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Worst Business Ideas in History: Foodfight!

Foodfight! is the animated feature that is the center of discussion in this episode of Worst Business Ideas in History. The hosts break down what went wrong with the release of the 2012 film produced by Threshold Entertainment and directed by Lawrence Kasanoff that received very low ratings and nothing but negative reviews.

They also tie in how important it is to listen to your business partners when you have an unpopular idea that may cause irreparable damages to your organization in the long run.

Click play for more.


Dusey (00:02):

This time, we are talking about the movie Foodfight!.

Derek (00:06):

And how it pertains to process.

Dusey (00:08):

The importance of creating environment, where people can tell you the truth.

Derek (00:11):

And learning that if you do something just for money, you're going to fail every time. Hey folks today, we'll be talking about the $65 million Charlie Sheen animated film that no one has ever heard of.

Dusey (00:26):

And boy, is it a thing!

Derek (00:30):

It exists in the world. I'm Derek Harju.

Dusey (00:33):

This is Dusey van Dusen.

Derek (00:34):

And today we're talking about the movie Foodfight!.

Dusey (00:38):

This movie is an animated film, ostensibly aimed at children, theoretically.

Derek (00:46):

We will argue about that, sir.

Dusey (00:50):

That basically has a long, long history of many mistakes and very long development time of this animated movie. So why don't you kind of set the scene for us?

Derek (01:00):

Yeah, totally. So the year is 2006. I'm going to take us way back to 2006. And I mean, animated films, like Dreamworks is making a mint, Pixar is has basically changed animation forever. But anyway, there was a lot of money going around for animated features. And so this company was like, "Hey, we'll do kind of a Roger Rabbit style film." They literally were trying to figure out a way to make a movie where like different food product, things like Swiffer, and Gillette and stuff were all in this world, which it sounds dumb now. But at the time it was like, I guess that's fine. I mean, it's just consumerism. It's basically Roger Rabbit, I guess.

Dusey (01:47):

What is Roger Rabbit, Warner Brothers? Instead of all these loved cartoon brands all mixed in together, we'll have a bunch of loved food, grocery store type brands. And I didn't know that, I'll admit I have not watched the whole thing, but I'm about 20 minutes into it at 2X speed. So that tells you about how long I was able to last before I stopped. I didn't know that, I kind of first said, "Well, let me just get a fresh take of this before I read anything about it." And you know, I see somebody who looks like Mr. Clean walk by and get mud spilled all over him. And I'm like, "That's an odd joke to have in here, that must be a copyright infringement." Oh no, that's the point of the movie.

Derek (02:29):

Yeah, 100%. You mentioned a frog gets hit with a manhole cover and sprays Mr. Clean, who's just walking through the scene like he belongs there with a brown liquid. But that comes after the frog appears from nowhere and farts.

Dusey (02:47):

That's true, a green noxious gas.

Derek (02:50):

At the 15-second mark of this film, we'll call it, a frog farts. There's a cloud and everything.

Dusey (03:01):

There's more history here, but I must share, in the first 20 minutes, it was probably three or four minutes in. The main character, who is a dog detective-

Derek (03:13):

And we know that because his name is Dogtective.

Dusey (03:19):

He pops a raisin in his mouth and says something about the raisin, and I think the raisins were a tie in. And my first thought is, "Dogs are not supposed to have raisins, it is terrible for dogs to eat grapes and raisins. That is a thing that you are supposed to keep away from."

Derek (03:36):

Oh my God, that's awesome.

Dusey (03:38):

Multiple times throughout this movie, he's popping raisins and they say what it is because where they got their money from is that this plug to talk about this brand of raisins. And my first instinct was, "We're teaching our kids to feed raisins to dogs."

Derek (04:00):

And you mentioned, the California Raisins are in this movie, but they're a horrible shadow version of themselves. And the voice, they're still singing I Heard It Through the Grapevine, but it's a cover, it's not even the Buddy Miles' version. It's really upsetting to see if you remember that from your childhood.

Dusey (04:24):

Well, yes. Okay, so I'm going to back up a little bit because we could spend the whole time just talking about the content of this movie.

Derek (04:31):

I'm going have to heavily edit.

