Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sinbad and the BIG MacGuffin

Kevin writes:

I mentioned previously that 'Sinbad - Sailor of the Seven Seas' might be my least favorite film among those I worked on. I’ve always been pretty good at separating the work from the product — I loved working on 'Sinbad', and the production was a great experience. I’d been promoted, I was assisting amazing animators (James Baxter and Jakob Jensen), I was getting scenes of my own, the directors and production staff were cool, I was hanging with a great posse of junior animators, the food was free and tasty, life was good all around. But the film? Not so much.

I never really bought into the premise of the film, and ultimately neither did the audience. I could go on at length about some of the story and character failings, but I’ll lay out my thoughts on one major problem. It had the biggest MacGuffin in the history of film. Not just a big MacGuffin, but a MacGuffin that needed to be really important to the story. The first rule of MacGuffins is that they are the thing that the characters care about, but the audience doesn’t.

Alfred Hitchcock is usually credited with coming up with the concept of the MacGuffin . . .

Click the link above for the rest of the post.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Exactly. A MacGuffin needs to be something easily understood (or ignored) by the audience like a bomb in a suitcase or a body in a trunk or an important document, but the most important thing about a MacGuffin is it can be easily replaced by another MacGuffin - just as you said.
If I recall the BoP in Sinbad wasn't even consitent about what it could or couldn't do and what effect it had on the world. If this one thing had been changed to a simple MacGuffin then the film would've improved immediately by at least 2 stars. It syill would've had problems, but with less pretzel logic needed to explain the BoP more screentime could've been devoted to more important issues.

Buzz Potamkin said...

Reminds me of "The Black Cauldron" - should've followed the pig.

Anonymous said...

Sinbad is right up there with Prince of Egypt and El Dorado as films made with little respect for the audience. Prince of Egypt was nothing more than a bland pagaent. El Dorado didn't know WHAT it wanted to do/say. And Sinbad was a complete mess from top to bottom. The horse movie was simplistic and just boring (and too many songs--all of them bad and redundant).

Dreamworks hasn't made a great animated film until recently, with Kung Foo Panda. And even that was a mild effort, to be sure. But at least it was consistant.

Anonymous said...

let me guess... a Pixie that LOVES everything Pixar does?

Floyd Norman said...

Well, clearly not everything.

At least they know how to tell a story. Even when they stumble, they're still better than everybody else.

Anonymous said...

So, you're saying that even Pixar's weakest film (Bug's Life/Monster Inc) is better than DW's best film (Shrek/KFP)?

Geez, nothing like a little bias there.

Anonymous said...

Well, Pixar's films are more sincere, to be sure.

I think Dreamworks has pushed a lot of the artwork of animation a bit, but the stories just don't measure up, and pretty pictures alone do not a movie make.

As UGLY as Shrek was, it was funny, if pretty forgettable.

Steve Hulett said...

You're forgetting a Tinseltown truism:

"In Hollywood, a good film is a film that makes a lot of money."

Anonymous said...

"As UGLY as Shrek was, it was funny, if pretty forgettable"

Yes. it was ugly, but unforgetable? not at all. In fact more people remember Shrek fondly than most of the Pixar films. Other than Toy Story 1 & 2, Incredibles and Nemo (and possibly Cars) I suspect the average filmgoer would find it easier to name all seven dwarfs than it would be to name the other Pixar films. Except the current one being markete Pixar everywhere, of course.
They might be more sincere to you (whatever that means), but that doesn't make them memorable.
If you want to be solely a pundit for Pixar feel free, but if you want to be a real filmmaker then you need to recognize the fact that even without all the bells and whistles that Shrek is still a nearly perfect story story and in many ways better then many of the Pixar stories.
I'm not suggesting that many of the other DW films aren't rife with story problems, but when you start ragging on Shrek all you're suggesting is that you have a bias.

Anonymous said...

Shrek was a turd with lots of yelling and gimmickry...a Punch and Judy show. Monsters was actually a fully rounded, well thought out story that required no pop references. You must be either biased or high. All Katzenberg requires to get box office is an enticing movie poster and empty promises and he knows it(KFP). That being said..the Japanese movies (Spirited Away, etc) kick EVERYBODY'S ass because they don't pander to suburbanites...they INNOVATE.

Anonymous said...

"That being said..the Japanese movies (Spirited Away, etc) kick EVERYBODY'S ass because they don't pander to suburbanites...they INNOVATE"
It's a good thing for the industry you're not in a postion to make any serious decisions. We'd all be out of work

Anonymous said...

"Yes. it was ugly, but unforgetable? not at all. In fact more people remember Shrek fondly than most of the Pixar films."

Um...no. Easily proven. It was a passable popcorn movie, but with zero resonance. Yappy and in-sincere.

Anonymous said...

Wow! ReallY? Go for it...can't wait to see this proof you speak of....

Anonymous said...

Shrek: "Oh the pretty girl is really an ogre too." What crap. Cheap bullshit to prop up a string of gags. Compare that with. "Slick characters convince him to take the easy road. He ends up on an island of indulgence where he eventually turns into a jackass and has to work for other people with his free will a thing of the past." Now that's a story. Note to Dreamworks...quit relying on those pasty career dorks and get your stories from classic authors. Cha-ching!

Anonymous said...

So where's your proof that Shrek isn't beloved my many? If your argument is that you don't what Shrek is about and you'r comparing it to Pinnochio (for some odd reason - I thought you were arguing Pixar made all it's films memorable) I guess you lose the debate from lack of evidence.
Ka-ching yourself

Anonymous said...

I don't see any comments arguing that "all pixar films are memorable."

But they ARE more "sincere." And far more memorable than drek. I mean shrek.

And better looking, too.

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