Monday, September 05, 2011

Rango to Lone Ranger - TheAnimationEmpire Movie Review

UPDATE: Added info about how Rango was the highest grossing film for about a month and how that impacts the business of it. Originally posted 8/28/11.

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Some animations seem to focus too much on the adult audience and not enough on the youth audience. And I see that in Rango; I can't help but wonder who it was for.



Who was Rango for? How is Rango interesting to a 9-year old girl? How is Rango interesting to a 12-year old boy, a father, or a mother? Mothers often pay to go to movies because they want their kids to see the movie. What mother sees Rango and wants her kids to see it? Some, yes, but not as many as the mothers who went to see Toy Story 3, Up, or Finding Nemo.

Did you know that Rango was based on an old TV show flop from Tim Conway that lasted one season and was also about a bumbling Old West cowboy who accidentally became sheriff?

Does that seem like a good inspiration for a childrens film?

The point is that films like Rango aren't making as much money as they could and often lose money. The kids can still watch movies like this on DVD (and some films, like TMNT, were made cheap and then probably did much better on DVD than in the box office, thus making a decent profit). Mothers are more willing to pay for DVDs that they don't want to watch... because they don't have to watch them. They just put them on and get a free babysitter for their boys (because Rango seems more aimed at boys than girls).

But of course the mother's preference (for movies aimed at boys) is that it's on TV. Take 3-2-1 Penguins for example. It's a Christian cartoon aimed mostly at boys (from the makers of Veggie Tales). It didn't do well on DVD (mother's didn't enjoy watching it too much, or at least not as much as Veggie Tales), but after the studio (Big Idea) re-purposed it for TV, 3-2-1 Penguins did VERY well. Why? Because the mothers weren't entertained by it, but the boys were. So moms didn't want to invest the time and money, but they were more than willing to sit their sons in front of it and go get some work done.

Now Rango, 9, and Legend of the Guardians were perfect examples of films that didn't do so well (when compared to successes that DreamWorks, Pixar, Ice Age, and Despicable Me are getting), but only in the sense that they lost money or didn't make much to make the effort worth it to the studios (or to get a sequel). In other words, the movies were good even if they didn't make a lot of money. It's more of a marketing problem. (My only point is that they didn't make as much money as they could have; I did enjoy them.)

Fortunately I think Rango is making more money on DVD (again, mothers don't want to go watch it, but as a gift to their boys to watch without them, it seems like a better idea). Also, Rango did better than it would have done, because they hired Johnny Depp to voice it (that made more mommies and daddies interested in it).

Rango cost $135 million to make, and it made $123 million in the states, but it also made $120 million outside the US (the international market loves Johnny Depp after he made Pirates). Add its DVD sales and subtract the costs of theaters (which are never factored in, but could be as much as one third the box office take), and you have a film that made a little and did "okay."

Did you know that Rango was the highest grossing film for about a month in 2011? Now, does that really matter? I say that's irrelevant. They spend x dollars to make something and need y dollars to make profit. If x is too big and y is too small, then it doesn't matter if it sells better than its competitors (because they spent more money on it than its competitors). It's a business just like anything else... like making toothpaste. Doesn't matter if you've got the best selling toothpaste for a month. If you spent more to make it than you're getting back then it's still not a profitable business.

We probably won't see a Rango sequel.

The director of Rango was Gore Verbinski (Pirates 1-3, The Ring, Mouse Hunt). He has wisely decided to forgo more animations and chose to instead go back toward his biggest success (epic adventures like the Pirates movies), and he's trying to do for Old West what he did for Pirates (redefine and reset the genre). (Spielberg, Ron Howard, and the Iron Man director, John Favreau, just attempted to redefine old west with "Cowboys and Aliens" and failed.)



What's Gore Verbinski's next movie?

The Lone Ranger!

(Interestingly, Rango was based on an old TV show flop from Tim Conway that lasted one season and was also about a bumbling Old West cowboy who accidentally became sheriff. I find it interesting that Gore went from Pirates to 2 cowboy movies that are VERY different from each other!)

For Lone Ranger, Gore was also attempting to team back up with his dream team from Pirates 1-3... Jerry Bruckheimer, Disney Pictures, the Elliott/Rossio writing team (who also wrote Pirates and Zorro), and Johnny Depp (who would play Tonto). Armie Hammer (Social Network) is on for playing Lone Ranger. (George Clooney was once in talks.)

However, this past week, Disney announced that The Lone Ranger was on hiatus, simply because the budget is getting big and "Cowboys and Aliens" lost a ton of money.

But I say to Disney... go for it! After all, yes Cowboys and Aliens lost money, but it wasn't very fun (cool but not fun), the romance and story weren't really thought through, and it really wasn't all that well marketed. Who wanted to see it? Sure, women like Daniel Craig, but not enough to see a movie like that. It's target audience was older dudes, the characters were all stoic and serious, the romance wasn't there (Olivia is an alien, keeps dying, isn't relatable to women, and gets naked once... not exactly what women want), the title alone makes most women snort (I've heard a lot of women snorting at it), the weapon on the arm bit gets old after awhile (which is why they change that in the story near the end), and not enough older dudes were interested in it (and the moms weren't interested in taking their sons).