Dusey (04:33):

But from what I was reading, way back in 2002 is where this actually began. So this was like you said, Toy Story had been a success and there are other movies like this. So way back then is when they were starting saying, "Yeah, we're going to do an animated movie with all of this product placement in it." It's not just product placement, but they're part of the story and they all come to life at night and fight the bad guys of generic Brand X or whatever.

Derek (05:06):

Yeah, and that's the thing is that, it's weird how they address the characters. Like there's a point where the dog detective, his girlfriend, who's played by Hillary Duff by the way, and there's only a 40-year difference between the actors playing those parts. Appears to just be, when they modeled her character ... dog detective looks like goofy the dog wearing like an Indiana Jones costume. This cat, whose name is literally something to the effect of Miss Sunshine, it just looks like Cameron Diaz wearing cat ears.

Dusey (05:40):

Yes, that was awesome. I'm like, "Wait, I thought they were all the animals. She's a human, wait but she has cat ears. But wait, they put a really bad texture of whiskers on her that just looks like she got some dirt on her face." And then, oh my goodness. Yeah, then there's the raisins. And I'm like, I have no idea. There's some world building going on that I don't understand.

Derek (06:00):

That's my problem, is that then she goes, "Oh, I can't wait for us to have dinner later. I'll have Chef Boyardee make us up a big pot of whatever." And I'm like, wait, is your neighbor Chef Boyardee? I kind of expected a world where Mr. Clean or Chef Boyardee are like royalty in this world. And they're figures of note, but they're just treated like we're supposed to know who Dogtective and his horrifying to look upon ferret buddy is.

Dusey (06:31):

It's so hard not to just talk about the movie.

Derek (06:33):


Dusey (06:33):

And we're going to have to talk about Christopher Lloyd's character later. So the person who is really driving on this was a producer that had some successful movies under his belt.

Derek (06:47):

Yeah, movies I've seen. The gentlemen who made this is Lawrence Kasanoff. Did you do any research on his filmography?

Dusey (06:55):

I think I saw True Lies in there, the Mortal Kombat series, which while the movies were not a critical success, but people were interested in them.

Derek (07:07):

I will cop to this, people like to disavow things they did when they were young and dumb. I 100% saw the first Mortal Kombat movie in the theater no less than five times.

Dusey (07:19):

That's awesome.

Derek (07:20):

But he's also responsible for all of the Lego movies that are not Lego Movie. Basically whenever you see a Lego movie that's just on Netflix, that's him apparently.

Dusey (07:32):

Okay, yeah. So he's had some successful stuff, how did this abomination get out the door? And it's easy to just point to, well, the product placement influencing stuff. Normally it'd be very easy for me to say, "Okay, well, the people who are giving the money are the ones that are calling the shots, and there's so many hands in this and that's why it ended up that way." But I don't think that's the case in this case. I mean, I'm sure some of it's there.

Derek (08:01):

Yeah, absolutely. You're always going to have studio notes, but I really don't think that that was the case here. And the first part is, it's 100% a money play. Basically figured he was trying to figure out a way to create the Magnum Opus of product placement where not only do you no character development because these brands just lend their identity, but he's also going to be getting a huge chunk of money from every one of these brands to be prominently featured in the movie. What happens is, there's a story that the original hard drives for the film after they had been working on it for some time were just straight up stolen.

Dusey (08:42):

I was reading one of the articles about this, and it's going along, it's talking about how that producer, Kasanoff, decided to direct and I think to write it or something like that. Yeah, to direct it, and he'd never done a animated film before, didn't know any of the process and, and never even directed a film before. So I think him kind of being the driving force on it when this necessarily isn't his bread and butter is a huge part of the quality issue. But then it just slides into a sentence that's like, "Oh, and all of their hard drives were stolen so they had to start over after two years of work." Like, what? Stolen? Do we know who? There's so much going on there. First, who would steal this of all things?

Derek (09:28):

So the hard drives are stolen and this kind of thing isn't without precedent. There's a story and we can't go into it here, but if you want a cool story, look up Toy Story 2 hard drive deleted.

Dusey (09:40):

Okay. I've got another rabbit hole to follow later.

Derek (09:43):

Oh, are you not aware of this?

Dusey (09:44):

I don't think so.

