Sunday, February 07, 2016

World Box Office

Foreign markets hum with animated product.


Kung Fu Panda 3 -- $23,000,000 -- ($198,050,957)

Star Wars 7 -- $7,000,000 -- ($2,008,361,000)

Alvin and the Chipmunks -- $12,800,000 -- ($171,374,931)

The Peanuts Movie -- $1,060,000 -- ($244,595,024) ...

And as a fine entertainment journal informs us:

... Star Wars: The Force Awakens passed the $2B worldwide mark on Saturday, its 53rd day of release. The global total is now $2,008.361M. ...

Kung Fu Panda 3 kicked up a further $23M in this sophomore frame. The DreamWorks Animation/DreamWorks Oriental co-production added $15.4M in China where the total is now $101.65M for a 2nd No. 1 in a row. ...

[Alvin and the CHipmunks grossed] another $12.85M from 8,274 screens in 54 markets, Fox’s animated threequel has grossed $87.8M to date offshore. ...

The Peanuts Movie mustered up $1.06M from 1,968 screens in 20 markets total. The UK gross on the Fox title is now $14.6M after seven weeks with an overseas cume of $114.7M. ...

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The New Trailer of the New Remake

They haven't overlooked the storypoints of the '67 original.

If you can't mine the library for new gold, what's the point of having a library?

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Saturday, February 06, 2016


And the envelope, please ... And the trophies go to:


Best Animated Feature
Inside Out

Directing in an Animated Feature Production
Inside Out
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: Pete Docter

Directing in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production
Gravity Falls
Episode: “Northwest Mansion Mystery”
Disney Television Animation
Director: Matt Braly

Best Animated Feature – Independent
Boy and the World
Filme de Papel

Best General Audience Animated Television/Broadcast Production
The Simpsons
Episode: “Halloween of Horror”

Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production For Children
Wander Over Yonder
Episode: “The Breakfast”
Disney Television Animation

Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production For Preschool Children
Tumble Leaf
Episode: “Mirror”
Amazon Studios and Bix Pix Entertainment

Writing in an Animated Feature Production
Inside Out
Pixar Animation Studios
Writer: Pete Docter
Writer: Meg LeFauve
Writer: Josh Cooley

Writing in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production
Bob’s Burgers
Episode: “The Hauntening”
Twentieth Century Fox Television/Bento Box Entertainment
Writer: Steven Davis
Writer: Kelvin Yu

Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production
Inside Out
Pixar Animation Studios
Cast: Phyllis Smith
Character: Sadness

Voice Acting in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production
Bob’s Burgers
Episode: “Hawk & Chick”
Twentieth Century Fox Television/Bento Box Entertainment
Starring: Kristen Schaal
Character: Louise Belcher

Best Animated Television/Broadcast Commercial
Man and Dog
Psyop ...

Best Animated Special Production
He Named Me Malala
Parkes-MacDonald / Little Door

Production Design in an Animated Feature Production
Inside Out
Pixar Animation Studios
Production Design: Ralph Eggleston

Production Design in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production
The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show
Episode: “Peabody’s Parents/Galileo”
DreamWorks Animation Televsion
Production Design: Kevin Dart
Production Design: Sylvia Liu
Production Design: Chris Turnham
Production Design: Eastwood Wong

Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production
Inside Out
Pixar Animation Studios
Animator: Allison Rutland
Character: All Characters

Character Animation in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production
Dragons: Race to the Edge
Episode: “Have Dragon Will Travel, Part 1”
DreamWorks Animation Television
Character Animator: Chi-Ho Chan
Character: Heather, Windshear, Dagur, Savage, Hiccup, Toothless, Berserkers

Character Animation in a Live Action Production
The Revenant – Judy
Regency Enterprises, New Regency Pictures, Anonymous Content, M Productions, Appian Way, RatPac-Dune Entertainment
Animation Supervisor: Matthew Shumway
Lead Digital Artist: Adrian Millington
Digital Artist: Blaine Toderian
Digital Artist: Alexander Poei
Digital Artist: Kevin Lan

Character Animation in a Video Game
2K Games
Character Animator: David Gibson
Character: Daisy, Goliath, Kraken

Final Winsor recipient is Joe Ranft, the Pixar original who died in 2005. He was head of story on Pixar’s first two films, Toy Story and A Bug’s Life and also worked on Monsters Inc. and Cars. He also worked on such pics as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.

Next Winsor recipient to Phil Roman, the six-time Emmy winner whose credits include The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Garfield & Friends, The Critic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and the Peanuts holiday specials.

First Winsor McCay Award of the night to Isao Takahata, the Japanese filmmaker behind such films as Grave of the Fireflies, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya — an Oscar nominee — and Only Yesterday.

