Over at Jim Hill Media, ol' Jim is pontificating the reactions of the Disney/Pixar Execs to the data that "The SImpson's Movie" is quite solidly kicking "Ratatouille's" hiney.
Naturally, most of Jim's readers are accusing him of Pixar-bashing yet again. I don't think he is. I just think he has very high expectations for the house of Toy Story, and calls them on it when they fail to deliver. And the fact is the last two Pixar films have not pulled in the bucks like their predecessors.
Now I would love to make a film that made the type of cash that "Ratatouille" is making. But the trouble is profit margin. If a film makes $200mil, but cost $150mil, that's not good business. (I am making those numbers up - I have no idea what "Rat" cost or has made so far.)
Here's what I posted over at Jim Hill (misspellings and grammar corrected):
Bald Melon Tim said:
Why is "Simpsons" doing better than "Ratatouille"?
1 Eighteen years of marketing.
2 Consistently funny characters that a huge audience knows & loves.
3 Great word of mouth.
4 A title that everyone can pronounce without a phonetic guide.
5 Formula plot (SPOILER! SKIP THIS NEXT SENTENCE IF YOU HAVEN"T SEEN SIMPSON'S): Man loses family. Fights to get them back. Big action finish. Sounds like "The Incrdibles", eh?
Don't misunderstand me. I loved "Rataouille", every frame of it, I drooled over. But I have to concede that if a studio is going to produce a film for that kind of cash, there needs to be a little more "lowest common denominator" factor ...if they expect it to be a blockbuster.
"Ratatouille" spoilers ahead:
"Rat" doesn't fit into a mold. It's kind of a buddy movie, but not really. Remy doesn't have a clear "want" early in the film. he just spends a long time not fitting in, then he stumbles into his calling. The villain (the chef, not the food critic) struggles more against Linguini than Remy, so his goals are split. And the climax is a man eating vegetable stew.
Again... I loved every minute of it! It was fresh storytelling and great characters with depth. Plus... there hasn't been a drunk character in a Disney film since, what... Sir Hiss in "Robin Hood"?
As an audience, we all have a tendency to pigeon hole our plots. Good Hollywood execs know this. Blockbusters need to be a little simpler. "This is the good guy, this is the bad guy, Now they are going to fight." or "Boy meets girl. They are separated by: a) feuding families, b) he's trying to put her bookstore out of business, c) he thinks she's falling in love with his pirate friend." Etc. etc... They can be complex stories, no doubt, but not complicated.
The trouble is, as I stated before, budget to return ratio. Rat's BO is very respectful... if the budget was under 30-40 million. But it looked like Pixar spent four times what Fox did (and that's a very conservative guess).
I have two teen-age kids (boy and a girl) that were raised on Pixar films. Yet, during the weeks leading up to "Ratatouille", they were both a little blasé about seeing it. (When they did see it, they liked it). But they were both waiting with heightened anticipation for the release of "Simpsons".
Lesson here? If you want to tell a fresh, original story that doesn't fit into a mold, don't spend more than it will make back.