Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dragon Remains On Top

DWA's "disappointment" (per Forbes Magazine) romps in the Middle Kingdom.

DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon 2” remained atop China’s box office last week, and will soon become the top-grossing animated film of 2014 in the territory.

The sequel earned $24.4 million in the seven days ending Sunday, according to figures from film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway, bringing the movie’s gross to $51.5 million. “Despicable Me 2,” released in China earlier this year, took in a total of $52.3 million. ...

And HTTYD2 is closing in on the $600 million mark: $585,398,939.

Not bad for a picture that drove DreamWorks Animation's stock price down.

Click here to read entire post

At the Hat

I was at the Hat Building on Riverside Drive during the afternoon, and it seems that the company was promoting a new picture.

... Disney-Pixar chief John Lasseter, [Big Hero 6's] producer Roy Conli and co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams teased the movie Wednesday by revealing 25 minutes of footage at a gathering of Oscar bloggers at the Disney Animation building in Burbank. ...

Hero is the first film made on Disney's new high-powered, patented rendering system, which produces images of a greater photo-realistic quality than has been possible before. It is also the first time ... that Disney animators have dipped into Marvel's comic-book library, where they discovered the new movie's eponymous six superheroes — or "supernerds," as Lasseter called them. ...

Lasseter summed up the movie as "a simple story" with real "emotional heart." Hall said of adapting the comic-book series, "We kept the title and we kept the character names, but we basically remade the story." (I'll just say that one should prepare for a lot of "How to Train Your Robot" references, since Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon both deal with humans bonding with nonhumans in moving ways.) ...

Meantime, I wandered around the first and second floors. The lighting department is still working full-bore to get its part of the movie finished. I was informed there's three weeks left on the schedule, then it will be tweaks and color corrections and getting the Moving View Master version readied. (The wrap party is slated for the month of October. Release is in early November.)

Animators told me there work is done, and it appears to be true. Several of them were happy to chat for a long stretch of time. Usually they're too busy to give me much more than the time of day. A couple of staffers echoed the news story above: The storyline is emotional, the robot comes across winningly, and one lighter told me: I tear up every time I see it. The story works."

Which is good. Because I know they were wrestling to get the story right late last year.

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And We Have ... Touch Down

So we won't have to go to Sacramento and wave signs and sit in hearing rooms next week:

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed off on a deal that would more than triple funding for California's film and TV tax-credit program.

The compromise would increase funding to $330 million a year over the next five years. While that falls short of the $400 million annually sought by backers, the amount would more than triple the current level of funding.

AB 1839 also would allow more projects to qualify, including new network television dramas and big-budget studio movies. It would also scrap a controversial lottery system used to divvy up funds. Instead, tax credits would be allocated based on how many jobs projects would create. ...

It's not the $400+ million that some AB 1839 backers were hoping for, but it's higher than some of the crustier cynics among us believed we would end up with.

This bill will favorably impact visual effects and will likely bring work back in those areas to Los Angeles and the bay area. (It's doubtful the legislation will bring back all the work. Canada is still handing out more free money than California is.)

The next eighteen months should tell us how effective the new tax incentives will be.

Add On: From the California Film & Television Production Alliance (which includes a whole bunch of entertainment guilds and labor unions):

“On behalf of hundreds of thousands of middle class California workers, creative talent, small businesses, vendors, local governments and film commissioners across the state, theatre owners, tourism, hotel and lodging associations, we are elated at the statement today by Governor Brown, Speaker Atkins, Senate President Pro Tem-elect de León, Senate President Steinberg, Assembly Leader Conway and Republican Leader Huff that California’s film and television production incentive program will be expanded, extended, and improved through the passage of AB 1839 and with funding of $330 million a year for five years. This is a win both for the State of California and the working men and women across this state who will no longer have only one choice— to leave their families to feed their families. Behind the glitter that most people associate with Hollywood is the glue that holds it together—the many talented and often unheralded men and women whose names fly by in the credits. Their voices are rarely heard but they are today: AB 1839 is for them.

We are grateful for the leadership of Governor Brown, Speaker Atkins, Senate President Pro Tem-elect de León, and Senate President Steinberg, along with Assembly Republican leader Conway and Republican Leader Huff who gave this legislation their support so it could move forward to a vote. We also wholeheartedly thank the two authors, Assemblymembers Gatto and Bocanegra for their leadership and commitment throughout the past year, as well AB 1839’s 70 co-authors. We look forward to working with all of them on passage in the Senate and Assembly and to the Governor’s desk for his signature."

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MacFarlane and Music


Seth MacFarlane is plugging his oncoming Christmas album with interviews.

...Q: Do you have any favorite holiday albums that inspired the sound [of yours?]

I’m not frankly a huge conossieur of holiday music, but I love orchestral jazz. I love that era of high orchestral musicality that bears a lot of similarities to holiday music in a lot of ways. As far as holiday records, gosh I don’t know -- the Home Alone soundtrack? ...

What interested me most about the interview with "Billboard" was this:

Q: How do you rationalize your faction of fans who may continue to expect comedy from your musical projects?

Surprisingly, a good chunk of Family Guy fans recognizes why we do this -- they see that against all the comedy is a legitimate regard tor the importance of music. It's virtually the only show left on TV that uses a live orchestra for every episode. We use anywhere from 50 to 90 people, depending on how many players are available.

Big, live orchestras? I had no idea.

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Battling Books


A comparison of two new versions of The Jungle Book.



The Wrap's Jeff Sneider details upcoming movies based on the same underlying material from Warner Bros. and Disney. Disney's will be animated; Warners' will use mo-cap, animation and live-action.

I'm not sure the world is waiting for another Jungle Book, but a lot of money has been made from previous incarnations, so why stop now? Using Rudyard Kipling's handiwork costs nothing.

