Is Lionsgate the Worst Animation Distributor?

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Back in August 2015, Lionsgate, the distributors of the popular Hunger Games films and the production company behind Orange is the New Black on Netflix, released an animated film called Shawn the Sheep Movie. This was a stop-motion animated film by Aardman, the masters behind stop-motion animation. The film was a critical success, with anyone who saw the movie loving it from head to toe. Unfortunately, it didn’t do financially well, which is a huge shame since it’s a freaking good movie and deserves the pleasure of watching it. So, you would think the next step for Lionsgate would be to look for some of the best animated films to help get them into theaters. What were their next products, in terms of animation? They put out Norm of the North, the worst movie/animated movie of 2016, pushed out The adventures of Panda Warrior, a horrifyingly-terrible-looking CGI animated film from China that is a rip-off film of Kung Fu Panda, and released into theaters The Wild Life, yet another mediocre-looking CGI animated film that may look better than Norm of the North, but will be just as bad. They are also going to distribute a couple of more Alpha and Omega films straight to the DVD bargain bin pit of fire where they belong. Did I miss something here? Why is Lionsgate pushing out these, quite frankly, horrible wastes of money? Say what you want about the quality of the animated films from Sony Pictures Animation, at least they aren’t the worst things of all time. You don’t even need a focus group to know that these projects are dead-on-arrival. It’s gotten so bad that I decided to label them the Anti-GKIDS. Why? Let’s find out.

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So, let’s start with the good company, GKIDS. This New York-based film distribution company has been getting their name out there for distributing the highest quality foreign-animated films that have all gotten Oscar nominations like The Secret of Kells, Ernest & Celestine, When Marnie Was There, Song of the Sea, A Cat in Paris, Chico and Rita, Boy & The World, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya. What do all of these films have in common? Well, GKIDS makes sure to pick out the best of the best, and won’t just choose to bring something over just because they can. They have a reputation to uphold, and they will only pick films that will reach their high quality standards. Sure, we still get some great films not from GKIDS, like the upcoming Long Way North from Shout! Factory, and The Boy and the Beast from Funimation, but my point is that GKIDS and some other companies do try to keep a level of quality in what they bring over.

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Lionsgate, on the other hand, is one of the many problems as to why animation in film form is not taken seriously. Who in their right mind thought Norm of the North was a film that people wanted to see in theaters? Who at Lionsgate thought it would match up to the films by other studios? It’s a straight-to-DVD schlock title that somehow got to be in more theaters and got more attention than some of the best films of this year. Heck, Sausage Party had a smaller budget than Norm of the North, and was a solid movie. Lionsgate even thought this film would be popular enough to spawn two more 45-minute long sequels. Like, really? A film where no effort was put into making it coherent and good-looking to be popular enough to be a franchise? Yeah, people complain about the Ice Age movies coming out still, and while I will get to those around Christmas time, they at least have great animation and a few decent characters worth investing into. Lionsgate has this mindset that just because it’s animation, people will like it, without thinking why we loved these animated films in the first place. Did we love Zootopia because it was a bunch of animated animals in clothes? No! People fell in love with it because of its witty writing, engaging story, and likable characters. We didn’t fall in love with Kubo and the Two Strings because it was stop-motion. We fell head over heels for it because it was an animated film that treated the audience like they had brain cells, with an engaging story, incredibly entertaining characters, a mature tone, and very impressive stop-motion action sequences. No one fell in love with Norm of the North, because it was a condescending, horribly animated, cynical, ugly, insulting, pompous pile of garbage that was made by people who had no freaking idea what they were doing. It doesn’t help that a few months later, Lionsgate announced that they were releasing a straight-to-DVD film called Adventures of Panda Warrior, with Rob Schneider also attached as the lead character.  Boy, if they released this in theaters, they would have been torched alive, and anyone attached to it would have been blacklisted for bringing this film over in the first place. Why would they think we would want to see a Kung Fu Panda rip-off that has the graphics of an original PlayStation game, and acting that had no effort put into it? I mean, by sweet pink lemonade, Adventures of Panda Warrior looks like an unfinished college project that somehow got into stores. Just because the public sometimes makes questionable choices in what films to support, doesn’t mean that they are incredibly stupid, Lionsgate! People are smarter than what your focus groups make them out to be.

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Sure, their newest animated film that they are distributing with Summit Entertainment, The Wild Life, doesn’t look as terrible, but it still looks horrid compared to Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue Sky Studios, and Illumination, and its dialogue and characters look and sound grating. You can even look up the voice cast, and it’s mostly voice actors, which is nice since it’s a film not relying on huge stars, but it doesn’t look good for them either to be attached to this trainwreck. As much as I know that it’s not going to be good, and early reviews are not kind to it, I’ll give it a fair shake (review coming soon).

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So, what should Lionsgate do to improve upon their incredibly horrible animation track record? Well, they can actually put quality into what films they greenlight or bring over. Be like GKIDS or Shout! Factory where they pick and choose what they bring over. Do not greenlight focus-grouped or higher-up requested films, because I assure you that they will not be good and you will look like soulless blithering wastes of air. They can also cancel all Alpha & Omega straight-to-bargain bin sequels, because no one likes them, and while you can like them, you can’t tell me or anyone that they are good movies. I dare you to tell me how they are good movies.

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As far as I know, Lionsgate is indeed the worst animation distributor in Hollywood. No effort, no quality control, they think the movie-going audience is stupid, and they keep making or distributing films, with the rare exception, that no one asked for. Blue Sky might be too scared to tell Fox that they don’t and shouldn’t make another Ice Age sequel, but at least they have made some interesting movies, and a truly good movie with The Peanuts Movie. Sony Pictures Animation might be shooting itself in the foot constantly, but at least there is a certain charm and creativity to the films they make and release.  I will be sure to say that Lionsgate did a good job if they do distribute something as good as the Shaun the Sheep Movie, but that will be quite the wait. Maybe they will learn their lesson, but I highly doubt it at the rate they are going.

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