Angry Birds Essay

Intro: I wrote this paper for the best class I’ve ever taken, Media Industries with Dr. Christine Becker (who is wonderful). The movie was not a smash hit when it finally came out… Disappointing. About the game, it was a HUGE deal. There were so many people complaining about how addicting the game was, the creator of the game felt guilty for “ruining lives” (he didn’t ruin anyone’s lives – their lack of self discipline ruined them). THEN people sold phones with the app still on it for crazy amounts of money.

_____________________

Ashley Knipp, Dr. Becker, 1 March 2015, Media Industries

Angry Birds: Nested in a Wad of Cash

Another gaming app swept the nation’s smartphones in 2010 as Angry Birds joined the list of one-month-wonder apps including Flappy Bird, Trivia Crack and Words with Friends.[1] Angry Birds was released in 2009 by the Finnish game studio Rovio.[2] The game has been downloaded over 2.5 billion times since then and has pushed Rovio’s expansion into many other industries such as merchandising, television, and even film.[3] Angry Birds began production on January 4th of this year and is set to open in theatres as a children’s animated feature on July 1st, 2016 with stars such as Jason Sudeikis as the famous, black-eye browed fowl, Red.[4] The creation of this children’s animated feature is a classic tale of an industry mandate to get the most money out of what works, making Angry Birds a safe bet for Sony Pictures and Rovio Entertainment because as time goes on, so does proof of audience interest.[5]

When the original Angry Birds app was released in Finland in December 2009, it rose to the top of the Finnish charts almost overnight.[6] A couple months later, Apple featured Angry Birds, bringing the game to number one on the UK and later US charts in March of 2010.[7] Soon after, Angry Birds became the bestselling gaming application of all time and still holds that record. Though these are impressive numbers, the mobile app industry thrives on temporary hits. Everyone plays the same game for a little while and makes a lot of hullabaloo until the next game comes around, leaving the one-hit-wonder in the dust. Rovio knew it needed more to keep Angry Birds afloat, and expanded its consumer products line which now provides almost half of the company’s revenue.[8] Stuffed animals, toys, watches, t-shirts and mugs are all sold online and in stores, raking in more cash for Rovio as well as increased familiarity between the consumers and the franchise.[9] In an article published by Variety, Dwight Caines, president of theatrical marketing for Sony Pictures said this of the game’s fanbase: ““With two and a half billion gamers around the world, Angry Birds is one of those brands that can drive massive fan engagement.”[10] Sony’s Chairman and CEO and Co-Chairman Amy Pascal sent out a joint statement noting “There are few titles out there that bring this kind of excitement, brand awareness and built-in audience to the table.”[11] The “built-in” audience is the key phrase, here. The Angry Birds audience made industry professionals salivate at the sheer money-making potential.

Encouraged by this impressive audience, Rovio began the earliest stages of development for the Angry Birds film in 2011 which by 2012 included producer John Cohen, who recently worked on the animated hit Despicable Me.[12] Rovio soon upgraded to Rovio Entertainment, expanding its business to publishing, licensing, and promising Angry Birds franchise television and film in the future.[13]

The future was quickly realized when Rovio Entertainment brought its new animated short cartoon, Angry Birds Toons to the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas,[14] and premiered the weekly television series on Rovio’s own apps, select lesser known VOD providers, and the Teletoons network in Canada in March of 2013.[15] It was at this time that Sony and Rovio began working together on the Angry Birds entertainment creations as the two worked together to produce the show.[16] Pre-production for the film ensued as Sony Pictures Entertainment officially entered into a deal with Rovio entertainment and won exclusive worldwide distribution rights for the film.[17] At this point, it was announced that the film would be made with computer generated animation and constructed for a 3D format.[18] During pre-production, it was obvious that the Angry Birds brand continued to ensure brand loyalty and excitement when Angry Birds Toons announced a second season,[19] likely because it yielded over 1 billion views in the first seven months since its debut.[20] The TV show is not only an additional source of revenue and brand recognition for the franchise, but it also establishes the lead characters and main narrative for the film. Red and Bomb, and Chuck all enjoy adventures while fighting off pigs.[21] Since the TV show and the film share a target audience, the children comfortable with the characters and plot of the animated cartoon shorts are becoming familiar with the characters for the later-coming film.