Click here to read entire post

So ... Smaller Tax Incentive?


California's movie/tv tax credit. Not the $400 million originally envisioned.

Last-minute negotiations between legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown likely to lead to an amount above the current $100 million in tax credits ...

The $400 million allocated in the bill that passed the state Senate is not going to hold, but otherwise the legislation as amended is acceptable to all sides, according to an informed source who spoke Tuesday on background. ...

Both sides hope to have the “the number” wrapped up by Friday; but the final re-votes, which will be necessary by both the state Assembly and Senate (because amendments were added), can take place as late as Aug. 31. ...

The Entertainment Union Coalition has been pushing for $400 mill (or more) for months. Far back, one of the wise old union reps said:

"When this wraps up, the bill's going to be Two hundred, maybe three hundred million dollars. No way is it going to end up at $400 million."

Governor Brown is a tight-fisted guy. And he plays his guards close to his vest. I think, in the back of my brain pan, I thought it was going to end up less than four-tenths of a billion, but I had hopes it would come close to that.

Governor Brown, apparently, was never going to let that happen.

Click here to read entire post

Google VFX

Web search is only part of it.

Google has acquired Zync, a firm that enables complex visual effects sequences to be rendered over the cloud. ...

Zync Render, which was developed with visual effects studio Zero VFX, has been used to produce over a dozen films like “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “American Hustle” and “Looper,” and hundreds of commercials, totaling over 6.5 million core hours completed.

Until now, Zync, founded in 2011, has promoted Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud hosting platform, saying on its website that EC2 “is the only public-cloud that meets or exceeds MPAA security requirements with a Best Practices rating award.” ...

Chances are Zync won't be using Amazon's cloud much longer.

It's hard to know what Google plans to do with its new purchase. Exploit the software? Get deeper into movie production and make its own content? I think Silicon Valley companies aren't keen on letting entertainment conglomerates like News Corp., Disney and Time-Warner control the playing field.

Click here to read entire post

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hasbro Chief

The toy company has a new movie top-kick.

Josh Feldman, formerly of Genre Films, has joined the entertainment division of Hasbro Studios in a newly-created position of head of development. The move comes off the crazy success of Transformers: Age of Extinction and as the entertainment division of Hasbro continues to strengthen its brand as a force to be reckoned with. It’s currently in development on a number of properties based on their toy and game line (all of which it will also produce) — Transformers Universe and G.I. Joe 3 at Paramount, Candy Land at Sony, and both Ouija and Jem and the Holograms at Universal Pictures. ...

Feldman will be responsible for overseeing the film division for Hasbro Studios and work on both live-action and animated properties to be developed into film. He’ll also work closely with the TV development team. He started last week, reporting to Stephen Davis, president of Hasbro Studios and Global Entertainment and Licensing for the parent, Hasbro, Inc. ...

Interestingly, both Marvel and Hasbro have small animation studios turning out animated versions of some of their live-action hits.

Hasbro aspires to replicate the Marvel track record. Mr. Feldman looks to be the man the company intends to make those hopes and dreams reality.

Click here to read entire post

Uptick


The financial press's old meme has now changed.

... •After several flops at the box office, the company is doing well with 'How to Train Your Dragon 2'. ...

Say what? Whatever happened to "Ooh, the picture didn't open too good", and then DWA stock went down. ...

Me, I always thought that the HTTYD2 would take in something around $200 million domestically (is $172.2 million close enough to count?) and a whole lot more overseas.

And what do you know? The movie is closing in on $600 million, so I guess it's not a flop and disappointment after all
Click here to read entire post

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Index Investing Advantages

From the Washington Post:

Imagine the following: You, the investor, believe you have an uncanny skill at picking stocks. You set up an online trading account and begin to buy and sell.

As it turns out, you are quite good. You pour more money into your brokerage account and up your trading. After the first year, you look at your results: You have trounced the indexes. You snicker at your friends who invest passively in low-cost, low-turnover indexes. ...

Over 24 years, you tally up gains and losses. The markets are up, on average, about 9.3 percent annually. You, the World’s Greatest Trader, do much better — 40 percent better. That’s better than most of today’s hedge funds. It is certainly better than most average mom-and-pop investors.

How did you do vs. your friends the passive indexers?

About the same.

Wait, how on Earth is that possible? ... In a word, taxes. Traders pay a healthy tax of 30 percent or more on short-term capital gains. Effectively, you lose the benefits of compounding on one-third of those gains. Over time, this has a tremendous impact on your net returns. ...

The silly little secret of investing is, simpler is better. Drop your money into a Total U.S. Stock Market fund, a Total International fund, and a broad-based bond fund.

Then, don't move anything, don't sell your holdings, just let them percolate over long stretches of time.

Eighteen years ago, the wife and I put $9,000 into Vanguard's Total Stock Market fund for the six-year-old. Eighteen years later, after burst stock bubbles and a major recession, the 9 grand is up around $33,000, give or take. The secret is, we've never touched the money, and seldom even looked at the performance of the fund. (Which helps us to not touch the money.)

There is something to be said to 1) Low costs, and 2) Letting everything ride. Most investors' biggest hurdle is panic selling.

Click here to read entire post

Your International Box Office

World totals for animation.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (Global Cumes)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 -- $18,200,000 -- ($574,516,962)

Guardians of the Galaxy -- $20,700,000 -- ($489,484,857)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- $15,500,000 -- ($238,809,806)

Dawn of Apes -- $8,500,000 -- ($556,960,970)

Transformers: Extinct -- $5,400,000 -- ($1,065,124,603)

Other animated titles still in release:

* The Lego Movie has grand total of $468,049,270 worldwide. What makes the title kind of unique is that over 55% of its earnings come from the domestic run. (Usually a majority of the cash is from overseas.)

