Sunday, September 25, 2016

Loren Bouchard Speaks

The creator/showrunner of Bob's Burgers says:

... I truly believe animation enters your brain differently.

I am fascinated by that. It would be really interesting to keep picking at that.

I’m hopeful that in a way, what it means is we can connect with the audience in a very deep way. Good storytelling connects, you don’t have to be making animation, obviously. But my optimistic hope is that there’s a light we can turn on, that we can reach, in the back of the brain that no one else can. As deep into your childhood or your lizard brain or whatever you want to call it, there’s a lightbulb in there that I want to get to and fool around with. I assume this is hard to do and do a show on a deadline, so in a lot of ways we just have to discover it together if I’m right ...

Animation comes at television or theater audiences by a separate route than live-action because people know what they're watching isn't real.

Old-style live-action, on the other hand, was real.

When you saw two characters fighting to the death, actual carbon-based life forms were flailing away at each other. When a squad of cavalry came thundering toward the camera, it was actual horses with actual human-type persons sitting atop them. And when you saw a man getting flung through a glass window, the window panes might have been spun sugar and balsa wood, but somebody was actually going through the damn window head first.

All those things impact nerve endings differently than Wiley Coyote going through a window ... or falling off a cliff ... or shooting past Mars on the nose of a rocket. The perception of risk and danger are different. There's a subliminal realization that with analog live-action, actual events in the space-time continuum, staged and choreographed though the events may be, are actually happening.

In the digital age, of course, it's different. When Captain America is duking it out with Ironman and knocking him the length of a football field, or Deadpool is jumping though the roof of a car from two hundred feet up, the action is so over the top and ludicrous, that nobody registers it as "live action" in the way that, say, the chariot races in the 1959 or 1926 versions of Ben Hur come across as flesh-and-blood occurrences: real people at real risk causing real sweat on the palms of audience members. (In the '26 edition, you look at a massive pile-up of chariots and know it's genuine; crew members in knickers are running out onto the track to tend to injured extras).


Chariots plow into each other at 10:02.

In 2016, much of live-action has become a cartoon, with gravity and physics distorted in ways similar to the world of Wiley and his Road Runner pal.

But Mr. Bouchard strikes a chord about good storytelling connecting with audiences. Otherwise audiences wouldn't weep when the dwarfs gather around the funeral bier of Snow White ... or clench with fear when Woody, Buzz and the rest of the Toy Story troupe is swept toward the fires of a furnace.

Are there differences between animation and live-action? Abso-freaking-lutely. But each has the capability to reach audiences.

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Foreign Box Office

A Western remake and a new animated feature roll onto the big international list.

WEEKEND FOREIGN BOX OFFICE -- (WORLD TOTALS)

Bridget Jones's Baby -- $21,900,000 -- ($83,600,000)

The Magnificent Seven -- $19,200,000 -- ($59,800,000)

Storks -- $18,300,000 -- ($40,100,000)

The Secret Life Of Pets -- $8,100,000 -- ($820,900,000)

Sully -- $6,500,000 -- ($126,900,000)

Finding Dory -- $5,300,000 -- ($969,800,000)


As Deadline says:

... Storks swooped into 33 international markets for an estimated $18.3M debut. Family friendly Latin America was a strong play with about 40% of the total estimated weekend box office. The film came in No. 1 in nearly all markets there (save Peru and Argentina where it was No. 2 behind local pics). ...

Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory found another $5.3M in 14 territories. With Germany still to come, the forgetful blue tang continues to swim closer to the $1B worldwide mark. Current stats are: $484.2M domestic, $485.6M international and $969.8M global. ...

Disney’s Pete's Dragon made $2.9M in 30 offshore markets this frame to get the international cume closer to $50M at $47.5M to date. The worldwide cume is $121.7M ahead of bows in Brazil and Kore next session. ...

Kubo an the Two String grossed an estimated $1.8M in 27 territories for an< international total of $12.6M. Combined with Focus Features’ U.S. total of $45.9M, the worldwide gross is $58.1M. France, which leans towards this sort of fare, opened 317 dates to $754K for the No. 2 Laika launch ever, 15% behind Coraline. ...

Bridget Jones’s Baby delivered a strong $21.9M in 47 territories. That takes the international total to $67.1M for a worldwide cume to date of $83.6M. ...

