Sunday, April 26, 2015

The World B.O.

Internationally, Avengers, Age of Ultron comes out with guns blazing.

Foreign Weekend Box Office -- (World Totals)

Avengers 2 -- $201,200,000 -- ($201,200,000)

Furious 7 -- $69,700,000 -- ($1,321,536,125)

Home -- $13,700,000 -- ($300,884,071)

Cinderella -- $8,500,000 -- ($474,646,000)

Spongebob Squarepants -- $860,000 -- ($310,704,000)

The trades tell us:

... At $201.2M, Disney/Marvel’s Ultron notably debuted 44% bigger than 2012’s Avengers in comparable markets. ...

[Home] earned $7.7M on 3,842 Chinese screens. Combined with the Fox territories this session, the alien-out-of-water pic took in $13.68M to bring the international cume to $147.18M. Holds were strong in France ($3.37M cume), the UK ($31.47M cume) and Brazil ($5.8M cume).

In more good news for Disney, Cinderella twirled into Japan with a No. 1 opening and the biggest first-day and weekend for a Western release of 2015. The $4.8M bow was 112% above the opening of Oz: The Great And Powerful and 19% behind the start of Maleficent.

Paramount’s The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water squeezed $860K at the weekend from 1,640 locations in 33 territories. ... The international cume is now $148.6M. ...

It's evident that animated features and their cousins are doing quite well. Clearly this is not a short-eterm trend.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

So Simple

... and so why are they even paying you?

10 things no animator wants to hear

“I don’t have any concept art or storyboards yet, but a story outline will do, right?” ...

“It must be so much fun to play around with computers all day. I bet it doesn’t even feel like a job.”

“The way you’ve rigged and animated that character is cool, but wouldn’t it be better with motion capture?” ...

“I do like the way you’ve animated it, but I’m still not quite sure what would work best. Could we try it a couple of different ways, just to see which I like better?” ...

No creative person likes wishy-washiness. Once long ago, I asked a Disney supervisor what he thought of a premise/outline I had written, and he responded with "I'd rather not say one way or the other."

(Which is INCREDIBLY useful. Better to have the Woolie Reitherman answer: "This sure leaves ME cold." At least you know where you stand.)

For most mortals, doing a job well takes work. And creating something from nothing involves skill, thought, and at least a touch of inspiration.

Outsiders are often oblivious to that. They don't understand that perspiration and planning is integral to the magic they see on the screen. For creators, that ignorance is maddening. And frustrating. The end product looks effortless, so of course it is, right?

No. Not by a long shot.

H/t, President Emeritus Tom Sito.

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Our American Box Office

... and plot exposition, good and bad. (See below.)

The big car chase movie remains on top. DreamWorks Animation's Home stays in the Top Five.

U.S./ Canada Top Ten

1). Furious 7 (UNI), 3,808 theaters (-156%) / $4.8M Fri. (-42%) / 3-day cume: $16-M17M (-42 to 45%) / Total cume: $318M-319M/ Wk 4

2). Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 (SONY), 3,633 theaters (0)/ $3.75M Fri. (-49%)/ 3-day cume: $13.7M (-42%)/ Total Cume: $42.16M / Wk 2

3). The Age of Adaline (LGF), 2,991 theaters / $4.96M Fri. / 3-day cume: $12.4M / Wk 1

4). Home (FOX/DW), 3,311 theaters (-177) / $1.825M Fri. (-26%) / 3-day cume: $7.9M (-25%)/ Total cume: $153.4M / Wk 5

5). Unfriended (UNI), 2,775 theaters (+36) / $2M Fri. (-70%)/ 3-day cume: $5.9M (-63%)/ Total Cume: $24.8M/Wk 2

6). Ex Machina (A24), 1,255 theaters (+1,216) / $1.7M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.88M (+5,115%)/ Total cume: $6.19M / Wk 3

7). The Longest Ride (FOX), 3,140 theaters (-231) / $1.365M Fri. (-43%)/ 3-day cume: $4M (-43%) / Total cume: $30M / Wk 3

8). Get Hard (WB), 2,276theaters (-379) / $1.05M Fri. (-27%) / 3-day cume: $3.56M (-28%) / Total cume: $83.7M / Wk 5

9). Monkey Kingdom (DIS), 2,012 theaters (0)/ $1.065M Fri. (-32%)/ 3-day cume: $3.33M (-27%) /Total Cume: $10M / Wk 2

10). Woman in Gold (TWC), 1,981 theaters (-30) / $903K Fri. (-33%) / 3-day cume: $3.1M (-33%) / Total cume: $21.2M / Wk 4

Deadline says (up there at the top) that Furious 7 has lost 156% of its theaters. Yet it remains #1. Truly outstanding! ...