* Mr. Peabody and Sherman ended up at $268,759,499. That made it a write-off for DreamWorks; 58% of the take came from abroad.

* The weakly-performing Planes 2 has earned a grand total of $94,378,000; like the higher-flying Lego Movie the majority of its earnings come from the domestic release.

(You will note that, for a movie labeled a "disappointment", Dragons 2 has made a poop-load of money.)

Add On: Another semi-animated title has passed a milestone:

... Maleficent, also made news as it passed up X-Men: Days of Future Past ($744.7 million) to become the No. 2 title of the year so far at the global box office. The live-action fairy tale, starring Angelina Jolie, finished the weekend with $747.6 million in total worldwide ticket sales. ...

One more Linda Woolverton blockbuster.
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Encouraging

The Yellow Family still has it.

FXX scored solid ratings in primetime Thursday with its “The Simpsons” marathon, more than tripling the network’s usual audience and contributing to the nascent channel’s most-watched day ever.

According to Nielsen estimates, the six half-hours of “The Simpsons” averaged a 0.49 rating in adults 18-49 and 1.01 million viewers overall. The demo score was good enough for a fifth-place primetime finish for FXX — ahead of parent network FX as well as cable biggies including TNT and USA. ...

On a total-day basis, Thursday crushed FXX records, soaring 618% above its prior average in adults 18-49 (402,000 vs. 56,000) and 524% higher in total viewers (624,000 vs. 100,000).

All 552 “Simpsons” episodes will be airing in chronological order on FXX, which started the marathon earlier Thursday with the pilot episode from December 1989. ...

Congratulations to the hard-working crew over at Film Roman who helped Fox/News Corp. to earn even more money from its 12 billion dollar franchise. They might be getting a slice of the layer cake for their efforts, but at least they have bragging rights.

Click here to read entire post

The Weekend of Box Office

It appears that (halfway) animated features are back at the top of the list.

Your American Box Office

1). Guardians of the Galaxy (DIS), 3,371 theaters (-326) / $4.7M to $4.9M Fri. / 3-day cume: $17.2M to $17.6M / Total cume: $252M / Wk 4

2/3). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PAR), 3,864 theaters (-116) / $4.3M to $4.5M Friday / 3-day est. cume: $15.2M to $16.2M / Total est. cume: $145M / Wk 3


If I Stay (WB), 2,907 theaters / $6.3M to $6.7M Fri. / 3-day cume: $15.5M to $16.5M / Wk 1

4/5). Let’s Be Cops (FOX), 3,140 theaters (+46) / $3.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $9.7M to $10.3M (-45%) / Total cume: $44M / Wk 2

4/5). When the Game Stands Tall (SONY), 2,673 theaters / $2.8M to $3.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $8M to $10M / Wk 1

6). Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (TWC), 2,894 theaters / $2.6M Fri. / $6M to $7M / Wk 1

7). The Giver (TWC), 3,003 theaters (0) / $2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $6M (-48%) / Total cume: $23.8M / Wk 2

8). The Expendables 3 (LGF), 3,221 theaters (0) / $1.8M to $2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5.6M to $5.9M (-66%) / Total cume: $26M to $27M / Wk 2

9). The Hundred-Foot Journey (DIS), 1,944 theaters (-99) / $1.5M to $1.7M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5.5M to $6M (-23%) / Total cume: $32.7M / Wk 3

10). Into The Storm (WB), 2,375 theaters (-1,059) / $1.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4M+ / Total cume: $38.6M / Wk 3 ...

On the fully-animated side:

Planes 2 remains in 900+ theaters and has taken in $56.5 million.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 has collected $171.6 million as it hangs on to 300+ theaters in various sections of the country.

Rio 2 flutters along in just over a hundred theaters with a total of $131,454,258.

And The Lego Movie (remember that one?) is still in fifteen theaters with an accumulation of $257,749,270.

The animation, it plays and plays and plays.

Click here to read entire post

Twenty Years Ago This Day ...

Jeffrey Katzenberg announced he was leaving Disney.

Walt Disney Co. shocked Hollywood and Wall Street on Wednesday by announcing that veteran studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg will leave the company next month after losing a highly publicized campaign to be named second in command to Chairman Michael D. Eisner.

Katzenberg--who helped engineer the company's staggering success with animated movies such as "The Lion King" and new ventures such as the Broadway adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast"--was rebuffed by both Eisner and Disney's board of directors on grounds that he was not right for the No. 2 job.

Eisner delivered the news late Wednesday morning. "The job that (Katzenberg) would have wanted does not exist in this company," Eisner said. "We're going to strengthen the company through the divisions."

Katzenberg's departure leaves Burbank-based Disney without one of its chief creative forces. In 10 years he helped build the studio into a perennial box office leader, and encouraged its growth into the lucrative TV production market and other areas. Operating income for filmed entertainment rose steadily under Katzenberg's regime, from $2.2 million in 1984 to $622.2 million in 1993. ...

This wasn't a big surprise to anybody.

It had been an open secret that Katzenberg and Eisner weren't getting along. Jeffrey wanted the late Frank Wells' old job, and Michael said "no" (with Roy Disney's concurrence). Jeffrey felt he had been stabbed in the back, but out he went, straight into the warm embrace of Steven Spielberg and David Geffen ... and the new studio named DreamWorks was born.

Jeffrey stayed on at the House of Mouse for another month after the announcement. Michael apparently wanted Jeffrey to finish out his contract; one of the lead directors on The Hunchback of Notre Dame told me at the time that Eisner insisted on coming along with Jeffrey to a storyboard pitch at the Flower Street animation studio, and that Jeffrey's body language told the sour tale that it wasn't his idea for Michael to be there. Sitting next to Eisner, Katzenberg was hunched down, as far away from the tall CEO as he could get, as the story artists went through the boards. For the first time in anyone's memory, Jeffrey had nothing to say.

