Saturday, November 3, 2007

Why do cartoons waste money on big names?

I haven't seen Bee Movie, but with the constant promotion from Jerry Seinfeld, I wonder about the animated genre in general: how come the studios focus so much on the big name actors included in the cast? With Bee Movie it's not too surprising that Seinfeld has pushed this picture so much; he's still in demand, and the movie would be absolutely nothing special without him. Bee Movie is almost guaranteed to be the number one film at the box office as a result.

Still, using a big name actor to drive audiences is just a remedy for a bigger issue. Of course the studios have to use the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Will Smith and dozens of others, because without them, the movies would often be nothing. Again, I haven't seen Bee Movie, but it's not getting great reviews (not getting terrible reviews either), but I have seen a lot of other animated movies where the promotions for the big name actors have been huge.

Remember Shark's Tale? That one promoted the hell out of the people involved, from Will Smith to Robert De Niro. Madagascar: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and so on and so forth. And why? Because they were making up for something else.

With exception to most of the Pixar movies and a few scatterings of other animated films from other companies, most cartoons (it's safe to call these CGI films cartoons now, right, since there really isn't any traditional animated fare these days?) aren't of a high enough quality to rely on look and story alone. Sure, Pixar has used some big names (Tom Hanks and Tim Allen come to mind), but have you noticed that since Toy Story, they really use the actors as promotional devices for their pictures? The previews are almost always focused on the story and the visuals, and rarely mention who the voice talent is. Often times, the voice talent is incredible, but not someone we would know or care about in general.

Then you look at Dreamworks and some other shops, and they almost always have some zany cartoon where they spend half the movie trailer promoting who is in the movie, as if it matters whether Will Smith or Robert De Niro are involved. I'd rather half a pitch-perfect voice talent than an actor whom we're never going to see be involved.

The point of this rant is that if these studios invested just a little less money in its actors and focused perhaps $300,000 more to obtain a quality writer, we'd have a lot more well done cartoons on our hands rather than a bunch of loud and splintered entertainment pieces. Sure, cartoons are meant to entertain children, but if done right, they can also please adults just as much, and it's amazing that studios still haven't completely figured out that it's all about the writing.

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