This is particularly good because I'm told that Furious 7 is ... kind of clunky. As my friend the Wise Old Producer said:

I went to see that car picture last week. It's like a lot of movies today: boring exposition with two characters talking and explaining, followed by an action sequence, followed by more exposition in two-shots. ...

My son had much the same complaint about Big Hero 6.

But here's the way to do exposition. Have Norman Reilly Raine and Seton Miller write it. Have Michael Curtiz direct it.



Lots gets done here. Chief villain and most of his henchmen are introduced. Love interest is introduced (and the relationship started). The problem, theme and basic conflict for the movie are laid out. And all in 4 minutes and 57 seconds.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

The IA-AMPTP Agreement

... on a new Industry Basic Agreement. The Joint Press Release:

AMPTP and IATSE Reach Agreement on New Three-Year Contract

SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. - The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE) have reached a tentative agreement on terms of a new three-year Hollywood Basic Agreement.

In response to the tentative agreement, IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb stated, “I am pleased we were able to reach an agreement that provides industry stability and meaningful terms and benefits to the membership.”

AMPTP President Carol Lombardini commented, “The industry is pleased we have reached a new agreement with IATSE months before the contract expires. With the tentative agreement in place, our member companies can immediately begin planning production for the future with certainty.” The new agreement will become effective on August 1, 2015 and expires on July 31, 2018. Terms of the agreement are not being released at this time.

The IATSE is an International Union representing members employed in the stagecraft, motion picture and television production, and tradeshow industries throughout the United States, its Territories, and Canada.

The AMPTP, the entertainment industry's official collective bargaining representative, negotiates 80 industry-wide collective bargaining agreements on behalf of over 350 motion picture and television producers (member companies include the production entities of the studios, broadcast networks, certain cable networks and independent producers).

Trade Press reporters will doubtless root out details of the agreement and put them up on various websites. When they do, we'll post from Deadline, Variety, The Wrap, etc. But we won't be putting up any details ourselves.

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Kimballesque Animation

Jerry Beck at Animation Scoop was kind enough to send this along:



Jerry writes:

... This sequence was in the earliest edits of the [the upcoming Tomorrowland], inter-cut with live action actors responding to it. However, I was told, for timing sake the piece was cut out of the picture and is being used for promotional purposes.

It was designed and animated by Teddy Newton, Dan Jeup and Andrew Jimenez; done in the manner of 1940s-50s Walt Disney educational films and in the spirit of Ward Kimball's Tomorrowland TV segments (Man In Space, Mars and Beyond, etc). ...



The Paul Frees/Orson Welles style narration is delivered by (allegedly) Maurice LaMarche.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Meanwhile at Cinemacon

Universal, last in the Cinemacon studio lineup, unveiled its upcoming product. And in the animation sector ...

... [Seth] MacFarland, who said he is not used to public speaking (yeah , right) promoted June 26th’s Ted 2 as “a movie to take the whole family to , if your whole family is over 18 and addicted to drugs.” As it did the first time he came to CinemaCon with Ted, this new trailer got the most audible and clearly delighted reaction of the afternoon. ...

Illumination Entertainment head Chris Meledandri was next up introducing genuinely knock-out funny scenes from the screwball toon The Minions. and based on the reaction U might as well start miMinions Hydrantnionting money right now. I was particularly impressed as well with July 8 2016’s Illumination entry, The Secret Life Of Pets, a movie about what happens when you leave your pets alone during the day. Although still in rough form, the beginning sequence shown was terrific. ...

There was a time, back when I was a tot, that it took an act of Congress for an animation person to make the jump into live-action. There was Frank Tashlin, and that was about it. But now it happens with regularity. Bird, Minkoff, MacFarland, the list steadily grows larger.

I doubt, however,t that any of them will be able to get a Western greenlit.

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Berkshire-Hathaway

So says the trade press:

... “Disney is the new high-water mark with brands,” says Tony Wible, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott. “It puts them through their various distribution networks — from TV to merchandising to licensing — and the studio is the birthplace for all of that.” ...

Warner Bros. is borrowing liberally from the Disney/Marvel model by launching a series of interlocking superhero films based on its DC Comics properties. ... Sony has announced that it views its upcoming “Ghostbusters” reboot as the first step toward crafting a “shared universe” encompassing TV shows and merchandising that’s pegged to the proton-pack-wielding ectoplasm-fighters. At the same time, Hollywood players are in a mad rush to snap up anything with a whiff of franchise to it, ranging from anime series to Stephen King novels. ...

Everybody cribs from everybody, particularly when a movie is wildly successful. Star Wars brought Star Trek, the Movies to life. Profitable low-brow comedies beget more comedies. For twenty years, animated features have been a growth industry due to Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King and Toy Story.