Derek (09:45):

I'm so excited for you to learn about this. It's a really cool story. Basically, Toy Story 2 almost didn't happen, for exactly the reasons we just stated. But anyway, so these hard drives were reportedly stolen and I kind of buy it. I could see that like sometimes, especially 2002, anything that's a computer gets stolen all the time. And this guy didn't sound like he had a secure facility. He was probably editing this thing in a strip mall somewhere. Production just stops, because there's nothing to be done. So much money has been spent, they're swimming in debt. And apparently we don't hear about this guy again until almost 2006. And that's when he manages to get together some money and he starts trying to produce this thing and he's still selling it like it's going to be a Pixar level, it's going to change the face of animation.

Dusey (10:43):

Here's my favorite quote, "For us this is Casa Blanca."

Derek (10:48):

Listen, he was a true believer. And that may have been part of the problem. When you watch this film, it is done with a degree of incompetence. I want to put something out there, that there's a TV show that I was too old for about my sister watched called Reboot, which is a 3D animated show on Saturday morning.

Dusey (11:08):

I've watched that, yeah.

Derek (11:09):

From what I saw, it's a cool show. And they had early 3D animation for a whole half hour show.

Dusey (11:17):

I think it was the first one, yeah.

Derek (11:19):

Yeah. And the animation in this feature film done literally 14 years after Reboot is orders of magnitude worse. The animation in this film, if you can't watch it ... it doesn't exist in a physical form. You basically have to find copies of it on YouTube. You'll see for yourself, it's like a cut scene from Conker's Bad Fur Day from the N64.

Dusey (11:52):

My mind went straight because of that squirrel. I'm like, "I think they ripped the model off from Conker's Bad Fur Day." And the dog, I feel like there's some detective or police dog or something out there that looks just like this guy that they ripped him off.

Derek (12:06):

He's a bit McGruff.

Dusey (12:08):

McGruff, that's the one I'm looking for. Yeah, he's a bit McGruff-y. And so one of the reasons for this bad animation ... which yeah, when I saw 2002, I went, "Oh, maybe that's why the animation's so bad." Then I was like, "Oh wait, no, they scrapped everything they were working with back then and started over after the hard drive," ... is they didn't have any process. One of the investors said that they were in there, I don't know if they were an investor, they were involved in it somehow, but not directly with the creation of it.

Dusey (12:37):

He said, "Well, this was my first time doing something like this with a movie. And I didn't realize that they had no review structure in place at all." That as this person went on to help with other animations in the future, they're like, "There's a very strict review structure where somebody brings the scene and there's a schedule, then different people review at different times and come back." And this was apparently, the director just kind of walking by computers saying, "Oh, that's not good. It needs to be 30% better."

Derek (13:08):

Yes, oh my gosh!

Dusey (13:10):

30% better, what does that even mean?

Derek (13:12):

I saw that and it blew my mind. I was like, "Oh my God, this person is a literal Simpson's joke."

Dusey (13:21):


Dusey (13:23):

So I want to dive in here because our small business owner listeners might be saying, "Okay, this is fun just ragging on this movie, but where's the application?" And, and we'll get back to ragging on the movie. That's going to happen plenty. But that point about process really stood out to me as like, what is your process and how can things can really go off the rails without? And the fewer people you are working on a thing, the easier it is to not have a process because you just kind of call the shots, right. But if you've got a few employees, or if you've got partners that you work with setting up a repeatable process, saves you so much headache and time, and just really sets the stage where you're not churning.

Dusey (14:08):

And having people redo work or you having to redo work or having missed expectations. Having that sort of regular process in your business, whether it's a marketing process, maybe it is reviewing content that's going out. But it could be as simple as a daily routine, having that sort of process can really help stabilize things. And based on these stories, things were not stable at this production. And yeah, it just creates all sorts of chaos.

Derek (14:40):

Yeah, no emergency brakes were put in place here. And this is super easy to do if you're a small business owner, if you're an entrepreneur, or even if you're just like working on little side projects for yourself. If you have a vision, you can get real passionate about that. And you often won't want to ask other people to look at it because in your mind, you're like, "They're just going to say something they want changed on it, and they're wrong and I'm right. So I'm not going to bother and I'm just going to push this to launch." And that's how terrible launches go. That's why they even said Steve Jobs was brilliant, but Steve Jobs had to have a board in place to basically tell him no occasionally, because if he did exactly what he wanted all of the time, the first iPhone would have cost $15,000.

