Friday, October 09, 2015

The Oncoming Deluge

There's going to be a whole lotta animated features in the weeks and months ahead, all of them sliding down various distribution chutes:


Fox, Blue Sky
November 6, 2015
(28 days from now)

The Good Dinosaur
Disney, Pixar
November 25, 2015
(47 days from now)

Norm of the North
Lionsgate, Splash
January 15, 2016
(98 days from now)

The Nut Job 2
Open Road, Gulfstream, Red Rover, ToonBox
January 15, 2016
(98 days from now)

Kung Fu Panda 3
Fox, DreamWorks
January 29, 2016
(112 days from now)

March 4, 2016
(147 days from now)

Ratchet & Clank
Focus, Rainmaker
April 29, 2016
(203 days from now)

Angry Birds
Sony, Columbia
May 20, 2016
(224 days from now)

Finding Dory
Disney, Pixar
June 17, 2016
(252 days from now)

The Secret Life of Pets
Universal, Illumination
July 8, 2016
(273 days from now)

Ice Age: Collision Course
Fox, Blue Sky
July 22, 2016 287
(287 days from now)

Kubo and the Two Strings
Focus, Laika
August 19, 2016
(315 days from now)

The Lego Ninjago Movie
Warner Bros
September 23, 2016
(350 days from now) ...

And there's even MORE further out. ...

One point of interest: I thought that DisneyToon Studios was pretty well kaput (as they say in central Europe). But apparently not:

... Disney has claimed April 12, 2019 for an unnamed DisneyToon Studios film.

DisneyToon is the division of Walt Disney Animation Studios that puts out direct-to-video and theatrical features, typically based on existing properties. Their recent releases include the Cars spinoffs Planes and Planes: Fire and Rescue, also the Tinker Bell adventure The Pirate Fairy. ...

DisneyToon Studios, located in sunny Glendale, had a long and lucrative run creating direct-to-video hand-drawn features, all the way back to the early nineties, and after that direct-to-video CG features.

Sadly, the market for Little Silver Disks has withered away in recent years, and with it profits for DisneyToon Studios. In remedy, the Mouse distributed two later titles, Planes and Planes: Fire and Rescue, to theaters worldwide. The first entry did okay but the second was still-born at the box office, even though it garnered a few okay reviews.

At present, there is not much in the way of DisneyToon staff, since the bulk of DTS employees were laid off months ago. Most of the DisneyToon Studios building, next door to Disney TVA on Sonora Avenue, houses Walt Disney Animation Studios personnel who are displaced from the Riverside Hat Building in Burbank at it undergoes renovation.

But DTS can always hire new artists for the new movie, yes?

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Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Ever-Expanding Cartoon Universe

This contribution from a newer Burbank Studio.

... [Stoopid Buddy Stoodios] latest project — the stop-motion superhero sendup “SuperMansion” – debuted Thursday on Crackle. The series, created by Senreich and Zeb Wells, is a departure for Stoopid Buddy because it features recurring characters and an ongoing storyline. The episodes are also 22 minutes long, as opposed to the 11-minute “Robot Chicken” episodes. ...

“We have multiple stages with multiple animators, and at any time we could have multiple episodes shot at the same time,” explains [studio co-founder Eric] Towner. “It makes sense for us to set up and light a location, like the ‘SuperMansion’ kitchen where we have reoccurring scenes throughout the entire series. We just light it and keep it up.” ...

“A lot of different projects are happening right now,” says Towner. “We just did a Web series with Bratz, which was really cool. We’re doing a 2D animated show with WWE’s Camp WWE and that’s a new horizon for us. And then there are a bunch of projects we can’t talk about yet. We’re really lucky.”

We're happy SBS is doing well. Next we need to get a contract in place ...

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Disney Reshuffles Its (Movie) Deck

The Mouse rearranges its release schedule.

... Disney is making some moves in its long-term schedule, pushing its Toy Story back a year, and rearranging animation, live action and Marvel schedules along with setting an Ant-Man sequel. The news comes as the filmmaker says it's crossed the $4B mark at the global box office ($1.433B domestic, $2.575B international) for the third straight year. ...

Toy Story 4 will now hit wide release June 15, 2018, a year later from its June 2017 slot -- which now makes room for Cars 3 to come out that month. Incredibles 2 is set for June 21, 2019.

Meanwhile, at Marvel, Ant-Man and the Wasp has gotten the green light and is headed for release July 6, 2018. The low-expectations original earned $178.5M domestically. That means a move for Black Panther (to Feb. 16, 2018, from original July 2018 date) and Captain Marvel, moving from November 2018 to March 8, 2019. ...

When you're a monster entertainment conglomerate looking to maximize profits, you strive to place your feature product into the best possible release window, the better to get an out-sized profit. The way movie companies roll today, a release date is set, then the movie gets made and completed on or before the date, usually come hell or massive crew overtime.

Obviously once in a while features get shuffled around if there's NO way to get them done (this has happened with a select number of Disney/Pixar features, all the way back to Pinocchio, but generally when movies' day and dates are locked, they are locked

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Wednesday, October 07, 2015


You have to be of a certain age to understand the impact and ubiquity of Kevin Corcoran. In the fifties and early sixties, he was the quintessential Disney kid. The kid brother, the title kid, but always the kid who stole scenes wholesale. And Walter E. Disney used him a lot.