Robert Iger raised the concept of interlocking movie companies to a high art. Now other entertainment conglomerates are trying the same thing. And Jeffrey Katzenberg is pushing to remold DreamWorks Animation into a smaller version of the multi-brand corporate octopus.

Everybody imitates winning strategies.

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And Speaking of Imitating Success

Rupert's minions have been studying Disney's Broadway triumphs.

A new stage musical version of “Anastasia” ... will premiere next year at Hartford Stage with a team of Broadway talent attached. ... “Anastasia” is “inspired” by the 1956 film starring Ingrid Bergman, Helen Hayes and Yul Brynner as well as the animated film, both by 20th Century Fox. Six songs from the 1997 [animated] version, including Oscar-nominated “Journey to the Past,” will be used in the stage musical

When a conglomerate rakes in kajillions from Lion King, the Stage Musical, other companies get ideas.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Global Reach

... of cartoons.

It isn't all about what's made domestically. Or in California. Other parts of the world are also in the animation game.

Production gets under way this month on “Beast of Burden,” the first China-New Zealand co-production of an animated feature. William Morris Endeavor and Canada’s Strategem Entertainment are set to handle international sales.

The film is written and directed by Kirby Atkins (Nickelodeon’s “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron”). The story sees a species of now-extinct creatures called Thoriphants rebel against their life of servitude to mankind and embark on a treacherous journey.

“Burden” is a production involving China Film Animation, part of state-owned China Film Group, and New Zealand’s Huhu Studios. Financial backing comes from Qi Tai Culture Development Group, a company that spans film investment, production and marketing. ...

When you nose around the internet, you realize that there are "niche" animated features that A) get no or minimal release in the U.S. of A., yet make good money (and comfortable profits) in the rest of the world.

If a foreign animation studio can make CG features with budgets in the $8 million to $25 million range, they can very likely make a comfortable profit. Like for instance:

“Tad, the Lost Explorer,” the third Spanish film in a row to open Cartoon Movie. Studiocanal-sold, “Tad” snagged $40 million worldwide through Feb. 17 [2013], becoming Spain’s highest-grossing Spanish toon ever ($24.6 million), distribbed by Paramount.

There are various and sundry European animated features that make tidy sums in the world marketplace. Just because they get minimal exposure in the United States doesn't mean that profits aren't being raked in. Not every long-form cartoon has to make $500 million to be considered a success.

Just being in the black, even if it means a mere $1.5 million above costs and advertising was made, is considered a triumph.

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Spidey at the SPA

From the trades:

Tom Rothman, [formerly of Fox, currently of Sony] came out swinging at Cinemacon. He announced in Vegas that Lego Movie helmers Phil Lord & Christopher Miller will make an animated feature of Spider-Man. They’ll conceive with an eye to direct it. We knew that the animated film was in the works. ...

So Lord and Miller will return to the scene of their former triumph (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) and reignite a franchise that, let's face it, is getting tired and long in the tooth.

If anybody can resuscitate Spidey, they can.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

MisUnderstood?

Bram de Haas at Seeking Alpha analyzes DreamWorks Animation in detail.

Dreamworks Animation: Present In Theaters Across The World, But Widely Misunderstood Nonetheless

How much the market misunderstands Dreamworks Animation and its prospects is proven by the way it is traded.

In 2015, already about 50% of revenue will come in from non-feature film sources.

A compound annual return rate of 30% over the next two years is in the cards.
...

For years I've said that DreamWorks Animation performs a high wire act in a strong wind, relying on one hit feature after another to propel earnings and growth. But Mr. de Haas believes that's wrong:

... Dreamworks makes money from several different segments besides feature movies, although to an extent these sources would dry up if the company discontinued its feature film business. Fazal Merchant (CFO) expects 50% of revenue will come from non-feature film content in 2015. The important sources of income besides feature movies are:

Television content; includes YouTube (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) deals.

Consumer articles; this includes toys based on Dreamworks' characters but also licensing deals to use the characters to sell serial or build DreamPlaces

Library revenue; long tail catalog of 30+ movies that still makes money ...

Katzenberg said on the earnings call:

As of Feb. 20, DreamWorksTV is now the number 1 family entertainment channel on YouTube with monthly viewerships and subscriber growth exceeding the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon ((and)) Cartoon Network." ...

The company owns a number of channels on YouTube but the successful AwesomenessTV has 2.3 million subs and it is probably its largest. Increased choice of how to monetize its YouTube content should help contribute to the value of the segment. ...

So DWA has a lot of component parts, not just movies and merchandising, but TV and budding amusement centers in China and elsewhere. The trick will be to keep successful movie franchises bubbling along. Because like it or not, the theatrical features fuel most everything else in the company.

I'm not convinced Jeffrey's growing enterprise will expand at 30% per annum, but with the success of Home and the expansion of its television footprint, DWA will be around for a while.

