In the motion picture, “A History of Violence” bad guy, William Hurt is plotting to take out his younger brother, Joey played by Viggo Mortenson. Hurt’s henchmen will put a bullet in Joey while he is engaged in conversation in Hurt’s office. The badguys fail this simple task and Joey gets away. William Hurt’s character is furious as he screams, “How could you f&#K this up?!”
“Jurassic World” opened this weekend and naturally it opened big. After all how could it fail? It’s a dinosaur movie and everybody loves dinosaurs. “Jurassic World” was a Hollywood no-brainer. It was a smash hit just waiting to happen. After all, how could they f&#k this up? Well, it appears sometimes you can. back in 1995 I began work on what should have been a smash hit for the mouse factory. The exciting project was entitled, “Dinosaur” and the movie’s creative team could easily boast having the best in the business on the exciting new project. I’m speaking of the world’s foremost dinosaur experts along with a slewful of masterful dinosaur illustrators, modelers and a crack CGI team. And yet, everything about this motion picture went wrong. In fact, it was the only time I crafted an email to my Disney film boss. Usually, I tend to mind my own business concerning major film decisions and let the “experts” do their job. However, this time around I saw an impending disaster and decided to say something about it. Being an old Disney veteran, I knew how these things work and I certainly didn’t anticipate any changes because of my concern. In any case, I thought it might be wise to say something before moving on. I was on the film for over a year and nothing - and I mean absolutely nothing I contributed was ever used in the finished film.
In early 1997 I moved north to Pixar Animation Studios to join the story development team on “Toy Story2.” Would you believe that Pixar was able to develop story, move into production, and complete “Toy Story2” while “Dinosaur” continued to slog through its convoluted production process. By the time the movie was released to lackluster reviews and a luke warm audience response, I was well on my second Pixar Animation Studios film. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. By this time, the magic had clearly disappeared from Walt Disney Feature Animation and it appeared the once unrivaled film unit couldn’t make a hit to save its life. Meanwhile up north, the hot new animation studio led by John Lasseter, Ed Catmull and Steve Jobs were the new darlings of animation. In time, the gifted animation team would steer animation in a bold new direction and whether you liked it or not the way animated films were made would be changed forever. So, why didn’t “Dinosaur” open the way “Jurassic World” opened this past weekend? Why didn’t kids beg their parents to take them to the hot new Disney movie? How could a motion picture that focused on such compelling creatures manage to sink into the primordial gunk like a struggling Brontosaurus? It was clear that Disney had lost its hit making mojo and it would eventually take the departure of CEO, Michael Eisner before things would change. Wasting no time, newly installed CEO, Robert Iger acquired Pixar Animation Studios and Walt’s premiere animation unit gained new leadership and eventually found its way home.
It may be wierd, but whenever I hear actor, William Hurt shout, “how could you f&#k this up!” in the motion picture “A History of Violence” it always makes me think about the motion picture that should have been awesome. Certainly as awesome as the dinosaur movie that opened this past weekend. It makes me realize how many things can go wrong when a movie and a studio lack creative leadership. Badguy, William Hurt’s henchmen couldn’t carry out a simple task. It was a no-brainer but they bungled it. Much the way we did back in the nineties when we took a brilliant idea and let it slowly sink into the black ooze of a primordial tar pit.