(Shortly after, there were a lot of gag drawings speculating about Katzenberg's next occupation decorating the walls at Feature Animation: Jeffrey as real estate agent, Jeffrey as over-bearing car mechanic, etc. etc.)

Interesting times.

But here we are, two decades further on, with Michael Eisner retired from Disney and running his company Tornante, and Jeffrey the CEO of DreamWorks Animation, the friend of Presidents and worth almost as much (if "Celebrity Net Worth" can be believed) as the man who pushed him off the main deck of the S.S. Mouse.

Time, it does have a way of flowing on.

(H/t to TAG President Emeritus Tom Sito).

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Friday, August 22, 2014

SAG-AFTRA Ratification

A lopsided result.

The rank and file [of the the newly-combined Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA] has voted overwhelmingly to approve the new, three-year contracts covering movie, primetime and basic cable TV production. The balloting was a lopsided 92%-8%. The deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was hammered out in the wee hours of the Fourth of July after two months of tough bargaining amid a media blackout and three 24-hour extensions after the June 30 deadline. The national board approved it eight days later. ...

The new contracts — which take effect retroactive to July 1 and run through June 30, 2017 — include:

· Gains of $200 million in wages;
· An 8.5-percent wage increase compounding to 8.7 percent; 2.5 percent in the first year, 3 percent in the second year and 3 percent in the third year;
· Advances in Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) coverage, including a brand-new residual for on-demand viewing;
· Reduction of unpaid online streaming windows for most shows; and
· An increased contribution rate percentage to our benefits plans and a mechanism to facilitate the merger of the health plans.

The IATSE -- our mother international -- will negotiate its own there-year contract next Spring. TAG will plunge in soon after. Both of the deals will likely be similar to what SAG-AFTRA, WGA, and DGA have negotiated.

It's called pattern bargaining.

Click here to read entire post

The TAG Wage Survey -- Preliminary Numbers

We're most of the way done crunching data on the Animation Guild's wage survey. Here's a first look at selected stats. (Please note that these include both union and non-union rates being paid this year):

Wages -- 2014

STAFF TV WRITERS

min: $1065.74
Median: $1984.38
Max: $3000.00

2013 median: $2202.50
Change: + $88.23


TV DIRECTORS

min: $1406.25
median: $2475.00
max: $4600.00

2013 median: $2500.00
change: -$25.00

STAFF PRODUCTION BOARD (t.v.)

min: $1000.00
median: $2000.00
max: $3307.50

2013 median: $2000.00
Change: $0.00

BACKGROUND LAYOUT/DESIGN

min: $1175.00
median: $1909.40
max: $5250.00

2013 median: $1943.20
change: -$33.80


LIGHTING

min: $1166.00
median: $1769.21
max: $2600.00

2013 median: $1913.16
change: -$143.95


3D ANIMATOR

min: $1200.00
median: $1967.58
max: $3100.00

2013 median: 1911.77
change: +$55.81 ...

A few more factoids for your perusing pleasure:

We had a return rate of 33% of wage survey forms, which is way above last year's returns, and the highest since the 1990s.

5.6% of the wage surveys came from members working at non-union studios.

25% of surveys came from three Disney divisions. (We got one form back from Pixar.)

20% of survey forms came from DreamWorks Animation's two divisions.

There were a number of entry level lighters who came into employment, which drove down the median lighting wage.

We'll have a more extensive breakdown when we've finished all the data mining. In the meantime, enjoy this first pass.

(Here's last year's complete survey. Kudos to Steve Kaplan, who took over the wage survey work from retired staffer Jeff Massie.)


Click here to read entire post

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Yellow Family's Deluge of Green

From this date:

Starting Thursday, Aug. 21, you can watch every episode of The Simpsons in back-to-back order on the FXX network for 12 straight days.

If you actually need to do things like show up for work or sleep, you can see select episodes of last season on Hulu and Fox; seasons one through three, and 20 through 25 on Amazon Instant Video and iTunes; seasons two, three, 20,and 22 through 25 on Vudu; seasons one through sixteen, and 20 on DVD; and seasons 13 through 16 and 20 on Blu-Ray.

In other words, the FXX binge is the only place to see them all. In October, however, Fox will launch Simpsons World, a comprehensive on-demand portal to every Simpsons episode. ...

When I go through Film Roman, staffers on the show often speculate how many seasons of new episodes we'll actually see. I always say:

"The show has been a cash cow for Fox and Gracie Films for decades. They'll go at least thirty seasons. They'd be fools not to."

So what kind of cash has the YF raked in to date?

Advertising revenue from The Simpsons primetime airings $5.35 Billion
The Simpsons Movie Ticket Sales $527 Million
The Simpsons Movie DVD Sales $96.4 Million
The Simpsons TV-DVD Sales $894.25 Million
The Simpsons Merchandise & Toy Sales $4.6 Billion
The Simpsons TV syndication revenue $1.1 Billion

Total Simpsons Franchise Revenue $12.33 Billion

The deal with FXX, per Bloomberg, kicks in another billion worth of long, paying out a million $ per episode over eight years.

The animation crew in Burbank will get a very small slice of revenue, but this is kind of a tradition. Thirty years ago, an old Disney hand told me at a Golden Awards banquet:

"The cartoon business is the one biz where employees work fifty years. Or need to."



Click here to read entire post

New Release Dates


The never-ending jockeying for pole position.

Today, DreamWorks Animation announced that their sequels The Croods 2 and Puss in Boots 2: Nine Lives & 40 Thieves, which were scheduled for early November in 2017 and 2018 respectively will now be released the weekend before Christmas.