Dusey (15:35):

There's a reason he was kicked out of Apple in the first place. There's probably some not great reasons and there's probably some that just had to do with money. But he was a bit of an agent of chaos and did need people to reign him in a little bit to actually be able to ship things.

Derek (15:52):

I love thinking of Steve Jobs as like the Joker for Silicon Valley. I've been guilty of this many times where there are times I don't want to show something I'm working on before launch, because I'm like, people are just going to get their stink on it and they don't understand what I'm going for, and they're going to mess it up. Well, that's very rarely true. It's statistically insignificant how few times you're going to not need at least three sets of honest eyes on whatever you're working on.

Dusey (16:26):

Yeah. And that doesn't mean don't have a vision, that just means who are you surrounding yourself with, right? Who are your partners? Is it your family? Is it your employees? Is it a co-owner that feels comfortable telling you no, that you can get honest feedback from. But that doesn't come from a negative place, like maybe if you just toss it out into public and say, "Hey, everyone, tell me about this." So the story that goes along with this is that this film, that was ostensibly and initially said that it would be for kids, is full of sexual innuendos, and throughout the entire movie. It is such an odd thing.

Derek (17:12):

Yeah. For those of you who can't see me, and good for you, I've lived a life not entirely sheltered from the world. And I found this movie to be gross. For an adult movie, it's just entirely clumsy, cringe-worthy sexual innuendos followed by ... they keep doing this thing where action will happen and then they hold on characters just standing still for like a three count. I couldn't tell if that a tactic they were using to pad out the movie to a full 90 minutes, but-

Dusey (17:54):

Because of the animation, it's just like, everything's rock steady. It's not like it's ... it just freezes.

Derek (18:01):

Yeah. Everything's constantly shaking, all the characters are undulating. And I want to get back to the worst offender in this film, and that is the character that Christopher Lloyd was clearly tricked into playing.

Dusey (18:13):

We're going to tease that one more time, because I agree. I just want to finish a thought about, we were talking about putting people around you that can say no, and there's a quote, since we were talking about the innuendos that made it into this movie. One of the animators, she said, "I thought they were just having fun writing this. It won't make it into the finished film." I'm sure with all sorts of films, somebody, especially in the writing phase, they're like, "Oh, this would be funny, whatever. It's not a thing." And a lot of that stuff gets honed and cut as it goes along. But there was nobody to tell them no, or to tell this director no. So I just wanted to reinforce that, get people that you trust that you can get advice about how to run your business, about is the thing that you're doing headed in the right direction.

Dusey (19:00):

Find those people that you can trust. It's not just throwing it out to everybody, get all of this feedback and they're just going to be super negative about it. But somebody that you can really trust, someone that you've seen make it happen that can get in there. And someone that's not afraid to just say, "Yes, that sounds great." So I just wanted to reemphasize that, based on the animators that were working on this, they created an environment where nobody felt like they could say no. And you should ask yourselves that too, can my employees come to me and say, "This doesn't feel right," or have I created an environment where they don't feel comfortable expressing their concerns? That can lead to so many issues so quickly. Okay. Christopher Lloyd-

Derek (19:44):

Oh my gosh, what? Okay. So I could not figure out what I was looking at when Christopher Lloyd's character shows up in this movie.

Dusey (19:54):

I mean, this movie is full of dead eyes, but like his eyes that are pointing off in different directions, but they are never moving. I don't know that I ever saw them blink.

Derek (20:02):

The number of technical crimes, I went to a computer school in the late 90s and I graduated in the year 2000. I was in a class where someone submitted a final project that got a C that was better animated than this movie. None of the characters' eyes fix on any one point. They'll have a conversation with each other and their eyes are looking every direction except at the character they're in front of. The entire thing is just full of farting frogs, cringe-worthy innuendos, embarrassing stereotypes of every kind, and there are straight up Nazis in this movie.

Dusey (20:43):

I haven't gotten that far yet.

