Scott Stabile, the writer of The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, the preschool-targeted film that last month had the worst opening weekend in box office history, has written a lengthy post on the film’s official Facebook page to address the kid flick’s very vocal detractors.
“Even for a part-time Pollyanna like myself, an avalanche of negativity can take its toll,” says Stabile, who wishes that critics could have viewed the film “in the company of little kids, for whom the film was created.” Stabile expresses frustration with the decisive schadenfreude with which writers (including this one) approached The Oogieloves and its financial failure. “From some of the backlash our movie has provoked, you’d think we were trying to turn three-year-olds onto the crack pipe,” he writes. “I honestly don’t see how we help anyone, and definitely not artists, by being hurtful and snide in the way we discuss their work.”
While Stabile argues passionately that The Oogieloves‘ is appropriate viewing for young children (“Why do we have to expose preschoolers to anything but innocence and love in a 90-minute movie?”), he does have a sense of humor about the whole ordeal. “If more people had seen it, I would not currently be a reigning box office record-holder,” he jokes.
Check out his full statement below:
My life became more interesting last week. I woke up on Labor Day Monday to find that my first film, released just days before, was already making movie history. In fact, it had been crowned the biggest box office flop of all time. Take that, Ishtar. Delgo who? I had written a real record-breaker!
Yes, I wrote The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure. If you haven’t heard of it, you may know it by some of its pet names: train wreck, cloyingly unbearable, and akin to witnessing the end of the world. My personal favorites are peculiar concoction and odd confection. They sound like silly brothers.
Box office glory notwithstanding, the last couple of weeks since the movie opened have mostly sucked. Even for a part-time Pollyanna like myself, an avalanche of negativity can take its toll. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the critics – professional and otherwise – who took the time to watch the Oogieloves. I just wish more of them would have done it in the company of little kids, for whom the film was created. I would no sooner put a solo adult through an Oogieloves’ viewing than I would a preschooler through The King’s Speech. What would be the point? If only the New York Times had more four-year-olds on its film staff.
To be clear, this is not a “woe is me” missive, I promise. People have the right to hate our film. I just believe it’s not only possible but beneficial to criticize something constructively and respectfully, no matter how much you don’t like it. We’re talking about a kids’ film here, made with really good intentions, made to make young children smile. From some of the backlash our movie has provoked, you’d think we were trying to turn three-year-olds onto the crack pipe. I’ve never been a big fan of mean, and I honestly don’t see how we help anyone, and definitely not artists, by being hurtful and snide in the way we discuss their work. It’s not necessary, not in any way. I know we live in a hyper-judgmental twitterverse, where it can be addictive to be the most bitingly clever, but still, no one appreciates a bully.
We made the film for kids. Young kids. Preschoolers in fact. If you don’t have a kid in tow, there’s virtually no likelihood of you having fun with the Oogieloves, at least not sober. I realize there’s a firm opinion out there that a quality children’s film needs to appeal to adults as well. I don’t agree. I suspect few things that are designed for really young children truly appeal to adults. How many parents or caregivers really love to sit down with their kids for Dora the Explorer or The Backyardigans? Or for hours of go fish and peekaboo? They do it to make their kids happy. Most parents care much more about making sure whatever it is their children watch is appropriate, not adult-friendly. Isn’t that what matters? If an adult is truly enjoying something designed for preschoolers, there’s probably something not age-appropriate in there. Or that adult is simply odd, or awesome, depending on your take.
I love animated films, but I don’t view many of them as family films. Not if said family has children under six or seven years old. There’s too much violence, too much sexual innuendo, and too many villains in most of the animated features released into theaters. These movies can be scary for young kids, and sad, and confusing. Children don’t differentiate between animation and live-action the way adults do. When animated characters die or are in peril, many kids get traumatized. But don’t take my word for it; I don’t have kids. Talk to parents. Listen to parents. Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org) looks at films from the point of view of parents and children. Search for some of your favorite family films in there and read the reviews of the parents who watched them with their kids. You may be surprised to find that many popular animated titles don’t rate quite as highly with parents of young children. Great for older kids and their families, but not for the young ones.
