dFX News - PG Rated Animated Films, Shrek Given PG Rating, a look at Final Fantasy X
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Saturday - March 3, 2001
- A Look at PG Rated Animated Film Challenges
- Shrek Given PG Rating by MPAA
- A Look at Final Fantasy X
- News Link of the Day - High-Tech Oscars Go the Distance

A Look at PG Rated Animated Film Challenges
A Special Digital Media FX News Feature

(by Joe Tracy, publisher of digitalmediafx.com) Over the past few years, the majority of PG animated films have faired very poorly at the Box Office, including DreamWorks The Road to El Dorado, released last year without any other animated or PG-rated competition.

While many mature animation enthusiasts are praising animation studios for taking on "PG" ratings, family audiences appear to be deserting the idea at the Box Office where it counts the most.

To date, DreamWorks only highly successful animated film is the G-rated one they distributed from Aardman - Chicken Run.

In addition, the only PG-rated animated film to have success at the U.S. Box Office in recent history was Disney's Dinosaur, which was strongly anticipated by all audiences due to the "state-of-the-art" nature of the movie and the wide popularity of dinosaurs. Disney marketing also did an excellent job at setting up Dinosaur as a must see "event" versus just a movie. The appeal reached far beyond just parents with children.

Studies back up claims that G-rated animated films do much better in theaters and on video than PG-rated animated films. A detailed study commissioned by The Dove Foundation found that G-rated movies have a higher rate of financial returns than PG movies. Why? Because all families feel safe taking children to see G-rated films while they are much more reserved about taking children to see a PG rated film.

The Facts
A comprehensive study of all MPAA ratings produced the following:

Study Fact 1: The study by Kagan Media Appraisals, commissioned by The Dove Foundation, found that the return on G-rated movies is far higher than any other rating, including PG.

Study Fact 2: From The Hollywood Reporter on January 26, 1999 in an article titled, Study: G-Rated Films are the Most Profitable: "It's well known that G-rated films do better on video as well. Animated films, in particular, can be reissued over decades and generate substantial revenues with no foreseeable limit. The G-rated video market is driven by parents who purchase the videos for their children."

Study Opinion: Well known film critic and radio talk show host Michael Medved commented on the study saying, "The Dove Foundation report should put an end forever to the argument that the forces of the market place require film makers to exploit violence, sex or harsh language in the never-ending search for a box-office 'edge.' This fascinating study proves that the real edge in Hollywood goes to competently crafted family entertainment."

But that doesn't stop studios like DreamWorks from continuing towards the "edge" with animated films.

The Problem
So if G-rated films and animated movies are proven to be much more successful and more widely accepted than PG-rated animated movies, why is the market being flooded with more risky PG-rated animated films?

From USA Today on March 18, 1999 in an article titled, Want an Oscar? An R Revs Up Your Chances: "When aspiring young talent emerges from film school, these Tinsel Town wannabees never fantasize about someday creating wholesome, wildly successful family fare like The Lion King or Mr. Holland's, Opus. Instead, they hope to emulate 'artistic' filmmakers like Martin (GoodFellas) Scorsese or Woody Allen -- despite the fact that such admired artists seldom (or never) turn out big-time moneymakers."

Many studios, like DreamWorks, are ignoring such studies and continue to churn out risky animated features that carry the PG mark. While watching studios like Fox Animation Studios close due to such gambles, DreamWorks continues to focus on PG-rated animated films. Yet DreamWorks need only look within its own company to see the problem in action.

Joseph: King of Dreams
DreamWorks direct to video animated release of the G-rated Joseph: King of Dreams has not only seen very strong sales, but it has also won more awards than all DreamWorks PG animated releases combined.

Chicken Run
The DreamWorks distributed G-rated Chicken Run movie is the highest grossing non-Disney animated movie of all time. The strong story and great characters were able to reach a maximum audience with the G-rating. Meanwhile, DreamWorks PG-rated animated films, like The Road to El Dorado, have bombed at theaters even when faced with no competition from other studios.

If looking within its own studio doesn't bring the problem to light, looking to other animation studios will. The most successful animation studio in the industry is currently Pixar, which has mastered the art of telling strong animated stories with an appeal to the maximum possible audience. The payoff is huge in theatrical Box Office returns, video sales, and merchandising.

Can a PG Animated Film Succeed?
It has yet to be proven that a PG animated film can succeed at the Box Office. Even Disney's well received Dinosaur didn't bring in enough money at the Box Office to match the expenses (even when you remove the marketing costs) of creating the film. And perhaps in this aspect there is a challenge. Who will be the first to have a mega profitable PG rated animated film released in the US?

It is likely that Shrek will be that film because of its look and because DreamWorks is spending more money marketing it than any film it has ever released, including Gladiator. DreamWorks will build Shrek into an "event" film and will likely do well as a result.

According to the MPAA, a PG rating for a film officially means "Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children." And for that reason, a number of parents refuse to take their children to PG movies. So for a PG-rated animated film to succeed it has to appeal to a wide spectrum not aimed at children. But that isn't always easy. Titan A.E. tried to appeal to teenage boys and flopped so bad at the Box Office that Fox's studio chief was forced to resign and Fox Animation Studios was closed down. The Iron Giant was a well crafted PG-rated animated story that received outstanding reviews from nearly every film critic and those who viewed it. Yet the audience never materialized despite strong word of mouth that has carried many other films which lacked strong marketing.

