While no one was expecting The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure to own the box office Labor Day weekend after its slow start on Wednesday, its ranking as the worst debut ever, with a $445,000 haul for the three-day weekend, was a big surprise… to everyone. “Only an idiot or a liar could say that they weren’t disappointed in those numbers,” says producer Kenn Viselman (Teletubbies, Thomas the Tank Engine).
But don’t expect Viselman, who produced and distributed the movie under his Kenn Viselman Presents company, to hang up his hat now. He is moving forward with two sequels (The Oogieloves in the Big Family Adventure and The Oogieloves in the Big Holiday Adventure), though he might have to reconsider whether to release them theatrically or straight to DVD. Additionally, a TV series initially planned for 2015 will be moved up by at least a year to capitalize on familiarity with the new characters. The movie’s backers remain committed to the brand, Viselman says, and its potential for long-range gains (merchandising and licensing). “It’s about the long play, not the short. [The financers] told me ‘This chapter did not go well, but it’s a good story.’”
When EW.com asked him before the film’s debut what his measure of success would be, Viselman was already thinking long-term. “Seeing those kids [in the early screenings done across the country] get up and dance without anyone telling them to stop, or running down to the front of the screen and freaking out — the movie’s already successful for me,” he said last Tuesday. “Now whether we make our money back from movie one or not, that was never a part of the process. It was about, ‘Can we get children to respond to them? Can we get them to react? Will there be a connection?’ And if there is, movie two is the movie we plan on making money on. It’s the one we’re releasing merchandise with. Movie one was really just ‘We’re the Oogieloves. Get to know us and love us and let’s play together.’”
He starts scouting locations for the sequels this month in Michigan, and production is planned to begin next month, with both movies filmed back-to-back. While the first movie boasted stars like Cloris Leachman, Chazz Palminteri, and Toni Braxton, there are no celebrities attached to the followups yet — but there have been overtures from actors who saw it with their kids. Says Viselman, “With opening numbers like that, I thought that there wasn’t a manager or agent alive who would let their star come near this movie. But apparently there are, and I’m grateful.”
Viselman, who thinks the movie’s last-minute ad campaign played a role in the low numbers, says he feels like a protective parent about the movie. “I know that kids and caretakers respond to it. The box office has nothing to do with whether or not the movie is something kids will like.”
When it comes to criticism of the movie, outside of the box-office take, he doesn’t think people are looking at it through the intended lens: “I don’t think we created a cinematic masterpiece. We didn’t set out to. We created a movie for preschoolers to dance to and enjoy.”
Director Matthew Diamond (So You Think You Can Dance) says, “We set out to create a delightful movie aimed at children 2-7 and their families. And I really believe we fully succeeded.”
Viselman says he has a bunch of patents pending on the interactive theater experience and that an American franchise has approached him about creating an interactive experience for them. “You’ll hopefully see more interactive films because it really is a medium that speaks to kids,” he says.