Families forced to shelter in place. Rules to live by (or die!). Rumors of a paradise called “Tomorrow.” New family pets. I know what you’re thinking—been there, doing that.
Actually, what I’m referring to is The Croods, a 2013 global hit from longtime NetApp customer, DreamWorks Animation. Of all the similarities between “these times” and the experience of the film’s lovably dysfunctional caveman family, there’s one I can’t stop thinking about. Like the Croods, DreamWorks has had to rely on sheer inventiveness and outside-the-box thinking to survive in this new world.
I must admit, our family was a little late to The Croods party. In my defense, when it hit theaters back in 2013, the last thing on my mind was navigating the fine art of movie-going-with-toddlers-in-tow (our twins had just turned two).
Several years ago, we finally cozied up with this story about the only caveman family still alive thanks to the world’s most over-protective, curiosity-crushing father, Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage). As everyone knows all too well, that world can be dreadfully dull. So, when the family is forced out of their comfort zone and into a colorful new world…that wants to eat them, everyone is thrilled (except Grug). Thankfully, they meet Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a spunky Neanderthal teen who does what he can to help the Croods get to a mythical paradise known as “Tomorrow.” (Speaking of similarities, NetApp is the modern-day Guy, but more on that later.)
Fast forward to January, 2020. Although DreamWorks still had plenty of work to do on The Croods: A New Age , it was slated for wide theatrical release over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. What do they say about best laid plans? Right. By late March, the studio went into pandemic-induced lock down. In order for production to move forward, all artists and production staff were forced to continue working from home. At that time, lighting on the film was just 22% complete.
As beautifully rich and complex as the first film was, The Croods: A New Age made an evolutionary leap in data requirements. To give you a little perspective, the sequel contains hundreds more shots than the first film over 160 different characters and creature variants, 34,748 total crowd characters, and 2,134 environment and prop assets—over 60 of which are banana-related. Bananas indeed!
Over the next six months, like a lot of you out there, our family really missed getting to spend time at the movies together. After all, it’s a family tradition I remember enjoying from back when I was just three years old. There was something about the combination of air conditioning and entertainment that made me feel like the luckiest girl alive.
When theaters remained closed throughout the summer, it was looking more and more like we’d have to settle for an opening weekend with The Croods: A New Age from our living room. But as with most things these days, we learned to be okay with it. Of course, the situation started to improve and theaters slowly began opening up again. But it was still anyone’s guess about whether they’d be showing new releases, or hits from the 80s and 90s.
By early October, not only did we learn that The Croods: A New Age was back on for its Thanksgiving weekend release in theaters, it would be playing at a drive-in just a few miles away. It’s an experience we had been wanting to introduce the kids to, so needless to say, we were all over the moon.
But hold on. In another “these times” connection with the Croods, acquiring family pets (animals you keep, but don’t eat) is just something you do. Our family included. Yup, the new puppies arrived a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Soon thereafter, we realized it would be a while before we’d dare leave the little shoe-chewers home alone. Sadly, this meant we would have to skip opening weekend with the Croods. Apparently, not everyone was in our position.
The Croods: A New Age easily broke the pandemic-era opening weekend attendance record, previously held by Christopher Nolan’s much-hyped thriller, Tenet. At that time (Labor Day weekend), 56% of U.S. theaters were open. Currently, that figure sits at around 35%. Way to go, Croods!
Ready for some more good news? The Croods: A New Age will start streaming December 18. Barring any puppy emergencies, our living room will be nothing but wall-to-wall smiles.
Remember how I said we are akin to Guy in this parallel universe? Kate Swanborg, DreamWorks Senior VP of Technology Communications and Strategic Alliances, put it this way: “NetApp creates an infrastructure for us that is robust and stable. We trust NetApp’s people. They work side by side with our engineers to future-proof our strategies.”
In other words, although we can’t keep your family from getting devoured by a swarm of piranhakeets, we can enable the right people to access, protect, and store billions of files and petabytes of storage—regardless of location or unknown lurking around every corner. It’s why, for over 20 years, DreamWorks has made heavy use of our technologies, including cloud data services, storage systems, data and virtualization software, and tools that simplify management of applications and data, on every one of its CG films.
If there’s one thing we can all learn from DreamWorks (and the Croods), it’s that during ridiculously trying times, being prepared to pivot quickly is key to keeping productivity high and moving positively toward the thing we all want—the paradise called Tomorrow.