Kevin Corcoran, best known to generations of film fans as the youngest brother in the classic, emotionally devastating Disney kids film Old Yeller, has died at 66, his family confirmed today. ...

By the last half of the sixties, he had pivoted away from acting and moved into production, becoming an assistant director and producer on a plethora of movies and television shows, everything from Pete's Dragon (1977) to Sons of Anarchy (2012).

It was a shock to learn that he's gone.

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Contract Battle

Not ours, but others'.

Members of SAG-AFTRA have voted overwhelmingly to give their leaders the authority to call a strike against the video game industry, which is expected to rake in more than $20 billion this year in the U.S. alone. The strike-authorization vote comes after negotiations for a new contract broke off in June. ...

Comes down to leverage, as it so often does. ...

We've had some rugged negotiations over the years, but the video game - SAG-AFTRA negotiations are on a WHOLE different level. Like for instance this corporate proposal.

Our companies ... are seeking onerous sanctions against agents who refuse to send their clients to certain auditions.

“Our employers propose to fine your agent $50,000-$100,000 if they don’t send you out on certain auditions, like Atmospheric Voices or One Hour-One Voice sessions,” the union told its members. “And if your agent chooses not to submit you for certain auditions, the employers want it put into contract language that SAG-AFTRA will revoke the agent’s union franchise." ...

Wow. Like wow. And then this:

[Companies seek] reductions in fees that would “roll back the gains we’ve made in previous contracts” and $2,500 fines against actors who are not “attentive to the services for which they have been engaged.” The guild told its members that “this means you could be fined for almost anything: checking an incoming text, posting to your Twitter feed, even zoning out for a second.”

Yeah. $2,500 fines for cat-napping at a session seem like a dandy idea. That would probably wipe out any wages that an actor received.

But we know what this is about, don't we? This is about not having a contract anymore.

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Another prime-time Fox show gets extended.

Fox is cementing the future of Bob's Burgers.

The network has handed out a two-season renewal, taking the animated comedy from 20th Century Fox Television into its seventh and eighth seasons.

The comedy, created by Loren Bouchard and Bento Box Entertainment has been a reliable performer opening the network's Sundays live-action/animated comedy mix. The renewal means Bob's and The Simpsons will likely be paired for the next two broadcast seasons. ...

Bob's has been a staple at Bento Box since its beginning, housed in the company's Burbank Studio. The staff has had some changes over the years, but many of the directors and board artists have been with the show since its early days.

Staffers have been rolling through a hiatus, but the show getting picked up for two more seasons means that artists will have steady employment the next few years, a good thing in this era of shorter schedules and fewer shows in a season order. Prime time cartoons still need orders of twenty-plus episodes.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

401(k) Improvements

Another TAG blog narow-cast.

The Animation Guild 401(k) Plan has been with Vanguard Mutual Funds for a year and two months, and we're pleased to announce that The Target Date Funds have had their usual level of costs reduced. ...

Instead of the retail fee of 16 or 17 or 18 basis points*, the new tier of charges for Target Date Funds will be dropped to 11 basis points.

* One basis point equals 1/100th of a percent.

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Justice League Confusion

A little while back there was this:

In September, a photo surfaced online indicating that Cartoon Network was gearing up for another animated Justice League series. While Warner Bros. declined to comment to CBR News at the time, the photo showed a wall filled with posters representing the cable network's current slate of programming, with a poster emblazoned with the unmistakable "JLA" logo and silhouettes of over a dozen heroes. ...

And then this.


Following the discovery of the animated Justice League poster from a month ago, now a new animated Justice League series is confirmed by Cartoon Network.

Cartoon Network Canada responded to a fan question on their Facebook page with (via "We will be premiering a new Justice League series, but not likely until next Fall."

As noted by a forum poster, the Cartoon Network shows usually air later in Canada than in the U.S., so that would mean the new Justice League animated series - speculated to be titled "Justice League Action" - would debut at least in the Fall of 2016. ...

But then today there was this: ...

What Does 'Cartoon Network Cannot Confirm That a New JUSTICE LEAGUE Series Is In Development' Mean'?

Reports surfaced Tuesday that Cartoon Network Canada had confirmed the development of a new Justice League cartoon scheduled to hit airwaves in late 2016, with World's Finest Online, the site that broke the story, speculating that the title would be "Justice League Action."

However, Polygon was able to contact a representative of Cartoon Network who told them, "We cannot confirm that a new Justice League series is in development," before another Cartoon Network spokesperson added "Cartoon Network U.S. makes those announcements, not Cartoon Network Canada." ...

Pretty breathless, newsworthy stuff. But what's the fuss? On August 31st there was this small pice of info:

Warner Bros. Animation

WWE Meets Jetsons
Be Cool, Scooby Doo
Wabbit – wrapping up ... for now.
Bunnicula – multi episodes
Justice League Action – multi episodes
Mike Tyson Mysteries – multi episodes
Teen Titans Go! – multi episodes

So the information was out there. The citizenry simply needed eyes to see.

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Merger and Acquisition

One of the bigger animation studios on the continent has been subsumed by a European entity:

Italian children’s TV producer and distributor Rainbow has expanded into North America with the acquisition of a Canadian animation studio.

