Well here I am posting after just begging off for a month, but what the heck. I am home sick for the third straight day in a row and a current topic nags my sensibilities even as I hover over my humidifier and cough my brains out.
DELGO, an independent CGI feature has opened to returns and reviews so abysmal that it seems destined to break all records for previous flops in all categories. Since I have not seen the film (nor am I likely to) I won't exactly go out on a limb to defend it, but not seeing the film hasn't prevented a chorus of gleeful schadenfreude from erupting on CARTOON BREW, where fans and artists alike are almost unanimous in their delight over the film's ugly demise.
Filmmaking is not for the faint of heart and audiences and critics (armchair and otherwise) are certainly entitled to embrace or reject a film as they see fit. No one gets or deserves a free pass just for making a movie. And there are enough reliable reports to be fairly sure that this one is indeed pretty poor. I won't take general filmgoers to task for hating such a movie, but people who actually work at this might be expected to at least refrain from openly celebrating it's unhappy fate. Instead, what this illustrates to me is that many in animation too often seem to be salivating for the failure of their peers more than they even wish success upon themselves. If its true, its a sad comment on us as a group. It doesn't even make sense to me. I cannot imagine what the "downside" would have been had DELGO performed modestly well enough to offer it's investors a small profit (it can't have cost much from the looks of it), even as awful as everyone says it is. Yes, we all fear that the success of a bad film will spawn imitation, but it is doubtful that a decent return would have incurred a glut of movies about lizard people in trumped up fantasy sagas. What would have been perhaps more likely is that it might have been that much more infinitessimally possible that some well-heeled investor might have bankrolled another film from another source (and another and another), and that maybe one of these was destined to be a classic. In any case, they'd have been gladder they put their money in animation than handed it over to Wall Street crooks like Bernie Madoff. Instead, now the opposite is true. Now anyone with two bucks to rub together will be that much more inclined to run the other way from any animator lurking on their radar. I would agree that it's fair to blame DELGO for not being a more deserving project, but that makes it all the more difficult for me to relish it's failure. The fact that it got done at all is something at least. How many people have dreamed, boasted or bet on launching such an enterprise only to run out of gas before they hit the runway? Given how monumentally difficult production can be in some of the most successful studios, I can only guess at the kind of determination it took to bring this indie film to the marketplace, only to be pronounced DOA. If that's what it deserves, so be it; why sharpen our teeth on its misery?
Given that most of us have our scars and horror stories, I don't know why it doesn't make us at least a bit more sympathetic. Hearing of DELGO, I can't help but recall the dismal opening of THE SECRET OF NIMH in 1982, a crushing blow to all who worked on it after years of dreaming big and sweating hard during the film's production. Independent animation back then was at least as rare and difficult as it is now and we all hoped NIMH would crack the marketplace open a bit wider. Although it has since become something of a cult classic, that status would have been cold comfort at the time, even if we could have been assured of it. The fact that back then there were also many fellow colleagues salivating for it's failure was additional humiliation: the haters got the last laugh and they laughed long, hard and loud. Fortunately, the film was at least critically well received enough to merit follow ups a few years later, starting with AN AMERICAN TALE . That isn't likely to be the case for DELGO, which makes the caustic laughter seem even that much more cruel. Oh well, at least some who commented were kind enough to wish the crew got paid. Let's hope so anyway.