Monday, February 26, 2018

Who Stole the Worst Animated Movie Ever Made?

Foodfight! was a 2012 animated, straight to DVD release about a universe filled with characters and mascots from the world of food products. Think The LEGO Movie but instead of construction workers and cowboys you got Chester Cheetah and Captain Crunch. It received a quiet release, straight to DVD and in only select regions, occasionally popping up in a bargain bin at Wal-Mart. But the virtually insignificant film has a story beyond being pretty terrible - a mystery that remains unsolved today.

The film features the voices of Charlie Sheen, Wayne Brady, Hilary Duff, Eva Longoria, Larry Miller, and Christopher Lloyd. It tells the story of brand mascots ("ikes") who come to life in a supermarket after closing time, and their struggles against the villainous forces of Brand X. I know what you're thinking: "How did this get made?" Well here's the thing: it almost wasn't.

Foodfight! was actually in production for a decade, originally slated for a Christmas 2003 release. A large amount of money was put into licensing all the characters and products - it wasn't a case of being one big product placement, they actually had to pay for the right to use these characters. Production was underway and early released materials were drawing buzz. Threshold Animation Studios, the studio behind Foodfight!, was actually once called the next Pixar.

The production hit it's first big snag in December 2002 when, according to the director, the hard drives containing unfinished assets from the film had been stolen in what he called an act of "industrial espionage" - whatever that means.

After this incident, which one journalist called a "dog ate my homework" excuse, the film went on multiple starts and stops, being forgotten about and seemingly dead until it's random and practically secret release in 2012.

Despite having an entire decade to recreate the lost film, the finished product looks, appropriately, like a terrible 90s commercial. This has earned it the moniker of the worst animated movie ever made. It's interesting to note that the movie is about a detective. We could sure use a detective to solve this mystery.

So who stole the drives? What industrial espionage took place? It must have been serious, because this kind of thing literally never happens. Movie assets are backed up and the security is tight. You can't just walk out with an entire movie on a single hard drive.

The fun theory is that a competitor like Pixar or Dreamworks feared the film's success enough to pull off "industrial espionage." There isn't really any other reason to benefit from destroying this movie's chances.

Another theory is that the film's director and producer, Larry Kasanoff, either stole it or trashed it as a way to buy more time or get out of the project, or he somehow swindled the money for himself. Others say the whole thing was one big money laundering scheme. I can't find any word of a police investigation so who knows what really happened. Kasanoff has had a pretty decent career so it's not like this ten-year catastrophe ruined him.

One must also wonder if this movie was ever going to succeed in the first place. The general American public would see this and think it was a just big commercial, even though it technically wasn't. And do kids really care about Count Chocula or Mrs. Butterworth enough to watch a Roger Rabbit style movie about them?

And let's not forget that most movies make their money back overseas. Are any of these mascots and products known worldwide? Do people in Portugal know who Tony the Tiger is? Also, the plot is pretty stupid so even if you ignore the weirdly horrible animation it's still a bad movie even by 2003 standards.

What are your thoughts? Was Kasanoff behind the loss of the film or was it really "industrial espionage" by someone trying to sink the project?

And if you’re feeling wild, you can click here to get a copy of Foodfight! and see for yourself if it’s really the worst animated movie ever made.