Rob Schneider

Is Lionsgate the Worst Animation Distributor?

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

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.

The Other Side of Animation 40: Norm of the North: THE WORST MOVIE OF 2016


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

I had a multitude of ideas on how to open up this review of today’s film. I could have gone on a monologue about how you should never go to theaters in January unless it’s an Oscar-nominated film or a really good indie film, how Hollywood keeps greenlighting animated films that are obviously not up to DreamWorks, Pixar, Disney, Warner Bros, and even Sony Animation standards, because they think the movie-going audience is stupid, how Lionsgate keep shooting themselves in the foot, because they keep distributing badly animated films, how this makes Hollywood look worse, and you get my point. Norm of the North is a prime example of what is wrong with Hollywood. Directed by Trevor Hall as his first time directing a movie (You have my condolences), and created by Assemblage Entertainment, Splash Entertainment, and was distributed by the same studio that put out the Alpha & Omega series, Lionsgate. Do you know what Splash Entertainment has made? They are making more straight-to-video Alpha & Omega sequels.  And you know what Assemblage has made? They made some of the straight-to-dvd Swan Princess films. I know you should always give a movie a chance, but when the writing is on the wall, and the marketers know they have no way to conceal it, then there is no way to argue that this film is in anyway good. I feel badly for the actors involved in this, and even worse for the poor individuals who decided to make sure Norm of the North got its funding budget paid off. I mean, really people? I know sometimes you just need to get out of the house and go see a movie, but why didn’t you just go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens or something better during January until Kung Fu Panda 3 came out? So, if I haven’t made it clear enough, how bad is Norm of the North? Well, let’s find out.

Norm of the North stars a polar bear named Norm, voiced by Rob Schneider. He has the ability to somehow speak to humans. Norm sticks out from everyone, because he doesn’t kill seals, which does bring in the question of how has he survived this long without killing a seal. Anyway, a generic greedy rich individual named Mr. Greene, voiced by Ken Jeong, wants to make the arctic a livable human environment because, yeah, people really want to live in a frozen wasteland that’s incredibly dark at different times of the year, and have polar bears and freezing temperatures at every time of the day. It is up to Norm to get to New York City and try to stop Mr. Greene’s plans!

Oh boy, oh boy, where do I start with this film? First off, it has the quality and animation of a straight-to-bargain-bin DVD film. Heck, it was supposed to be a straight-to-DVD film in the first place, but some person who I hope is fired and ashamed of their decision now, thought they would get the ultimate amount of profit by putting it into theaters. Because, you know, if Lionsgate thought they would make money off this flaming pile of putrid waste, they would have released it during a month that wasn’t January. Heck, if people were patient enough, they could have seen Kung Fu Panda 3. I know it meant waiting another two weeks from Norm’s January 15th release to Kung Fu’s January 29th release, but screw it, it would have made sure that you didn’t waste your money on a film that looks horrible. Seriously, I can’t put it into words at how horrible this film looks. Its textures are low quality, the animation is jerky, the character designs are sloppy, some creatures look horrifying, and it doesn’t look movie theater-quality. Say what you will about some of the mediocre animated films that come out each year, like this year’s Ratchet & Clank, Angry Birds, or any of the bad DreamWorks films, at least they look movie quality. You remember last year’s Hotel Transylvania 2 and Minions? They might not be the best movies, but they look movie theater quality. Heck, Minions had some really good CGI, and that movie was a cynical cash-grab! The human designs in Norm of the North look like they were designed by first month animation students. They look just as good as those horrifying humans you see in The Hero of Color City. And yes, now that I have mentioned that film, I need to now review it. Nothing about Norm of the North is theater quality enough. Even the editing is just painful, with that cheap cross dissolve that ends each scene of the movie. There is no reason this film had to be in theaters. Seriously, Hollywood, if you can’t make a film look as good as something from Illumination or Pixar, then don’t put it in theaters, or else you look like money-grubbing fools.

So, what about the characters and story? Well, the characters are all forgettable and stupid. Like, seriously stupid. One girl just wants to run up and hug a polar bear cub, which would pretty much get her killed in real life, since you know, running up to a bear is a smart thing to do. Heck, the logic of the characters is so questionable, that it constantly punches holes into the story that is already pretty full of holes. For example, why does this obviously bad guy, Mr. Greene want to make condos in the arctic? Has he ever lived there? It’s a frozen wasteland, and making a living there is already brutal! Did he not see 30 Days of Night? It gets pretty dark there for a good chunk of the year. Oh, and it’s also in a place where there are bears! Yeah, because when I wake up with frostbite, the first thing I want to see is a bear outside my door. Also, how does Norm get to speak to humans? What made him want to start having human tendencies? Why does he want to be king of the arctic? Why is there even a plot about being the king of the arctic? Why does he not want to eat a seal, when in reality, he would have starved to death? How does no one even remotely know of a giant polar bear walking around New York? I mean, I know New York is its own zoo, full of large loud individuals, but come on! And did no one see the obviously bad guy moment happen in the 3rd act? Why is there a pointless love interest that gets, like, three lines in the entire movie? Did anyone try with this movie?