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Student Academy Awards

The winners have been known for a bit of a while, but the list of student academy awards honorees (animation) bears repeating:


Silver award -- "The Wishgranter"

Seventeen winners of Student Academy Awards were honored Thursday as the Academy unveiled the medal standings at its 43rd Student Academy Awards ceremony, held at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. ...

Animation

Gold: “Once upon a Line,” Alicja Jasina, USC

Silver: “The Wishgranter,” Echo Wu, Ringling College of Art and Design

Bronze: “Die Flucht,” Carter Boyce, DePaul University

Left to right: Echo Wu, Alicja Jasina, Lucy Liu and Carter Boyce.




Alicja Jasina accepting the Gold.


Ringling student Echo Wu accepting the Silver.

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The Box Office of the Weekend

A Western (of all things) tops the charts, with WB's Storks a distant second:

WEEKEND GROSSES

1). Magnificent Seven (SONY), 3,121 theaters / $12.7M Fri. / $13.8M Sat. / $8.5M Sun. / 3-day cume: $35M / Wk 1

2). Storks (WB), 3,922 theaters / $5.7M Fri. / $9.4M Sat. / $6.6M Sun. / 3-day cume: $21.8M / Wk 1

3). Sully (WB), 3,955 theaters (+430)/ $4.2M Fri. / $6M Sat./ $3.6M Sun. / 3-day cume: $13.8M (-36%)/Total: $92.4M / Wk 3

4). Bridget Jones’s Baby (UNI), 2,930 theaters (+3) / $1.47M Fri. / $1.97M Sat. / $1.1M Sun. / 3-day cume: $4.5M (-47%)/Total Cume:$16.5M/ Wk 2

5). Snowden (OR), 2,443 theaters / $1.2M Fri. / $1.8M Sat. / $1.1M Sun. / 3-day cume: $4.1M (-49%)/Total Cume: $15.1M/ Wk 2

6). Blair Witch (LG), 3,121 theaters / $1.27M Fri. / $1.75M Sat. / $930K Sun. / 3-day cume: $3.95M (-59%)/Total cume: $16.1M/ Wk 2

7). Don’t Breathe (SONY), 2,438 theaters (-770) / $1.1M Fri. / $1.7M Sat. / $955K Sun. / 3-day cume: $3.8M (-33%)/ Total cume: $81.1M / Wk 5

8). Suicide Squad (WB), 2,172 theaters (-568) / $800K Fri. / $1.5M Sat./ $820K Sun. / 3-day cume: $3.1M (-34%) / Total cume: $318.1M / Wk 8

9). When the Bough Breaks (SONY), 1,444 theaters (-802) /$715K Fri. / $1.2M Sat. / $565K Sun. / 3-day cume: $2.5M (-54%)/Total: $26.6M/ Wk 3

10/11). Kubo and the Two Strings (FOC), 1,209 theaters (-548) / $261K Fri. / $510K Sat. / $332K Sun. / 3-day cume: $1.1M (-57%) / Total cume: $45.9M / Wk 6 ...

So remakes are still gold (with the right actors), but some animated features fly much lower than others.

As Deadline notes:

... Storks opening is reminiscent of Sony’s Open Season which made $23.6M, earned an A- CinemaScore (which isn’t good for an animated movie when its opening is this low), had a similar cost to Storks of $85M, and did a 3.6x multiple with a final stateside take of $85.1M. Overseas was $112.2M.

Though Open Season created a launchpad for animated pics in late September, property/cost/box office-wise, it didn’t warrant a theatrical sequel (just video), and that might be the case here with Storks. The fact that it skews way younger to the under 10 crowd, and is not a ‘five-quad’ animated film will slow its pace. If you’re a frosh toon brand, you have to have wide appeal if you’re going to be a studio cornerstone franchise.

DreamWorks Animation’s The Penguins of Madagascar was another handholder-skewing movie that opened in this Storks range ($25.4M FSS, with an A- CinemaScore and an $83M final stateside take). Though Penguins was pained by its $132M production cost, the reason why it made 78% of its global tally overseas ($289.7M/$373M) stemmed from the fact that it was an established DWA brand. It would be a shocker if Storks hits those foreign B.O. numbers even with a $18.3M launch this weekend in 33 territories (including China). ...


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Friday, September 23, 2016

Thirty-Three Years Back ...

