Thursday, August 16, 2007

Do All Bland Movies Make Profits?

WordNet - Cite This Source

1. lacking taste or flavor or tang; "a bland diet"; "insipid hospital food"; "flavorless supermarket tomatoes"; "vapid beer"; "vapid tea"
2. lacking stimulating characteristics; uninteresting; "a bland little drama"; "a flat joke"
3. smoothly agreeable and courteous with a degree of sophistication; "he was too politic to quarrel with so important a personage"; "the manager pacified the customer with a smooth apology for the error" [syn: politic]

Here's a feature by the safest blandest studio in history:

Here's a "safe" cartoon movie starring an extremely bankable star:

Here are many more safe pictures.

Marc is probably not the only one to think that:
"Being bland is a strategy big studios use to guarantee audiences won't hate their product.
Thus guaranteeing a profit will be made."

Now in the last couple decades I seem to remember lots of bland cartoon movies that flopped. I quickly searched the web and found a few that made a lot less than they cost-and that's not counting the hundreds of millions spent on marketing.

I'm sure I left quite a few out, so help me out in the comments and link to some I forgot.

I copied the following articles from Wikipedia, so you could see that some films made money and some didn't -regardless of whether they are bland or not.


Fox Animation Studios was a short-lived traditional animation studio, a division of 20th Century Fox, headed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. The department was designed to compete with Walt Disney Feature Animation, which had phenomenal success in the early-1990s with the releases of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King.

The studio's output was not as successful as the Disney films were. Only one of its two theatrical releases, Anastasia, turned a profit. The other theatrical Fox Animation Studios production, Titan A.E., made only USD$9,376,845 in its opening weekend—on an estimated budget of $75,000,000—and the studio was shut down as a result.


An American Tail (1986) and The Land Before Time (1988) did well in theaters and became animation classics. Each of these films launched a line of direct-to-video sequels, none of which Bluth had any involvement with. Although many of Bluth's fans loved his next film, All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), it flopped, as Disney's groundbreaking film The Little Mermaid was released the same year, but it still became a cult classic. By the end of the decade and through the 1990s, Bluth films such as Rock-A-Doodle, Thumbelina, A Troll in Central Park, and The Pebble and the Penguin had dropped significantly when it came to box office returns. Bluth scored another hit with Anastasia (1997), which grossed US$140 million worldwide in part because it used well-known Hollywood stars as its voice talent and stuck closer to long-proven Disney formulas: a sassy and resourceful princess driven to become more than she is, a cruel and conniving villain who uses dark magic, a handsome and endearing love interest, and a comic-relief sidekick.

Dreamworks is the big budget studio with the low-budget sensibility. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars to achieve creatively what Filmation spent 5 bucks on.

For years they spent and spent on 2d spectacular bland movies and no one seemed to notice. They finally hit by fluke with Shrek in CG, but has that made up for all the money they spent in their history of extravagant gambing with blandness?
1997 - 2003: The rise and fall of Warner Bros. Feature Animation

Warner Bros., as well as several other Hollywood studios, moved into feature animation following the success of Disney's The Lion King in 1994. Max Howard, a Disney alumnus, was brought in to head the new division, which was set up in two studios: one in Sherman Oaks near the television studio, and the other in nearby Glendale. [2] Warner Bros. Feature Animation proved an unsuccessful venture, as four of the five films it produced failed to earn money during their original theatrical releases. The first of Warners' animated features was Space Jam (1996), a live-action/animation mix which starred NBA basketball star Michael Jordan opposite Bugs Bunny (Jordan had previously appeared with the Looney Tunes in a number of Nike commercials). Directed by Joe Pytka (live-action) and Bruce W. Smith & Tony Cervone (animation), Space Jam proved to be a success at the box office. Animation production for Space Jam was primarily done at the new Sherman Oaks studio, although much of the work was outsourced to animation studios around the world.

Following Space Jam's success, Warner Bros. Feature Animation continued production on its next feature, Quest for Camelot (1998), which proved an unsuccessful release. The third Warner Bros. animated feature, Brad Bird's The Iron Giant (1999), was not a commercial success, although it received rave reviews and performed well with test audiences. The Iron Giant would eventually became a modern cult classic. The studio's next film, Osmosis JonesTom Sito and Piet Kroon completed the animation long before the live-action segments, directed by Bobby & Peter Farrelly and starring Bill Murray, were begun. The resulting film was not a box office success, although Warners did produce a relatedSaturday morning cartoon, Ozzy and Drix (2002-2003) for its WB broadcast network. (2001) was another animated/live action mix which suffered through a troubled production. Directors

Following the releases of The Iron Giant and Osmosis Jones the feature animation staff was scaled back, and the entire animation staff - feature and television - were moved to the larger Sherman Oaks facility. The final Warner Bros. Feature Animation production was another live-action/animation mix, Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), which was meant to be starting point for a reestablishment of the Looney Tunes brand, including a planned series of new Looney Tunes theatrical shorts.

After Back in Action, directed by Joe Dante (live action) and Eric Goldberg (animation), failed at the box office, production was shut down on the new Looney Tunes shorts and the feature animation unit was dissolved.

Two TV series based loosely upon the Looney Tunes property, Baby Looney Tunes2002-2004) and Loonatics Unleashed (2005-present) have assumed the place of the original shorts on television. (

Richard Rich
animation director

Filmography: Director


Personally, I think there are many factors that might affect the success or failure of a movie. Marketing, having a brand name luck...Blandness doesn't affect it at all. In an age of blandness when no one offers up any competition-like we have today, then some bland movies have to be successful- because Moms are always going to take kids to kid movies, whether they are good or bad.

They pick the brand name kid movies first. That used to be Disney, now it's Pixar. The rest of the Disney/Pixar wannabees make equally bland pictures and some do well, most don't.


I think this method of making movies is hugely risky and irresponsible. Most of the movies cost in the hundreds of millions to produce. That in itself is a crazy risky venture that no sane businessman would enter into.

NO, people don't make bland films on purpose: Bland people make bland films, period. It's the only kind they CAN make.

It would make a hell of a lot more business sense to spend less money-which would be easy, because most of the money in animated features goes to stuff that has nothing to do with entertainment:

Crowd scenes
Live Action Camera Moves
Too many lead characters
Ridiculously costly special effect like "realistic water". (I can turn on my tap for free and get realistic water, but who would that entertain?")
Live Action Star Salaries

What would be much less risky is to spend a third of what they spend now per picture, hire proven creative talent and let them entertain. That would be "safe". People will always want real entertainment made by actual talented entertainers. It is human nature. They only accept the bland because that is all they are given anymore.

The safest project I ever worked on is Ren and Stimpy. It cost around 6 million bucks and brought in a billion bucks or more. That happened in the last age of blandness and changed things slightly - for awhile.

All we did was make common sense entertainment for kids. We gave them what we knew that kids want. No market research, no focus testing, no marketing budget. We merely entertained. There was only one executive and she encouraged our natural entertaining abilities.

Then they took it over, spent way more money on it, killed it and it took them another 10 years and billions of dollars in non hits, piles of executives, market testing and more waste until they finally got another one. That was a very risky, illogical, crapshoot way to go.

Marc, in his Defense Of Blandness Post,

actually changed his argument halfway to a defense of Imitation, which is an altogether different subject. Maybe I will argue against that idea next.

Here's Jerry Beck's great resource if you want to see what animated movies have been made: