Titan A.E.

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  • Directed By: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman
  • Written By: Ben Edlund, John August, Joss Whedon
  • Release Date: June 16, 2000
  • Domestic Distributor: FOX
  • Cast: Matt Damon, Bill Pullman, John Leguizamo

Box Office Info:
Budget: $85 million Financed by: FOX
Domestic Gross: $22,753,426 Overseas Gross: $14,001,208

Titan A.E. was the second theatrical feature from Fox Animation Studios after the successful Anastasia (1997).  Titan A.E. was to be a cutting edge hybrid of traditional 2D animation and CG and went into development with Art Vitello as director.  He was eventually fired and replaced by Anastasia directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman.  Talking about taking over directing duties and the difficulties that followed, Goldman said, “The problem was that for 18 months the film was in production with another director and producer. They had spent $30M and ended up with little except quite a bit of pre-production artwork.  We had to start over and were given a $55M budget to get it done. The schedule was condensed to 19 months, in order to meet the budget requirements, plus we had to battle with the creative execs at Fox as we raced to the finish line. Not fun filmmaking.”

The budget for Titan A.E. was $85 million, which included the aborted development costs and FOX fully financed.  With 2D animation on its way to the graveyard and the burgeoning investment into 3D animation, FOX apparently gave up on traditional animation part way through the production of Titan A.E.  Back in 1994, FOX constructed a 66,000-square-foot animation studio in Phoenix, Arizona, which produced Anastasia and in February 2000, a few months before the release of Titan A.E., Fox fired two-thirds of the 320 employees.

In late 1999, when Titan A.E. was being touted as a potential blockbuster, FOX partnered with numerous corporations for tie-ins.  Hasbro handled a toy line, there was Dark Horse Comics, Penguin Books and clothiers Cranky Boy, Changes and Channel K.  Even with the additional exposure and a pricey marketing campaign — as the release date of June 16, 2000 grew closer, tracking was weak for the movie.

Former Disney animators Don Bluth and Gary Goldman also had to deal with their former conglomerate employer trying to crush Titan A.E., something they had experienced with Anastasia.  Disney was doing their best to monopolize the animation market and had re-issued The Little Mermaid on the same date that Anastasia opened and while that movie did turn a profit, it was hurt from the successful re-release.  Disney then pulled the same stunt with Fantasia 2000.  Starting on January 1, 2000 Fantasia 2000 had a four month exclusive IMAX run that ended in late April and then Disney scheduled a standard issue 35mm run in wide release on the same day as Titan A.E.

Titan A.E. received mixed reviews and bowed against Shaft and Boy And Girls.  It was dead on arrival with $9,376,845 — placing #5 for the weekend led by Shaft.  Fantasia 2000 did not even crack the top 10.  One week after the disastrous opening FOX Chairman Bill Mechanic was fired by Rupert Murdoch.  The relationship between the two had been strained since Mechanic strongly championed the box office failure Fight Club in 1999 and Murdoch hated that movie and Titan A.E. ended the Mechanic era at FOX.

The following weekend, the pic took a 60.2% nosedive to $3,735,300.  That Monday FOX shuttered the Phoenix animation studio.  Titan A.E. bombed out of release with just $22,753,426.

The film proved to be a financial disaster overseas as well, returning only $14 million in receipts.

In an investor conference call, Murdoch said $184 million in News Corp. operating profits from TV and newspapers, were down 14% from $214 million a year earlier, because of the loss from Titan A.E.  FOX declined to specify the exact write-down on the movie, but analysts estimated the loss from $70 million to as high as $120 million.  FOX also wrote down $12 million in charges from closing the animation studio.

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