President Emeritus Tom Sito tells us:

Sept 23, 1984 --- Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Frank Wells met the Disney Animation Dept. and are pitched storyboards for the film Basil of Baker Street, later called the Great Mouse Detective. Up to now their thinking had been to dismantle the animation department and earn income from the licensees of the existing library. Roy Disney was instrumental in insisting the animation division remain. Eisner dictates memos to start the television animation division. ...

Well, something like that.

Walt Disney Productions animation division was on pins and needles about whether the production group was going to get shuttered or was going to continue. Rumors abounded. Rectums were tight.

Then word came down that the animation department was still in business and the new guys (Eisner, Wells, Katzenberg) okayed opening a TV animation division. Michael Eisner came up with the idea for The Gummi Bears (okay, he wanted a cartoon developed around the candy) and the resulting series became Disney Television Animation's first hit.

A lot of water has passed beneath Diz Co.'s bridge since those nerve-wracking days in the early eighties. It's good to see the place has prospered, even if most of the personnel at the studio in 1984 have moved on ... including Frank, Michael and Jeffrey.

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Union Vote

For some odd reason, a group of entertainment workers want improved wages and benefits.

By a vote of 43-20, employees of Deluxe Technicolor Digital Cinema tonight voted to join IATSE and its postproduction local the Motion Picture Editors Guild. This comes a year after postproduction technicians and artists at Deluxe’s Culver City unit on the Sony lot overwhelmingly jumped into the union game. ...

This particular further unionization of Deluxe employees comes after what sources tell me was a very heated campaign on both sides. ...

There's a lot of pushback right now from people who have to work for a living. When the standard of living slips year by year by year, folks working long hours in front of the flat screens commence taking action that will push the trend line in a different direction.

So why would this be happening in this best of all possible worlds? ...

... Over the past three decades, the share of household wealth owned by the top 0.1% has increased from 7% to 22%. For the bottom 90% of families, a combination of rising debt, the collapse of the value of their assets during the financial crisis, and stagnant real wages have led to the erosion of wealth.

The share of wealth owned by the top 0.1% is almost the same as the bottom 90%. ...

So this union vote? A small step to alter the maldistribution at the base of the pyramid.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Handicapping Weekend Box Office

B.O. Mojo tells us:

... Industry expectations for Magnificent Seven and Storks have both films opening around $30+ million. For Storks this number appears to be about right on target, but for Magnificent Seven it seems grossly conservative. Sony is projecting a $30-32 million weekend, but if it doesn't top $40 million it would be a bit of a surprise. ...

For Warner Bros., Storks is the second film for the newly formed Warner Animation Group, which so far has only The LEGO Movie to its credit. Storks, of course, doesn't have the name recognition of LEGO so don't expect a $69 million opening, instead we're looking at titles such as Mr. Peabody & Sherman ($32.2m opening), Hotel Transylvania ($42.5m opening) and Rio ($39m opening) for comparison and, with Storks opening in 3,922 theaters, a $30 million weekend or just a bit more seems inevitable, the question is can it go any higher?

If anything will hold it back it could be the 51% rating the film currently holds at RottenTomatoes. Of course, a 45% rating for Hotel Transylvania didn't prevent it from opening over $42 million and Hotel Transylvania 2 carried its 54% rating to a September record. All things considered, Mojo's projected $31.7 million opening seems relatively safe, but to go much higher would go against the majority of the data available. ...

Storks did its pre-production here in Los Angeles, its production at Sony Imageworks Vancouver, where the Free Money roams. As a member of Storks production team related:

"Sony Imageworks has enough Vancouver staff to do three features at once. There was a lot of communication between L.A. and Vancouver as the movie was made. You can do a lot of supervision over vide up-links. It's totally feasible to have production sites in different parts of the world and make the movie. It's a wave that's coming."

The question is, however the production was done, will audiences like the story enough to flock to Storks? If the move hits $33 or $36 million on opening weekend, it will probably be viewed as a success.

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Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan Annual Reports

Artists, writers and technicians under TAG contracts receive pension and health benefits from the MPIPHP (Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan).

TAG has been getting an increasing number of calls from members asking, "So where are the Annual Reports? I need to know how my Individual Account Plan* and Defined Benefit Plan** are doing."