Derek (20:45):

Somehow that all still takes a backseat to who is this Christopher Lloyd character in the movie? Is he the professor that invented Brand X? He like undulates in and out of camera, it's like they were halfway through animating him and they didn't set the bones in his motion structure correctly.

Dusey (21:04):

Yeah, that is what it feels like. If you don't want to hurt yourself too much, you can skip to about 10 and a half minutes in and you'll find it pretty quickly, what we're talking about.

Derek (21:14):

Yeah. So the movie is absolutely terrible, it finally got a backer. It was released in the UK and supposedly a couple of American independent theaters, but it grossed $13,000. The movie cost $65 million to make, and it grossed $13,000.

Dusey (21:41):

That's incredible. And I think it came out in 2012, right? So from 10 years in development-

Derek (21:48):

This movie, this movie should not be as long as it is. It's hard to watch. Neither of us watched the whole thing. I recommend, go find it on the internet. It's easy to find on YouTube. Watch 15 minutes of it, you got it. Maybe five at the max actually.

Dusey (22:02):

Yeah. I want to hit some other takeaways. There's one other main one that I wanted to think about, which is who, who's deciding what work you're doing throughout the day, right? So this movie is a case of, "We've got these investors and money coming from these brands," and as I read all the history about it, it's like, who's calling the shots here? Are they calling the shots? Is it this director, Kasanoff, that's normally a producer, that's calling the shots? Which in this case seems to be it. Is it your customers? Are you making something for them, or are you allowing them to dictate even too much of what it is that you're doing? Thinking about who is dictating what you are working on I think is really important.

Dusey (22:51):

Making sure that you have a direction, that you have a choice, that not everything that you're working on is the urgent thing that a customer necessarily comes to you. Again, part of that is setting a process to make sure that you can kind of handle a flow of things like that and not be overwhelmed by it. But it's easy to let whatever that next hot thing is be the thing that has our attention, but getting your work organized I think is definitely worth it. And you can be much more productive that way when the work is organized. And just looking at the process this movie went through, had me asking the whole time is the animators didn't know what they were going to be working on next. I don't know that the director himself was doing anything beyond reacting to the things that was being created, rather than kind of setting a direction and choosing your work and laying your path out in front of you.

Derek (23:46):

Yeah, and not knowing what's ahead. I mean, not to get too crime creed about this, but this movie was in production hell for so long, it actually outlived Hostess brands, which was one of the characters featured in the movie. So they didn't even get that money from them when the film finally released. This is 100% just a case of someone driving forward with an idea they think is cool and not asking the questions of people that they ... you know, you have to have people whose opinions you value and who will willingly look you in the face and say, "This is terrible, you should not do it." Because occasionally you're going to have a really exciting idea that hasn't been fleshed out or could get you in a lot of trouble, because people have done that.

Derek (24:38):

People have started businesses with a completely clear intention and unbeknownst to them, they violate some blue law or it creates a secondary problem they're not aware of. It's like a lot of the social media platforms that were being utilized to spy on Chinese dissidence and things like that. You have to have an outer sphere that's willing to hurt your feelings and help guide you to where the thing you're trying to produce is actually a value to the world and elevates the world and make somebody's life better, even 1%.

Dusey (25:15):

Well, that's about all I can talk about this movie for.

Derek (25:18):

Yeah, it's exhausting. This seems like a movie that should be fun to make fun of. And it's actually, it's just terrible from the beginning.

Dusey (25:26):

It's so bad. I have so many things that I could say, but it's just, I want to be done with it.

Derek (25:32):

Okay, rapid fire, three things from the movie that spring to mind.

Dusey (25:35):

I mean, I can't get Christopher Lloyd out of my head, and picturing him in a sound booth. I was thinking I want to hear what his reaction is to this movie when it finally came out, that was like the number one thing. Seeing the dog detective in the white suit like, "Okay, this director really loved Casa Blanca." And then there was one scene, there was one pan of the city that I thought, "Wow, that has some nice geometry." And that was the only good thought I had while watching this for 20 minutes.

Derek (26:09):

This has been Worst Business Ideas in History. I'm Derek Harju.

Dusey (26:12):

This is Dusey van Dusen.

Derek (26:13):

And we'll talk to you guys next time.

Derek (26:13):

And we'll talk to you guys next time.

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