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Frog Princess - a marketing hit before it actually hit the theaters

Taking a look at the new Disney "The Princess and the Frog" film and what its early box office could mean.

Monday, Monday

Early this morning I glanced through the business section of the Los Angeles Times and read that "ThePrincess and the Frog” wasn’t doing so hot at the box office.  This bothered me because I hold the opinion, that in our business, one succeeds all succeed.  I don’t have to particularly like you or your film to root for it to do well.  It’s really simple; your hit makes it easier for the rest of us to sell our animated projects and/or to raise money to produce our properties.  I might even be pea green with envy and think you're an egotistical jerk, but I still wish you success…

Later I noticed a blurb on AWN with this heading: “Box Office Shining on Disney’s Princess and the Frog.”

Now I’m scratching my head.  Both sources seem to be reporting the same information regarding the film’s take – about 25 million so far.  Well, is that good or bad or what?

The truth of the matter it is like that fabled elephant that all the blind men were trying to describe, each touching a different part of the poor beast's body.  Disney of course would have loved to have a Shrek or Toy Story type of opening with lines around the block.  That didn’t happen but the film may prove to have legs and if the theaters hold it in (and I’m sure Disney has the clout to insure they do) over the holiday vacation period, it should have a decent enough box office to make the suits smile.

For a Disney film it should be understood that the licensing machine is so powerful that a huge amount of revenue has already gone into the vault before the film is ever screened.  This marketing colossus that is Disney is somewhat unique in that the revenues from products and licensing can turn a lukewarm performer into a cash machine.  We used to refer to this (and still do actually) as “deficit financing” meaning that the budget to produce the film or television series was greater than the money it could initially earn from broadcast licensing or ticket sales.   Disney could spend 500K for a television episode and lose money on their broadcast fees with the certainty that they would recoup any losses through their marketing and licensing business.  This allowed them to produce a far superior product than their competitors and helped them build a library of high quality animated television properties. 

In later years all the majors have learned to use the same strategy and to place a great deal of attention on their marketing.

So returning to the "Princess and the Frog” question I think we can say that the film is doing Okay.  Maybe the box office isn’t actually shining on it but there is at least a warm green glow. Toys, games, music, and a zillion other products will sally forth and later there will be DVDs, Blue Ray and Music CDs and so forth and so on.

Maybe the larger question I should be asking, is the film itself any good?  I haven’t seen it so can’t say but from what I know of Disney how “not good” could it be?  There are all sorts of way to criticize Disney; too corporate, too cautious, too cookie cutter in their storytelling, too cute, too controlled, too Darn Disney!

But they do animate well, even their stinkers were well animated so I will bet that “Frog Princess” even if panned, will not be for weak animation.  The story is always the question and I particularly hope this one really works, as it is a return to 2-D.

 Oh well, I’m really flopping around today so I think I will sign off and wait until another day to pick up this thread, if I can find it……  I think I’ll muse a little further about deficit financing as it plays out in today’s market… Look at PBS shows; do you think PBS pays for them?  Anyway, I’ll go into that another day.

Dog needs a walk and I do too.