Rainbow, which claims to be the largest animation studio in Europe, has bought Vancouver-based Bardel Entertainment for an undisclosed fee.

Bardel, meanwhile, employs 650 artists across three divisions in Canada who provide animation for the likes of Nickelodeon, DreamWorks and Disney. ...

Bardel has been on a tear as the go-to Canadian shop for many American Cartoon Creators. (Never under-estimate the power of Free Money.)

Bardel currently works on nine different animated projects/series, and staffers at the studios down here in Los Angeles tell me that there has been tugging and pulling between majors over who gets Bardel's "A staff" and who has to live with "B staff.

(Disney, from accounts, does not live with B staff.)

But now it looks like Bardel has been purchased by Rainbow, and so changes might be happening. More co-productions? More original content on behalf of the new owner? Be interesting to watch and see.

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Monday, October 05, 2015


We try not to break news of sequels or originals here, because over the years studios have reamed us for it. (Okay, they've reamed me. Just last week a Disney staffer e-mailed to say that the studio hadn't announced Wreck-It Ralph 2, and I should take it off the "in development" list.

I replied that I would be happy to, except that John C. Reilly had already made the announcement several months before and so it was kind of silly to do that. ...

And I sent him the link to prove it.


But we get it, studios are touchy about premature publicity, and like to have con-TROL. And we do our best to comply with the "Secret" classification to projects we know are going on. Even so, what's getting developed is an endlessly fascinating topic of discussion, particularly when it comes to sequels.

Den of Geek blatted out its take on what second, third and fourth chapters to various originals are now getting made. There are a hell of a lot of animated features on it, so we thought it would be useful to link to it tonight.

Which we've done. And if there are some sequels that have been missed, feel free to tell us.

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Cloudy, the TV Version

We get press releases.

DHX Media has signed a far-reaching deal with Turner Broadcasting for the new animated television series Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: The Series, based on the Sony Pictures Animation blockbuster film franchise.

The 26 x 22' animated series which DHX Media is producing with Sony Pictures Animation, commissioned by TELETOON in Canada, has been picked up by Turner Broadcasting for its second flagship kids channel, Boomerang across EMEA, APAC, and Latin America.

DHX Media handles global television, licensing and merchandising and non-US home entertainment rights to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: The Series (Sony will distribute home entertainment in the US). The series is being produced at DHX's animation studio in Vancouver, BC. ...

There was a time long ago (eighteen months?) when Boomerang was the TV Land of cartoon cable networks. It showed old Warners, M-G-M and Hanna-Barbera product, and not much else.

But then, it used to be commercial free. And the "Look Ma! No ads!" thingie went bye-bye a while ago.

Boomerang steps deeper into the Big Leagues with the Meatballs acquisition, but it's already showing a newer selection of cartoon series. As of today, the network will debut new episodes from six new series, including Wabbit, Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!, The Garfield Show, Shaun the Sheep, Sonic Boom, and DreamWorks Dragons.

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The Ever-Crowded Field

One more animated feature:

Jamie Foxx has signed on as the voice of the lead character in Groove Tails, a new CGI animated family movie on which he will also serve as co-producer. The story, set in the world of competitive street dancing competitions, but for mice, follows “Biggz”, a mouse deep in debt to a local club hoping to clean up the streets from a group of menacing alley cats, and get the girl.

An AMBI Group presentation of an AMBI and Imprint Entertainment production, animation and production for Groove Tails is being handled by AMBI’s AIC Studios in Toronto. ...

And what is the AMBI Group? An acronym for its owner/operators Monika Bacardi and Andrea Iervolino, (who's produced over forty flicks). Monika, in her mid-fifties, has a sizable fortune, and Andrea, a twenty-seven-year-old Italian-Canadian, has the movie resume and the background in film producing.

This is the second announced animated feature for AMBI. Be interesting to see how it turns out. Quality storyboard artists with feature experience are stretched then right now, so AMBI/AIC has a robust set of challenges ahead of them, getting their pictures made. But we wish them the best.

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Sunday, October 04, 2015

The World's Box Office

There are now three fully animated features earning significant bucks across the globe. Apparently world audiences haven't gotten the memo about too many cartoons crowding the market.


The Martian -- $45,200,000 -- ($100,200,000

Hotel Transylvania 2 -- $20,400,000 -- ($150,341,765)

Inside Out -- $12,600,000 -- ($792,252,737)

Minions -- $6,000,000 -- ($1,145,310,590)

Pixels -- $1,800,000 -- ($236,315,894)

Jurassic World -- $400,000 -- ($1,664,000) ...

And a fine trade journal tells us:

... HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 continued to bring in audiences with another $20.4M on over 6,300 screens in 50 markets. It has kept very strong holds in its second weekend, dropping only 33% overall. The international cume on this animated family film from Sony rose to $59.8M in only 34% of its international footprint. ...

Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s Minions on Friday weekend passed Iron Man 3’s $806.4M tally to become the 10th highest-grossing film of all time internationally. This comes after last weekend, the animated family film passed Transformers: Dark of the Moon’s worldwide total ($1.124B) to become the 10th highest-grossing film of all time worldwide. The weekend haul for Minions this weekend is another $6M in 44 territories for a new international cume of $811.4M.