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The Month In Animation

... (and a few other things) as written by President Emeritus Tom Sito.

April 1, 1944 - Tex Avery's Screwball Squirrel premieres.

April 1, 1976 - Two college dropouts, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, start a computer company named Apple.

April 1, 1996 - Animation World Network, Toontown’s virtual trade magazine, starts up.

April 2, 1943 - Disney short Private Pluto, the first Chip & Dale cartoon, premieres.

April 2, 1994 -Disney chief executive Frank Wells is killed in a helicopter crash on a skiing trip. It’s speculated that blowing snow off of high peaks caused an ice ball to be sucked into the copter’s air intake manifold. The death of the Disney CEO sets in motion the events that would lead to Jeffrey Katzenberg forming DreamWorks and Michael Eisner’s eventual fall.

April 2, 2004 - Home on the Range premieres.

April 3, 1973 - Standing on the corner of 6th Ave in Manhattan, Motorola scientist Marty Cooper makes the first cell phone call. He calls his competitor Joel Engel at Bell Labs to tell him he has lost the race to invent the cellphone.

April 5, 1930 - James Dewar invents the Twinkie. Dewar ate two every day of his life and called them “The best darn-tootin' idea I ever had!”

April 6, 1906 - Cartoonist James Stuart Blackton creates a sensation when Thomas Edison films him doing sequential drawings and they seem to come alive in a movie called The Humorous Phases of Funny Faces. His animated antics paves the way for Mickey, Bugs, Bart, Gollum and Laura Croft.

April 6, 1951 - Happy Birthday AstroBoy! According to the 1951 comic book by Osamu Tezuka, today Professor Elephant completes the little robot boy with the suction cup feet and pointed hairdo. Originally called Tetsuwan Atomo, he is re-named Astro Boy when Mushi Productions releases the animated version in the US in 1961.


April 9, 1991 - Darkwing Duck premieres.

April 10, 1973 - At Xerox PARC, Dick Schoups team of scientists creates Superpaint, the first digital paint and surfacing system for CG images. The first picture on the computer is a photo of Dick holding a sign that reads “It works, sort of.”


April 10, 1992 - Bill Kroyer’s Ferngully the Last Rainforest premieres.

(And Canadian director James Cameron gets an idea. ... -- Hulett)

April 11, 1914 - Famed NFB animator and first president of ASIFA, Norman McClaren is born.

April 11, 1983 - The Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short is Polish artist Zybigniew Rybcyzinski for his film Tango. During the ceremony he steps outside for a smoke. When Security guards refuse to let him re-enter he becomes combative, shouting the only English he knows: ”I Have Oscar!” He winds up in jail for assault and his Oscar winds up in the bushes.

April 17, 1937 - Porky's Duck Hunt premieres featuring the birth of Daffy Duck. Legend states voice actor Mel Blanc designed Daffy's distinctive lisp to be an impression of the Looney Tunes boss Leon Schlesinger. When they screen this cartoon, all the artists stand in dread of how Leon will take the joke. But Leon never makes the connection that the Ducks voice is him. "Gee Fellers, dat Duck iz pretty Ffffunny!"

April 12, 1911 - Cartoonist Winsor McCay opens his vaudeville act with his Little Nemo animated short.

April 16, 1973 - John McCarthy of MIT creates the computer language LISP. It was the basis to use the advanced CG software Symbolics.

April 22, 1972 - Magnavox announces the Magnavox Odyssey. Created by Ralph Baer in his spare time, it's the first home videogame console.

April 23, 1896 - The first projection of Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope film by means of Thomas Armat’s Vitascope at Koster & Bials Music Hall on 28th street and Broadway in New York City. Edison is nagged into this by his engineer W.K.L. Dickson. Edison thinks projecting movies like the Lumiere Brothers are doing in Europe will never catch on, and the future of film is nickelodeon machines.

April 23, 2005 - The first You-Tube video is uploaded- Me At the Zoo.

April 29, 1992 - The Great Los Angeles Riot. The city convulses in urban violence after the news of the acquittal of the police officers who beat motorist Rodney King. “Can’t we all just get along?”

April 30, 1900 - John Luther Jones, called CASEY JONES, dies in a spectacular train crash near Vaughn Mississippi. Jones' freight train is running 75 minutes late so he stokes up his engine to 100 mph. A switching error puts a passenger train in his path. Jones stays at the controls trying to stop the train while his crew jumps to safety. There's a head-on collision, but because of Jones' bravery his is the only death. A brakeman later writes the famous folksong.

(Union activists prefer to remember that Jones was a strikebreaker running his train recklessly in defiance of a strike to impress his employers. The union still paid his widow his $3000 dollar life insurance. Folksinger Joe Hill in his song "Casey Jones the Union Scab." tells how when he went to heaven the Angel’s Union Local #23 "fired Casey down the Golden Stair..")