Best Animated Short Subject
World of Tomorrow
Don Hertzfeldt

Animated Effects in an Animated Production
The Good Dinosaur
Pixar Animation Studios
Effects Supervisor: Jon Reisch
Effects Lead: Stephen Marshall
Volumetric Clouds Architect: Magnus Wrenninge
Development & Effects Artist: Michael Hall
Effects Technical Lead: Michael K. O’Brien

Animated Effects in a Live Action Production
Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Sokovia Destruction
Marvel Studios
Creature Sim Supervisor: Michael Balog|
Creature Simulation Lead: Jim Van Allen
Effects Simulation Supervisor: Florent Andorra
Effects Lead: George Kaltenbrunner

Music in an Animated Feature Production
Inside Out
Pixar Animation Studios
Composer: Michael Giacchino

Music in an Animated Television/ Broadcast Production
Disney Mickey Mouse
Episode: “¡Feliz CumpleaƱos!”
Disney Television Animation
Composer: Christopher Willis

Character Design in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production
Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas
Episode: “Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas”
Screen Novelties/Warner Bros Animation
Character Designer: Craig Kellman
Character: Buddy, Jovie, Walter Hobbs, Michael Hobbs, Mr. Greenway, Chadwick & Matthews, Santa Claus, Background Characters

Character Design in an Animated Feature Production
Inside Out
Pixar Animation Studios
Character Art Director: Albert Lozano
Character: All Characters
Character Artist: Chris Sasaki
Character: All Characters

Don Hahn receives the June Foray Award, named for the founder of the Annie Awards. Among a long line of credits, he worked as an Associate Producer on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, was a producer on The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast (which was the first animated pic to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars) and most recently was an EP on Disney’s Maleficent.

Editorial in an Animated Feature Production
Inside Out
Pixar Animation Studios
Nominee: Kevin Nolting

Editorial in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production
Disney Mickey Mouse
Episode: “Coned”
Disney Television Animation
Nominee: Illya Owens

Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production
Inside Out
Pixar Animation Studios
Storyboard Artist: Tony Rosenast

Storyboarding in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production
Disney Mickey Mouse
Episode: “¡Feliz CumpleaƱos!”
Disney Television Animation
Storyboard Artist: Alonso Ramirez Ramos

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Weekend Ticket Taking

The weekend will be under-powered due to Super Bowl goggling. But the panda is slated for another weekend at the top of the domestic box office.


1). Kung Fu Panda 3 (DWA/FOX), 3,987 theaters (+32) / $5.22M Fri. (-49%)/3-day cume: $21.1M (-49%)/Total cume: $69.2M/ Wk 2

2). Hail, Caesar! (UNI), 2,232 theaters / $4.3M Fri. /3-day cume: $11.1M / Wk 1

3). The Revenant (FOX), 3,018 theaters (-312) / $2.08M Fri. (-36%) / 3-day cume: $6.9M (-46%) / Total cume: $149.5M / Wk 7

4). Star Wars: The Force Awakens (DIS), 2,262 theaters (-294) / $1.86M Fri. (-26%) /3-day cume: $6.6M (-41%)/ Total cume: $905.6M / Wk 8

5). The Choice (LG), 2,631 theaters / $2.56M Fri. /3-day cume: $5.7M / Wk 1

6). Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (SONY), 2,931 theaters / $2M Fri. /3-day cume: $5.2M / Wk 1

7). The Finest Hours (DIS), 3,143 theaters / $1.5M Fri. (-54%) /3-day cume: $4.57M (-56%) / Total cume: $18.2M / Wk 2

8). Ride Along 2 (UNI), 2,172 theaters (-240) / $1.36M Fri. (-40%) /3-day cume: $4.36M (-48%) / Total cume: $77M / Wk 4

9). Dirty Grandpa (LGF), 2,567 theaters (-345)/ $1.32M Fri. (-40%)/3-day cume: $3.9M (-49%)/Total cume: $29.3M /Wk 3

10). The Boy (STX), 2,214 theaters (-457) / $1.29MFri. (-44%)/3-day cume: $3.8M (-50%) /Total cume: $26.6M/ Wk 3 ...

Meantime, The Peanuts Movie has earned a total of $129,918,514 during its domestic run, which is 53.6% of its world total of $242,468,139. Ordinarily, animated features make a majority of their money abroad, but American-themed movies don't perform as well overseas.

And The Good Dinosar has done about as well as Peanuts domestically, with $120,483,303, 40.9% of its $294,253,303 worldwide take. Of course, Dinosaur cost double what Peanuts did to produce.

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Friday, February 05, 2016

Phil Speaks

Phil Roman, once again active in the company that he founded, tells how he learned to draw.

... When Phil Roman was learning to draw in the 1940s, he took a correspondence course from an art school in Minneapolis. His homework would come back with his teacher’s signature — “Sparky” — scrawled on the bottom. That teacher was Charles M. Schulz. “I still have letters from him,” says Roman, 85. “I learned the basics from him.”

Roman — who will receive the International Animated Film Society’s Winsor McCay Award for his lifetime contribution to animation — spent his early years working on such films as Sleeping Beauty and such TV specials as How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Then, in the 1970s, he helped his old teacher bring Peanuts to television, growing from animator to director. ...

Phil worked at the Bill Melendez studio for a bunch of years, first as an animator, then a director. He was the director of the first Garfield special, created at the Melendez shop, but Mr. Schulz wanted Melendez to focus on Peanuts, so Phil Roman took the Garfield franchise over the Hollywood hills to Toluca Lake, where Film Roman was born.

And now you know a bit more of the Phil Roman story.

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Another Cartoon Show

The last few years have seen a steady increase in television animation production (no surprise there if you follow reports). Now there is yet one more new player leaping into the widening pool.

Randi Zuckerberg is getting into the animation business.

The Zuckerberg Media founder and CEO has partnered with NBC/Universal Cable Entertainment's 24-hour preschool network Sprout to bring her children's book Dot. to TV as an animated series.

The show is a production of Industrial Brothers in association with The Jim Henson Co. and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; Zuckerberg will executive produce alongside Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Co., and Halle Stanford, executive vp children's entertainment.

This marks Zuckerberg's first time as an EP on an animated series and second time as an EP on a TV show, following her 2012 Bravo reality series Start-Ups: Silicon Valley. ...

Last summer we listed a lot of the shows now in work around Los Angeles. It looks as though this show will be produced in Toronto by The Industrial Brothers, in collaboration with the Jim Henson Co. headquartered at the Chaplin Studios on La Brea.

Whether there will be any production work done at Henson, we know not. Hazarding a guess, most everything will be done in the Land of Free Money, but perhaps some writing or storyboard will take place in Southern California.

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Thursday, February 04, 2016


Variety reports.

... According to figures compiled last year by the Animation Guild for Women In Animation’s presentation at Annecy, only 20% of the animation workforce is made up of women. Broken down further, the survey found that 10% of animation producers-directors, 17% of writers, 21% of designers and 23% of animators are women.

“The first thing we’re asked when we share these startling statistics is ‘How does this happen? Why does this happen?’ And the next question is ‘How do we change it?’ ” says WIA co-president Marge Dean. “The answer is very complicated. There are things that go on systemically and in the general culture of male dominance in the industry. Then there’s internal issues with women themselves.” ...

Jennifer Yuh Nelson, director of DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 2” and co-director of “Kung Fu Panda 3,” is one of the few female animation directors in the industry today. Her advice to women looking to make their own mark in the business is to persevere. “There are so many ways of doing a job. Doing this role is not a stereotype,” she says. “They can do whatever makes them comfortable as long as they love what their doing and they keep at it.” ...

Earlier this year, Guild analyses showed that 21% of TAG's working members were female. (Here's a breakdown from last April.)

More and more, college animation departments have classes that are predominantly female. Such being the case, it's only a matter of time before women will be working on an equal footing with men in the cartoon biz.

And after that, a more than equal footing.

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TAG 401(k) Plan Info

The TAG Roth 401(k) has now become operative at most studios. (Disney comes aboard in a few months.) If you were wondering "What's a Roth 401(k)?" and "Should I do this new thing?" Here's some information bits to consider:

When Guild members join The Animation Guild 401(k) Plan, can choose to make traditional "pre-tax" contributions, Roth 401(k) after-tax contributions, or a combination of the two. Each offers a valuable tax advantage:

• Pre-tax contributions lower a participant's taxable income, so she or he avoids taxes today. But participants don’t avoid taxes forever. When anyone makes a withdrawal, they'll owe ordinary income taxes on contributions and any earnings. (The assumption is: taxes will be lower in retirement than during a participant's peak earning yours.)

• Roth 401(k) contributions don’t lower a participant's taxable income, so she or he pay taxes today. But they can make tax-free withdrawals of both contributions and any earnings provided they're at least age 59 1⁄2 and made the first Roth contributions at least five years earlier.

Understand that Roth 401(k) contributions are different from Roth IRA contributions. Roth 401(k) contributions are made within a company-sponsored plan. In contrast, Roth IRA contributions are made to an individual account outside of a 401(k) plan. The good news is that individuals may be able to do both.

The maximum amount that can be contributed in 2016 -- Roth, Traditional 401(k), or a combination of both -- is $18,000 ... or $24,000 for individuals fifty or more years of age.

401(k) Plan Trustees met last Monday. Right now there are 2600 participants, with an average account of $90,000. There are currently $232 million in assets in TAG's 401(k) Plan.

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Disney cartoon show gets a new voice actor.

Pop music parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic has been tapped to voice the title role in Disney XD’s animated comedy series Milo Murphy’s Law (fka Mike Murphy’s Law), slated to premiere this fall. The voice cast also includes Christian Slater, Vanessa Williams, Sarah Chalke, Jemaine Clement, Sabrina Carpenter, Mekai Curtis, Chrissie Fit and Vincent Martella.

Disney XD 2015 logoFrom Phineas And Ferb creators/executive producers Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, Milo Murphy’s Law introduces Milo, the fictional great-great-great-great grandson of the Murphy’s Law namesake and the personification of Murphy’s Law, which states anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Suffering from Extreme Hereditary Murphy’s Law condition (EHML), Milo always looks to make the best of the cards he’s been dealt and his endless optimism and enthusiasm can turn any catastrophe into a wild adventure. ...

MML's staff is creating the show on Brand Boulevard in Glendale. Disney Television Animation has production space on Sonora Avenue in Glendale, near the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, and now on Brand Boulevard. The division continues to grow and add shows, which is a good thing for artists working in and around L.A.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Al Jean Speaks

And explains why the Yellow Family broke through, and why it continues.

Q: Is it fair to say that The Simpsons would be directly responsible for the huge amount of animation we have now?

AJ: I believe honestly that if we had never come around that South Park or something would have broken through, because for people of my generation animation is something that adults would watch as well as children, but there is no doubt we accelerated the process and we were very lucky to be at the big bang. It’s a funny thing because the same year we started the series, The Little Mermaid came out and there was a similar renaissance in movies and the two have gone on simultaneously.

Q: So it was a generation that was particularly receptive to animation?

AJ: My theory is when I was a kid in the 60s, there was a lot of animation you could see on television, either old features like Bugs Bunny which were now on TV or shows like Rocky and Bullwinkle – and I loved shows like that, as did Matt Groening and other people. I think by 1990, that audience had grown to where it was really ripe for something in primetime. ...

Q: Are you’re looking at a nice even 30 seasons?

There’s no guarantee that will be the last, we have the cast guaranteed till that point, but I was happy when we got to five, I never know any more. ...

My bet is the show will last thirty years, and maybe a bit beyond.

But consider: The Simpsons started its life at Klasky-Csupo, which is pretty much a shell of its former self. The show next moved on to Film Roman, now also past its glory years.

As of the first week in January, The Yellow Family departed FR, although its still in the same building on Hollywood Way. But that will shortly change, when it moves to a newer, fancier home in a different part of Burbank, becoming the third series currently under the Fox Animation banner.

Three different studios over three decades, only with many of the same crew members. There are a few shows that have The Simpsons's longevity (Scooby Doo comes to mind), but none that can claim the same people working on the production from first to last.

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Saving Viacom

Now mitt der Add Ons.

Sumner Redstone bows (grudgingly) to Father Time:

Ailing Sumner Redstone, 92, has stepped down as CBS’ executive chairman, becoming Chairman Emeritus. He either has — or soon will — do the same at Viacom, where he’s also executive chairman. ...

CBS and Viacom shareholders have questioned whether Redstone is still able to fulfill his duties as chairman of the companies, entitling him to a salary. Last month, Viacom announced Redstone’s compensation package for 2015 was slashed by 85% to $2 million from $13.2 million. ...

This story mutated into a comic opera some time ago.

Mr. Redstone has been speaking in tongues for at least a year, and perhaps longer. And investors are ... ahm ... disenchanted with paying the man $13.2 million a year to sit in a wheelchair and goggle at old Playboy magazines.

Several Viacom divisions have been struggling. Nickelodeon Cartoon Studio was knocked off its high seat several years ago when the Disney Channel overtook it in the ratings, and the cable channel stopped being #1. It hasn't yet found its way out of the wilderness.

... Wall Street has lost some enthusiasm for [Viacom] shares lately as many wonder about television’s ability to compete with digital media. CBS has lost about 15% of its value in the last 12 months while the S&P dropped 5.2%. ...

Whether Sumner Redstone's demotion changes the conglomerate's fortunes remains an open question.

Add On: From a financial journal:

CBS and Viacom shares are up on hope of a sale. The problem is, who would bid? Competitors might, but that's unlikely.

The most likely buyers are Internet and infrastructure companies.

And good luck with that. Les Moonves is the Viacom exec in ascension, but he's been in charge of CBS, a broadcast network that is taking hits along with every other broadcast network as the millenials de-couple from their parents' method of watching the teevee, and opt to goggle at their smart phones when they're sucking up entertainment.

Add On Too: And we learn the other shoe has now clunked to the floor:

As with CBS yesterday, Sumner Redstone will leave his post as executive chairman at Viacom and become chairman emeritus.

Viacom announced the move after a morning board meeting.CEO Philippe Dauman will succeed Redstone as executive chairman, though the decision wasn't unanimous: Shari Redstone, Sumner's daughter, didn't vote in favor.Yesterday, CBS said Redstone had resigned his post there and was replaced as executive chairman by chief Les Moonves. Shari had been entitled under the Redstone family trust to become chairman of both CBS and Viacom after Sumner's departure of those posts, but a deal enabled Moonves to chair CBS instead; she had no similar deal with Dauman.As with CBS, Shari was offered a spot as non-executive chairman at Viacom but declined that post. ...

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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Ramping Up For "Snow White"

Walter D. talks about talks about how Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs developed:

In point of fact, Show wasn't the first stab at a feature. The studio fiddled around with a hybrid feature based on Alice in Wonderland, with Mary Pickford playing Alice. There were color tests done but that's as far, apparently, as the movie went. (At the time, United Artists was releasing Disney shorts, and Pickfor was one of the owners of UA.)

Snow White had an intense schedule. When Disney says all departments were working on the film, he means it. Hours were long and the work unremitting. rtists worked uncompensated overtime (imagine that!) ... and management made promises about profit-sharing ... which evaporated after the picture was completed and released.

The residual unhappiness over the long hours on Disney's first feature with no reward at the end was one of the things that fueled the Disney strike in 1941. Walt might have nursed grudges, but so did his staff.

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The Envelope, Please

The Visual Effects Society handed out trophies tonight.

'Star Wars' wins four awards and 'The Revenant' (and the bear) win three during the Visual Effects Society Awards on Tuesday night. ...

The Good Dinosaur won the most awards in the animated feature competition, with three awards including for outstanding VFX in an animated feature. ...

Must have been all those breathtaking landscapes. ...

We are, after all, at the front end of awards season, with a heap of ceremonies yet to go. There all kinds of glittering objects on metal pedestals waiting to be thrust into eager hands.

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Staffing Up

Original Force, a growing studio in Culver City, does some hiring.

... Jim Gaffigan and comedy legend Carl Reiner have joined the voice cast of Original Force Animation’s first animated feature “Duck Duck Goose,” while Mark Isham has come on to compose the score, it was announced Tuesday by the company’s co-presidents Sandra Rabins and Penney Finkelman Cox. ...

“Duck Duck Goose” is the first of three feature animated films currently in production at Original Force Animation, one of China’s most prominent digital animation studios. The company opened a Los Angeles-based production and development office in 2015, led by Finkelman Cox and Rabins. ... The company has nearly 1,000 employees across its Los Angeles, Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai and Chengdu offices. Chinese digital-entertainment giant Tencent is a strategic investor in Original Force and together, they’re developing a movie based on the game “QQ Speed.”

There are a number of Chinese animation companies, both larger and smaller, dropping anchors in the artist talent pools of Southern California.

Imagi, the Hong Kong-based animation studio, had a sizable presence in Sherman Oaks that lasted until the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Original Force appears to be ramping up production in its Los Angeles area studio. Besides voice actors and composers for its first production, we understand that it will continue to hire development artists.

As we hear more, we will pass same along.

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Monday, February 01, 2016

The Animation Guild Golden Award Interview #8 -- Jack Kinney

Disney veteran Jack Kinney spends a few minutes with Harvey Deneroff.

Jack Kinney went to work at Walt Disney Productions in 1930, and departed twenty-eight years later in 1957. In-between he directed features and shorts, although he claimed always to enjoy Disney short-form projects better, most likely because he wasn't micr-managed by Walt.

Disney veteran Vance Gerry remembered Mr. Kinney this way:

"I was new to Disney, working in the layout department. And I remember walking by Jack's unit and peering in the doorway. All I could see were different feet up on the director's desk and hearing the guys in there laughing and laughing. I didn't know what they were laughing at, but I remember that laughter.

And then a few months later the feet, people and laughter were all gone. Walt closed down the shorts unit."

Jack Kinney went on to direct Popeye cartoons for television and Mr. Magoo's first feature, 1001 Arabian Nights. Mr. Kinney died in the early 1990s at the age of age eighty-two, in Glendale California.

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Female Leaders of Animation

Cartoon Scoop interviews Jennifer Yuh Nelson (director), Melissa Cobb (producer), and Clare Knight (editor), three of the women who were key to Kung Fu Panda 3's current success.

Jennifer Yuh Nelson: ... We did two films, because the first two films were so embraced by the Chinese audiences we wanted to make something we could push further and since this is a co-production, it seemed like the perfect time to create something that felt native to Chinese audiences. Usually they have to deal with a dubbing situation or subtitles, and it takes you out of the experience. That’s why we wanted to make something that felt really immersive for them, but it takes a lot of work to make 2 versions of a movie! You have hundreds of artists you’re dealing with across the world and the scale of this movie was insane—we had a parallel pipeline going on where you had two versions recording Mandarin voice actors, getting it to be funny for Mandarin audiences going beyond a straight translation, and then animating it and lighting it, it’s a lot of work.

LC: What kinds of differences are there in the two stories?

JYN: The visual differences for example included of course adjusting the facial acting, if they ad-libbed something we’d have to account for that. ...

LC: The 3D in this film and in the whole franchise has such a unique and believable quality but it’s very otherworldly. Both the computer animation and the 3D stereoscopic vision.

JYN: One of my favorite things about the film is the look of it. We never go for realism. I think a lot of time when people go for 3D that’s the mistake. Because we’re never going for full realism—for computer generated live action films like Avatar the goal is realism, to make the audience feel like they are seeing something that is real. Lord of the Rings had character design and environments to make it look real, whereas we aren’t going for that, we are going for something that is theatrically, viscerally, and emotionally real. That’s why the colors pop, you have hard edges, you have graphic shapes, even the explosions and bits of dust that are kicked up have an art directed shape to them that fit the look of the film. That’s actually really hard to do, but it creates a cohesive and very real world of its own. ...

JYN: Never once in my 18 years here has anyone said “you can do this because you’re a woman” or “you can’t do this because you are a woman”. It’s never even come up. ...

Clare Knight: What I find at DreamWorks is it’s always about strengths and what people are good at. But with Jenn and Melissa and I, three women working on one film, I’ve really enjoyed it because we’ve worked enough together that we’ve developed out own language. ...

Jennifer Yuh Nelson's earlier TAG podcast is here and here.

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

World Ticket Collections

Rentrak lays out the stats.

Foreign Weekend Box Office -- (World Totals)

Kung Fu Panda 3 -- $75,700,000 -- ($116,700,000)

Star Wars -- $12,600,000 -- ($1,983,226,000)

Alvin and the Chipmunks -- $12,800,000 -- ($152,757,030)

The Peanuts Movie -- $2,400,000 -- ($242,689,678) ...

A fine entertainment journal says:

... DreamWorks Animation/Oriental DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda 3 has kicked up a $75.7M start in six overseas markets. As expected, China delivered a record-breaking opening weekend for an animated film with $58.3M on about 15K screens. Korea also had a good start with $11.4M on 1,359 screens. ...

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip, squirreled away $12.8M this weekend; Alvin & Co have a cume of $69.5M after six weeks. There are 48 markets now open including China which bowed this week to $4.8M from 2,538 screens. ...

The Peanuts Movie picked up another $2.36M. Family market Brazil had a good 3rd weekend hold. It added $831K to take the cume to $6.7M. The international total is now $112.8M. ...

The press has labeled The Peanuts Movie a "moderate success" and The Good Dinosaur a failure.

TGD has earned $293,897,639 to date, while Peanuts has collected $242.7 million. Of course, the Charlie Brown feature cost under $100 million while Dinosaur ran up a tab of $200 million.

So that might have something to do with media perceptions.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Talking Animals - TV Division

HBO doesn't do a lot of animation, but now they've ventured into the pool. (And I'm late with this):

Animals might be the weirdest, craziest, most interesting television show in a long time. The new HBO show feels like someone took a funny clever animated short film from the Sundance Film Festival and adapted it into a television series. ...

While the concept and execution is delightfully simple, the show digs deeper into the human condition than your typical animated series. The jokes are clever and relatable, often seemingly written for film geeks. ...

Animals reminds me of some of the great weird but funny short films that used to screen in Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation. The crude but charming animation style might be reminiscent of Beavis and Butthead. ...

I found the series trailer eerily reminiscent of this:

But that's me.

Variety didn't care for the new series much. Saying "Rats and fleas deserve better than this." ... (I had no luck finding a link to the full article.)

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The Box Office Market

Unsurprisingly, the chubby panda is the central focus of attention this weekend.


1). Kung Fu Panda 3 (DWA/FOX), 3,955 theaters / $10.4-10.5M Fri. / 3-day cume: $40M-41M / Wk 1

2). The Revenant (FOX), 3,330 theaters (-381) / $3.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $11.4M (-29%) / Total cume: $137.1M / Wk 6

3). The Finest Hours (DIS), 3,143 theaters / $3.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $9.7M-$10M / Wk 1

4). Star Wars: The Force Awakens (DIS), 2,556 theaters (-809) / $2.5M Fri. / 3-day cume: $9.9M (-31%)/ Total cume: $894.4M / Wk 7

5). Ride Along 2 (UNI), 2,412 theaters (-780) / $2.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $7.8M (-37%) / Total cume: $70.2M / Wk 3

6). The Boy (STX), 2,671 theaters (0)/ $2.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $7.3M (-33%)/Total cume: $20.9M/ Wk 2

7). Dirty Grandpa (LGF), 2,912 theaters (0)/ $2.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $6.8M (-38%)/Total cume: $22.1M /Wk 2

8). The 5th Wave (SONY), 2,908 theaters (0) / $1.9MFri. / 3-day cume: $6.5M (-37%) /Total cume: $19.7M/ Wk 2

9). Fifty Shades of Black (OR/IMG), 2,075 theaters / $2.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5.9-6.3M / Wk 1

10.) 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (PAR), 2,803 theaters (-114) / $1.7M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5.8M (-36%) / Total cume: $42.4M / Wk 3

11). Daddy’s Home (PAR), 1,718 theaters (-1,071) / $784K Fri. / 3-day cume: $3M (-40%)/ Total cume: $142.9M / Wk 6

12). The Big Short (PAR), 983 theaters (-368) / $787K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.6M (-17%)/ Total cume: $60.5M / Wk 8 ...

Norm of the North, which opened at #6 its first weekend, then dropped to #9 in the second, has now dropped from the Top Ten. Unsurprising when the Panda rolls into town.

To date, Norm has taken in about $15 million at the box office.

Add On: Kung Fu Panda 3 opened Friday in the Middle Kingdom, day-and-date with the U.S release, and industry estimates have it at 107M yuan, or $16.3M for the first day. Unofficial numbers from today lift the current cume to $40-$43M through Saturday, including previews from last weekend. The opening of KFP3 is now poised to become the biggest three-day bow ever for an animated title in China.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Panda Launch

I spent part of Friday morning on DreamWorks' Glendale campus, where red lanterns were hanging from the olive trees, panda characters were marching around the Italianate fountain, and martial arts athletes were demonstrating martial arts moves to a rap audience.

Today, of course, Kung Fu Panda 3 launched day-and-date around the globe:

... DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 3 via 20th Century Fox is on its way to a $13M opening day and a weekend that’s in the $44M-$45M range. That’s not too far from the opening of Kung Fu Panda 2 which played over Memorial Day weekend 2011. ...

Box Office Mojo relates:

... Working in the favor of Kung Fu Panda 3 is the fact the last really strong animated release was Hotel Transylvania 2 in September of last year. Since then, The Good Dinosaur and The Peanuts Movie both broke $100 million domestically, but didn't make any kind of significant impact and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip continued that franchise's slide upon its release in December. Also, the online ticketing company Fandango reports Kung Fu Panda 3 is outpacing DreamWorks Animation's Home, which opened in March of 2015 with $52.1 million. ...

Internationally, Kung Fu Panda 3 had preview screenings in China last Saturday and brought in an impressive $6.4 million in one day. The film opens day and date in China this weekend as well as in South Korea, Russia, Ukraine, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. ...

The first weekend's worldwide take? Hopefully up there.

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One More Animal Trailer Drops

We have, ladies and gents, boys and girls, an embarrassment of riches. There was a lacklustre talking animal picture released a week ago; DreamWorks Animation has a talking animal picture coming out today; Disney has a talking animal picture coming out in March.

And a Man named Meledandri debuts his talking animal feature next summer.

Chris Meledandri is one studio head who cuts to the essence.

He develops his movies efficiently, concentrating on entertaining sequences, focusing on putting the dollars on the screen.

His movies get made on budgets of $75 million to $90 million. He appears to recognize that the higher the cost of the movie, the smaller the strike zone is for success.

Amazing, that.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016


The other Independent movie festival in Park City, Utah. Wherein:

Jury Award for Animation Short: MY DAD, dir. by Marcus Armitage

“My Dad expresses compelling universal themes — the director’s powerful, heartbreaking message and the film’s bold, colorful palette are perfectly suited to his experimental animation format.” ...

My Dad from Marcus Armitage on Vimeo.

Slamdance is a zesty little festival (and now a year-round organization) that has been around since 1995.

For a brief instant, I thought the short's director Marcus Armitage was the son of the late Frank Armitage, Disney arits and Imagineer who recently passed away at 91. But such (apparently) is not the case.

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Twenty-Six Half Hours

Stretch Armstrong lives!!.

Netflix is expanding its original content for kids, bringing the iconic Stretch Armstrong brand to the small screen. The Internet TV network is partnering with Hasbro Studios on the animated/comedy series for premiere in 2017. ...

The ever-flexible Stretch has been in various types of development for some time. Live-action features (nope). TV series (maybe).

Pre-production on Stretch Armstrong will be happening at the Hasbro studio in Burbank; where the production will be done I know not.

Netflix has, of course, been on an animation-acquisition binge, having renewed several cartoon series with DreamWorks Animation TV while reaching out to other studios for additional product. Apparently at least half of the 150 eyeballs goggling at Netflix goggle at Netflix's cartoons.

Find Variety's two-year-old story on the death of Relativity's "Stretch Armstrong" movie here.

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DreamWorks Animation dropped a trailer. (There's a lot of that going on just now).

This movie has gone through several permutations.

It was supposed to come out in 2015. It was originally a straight-ahead comedy with a different writer and director.

Now it's a musical with Justin Timberlake on board to handle musical chores, animation veteran Mike Mitchell directing, and Erica Rivinoja in to do the screenplay. It comes out this November.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Board Artists

At last night's General Membership Meeting, there was a lengthy back-and-forth on storyboard artists, their current pressures and current schedules.

Show schedules are too short.

Production people want way more panels than a "Bill Peet" style board. You have to almost animated the action for the animatic.

In features, they throw out part of a sequence and want you to reboard three new pages of script Friday to Monday, so you work all weekend.

There are feature supervisors who brag on-line that they're working on a show until 2 A.M.

Artists work unpaid overtime because they're afraid they'll get laid off if they don't keep the quality up and meet the show's deadlines.

New board artists come in and have no problem working late for no pay. They're happy to be working and have a job. ...

The issues that cropped up at yesterday's gathering are much the same as those here, a couple of years ago. Among the complaints then:

1) Cramped work schedules.

2) The general corporate/department rule (with exceptions) that: "There's NO money in the budget for overtime, so DON'T ASK."

3) The issue of multi-tasking. Board artists today often have to A) Design, B) Be layout artists, C) Work as animatics editors, D) Pose out animation. ...

Members noted that a lot of artists are frightened of losing their jobs, and so work uncompensated overtime to hang onto their jobs.

The Business Representative (me) responded that studios complain that they can't find skilled, experienced board artists now, so there is not a lot of truth to the fear of layoff.

(Another artist said that he knows of a slow co-worker who has been late with his assigned shows time and again, yet has never been laid off. In fact, the artist has seldom if ever heard of anyone being laid off because of slowness.)

My take: Evolving technologies have made storyboarding more challenging over time. Paper story and production boards are finit. Animatics (digital story reels with demi animation, layouts, sound effects, voice tracks) are the coin of the realm.

Production management expects a lot more drawing, acting and movement in digital story reels than it did fifteen years ago. The observations that a "Bill Peet storyboard" wouldn't work today is right as regards the number of drawings a modern board requires, but not right as regards acting and image quality.

What's needed in the workplace is:

1) A culture where no overtime is worked unless it's paid for. ("Forty hours means forty hours.")

2) Sharing of information: Production schedules, wage rates, etc.

3) Collegiality and support.

4) The knowledge that every studio (and every show inside a studio) is somewhat different. (The production manager on Show X is flexible and understanding about problems; the show creator on Show G wants the characters precisely on models and you'd better not be late turning in your work.)

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The trailer for Angry Birds dropped early this morning.

Fergal Reilly and Clay Kaytis are directing AB, a co-endeavor between Sony Pictures Animation/Imageworks and Rovio Animation.

Clay and Fergal are both large talents. Clay was a longtime Disney feature veteran, and served as supervising animator on both Tangled and Bolt. He owns credits on Disney features as animator or assistant on most every feature back to Pocahontas.

Fergal Reilly started his L.A> animation career with Baer Animation in the late eighties, and has worked on a wide variety of feature films, everything from Spiderman 2 and The Longest Yard to The Heffalump Movie, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and Open Season.

Angry Birds will receive its worldwide release in May.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Exit Softly

... into those fine secondary markets.

The words 'Pixar' and 'flop' are two words that have rarely been seen in the same sentence, unless of course it was discussing how the studio managed to go decades without creating one. That's all changed however, as The Good Dinosaur limps towards the end of its release without recouping its estimated $350 million cost. ... But Pixar seems to be happy to [let] the film quietly fade out of the public's view. ...

It was always bound to happen sometime.

No studio .. as in zero ... nada ... none ... remains in existence over a long span of years without hitting a rough patch. Without making a film that doesn't click and generates red ink instead of profits.

There have actually been a couple of other misfires under the Pixar administration's watchful eye. Planes, from Disney Toons Studios, didn't set the box office on fire. (Although given its cost, the picture likely made money). And Planes II from which good things were expected, completely laid an egg.

But of course, this time out it was mighty Pixar, not a cheap-jack direct-to-video division of the Disney Company on a seedy street in Glendale. When you are a studio batting a thousand, you hate to sully the record.

Well, now it's been sullied, and everybody can take a deep breath and move on.

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Viacom's Struggles

Viacom, the conglomerate containing Nickelodeon Cartoon Studios and Paramount Animation, is getting a "thumbs down" from financial gurus.

The recent 99-page presentation by SpringOwl Asset Management spotlights media company Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA) (NASDAQ:VIAB) as a high-risk takeover target in the entertainment industry. SpringOwl has released a lengthy report providing suggestions for a much needed turnaround plan that could potentially give the stock upside potential of 135%.

In SpringOwl's report it suggests that a key catalyst for stock value improvement would be the overhaul of the company's management.

The key issues at Viacom remain that they've excessively overpaid senior management, reporting a combined $432 million in compensation over the past five years for CEO Philippe Dauman and COO Thomas Dooley. And yet its stock has been grossly underperforming.

Viacom has missed the move to digital with CEO, Philippe Dauman, really lacking industry experience and vision for digital products. The absence of a true digital strategy investment strategy is just one example of poor management according at Viacom, where, according to SpringOwl has a "decade of missed opportunities online." ...

I think we can anticipate changes at Sumer Redstone's conglomerate. For as Bloomberg reported:

... [SpringOwl] has pressed for changes at companies including Yahoo! Inc. and Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment Plc, which agreed to be bought last year for about $1.7 billion.

The firm also called on Viacom to explore an investment from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. or Inc. in its Paramount Pictures film studio. SpringOwl said Viacom should consider a merger with AMC Networks Inc., cut costs more and push further into online offerings. The investment company cited strategic missteps, such as licensing too much content to Netflix Inc., suing YouTube and selling an investment in Vice Media for much less than other investors have paid since then. ...

So how much longer Sumner's corporation will be Sumner's company is an open question.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Dialogue Count

So the Washington Post tallies up the lines in Disney Princess films, and ...

... In the classic three Disney princess films, women speak as much as, or more than the men. “Snow White” is about 50-50. “Cinderella” is 60-40. And in “Sleeping Beauty,” women deliver a whopping 71 percent of the dialogue. Though these were films created over 50 years ago, they give ample opportunity for women to have their voices heard. ...

Some of the trouble here is the underlying material, wouldn't you think? When you develop a property called Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and 7/8ths of the title characters are male, there are bound to be some men talking. (If Ms. White hadn't been chatting with all those animals, none of whom talked back, the ratio of dialogue would have been something other than 50/50.)

The reason that Sleeping Beauty has women delivering most of the lines is due to the fact that women dominate the story on which the movie is based. Because everybody in the story department, everyone directing, and the head of the studio, all of those people were of the male persuasion.

There's another issue: No matter who's talking, those first features have a LOT less dialogue than the specimens from the nineties and oughts. The early pictures were boarded rather than scripted, and everyone working on them had grown up on silent movies, where the projected images, not the voices squawking out of the loud speakers, carried the narrative.

The ONE thing different today? There are more women involved in the process of making animated features. Brenda Chapman was the story director on Beauty and the Beast and has directed multiple features since. There are now women writers and women board artists. That simply was not the case sixty and seventy years ago.

So progress might be slow and uneven, but there IS progress.

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The Animation Guild Golden Award Interview #7 -- Ed Love

Ed Love was like most animators who broke into animation in the thirties and kept working for the next forty or fifty years: Ed worked at a lot of different studios and animated on a lot of different projects, everything from Disney and Walter Lantz shorts to iconic H-B series like The Flintstones.

Ed's list of animation credits is longer than Wilt Chamberlain's arm. As Harvey Deneroff says in the link above, Ed was one of the few animators who hit the bricks during the Disney strike of 1941, thereby incurring Walt's displeasure. Unsurprisingly, Ed never worked at Walt Disney Productions again.

Mr. Love passed away in 1996, days shy of his 86th birthday.

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