Friday, October 24, 2014

Why so expensive, Tangled?


I was reading an article about the high cost of the new Hobbit trilogy -- around a $750 million for the three movies -- and encountered a shocking piece of data that's totally unrelated to that.

The article posited that if you divide the budget by three, you come up with a $248 million average per film, which still puts the budget of each film behind a handful of other movies. One of those movies was Tangled, which cost a whopping $260 million to make.

Um ... what?

Tangled is one of my favorite films of this decade (the decade having begun in 2010), so I'm pretty surprised I never knew anything about the jaw-dropping costs to make it.

I mean, the money is totally up there on the screen. The movie is absolutely gorgeous, its 3D really pops, its script is first-rate and it has terrific songs. I'm not surprised it was expensive -- for an animated movie.

But $260 million?

It's hard to understand where all that money went, except that I've subsequently recognized that major parts of the movie were scrapped and rewritten, meaning that a bunch of completed animation probably had to be tossed, its costs never to be recouped. Still, without actor salaries being a major portion of the budget -- I'm sure they didn't have to pay all that much to Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi -- it's a number that really jumps out at you.

But maybe I'm more surprised by just how effectively Disney controlled the marketing of the movie, so that you never knew what exactly was at stake for them.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, since Disney is a well-oiled machine, but Disney had egg on its face over John Carter and The Lone Ranger, both of which have been released since Tangled. Disney was not able to effectively manage the discussion about the budgets of those movies vs. their box office profits.

Since Tangled was a success, it never came up, but it seems like we should have heard stories leading up to Tangled with headlines like "Disney's $260 million gamble." And if Tangled had been viewed as a disaster in the making, it might really have become a self-fulfilling prophecy, with no one going because they heard about the film's troubled history.

This is one happy ending that certainly relieves me. As it made $591 million internationally, even people like me -- who follow this stuff reasonably closely -- didn't have to find out about the budget until four years later.

Unfortunately, Tangled continues to lose the battle for the hearts of audiences to its inferior successor, Frozen, which owes more to Tangled than anyone seems to care to admit. I sometimes wonder if that one song weren't in Frozen, whether people would love it as much as they do. In any case, Frozen's profitability also blows Tangled's out of the water, as the movie cost $110 million less to make and made, uh, $1.3 billion internationally.

Let it go, Derek. Just let it go.

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