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How to make a blockbuster on a budget like Despicable Me

Jul. 15, 2010by: Paul Tassi

I read the Wall Street Journal because I'm super classy like that, and today I happened upon this article about the economics of making a cheap blockbuster, inspired by the recent success of DESPICABLE ME. It’s a very interesting read, and it shows how Universal did it by cost-cutting, but retaining quality.

There are a few tips to keep costs down, among them, no fur. It sounds silly, but it’s serious business.

Working fast helps as well. The company produced "Despicable Me" in just three years—as opposed to the typical five to seven years many animated features take. And the company structured the film to save on costs from the start, re-using elements from scenes and eliminating details like animal fur that are costly to render in computer graphics but often an audience can't see on screen.

According to people close to the film, animators cut out visual details in scenes that weren't central to the movie to save money, reserving details for sets that were used repeatedly. In one scene when the characters are driving, the animators rendered almost no details for the background since the four characters are shown in close-up, taking up most of the frame. Illumination also used matte paintings for backgrounds more frequently than the pricier computer-generated geometry.

The animators also worked less hours a week to save costs, and network synergy allowed the movie to be advertised across NBC stations for a cheaper price.

I think you can tell in the end that it’s a bit lesser quality animation than DRAGON or TOY STORY or SHREK, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing when it’s stylized like it was in this film. The main issue is the content and script, and I don’t think anyone would argue that the original TOY STORY is an inferior film because it was released in the early days of CGI.

I highly recommend you check out the full piece here if you have a moment. Much thanks to my mom for sending me this. Hah, yup, she does that. No chain e-mails here.

Extra Tidbit: IT'S SO FLU...ehh you know it by now.
Source: WSJ

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+7
1:10PM on 07/15/2010
The bar graphs are all wrong. Toy Story opening weekend should be more than half of the budget and for shrek it should be less than half. You would think the WSJ would know how to make a simple bar graph
The bar graphs are all wrong. Toy Story opening weekend should be more than half of the budget and for shrek it should be less than half. You would think the WSJ would know how to make a simple bar graph
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3:17PM on 07/15/2010
good point. i didnt catch that
good point. i didnt catch that
5:55PM on 07/15/2010
That was the first thing I noticed. But they just really wanted to make their point about making things "cheap."
That was the first thing I noticed. But they just really wanted to make their point about making things "cheap."
1:05PM on 07/15/2010

You mean...

"IT's SOOOOOO FLUFFFFYYYYYYY!!!!!!"

This will go down as the quote of 2010...
"IT's SOOOOOO FLUFFFFYYYYYYY!!!!!!"

This will go down as the quote of 2010...
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2:22PM on 07/15/2010
Everyone I know keeps repeating this! Lol I think it will win quote of the year as well
Everyone I know keeps repeating this! Lol I think it will win quote of the year as well
5:56PM on 07/15/2010
It's pretty much the quote that made me go see the movie. It was hilarious in every TV spot and even funnier in the actual film. IT'S SO FLUFFY!
It's pretty much the quote that made me go see the movie. It was hilarious in every TV spot and even funnier in the actual film. IT'S SO FLUFFY!
8:31PM on 07/15/2010
Girlfriend wanted me to go see this- I said no. Then I saw the tv spot with, "It's so FLUFFY!!"... and I was sold :) Saw it last weekend, thought it was really good.
Girlfriend wanted me to go see this- I said no. Then I saw the tv spot with, "It's so FLUFFY!!"... and I was sold :) Saw it last weekend, thought it was really good.
+2
2:50PM on 07/15/2010
They probably would have saved a lot more if they used stick figures.
They probably would have saved a lot more if they used stick figures.
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1:16PM on 07/15/2010
So chewbakka isn't getting his own Pixar movie then
So chewbakka isn't getting his own Pixar movie then
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1:06PM on 07/15/2010
Despicable Me was a great movie. I thought the effects did look alot more gritty or "tamed", but that is one of the things I enjoyed most about the movie.
Despicable Me was a great movie. I thought the effects did look alot more gritty or "tamed", but that is one of the things I enjoyed most about the movie.
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