Reasons why the original "Little Shop of Horrors" ending flopped
I've been thinking of the various possible reasons why test audiences reacted badly to the original ending of the film version of Little Shop of Horrors. Off-Broadway audiences hadn't objected to the end of the stage version, where Audrey and Seymour are eaten and Audrey II wins in the end. So why exactly did the movie's test audiences find that ending so upsetting, forcing a new, happier ending to be shot?
Frank Oz has always cited two big differences between theatre and film as the main cause:
*Film has close-ups. They make the audience engage more closely with the characters' emotions than they do in live theatre, so we care more about Seymour and Audrey.
*At the end of a live theatre performance, the actors come out for a curtain call. That's an immediate reminder that they didn't really die. Whereas in a movie, while rationally we all know it's just a performance, it feels like they're really dead.
Here are some further arguments I've read in various places:
*Orin and Mr. Mushnik's deaths are rewritten in the film to tone down Seymour's guilt. Without the stage song "Now (It's Just the Gas)", Orin dies more quickly, without giving him much time to beg Seymour for help, and we don't hear Seymour cold-bloodedly debating whether to save him or not in his mind. Later, Mushnik holds Seymour at gunpoint and tries to blackmail him into giving him the plant in exchange for his keeping quiet about Orin's murder, while onstage he just threatens to have him arrested, and in response, Seymour only backs Mushnik toward the plant instead of tricking him into looking inside its jaws, and then tries to warn him at the last moment, too late. These changes make a big difference in whether the audience thinks Seymour deserves comeuppance or not.
(There are alternate film takes where Orin's begging for help is more drawn out and where Seymour doesn't try to warn Mushnik, though. I read somewhere that those changes were made after the negative test screenings to make the new happy ending work better, but I don't know if that's been confirmed or not.)
*Rick Moranis has too much inherent likability as an actor. With or without the above rewrites, he gives off too much of a sweet, innocent vibe to let the audience stop rooting for Seymour.
*Showing Audrey's fantasy of married life with Seymour during "Somewhere That's Green" makes the audience sympathize more with her dreams. When she only sings about them, it's easier to laugh at how she romanticizes stereotypical '50s suburbia. But seeing her fantasy onscreen, even though it's still played for laughs, makes us root all the more for her to achieve it.
*The stage version of "Don't Feed the Plants" is less bleak because it ends at the very beginning of the plants' conquest, without leaving the shop or showing any massacres. It's just a warning: don't feed the plants, or else they'll destroy the world. Showing giant Audrey IIs already destroying the world leaves us feeling more hopeless.
*While the final "Don't Feed the Plants" sequence is visually spectacular, it drags on for too long.
*In 1986, people didn't expect a musical to end tragically. The rise in popularity of dark, tearjerking musicals in the mid-to-late '80s and '90s hadn't taken off yet in the US, so the ending was more of an unpleasant shock. (Personally, I'm not sure if I agree with this theory. Plenty of musicals already existed with dark themes and with sad or bittersweet endings: The King and I, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Sweeney Todd, etc. Although I'm sure it was a shock for some people to see a campy musical comedy end tragically. But again, this wasn't an issue for the stage version's first audience.)
I'd like to add some more suggestions of my own:
*Onstage, depending on the production, Audrey's death can be played more for dark laughs, more as a spoof of melodramatic movie death scenes. On film, the medium's comparative realism forces the sadness to be played straighter. This is enhanced by Seymour's attempted suicide afterwards, which doesn't happen onstage.
*The addition of "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" makes Seymour's death much more brutal. Onstage, he's eaten fairly quickly, and he goes down fighting. But on film, we have to watch Audrey II playing a slow game of cat-and-mouse with him while singing a gloating song and destroying the shop, then wrapping him in its vines and slowly lifting him into its jaws, with closeups of his terrified face all the while.
*Onstage, during "Don't Feed the Plants," Seymour, Audrey, Mr. Mushnik, and Orin all reappear as flowers sprouting from Audrey II and sing to the audience. Thus, even before the curtain call, they're not portrayed as really "dead." And the fact that it makes no sense in-universe – maybe Mushnik and Seymour could have survived being swallowed, but Orin and Audrey were already dead when the plant ate their bodies – reminds us that this is only a show.
Basically, I think a perfect storm of factors combined to make audiences dislike the original, tragic film ending, even though there was no such objection to the stage ending.
So one thing i like about the Amphibia ending is how each of the girls became, not what they could have become, but what they WANTED to be.
Sasha who was horribly emotionally scarred by her parents divorce and the subsequent complete breakdown of their relationship, ultimately decided to become a therapist to help kids like her through therapy, something she never got as a child.
The girl could have become pretty much anything she wanted, given her wealth, smarts, charisma and beauty. Instead she choose to help emotionally damaged children, because she wants to prevent other kids from becoming like she was.
Marcy, with her incredible intellect could probably have become one of the greatest scientists of all time. Instead, she became an independent comic book creator specializing in fantasy, finally finding a healthy outlet for her love of the genre.
Anne, who had no direction in her life, whose only real talent was her amazing, natural sports skills, instead found a calling in life through her time in Amphibia, and now became an expert in Amphibian life on Earth. The girl could probably have become the greatest female athlete of all time, and if not could probably have coasted by on her fame as the savior of L.A for the rest of her life through an acting career if she wanted.
Instead, she, just like Sasha and Marcy, chose a career that made her happy.
I’m sorry, but I'm still not over this. There is very little tweaking that would need to be done to the Season 5 finale of Miraculous Ladybug to make it a series finale (and it very well could have been one!), and thus how would these major antagonists have concluded their runs?
Gabriel Agreste / Hawk Moth / Shadow Moth / Monarch: He basically wins; sucker-punching Marinette and at last obtaining the two Miraculouses he’d always been after, using them to rewrite reality so that his wife is resurrected in exchange for his own life (since he was dying anyway). Adrien (who now only has memories of him as a good father and not an abusive bastard) and most of Paris is left oblivious to his crimes, and he even gets honored as a hero who sacrificed his life to defeat his own supervillainous alter-ego once and for all.
Nathalie Sancoeur / Mayura: Her fatal illness is removed and she gets to live a peaceful life alongside her new girlfriend Emilie Agreste. Her crimes against Paris also go undiscovered.
Tomoe Tsurugi: She’s now in charge of Gabriel’s business, and still an active member of a creepy secret eugenics cult dedicated to replacing humanity with perfected sentimonsters.
Felix Fathom / Argos: He keeps the Peacock Miraculous he obtained through a horrific betrayal that led to devastating consequences for all of Paris and now even has a girlfriend.
Lila Rossi / Iris Verdi / Cerise: Her being exposed as a liar and expelled from school ended up meaning jack shit since “Lila Rossi” is just one identity of this person who’s apparently always been an aspiring supervillain, complete with her own evil lair and special resources. And now she’s obtained the Butterfly Miraculous, so things can only continue to go her way.
Chloe Bourgeois: She earns the hatred of all of Paris which she is forced to leave behind, loses all her power and privileges, her father disowns her in favor of her half-sister, her friend and minion Sabrina turns on her, Adrien wants nothing more to do with her, Marinette wins a final victory over her on behalf of all the students she’s bullied over the years, and she’s trapped in the custody of her abusive mother who intends to take her abuse to a new level.
OK, yeah, as I think we can all see: one of these things is not like the others!
Seriously, Thomas Astruc, what is your damage in regards to the character of Chloe!?