First, let's start with my (proven) theory that the mom owns the family movie ticket. Accoding to this theory, the moms and daughters control the movie tickets, not the boys. When a boy wants to watch a He-Man movie or animated Batman movie (or Star Wars: Clone Wars, TMNT, Atlantis, Titan AE, Sinbad, Iron Giant, Treasure Planet, El Dorado, etc.) then the mom says "Wait for DVD" or "Go watch TV." Why? Because the mom would have to go too, and the mom (and sisters) don't want to watch a violent movie for boys. Appealing to the girls is much more effective than boys. (That's also why TV cartoons is a huge market for boys--they're free for mom.)
And that brings us to Princess and the Frog, a film marketed toward girls.
So Disney was upset that Princess and the Frog did not perform well. Why? First, I think it did better than it should have, BECAUSE it was aimed at girls. I'm also surprised at how well black ladies like it. It only did $270 million worldwide, but it only cost $105 million to make (cuz it was done in 2D). And the foreign release was really solid (like 60% of the sales).
I mean, I know girls love this movie. Know how? First, over 50 girls in the US got salmonella poisoning when kissing frogs after seeing this movie. Bad parents! Bad! Second, guess who's tweeting/twittering about how much they love the movie? Black girls: http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23princessandthefrog
So if the reason why it didn't do so hot isn't about the girls, then what's the reason? The movie. The movie? Yes, the movie.
Here are the four reasons why the movie didn't do well:
(1) Let's freak kids out by featuring voodoo and demons. Oh, great idea, geniuses! Sure Walt played with it with Fantasia, but that movie cost him a ton of money. He tried to play with the dark side again with Sleeping Beauty... also lost him money. Disney tried again in the 80s with Black Cauldron. Big flop. They were 0 for 3. Demons don't belong in Disney films. They didn't get that memo.
(2) Let's make the princess a frog for most of the movie. Oh, yeah, that makes sense! Why would girls want to see a princess, when they can enjoy a movie about what girls actually love... frogs. +2 genius points. Seriously, this was a frog movie. If they're going to make a frog movie, do it in 3D like Pixar does and really sell the world of the frog (and base it around a heart-wrenching story like Pixar does).
(3) Why would we want to tell the original fun and delightful fairy tale (that ironically centers more around the prince, which would have given the movie that boy-factor they were missing), when instead we could make the movie based on a teen romance novel (that was received with mixed reviews) that was based on the fairy tale? And then we'll market it like there's some sort of twist (that she turns into a frog too), even though the twist is half as creative as the Shrek twist, which is now considered normal. Yeah, great idea. It just made me want to go see the Shelley Duvall version with Robin Williams. And the original title was "The Frog Prince." Why not keep it? And in the original fairy tale, the princess was a princess. Why not make a movie about a princess instead of one about a frog?
(4) So... about these characters... The alligator, lightening bug, voodoo lady, and others (not even going to think about a squished bug turning into a star; let's kill your favorite character; it's okay... he's a star now). Cute characters. However, these aren't Disney quality. The characters and songs are fine, but I don't really care about them. Why? Because this is the story of frogs going on a road trip and running into other random characters. These characters don't really resonate. They don't connect well. Sure, Up pulled it off (disconnected characters united by a road trip story), but Disney shouldn't take those chances. It's hard to care about characters that don't seem driven or connected.
So there you go. Disney, don't worry about the girl/boy audience. Worry about (1) your villains, (2) your heroes, (3) your story, and (4) your supporting characters. That's why your movie didn't do so well. Don't blame the girls that they didn't shell out the money or the boys that they didn't show up. It was the movie, not the audience.
I would give the film four out of five stars, because it was great despite all the issues.
That said, I had to fast-foward through about 40% of the movie when watching it with my four and three-year old daughters. They don't need demons haunting their nightmares. Next time, Disney, try making a princess movie that isn't all about demons and frogs. =^)
(I didn't have to fast-forward through any of Tangled, so that's good. Read our Tangled review here.)
Monday, February 21, 2011
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