April Birthdays: Eddie Murphy, Irv Spence, Eadweard Muybridge, Hicks Lokey, Glen Keane, Steve Martin, Leonardo DaVinci, Lou Romano, Charlie Chaplin, Bob Kurtz, Shakespeare, Michael Sporn, Eyvind Earle, John Halas, Victor Haboush, Bill Plympton.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Contract Deal

Deadline informs us:

A tentative agreement has been reached on a new three-year contract covering some 38,000 Hollywood-based members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Details of the new film and TV pact, which now must be ratified by the union’s members, have not yet been disclosed, but pay increases are believed to be in line with those that management’s Alliance of Motion Picture & Television recently negotiated with the DGA, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. ...

The contract talks began last Monday and ran through Friday, April 17th.

Steve Kaplan and I attended many of the sessions. They were still going on Friday, when I departed on separate business. We have been informed second hand that a deal was reached or in the offing. When more details become available, we'll post them here.

Note: The Animation Guild contract is scheduled to be negotiated later in the year, after the AMPTP has completed a couple of other contract talks.

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Timing Releases

The movie studio still called Warner Bros tell us:

The next LEGO film to open will be the as-yet-untitled LEGO Batman™ feature, which is coming to theatres earlier than planned, with the global launch starting domestically on February 10, 2017. Seven months later comes “Ninjago,” which had been slated for release in fall 2016; however the film is still under construction so it is being moved to September 22, 2017 domestically, with international dates to follow. “The LEGO Movie Sequel,” the follow-up to the smash hit “The LEGO Movie,” is opening one week earlier than originally slated, now being released domestically on May 18, 2018. ...

It's gotten way more regimented at movie studios since they all went corporate.

Once upon a time (the 1970s? The 1980s?) cartoon producers wouldn't lock an animated feature to a release date. They wanted to be the movie would be completed (and hopefully as good as they could make it), THEN they would book theaters.

That all changed in the go-go nineties; truth to tell it was changing in fits and starts before then.

Earlier, when Richard M. Nixon was President, there didn't need to be a hard and fast release date because there were only a few hundred prints foisted on the general public at any given time. The first Rescuers, for instance, had three or four hundred prints in circulation, and it had to share release patterns with Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. Herbie got rolled out on the eastern side of the country while The Rescuers was released in the western half of the U.S.

The "four hundred print release" is now as dated as a bowl haircut. Today if you don't have 1500+ theaters showing your movie, your an art house picture that's getting a limited rollout. Studios are now cogs in the exhibition-distribution-marketing machines known as entertainment conglomerates, and none of the big boys are in the business for anything other than maximum profit.

That means scheduling your tent pole years in advance, way before it gets made. Then the production crew grinds away, with a deadline etched into stainless steel staring everybody in the face. Sometimes dates get moved, but not often. Usually people get to work twelve hour days six or seven times during the week. And resign themselves to seeing their kids on the other end of the production pipeline.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

International Box Office

Home (and others) continue to do well.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (World Totals)

Home -- $10,400,000 -- ($271,608,880)

Cinderella -- $7,500,000 - ($457,724,013)

Spongebob Squarepants -- $2,200,000 -- ($308,751,587)

Shaun The Sheep -- $3,200,000 -- ($54,000,000) ...

Per the trades:

Home from DreamWorks Animation took in a total of $10.48M on 7,325 screens in 64 markets. Its big territory opening was in France where it took advantage of the high percentage of kids in the marketplace due to a school holiday which runs through May 3. It opened to $1.62M on 653 runs in this market to sit at No. 3 in its debut. It also had an excellent hold in some other key territories, including Brazil where it dropped only 34% and Down Under where it hung on strong with a mere 32% dip. ...

Disney doll Cinderella has crossed $450M globally, filling her coach with $457.7M worldwide and $271.4M internationally. Incoming coin this weekend amounted to $7.5M in 47 territories. Notably, Australia dropped only 32% and its $14.8M has exceeded the lifetime of Maleficent. ...

Due to family emergencies, postings this weekend will be scanty.
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Teenager's Garden of CGI

With a new Marvel property.




Whenever super heroes are present, whether Disney, Fox of Time-Warner, there are a lot of artists working at computers.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Your American Box Office

The car tentpole continues to dominate.

