|Posted by Ratin8tor on July 21, 2012 at 5:00 PM|
Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
Dreamworks. It's currently the second biggest CGI company out there, trailing only behind Pixar (and currently kicking the arse of Disney). For years that has been a bitter battle between the two, since it always seems like Dreamworks is ripping off Pixar. However that's starting to change, with people referring to the latest Pixar and Disney films as 'Dreamworks-lite' in a derogatory way. But is it Pixar and Disney that have changed, or Dreamworks itself?
Now I'm gonna cut right to the most crucial part of my argument: Dreamworks make brilliant side characters. Scratt from Ice Age, the penguins, lemurs and chimpanzees from Madagascar, Hammy the Hamster from Over the Hedge. These side characters are often the best part of the movie, especially since the side-characters from Madagascar got their own TV show (which is actually really good in a Spongebob Squarepants type way). In fact my favourite movie of theirs, The Road to El Dorado, has the two comedic sidekicks put as the leading actors. Because that's what Dreamworks does well. They are brilliant at making these side-characters that are hilarious and, in the cases of Ice Age, the focus of their marketing campaign. It's just a shame that their leads are so terrible.
I was disappointed when I saw Ice Age as a kid. I found the leads story to be dull and uninteresting, especially since I can to see a little sabre-toothed squirrel try to get his acorn. The same problem happens in Madagascar. The penguins are hilarious. The lemurs are hilarious. The chimpanzees steal every scene they're in. But the main four are boring as all sin. The characters aren't that interesting, the situation they find themselves in isn't that fun to watch. Hammy the Hamster is the only saving grace of Over the Hedge, since he's more interesting then the leads.
In fact, lets look at the film that put Dreamworks on the map: Shrek. It really set up what the company wanted to do. The leads are Those Two Guys, like Timon and Pumba from The Lion King. They are funny and have good chemistry. That's what made the film so great. Shrek and Donkey are so off-beat it's funny. What would normally be delegated to 'comic relief' is instead put on centre-stage, improving the movie greatly. So why am I hammering this point home?
It's because it what separated them from Disney and Pixar. It's what made their film so great. Dreamworks has finally realized that it's more interesting to put the comedic characters as the stars rather then hide them away. It's why Megamind is such a brilliant film. Dreamworks has finally figured out the humour they want. And the other two companies are trying to play catch-up by copying them. Notice how the trailers for Tangled emphasised the Dreamworks style humour. Notice how the movie totally stole the horse from El Dorado (nice to see him still getting work though). Wreck-It Ralph is going a similar route, focusing more on the comedy in the trailers then the strong emotional message that will no doubt be in it. So why are people so upset that Cars 2 seems just like a 'Dreamworks movie'.
Because it was that year when Dreamworks released 'How To Train Your Dragon', a film for all intents and purposes is a Pixar film. It borrows many of Pixar's cues. Strong story, good characters, a nice level between humour and seriousness, with the toilet humour kept to the minimum. And while I like Cars 2 and think it's a damn fine film if you're the right age-bracket, it's hard to argue with the fact that it copies a lot of what Dreamworks does. It has a weak plot that's just there to string together jokes, it focuses on the comedic sidekick and makes him centre-stage, it has more toilet humour then any other Pixar film. It borrows a lot from Dreamworks in the same year that Dreamworks was borrowing a lot from Pixar.
But does this automatically make Cars 2 and, to a lesser extent, Brave (since it too takes cues from Dreamworks in regards to its humour) 'bad'. No, I don't think it does. Because Shrek isn't bad. El Dorado isn't bad. Kung Fu Panda isn't bad. All of these films show where Dreamworks succeed. The right balance between funny jokes and genuinely good story-telling. Where the characters drive the plot more then the story. Pixar films tend to be very story-driven, while Dreamworks prefer to more focus on the characters. Of late that's changed slightly, as the companies do different things. But once again, does that make them bad?
See, I don't like the idea of using 'Dreamworks-lite' as an insult. It implies that Dreamworks doesn't make good films. Dreamworks does, otherwise they wouldn't be where they were now. Likewise Pixar doesn't always have to make oscar-winning masterpieces. So you shouldn't call a Pixar or Disney film 'Dreamworks-lite' for the same reason you shouldn't call a Dreamworks film 'Pixar-heavy'. Both companies are different, but at the end of the day isn't the movie more important than the people that make it.
So there you have it. My rant at people who skew their expectations based on the company making the movie. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.
Categories: In Too Deep