The Croods 2 will now arrive December 22, 2017 while Puss in Boots 2 will come out a year later on December 21, 2018.

The idea seems to be to get further away from the DC and Marvel Super Hero movies and rival Illumination Entertainment's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. No doubt there will be other shifts between now and 2018. Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Rally

This occupied most of the day.

... The below-the-line community joined with Ron Perlman, Carl Weathers and Daniel Stern in Sacramento at the state capitol Wednesday in support of a sweetened incentive program for movies and TV shot in California. ...

The legislation [AB 1839] is heading to the Senate floor after clearing the Appropriations Committee last week. The bill will quadruple the size of the tax credit program, to $400 million per year from the current $100 million annual allocation. ...

The bill has to be voted on by the Senate no later than a week from Friday. Then the Assembly concurs with any tweaks from the Senate, and the bill rolls on to Governor Brown, who either signs the legislation or doesn't.

There are some folks in high positions urging the governor to sign it.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and 34 other members of California’s congressional delegation are urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign legislation that would expand the state’s film and TV incentive program to $400 million in tax credits per year.

The lawmakers who signed the letter to Brown include 34 Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.), whose district covers the desert regions in the eastern part of the state. ...

For those not up to full speed on this, the legislation quadruples California's current $100 million tax incentive program for feature films and hour-long television dramas, and includes rebates for visual effects.



Click here to read entire post

Not Sucky


Retired TAG staffer Jeff Massie recently came across this.

[The Animation Guild's] old logo simply cannot be true! LOL, man, LOL. New logo has nice, old-school concept to it. ...

You put stuff out on the intertubes, you wonder if anybody notices. Apparently a select few DO.

(Sitting in an airport makes for sparse blogging.)

Click here to read entire post

Liz Holzman, RIP


A top-flight artist passes.

Liz Holzman, an animation veteran and three-time Daytime Emmy Award winner for her work on the 1990s series Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, has died. She was 61.

Holzman, an animator, character designer, storyboard artist, writer, director and producer, died Monday, her family announced in a paid obituary in the Los Angeles Times. She had battled cancer for years.

A nine-time Daytime Emmy nominee, Holzman also worked on such series as Alvin & the Chipmunks, The Glo Friends, Smurfs, DuckTales, Muppet Babies, Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Darkwing Duck, Garfield and Friends, Baby Blues and The Zeta Project during her 30-year career. ...

Our condolences to Liz's family and many friends.

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Outsourcing


... from China to ... Australia?

Australia’s Vue Group is completing the VFX work for the Chinese and international versions of two 3D animated features in a co-venture with production company Shanghai Hippo Animation Design. ...

Among the sequences handled by Vue’s VFX team in Bunbury WA were the last 18 minutes of the film, replete with lots of shattering effects and lightning, as an alien with angel wings flies towards the moon.

Lindsay says both projects have already recouped their budgets, helped by worldwide distribution deals, excluding Australia/New Zealand, with a US company which will be unveiled next month. ...

Chinese partners will fund 80% of the projects with the balance from Australia. The total production budget for the three films to be co-produced by the Vue Group and Hippo would exceed $57 million.

Movie studios go where they need to in order to get their project done on time and on budget. If that means going to Australia, no problem. If it means the U.S. or Britain or France, they're down with that. But as technical expertise and know-how spreads to every continent, there's the looming question of:

"So how much free money can you give me?"

Which explain why the Aussies are considering new tax incentives for movie work, just as Canada, the U.K., France, New York already do. Just as California is close to doing.

Corporate welfare. You can never have too much.

Click here to read entire post

Renewals and Launches

I'm stuck in remote locations today, but there is this:

Star Wars Rebels will make its official television debut with the one-hour movie Spark of Rebellion on Friday, Oct. 3, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Disney Channel, before the series premieres Monday, Oct. 13, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on sister network Disney XD

And this ...

The hit Hulu Original The Awesomes from Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker has been renewed for a third season. The adult animated series starring Seth Meyers as “Prock” is currently in its second season with new episodes premiering every Monday and will return for a third season in 2015 ...

The Awesomes is produced in Bento Box's Atlanta Studio (which would benefit from a TAG contract like its sisters in Southern California), and of course Rebels is made by Disney/Lucas (which could also benefit from an agreement, I think).

Animation continues to expand and flourish on multiple platforms, and the wave seems a long way from cresting. The fact that cartoons have a long shelf life (The Jetsons, Flintstones, Scooby Doo) and generate ongoing cash flow long after their live-action equivalents have vanished from sight is only one reason cartoons get made.

The fact that audiences watch the shows the first time around is also helpful.

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Everybody's Mentor


The story goes that Don drew his creative sustenance from one individual.

It’s impossible to talk about Don Bluth without talking about Walt Disney. ...

But here's a news flash: It's impossible to talk about John Lasseter without talking about Walt Disney.

Just as it's difficult to talk about Jeffrey Katzenberg ... who admits to poring over Walt's sweatbox notes ... without bring Walt into the widescreen frame.

Because the reality is that anybody who's currently anybody in Cartoonland was influenced by Disney. Walt, though he's been dead forty-eight years and his daughters and wife have gone to their rewards, is still the D.W. Griffith, John Ford, and William Wyler of animation. The Alpha dog of the whole shebang.

Even Illumination Entertainment chief Chris Meledandri, who developed his animation chops at Fox Animation, spent time at Disney executive-producing Swing Kids and Cool Runnings (among others). All roads run through Disney.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Bay Window

Today I was looking at this clip about the making of Toy Story ...



... and how "dark" and "edgy" the first pass of the ground-breaking feature was. And how it didn't work.

But if you like dark and edgy, here's a full dose:




Which reminds me. When will Mr. Bay jump into animation and push the cartoon envelope?

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Continuing Changes in Glendale

Even as DWA lays off some employees, other positions open up.