Inside Out opened to No. 1 and with a whopping $7.1M in Germany this weekend. ... It's also now the highest-grossing Disney Animation or Pixar release of all time in Singapore and Thailand. And to top that off, it is also the highest-grossing Disney release of all time in Israel (animated or live-action). ... Tuesday, the animated film will bow in its final market of China. ...

And the world's thirst for animated features remains unquenched.

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Still More Animation

There can never be too many players, I guess.

Scooter Braun’s SB Projects is jumping into animation with Rock Angels, a new children’s series co-produced with Cyber Group Studios and featuring original music. The announcement was made by SB Projects COO Scott Manson at MIPCOM, the annual global entertainment conference in Cannes, France. ...

The new series represents SB Projects’ continued expansion into film and TV, which includes the successful CBS drama Scorpion, now in its second season, the new MTV series Todrick and the upcoming live action movie Jem and the Holograms (out October 23). ...

SB Projects is headquartered on 8th Avenue in New York City. It's a shame they're going to Paris for their animation expertise instead of Los Angeles, but maybe that will change.

Maybe, after more SB animated projects get produced. They will move the carnival in the other directions.

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Guide To Aging

Matt Groening Productions sent me Grampa Simpson's Guide to Aging, the fifth installment in the "Vault of Simpsonology" series by Mr. Groening (the writers here are Bill Morrison and Karen Bates.) It's an amusing, comic-laden piffle of 64 pages; since I'm now at the stage of life where I'm wading more deeply into Geezerhood, these pointed questions caught my eye. ..


1) When riding in the passenger seat of a car, do you constantly grab the armrest and slam your foot against the imaginary brake in your floorboard?

2) Have you ever asked the question, "Have you seen my teeth?" (But not in a bragging way.)

3) Does the skin on your upper arms keep moving several seconds after the rest of you has stopped?

4) When buying new pants, do you measure your waist closer to your sternum than your navel? ...

6) Have you ever thought to yourself: :I need a bigger medicine cabinet?"

7) Does Harrison Ford still look young to you? ...

12) When you meet strangers, do they automatically start talking loudly and slowly? ...

29) Do you have several pairs of reading glasses strategically placed around your house? ...

I found that most of these hit painfully close to home.

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Saturday, October 03, 2015

Sixty Years Ago This Day

From our intrepid correspondent, President Emeritus Tom Sito:

Oct 3, 1955- The Mickey Mouse Club TV show premiered. “Who’s the leader of the club that’s Made for you and me…?”

The old fellow in the back is Storyboard Artist Roy Williams. Nicknamed the "The Big Mouseketeer", Williams was a lifelong Disney employee and so loyal to " The Boss", that rumor is he is buried in Forest Lawn in his Mickey Mouse Club sweater and ears. ...

A few other factoids:

Roy Williams started at the studio in 1930, and was there pretty much until his death in November 1976 at age 69. In my first month at the studio, there were storyboards brimming with gags he'd drawn for Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo hanging outside my tiny, third-floor office. The man was prolific, right up to the end.

Don Grady (third row, left) went on to a long run on My Three Sons, starring with Fred MacMurray. Tim Considine, immediately behind him, also starred on Sons, but when this shot was taken, was appearing on the Mouse Club serial The Adventures of Spin and Marty.

Tommy Cole (front row, left), has remained continuously in show biz, first as a peformer (into the mid sixties), then as a makeup artist. He is today the Business Agent for the Make-up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, Local 706 IATSE,located about three blocks from TAG's headquarters.

Jimmie Dodd (to the right of Roy Williams, half in shadow) was the other adult on the show, and the Master of Ceremonies. When I was a tot watching the show, I thought J.D. was maybe 26 years old. I was startled to discover, when my father took me onto the Mouseketeers' set, that the man was a lot older than that. He had wrinkles. Deep wrinkles. Lots of wrinkles. You just didn't see them on your home black-and-white set because he wore makeup and was brightly lit. But after watching hi perform in front of the camera, he came up, shook my hand, asked me how I was. In short, he was warm and gracious, and suddenly the wrinkled didn't bother me anymore.

Jimmie was then 45 years old, and had been an actor in Hollywood for two decades. He passed away nine years later at age 54.

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Your American Box Office

The animated feature drops to #2 as the Space Epic claims the top spot.

Box Office Bonanzas, #1-#10

1). The Martian (FOX), 3,831 theaters / $18.06M Fri.*/ 3-day cume: $55.04M /Wk 1
*includes $2.5M in Thursday previews

2). Hotel Transylvania 2 (SONY), 3,754 theaters (0) / $7.46M Fri. (-44%)/ 3-day cume: $31.7M(-35%) / Total cume: $89.3M /Wk 2

3). Sicario (LGF), 2,620 theaters (+2561) / $4.2M Fri. (+653%)/3-day cume: $11.8M (+594%)/Total cume: $14.8M /Wk 3

4). The Intern (WB), 3,320 theaters (+15)/ $3.56M Fri. (-43%) / 3-day cume: $11.65M (-34%)/Total cume: $36.6M/Wk 1

5). Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (FOX), 3,319 theaters (-473)/ $2.1M Fri. (-49%) / 3-day cume:$7.3M (-49%)/ Total cume: $62.9M/Wk 3

6). Black Mass (WB), 2,768 theaters (-420)/ $1.8M Fri. (-49%)/ 3-day cume: $5.8M(-47%)/Total cume: $52.4M /Wk 3

7). Everest (UNI), 3,009 theaters (+3) / $1.6M Fri. (-60%) / 3-day cume: $5.3M (-60%) /Total cume: $32.9M/Wk 3

8). The Visit (UNI), 2,296 theaters (-671)/ $1.17M Fri. (-42%)/ 3-day cume: $3.88M (-42%) / Total cume: $57.6M / Wk 4

9). War Room (SONY), 1,746 theaters (-174) / $791K Fri. (-38%)/ 3-day cume: $2.6M (-39%)/ Total cume: $60.4M/ Wk 6

10). The Perfect Guy (SONY), 1,364 theaters (-525) / $683K Fri. (-53%)/ 3-day cume: $2.28M(-52%)/ Total cume: $52.5M /Wk 4 ...

Hotel Transylvania 2 continues to track ahead of HT in its second weekend, and will be nudging up against $90 million in grosses by the time Sunday night rollw around.

Add On: HT2 gallops on.

... Per last night’s ticket sales, Hotel Transylvania 2 got a huge boost from matinees, posting a 116% surge over Friday for $16.2M. This is 16% greater than where the industry predicted it was heading, and now HT2‘s second frame is looking like $33M this morning, from Sony’s p.o.v, off just 32% from it first weekend take of $48.5M.

By the end of Sunday, HT2 is looking at $90.5M $92M, 18% ahead of HT1 through 10 days. ...

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Friday, October 02, 2015


From President Emeritus Tom Sito:

Oct 2, 1950- Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" comic strip debuts.

Good ol' Charlie Brown was the name of a fellow post office worker all the guy's liked to play jokes on. Schulz's idea 'little folks' was initially rejected by all the major comic syndicates. Three months before the strip was accepted his girlfriend broke off their engagement. He had left his job at the post office and she was convinced he would never amount to anything.

" Charlie Brown must be the one who suffers, because he’s a caricature of the average person. Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than winning. Winning is great, but it isn’t funny."- Charles Schulz

At the time of his death, Charles Schulz was arguably the richest visual artist on earth. About $450 million dollars worth. Pretty good for a guy who started with just a pencil and an idea. ...

Allow me to add that Schulz enabled a lot of animation artists to gain long-term employment because the Bill Melendez Studios was so adept at translating Sparky's comic strip vision into animated cartoons for over forty years.

And, of course, as noted up top, Charles Schulz is STILL providing work to animators.

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The Animated Version

Time to work all the variations of a well-loved franchise.

An animated Ghostbusters feature film is in the works at Sony, according to The Tracking Board.

The animated action-comedy will be produced by Tom Pollock and Ivan Reitman and Sony Pictures Animation's Ali Bell and Kristine Belson will also be on hand to oversee it. Reitman, directed and produced the first two live-action films: 1984's Ghostbusters and 1989's Ghostbusters II. He's also serving as a producer on Paul Feig's all-female reboot, too.

Not much is known about the plot of the animated feature or the characters that will be used. Tracking Board and The Wrap both claim that the premise won't deviate from the original Ghostbusters: A group of scientists get together to battle some supernatural entities in New York. ...

Mr. Reitman, of course, was heavily involved with the animated hybrid Space Jam, and his son Jason is in the process of directing and animated feature at DreamWorks Animation.

Now that animation is respectable and, you know, lucrative, there is no shame to being involved in it.

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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Newer Animation Titles

Netflix announces some new cartoons:

Netflix has ordered seven new original series for older kids that will be available beginning this December through 2017.

The new series include Lego’s Bionicle and Friends, and DreamWorks Animation’s new original family sitcom Dawn Of The Croods. For tweens and teens ... stop-motion, action comedy Buddy Thunderstruck, and race-obsessed Greasepit; along with anime-inspired Glitter Force. Netflix also is introducing its first original animated series produced in Latin America. Las Leyendas (The Legends) is based on a successful trilogy of children’s films from the Mexican animation studio, Ánima Estudios. ...

Okay, the Croods thing isn't exactly super fresh news, but the larger point is: Netflix is ordering a poop load of various types of animation. Some of it is under Guild contract, and some isn't, but the more animation that gets made, the more artists get employed.

And there is a lot of animation getting made just now ... and into the foreseeable future.

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Musical Chairs

Animation execs are on the move.

Universal Pictures is expanding its content for kids and families and has tapped longtime Nickelodeon executive Teri Weiss as SVP, Head of Kids/Family Development and Production for its newly created Universal Kids Productions group. The unit will mine the studio’s IP portfolio and develop original content for all platforms, both on its own and through partnerships. Weiss will report to Vince Klaseus, President of Universal Brand Development.

Weiss is a 16-year veteran of Nickelodeon, most recently serving as EVP Original Programming for the Preschool Division since 2010. As SVP Production and Development, she launched such young’un Nick Jr. hits as Bubble Guppies, Team Umizoomi and The Fresh Beat Band. ...

Animation execs tend to move from studio to studio (much like artists). I keep seeing the same executives at Disney ... Nick ... Warner Bros. ... Marvel Animation ... etc.

