Hollywood Throwdown

hollywood throwdown

Hollywood has a head-scratching habit of turning out two movies within a few months of each other, that are basically the exact same film. So not only do we get sequels, prequels, sidequels, reboots, remakes, and adaptations we get White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen practically back to back, because obviously if we liked something once, we want the leftovers next month. And unfortunately that’s how it usually goes, one film becomes the dish, and the other is scrapped by audiences. Studios seem to go head to head, in a pissing contest to prove that their bland actioner is vastly superior to the same thing being developed at the same time. So let’s run through some notable ones and see how it shakes out.

ANTZ V. A BUG’S LIFE (1998)

stallone - antz

It’s pretty clear up front which one of these is more edgy and cool because one of them (no hints) is spelled incorrectly with the ever edgy “Z” (only slightly less edgy than “X”). Dreamworks and Pixar have been the dominant animation houses for the last 15 years, with Disney making a recent resurgence (and Big Sky waking up every morning to run to the mirror and see if they turned into Dreamworks in their sleep. It hasn’t happened yet). However, their rivalry began and peaked early on in the late 90s with these two extremely similar films.

A Bug’s Life tells the story of a loser ant who needs to find warriors to save his ant mound from the evil grasshoppers. Because cartoons give 0 shits about how nature actually works. He ends up recruiting a bunch of circus performers, which of course works, and the Pixar trademark of silliness and pathos ensues, although to a lesser degree than their upper echelon films.

Antz tells the story of a neurotic ant who is tired of the caste society he lives in, bucks it, and gets the princess. So, it’s a totally different movie. It has Woody Allen instead of Kevin Spacey. I’m kidding, it’s not a different movie. This isn’t even a different paragraph. It’s just copy pasted from above. And like all Dreamworks CGI animated films that aren’t Shrek, it isn’t Shrek.

This actually has a little juicier backstory than the studios just whipping it out and comparing sizes (though it’s that too) as politics played a part. Jeffrey Katzenberg was the head of Disney’s motion picture branch, and greenlit the Pixar film in his time there. Then, feuded with Michael Eisner (the devil in mouse ears), jumped ship, and formed Dreamworks. After the more Disney-esque Prince of Egypt they rushed into production of Antz, as what I can only assume is a direct revenge ploy, because Katzenberg didn’t feel confident in his ability to have nothing to lose, and Eastwood grimace while going on a killing rampage.

bugs life

Apparently there was a lot of hoopla and back and forth as release dates were toggled, but Antz got to theaters first, clearly making it the victor. Except it wasn’t. It failed to make it’s budget back domestically, while doing decent worldwide, and it did manage to impress critics. Bug’s Life came marching one by one (hoo-ra hoo-ra) into theaters two months later and eclipsed their Dreamworks rival in both box office receipts and critical acclaim. Pixar would continue this winning streak for the rest of forever.

Victor: A Bug’s Life

Next: ARMAGEDDON V. DEEP IMPACT

Posted on February 14, 2014, in Movies, personal musings and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. For the record, I also really enjoyed Mission To Mars, I actually saw it when it released in theatres which means I’m one of ten people in the world who can say that. But I recall walking out of the theatres with my friends and we all had an enthusiastic reaction to the film. While not scientifically accurate, Tim Robbins’ death in the film was very cool.

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    • I saw both Mars movies at pre-release screenings. Both were late at night in empty auditoriums. I have a hard time remembering which was which. I remember not liking either one. Mission probably had more potential. But I checked out well before the movie was over.

      Originally, the Epcot attraction, Mission: Space was supposed to be tied in to Mission to Mars. Gary Sinese narrates the pre-show. He’s clearly reading from cue cards and clearly fulfilling a contractual obligation. Anyway, the movie disappointed and Disney decided not to tie their massive bulti-million-dollar attraction into a movie no one liked or remembered. So the only two links to the movie remaining are Lt. Dan and the word “Mission”.

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      • Makes me wonder about recorded celebrity performances in theme parks in general. I’ll have to do some research. I’m sure the corporate nature of such gigs tends to smooth out the rough edges that make some performers interesting to begin with. Sinese could be one of those.

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        • You know what I’m talking about. Sinese looks like he’s reading his lines at gun point.

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          • I definitely think the video portion of Mission: Space leaves a lot to be desired, and Sinese is part of that. His rote delivery is not bad early, and he seems engaged, but you get the feeling as it goes on that he is losing patience with the chore and just can’t muster the requisite enthusiasm for the upcoming adventure.
            A wide-ranging re-shoot of films across the parks could really help spruce things up, but I doubt WDW would spend that money.

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            • No. And it’s hardly the most pressing concern in the parks.

              One thing I would suggest to Disney in the future is to avoid using celebs in ride videos. Does Sinise bring anything to the Mission: Space experience? Not really. An unknown would be happy for the work and probably deliver a more engaged performance. Sinise just dates the thing. We know what he looks like today. Seeing a visibly younger celeb (see Ellen’s Universe of Energy for the ultimate example) just reminds viewers that the ride is old. In the case of Mission: Space, it may remind some viewers that Sinise was in a dud of a Mars movie many years ago.

              I can’t think of a single attraction at Disney that is improved by a celebrity. At Universal, having Will Smith in Men in Black is kind of cool. But most Disney attractions aren’t directly tied into live action movies where that would be a benefit.

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              • I generally agree. As the real life Johnny Depp continues to age, even his visage on the AAs in Pirates of the Caribbean will start to seem a little weird.

                The worst to my mind is Phylicia Rashad. Maybe little kids have no idea who she is, but most of us look at her and just think “Oh look, there’s Mrs. Huxtable!” It’s not entirely her fault, but she’s also not that good an actress to begin with. It’s too bad because Wallace Langham is actually pretty good in that same pre-show film.

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                • Yep. Claire Huxtable in Dinosaur was a big one. The late, lamented Wonders of Life Pavilion was full of them including Elisabeth Shue in Body Wars. In the Eisner era, Disney seemed to think using its Hollywood connections was cool. Instead, it dated a bunch of attractions.

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                  • One of the ones that used a ton of celebs was Cranium Command in The wonders Of Life, which featured the likes of George Wendt and Dana Carvey. First time I was on it, I thought “Norm from Cheers is the Stomach”.

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                    • Aha! We have another Disney World fan in our midst! Cranium Command was like SNL made an educational movie. Wendt was practically a regular on SNL at the time.

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  2. Remember when a drum set was the worst present you could give to the kids of a despised “friend” or relative? Well, you can replace the drum set with a Paul Blart DVD. It’s cheaper and the parent will be much tortured.

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  3. Re: Brian De Palma post Scarface. Don’t forget the Untouchables and Carlito’s Way.

    The worst Mars movie of that era was released a year later: Ghosts Of Mars helmed by John Carpenter.

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    • I’m not a lover of Untouchables, I actually think it’s a grossly overrated film. Carlito’s Way has good performances, mostly Sean Penn just stealing the whole movie.

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  4. So basically, unless Michael Bay is involved the first film pretty much always wins at the box office.

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    • Sorry for the double post, but now that I think about it, The Haunting was released a few months before House on Haunted Hill in 1999 and made 4x as much money at the box office, so there is yet another case of the first film in the pair winning.

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  5. “Dante’s Peak” and “Volcano” are two others I recall.

    If we want to go back further, there was Tom & Jerry’s “A Cat’s Concerto” vs Bug Bunny’s “Rhapsody Rabbit”.

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