DreamWorks Animation has appointed a new chief financial officer, in the latest in a series of management changes at the Glendale studio.

Fazal Merchant, a former executive at DirecTV and Barclays Capital, has been tapped as the company's finance chief. He succeeds Lew Coleman, who will focus on global growth initiatives as vice chairman, the studio said Monday morning. ...

DreamWorks Animation has appointed a new chief financial officer, in the latest in a series of management changes at the Glendale studio.

Fazal Merchant, a former executive at DirecTV and Barclays Capital, has been tapped as the company's finance chief. He succeeds Lew Coleman, who will focus on global growth initiatives as vice chairman, the studio said Monday morning. ...

I'm not sure adding more execs and slimming down on production crews is the best way to go, but what do I know?

Maybe if you want to grow into a conglomerate, you need to staff like a conglomerate.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

International Box Office

With an overview of how the animation is doing.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (Global Totals)

Galaxy Guardians -- $33,100,000 -- ($418,681,000)

Teenage Mutant Turtles -- $25,600,000 -- ($185,142,236)

Training Dragon 2 -- $37,700,000 -- ($537,217,593)

Dawn of Apes -- $16,500,000 -- ($538,812,360)

Transformers Extinct -- $8,400,000 -- ($1,054,436,930)

So it appears that DreamWorks Animation's theatrical "failure" continues to do well:

... “How to Train Your Dragon 2″ soared to the top of the foreign box office charts this weekend, picking up $37.7 million from 28 markets.

The DreamWorks Animation sequel was powered by a strong debut in China, where the picture picked up $25.9 million. Though “Dragon 2’s” $171 million domestic gross was lower than expected and lagged behind its predecessor, it’s been a monster overseas. Its global gross now stands at $537.2 million, easily topping the $494.8 million made by the first film in the series. ...

Doesn't quite jibe with the recent financial and trade press's storyline, but what can you do?

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Iwerks

The man who owned 20% of Diz Co.

Ub Iwerks published the first Color-Sound cartoon 84 years ago [yesterday], starring Flip the Frog. But chances are, you’re much more likely to know him for his other cartoon creation: Mickey Mouse. ...

Old Ub was Walt's right-hand man until he left the company in 1930, turning in his ownership share of Walt Disney Productions, which totaled 20%. (If he'd hung on to it, his nut would be worth around $28,500,000,000 today. Ah well ...)

Ub returned to Disney in 1940, working as a special effects technician rather than an animator. He passed away in '71 at the age of seventy, and his two sons (don and Dave) continued his legacy.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Animation Awards -- The Emmys


Congratulations to all the winners.

Outstanding Individual Achievements In Animation (Juried)

Adventure Time, Wizards Only, Fools; Nick Jennings, Art Director, Cartoon Network
Disney Gravity Falls, Dreamscaperers, Ian Worrel, Art Director, Disney Channel
Disney Mickey Mouse, ‘O Sole Minnie, Narina Sokolova, Background Designer, Disney Channel
Disney Mickey Mouse, The Adorable Couple, Valerio Vaentura, Background Designer, Disney Channel
Long Live The Royals, Sean Szeles, Storyboard Artist, Cartoonetwork.com
The Powerpuff Girls: Dance Pantsed, Jasmin Lai, Background Painter, Cartoon Network
Robot Chicken DC Comics Special II: Villains in Paradise, Cameron Baity, Animator, Adult Swim
The Simpsons, Treehouse of Horror XXIV, Dmitry Malaitchev, Color Design Director, Fox
The Simpsons, Treehouse of Horror XXIV, Charles Ragins, Background Designer, Fox
Uncle Grandpa, Afraid of the Dark, Nick Edwards, Character Design, Cartoon Network

Short-format Animated Program

Disney Mickey Mouse • ‘O Sole Minnie • Disney Channel • Disney Television Animation

Animated Program

Bob’s Burgers • Mazel Tina • FOX • 20th Century Fox Television

Slowly, bit by bit, animation is getting more recognition. In the marketplace, in critics' hearts, at awards time.

I have hope that sooner instead of later, animation won't be thought of as live action's ugly kid brother, but as its studly equal.

Add On: Deadline notes two firsts.

... Fox’s animated comedies produced two under-the-radar winners tonight, Harry Shearer as the winner in the Best Character Voice-Over performance category, and Bob’s Burgers landing the best animated program trophy. Not a ratings dynamo or a pop culture phenomenon like The Simpsons or Family Guy and without the pedigree of American Dad!, from Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane, Bob’s Burgers has been an industry darling. Creator Loren Bouchard and exec producer Jim Dauterive are well liked by their peers, as is the cast. ...

It was not only Shearer’s first Emmy, it was also the first Emmy ever in the newly spun-off best character voice-over category. Splitting the narrator and character voice-over fields likely helped Shearer as just last year, the voice-over Emmy trophy went to Lily Tomlin for a narrating work. ...

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The Box Office

... of the animated and related features.

Domestic Box Office Thru Thursday

Teenage Turtles -- $89,242,236

Guardians of the Galaxy -- $197,545,821

Planes: Fire and Rescue -- $54,695,759

Dawn of Apes -- $199,912,360

How to Train Your Dragon 2 -- $170,662,593

Transformers Extinct -- $243,136,930

And of course, there's more news about the movie that sent DreamWorks Animation's stock downward. ...

Forbes:

... "How to Train Your Dragon 2" has surpassed the $494m worldwide cume of "How to Train Your Dragon" just as "Kung Fu Panda 2" surpassed the $631m cume of "Kung Fu Panda". A hit is a hit, no matter where it makes its money. ...

Also noted at the L.A. Times and Cartoon Brew (among other places.)

Add On: The domestic Top Ten now contains halfway animated features (Turtles, Galaxy Guardians, etc.) but none of the 100% variety.