But it's good to see Universal get deeper into the animation game. Twenty-plus years ago they opened a TV animation division and never had a lot of success with it. Most of their television output sputtered and died. (Although UCS had some success. It made a bajillion Land Before Time direct-to-video features over several years, and Curious George was a winner.)

Universal's Cartoon Division looks as if it's going to get busier. Maybe Illumination Entertainment's outsized success with theatrical animated features has gotten the conglomerate interested and excited again.

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Compare and Contrast

The Reporter put out its take on what live-action jobs earn ...

... Studio Tour Guide

Yukking it up with tourists around the lot pays $26 an hour, but only after a training period during which compensation is $20 an hour. ...

Studio Chief

Running a studio pays a base salary of $3 million to $5 million (what Jeff Robinov reportedly got at Warner Bros.), but bonuses can bring the amount to the mid-eight figures. ...

Animation has often been the unloved step-child of the entertainment business, though this has changed in recent years as animation has become a red-hot profit center for our fine, entertainment conglomerates. Even so, weekly salaries and wage minimums for writers, board artists, designers and art directors in Cartoonland many times lag affiliated crafts in live action.

There is, of course, much overlap and many exceptions; one difference is that animation assignments tend to be longer than those on the live-action side. As I explain to members who ask, wage minimums and what work falls under what guild or union was sorted out in the 1930s and 1940s and remains with us today.

IF the Directors Guild had organizes the directors of animated shorts and animated features ...

IF the Writers Guild had gone after animation writers and board artists way back when ...

But the cookie crumbled the way it did, and so here we are. (You will find animation salaries and minimums here.)

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015


The Disney TVA hit is kind of an anomaly ...

The series is a CG animated half-hour, a format that's blockbuster on theater screens but often underperforms on television.

The fact that it contains musical numbers and an adorable princess likely helps boost it with small fry, but kids don't care if their television cartoons are computer generated or not, and CG is a lot more expensive to produce than the traditional product. (Disney is making a hand-drawn TV version of the computer-generated Tangled, and DreamWorks has made a hand-drawn version of Turbo.)

The show, now in its fourth season and going strong, set records with its premiere, becoming the all-time champ with kids 2-5 and girls 2-5. Having a seasoned crew of artists, many who have worked in animation since the '70s and 80s, is another large plus.

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Genndy Bails

... from doing a third Hotel Transylvania.

... Fresh off of “Hotel Transylvania 2’s” $48 million debut this past weekend, director Genndy Tartakovsky is thrilled that the animated film broke the record for biggest September opening.

But while the Sony sequel’s lucrative opening almost guarantees an as-yet unannounced third installment, Tartakovsky told TheWrap that he won’t be returning to direct it.

“‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ is going to happen without me,” he said. “Two is enough. I have a lot of other ideas, and I kind of have to express them and have them come out.” ...

And why should he (or would he) continue plowing the same old furrow? Two hits with the same franchise, and he's ready to move on. Spielberg only directed two Jurassics. Mr. Tartakovsky should drop the Hotel for Ghouls franchise for the same reason. There are other subjects that hold more interest.

So let Genndy go and direct a passion project, he can produce the third one. He's earned it.

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Collateral Damage

The evacuation of Disney buildings on Flower Street (Glendale), looking east from the Marvel Animation parking lot.

This just in:

The Glendale headquarters of KABC-TV has been evacuated after a man called police and said there are “several bombs” in the building at 500 Circle Seven Drive. Glendale Police police information officer Tawny Lightfoot said they received a call at 1:52 PM that said ABC7 received a bomb threat. “Police are in the process of searching the building right now,” she said. “The building was evacuated and there were approximately two to four buildings were voluntarily evacuated. We have dogs on scene; at this point, we have not located any suspicious devices.” ...

Marvel Animation is a few hundred yards from the bomb threat site (KABC) and all MA employees were instructed to "go home." Which they did.

DreamWorks Animation, a block away, was told by Glendale Police (so we're told) that employees there were in the clear, and that an e-mail was sent out to that effect. So.... No evacuations at DWA.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Minions Keeps Trucking

The Illumination Entertainment picture prospers in the Middle Kingdom.

... “Minions” came in third for the week, with $9 million, bringing the total mainland China gross for the Universal Pictures film to $59 million.

Both “Mission” and “Minions” were saddled with release dates many weeks after their stateside debuts as China imposed a long summer blackout period on foreign films to boost the earnings of local productions. ...

The feature's world total now comes to $1,143,732,071. Not shabby for a spin off.

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TIghtening the Belt

In these trying times, we all need to make sacrifices, and Rupert M. is making his.

Rupert Murdoch Made $27.9M In 2015, Down 4.6%

Rupert Murdoch was Fox’s CEO in the fiscal year that ended in June, and the decline in his compensation is close to the 6.7% drop in the company’s dividend adjusted stock price for the period. He made $27.9 million, according to Fox’s proxy filed this evening at the SEC.

RelatedFox Gives Activist Investor Jeffrey Ubben A Seat On Its Board
The package includes: $7.1 million in salary, $5.1 million in stock awards, $9.8 million in non-equity incentives, $5.7 million change in pension value, and $182,636 in other compensation. The last category includes $110,235 for personal use of the corporate aircraft, a $14,922 car allowance and $48,204 in life insurance premiums. ...