And really, that’s the biggest problem with this trainwreck, no one tried. No one put the effort into making a comprehensible story, or to make the characters worth investing into. I mean, there are so many plot points that are thrown in there because other films do them, without knowing how to execute them. I know this stuff gets brought up a lot when a film has similar/familiar elements that we have seen done hundreds of times, but we don’t care if they have been done hundreds of times, because they were executed well. None of the plot elements are done well here, and are just more glaring than ever. They just made this movie because the studios that made it needed a job, and Lionsgate, for one reason or another, wanted more animated films, because, you know, you want to follow up your critically acclaimed, Shaun the Sheep Movie with the worst animated film of 2016. Want to know how aggravating and hard this film was to watch? I paused at most six times to watch other shows and work on other articles. Yeah, watching Norm of the North was painfully tedious work. A movie shouldn’t be tough to sit through.

And before anyone says that I and so many others are being way too hard on this movie, there are stories of kids walking around and bored with the movie inside the movie theater. Yes, when kids for this supposedly ‘made for kids’ film are bored out of their wits, then that is a big problem. Just because a film is made for kids doesn’t mean you can’t hold a standard to it. I am so freaking sick and tired of this excuse, because there are so many great animated films coming out every year that destroy that notion. For example, let’s take a look at the films that came out here in the states that break the notion that kids films can’t have standards. You have Inside Out, When Marnie Was There, Zootopia, Big Hero 6, The Box Trolls, How to Train your Dragon 2, The Wind Rises, Wolf Children, Ernest & Celestine, Song of the Sea, Shaun the Sheep Movie, The Prophet, Boy and the World, and April and the Extraordinary World. These all have high standards in terms of stories, animation, characters, and they all make sure not to treat the audience like they’re stupid. You know, like how Norm of the North is. Every film, no matter who it’s made for, needs to be held to a high standard. You can’t just brush it off and be like “oh it’s a kid’s film, it can get a pass”. That’s just lazy and condescending, which results in lethargic animated films that only cater to the lowest common denominator like Norm of the North and The Wild Side.

Now then, with all this vile hatred for this movie, is there really one good element of the film? Well, as odd as it might sound, Rob Schneider and some of the other cast members are not the worst things about the movie. Sure, they aren’t great, but I can at least say they are trying with the mediocre material. Granted, I haven’t seen a film where Schneider was great all around, but still, I respect an actor that can at least try to make it work when the situation doesn’t really give you room to, you know, be good.

This is easily one of the most cynical, disgusting, spiteful, aggravating, and downright worst animated films that I have ever seen. Heck, I’ll one up that, it’s one of the worst animated films of all time, and I don’t say that lightly! You might think I’m saying that for comedic effect, but I’m not. Just come talk to me in real life, and I will show you how much I hate this movie. It might not be the number one worst movie of all time, but it’s easily in my top three. Even Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return and Cool World are not in the top five worst animated films I have ever seen. At least with those two films you can laugh at how horribly put-together, unintentionally creepy, and lazy Legends of Oz is, and how grating, but visually interesting Cool World is. Norm of the North has none of those factors. This is just a pure example, along with many other films, of why the Hollywood system is busted. What’s even sadder is that Lionsgate, the distributor, has not learned their lesson, since they have two more trainwrecks coming out next month and later this year with The Wild Side, and The Adventures of Panda Warrior! I think that whoever made this film get into more theaters than amazing films like April and the Extraordinary World, Boy and the Beast, and The Green Room needs to be fired, and then ridiculed for doing so! Avoid this animated film at all costs. Just don’t even think about purchasing it for a bad movie night. This movie just enrages me so much, that I need to go back to reviewing stuff I love. Here then, Norm of the North is out, and next time Castle of Cagliostro will be in. Thanks for reading. I pray to you that you do not watch this horrible movie, even as a bad movie night film, and see you all next time!

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

Hit or Miss Trailer Predictions: Norm of the North


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz for more of my work. If you want to, consider supporting my Patreon on patreon.com/camseyeview. Hope you enjoy the article!)

Welcome to Hit or Miss Trailer Predictions. This is a series of first impression articles covering the newest trailers on animated films, and breaking down the good or bad that the trailer offers.