Weekend U.S./Canada Box Office

1). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PAR), 3,980 theaters (+135) / $7.9M Friday / $10.7M (+35%) / 3-day est. cume: $27M (-58%) / Total est. cume: $116M+ / Wk 2

2). Guardians of the Galaxy (DIS), 3,697 theaters (-391) / $6.9M Fri. / $9.69M Sat. (+40%) /3-day cume: $23.75M / Total cume: $221.4M / Wk 3

3). Let’s Be Cops (FOX), 3,094 theaters / $5.2M Wed. (includes $1.2M late nights) / $3.2M Thurs. / $5.6M Fri. / $6.49M Sat. (+15%) / 3-day cume: $17M+ / 5-day cume: $25.4M / Wk 1

4). The Expendables 3, (LGF), 3,221 theaters / $5.9M Fri. (includes $875K late nights) / $5.6M Sat. (-5%) / 3-day cume: $15.8M to $16M+ / Wk 1

5). The Giver (TWC), 3,003 theaters / $4.7M Fri. (includes $750K late nights) / $4.7M Sat. (0) / 3-day cume: $13M / Wk 1

6). The Hundred-Foot Journey (DIS), 2,043 theaters (+20)/ $2M Fri. / $3.19M Sat. (+55%) / 3-day cume: $7M (-32%) / Total cume: $24M / Wk 2

7). Into The Storm (WB), 3,434 theaters (0) / $2.26M Fri. / $3M Sat. (+35%) / 3-day cume: $7M+ (-58%) / Total cume: $30.9M / Wk 2

8). Lucy (UNI), 2,520 theaters (-627) / $1.57M Fri. / $2.1M Sat. (+35%) / 3-day cume: $5.2M / Total cume: $107.5M / Wk 4

9). Step Up All In (LGF), 2,072 theaters (0) / $750K Fri. / $860K Sat. (+15%) / 3-day cume: $2.25M (-66%) / Total cume: $11.4M / Wk 2

10). Boyhood (IFC), 771 theaters (+265) / $535K Fri. / $845K Sat. (+60%) / 3-day cume: $1.95M / Total cume: $13.6M / Wk 6

Another halfway animated feature, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is out of the top tier but has reached $200,427,000 in domestic ticket sales.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Free Money!

Corporate welfare marches on:

... From 2012 to 2013, movie production spending [in the United Kingdom] rose 7.5% to $1.81 billion, according to numbers from the British Film Institute, with 81% of the total U.K. production spending coming from films financed from outside the U.K. — mostly from the U.S. studios. These pics contributed $1.46 billion, an increase of 28% on 2012. The first half of 2014 saw U.K. spending on all films hit $1.3 billion, the highest since the first half of 2011, according to the BFI.

The boom can be traced to Britain’s attractive tax credit, which got sexier in 2013: It improved the rate of relief for larger budget pics, offering a 25% rebate of the first £20 million ($34.2 million) of qualifying U.K. expenditure, with the remainder of a budget still receiving a 20% rebate. ...

The lure of free money is potent. It's not a surprise that our fine entertainment conglomerates are flying to the sceptered isle. (Disney isn't doing Star Wars VII in Burbank, now are they? Even though Abrams would be more than okay with that.)

I'm not a fan of showering cash on big multi-nationals, but recognize that we live in a corporatist state. I'm supporting AB 1839 (California's version of free money) out of self defense, not because I like it.

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Traveling Chuck Jones

For your perusal:

What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones is a new traveling exhibition that reveals the creative genius behind some of the most enduringly popular cartoons and animated films of all time. The exhibition is a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, and the Museum of the Moving Image.

What’s Up, Doc? examines Jones’ development as a filmmaker and visual artist and showcases many of his most significant films, which come to life on screens throughout the exhibition. ...

Got your own museum? Then you're in luck! Because the exhibition has some open slots and you can book it into your facility!



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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Animation Work In And Around Los Angeles

Per request, we've gathered information about union animation work going on in L.A. I've had assistance from staff and members, and have tried to be fairly comprehensive, but I'm sure there are gaps, omissions, and (horrors!) an error or three.

Feel free to chime in regarding non-union or union studio projects that I've missed, because I know I'm not up to speed on all the stuff out there. ...

Bento Box

Bob's Burgers -- Prime time show well into new season
Brickleberry -- Comedy Central show near end of season
Border Town -- New Macfarlane show in the front half of series order.

Cartoon Network:

Over the Garden Wall -- Micro series that's now completed
The Powerpuff Girls (Rebooted) -- Not yet in production
Adventure Time -- Has greenlight for Season #6
Regular Show -- Also greenlit for Season #6
Rick And Morty -- Adult Swim series -- non-union -- done at Starburns Industries
Uncle Grandpa -- 2nd season underway
Clarence -- 2nd season underway
We Bare Bears -- New series working on 1st season
Mixels -- A Lego property done as series
Ben 10 -- Winding down, but up for a future reboot
Steven Universe -- ongoing
Black Dynamite -- ongoing.

Disney Television Animation

Wander Over Yonder -- Okayed for a 2nd season
The 7D -- Solid ratings, should get 2nd season pickup
Mickey Mouse shorts -- Produced in Canada, with pre-production in Glendale
Gravity Falls -- Now wrapping up 2nd season
Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja -- Pre-production at Titmouse (dba Robin Red Breast)
Sophia the 1st -- Third Season for this hit show
Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero -- Season #1
Jake and the Neverland Pirates -- 4th and likely last season
Pickle and Peanut -- Long development time for this series
Sheriff Calley's Wild West Show -- Pre-production at Wild Canary Animation
Miles From Tomorrowland -- Pre-production at Wild Canary Animation
Star Vs. the Forces of Evil -- In work.