Considering that Rovio Entertainment also announced that it would be financing the film, it is of the utmost importance that Angry Birds and its subsequent offspring make as much money as possible. Little can be found about specific financing strategies for the film, but the financials released by Rovio Entertainment in April of 2013 showed that the company’s net profits halved because of internal investment in new games, its ToonsTV cartoons network, and the Angry Birds film.[22]

The international success enjoyed by the Angry Birds franchise is another key element to the security of its profit margin. The original game was an immediate success across countries, the television show was picking up steam, and in 2013 Rovio released new spinoffs of the Angry Birds game such as its Star Wars Saga which nabbed spots at the top of the charts in over 100 countries.[23] International success is essential for films to reach sufficient profits, and Angry Birds certainly seems to have international viewership in the bag. The key to its near immediate acceptance is its high concept nature. The game’s simplicity is truly mind-numbing; just throw a circular, leg-less, wing-less bird at a stack of objects in order to knock out a circular pig. Cartoon violence has been a staple in entertainment far before the days of Pop Eye and The Three Stooges, so it’s no surprise that the TV show is easily received by children all over the world. Though Blanca Juti, Rovio chief marketing officer, humorously revealed some changes to the character design in the film, “We heard limbs and dialogue were all the rage in modern animation so we went all in. Not just one, but all of our characters have legs and wings! Except for the pigs, that is.”[24]

In October of 2013 the above-the-line heads of the Angry Birds film were announced as a team of professionals with plenty of experience in children’s animation. Sony Pictures’ Press Release mentioned John Cohen and revealed Catherine Winder as an additional producer, executive producer David Maisel, and direction by Fergal Reilly who worked on Sony’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Hotel Transylvania and Clay Kaytis who recently worked for Disney animating for Frozen, Wreck it Ralph, Bolt, and the Oscar-winning short “Paperman.”[25] The script will be penned by Jon Vitti, former writer for The Office.[26] Not much has been released in terms of the script. The secrecy surrounding the plot is nothing new, considering the amount of plot changes that happen in the production and even post-production process. Assuming that the film will be in part based on the television series which is based on the original game, the plot probably involves the protagonists, the birds, involved in some conflict over the antagonists, the pigs, stealing the birds’ eggs. With production only beginning January of this year, [27] any more speculation is impractical.

Angry Birds announced they would “nest” in Vancouver in February of 2014, naming Sony Pictures Imageworks as the primary animation house for the film.[28] Housing production out of California, and out of Los Angeles in particular, is referred to as runaway production. Sony’s move to Vancouver can certainly fall under such an umbrella, since runaway production is becoming more and more common due to the monetary benefits the strategy has. The entire Angry Birds project clearly has a profit-maximizing, commercial mandate, so it is not surprising that Sony and Rovio set up shop up north. Like most areas large production endeavors squat in, Canada seems to be hoping for the economic boost that comes with making a film within its borders. British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said in a statement, “Rovio and Sony Pictures Imageworks have shown their faith in Vancouver — and that will lead to more opportunities and more jobs.”[29]

Finally, the cast list was announced last October with all the trades blowing up about Jason Sudeikis’s role as Red (See Appendix).[30] Supporting actors include Josh Gad (Olaf from Frozen) as Chuck, Danny McBride as Bomb, Maya Rudolph as Matilda, Bill Hader as the pigs, and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones) as the Mighty Eagle.[31] In addition to the list, a handful more quips from Saturday Night Live alums are planned to be part of the fun. Considering that screenplay writer Jon Vitti was also once a writer for SNL,[32] this might be something of a reunion. Other voices to appear include Keegan-Michael Key, Tony Hale, Cristela Alonzo, Ike Barinholtz, Jillian Bell, and Youtube stars Smosh (Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla), adding to the notion that this film is built and thrives on the digital age.[33] Though no definitive salary information has been formally announced, Jason Sudeikis’s net worth was calculated at $10 million, and analysts estimated his salary to be somewhere near $1.4 million for Angry Birds.[34]

As a children’s film, there is ample opportunity to draw parents and therefore families to a film if the parents are familiar with the voices of the animated characters. Jason Sudeikis is a widely loved SNL personality as well as a mature-comedy film star who is a strategic candidate to play the lead. Child audiences will connect to the fluffy red bird, more mature audiences will enjoy comfort and familiarity with an SNL alum-dotted cast, and hopefully the script will make audiences young and old laugh.