Happily, when President Trump, Rubio or Bush (choose one) is sworn into office on January 20, 2017, he will set to work making sure that Mr. Murdoch, sterling job creator, will pay less in onerous taxes on his reduced salary.

So that's good!

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Best VFX

Sweet Mother of Danny Devito. It's freaking September and they're already handicapping the race for a Little Gold Man.

The VFX Oscar Goes To ...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – ILM, sight unseen, probably has this sewn up for a variety of reasons, the least of which is the history of Star Wars and the Oscars. ...

The Revenant – ILM Best Picture heat COULD drive this film into this category and bring in a win. But as of yet, no one really knows how much of it will depend on visual effects and how much on real scenery. ...

Mad Max: Fury Road – Andrew Jackson (practical) Iloura (digital). Jackson crafted more than 2000 visual effects shots with help from Iloura. It just isn’t done this way these days. ...

The Walk – Rodeo FX – Robert Zemeckis likes to play with toys, that’s for sure, and one can count on his movies to have at least one major effects sequence, even Flight with Denzel Washington (totally underrated). ...

Jurassic World – also ILM, with other companies contributing. The dinosaurs. It’s all about the dinosaurs. ...

The Martian – the effects are great, though not quite on the level of Gravity. ...

Crimson Peak – Though it has yet to be released/reviewed, Guillermo Del Toro is always a force to be reckoned with in this category.

Ex Machina – it isn’t on the level of visual effects that most films in the race are because it’s “small.” But the film itself is so good that could give it a boost in this category.

Everest – the one thing everyone keeps talking about is how real the effects are, how they put you right at the top of Everest, similar to The Walk.

Ant-Man – general likability plus groovy visual effects make it seem like a potential nominee in this category. ...

Too often, the Academy goes for the splashy and eyeball grabbing rather than the best. But now I think about it, doesn't that also happen in other categories?

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Thirty and Out ... Maybe

Al Jean of The Simpsons says thirty seasons for the yellow family is good.

...Q: You're renewed through season 28, with the cast signed on with options through season 30. Do you want to do more after 30?

AJ: It's quite possible that we don't have to go through the whole negotiation for 30. I wouldn't be stunned if we stopped at 28, but my bet is on at least 30. But then you'd have to resign them again. If you made me pick one, I'd say the likeliest is ending after 30, but I've been wrong before. I thought five seasons was good when I got there. (laughs) ...

The thing of this is, if the ratings are there and the money is there, The Simpsons will go on past thirty.

Who knows? They might even do another full-length theatrical motion picture.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Geena D. Speaks

Some time back, the Animation Guild co-hosted a seminar on gender bias in the animation business. It continues to be an issue for Ms. Davis.

... When Davis’s daughter Alizeh was born in 2002 she started noticing something else: when she watched animated or children’s films, Davis was struck by the lack of female characters on show.

It's an image we have that women only need to take up a certain amount of space and then we've done right by them.

“It was really shocking,” she says. “I first just mentioned it to my friends and said, ‘Did you notice in that movie that just came out there was only one female creature in the whole movie? Besides the mother who dies in the first five minutes?’ And none of them had noticed. Feminist friends, mothers of daughters, none of them noticed until I pointed it out.”

She started talking to studio bosses and industry figures. Across the board, she was told gender representation was not a problem. It had been fixed: “And very often they would name a movie with one female character as proof.”

So Davis sponsored the largest ever study on gender depictions in family-rated films and children’s television (“I take everything too far,” she admits). The research spanned a 20-year period. It found that for every female speaking character there were three males, while female characters made up just 17% of crowd scenes.

“I told somebody that just the other day and they said, ‘Well it seems like you’d have to work at making it that few,’” Davis says with a chuckle.

Her point is that even in a fictional setting, created from our collective 21st-century imagination, we seem – subconsciously or otherwise – to believe a 17% female representation is the natural state of affairs.

“That ratio is everywhere,” Davis says. “US congress? 17% women. Fortune 500 boards are 17%. Law partners and tenured professors and military are 17% female. Cardiac surgeons are 17%. That’s the percentage of women in the Animation Guild. Journalists, print journalists, are 19% women. So why, across all these major sectors of society, does this percentage of women in leadership positions stall at about the same range? ...

Happily (but only a little) the ratio of women to men in TAG has crept up a bit from 17%. But it's still remarkably low. If it climbs to 35% in the next few years, I'd say we're getting somewhere.

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Worldwide Box Office Takings

There are now three animated features on the Big List.


Hotel Transylvania 2 -- $29,200,000 -- ($76,700,000)

Inside Out -- $8,000,000 -- ($774,512,093)

Minions -- $6,800,000 -- ($1,134,226,830)

Pixels -- $6,000,000 -- ($234,441,805) ...

No over-saturated cartoon markets over here, Ma! For as the trades tell us:

... The total foreign cume for Hotel Transylvania 2 is $29.2M in 6,500 runs in 42 markets, including Latin America where it grossed an estimated $20.3M — more than 2.5 times the original for the same group of markets, Sony said.

It’s about 150% higher than the original, which Sony noted, at current rates for the same group of markets, puts Hotel T2 ahead of top sequels Monsters University (+3%), Rio 2 (+8%), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (+29%), and Ice Age: The Meltdown (+76%). This weekend’s markets represent 32% of the total international release for Hotel T2. ...

