerry Tartovosky, the creator of animation classics like Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack (as well as giving Sony Animation a hit with the Hotel Transylvania films) was working on a CGI update of Popeye. An animation test has been widely distributed on the internet and I strongly recommend that you look it up. It’s pacy, inventive and has the spirit of a classic cartoon.
Sadly unlike Deadpool the response to the test footage did not result in the film getting made. What happened instead was the creation of The Emoji Movie. I have to be clear here, I have no intention of watching this because I have no interest in it. People are calling it one of the worst films ever made clearly haven’t seen Double Dragon, Burn Hollywood Burn or any number of terrible cinematic experiences that I don’t recommend.
What this does highlight are wider issues within Sony itself. I have already discussed their bizarre obsession with cinematic universes that has now extended to giving themselves their own little sub-universe away from Marvel which in my opinion is silly; either work in a partnership or do it yourself!
With the rights for James Bond soon to be renegotiated Sony are in danger of losing the biggest jewel in their production crown. For me this means that they need to look at how they work, especially on the management side.
Because this is the thing; it is easy to forget that any production is a massive collaborative effort and every hit and flop is likely to have a roughly equal number of professional people working hard in order to meet the demands of an ever-increasing schedule.
People’s jobs are on the line which is why what you decide to make is so important. You need to give something the best possible chance of succeeding in order to get the returns to keep a studio going. And this is why I am appealing to Sony to think about what you are doing. Yes I know that the hack that opened out their practises has embarrassed you. But when you are in a hole the solution is not to fill the hole with oil, gunpowder and matches.
The potential is there to create great things but you need to learn the right lessons. Fox took interesting risks with Logan and Deadpool, DC have adapted and looked for a new angle to differentiate themselves from Marvel. You don’t have to be like everyone else but equally you have to do it effectively.
Most of all you need to remember that people are putting their money down to watch these and it gets more and more expensive. When someone comes to you with a pitch don’t try and invent worlds or jump on bandwagons. A good example is Pixar as they made Inside Out after a producer considered how to talk to his child growing up. While they don’t get it right every time (after all nobody does) it is better to go in with the right intentions and to produce something that you would want to see.