Weekend Domestic Box Office

1). Furious 7 (UNI), 3,964 theaters (-58%) / $8.28M to $8.4M Friday / 3-day cume: $26M to $28M / Total cume: $291M to $293.8M/ Wk 3

2). Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 (SONY), 3,633 theaters / $7.3M Friday / 3-day cume: $22.8M to $23.6M / Wk 1

3). Unfriended (UNI), 2,739 theaters / $6.7M to $6.8M Friday / 3-day cume: $16.5M / Wk 1

4). Home (FOX/DW), 3,488 theaters (-215) / $2.4M Friday / 3-day cume: $9M to $10M / Total cume: $141.6M to $142M+ / Wk 4

5). The Longest Ride (FOX), 3,371 theaters (+5) / $2.4M Fri. / 3-day cume: $6.9M (-47%) / Total cume: $23.6M / Wk 2

6). Monkey Kingdom (DIS), 2,012 theaters / $1.5M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.7M / Wk 1

7). Get Hard (WB), 2,655 theaters (-477) / $1.4M Friday / 3-day cume: $4.6M / Total cume: $78M+ / Wk 4

8). Woman in Gold (TWC), 2011 theaters (+507) / $1.3M Friday / 3-day cume: $4.25M / Total cume: $15.58M / Wk 3

9/10). Cinderella (DIS), 2,414 theaters (-611) / $1M Friday / 3-day cume: $3.8M to $4.1M / Total cume: $186M+ / Wk 6

Insurgent (LG), 2,542 theaters (-576) / $1.2M Friday / 3-day cume: $4M / Total cume: $120M+ / Wk 5

DWA's Home remains in the Top Five. It probably won't have a four multiple of its first weekend, but it will still have a fine total accumulation when all the ticket sales are counted.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Hackery Revisited

So ... maybe a bunny rabbit picture?

Sony Pictures may be making a "Peter Rabbit" feature film, according to a series of leaked emails from the Sony Pictures hack published by Wikileaks.

The email discussions took place late last year and in 2013, however, some plans for the film may have changed since then.

The film, as detailed in the emails, would be a mixture of animation and live-action. It'd be based on Beatrix Potter's children's book character, Peter Rabbit. The antagonists of the film would be the human McGregor family. Sony's emails say the company was able to "make a deal" for the film back in November 2013. ...

So I never heard about Potter from any Sony Pictures Animation staff, but I never saw anybody working on it.

Another of those embryonic brain waves that never grew into twin fetuses of script and storyboards. But if Sony now holds the rights, somebody might well take a crack at it.

One hundred and fifty million books in thirty-five languages is nothing to sneeze at. And it means there are 150 million potential eyeballs attached to brains that know the property.

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Good Investing

At the time Disney went on its acquisition spree of other companies a few years ago, there was skepticism. How are they going to get their billions back? asked the critics.

Well, the results are in, and now we know.

... When Disney purchased LucasFilm in fall 2012 for $4 billion, some eyebrows were raised — and its announcement to develop and market seven additional “Star Wars” movies were met with mixed reviews, he remembered.

Since buying the George Lucas company, however, Disney’s shares price has rocketed up 132 percent, boosting its market cap by $108 billion — or 27 times that of the amount it paid for LucasFilm a scant two-and-a-half years ago. So, it was a pretty good investment. ...

And we understand something else. If Diz Co. is now the Berkshire-Hathaway of entertainment conglomerates, then ...

... Robert Iger must be the Warren Buffett of entertainment CEOs.

While stock analysts were barely paying attention, Mr. Iger's purchases of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilms put Walt's company on steroids as far as earnings growth is concerned. Michael Eisner grew it. But Robert Iger GROWS it.

Who would have thought? Certainly not me.

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Daffy's Creation

Cribbing from President Emeritus Stio's Facebook page ...

April 17, 1937 "Porky's Duck Hunt" The birth of Daffy Duck. Directed by Tex Avery and animated by Bob Clampett.

One legendary story is that newly-hired voice actor Mel Blanc in part designed Daffys distinctive lisp to be an impression of the Looney Tunes boss Leon Schlensinger. When they screened this cartoon all the artists stood in dread of how Leon would take the joke. Leon never made the connection that the Ducks voice was an imitation of him:" Gee Fellers, dat Duck iz pretty Ffffunny!" ...



This clip has NOTHING to do with the '37 cartoon. It's simply amusing.

Regarding "new hire" Mel Blanc, a veteran Hanna-Barbera director told me the following:

I was directing Mel Blanc on an H-B show for the first time and was in awe. When we took a break, he and I walked outside and I said, "Mr. Blanc, this is such an honor, you've done such terrific work. Al those epic Warner Brothers cartoons ..."

That was as far as I got. Mr. Blanc went red and shouted: "Warner brothers?! Don't talk to me about Warner Brothers! They screwed me! SCREWED me!!" ...

I shut up and changed the subject. ...

So the fond memories we have of old cartoons? Sometimes the talent that made the memories owns a recollection of something else entirely.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Why Not "Popeye"?

Via Animation Scoop.

... Genndy yesterday where he made it clear that he is concerned that if the studio doesn't move forward with Popeye that our commitment to animation and to him is not strong. He feels that his original ideas will never get made because of marketing concerns etc. His view is that Popeye is well known and loved around the world and his version will be modern in attitude, dialogue, comedy and action but the physical world should be timeless. The kids in the focus group were strong and worrying about a general audience who rarely attend animated features is misguided. ...

No Sony artists I talked to had sterling things to say about former SPA chief Bob Osher. No doubt he loved his family, but Mr. Osher was viewed as an apple polisher too focused on protecting territory and face.

As previously stated, Popeye might not be dead but it is in hibernation. The story, as of a couple months ago hadn't quite come together, which isn't necessarily a big deal. Many animated hits start out as disorganized messes, so there's no reason the sailor man can't rise from the stormy depths like others before it and become an unalloyed hit..

Whether he will or not depends on Genndy, the story artists, and the new management.


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TV Ratings

Cartoon Cable Networks, they do well.

Across Q1 2015, Adult Swim ranked as basic cable's #1 network in total day among adults 18-24, adults 18-34, men 18-24 and men 18-34, as well as adults 18-49. ...

For Q1 2015, Cartoon Network charted +22% growth in total day (6a-8p) delivery of kids 6-11 and mostly double-digit delivery gains among all other targeted demos: kids 2-11 (+16%), kids 9-14 (+16%), boys 2-11 (+14%), boys 6-11 (+21%), boys 9-14 (+21%), girls 2-11 (+22%), girls 6-11 (+24%) and girls 9-14 (+3%).

Cartoon Network series Teen Titans Go!, The Amazing World of Gumball, Adventure Time, Regular Show, Uncle Grandpa, Steven Universe, Ninjago and Pokemon The Series: XY accounted for eight of the Top 10 animated series among kids 6-11 for the quarter.

Cartoon Network closed out the quarter by ranking as television’s #2 network in total day delivery (6a-8p) of kids 6-11 and kids 9-14 and the #1 destination for boys 6-11 and boys 9-14 for the month of March. In addition, Cartoon Network was television’s #1 network among all key kid demos on Thursday nights in March and ranked #1 among kids 2-11 on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. ...

Cartoon Network has it's non-union outpost in Atlanta, as do a number of other animation studios.

Sadly, CN appears to have a corporate policy of making its Adult Swim animated shows non-union, if at all possible. (They'll go union if they have to -- witness Rick and Morty, but they'd rather not have to pay fringes and higher salaries if they can avoid that. Mike Lazzo is not, apparently, a pro-working artist kind of guy.)

Don't know why Swim rolls that way, but it does. Over and over. So TAG will just have to sign people up, one show at a time. Too bad.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Salary Drop?

Yes, Virginia. Once in a while, it happens.

Members of the DreamWorks Animation board would have had a lot of explaining to do if they had awarded execs big raises in a year when revenues fell, the company lost money and the stock price dropped 37.1%. But that didn’t happen this time, according to the company proxy just filed at the SEC: CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg’s compensation came to $6.4 million. It’s a steep drop from 2013, which included $6 million in non-equity incentives, but is more than he made in 2012 ($5.2 million) and 2011 ($4 million). ...

Jeffrey has made good money at DWA, and more power to him. He was the junior partner when DreamWorks started twenty years ago, running the animation part of the company. But, funny thing, the cartoons have been the most viable part of the company.

Mr. Spielberg has gone back to running a lot his professional life through Amblin' Entertainment at Universal, and David Geffen has semi-retired with his billions on the Malibu beach. Jeffrey soldiers on in Glendale, but it's useful to remember that the foundation of his fortune comes courtesy of his lawsuit against Disney and Michael Eisner, which gained him a reputed $250 million.

It's good to be a mogul. Even a smaller one.

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The Fruits of Free Money

It's no secret that Georgia is a magnet for the entertainment biz, not just in live-action but in animation and video game development. The Atlanta Journa reports:

Georgia has become a magnet for entertainment activity. Film and television productions created close to $5.1 billion in economic impact in fiscal year 14.

Yet film and TV are not the only entertainment sectors thriving here. Digital entertainment encompasses the creation and distribution of software, games, digital apps, music and even advanced concepts such as augmented reality, virtual reality and motion capture. ...

The ability to directly access creative, fresh talent from our universities and technical colleges is essential for digital entertainment companies and the industry’s future in Georgia. Nearly 20 colleges and universities offer interactive design career paths and thousands of students are engaged in interactive design classes or video game programs.

Last month, the Princeton Review ranked SCAD and the Georgia Institute of Technology in the top 25 for graduate and undergraduate programs in Game Design in 2015. ...

Georgia ranks in the top five U.S. states with the most software publishers. The technical talent and expertise in software development that Atlanta offers companies, coupled with the artistic creativity of its young population, is a competitive advantage. ...