For whatever reason, animation studios want to take that next big leap into making  fully featured films, even if they really, and I mean really, don’t have the man power, talent, technology, writers, or budget to do so. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when you see something like the trailer for Splash Entertainment’s Norm of the North, directed by Trevor Wall, and set to release on January 15th, 2016, what else are you going to think but “boy, this looks terrible” and other probably harsher variations of that same comment? This is probably going to be one of the biggest flops of 2016. Sure, it’s not fair to judge a film entirely on its trailer, but, well, just watch the trailer. Let’s begin!

The Animation

Good gravy, the animation in this film is horrible. It’s cheap, stilted, and the movements of all the characters don’t look natural. I know this is being made by a smaller studio, but that doesn’t excuse it for having bad animation. I don’t think this would be such a big deal if this was straight to DVD, but it’s going to be released in theaters. Yeah, the same format that you see Inside Out, Kung Fu Panda, Frozen, The LEGO Movie, and Shrek 2, apparently needed something that looks like CGI from 1996 in 2016. Even then, if this film did come out during 1996, it still would have looked terrible compared to the original Toy Story. Another big problem with the animation is how none of the voices sync up with the lip movements. It looks like something from an early Godzilla dub.

The Story

Basically, Rob Schneider plays the main character named Norm. Norm is a polar bear that doesn’t want to kill and eat meat, which would pretty much have him die of starvation if this was real life. In this story, humans end up coming to Antarctica. Apparently they want to move there because a corporate sleazebag wants to make one of the coldest parts on earth a living society. It is up to Norm and his three lemmings (lemmings don’t live in Antarctica, by the way) to go to New York and convince the humans not to move there. First off, no one, and I mean, no one wants to move to a frozen wasteland.  You can put as many mini-malls there as you want, no one is realistically going to move there. I shouldn’t have to nitpick the plot elements from a trailer, but I can’t help it!  The set-up for the film bothers me so much because of how boring, soulless, and terrible it all is.  Even more confusing, where the heck did the seagull in the trailer get glasses, and the caribou get a full-on poker table and deck of cards? Why does the bear and his lemming friends who are basically the Penguins from Madagascar need to be dancers in New York? Who is thinking that Antarctica is a great living area? Are people in New York not afraid that a large polar bear is walking around? Why the heck is there an obviously forced environmental message? Again, if I’m picking apart the trailer, that does not bode well for your movie!

Art Direction

The art direction is ugly. It’s so poorly designed that it looks like an unfinished version of the Despicable Me human designs. Nothing looks good, and seems incredibly cheap. Heck, a majority of the terrible-looking GOYA award-winning films that aren’t really that good to begin with, are much better-looking than Norm of the North. Either the studio didn’t have the budget, the technology, or they lacked the talent to make this film attractive.

Humor

Remember how bad the puns/jokes were in The Nut Job? They are comedy gold compared to the jokes that you could catch before they were thrown at you in the trailer. It feels like, once again, the writers thought of the bare minimum of what kids would find funny, instead of having clever writing that you would find in films like Up and Inside Out. I have talked about this before in my Tad the Lost Explorer review, write your films to include everyone! Don’t alienate the adults/teens that are probably taking the children to see this!

Acting Talent

Rob Schneider is the main character. I could just stop there, and I pretty much should, but I can’t. Schneider has never been box office gold. Why did they think that he could be leading role material? Personally, he has never been funny or that great of an actor. I am sure he is a nice guy, and I’m sure he is doing this because of his controversial tweet he made last year that lost him his State Farm gig, but man, he does not have the comedic talent to make this film good. Speaking of other actors, why did famous comedians Gabriel Iglesias and Ken Jeong think this was a good project? Heck, both Iglesias and Jeong are funny and popular individuals. Why not have those two as the main characters?  Though, if we are going to be honest, no actor can save this movie.

Any Cynical Comments?

A trend that we have seen in a lot of bad animated films is where they use a popular but over-played  year-old pop song for marketing. It’s an even bigger sign when you see that the song doesn’t even fit the film’s tone. For this example, the trailer for Norm of the North use Talyor Swift’s Shake it Off. Not only does it not fit, but it makes the film look…confused. Is it an environmental film? Or is it about Norm showing that standing out is okay, and just ignoring what the haters have to say?

Got anything good to say?

Nope. I’ve got nothing good to say about this movie.

Prediction: Miss/Critical/Financial Bomb

Yeah, I have no faith in this film doing anything, but bombing. I wouldn’t have been so harsh if this was a direct-to-DVD film. It still would be terrible as a movie, but at least the poor quality made sense. Sadly, this film is coming to the big screen. This means it needs to be up-to-par with movies I have mentioned throughout this article. Just because you want to be on the big screen doesn’t mean you should be! This film has no right to be in theaters. I can’t believe Liongate, the distributer, thinks this is a film that warrants your time.  I mean, they would think it’s worth your time because they put its release in January, which we all know is the best time to put any movie in theaters (note my sarcasm). Basically, Norm of the North will be the reason why no one goes to theaters in January.