So "Cowboys and Aliens" failure had nothing to do with the old west. They just thought the concept would sell and they stuck too close to the comic and to the screenplay that they got. It could happen to anyone, and this time it happened to three of the best filmmakers of all time (Spielberg, Howard, and Favreau), all of which have flopped like this before (and probably won't be their last; Howard's got the most flops, Favreau didn't do well when he directed Zathura and Spielberg practically lost DreamWorks films when he flopped with Michael Bay on The Island).

In contrast, Wild Wild West did well (despite bad reviews), Mask of Zorro did well, and the Elliott/Rossio writing team (who wrote Zorro and Pirates 1-4) found the right chord with Pirates by including supernatural elements. They sought to do the same thing here on Lone Ranger (with a screenplay massage by Justin Haythe). So Lone Ranger has all the right signs (the right writers, producer, director, actor, and the romance that was missing from Cowboys & Aliens). (For example, the love interest from Cowboys & Aliens, Olivia Wilde, was also the love interest in Tron Legacy, which had a much richer romance, and that film did much better.)

So what's Disney waiting for? This is likely to do amazingly well despite Cowboys & Aliens' performance.

Of course, rumor has it that the "hiatus" announcement is merely a political move by Disney to get Bruckheimer and team to lower their budget. Normally, I would say, "Are you kidding? This is Jerry Bruckheimer we're talking about!" But Bruckheimer did deliver lackluster results with Sorcerer's Apprentice, Prince of Persia, G-Force, Deja Vu, Glory Road, King Arthur, and Bad Company (good movies with budgets too high and that weren't assembled in marketable ways). So I think both Bruckheimer and Disney should compromise a little (since this is the first attempt at a Lone Ranger film, they shouldn't assume it will do $200 million+ ... then they can increase the budget with sequels once they prove that it's a hit).

Jerry and Gore should cut a few financial corners, and they should get this ball rolling!

Meanwhile, Johnny Depp has something good going here. Not only is he Jack Sparrow (Pirates 5 broke 1 billion even though it sold a little low in the United States, so they're making a sixth one), he's tied into almost every recent Tim Burton hit (Sleepy Hallow,  Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, and the upcoming Dark Shadows), he's now also on Gore Verbinski's short list (Pirates 1-3, Rango, and the upcoming Lone Ranger), and he seems to have been finding some blockbuster dramatic projects in between Pirates and Burton films (Chocolat, Finding Neverland, Public Enemies, and The Tourist). Plus Johnny has a 21 Jump Street movie coming up. Keep the hits coming for Johnny Depp!

Enjoy!

- TAE

8 comments:

  1. How dare you call Rango a failure. Pray to the Sprit of the West that Rattlesnake Jake isn't resurrected to pay you a visit! Fact is, Paramount considers Rango a success--so much so, in fact, that they've decided to open up their own animation studio called Paramount Animations.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Animation EmpireSeptember 2, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    El Squibs,

    Actually the word "failure" was only used to describe Rango by you. This article is merely how a great movie didn't perform as well as it could have due to numerous factors. Thanks!

    - TAE

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Animation EmpireSeptember 2, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    Also, El Squibbo,

    Did you know that Rango was based on an old TV show flop from Tim Conway that lasted one season and was also about a bumbling Old West cowboy who accidentally became sheriff?

    Does that seem like a good inspiration for a childrens film?

    - TAE

    ReplyDelete
  4. Perhaps. Maybe they thought the premise of the show would do better as a movie. And considering that Rango was the highest-grossing film of 2011 for nearly a month, I'd say they were right.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Animation EmpireSeptember 5, 2011 at 8:01 PM

    I think the premise was saved by the director Gore and the performance and star power of Johnny Depp. Otherwise it would have lost money.

    Doesn't matter if it's the highest grossing film for a month. That's irrelevant. They spend x dollars to make something and need y dollars to make profit. x was too big and y was too small. It's a business just like anything else... like making toothpaste. Doesn't matter if you've got the best selling toothpaste for a month. If you spent more to make it than you're getting back then it's still not a profitable business.

    - TAE

    ReplyDelete
  6. Did you know that Rango was based on an old TV show flop from Tim Conway that lasted one season and was also about a bumbling Old West cowboy who accidentally became sheriff?

    And if we're on THAT train of thought, might I remind you that Shrek was based on an obscure picture book by William Steig? A movie doesn't have to be based on a well-known or popular source to be successful itself. And I'm sorry if you feel I disagree with your beliefs.

    ReplyDelete
  7. We probably won't see a Rango sequel.

    Actually, we very well might.
    Check this out: http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/07/06/paramount-pictures-animation/

    ReplyDelete
  8. Rango is a great movie because it has a clever hidden meaning in it. Like the movie Inception's meaning being manipulated by other people. Also showing a broken justice system in America. I will not argue that Johnny Depp really help this movie stand out from the average films. But the story line was mixed with a lot of signs of hidden meanings. Which in turn shows us the correlation of the movie to our pop-culture. In fact I didn't like your hole review. It seems like you are just on a rant and can't see other parts to a movie.... I.e. signs of America.

    ReplyDelete

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