While prepping an animated genre feature film like Lester, it’s a good idea to to study how these kinds of projects come and go.
Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise was an anime colossus released during the Manga Video heyday with amazing art and zero (almost) story. It was a movie made entirely by animators who prioritized world-building and created dozens of crazy set pieces, who then wrote the script as they went to make sense of it all. It would be like if 8711 made John Wick by shooting 5 action scenes without mentioning the dog. There’s a John Wick 2, 3, 4, and 5. There’s no Royal Space Force 2.
Royal Space Force is gorgeous. For ¥800M (~$8M USD) it better be. Apparently they raised the cash in a coordinated non-stop bullsh*t campaign at Bandai-Namco, who were probably impressed by the proof of concept. But in the end it nearly bankrupted the animation studio. Case in point: story first!
Rock & Rule (1983) was another massive film made by animators with incredible animation, great musical numbers and perfect casting.
The memorable set-pieces are connected with a story that can hardly be called that. The story involves the villain luring the heroes from their small hometown to his castle, kidnapping the girl, and taking her back to their small hometown. Story first!
The second and much bigger problem for Rock & Rule was MGM not knowing how to market an R-rated animation in the early 80s. It would’ve done okay today, but back then it grossed $35,000 of its $8M budget. You can watch it for free now.
And finally there are the ~$70M megatons like Titan A.E. (2000) with its studio issues and plot problems, resulting in only grossing half of its budget. But look at it.
One of the greatest flops in history was Iron Giant (1999), another $70M megaton which had a solid story but probably was just too damned expensive.
Higher budgets mean more intrusive oversight by studios, who will panic and make funny decisions to cut losses, like they did with Food Fight.
If you need to pay an army of people to animate for two years, then you need $70M to tell your story. If you only need to pay a small team of animators for a stylistic take on your project, you could do it for a tenth of that or less. The investors might not even care much about your story, and you’ll probably recoup their losses.
EDIT: I’m also broadcasting on Telegram at t.me/ericjacobus where I dump more thoughts in smaller bites.