This New York Times article on Mars Needs Moms, the Disney movie released last Friday, calls it a flop “so disastrous that they send signals to broad swaths of Hollywood” — in this case, that no one likes motion capture.
The movie cost an estimated $175 million dollars, once you add in marketing, and on its opening weekend, it took in under $7 million (and that’s including the 3-D upcharges many theaters tack on; it also did horribly overseas). The Times calls it “on track to become one of the biggest box-office bombs in movie history, on par with such washouts as The Adventures of Pluto Nash.
Disney has since closed ImageMovers Digital, its motion-capture animation division run by Robert Zemeckis, one of the movie’s producers. Motion capture is the creepy technique used in such films as
The Polar Express. Actors are covered with sensors, and their movements are mapped onto computer models. The result is often disliked by audiences for looking “unnatural” when it comes to human characters, which were the focus of this film.
Zemeckis had planned to make a remake of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine using this technique, but after the failure of Mars Needs Moms, plans for that movie were cancelled by Disney. The lessons learned may be even more extensive. As the Times says, “As the first big-budget computer animated movie to flop, Mars Needs Moms tells some film executives that the market is becoming saturated.” Gnomeo & Juliet and Rango were already playing when MNM opened; Hop (which I think looks cute) and Rio are due out next month.
I was surprised to note the movie was based on a book by Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County). I’d seen the trailer, but it turned me off.
I wasn’t the audience, anyway — and I’m not sure who was. It looked too scary for kids, with the idea of a parent being kidnapped and the grimy tech setting, without anything to offer adults. The Hollywood Reporter has more post-mortem analysis.