Bad news for animation fans here in the States: Cartoon Network has canceled Genndy Tartakovsky’s Sym-Bionic Titan, not for low ratings, but because of merchandising:
“Genddy’s moved on to Sony Pictures Animation. Titan got competitive ratings with other action shows, but what shut it down was it didn’t have enough toys connected to it. If you don’t have the, the studios don’t want to renew for another season.”
This echoes a point I had made over a week ago, just around the time the Japan earthquake hit. People are under the assumption that Hollywood is in the movie business. It's not. The corporate conglomerates who own the Hollywood studios aren't in the movie business, they're in the toy business. And this is never more true than when you're dealing with animation.
Remember that Pixar's stock price took a hit because of UP, not because it was a box office disappointment or a failure with the critics, but because 8-14 year old boys weren't about to swarm the toy stores of America in search of Carl Frederickson dolls.
George Lucas is always the guy who gets blamed for Why Today's Movies All Stink, because Star Wars muscled out the complex, personal movies of the 1970s and ushered in a wave of popcorn escapism. That's not really the case. What really changed the business of making movies, the new paradigm shift, wasn't Star Wars itself, but the mountain of Star Wars toys and merchandise. That's where Lucas made his billions. And once Hollywood was gobbled up by conglomerates, the game was over.
This is why you get the same fake, formulaic junk out of movies and television today. This is why you see the same five movies being made over and over. This is why animation in this country, for the most part, stinks. Pixar, as always, has been the exception to the rule, but have you noticed that even they have now succumed to the game? Three sequels in rapid order? Cars merchandising pulls in $2 billion a year for Disney.
How much money from merchandising does Studio Ghibli make in America. Zero. You can't put an Ohmu stampede on a Happy Meal box.