MINIONS crossed $800M at the international box office after a weekend estimate of $6.8M in 49 territories. The animated film had its final theatrical release in Greece this weekend to No. 1 (and 35% bigger than Despicable Me 2) and now has a total of $800.7M. ...

Jurassic World continues its billion-dollar climb, grossing an estimated $640k in the 14 territories where it’s still playing for a new international total of about $1.012 billion. ...

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High Wire Vertigo

Now with Add On.

Robert Zemeckis discusses his latest feature.

Q: Dick Cook [at Disney] was ousted and your ImageMovers Digital animation factory [also at Disney] was shuttered. What happened to The Walk?

ZEMECKIS: Well, the next thing I knew I was trying, and trying, and trying to get somebody else to make it. And then finally, gratefully, Tom Rothman had the courage to step up.

Q: A technologically groundbreaking movie, made for a price I’m told was $34.7 million. What’s not to like?

ZEMECKIS: Well, I think I can safely say that every single producer who produces a movie, and every single independent financier who finances a movie, and every single studio, they all passed on this. ...

Q: Is there a parallel in your own career, where you just had to do something people told you was impossible?

ZEMECKIS: Mike, every movie I’ve ever made has been a high-wire act, always flying without a net. Always flying without a net. I mean, I know exactly what Philippe [the wire walker] was going through. Obviously, I don’t put my physical body in jeopardy, but I understand the feeling of walking a tightrope. ...

Mr. Zemeckis has always made interesting movies, all the way back to Used Cars with Kurt Russell.

I think the problem with his motion capture features, and he made a number of them, is that audiences are a little creeped out by the Uncanny Valley, by characters that are almost ... but not quite ... human. Because it's difficult to stay in the story when the "almost full realism" dynamic pulls your head away from the events unspooling onscreen.

Spielberg had the same problem with Tin-tin (the movie) that Zemeckis had with A Christmas Carol: It ain't live-action and it ain't animation. It's some strange hybrid. .

Add On: The Walk gets a big reaction in New York City premiere.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Siren Call of Free Money

... seduces once again.

Australian visual effects and animation studio Animal Logic announced that it has officially opened its new 45,000 square foot studio in Yaletown, Vancouver.

The new studio will be led by its current group head of production Sharon Taylor, who will now take up the role of executive vice president and general manager in Vancouver. ...

The company has had a 15-year relationship with Warner Bros. (Happy Feet, Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and The LEGO Movie). ...

Animal Logic’s Sydney studio will continue in production on the recently announced animated features LEGO Batman and Ninjago (due for release in 2017), with another as yet unnamed animated feature to follow.

Animation production has (long since) become a global enterprise. Offshoots of Chinese studios in Southern California. Satellite studios from California in British Columbia. The conglomerates our in search of ban for the buck, and if a provincial government on the American continent is willing to cough up serious money to aid an entertainment conglomerate in its pursuit of box office riches, the conglomerate is down with that.

Hard to fault them. Free cash is free cash.

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Your Blood-Sucking Box Office

It's a Hotel kind of a weekend.


1). Hotel Transylvania 2 (SONY), 3,754 theaters / $13.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $48.2M /Wk 1

2). The Intern (WB), 3,305 theaters / $6.5M Fri. / 3-day cume: $18.6M /Wk 1

3). Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (FOX), 3,792 theaters (+1)/ $4.08M Fri. (-63%) / 3-day cume: $14M(-54%)/ Total cume: $51.5M/Wk 2

4). Everest (UNI), 3,006 theaters (+2,461) / $4M Fri. (+76%) / 3-day cume: $12.4M (+72%) /Total cume: $22.4M/Wk 2

5). Black Mass (WB), 3,188 theaters (0)/ $3.5M Fri. (-60%)/ 3-day cume: $11.5M (-49%)/Total cume: $42.5M /Wk 2

6). The Visit (UNI), 2,967 theaters (-181)/ $2M Fri. (-45%)/ 3-day cume: $6.53M (-44%) / Total cume: $52M / Wk 3

7). The Perfect Guy (SONY), 1,889 theaters (-341) / $1.43M Fri. (-54%)/ 3-day cume: $4.6M (-52%)/ Total cume: $48.7M /Wk 3

8). War Room (SONY), 1,920 theaters (-25) / $1.2M Fri. (-34%)/ 3-day cume: $4.2M (-32%)/ Total cume: $55.9M/ Wk 5

9). The Green Inferno (HTR), 1,540 theaters / $1.47M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.5M /Wk 1

10). Sicario (LGF), 59 theaters (+53) / $551K Fri. (+312%)/3-day cume: $1.7M (+325%) /Wk 1

As we've said, the projected $30 million total for HT2 always seemed low to us. ...

As the trades tell us:

Hotel Transylvania 2 which Sandler voiced, co-wrote with Robert “Triumph the Insult Comic Dog” Smigel and executive produced, is giving Sony it’s highest opening to date this calendar year, and, with an estimated $48.2M $46.8M at 3,754, its biggest FSS since that computer hack.

The records don’t stop there: HT2 is so overbooked, it’s going to beat the September opening record it set two years ago with the first chapter, which took in $42.5M, and even more – it’s on the precipice of being the best second highest FSS opening of Sandler’s career after the $47.6M FSS Memorial Day 2005 opener The Longest Yard. ...

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