Animation studios Cartoon Network and Bento Box have outposts in Atlanta; the incentives of lower wages and tax subsidies will no doubt continue to be a magnet for studios to build satellite facilities in the state.

Funny how right-to-work laws and free money work well for our fine entertainment companies, though less well for artists and technicians.

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It's Justice League

Today it's all about Spirit *, but hey. There are these other super heroes.



... "Experience a divergent reality where the Justice League protects the planet — but answers to no one but themselves. Employing methods of intimidation and fear, this Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman deal brute force in the name of justice. In this alternate universe, Superman was not raised by the Kents in Smallville, the Caped Crusader is not Bruce Wayne, and Wonder Woman is not an Amazon warrior of Themyscira. When a group of famed scientists experience untimely “accidents,” a government task force follows the trail of clues to the Justice League — but is there a more powerful player operating from the shadows?" ...

* I remember when Brad B. worked with unflagging energy to get "Spirit made. He chased the dream in L.A., in San Francisco, anyplace there were backers. It just never came together. And time and career went on. So instead we have "The Incredibles," and maybe a sequel, if Mr. Bird can make the picture his way.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Animation Jobs Held By Women

A week ago, we posted the most recent employment percentages of women working in the cartoon business. The figures went like this:

Out of a total of 3190 artists, writers, and technicians employed under a TAG contract, 658 are female, while 2,532 are male. This breaks down to

20.63% -- female employment

79.37% -- male employment

Eight days later, the numbers haven't changed much (except that women are 20.72% of the total now, with two more women employed and a half dozen men laid off.)

But this post isn't about the constantly moving target of total employment. It's about where women are working on April 14th, 2015, and burrowing deeper into the data. You'll find raw numbers and percentages inside that 20.72% below. ...

If you're a math enthusiast, you might notice the percentages and numbers don't add up to the total 660 women working today in animation. That's not because we're lazy. It's because we dropped most of the smallest bits of data attached to different categories so you wouldn't have to scroll ... and scroll ... and scroll.

Job Categories -- Percentages -- (Numbers)

Animation Checker -- 3% -- (19)

Animation Timer -- 2% -- (15)

Art Director -- 1% -- (6)

Background -- 10% -- (64)

Color Key -- 4% -- (28)

Layout -- 3% -- (22)

Director -- 3% -- (20)

Model Designer -- 5% -- (31)

Storyboard -- 16% -- (108)

Storyboard Revisionist -- 6% -- (44)

Staff Animation Writer -- 5% -- (35)

CGI Animator/Modeler* (1-5) -- 6% -- (42)

Tech Director* (1-5) -- 17% -- (110)

Trainee -- 3% -- (21)

Visual Development -- 3% -- (18)

The above is a marked change from the olden times, when most women in Cartoonland worked as inkers, painters, or animation checkers. In 2015, women are working in a wide array of creative and technical positions. And high time.

If these trends continue (and with the numbers of women in art schools and universities pursuing animation majors, they likely will), it wouldn't be surprising if women make up 30% to 40% of animation jobs before too many years roll by.

* The majority of women in these categories are classified as Tech Director 1 and CGI Modeler 1.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Girl Protaganist! What a Concept!

In animation, it's now all the rage.

In tackling a big screen adaptation of the literary classic "The Little Prince," director Mark Osborne decided one thing early on — the hero of his animated film would be female. ...

"Right now there seems to be a changing of the tide but these things don't happen overnight. These movies take years to make, so back when I was first pushing to make the little girl the main character it was seen as quite revolutionary." ...

Female-led films at this year's TIFF Kids Animation Film Festival include Australia/Germany's "Maya the Bee Movie" (for ages 3 to 7), France's "Mune" (for ages 8 to 13) and Japan's "When Marnie Was There" (for ages 10 to 13). ...

Let's not kid ourselves. The conglomerates aren't cranking out animated features with female protagonists because they've all of a sudden become gender sensitive. It mostly has to do with

1) Boffo box office.

2) Lots of games.

3) And action figures.

4) Also glittery costumes.

If girl-centric cartoons weren't making healthy profits for a lot of corporate divisions, they wouldn't be made. It's as simple as that. When Disney (and others) made features with women that under-performed, they moved on to other things. Now that they sky appears to be the limit, they embrace female characters wholeheartedly.

Stupid, they are not.

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Speaking of Females ...

There is this ...

Nicole Perlman, who co-wrote Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy, and Meg LeFauve, who co-wrote Pixar's upcoming Inside Out, are in negotiations write Captain Marvel, one of Marvel’s key projects as it is serving as the company’s first female-driven movie. ...

Marvel also made an effort to find female screenwriters to tackle the heroine. (Fun fact: When Marvel first had her own book in the 1970s, titled Ms. Marvel, the comic's tagline was "This female fights back!") ...

The woman super hero thing seems to be catching on.

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