‘Happy Feet 2’ must have seemed like a sure thing to studio bosses. A follow-up to the original box office hit, which nabbed the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2006, it had family appeal, an existing fan-base and - most importantly - tap-dancing penguins.
However, after unexpectedly tanking at the box office, the animation has turned into an epic disaster for Dr D Studios; the digital production company behind the film. According to IF magazine, the Sydney-based company has been forced to lay off around 600 of its near-700-strong staff next month, just before Christmas.
‘Happy Feet 2’ is not even out in the UK yet, but it’s flopping badly in the states. It opened with a respectable-ish £13.7 million, but has only made another £5 million worldwide so far. The big problem was the enormous budget. According to sources it went £32 million over budget to an estimated £87 million. Word is studio Warner Bros. also spent huge sums marketing the film, anticipating a huge hit. Going up against ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1’ must also have harmed its prospects. Dr D Studios was intended to rival Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital in New Zealand (who did the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films) but now the future of the business is extremely uncertain.
Its next project is the long-delayed ‘Fury Road’ starring Tom Hardy - a reboot of Miller’s ‘Mad Max’ franchise, said to be shooting in Namibia after Australia’s rainfall scuppered their plans of creating an arid wasteland there. IF magazine says that there could be a chance for some staffers to join a new company set up by George Miller and producer Doug Mitchell in the New Year.
Sadly this saga also proves the point again regarding the value of workers to industry, in this case Hollywood. The original Happy Feet movie of 2006 grossed over $384,335,608 against an estimated production cost of $100m according to Box Office Mojo webite. This is not a bad profit of around 300%. Did the creative and production staff share equally from that money? Unlikely.
And now the second ill-advised movie is a economic disaster (note the lack of any artistic criticism here, despite the fact that the industry would have you believe it is all about the art), has resulted in the dismissal of 600 staff just before Christmas. Profits for the few when the good times roll, dismissal, misery and poverty for the many when things go wrong. This is how capitalism work s and this is why it is such a dumb way of ordering society, period.