Today there is good news: trustees of the Plan say that the Annual Reports will be out in October. That's a few months late, but better late than not getting the reports at all. ....

Unlike the Guild's 401(k) Plan, where members self-manage their investments ... or hand the job off to Vanguard Mutual Funds ... the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan has a squad of investment experts that invest in a wide array of stocks, bonds, real estate and alternative investments (commodities, private equity, futures, etc.)

Here's how the IAP investments break down:

INVESTMENTS - INDVIDUAL ACCOUNT PLAN

U.S. Core Equity - 4.5%
U.S. Growth Equity - 3.1%
U.S. Value Equity - 1.2%
Global Equity - 14.8%
Emerging Markets - 1.8%
Total Equity - 25.4%

Fixed Income - 32.2%

Alternative Investments - 36.4%

Real Estate - 6%

The percentages above are not static. They can grow or shrink on direction from trustees of the MPIPHP. (Prior to the 2008 meltdown, the Plan's investment were more heavily weighted to fixed income. The financial experts saw at least some of the disaster coming, and shifted the Plan's portfolios to more conservative investments).

* Individual Account Plan = a big basket of investments, directed by the MPIPHP, that earns interest and capital gains.

** Defined Benefit Plan = a monthly annuity (much like Social Security) that pays you X amount of dollars twelve times per year. The amount you receive is based on the total number of qualified pension years and total number of contribution hours in your account.
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Cartoon Interstitials

From a fine entertainment journal:

Disney Channels Worldwide is set to launch interstitial programming designed to help kids lead healthy lives. Starting on Friday, animated shorts featuring characters from such series as The Lion Guard, Miles from Tomorrowland and Star Wars Rebels will start airing in rotation on Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior.

Created by animators including James Curran (Star Wars Rebels, Gravity Falls) and David Calcano (The Adventures of Papchu and Dr. Kapatoo), the shorts are designed to inspire, inform and motivate kids’ nutritious food choices and physical activities. ...

Physical fitness and nutrition are good things.

Artists having more projects to work on? Also a good thing. (The assumption here: some of this work is being done in L.A.)


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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

2016 Wage Survey Preview

TAG has completed compilation of 2016 wage data and is in the process of formatting and laying out the info.

Until the full survey is complete, some selected numbers:

2016 SURVEY DATA

Writers:

Feature Writers 2016 Median: $3100 (weekly)
Feature Writers 2015 Median: $3,157.89 (weekly)

TV Writers 2016 Median: $2,267.24 (weekly)
TV Writers 2015 Median: $2,200.00 (weekly)

Directors:

Feature 2016 Median: $3,752.10 (weekly)
Feature 2015 Median: $2,743.87 (weekly)

TV 2016 Median: $2,493.87 (weekly)
TV 2015 Median: $2,414.06 (weekly)

Story Art:

Storyboard Artist 2016 Median: $2,378.50 (weekly)
Storyboard Artist 2015 Median: $2,227.27 (weekly)

Production Board 2016 Median: $2,038.11 (weekly)
Production Board 2015 Median: $2,000.00 (weekly)

Animation:

3D Animator 2016 Median: $2088.96 (weekly)
3D Animator 2016 Median: $2021.05 (weekly)

Over the past few years, pay rates have been relatively stable. With the surge in employment, there's some upward push on overscale wages, but that's countered by:

1) The continuing flow of new artists and technicians from universities and art schools to entry level animation positions with lower salaries. This tends to slow upward trajectories of other rates.

2) The desire of animation studios to keep wages as close to minimum contract rates as possible.

3) Lower-compensated non-union work.

Though there's been a record level of employment, 1990s-style bidding wars for artistic talent have not reemerged.

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Blue People Not From Avatar

As we all know, humankind can NEVER get enough animation.



Sony is getting seriously involved in animated features. Probably because Sony is making money with them.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Craft Meeting #5 -- Animation Writers

The Animation Guild's fifth craft meeting took place Tuesday night in the Guild meeting hall at 1105 N. Hollywood Way in Burbank California.

It was noted that TAG Vice President Earl Kress passed away five years ago yesterday at age 60. Earl was a prolific, talented writer who was instrumental in securing better conditions for freelance writers, negotiating health benefits for freelancers who wrote two half-hour outlines and scripts.

