This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.

Contractual Obligation Project

Works creators say they did mainly to fulfill a contractual obligation.

Similar to Money, Dear Boy except the creator's goal in many instances is avoid losing money as a result of getting sued for breach of contract and having to expend legal costs and--in the worst case scenario--damages.

For a creator involved in a contractual obligation project, the obligation aspect looms over everything. A typical example is when there's a final project left in a long-term agreement between parties whose relationship has soured. The enthusiasm for this last project may be low since at least one party just wants to get it over with and end the deal. Other times, the Contractual Obligation Project may be one creators will do just so they can get to do another more enticing project that's also part of the deal. This does not mean, however, a Contractual Obligation Project is all but guaranteed of being a dud. There are times when, in spite of everything, the final product will end up being financially successful, award-winning, and well-regarded.

Compare Ash Can Copy.


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     Films — Live-Action 
  • Even though the film ended up winning her an Academy Award, Elizabeth Taylor never liked Butterfield 8 and only did the movie because it was required under her contract.
  • The Cat in the Hat is an example due to Mike Myers and Bo Welch being forced under threat of a lawsuit to work on the movie.
  • The existence of Cutthroat Island had a lot to do with it being a Contractual Obligation Project for many of the people involved. The producers, for example were obligated to make the film because the money had already been raised and star Geena Davis and director Renny Harlin were contractually tied to do it.
  • Kelly Clarkson pretty much said this for the execrable From Justin to Kelly - "Two Words: contractually obligated!"
  • Jessica Chastain was given a starring role in Crimson Peak provided that she would also later appear in The Huntsman: Winter's War.
  • Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert thought It Happened One Night would flop and were only in the film to fulfill contractual obligations. Both would go on to win Oscars for the movie which also won for Best Picture.
  • The Beatles signed a contract with United Artists in late 1963 to make three movies, two of which were the very well-received A Hard Day's Night and Help!. Yellow Submarine was intended by the band to be their third, but as it was an animated film and they decline to voice their likenesses until the very end scene, the studio said it didn't satisfy their contract. This led to the band making the infamous Magical Mystery Tour, which was universally savaged for its incomprehensible plot and poor acting.
  • Sylvester Stallone starred in Over the Top purely to fulfil his contract with Cannon Films.
  • Paul Newman agreed to star in When Time Ran Out... out of contractual obligation and later called it the worst film he ever did. On the bright side, much of Newman's salary from "When Time Ran Out" provided the seed money to begin his successful charity, Newman's Own.
  • Sam Raimi was obligated to make Spider-Man 3 and adding Venom as the main antagonist, in which he stated that character doesn't like it as well the addition of Gwen Stacey to the film, when originally the main antagonist were only Sandman and Harry Osborn as the new Green Goblin. Venom and Gwen were added by petition of Avi Arad and the producers (most like an contractual obligation), making this movie messy and the reason why it's the lowest point of first Spider-Man trilogy. After those problems, Raimi left the studios, so the reboot The Amazing Spider-Man was made later.
  • Whoopi Goldberg reluctantly did Theodore Rex to fulfill a contractual obligation and avoid paying damages from a lawsuit by the film's producers.

     Films — Animation 
  • For nearly 20 years, Walt Disney had a distribution deal with RKO. By the early-1950s, RKO was crumbling under the erratic leadership of Howard Hughes. In 1953, Disney had formed his own distribution company, Buena Vista, but was still obligated to deliver one more film to Hughes. As a result, Disney compiled segments from his earlier animated anthologies Make Mine Music and Melody Time, to create Music Land (1955). This constituted as a new film in RKO's eyes, and the deal ended with Music Land.

  • When Marvin Gaye got divorced in 1977, he agreed to give his ex-wife half the proceeds from his next album. The result was Here, My Dear, which was panned by critics and fans alike (although critics praised it in retrospect). Rumors that he intentionally made a bad album that wouldn't sell soon arose.
  • Axis: Bold as Love by The Jimi Hendrix Experience was a contractual obligation album because the Experience was required to release two albums in 1967. Despite this, it is regarded as a classic and was listed at #83 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • After the death of Van Morrison's producer Bert Berns, Morrison was still contracted for an album to his Bang Records company, owned by Berns' widow Ilena, with whom Morrison didn't get along. To get out of his contract, Morrison recorded an album worth of desultory, sometimes intentionally offensive "songs" such as "Ring Worm", "Here Comes Dumb George", and "Blow in Your Nose". They sometimes get released as "rarities" to hoodwink completists.
  • Musicians frequently release Cover Albums, Christmas Albums, Live Albums, or Greatest Hits Albums as a quick, easy way to fulfill a contract.

    Recorded And Stand Up Comedy 
  • Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album expressly invokes this trope: it contained a minimum of brand new material, and that was often deliberately thrown together and made to look slapdash and amateurish whilst still remaining funny. Most of the rest consists of off-cuts from film scripts, and reworkings of old sketches and songs that go back to the middle 1960s, and which were originally intended for radio and TV shows that preceded Python by some years. Some sketches had indeed already been perfomed on British radio and TV by other people.

  • This trope is invoked in-universe in the final episode of 30 Rock when, after the show-within-the-show "TGS" is cancelled, another episode has to be produced in order to avoid having to give Tracy a $30 million payout.

     Video Games 
  • thatgamecompany made a three-game deal with Sony in order to put themselves on the map of the video game industry. The results were flOw, Flower, and Journey, and the aforementioned deal is the sole reason why all three of them remain Sony console-exclusives to this day.

     Western Animation 
  • In the Family Guy parody of Return of the Jedi, the Opening Crawl veers off into a rant about how they're tired of parodying Star Wars, says that Fox made them produce it, lapses into a non sequitur about raccoons, and finally asks people to lower their expectations for the episode.
  • The three The Fox and the Crow cartoons produced by UPA were a contractual obligation for their distribution contract with Columbia Pictures. UPA wanted to do cartoons that steered away from the cliches of the day, such as the use of Funny Animals and Slapstick, both of which the Fox and Crow cartoons exemplified in spades. The cartoons were actually well received (two were nominated for Academy Awards), which gave UPA free rein to make their own films with their own characters.
  • An in-universe example occurs in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Wacky Delly" when Ralph Bighead ends production on his show The Fatheads to create his artistic masterpiece. However, his network contract states that he has to make one more show so, to get it over with, Ralph hires Rocko, Heffer and Filburt to make a pilot for the new show, hoping it will be bad enough to get the executives to cancel his contract. Unfortunately, they love Wacky Delly and the show becomes a massive hit.
  • VeggieTales: Invoked in a song that was so pointless, Larry's voice actor supposedly refused to finish it (though this was probably written-in meta-humor). "The Song Under the Credits" was its name, and in the middle of a chorus of "Hey hey ho-ho-ho-ho" the actor left, while the other actors chewed him out for leaving, telling him "We have contractual obligations to finish this song!"