Deciding to create so many traditional, physical products based off of a free smartphone app truly highlights the unique, futuristic nature of the entire Angry Birds franchise. Using free, internet participation in a marketable concept is certainly a new way to create media content with somewhat predictable financial results. Whether this is a breakthrough or a breakdown of the industry, I can’t say, but Sony and Rovio’s Angry Birds absolutely take advantage of the safety nets of proof of concept and brand loyalty, and who could blame them for pursuing their mandate? The answer is everyone who wants high quality entertainment and doesn’t expect it to come from the app store.

 

[1] Rigney, Ryan. “The Origins of Angry Birds.” PCWorld. October 2, 2010. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://www.pcworld.com/article/206831/the_origins_of_angry_birds.html.

[2] Ibid.

[3] McNary, Dave. “‘Angry Birds’ Movie Casts Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Maya Rudolph.” Variety. October 1, 2014. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://variety.com/2014/film/news/angry-birds-movie-jason-sudeikis-josh-gad-peter-dinklage-bill-hader-1201318330/.

[4] “Angry Birds.” Movie Insider. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://www.movieinsider.com/m9249/angry-birds/.

[5] Ibid.

[6] See Note 1

[7] Ibid.

[8] Dredge, Stuart. “Angry Birds Publisher Rovio Reveals Its Growth Stalled in 2013.” The Guardian. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/28/angry-birds-rovio-financial-results-2013.

[9] “Rovio.” Welcome to .com! Accessed March 2, 2015. http://www.rovio.com/.

[10] See Note 3

[11] Kroll, Justin. “‘Angry Birds’ Pic Makes It Home at Sony; Sets July 1, 2016 Bow.” Variety. May 15, 2013. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://variety.com/2013/film/news/angry-birds-pic-makes-it-home-at-sony-sets-july-1-2016-bow-1200481536/.

[12] See Note 1

[13] See Note 11

[14] Holdsworth, Nick. “Rovio Flies ‘Angry Birds Toons'” Variety. February 27, 2013. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://variety.com/2013/digital/news/rovio-flies-angry-birds-toons-820277/.

[15] See Note 11

[16] Ibid.

[17] Abromavitch, Seth. “Sony to Bring ‘Angry Birds’ to Big Screen in 2016.” The Hollywood Reporter. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/sony-bring-angry-birds-big-523315.

[18] See Note 11

[19] Holdsworth, Nick. “Rovio Announces Second Season of ‘Angry Birds Toons’ Series.” The Hollywood Reporter. September 25, 2013. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/rovio-announces-second-season-angry-636435.

[20] Seikaly, Andrea. “‘Angry Birds’ Pic Nests in Vancouver.” Variety. February 14, 2014. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://variety.com/2014/film/games/angry-birds-pic-nests-in-vancouver-1201104828/.

[21] See Note 14

[22] See Note 8

[23] “October 9, 2013 – Rovio | Press Release | Sony Pictures.” October 9, 2013 – Rovio | Press Release | Sony Pictures. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://www.sonypictures.com/corp/press_releases/2013/10_13/100913_rovio.html.

[24] Lee, Ashley. “Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Peter Dinklage Lead ‘Angry Birds’ Movie Voice Cast.” The Hollywood Reporter. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jason-sudeikis-bill-hader-maya-737141.

[25] See Note 23

[26] Ibid.

[27] See Note 1

[28] See Note 20

[29] “Ministries»View BC News Stories by Ministry.” Office of the Premier. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/ministries/office-of-the-premier/.

Seikaly, Andrea. “‘Angry Birds’ Pic Nests in Vancouver.” Variety. February 14, 2014. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://variety.com/2014/film/games/angry-birds-pic-nests-in-vancouver-1201104828/.

[30] Cooper, Daniel. “The ‘Angry Birds’ Movie Has Its Cast.” Engadget. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://www.engadget.com/2014/10/02/angry-birds-movie-has-its-cast/.

[31] Reed, Ryan. “Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph Flock to ‘Angry Birds’ Movie.” Rolling Stone. October 1, 2014. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/jason-sudeikis-bill-hader-maya-rudolph-flock-to-angry-birds-movie-20141001.

[32] “Rovio Press Release.” Jon Vitti Takes Flight with Angry Birds Movie Screenplay. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://www.rovio.com/en/news/press-releases/302/jon-vitti-takes-flight-with-angry-birds-movie-screenplay/2013.

[33] See Note 3

[34] “Jason Sudeikis Net Worth, Endorsement (Actor).” Celebrity Glory. Accessed March 2, 2015. http://celebrityglory.com/jason-sudeikis-net-worth-endorsement-actor/.

 

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