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Editor's Notebook

Let's give some things a chance...

Heather Kenyon

Within the past three weeks, everyone, and I mean everyone, has become a marketing expert, declaring just what Warner Bros. did wrong regarding The Iron Giant. "They started too late with the publicity." "They spent all their money on Wild Wild West." "They didn't have any licensing partners." "They tried to reach the wrong audience." "They never should have shown he could fly in the trailer." "They should have cut different trailers." "Why didn't the trailers show more of Dean? He's so cool." "Why did they release it on such a crowded week-end?" "Why didn't they rely less on making it look like a cartoon and more like a cool, hip retro horror flick..." On and on and on the theories and reasons go...

I called my aunt who has two young daughters to urge her to go see the film. "What is it?," she said. "It's a kids film? I haven't heard of it."

The Iron Giant missed its mark. And that is just plain unfair. I feel sorry for the entire Warner Bros. Feature Animation division that worked so hard putting together one of the best films I have seen in a long time -- animated or not. And I also feel sorry for the animation industry at large. The Iron Giant proves that studios, other than Disney, can make great animated films. Disney will always be best at what they do, but the possibilities of what an animated feature can be are almost endless. It is time for someone else to realize this and be successful with it both artistically and at the box office. We all thought, and hoped, that it would be this Warner feature.

Largely, to the public, The Iron Giant came and went like a little blip with very little impact. It is a storm in our industry teacup, bringing with it many fears about the future of animated features, but I can't believe that this was very damaging to our industry, as most general citizens didn't even register the film. It is just another lost opportunity for animation, and we'll have to sit patiently and wait for the next wave of features. Maybe Aardman's Chicken Run will be the one to break out.

However, this loss does teach us that animated features are still looked upon by the public as being "different" from live-action films. "They are for kids." "If it isn't Disney, it is probably bad." Warner Bros. reportedly spent $30 million advertising this film. Someone had to see the trailers and posters and yet, they remained unmotivated to go and buy a ticket. Here again we witness the genius of Disney. All of us were amazed by Tarzan. It is a beautiful, technical wonder and so is the marketing machine behind it. Disney takes animated films seriously and realizes the muscle it takes to make an animated feature appear on the public's radar already crowded with live-action films that are somehow believed to be better. Disney has an army of folks behind each and every feature making people realize, "This is special. I have to see this to believe it."

I wish every animated show and feature had such dedicated enthusiasm behind it. I realize not everyone has the might and money of the Walt Disney Company, but so many great animated features and television shows have come and gone because it seems as though no one is fighting for them. Fox fights for their animated primetime shows. Their marketing intrinsically tells viewers they are cool and hip because they are watching animated programming on the Fox Network. However, some shows don't fare so well and don't find their niche, their audience. UPN's Home Movies was hysterical. I wanted to see more, but, apparently, I was one of the only ones...did other people know about it? Stressed Eric came and went quickly on the US network NBC as well. Now, I realize that there is a heap of live-action sitcoms that do as well, but if people are going to do animation, then they have to be committed to animation. The people getting the message out have to realize that they are fighting an uphill battle and put a little extra effort in being creative enough to break through the stubborn public's beliefs.

It is a new television season, and all around town more animated features are in the works for upcoming release, and I hope that they get the attention they deserve to ensure they find their audience. It might not be a big enough audience to make them profitable or popular, but at least to know that they got a shot, they had a chance, to reach their full potential.

Until Next Time, Heather