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Was Pixar Brave To Spend $210 Million To Make A Film?

This is a guest post. Donna is a frequent writer, blogging often about media, still photography, and filmmaking.


There is an internet conversation going on, querying the expensive production of PIXAR films.  When Toy Story appeared in 1995, its production costs were around $30 million dollars.  The 2012 film Brave cost about $210 million dollars for production.

We think of a $210 million in production costs, we think of big movie makers like James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.  Their movies have big stars, big shots, big explosions and spectacular special effects that blow us away and we seem to nod understandingly, if not a little amazed, at the cost.

When the we hear that the cost of an animated movie about a computer generated Scottish lass galloping over the Highlands on her horse, voiced by some recognisable (but not mega) stars, comes to $210 million dollars, some people seem to wonder why.

What does Pixar get for $210 million dollars? 

Straightaway, you know that some of their published production costs fall to the marketing and promotion of their film.  Marketing personnel, posters, advertisements, flyers, the website, the clothes and dolls would have taken a large chunk of that overall cost.

Since 1998, Pixar has released a movie nearly every year, with a gap of two years between Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc.  On average, the development of these movies from conception takes years.  Pre-production for Finding Nemo apparently began in 1997 for a movie that did not make it to the big screen until 2003.  That is years of creative teams storyboarding, creative narratives, scrapping some, reinventing others until the story is perfect.

Those costs also paid staff to draw and redraw until the scene is as perfect as they can make it.  One scene can take months to create. The detail that goes into making these characters is extreme. Even their hair or fur is created from scratch. Remy from Ratatouille has 1,150,070 hairs all over his gourmet food-loving body.

The research that goes into these movies is phenomenal.  To get the environment or the characters spot on, the PIXAR team travel, investigate and analyze their subjects, until they can move to a point of understanding.  This comes across in their films, from the depiction of the tepui landscape of Venezuela in UP, to the artistic perfection of the dishes in Ratatouille and to the color and depth of Finding Nemo.

The lighting work and sound effects in Wall-E, the sounds of the individual car types in Cars, the movement and creation of being underwater in Nemo; the technology and the artistic detail of these films sets them apart from the others in their genre.

Are the movies worth the $210 million cost?

Since their first movie, the gross profit on their films has never dropped below $360 million.  It is estimated that Toy Story 3 has earned over $1 billion. If investing $210 million into a film is a risk, then PIXAR has the track record to prove they are worth it.

PIXAR is now a huge company and the movies it makes generates jobs externally in DVD production and distribution, the cinemas, the popcorn manufacturers – to a micro level of the costs of public transport to see the event that is a PIXAR film.

Walt Disney took pride in the little details in his animation, which is what makes them classics and an example of modern art – and now most people don’t realize the risk he took with the amount of time spent making a full length animated film.

The fact that we can still watch, and are moved by, Snow White justifies his risk.  PIXAR’s attention to detail in their visually stunning, and structurally strong, narratives similarly prove that it is worth the risk of making something memorable and it’s earning them dividends in more than just money.

03. July 2013 by Guest
Categories: Guest Posts, Movies | Tags: , , , , ,

Comments (4)

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