There’s an audience out there for true G-rated movies – kids who would enjoy them and parents who want to support them. So why isn’t anybody making them? Maybe because animated films get the young audience regardless, even if the content isn’t appropriate. Parents often can’t tell from trailers what types of danger and scares might be involved in an animated feature. So they take their young kids, and then their kids get freaked out and cry. As all of us adults know, we live in a tense and troubled world. Young kids will be exposed to plenty of real-life scares and violence on TV, in video games, on the computer and in daily life. Why do we have to expose preschoolers to anything but innocence and love in a 90-minute movie? Why isn’t it enough to show a gentle world where people are kind and help one another, in hopes that young kids mimic those sentiments over fighting and jealousy and revenge? There is something valuable in love for love’s sake, and in overcoming innocent obstacles that wouldn’t otherwise result in misery or death. Young kids don’t need any of that darkness to be entertained. And frankly, they shouldn’t have to endure any of it either, not in a movie theater. I don’t think we’re talking down to our preschoolers by not forcing perilous, real-life dramas on them in a movie. I think we’re respecting their innocence. I also think we’re respecting their parents, who may not be ready to discuss death or betrayal or guns or revenge or sexuality with their four-year-olds just because those issues appear on the movie screen.
The month before the Oogieloves opened, a small group of us traveled around the country to host roundtable discussions with mom bloggers, and then screened the film for them and their children. These moms – nearly every one of them – want age-appropriate films for their kids. They want more choices. We were beyond excited by the response of the kids during the Oogieloves’ screenings. We were hoping the film would start a wave of age-appropriate and interactive movies for the youngest audience. Innocent, fun adventures that get kids out of their seats. Adults have Rocky Horror and a growing number of sing-a-long films. Why shouldn’t kids be able to have fun in the theater? Though the Oogieloves’ box office certainly won’t entice studios to jump on the pre-school, interactive bandwagon any time soon, I still hope some will recognize the need for and the value in these kinds of films. The Wiggles sell a million tickets each year to young kids and their families so they can see the popular group sing silly songs and dance on stage. It is realistic, and a lot less expensive, to make this kind of fun a reality for family moviegoers who can’t shell out hundreds of dollars for live shows.
I’m aware that many people think The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure is terrible. Weak script. Poor production value. Stupid songs. The list goes on. Most people see this film as a failure. I don’t. We set out to make something different for very young kids to have fun and cheer and sing songs and dance in a movie theater, without parents having to worry about anything violent or scary or inappropriate on the screen. That was our intention, and we stuck to it. Sure, I wish more young kids would have seen it, but I’ve watched plenty of dancing, happy, Oogie-loving children over the past month to keep me smiling for a while. Besides, if more people had seen it, I would not currently be a reigning box office record-holder. And who doesn’t like crowns?
One last thought for all you Oogie-haters out there, in hopes that you’ll channel the anger/frustration/disgust this film has sparked in you into something positive. The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure took a lot of hard work to make a reality. Getting an independent film made is difficult enough; getting it into theaters is nearly impossible. I watched Kenn (the producer) and his very, very small team work their butts off, taking on all the roles of a Hollywood studio to get the film financed, produced, marketed and distributed in more than 2000 theaters. It took more than three years from the time the movie was filmed to opening day, and they were relentless in their conviction the entire time. What they achieved is extraordinary, and goes against all odds in Hollywood, which, as I’m sure you’re aware, is no LovelyLoveville. If you’ve taken nothing positive away from the Oogieloves, let it at least be a reminder to pursue even your most far-fetched dreams, because they, too, have a chance of becoming a reality. And when that happens, well, what can I say…your life will likely change in wild and wonderful ways. I know mine has.
Admittedly, as someone who has written snarkily about the flop, hearing Stabile express genuine pride in The Oogieloves is rather convincing, but at the same time, I did actually go see the film, and I am still befuddled. Granted, I’m not a parent, but there were a few (nine, to be exact) children in my theater, and I don’t know that they were having a particularly great time either. “It was okay,” said one small girl as she shuffled out of the screening. About three of the children danced along for the first half of the movie, but no one was getting out of their seat by the film’s end.
What do you think of the Stabile’s response?
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