Friday, April 4, 2014


Something's been bugging the hell out of me these last few months.  People who know me look at me as a quiet, happy-go-lucky, non-alpha male kind of guy - so for me to go on a rant is a rare experience.  But I just can't be silent any more. 

There's a huge prejudice in Hollywood, and also indie film circles, against animated films. The film executives, agents, crews, distributors all seem to be against animation.

Take, for example, my recent experience in Park City this January.  Out of all of the 100's of feature films playing in town, only one film, "Cheatin'", was animated.  There were about 400-500 features and only one was animation? There are lots of great indie animated features, why can't they accept a few more?

It's my theory that everyone in the film business grew up accustomed to the traditional Hollywood routine: a producer finds a script, he attaches a director and some movie stars to it.  The director and producers find the editors, cameramen, musicians, etc. etc. 

And that's the tried and true fashion to make it in Hollywood.  Then along came Pixar, who did everything different.  They let the artists run the show, and movie stars aren't so important any more.  The animators are the ones who create the characters.  Who ever heard of such a thing?  That's not the way it's been done for the last 100 years. 

And this fear of animation is very curious to me, because if you look at the top 10 grossing films from last year, you'll find that 3 of the top 10 were animated: "Frozen", "Despicable Me 2" and "Monsters University".  Plus a 4th film, "Gravity", was about 90% animated.

And it's not just last year - check out the box office numbers for the previous 4 or 5 years, you'll find the same domination of animation.  But when I court distributors about my own animated feature films, it's the same old thing.  They don't understand animation, or even care for it because that wasn't in their training. 

The ask me about who the audience for my film will be, and how are they going to market an indie animated feature.  It's just outside of their comfort zone.  This drives me crazy - because I know the audience loves animation and fantasy.  They want to see something different and fresh, yet the old Hollywood culture wants to do a safe drama starring Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep.

Hey, come on guys, get with it, expand your horizons, try something different - animation!!!

Bill P.


  1. I'm not sure it's quite that sinister.
    I feel that there are other things at play here that contribute to the dismissal of animated product.
    * Most animated features aren't very good.
    * Even the ones that make billions of dollars aren't very good.
    * Most animated features are for a young audience and aren't very good.
    * Crappy live action features are usually better than crappy animated features, partially because crappy live action is easier to watch than crappy animation.
    * Animated Indie features are out of their comfort zone because they're an unknown quantity that, by their nature appeals to a limited audience. Nobody in the media is ever interested in a limited audience.

    That's my take on it.
    There's other stuff of course.

  2. I had to post as "Anonymous." But my name is Chris Webb.

    Here are some other thoughts:

    1. Animation does not serve most people's movie going needs. For many people - the majority - the movies are about watching stars on screen. Many in the male audience pay their money to stare at Scarlett Johansson for two hours and wonder what it would be like to take her to bed. The women want to be wooed by George Clooney or Johnny Depp or whomever. Many if the audience want to imagine themselves hanging around with the cast, they may even want to BE the lead character. But I've never met anyone who said they wanted to sleep with Pocahontas, or even Jessica Rabbit.

    2. TV wrecked animation. Once cartoons had to be put on a station's schedule, they chose to aim them at kids. And now most American adults think of animation as something only for kids. I worked on a Pixar film and it frustrated the hell out of me when people would say they were waiting to see the movie so they could see it with their grandson or whatever. Like they couldn’t just go to it and enjoy it on their adult terms.

    3. Distributors are not always logical. If they were, they'd take more chances on animation. But taking on a film is partly an emotional thing for them, and animation doesn't rev them up the way working on a Woody Allen film does. Distributors are just as caught up in the glitz and "art" of film making as the audience is. Distributors and financiers want to have access to the stars, they want to be able to tell their spouse that they met Wes Anderson or whatever, and they want to get awards. It's not always about money with them, sometimes it's ego.

    4. Indie film has been in trouble for many years now. Movie chains just aren't booking independent productions. They are mainly controlled by the Hollywood studios. So while there is an explosion of indie films being made, no one gets to see them. Until film makers or distributors change, for the present, the situation is likely to stay the same.

    All we can do is keep making great films, and wait for the generation raised on The Simpsons to get into positions of power in Hollywood and film distribution. Just like the baby boomers, who made comic books OK for a mass audience, I think people born after 1988 or so will support more animated films. They seem to be much more comfortable with animation than baby boomers are.

  3. "But I've never met anyone who said they wanted to sleep with Pocahontas, or even Jessica Rabbit."

    You must not spend much time on the internet ! And these people send me emails asking me to draw these scenes . (I don't) Some people do draw them (Rule 34).

    But seriously, you make some good points . Director Steven Soderbergh spoke at length on the uphill battle that indie films are facing now in his talk last year on "The State of the Cinema" at the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival .