Sunday, August 28, 2016

Why Play The Game If You Don't Have To?

When you've tucked away sufficient cash to retire in comfort, why continue to invest heavily in the stock market?

How To Tell If Your Retirement Nest Egg Is Big Enough ...

During past bull markets, many Americans nearing retirement fleetingly acquired a nest egg adequate for later life. Then, as quickly as that nest egg came, it went -- leaving behind regret, sleepless nights, and in the worst case, panic selling near the bottom that eliminated any possibility of recovery. ...

When you've won the game, stop playing. ...

Take a few minutes. Add up your basic annual expenses, and make sure to include the taxes you'll owe on required and voluntary withdrawals from your retirement accounts, and on the income and capital gains in your taxable assets. Then subtract your Social Security and, if you're lucky, pension checks. This leaves you with your residual living expenses, or RLE.

If you need $70,000 a year to meet expenses and pay taxes -- and if your Social Security and pension income amounts to $30,000 a year -- you must come up with an RLE of $40,000. A good rule of thumb is to have, at the very least, 25 years of RLE saved up to retire at 60, 20 years at 65, and 17 years to retire at 70 -- or in this case, $1 million, $800,000 and $680,000, respectively. ...

Both historical back testing and Monte Carlo analysis suggest that a 65-year-old with only 20 years of RLE in his nest egg should hold no more than 50% of his or her portfolio in equities; if you have 35 years of RLE, then up to 70% is probably safe. ...

Here in the 21st century, with pension plans under stress and Social Security under political assault, it's wise to save as much as possible as soon as possible. Don't wait until you're fifty to think about putting money away. By that time there will be a huge amount of catching up to do.

As previously noted, Animation Guild members working under a Guild contract have several retirement advantages: they have a defined pension under the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan (monthly annuity), they have a bucket of tax-sheltered money unde MPIPP (Individual Account Plan), and they have the option of creating a second bucket of money through the Animation Guild's 401(k) Plan.

Happily, the Guild will be holding many 401(k) enrollment meetings over the next month, so be there!

Disney Tujunga
Mon., August 29th - 10 am
Room 1700
6904 Tujunga Ave.

Dreamworks Animation - Main Campus
Tue., August 30th - 2 pm
Dinning Rooms B & C
1000 Flower St.

Disney - Hat Building, Riverside Dr.
Thurs., September 1st - 10 an
Room 2401

Nickelodeon Burbank - 321 W. Olive Avenue
Thurs., September 1st - 2 pm
Dora Conference Room B87

Fox Animation -- 5700 Wilshire Blvd.
Wed., September 7th - 2 pm
Family Guy Conference Room
5700 Wilshire Blvd.

Disney Sonora
Thurs., September 8th - 10 am
Room 1172

Disney TVA -- Empire Center
Thurs., September 8th - 2 pm
Room 5223

Disneytoon Studios
Tue., September 13th - 2 pm
Room 101


Cartoon Network
Tue., September 20th - 2 pm
Main Conference Room


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Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Top Four

Since it's the weekend and we're on the subject of movie grosses ...

... The top four films at the global box office are Captain America: Civil War ($1.15 billion), Zootopia ($1.02 billion), The Jungle Book ($955.6 million), and Finding Dory ($916.4 million). The Jungle Book and Finding Dory continue to add several million dollars per week to their totals, with The Jungle Book holding strong in Japan where it just opened two weekends ago and Finding Dory having most of Europe left in which to open later this month and through September (which means it will probably make a run at $1 billion). ...

Which remaining films this year have the best shot at breaking into the top four or five? Only three movies seem to have any chance, and two of them are Disney films. ... Allow me to offer this hypothesis for the possible final top-seven list at year’s end…

1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($1.1+ billion)

2. Captain America: Civil War ($1.1+ billion)

3. Zootopia ($1+ billion)

4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ($900 million to $1 billion)

5. Finding Dory ($950+ million to $1 billion)

6. The Jungle Book ($960-970 million)

7. Moana ($875-900+ million)

Disney has a strong grip, so it seems, regarding what kinds of features work, and what kinds don't. Britain's Guardian today published what some film experts say:

... "The flopping of Ben-Hur confirms what we think we know about Hollywood at the moment,” said Peter Kramer, a film expert teaching at the University of East Anglia, “which is that it is only doing well at franchises and sequels.”

Though far from a dead cert, a sequel is simply a safer bet. “As the old William Goldman Hollywood saying has it, ‘Nobody knows anything’, but there is a good chance the sequel of a profitable film will make money,” said Kramer. “It might even be more successful. It is the one exception to that rule. And when a big film needs an investment of about $200m, and then around $100m in marketing, it is not surprising studios opt for them." ...

Professor Kramer overlooks the box office of animation in today's marketplace, something that Forbes magazine doesn't overlook in the piece above the fold.

You would have to be seriously myopic not to see that almost every movie projected to be at the top of 2016's Blockbuster Movie List is either an animated feature or a live-action flick with lodaded down with generous amounts of animated visual effects.

If that isn't a trend, then there are no trends.

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Your American Box Office

Lots of animated entertainments, some of them of a family nature, remain in the Big List.

WEEKEND DOMESTIC BOX OFFICE

1). Don’t Breathe (SONY), 3,051 theaters / $10M Fri (includes $1.9M previews)/$10M Sat (-1%) / $6.2M Sun (-37%) /3-day cume: $26.1M / Wk 1

2). Suicide Squad (WB), 3,582 theaters (-342) / $3.3M Fri./ $5.5M Sat (+67%) / $3.3M Sun (-40%) / 3-day cume: $12.1M (-42%) /Total cume: $282.88M/ Wk 4

3). Kubo and the Two Strings (FOC), 3,279 theaters (+19)/ $2M Fri /$3.4M Sat (+75%) / $2.5M Sun (-33%) / 3-day cume: $7.9M (-37%)/Total cume: $24.9M/ Wk 2

4). Sausage Party (SONY/APP), 3,135 theaters (+32) / $2.3M Fri. /$3.1M Sat. (+37%) / $2.3M Sun. (-28%) / 3-day cume: $7.7M (-51%)/Total cume: $80M/Wk 3


5). Mechanic: Resurrection (LG), 2,258 theaters / $2.6M Fri (includes $390K previews) / $2.8M Sat. (+6%) / $2.1M Sun. (-24%) / 3-day cume: $7.5M / Wk 1

6). Pete’s Dragon (DIS), 3,244 theaters (-458)/ $1.8M Fri. /$3.3M Sat (+75%) / $2.2M Sun (-33%) / 3-day cume: $7.3M (-36%)/Total cume: $54.7M/Wk 3

7). War Dogs (WB), 3,258 theaters (0) / $2M Fri /$3M Sat. (+50%) / $2.25M Sun. (-25%) / 3-day cume: $7.3M (-51%) /Total cume: $27.8M/Wk 2

8). Bad Moms (STX), 2,565 theaters (-246)/ $1.8M Fri./ $2.4M Sat. (+35%) / $1.6M Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $5.8M (-28%)/Total cume: $95.45M/ Wk 5

9). Jason Bourne (UNI), 2,445 theaters (-442) / $1.4M Fri. /$2.4M Sat. (+66%) / $1.4M Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $5.2M (-35%)/Total cume: $149.4M/ Wk 5

10). Ben-Hur (PAR/MGM), 3,084 theaters / $1.3M Fri /$1.95M Sat. (+49%) / $1.3M Sun. (-35%) /3-day cume: $4.5M (-60%) /Total: $19.6M/ Wk 2

Kubo and the Two Strings drops only 37%% (a pretty good hold) while the very wholesome Sausage Party drop 51%. Pete's Dragon holds relatively well, declining a mere 36%.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Laika

Kubo and the Two Strings, it turns out, has performed in the same range (though a bit lower) as other Laikia features:

MOVIE -- OPENING WEEKEND (DOMESTIC)

Coraline -- $16,849,640

Para Norman -- $14,087,050

The Box Trolls -- $17,275,239

Kubo and the 2 Strings -- $12,608,372 ...

It's surprising that, even with overwhelmingly positive reviews, Kubo did not open with a higher gross.

The Boxtrolls, by contrast, has the highest opening weekend domestic gross of any Laika feature, yet its reviews are less positive than KATTS.

Why did Kubo open so much worse? Did Suicide Squad chew into its grosses? Are audiences just not jazzed by stop motion? What is it?

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Shiny Gold Trophies

We have a number of artistic victors at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

... Today the Academy announced the the first winners of the season, for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation.

Cartoon Network scored multiple times, with Adventure Time and Long Live the Royals, while Adult Swim’s long-running favorite Robot Chicken earned its fourth Emmy win for their latest DC Comics Special. ...

It's always good to be recognized for artistic achievement, yes?

TELEVISON ACADEMY ANNOUNCES JURIED WINNNERS FOR 68TH EMMY AWARDS® IN ANIMATION CATEGORY

(NoHo Arts District, Calif., Aug. 26, 2016) – The Television Academy announced today the juried award winners for the 68th Emmy® Awards in Animation. The juried awards for Animation will be presented on Sunday, September 11 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California. This year’s juried winners include:

Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation

Adventure Time • Bad Jubies • Cartoon Network • Cartoon Network Studios in association with Bix Pix Entertainment

Jason Kolowski, Production Designer

Adventure Time • Stakes Pt. 8: The Dark Cloud • Cartoon Network • Cartoon Network Studios

Tom Herpich, Storyboard Artist

He Named Me Malala • National Geographic Channel • Fox Searchlight Pictures in association with Image Nation Abu Dhabi and Participant Media

Jason Carpenter, Animation Production Designer

Long Live The Royals • Punk Show • Cartoon Network • Cartoon Network Studios

Chris Tsirgiotis, Background Designer

Robot Chicken DC Comics Special III: Magical Friendship • Adult Swim • Stoopid Buddy Stoodios

Scott DaRos, Character Animator

Juried categories require all entrants to be screened by a panel of professionals in the appropriate peer group, with the possibility of one, more than one or no entry being awarded an Emmy. As a consequence, there are no nominees, but a one-step evaluation and voting procedure. Deliberations include open discussions of each entrant’s work, with a thorough review of the merits of awarding the Emmy. At the conclusion of each deliberation, the jury considers the question, “Is this entry worthy of an Emmy award – yea or nay?” Only those with unanimous approval win.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Settlement Moneys

Remember the class-action lawsuit on behalf of animation employees against a whole raft of animation studios?

Some of the litigants have settled, but the suit trundles on. We've gottoen multile calls about it in the last couple of days, probably because this:

Welcome to the Animation Workers Antitrust Litigation Website

If you were an employee who held an animation or visual effects job title at Blue Sky Studios, Inc., DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., Two Pic MC LLC (f/k/a Image Movers Digital LLC), Lucasfilm, Ltd., LLC, Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation Inc., Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc., or The Walt Disney Company during the time periods set forth in the Notice, an ongoing class action lawsuit may affect your rights, and you could get money from settlements with two of the multiple defendants in the lawsuit.
...

We get asked: "Is the Animation Guild involved in the lawsuit?"

We reply: "Only peripherally."

The Guild hosted some information meetings, hosted a presentation and Question and Answer session with an attorney from a large northern California law firm that was initially driving the lawsuit but ultimately pulled out.

We referred a number of members to lawyers involved with the case, and later were subpoenaed for documents and testimony. Yours Truly spent three hours getting deposed in a Century City law office.

Beyond those things, TAG has no connection to the case, though we hope that justice prevails.

Cartoon Brew has put up a post about the case and settlement. As the Brew states, a number of hurdles must be negotiated before folding cash finds its way into the hands who (likely, allegedly) were damaged by the actions of various animation studios.

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Marvin Kaplan, RIP

A veteran character actor departs.

Marvin Kaplan, a prolific character actor best known for his recurring role as Henry Beesmeyer on the 1976-85 sitcom Alice and as the voice of Choo-Choo on the cartoon Top Cat has died. He was 89 and died from natural causes in his Burbank home. ...

Kaplan’s voice became familiar to generations of children thanks to his work on the cartoon series Top Cat from 1961-62. Voicing Choo-Choo, the pink, turtleneck-clad cat, he reprised the role for 1987’s Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats. He also voiced characters on Garfield and Friends, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Johnny Bravo, and 2011’s The Garfield Show among others. ...

Mr. Kaplan began a long career in films and television with Adam's Rib after discovery by Katherine Hepburn. He was a series regular through nine season of the sitcom Alice, had a recurring role on Becker and did innumerable guest shots on a wide variety of half-hour TV comedies and hour-long dramas.

He leaves no survivors.

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DreamWorks Animation Staff Changes

Most everyone knows that Jeffrey Katzenberg has departed as the Big Kahuna of DreamWorks Animation (and taken a tidy sum with him during the exit). However, many of the execs he put in place remain in their positions, with Universal Comcast enhancements. To wit:

Marjorie Cohn will lead the integrated DreamWorks Animation and Universal Pictures television animation businesses.

Marjorie CohnShe will become head of animation TV at the merged group, reporting to NBCUniversal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Jeff Shell.

She had joined DWA as its first head of television in 2013 after leaving Nickelodeon, where she had been president of content development at the culmination of a 26-year stint. ...

Also remaining are animated feature topkicks Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria, under the leadership of Universal Pictures Chairman, Donna Langley.

Ann Daly, DWA's President, is leaving the company. But she will also be receiving some lovely parting gifts in the form of tall stacks of money. We wish everybody all the best.

Deadline's take on DWA reshuffling is here.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Craft Meeting #2 -- Timing Directors and Animation Checkers

Animation Directors and Animation Checkers met at 1105 N. Hollywood Way at 7 p.m. on August 22nd for the second TAG Craft Meeting.

The Business Representative reviewed current employment (now north of 3500 staff and freelance employees) and the numbers of shows in work at different studios.

Footage rates, part of the contract for the first time, were discussed at length. The current rate of $3.35/foot was thought too low by many, especially if lip assignments are included as part of the job. ..

It was also pointed out that action shows with casts of thousands took more time to do than two-character comedy shows. The current rate will be in effect for 12 months, at which time the footage rate will rise to $3.45/foot.

Directors thought there should be proposals to revise the footage rate in the 2018 contract negotiations, and also revise weekly and daily wage rates. It was noted that the footage rate for timing had been $3 per foot for twenty years, and that reported Pension and Health Contribution hours were "all over the map", with some freelance animation directors being paid 20 hours for a week's work. Under the current contract, for every 100 feet of freelance animation timing, 8 hours of health and pension contributions are provided to the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan.

There was discussion about animatics, how the slugging of boards has been supplanted by animatics. The only show being done without animatics is "Samurai Jack".

It was felt that freelancers should make more than staff animation directors, incentivizing studios to being animation directors in-house. The Business Representative noted that the Guild negotiates wage floors, not ceilings, and directors, board artists, designers are free to negotiate about the minimum rates. No freelance board artists work at the unit rate minimums because no studio used them.

Freelance directors could budget the time spent on assigned footage. Discussion of quantity vs. quality; some attendees thought that it was important to maintain quality to keep the work in Los Angeles. Almost all directors attending were working. The Business Representative said he knew of few directors who weren't working either staff or freelance.

This was a major change from five years ago, when there was far less working many directors weren't employed. Cartoon Network, which has many successful shows, uses timing directors on almost all its productions and most enjoy solid ratings. Many in the room attributed the success of CN's timed shows to more timing work at other studios.

Animation checkers are under pressure to work uncompensated overtime, which continues to be an issue on various shows at different studios for many classifications.

Meeting adjourned at 9:35.

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Adios, Jeffrey

Mr. Katenberg bids farewell to his troops:

... As I've said to many of you over the past week, my work is my happiness. And for 22 years, my happiness has been DreamWorks. But DreamWorks isn't the beautiful campus, the fountain, the panini maker or even the movies, TV shows and incredible entertainment we've created together.

To me, DreamWorks is all of you, the people, who have made it all happen over the years, and who will continue to do so after I drive through those gates for the last time.

But, as Jakob Jensen, a longtime colleague of ours recently reminded me (via Dr Seuss): "don't cry because it's over, be happy because it happened." ...

Jeffrey K. has been heavily involved with the making of cartoon features ever since he rolled onto the Disney lot in the mid eighties and Michael Eisner said to him, "See that building? It's filled with animators. They're your problem now."

Mr. Katzenberg had a seriously successful run creating hand-drawn cartoons at Walt Disney Productions, then more hand-drawn features at DreamWorks Animation. When CG came in, he leaped the great divide and became one of the leaders of the CG revolution. (There was Pixar, there was DreamWorks Animation, and then there was Blue Sky Studios).

DreamWorks Animation had a run of twenty hit pictures in a row, then hit a rough patch. One under-performer followed another, and corporate cash flow ebbed. The studio sold its physical lot in Glendale and then leased the property back, gaining badly needed working capital in the process. Jeffrey K., taking a cue from Uncle Walt's 1950s business model, diversified the stand-alone company, moving it into television, the internet, merchandising and amusement parks. (The only thing DreamWorks Animation didn't take from the earlier Disney model was getting into live-action features.)

Jeffrey spent years working to find a buyer for his cartoon studio, but one deal after another failed to reach consummation. With the rapid construction of a television animation division providing content for Netflix (an earlier version had fizzled out in the middle 1990s) DreamWorks slowly turned itself around. Then Universal Comcast came knocking, a merger was reached, and Jeffrey found himself exiting the company he had helped found.

So for the first time in thirty-plus years, Jeffrey Katzenberg will be a mogul without a big-time movie studio. But please keep your crying hankies pocketed, for Mr. K. was given a nice chunk of change prior to departure. And he's still in his sixties, so there is time for him to grow yet another corporation.

And no doubt he will.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Los Angeles Animation Production

Every so often we review animation productions happening in and around Los Angeles. This is one of those times.

As always, we'll put up a list of shows, but the list will be "ongoing". Meaning, if you see a title that's wrong or a title that's missing (always a sad possibility), post a correction in comments. Adjustments will be made.

And now the list. ...

ANIMATED PROJECTS IN LOS ANGELES *

Bento Box

Bob's Burgers
Legends of Chamberlain Heights

(Other projects in development)

Cartoon Network

Adventure Time
Ben 10
Mighty Magiswords
OK K.O.
Powerpuff Girls
Regular Show
Samurai Jack
Steven Universe
We Bare Bears

(Also shows in development)

Disney TVA

Big Hero 6
Billy Dilly (wrapping up)
Country Club
Duck Tales
Elena of Avinore
Future Worm
Lion Guard
Mickey Mouse shorts
Mickey's Road Racers
Milo Murphy's Law
Penn Zero (wrapping up)
Pickle and Peanut
Puppy Capers (Wild Canary)
Star Vs. Forces of Evil
Sheriff Calley (Wild Canary)
Tangled

(Multiple shows in development by Disney-owned Advanced Media)

DreamWorks Animation (feature)

Trolls
The Boss Baby (production work out of county)
Captain Underpants (prod. work out of county)
The Croods 2 (in development)
Larrikins (in development)
How to Train Your Dragon 3 (in development)
Shrek 5 (recently announced)
Untitled Shadows Project

DreamWorks Animation TV

DreamWorks Dragons
Monsters vs. Aliens
VeggieTales in the House
All Hail King Julien
The Adventures of Puss in Boots
Dinotrux
Dawn of the Croods
Voltron: Legendary Defender
Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh
Trollhunters
Spirit Riding Free
Cow Boy

(Other shows in development.)

Fox Animation

American Dad
Family Guy
The Simpsons

Hasbro

Transformers
Transformers Rescue Bots
Micronauts
Stretch Armstrong
My Little Pony (scripts)

Marvel Animation

Avengers Assemble
Guardians of the Galaxy
Spiderman (newer version)

Nickelodeon

Bug Salad (6 eps)
Bunsen Is A Beast
Fairly Odd Parents (scripts)
Glitch Tech
Harvey Beaks
Hey Arnold
Loud House
Pig Goat Banana Cricket
Pinky Malinky
Shimmer and Shine
Sponge Bob Square Pants
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Renegade

Tom & Jerry (non-Guild)

Robin Redbreast (Titmouse)

Home: Adventures with Tip and Oh (DWA tv series for Netflix)
Future-Worm! (Disney series)
Nikko and the Sword of Light (Amazon series)
Big Mouth (Netflix series)

Rough Draft

(Multiple Disney projects - T.B.A.)

Shadow Machine

Bojack Horseman (non-Guild)

Splash Entertainment

Chloe's Closet (non-Guild)
Norm of the North (2 short features - non-Guild)

Stoopid Buddies Stoodios

Buddy Thunderstruck (non-Guild)
Camp WWE (non-Guild)
The Grand Slams (web series - non-Guild)
Robot Chicken (non-Guild)
Supermansion (non-Guild)

Warner Animation Group

Lego Batman Movie
Lego Ninjago Movie
Smallfoot
S.C.O.O.B.

Warner Bros. Animation

Justice League Action
Be Cool Scooby Doo
Wabbit
Mike Tyson Mysteries
Teen Titans Go!
D.C. Girls
Green Eggs and Ham (limited Netflix series)
Vixens (web series)
Unikitty
Bunnicula
Wacky Racers
Dorothy of Oz

(Also various video features in work)

Universal Cartoon Studios

Curious George
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Land Before Time

Walt Disney Animation Studios

Moana (nearing end of production)
Gigantic
Wreck-It Ralph 2

(Plus various projects in development.)

There is ongoing re-structuring going on in the Los Angeles animation industry. Disney TVA is outsourcing more production to local studios such as Wild Canary, Robin Red Breast, and Rough Draft. Walt Disney Animation Studios (Diz Co.'s feature arm) is completing the refurbishing of the Hat Building on Riverside Drive; with a gap between Moana and the next feature, it's also reducing staff somewhat.

Hasbro is moving its L.A. production offices to the former Yahoo Building just south of the Burbank/Bob Hope Airport. Fox Animation is now producing The Simpsons, with the production located in the Pinnacle complex in Burbank (not at Fox Animation's Wilshire Boulevard studio).

Matt Groening's new Netflix series is in development, but we haven't pinned down exactly where it's being developed. So this show (whever it is) we can consider "in process".

* Kindly note that almost all TV animation production in L.A. is pre-production (scripts, storyboards, designs, background keys, etc.) and post-production (editing, dubbing, etc.)

Most feature work is done in Southern California, soup to nuts, but there are some DreamWorks Animation features and all Warner Animation Group features that are produced outside of California. Illumination Entertainment (of Universal Comcast) does some pre-production of its theatrical long-forms in Southern California, but production work is done in Paris, France.



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Monday, August 22, 2016

The Top Title of '16

If you were wondering, it's this:

'Finding Dory’ Still Top Movie of 2016 ...

The Pixar entry's global earnings to date are $915,943,343.

Over the weekend it was still in 450 theaters stateside, and took in just under a million bucks. (This after ten weeks of release.) It's made $478.4 million across the fruited plain.

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Marriage Consummated

From a noontime announcement.

Comcast Corp. has closed its $3.8 billion acquisition of DreamWorks Animation, four months after announcing its plans to buy the studio.

Dreamworks Animation will become part of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, which includes Universal Pictures, Fandango and NBCUniversal Brand Development and is headed by Jeff Shell. Comcast made the announcement after the market closed Monday.

The deal calls for DWA stockholders to receive $41 in cash for each share of DWA common stock. DWA shares will no longer be listed on the NASDAQ. ...

DreamWorks Animation employees have asked: "Is the studio going to stop being Guild after it changes ownerhsip?"

A DWA lawyer confirmed with us this afternoon that DreamWorks Animation (feature and television) is still under TAG's collective bargaining agreement. Nothing changes, except that the company ceases being a corporation with its own stock and now exists as a division under the Universal-Comcast umbrella.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, August 21, 2016

INTERNATIONAL BOX OFFICE

The Secret Life of Pets is chewing through the global box office.

Foreign Box Office -- (World Totals)

The Secret Life Of Pets -- $45,000,000 -- ($674,500,000)

Suicide Squad -- $38,000,000 -- ($572,700,000)

Jason Bourne -- $11,300,000 -- ($278,800,000)

Ben-Hur -- $10,700,000 -- ($22,100,000)

Finding Dory -- $6,700,000 -- ($915,700,000)

War Dogs -- $6,500,000 -- ($20,800,000)

Ice Age: Collision Course -- $3,430,000 -- ($314,909,701)

Sausage Party -- $2,100,000 -- ($71,326,019)

The Jungle Book -- $2,100,000 -- ($955,500,000) ...

A fine trade journal gives us highlights:

... With a $45M weekend in 53 markets, The Secret Life of Pets leapfrogged over another motley bunch as Suicide Squad came in with a $38M third session in 64. ...

Kubo and the Two Strings opened in eight international markets with an estimated $900K. ...

Sony’s Sausage Party stuffed $2.1M into the bun on 540+ screens in 13 markets. The overseas cume is $6M. ...

Disney’s The Jungle Book swung a 30% drop in its second weekend in Japan to post a $2.1M frame. That was after strong midweeks. The total there after 11 days is $13.7M.


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Jurassic Park's Visual Building Blocks

"Computers are a tool."



You hear the above said a lot. The well-worn "computers are just one of many wrenches and screw-drivers in the production tool box." But today, they are often the Main Event. The thing that producers of big-budget, event motion pictures rely on.

Jurassic Park holds up almost q quarter-century after its making because it relies on animatronic puppets and close-ups of skin and eyes and claws to make the audience believe the dinos are there.

Two and a half decades later, it's easier to make the CGI do the heavy lifting. Which makes the cumulative power of some (many?) of the screen images weaker.

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wander ...

... Over Yonder.

It's cancellation was announced some months back, but this:

... News of [Wander Over Yonder's] cancellation reached the team after season two had been written but before it had even premiered–Disney thought that 80 episodes was “enough,” and the fact that the show garnered better ratings in repeats than premieres seemed to bolster that. While the crew was both open and optimistic in their discussions about Disney’s handling of the show, ... it was pretty disheartening to see that Disney both refused to let the show take a serialized turn in season 2 (which discourages repeat viewings) and then doubling down on that by cancelling. ...

The compromise the writers reached after being turned down for serialization–to have four 22 minute “plot” episodes and the rest as 11 minute stand-alones–earned the series a bit more time in the spotlight (including a review slot on the AV Club), but also some accompanying frustration from fans who came in looking for a more narrative-driven, Gravity Falls sort of experience rather than a stylistic hybrid. Wander Over Yonder is a weird, earnest show that was only starting to find its niche before it was cancelled. ...

Word circulates that Disney TVA is restructuring a bit. There are more shows being outsourced to smaller L.A. studios (this saves the Big D money) and some series receive smaller episode orders. Both Netflix and Disney have decided that fifty-something episodes work just fine.

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End of Summer Box Office

Three animated features inhabit The List of Ten, but Kubo does not start strong.

WEEKEND DOMESTIC BOX OFFICE

1). Suicide Squad (WB), 3,924 theaters (-331) / 3-day cume: $20.9M (-52%) / Per screen avg.: $5,315 /Total cume: $262.4M/ Wk 3

2). Sausage Party (SONY/APP), 3,103 theaters (0) / 3-day cume: $15.5M (-55%)/ Per screen: $4,991 /Total cume: $65.5M/Wk 2

3). War Dogs (WB), 3,258 theaters / 3-day cume: $14.7M / Per screen: $4,507 / Wk 1

4). Kubo And The Two Strings (FOC), 3,260 theaters / 3-day cume: $12.6M / Per screen: $3,868/Wk 1

5). Pete’s Dragon (DIS), 3,702 theaters / 3-day cume: $11.3M (-47%)/ Per screen avg: $3,066 /Total cume: $42.9M Wk 2

6). Ben-Hur (PAR/MGM), 3,084 theaters / 3-day cume: $11.2M / Per screen: $3,633 /Wk 1

7). Jason Bourne (UNI), 2,887 theaters (-641) / 3-day cume: $8M (-42%)/ Per screen: $2,777 /Total cume: $140.9M/ Wk 4

8). Bad Moms (STX), 2,811 theaters (-377)/ 3-day cume: $7.9M (-30%)/ Per screen: $2,827 /Total cume: $85.7M/ Wk 4

9). The Secret Life Of Pets (ILL/UNI), 2,404 theaters (-554) / 3-day: $5.9M(-35%)/ Per screen: $2,446 /Total cume: $346.8M / Wk 7

10.) Florence Foster Jenkins (PAR), 1,528 theaters (0)/ 3-day cume: $4.4M (-34%)/ Per screen: $2,869 /Total cume: $14.5M/Wk 2

11). Star Trek Beyond (PAR), 1,966 theaters (-611) / 3-day cume: $3.9M (-43%) / Per screen: $2,007 / Total cume: $146.9M / Wk 5 ...

Sausage Party declined a precipitous 66% first week to second, but a lot of schools are now back in session, so that was probably inevitable. No picture had a strong box office hold. The well-reviewed remake Pete's Dragon will have earned $42,500,000. Its overseas rollout has scarcely begun.

Kubo's international performance remains to be seen.


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Friday, August 19, 2016

The Powerhouse Known As Animation

Five Thirty Eight, known as a polling aggregator for American politics, and also a sports blog (it's owned by ESPN/Disney) has done a breakdown and analysis of animated features and the studios that make them.

The domestic box office made $11.3 billion last year ... [of which] animated movies pulled in $1.4 billion. ...

So far this year, digital animation has accounted for 21 percent of domestic box office revenue. ... Although the annual number of tickets sold overall is down since 2000, that’s not true for animated movies — those numbers are up, entirely thanks to the genre’s digital branch. ...

Five Thirty Eight shows, in various graphs and charts, the grosses for animated features going back twenty years, pointing out that digital animation has exploded over the past two decades, enriching a plethora of companies and causing even more product to be made year after year. The website's conclusion?

... The animation field is ... somehow bigger than all the studios [doing animation].

“The Lego Movie,” the top-grossing animated movie of 2014, was made by none of [the regular animation producers]. It was produced by Warner Bros., (animation by Animal Logic), and there are sequels and spinoffs to come.

“Sausage Party,” which I understand is essentially pornography but still made $34 million in its opening weekend, was not made by any of these wholesome firms. Rovio, a cell phone game maker, commissioned an “Angry Birds” movie, which went ahead and made $100 million domestically. The commercialism is getting out of control! ...

In actual fact, animation is proving that it has broad global appeal, even when it comes in an R-rated format. As TAG blog has previously noted, cartoons are a form of story presentation, not a genre.

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Then There's THIS Regarding Board Artists

The craft meeting last Tuesday covered a lot of workplace issues, but it didn't cover one hugely important subject, raised by a veteran board artist:

... I decided to take my pension. It was a hard decision. Who wants to leave their career?

I had well over 60,000 hours, so it was doable. I have also segued into teaching.

Here's what pertains to our industry and me personally:

For me, this was a stress and eye related move. Storyboard has become untenable. It's been mentioned for years. And I know that nothing will change.

With the advent of cintiqs, board artists are ruining their eyes, [staring endlessly at computer screens]. I have gotten letters from so many artists, a number of them from Pixar. They are having retinal detachments.

Wacom says the cintiqs were designed for four hours of work a day. Staring into an LED blue light is the light that damages the retina.

I called UCLA a while back and asked them if any studies had been done on the effect of cintiqs/LED light. I explained that artists stare close to the monitor for eight hours. The research/clinical trial person told me there would be no trial unless wacom paid for it.

We are canaries in the coal mine and I am hearing more about it. Artists will not speak up about it because they do not want to rock the boat.

-- Sharon Forward

We should point out that while wacom tablets are terrific, innovative devices, artists' faces peer down at them from inches away. It's like sitting a foot from your wall-mounted flat-screen tv eight or more hours per day.

So besides damaged, misaligned backs and blown wrists from repetitive-stress injuries, artists need to watch out for eye damage:

... A 2015 report from The Vision Council, "Hindsight Is 20/20/20: Protect Your Eyes from Digital Devices", found that 61 percent of Americans have experienced eye strain after prolonged use of electronic devices — nearly 2 out of every 3 people. Long-term damage or not, we have an outbreak of eye strain. ...

One difficulty for artists in the business is, there's not a lot of long-term research about eye damage from sustained viewing of computer screens. even so, it's good to take precautions. Industry veterans have told us:

1) Wear yellow-lensed glasses while working to reduce blue light;

2) Take rest breaks; walk around and stretch your back;

3) Don't put your nose too close to the cintiq.

Paper storyboards are over. Artists must do what they can to proect their eyes and physical well-being.

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Biggest Welfare Queens Around Are Movie Conglomerates

Some fool shooting off his mouth:

“Every studio can get the work done cheaper now. All they have to do is outsource it to a job shop, and let the job shops bid on the work, and they’ll lowball each other to get [the work]. It is a low-margin business, because everybody is bidding against one another.” ...

"Sending work to Canada] makes good business sense; if you can get some chucklehead — in this case, the Canadian taxpayer — to cough up 50 cents on the dollar for you to do your movie up there, why not? It doesn’t make sense not to. The biggest welfare queens around are movie conglomerates. All they do is go where there’s free money. If you’re poor and getting a subsidy, you’re beneath contempt, but it’s perfectly OK if you’re a large corporation.” ...

Okay, so maybe the "fifty cents on the dollar" remark was a wee bit hyperbolic. The subsidies are moving around a bit, but you get the idea.

When you've got a nice tax credit, a good exchange rate, and a work force that doesn't have to be paid overtime because of favorable provincial labor regulations, large entertainment conglomerates, and the studios that suckle at their large full teats, stampede to your door.

I've had more than one entertainment potentate explain to me how the major studios now look at which geographical locations offer subsidies, and go where the Free Money is.

It's hard to blame them for it makes good business sense, but let's call this practice what it is: government welfare for the good folks we call entertainment companies.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Combatants??

A fresh food fight has erupted between Cartoon Brew and Rick and Morty, baked lasagna flying with carefree abandon:

Class act @JustinRoiland loved his Rick & Morty crew so much that he created a shell company to avoid having to give them health care. ...

This looks to be old news to us, because R & M has been signed to a Guild agreement from some time. TAG responded: ...

@cartoonbrew @JustinRoiland To let folks know, "R and M" has been a fine TAG 839 show for a while now, No issues.

Rick and Morty today chugs merrily along, with the crew getting full health and pension benefits under the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan.

Also too, the Guild makes regular visits to Rick & Morty's offices in Beautiful Downtown Burbank. There are no complaints, and the show is rolling right along.

Add On: And the Brew tweets:

@839_BizRep Aware of that. But JR decided to rehash a two-year-old story b/c it still rankles him that we covered the unionization efforts. ...

Maybe everyone should let this lie, yes? But then, Twitter wars are the new non-contact sport.

Add On Too: Further research shows that old Twitter posts went viral again because of the situation in Vancouver ... and events took their course. (Old Zombified issues occasionally come back to life, proving the immortality of all things internet!)

To reiterate: the past is the past, and R & M crew is doing fine.

And here comes Season #3:

... [W]e’ll be getting to know some of the characters in the Galactic Federation prison. ...

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A Disney-Hasbro Marriage?

Seeking Alpha (an investment site) wonders.

... The Walt Disney Company is adopting the evolving industry trends after losing more than 7 million ESPN subscribers since 2013. Disney has responded to continued cord cuttings with seemingly small but crucial investment in BAMTECH, which will help the company roll out an ESPN-based multi-sport streaming service.

Disney is implementing a long-term plan that revolves around penetrating direct-to-consumer video streaming market. In the meanwhile, Disney is working on the multi-year expansion of theme parks and resorts by adding new attractions to compete with Dalian Wanda Group and Comcast. Similarly, Disney has scheduled movie releases well into the next decade to benefit from expected growth in global per capita film spending. ...

Disney is not very good at selling toys, which is evident from the disappointing sales performance Playmation and substantial discounts on Marvel-based connected wearables. Hasbro, on the other hand, utilizing franchised and licensed brands to generate healthy sales and profits growth.

Hasbro is one of the primary beneficiaries of favorable toys & games industry dynamics due to its strong storytelling abilities. According to Euromonitor, with a substantial improvement over the past five years, the U.S. toys & games industry sales will grow at a CAGR of 3% by 2020. However, on the global scale, the growth prospects are even brighter due to improving per capita income in emerging markets. ...

Of course, Hasbro is also in the cartoon-making business, which is well inside Diz Co.'s wheelhouse.

But that wouldn't stop the Mouse if it thought buying Hasbro would be a good buying opportunity. (Disney has purchased cartoon companies before, after all, because John Lasseter and Ed Catmull. And if Hasbro is a toy/game powerhouse and Disney believes that it needs one of those, why not do a buyout?)

The question is, does the purchase of Hasbro make corporate sense to Robert Iger and co.? And what would become of Hasbro's animation arm? And new Irish studio? These are things to ponder.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Why All The Success?

Now that the old meme "Animation is failing because all the animated features are cannibalizing each other!" has faded into the roiling mist, a trade journal ponders... and answers ... the question above:

... [A]nimation has been the story — and savior — of the disappointing 2016 box office.

Three of the ten highest-grossing animated movies of all time hit theaters this year, with “Dory” in the top spot, as it gulped down $476.8 million at the domestic box office and $897.6 billion worldwide. Disney’s “Zootopia” and “The Secret Life of Pets” from Universal’s Illumination Entertainment placed ninth and 10th, with $341.3 million and $336.2 million, respectively. ...

One distinct advantage of animation over live action is that it’s not terribly difficult to produce customizable alternate language versions that look perfectly natural, with characters’ mouth movements aligned with the specific soundtrack. ...
but the fact that these movies are good helps even more. ...

Hollywood hasn’t forgotten how to make good movies in at least one genre. The kids are not just all right — they’re keeping the box office afloat.

It's eve simpler than that.

Animated features, though they've become more captive to Hollywood's corporate movie-making machinery than previously, are still less caught up in the live-action power structure.

Board artists who know the craft still have considerable input with story development.

Newer talent can move up to director slots.

Some studio management does understand that animation development can't be done in the same way as live-action. (The more successful stuff is driven by visuals, not dialogue.)

And the media is finally accepting the reality that animation is a mode of story-telling, not a genre. When a live-action feature fails, neither Variety, the L.A. Times nor Deadline blather on about "cannibalization" or an "over-crowded live-action lineup." They say the movie kind of sucked, and so it didn't make much money.

The same exact cause-and-effect applies to animation. No cartoon eats another cartoon. The bad cartoons simply fail. (Simple, no?)

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Surf's Up Once More

For those who don't recall, Surf's Up was Sony Pictures Animation's second animated feature, and a movie that, by and large, received glowing reviews. It opened at #4 at the box office in June 2007 and went on to gross $58,867,694 in North America, and $90,176,819 in the rest of the world. (The total take was $149,044,513).

Chris Buck and Ash Brannon helmed the original. Mr. Buck subsequently returned to Disney and co-directed Frozen. Mr. Brannon has since directed Rock Dog, scheduled for American release in early 2017.

Henry Yu the sequel Surf's Up 2: Wavemania, coming in early 2017. Today a short trailer for the feature dropped:



The first picture was produced in Culver City, California. The second was done by CG studio Rainmaker Entertainment, Inc. located in Vancouver, Canada. There are a lot of CG animation and visual effects facilities in Vancouver, due to large amounts of Free Money being handed out by the provincial government. (The Free Money is working.

Most of our fine entertainment conglomerates are in Vancouver and other Canadian provinces, vacuuming up cash as they do live-action productions, animated productions, and loads of visual effects. This is now the way the game is played: locate a generous subsidy, go and slurp it down.

Welcome to the brave new world of Free Enterprise.


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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Craft Meeting #1 -- Storyboard Artists and Storyboard Revisionists

photo - Bronwen Barry.

Tuesday night, one hundred and thirty artists packed the upstairs meeting hall of the Animation Guild to discuss the state of the animation industry, finer points of the contract, and how professional lives can be made better inside studio walls. ...

THUMBNAIL NOTES

One year into the 2015-2018 contract, there are 3750 people at signator studios.

Staffing levels continue to be robust, and board supervisors at some studios continue to say it's difficult to hire and hang onto seasoned talent.

Disney Television Animation is doing some restructuring, and outsourcing some shows to Rough Draft (recently signed to a contract), Wild Canary, and Robin Red Breast/Titmouse in Hollywood.

New Media (Streaming Video On Demand and other internet-delivered content) will be one of the major negotiating items during 2018 contract negotiations. A number of new artists are working below minimum wage rates because their jobs happen to be under the New Media sideletter, and none of the New Media productions reach budgetary tiers that trigger higher minimums.

The Business Representative noted that the sideletter in the 2015-2018 contract reflects live action budgets that are considerably higher than TV animation budgets. But the sideletter is almost identical to other New Media sideletters, and one size doesn't really fit all, but that's what we've got.

Studio tests have been a hot button topic at recent General Membership Meetings. A Guild Testing Abuse Committee has been created and is reviewing a sample studio test. It's recommended that the test be no longer than thirty panels with ten of those panels being "clean-ups". It recommended a 72-hour turnaround time for each test. The committee is now waiting to hear back from the studio on its proposal.

Uncompensated Overtime. The biz rep said that uncomped o.t. has been a long-term problem. Artists continue to work free extra hours because production deadlines are too tight and a number of artists are perfectionists regarding their work. Several veteran board artists said that individuals need to stop working free o.t. and sepak to production when schedules can't be met. Too many employees do uncomped work because they're frightened of blowing a deadline.

It was pointed out that that artists need to communicate how much work they can get done in forty hours, and work looser where necessary. Several artists said that production needs to be told "no" when something can't be done. Quality artists who are somewhat slower than the norm continue to be employed because talent remains at a premium in the Los Angeles labor marketplace.

Several artists stated it was important for story crews to communicate among themselves and share information. Exchanging work-load info about different shows in on a TAG 839 private Facebook page operated by members was noted as a good way for artists to know how much work was expected (and done) on various TV series

Many Production Schedules are tight and unreasonable because production managers have a distorted idea abut how much work can be done on a forty-hour basis because of uncompensated overtime. Several artists said a culture and community needs to be built that can push back on free work being done.

Freelance Work. The business agent and two executive board members reviewed the Unit Rate Wages in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (pages 76-79). All three noted that the minimum wage rates are low and no studios use them. The bigger problem are the Pension and Health contribution hours are low, although they were raised 30-35% in the last contract negotiation.

Questions were asked about daily minimum wage rates vs. weekly minimum wage rates. The business agent said that daily rates are 117.719% above weekly rates, 10% of which is a premium, while 7.719% constitutes vacation and holiday pay.

Animatics were discussed. The business agent emphasized that animatics work is under the jurisdiction of the Editors Guild, not the Animation Guild. The biz rep said that the Editors have filed a grievance against Cartoon Network over animatics, and under which guild's jurisdiction it should be placed. Several Warner Bros. Animation artists said that Warners has them doing animatics work. The business representative stated he'd reported this to the Editors Guild.

It was noted that many board artists do animatics where the Editors Guild has no contract. The biz rep said artists should charge for the time they do animatics because it's important they be compensated for their time. One board artist said that since employees are asked to be layout artists, storyboard artists, writers and animatics editors, they should be paid for each of those jobs. The business agent said if the extra work puts them into overtime as storyboarders, they should charge overtime for it.

There was general agreement that members need to push on issues that could become bargaining proposals in 2018.

The meeting, which began at 7:02 p.m. was gaveled to a close at 9:32.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

The Teasers Keep Coming

Moana, even as the surfacers and lighters finish their work ...



And don't forget the Warner Animation Group.



The feature rolls out in September.

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Trouble in Vancouver?

From the Times:

... On the animation news website Cartoon Brew, several animators who identified themselves as members of the “Sausage Party” crew talked of unpaid overtime, poor working conditions and walkouts at Nitrogen, the Vancouver, Canada-based animation studio that made the film. ...

“The production cost were kept low because Greg would demand people work overtime for free,” said one Cartoon Brew commenter. “Over 30 animators left during the coarse [sic] of the production due to the stress and expectations.” ...

Nitrogen Studios Chief Executive Nicole Stinn disputed this account.

“These claims are without merit,” Stinn said in a statement. “Our production adhered to all overtime laws and regulations, as well as our contractual obligations with our artists.” ...

Me, I don't know if alleged animators' alleged claims have merit or not.

And I'm not versed in British Columbian labor regulations, so who knows?

What I do know is that animation contractors often low-ball their bids to land a project, then squeeze the crew to bring the production in on budget.

Is this what happened with Nitrogen and Sausage Party?

Naw. Sony probably went with the high bid because "quality" was their tippy-top priority, profits be damned.

This is what I wrote to Cartoon Brew when they asked for a statement:

Long, unpaid hours aren’t the norm in feature animation studios covered by labor contracts, but it happens often in low-budget grind shops. Sony is in Vancouver for two reasons: 1) the animation studios are non-union and often willing to offer a competitive (i.e. low) bid to get projects inside their walls, and 2) the Free Money that the provincial tax payers (bless their generous hearts) hand out to entertainment conglomerates is substantial.

The fact that the supervisors on “Sausage Party” [allegedly] demanded that animators hit their deadlines without overtime or additional compensation is a feature of these kinds of productions, not a bug. And a young crew, desperate to break into animation, will put up with the abuse and general horsesh*t because they are keen to hang onto their jobs (underpaid though they may be). The watchwords are “don’t rock the boat”; the goal is to just hang on until the show wraps. Understand that most staffers are in their twenties, and (sadly) a kind of Stockholm Syndrome develops.

[The allegation] that animators were denied screen credit because they didn’t toe the line would, if true, demonstrate an amazing level of petty vindictiveness. But it’s occurred before on animated projects and will likely rear its ugly head again. ...

Of course, maybe the production was above board as Ms. Stinn claims.

Maybe no threats, pressure or retribution went on.

And maybe this person commenting at CB is a troll:

This was my first job on a feature film, after watching it the other day I was very impressed how everything came together and how good it looked. Feeling super proud to be a part of this groundbreaking project.

The awe & excitment quickly turned sour after the credits had rolled with my name not showing up. I was on the animation team for just over a year, at the start of production, but had to seek employment elsewhere due to visa issues. Through emails towards the end of my contract, I felt I left on good terms with the studio.

Apparently not.

The people I worked with at Nitrogen were incredible. Some of the most friendly and down to earth folk I have ever met. It's a massive shame we weren't credited for all the hard work we put into this movie. I honestly can't understand the angle Nitrogen was going for and why you'd want to burn bridges with all this great talent after your first feature.

I've been at this union gig too long, because I've seen this sort of stuff go down many times before. At Klasky-Csupo. At Bluth-Sullivan. Even at union studios where a production supervisor got a teensy bit overbearing.

When low budgets collide with the crew's health and well-being, the people cobbling the movie together fourteen hours per day often lose. It's a reality as old as film-making.

More on the fun at Nitrogen here and here.

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