Is Balance the Issue?
Interestingly enough, the release of PG-animated movies does appear to be serve a vital purpose within the industry. If all animation studios released G-rated animated films then the market could end up being over saturated with G-rated animation movies, creating a dilution effect. Last year's release of the PG Road to El Dorado, Titan AE, and Dinosaur helped bring balance the the many G-rated releases (i.e. The Tigger Movie, Chicken Run, and Fantasia 2000).

To further support the balance issue, John Evans, President, Preview Family Movie Review said the following about The Dove Foundation study: "I can visualize that if the industry shifts very heavily to G-rated films this could over saturate the market with films that appeal to the whole family. There should also be decent films produced for teenagers and adults that may not appeal to young children. Ever After: A Cinderella Story and Star Trek: Insurrection are two such examples."

Although not animated, Ever After: A Cinderella Story was rated PG-13. And although it was an unexpected hit at theaters, Fox discovered that even more people would have seen it if the rating had been PG - particularly since the live action film appealed to families. So Fox edited the film (by removing one vulgar word) before releasing Ever After to video in order to secure a PG rating. Sales were a solid hit.

DreamWorks may well be serving an important purpose in the animation industry with its continued release of PG animated movies - prevent over saturation while testing the waters. While such tests have failed before, Shrek could hold a bit of "PG magic". Even without the pixie dust, the studio heads may know something that researchers don't know. Then again, all that matters in the end are the wallets of the movie-going public.

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Shrek Given PG Rating by MPAA
(by digitalmediafx.com) DreamWorks upcoming animated adventure, Shrek, has been given a PG-rating by the Motion Picture Association of America. The PG rating is "for mild language and some crude humor."

Shrek is the first of 3-4 possible animated movies to receive a PG rating this year. Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire may fetch a PG rating; Osmosis Jones is likely to get a PG rating (for the exact same reasons as Shrek); and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is almost guaranteed to carry a PG or PG-13 rating.

Upcoming animated movies expected to get a G-rating this year are Pokemon 3, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, and Monster's, Inc. Disney's Recess: School's Out animated movie (currently playing) is also rated "G".

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Japan's Final Fantasy X LogoA Look at Final Fantasy X
A Special Digital Media FX Inside Look!

(by digitalmediafx.com) Squaresoft's Final Fantasy X role playing video game is becoming widely anticipated because it will be the first in the Final Fantasy series to be released on the new Playstation 2 platform and it will be the first to be released after the Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within movie opens nationwide.

Even though it is widely anticipated, this new entrance into the popular series has its share of problems unrelated to gameplay. The game has been delayed from a March release to a June release in Japan. Speculation for the delay is financial difficulties from an expected $29 million Squaresoft Japan earnings loss for last year. The official word from Squaresoft on the delay, however, is that they are simply improving the gameplay to better take advantage of Playstation 2 capabilities.

Although Final Fantasy X has yet to be released in Japan, preparations are already underway for the U.S. release, expected in late 2001. The two main characters names have already been changed for the U.S. version to Tidus and Yuna.

The first major change that players will likely notice in Final Fantasy X is the increased use of speech throughout the game. The Final Fantasy X development team has expanded the overall use of voices throughout various stages of the game. The voice segments will also contain text subtitles.

Final Fantasy X will be presented in a modern fantasy setting. The developers tend to skip around from version to version, many times placing the game in a fantasy past or fantasy future. Prerendered backgrounds are now a thing of the past as Squaresoft is presenting Final Fantasy X in a 3D polygon environment.

What's known about the story is still very limited. There are a few major "gods" including a water goddess and fire god (both pictured in the logo) that play major roles in the story. In addition, the story apparently takes place in a "waterworld" type setting where most of the planet has been covered with water. A lot of the adventure will be based within the water. Gamers will likely be controling three heros at a time. The battle system will remain similar to Final Fantasy IX, but will work in different ways (particularly when it comes to magic).

Gamers may have a hard time finding detailed strategy coverage once Final Fantasy X is released. Apparently, due to continued financial problems, Squaresoft is planning to begin demanding royalty fees from magazines who publish strategy guides for Final Fantasy X.

Movie Note: Squaresoft's huge financial loss last year has resulted in them putting future Final Fantasy movies on hold. Prior to the financial disclosures, Square Pictures had been working on concepts for movies after Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

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News Link of the Day - High-Tech Oscars Go the Distance

According to The News Factor Network:

"The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has long recognized technical achievements by pioneers in the movie business, but this year marks the first time that the winner of an Academy Award for 'outstanding scientific and technical achievement' will get an actual Oscar statuette.

The high-tech Oscar -- which is also the first Academy Award given specifically for the development of a software program -- will go to Ed Catmull, Rob Cook and Loren Carpenter of Pixar Animation Studios for developing the 'RenderMan' program..."

Click here for the full story.

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