One of the nicest treats this Christmas season has been watching Warner Brothers’ “Polar Express” fall on its face while Pixar’s “The Incredibles” has soared at the box office. Warner actually slotted “Polar Express” to come out the week after “The Incredibles” because they thought the Pixar film was not going to do well. And the reasoning behind that is a tale of sweet revenge.
Five years ago, Warner had an excellent animated film on its hands — “The Iron Giant.” If you haven’t seen it, you really should. No, it’s not the greatest animated movie ever made, but it’s a warm, funny, solid film. (It’s an anti-gun movie that even gun nuts like myself can love).
“The Iron Giant” received fabulous reviews, but tanked at the box office when Warner Brothers refused to promote it. The suits at Warner Brothers never believed in the film, and let it die a quick death in theaters. In typical Hollywood fashion, the blame was laid at the feed of director Brad Bird.
Fast forward to 2004, and Warner Brothers decides it absolutely must recreate a Christmas version of the $130+ million “Final Fantasy” disaster. So they take a 29 page children’s book, throw more than $150 million at it, and bring on big Hollywood star Tom Hanks.
When to release this disaster-in-the-making. Why not release it the week after “The Incredibles,” because Brad Bird is back directing that film for Pixar and the suits just know that he can’t deliver blockbuster performance.
And, of course, “The Incredibles” kicks sand in the face of the puny “Polar Express.”
It’s kind of funny because now there are the inevitable stories about Warner Brothers executives trying to figure out what went wrong. Reminds me about stories earlier this month that Creative Labs really wants to challenge the dominance of Apple’s iPod in the MP3 player market. How does Creative plan to do this? With a multi-million advertising campaign.
Well, of course, if you want to beat Apple you’d want to waste all of your money on an advertising campaign rather than trying to create a product that is as good as or better than the iPod. Focusing on turning out high quality products as Pixar and Apple do wouldn’t make much sense when you’ve got marketing and Hollywood stars in your camp!