Edictive Film Production and filmmaking

One of the most successful innovations in film to this day is from 1937. Back then, Walt Disney made the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs even though the studio moguls told him it would flop. They couldn’t imagine a children’s film would rake in the dollars.

Turns out the market for the movie were far, far larger than anyone imagined. Besides being the first film to gross $100 million, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first with an official soundtrack. Hit records such as “Some Day My Prince Will Come” fueled the movie’s rise. So did the kids themselves; as it happens, kids love to see the same cartoon over and over. Snow White ended up being re-released time and again.

The film also had highly recognizable characters such as the Wicked Witch and the dwarfs who could be licensed and turned into toys, theme-park characters, and so on. This concept was a gold mine for Hollywood, and remains one to this day. Technology has only made it easier to expand the use of licensable properties. Contemporary children’s films that have turned into blockbuster enterprises attracting all members of the family include the Toy Story and Harry Potter franchises, along with Pirates of the Caribbean and Shrek (the latter of which is now also a lucrative Broadway musical).

The magic formula that dates back to Disney is still alive and very well, with only a few modern updates. Here are its main ingredients:

  1. The film takes its inspiration from a story originally intended for kids, whether that’s a fairytale, cartoon, comic book, serial or even a theme-park ride. The main character is a child or adolescent.
  2. The film features a youth who is uncertain or weak, but learns to become a brave hero.
  3. To ensure the movie is rated nothing stronger than PG-13, the story’s relationships are tame (or even platonic), with no nudity or sexual situations. Any fights or conflicts must be light on violence and blood.
  4. The film must contain characters who will make good toys or game characters, and there must be a happy ending, with the hero victorious.
  5. Animation, either traditional or digital, is used to create larger-than-life settings, action scenes and otherworldly forces.

While this magic formula has remained much the same over the decades, the hero-villain principle has altered dramatically. In the old days, filmmakers had tried-and-true bad guys in Nazis, KGB agents, Communists, serial killers and Mafia bigwigs. Now those villains just seem tired.

Currently, with World War II and the Cold War long behind, Hollywood is becoming increasingly fond of financiers as bad guys. The big oil companies were the baddies in the thriller Syriana, and a mining corporation was the villain in Avatar. Even the 1962 classic film The Manchurian Candidate, which featured scheming Soviet agents as the villains, was remade in 2004 with corporations running the nefarious plan to kidnap an American soldier and brainwash him.

Why has Hollywood’s concept of the villain changed so much? No one wants to offend a potential international market for a film by creating, for example, Chinese or Arab villains. Far safer bad guys are zombies, Martians and giant bugs. It’s doubtful that these creatures will get their feelings hurt.