DisneyToons Studios

Various shorts and features in development. Recent layoffs of 18 staffers.

DreamWorks Animation

Home -- Feature that's in the home stretch.
Penguins of Madagascar -- Feature largely produced in India, some work in Glendale
B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations -- In development and production
Kung Fu Panda 3 -- Production work largely in China. (Most story work on DWA features is done in California/Glendale).
Croods 2 -- In development
How To Train Your Dragon 3 -- In early development.
(Various Chinese DreamWorks Animation projects in story development at DWA's Glendale studio, also others. Some story work at PDI in Redwood City. Rolling layoffs of 28 staffers.)

DreamWorks Television Animation

How to Train Your Dragon/Riders of Berk -- In midst of 58 episode order, some for Netflix
Turbo Fast -- Netflix series with pre-production at Titmouse/Robin Red Breast
King Julien -- Large Netflix series order
Puss in Boots -- Another Netflix show
Veggie Tales in the House -- Lots of Netflix episodes
Dinotrux -- Supervised by Jeff DeGrandis, late of "Dora"
The Croods -- Sizable Netflix order
Mr. Peabody and Sherman -- 78-episode order.

Film Roman

The Simpsons -- Prime time veteran deep into its twenty-somethings season

Fox Animation

Family Guy -- Working on latest, slightly shorter-than-normal season
American Dad -- Engaged with the first season of shows original to TBS. If you didn't know, it has departed Fox Broadcasting.

Hasbro

Stretch Armstrong -- Ongoing
Transformers -- Ongoing
Rescue Bots -- Ongoing.

Marvel Animation

Avengers Assemble -- Ongoing
Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. -- Ongoing
Ultimate Spiderman -- produced, and now completed, at Film Roman.

Nickelodeon

Spongebob Squarepants -- Now that movie is complete, could be new episodes at some future date
Fairly Odd Parents -- On hiatus, most crew members on other projects
The Loud House -- Creating Season #1
The Legend of Korra -- Wrapping, with crew now on other shows (and has shifted on on-line distribution)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- Now on its 3rd season
Sanjay and Craig -- Doing its 2nd season
Shimmer and Shine -- 1st season
Bad Seeds -- Working on Season #1
Dora the Explorer -- Will relaunch in 4th quarter
Wallykazam! -- Working on Season #2.

Paramount Animation

Various projects in development on Paramount studio lot (Hollywood).

Sony Pictures Animation

Popeye -- In development (production in Vancouver).
The Smurfs -- In development (production in Vancouver)
Hotel Transylvania 2 -- In development (production in Vancouver)
Kazorn -- In development.
(Various other projects in work)


Universal Cartoon Studios

Land Before Time -- In the process of becoming.
Curious George -- Maybe more episodes toward the end of the year.

Walt Disney Animation Studios

Big Hero 6 -- In the last couple of months of production.
Zootopia -- In development
Moana -- In development
Giants -- In development.

Warner Animation Group

Various projects in development on the Warner Bros. main lot. (Pre-production only).

Warner Bros. Animation

Wabbit -- Latest series incarnation of Bugs
Mike Tyson Mysteries -- Warner series on Adult Swim
Batman Direct-To-Video Feature
Scooby Doo series -- The franchise that never dies.

On top of the union animation work, there are a number of non-signator facilities doing production, including ADHD (Animation Domination High Def - Fox affiliated), Titmouse Animation, Moonscoop (formerly Mike Young Productions), Rough Draft Studios, Renegade Animation, and Cosmic Toast.

Reel FX, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, has a non-signator satellite studio in Santa Monica which is currently animating feature projects.

Besides traditional animation, there are a number of small visual effects houses in the east San Fernando Valley and Santa Monica/Venice/Culver City, boutique effects houses that work on t.v. and movie special effects. If and when California increases tax incentives for television, movies and VFX, there should be improvements to this segment of the entertainment business. We anticipate some visual effects work returning to the state.

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Warcraft Cinema


... or, if you prefer, Cinematic:



Blizzard Entertainment, headquartered down in Irvine, California, has been around for twenty-three years.

A feature based on Warcraft (the game) rolls out in 2016. Hard to know how the long-form movie will do in the AMC, wide-screen marketplace, but it appears as if it's being produced in British Columbia, the land of Free Money.

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401(k) Freeze Lifted

One more narrowcast:

The transition from Mass Mutual to Vanguard is now over, and you can directly manage your account in The Animation Guild 401(k) Plan:

• Online. Go to vanguard.com/register to sign up for account access. You will be able to check your balance, conduct transactions, research investments, get investment advice, use financial planning tools, and more. You will need your plan number to register: 094523.* Click here for fund and expense information.

• By phone. Call the 24-hour interactive VOICE® Network at 800-523-1188 to conduct transactions, get detailed fund information, and more. You will need a personal identification number (PIN) to use VOICE. To create a PIN, follow the prompts.

• With personal assistance. Call a Vanguard Participant Services associate for help at 800-523-1188 Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Pacific time.

* If you have an individual account already registered at vanguard.com, your current user name and password will enable you to access your individual and Plan accounts. If you have an individual account with Vanguard but have not yet registered for online access, you will need your individual account number to register.

A couple of notes here: Most members working at a studio repped by the Animation Guild are eligible to enroll in the Plan. (They must be 21 and have cumulatively worked 90 days under TAG's jurisdiction, but after that they're good to go.)

It's easy to enroll, just grab enrollment forms off the Animation Guild website or contact us at (818) 845-7500. If you like, Vanguard can deliver your account statements, confirmations, notices and tax forms over the web. You can sign up for e-delivery after you’ve registered for account access at vanguard.com . Just log on to your account at vanguard.com/retirementplans and select My Profile, then Mailing Preferences.

All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest.

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