New Media: There were discussions regarding the Guild's New Media sideletter (pp 99-113 of the CBA), how its production budget tiers are tied to live-action that don't reflect the budgets for animation. New Media will likely be a central issue in 2018 negotiations, and there will be early indications where New Media language is going when the WGA and DGA negotiate their contracts next year.

Some writers at DreamWorks Animation TV are writing at below minimum rates, which is allowed under the sideletter. Animation work that's distributed over the internet (Netflix, Amazon, etc.) comes under New Media. If a negotiated contract fails to be ratified, then contract talks resume until a new agreement is reached or the talks reach impasse. ...

Script Fees: Only one studio has script fees (payments on top of salaries); that studio is Nickelodeon.

General Membership Meeting: Members were encouraged to attend the September 27th General Membership Meeting and run for the board or an officer position, since several officers and board members are departing.

Bank of Hours: Why hasn't the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan's Bank of Hours been raised? Because the bargaining parties (AMPTP and IATSE) haven't negotiated a hike. The 450 hours has been in place for a number of years, though the threshold for health coverage was raised eight years ago from 300 hours to 400 hours per 6-month period. This had the effect of knocking some participants off the Plan and there was some anger from members about it. Five years ago, premium payments of $25/month for participants with one dependent and $50/month for participants with 2 or more dependents were introduced.

Writer Categories: Animation Writer is a job classification in the contract. Story Editor in not in the contract, though the AMPTP told the Guild in negotiations four years ago it was part of the writer classification.

Discussion of how story editors get paid: Some writer/story editors in attendance liked total fees divided over 26 episodes and being paid weekly, and didn't want the fees tied to a weekly salary because payments would be lower. It was noted that TAG negotiates wage floors, that individuals are free to negotiate better pay and conditions.

Discussion about animation writers forming their own union. Mechanics of this are difficult, there would have to be de-certification then a new union created. There was also talk about making the Animation Guild into a national union that covers the whole country, the better to organize studios in Atlanta and elsewhere.

Screen Credits: It was noted that the contract requires screen credits for story on features and half-hour broadcast "non-segmented" half-hour television shows. It was suggested that screen credits should be required for all lengths of programs, since screen credits trigger foreign levies.

Storyboard artists should be allies with writers; where storyboard artists/writers and outline writers work together on non-scripted shows, they should share script fees.

Production Schedules: Writers/producers and show runners need to insist on reasonable production schedules. Story editors need to do the math and build reasonable time lines for scripts (and storyboards).

Many studios are using freelance writers, but some studios have staff writers. There's beginning to be more integration. DWA tv has staff story editors and small staffs of writers. Writers are in demand so studios are starting to employ staff writers to have their services full time.

Writers who know what the board artists can do are more effective because they can write scripts that reflect what can be achieved on storyboards.


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Netflix

Going for originals.

Three years after it entered the original content business, Netflix looks to have originals make up about half of its offerings. ...

“It will take us a couple more years” to hit that target, CFO David Wells says. “We’re a third to half way to where we want to be…We’ve got a ways to go” as the company looks for “a mixture of production models” — although not sports or ad-supported offerings.

But he warned the Street that Netflix likely will burn more than $1 billion a year to satisfy its growing appetite for content, and may borrow more money. The streaming video power will be “a consumer of cash” for the next year and a half, and it “could take longer building content.” ...

What's important to note here: Lots of Netflix original content is animation. The service wants to rope three-to-six year-olds into the wacky cartoons it has to offer with the expectation that the pre and elementary schoolers will stick around to consume adult fare as the years roll on.

That's the theory, anyway. And Netflix is acting on it. (As is Amazon).

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Down at the SPA




Sony Pictures Animation is (and has been) kinda busy.

There are six editorial crews working on different movies on the Sony Imageworks lot and at nearby Culver Studios. Artists are in three different buildings at Imageworks, and some will also be moving into offices at Culver. ...

Sony Pictures Animation is as busy as it's ever been. Smurfs: The Lost Village is finishing up, and Hotel Transylvania 3 awaits Genndy Tartakovsky to finish up Samurai Jack at Cartoon Network so that it can kick into high gear. (There might be some commuting back and forth for awhile).

Most of Sony Imageworks is up in Vancouver, scarfing down the Free Money. But some Imageworks employees remain in Culver City, working on various projects. If schedules hold, the company will be releasing three animated project in '17 (Smurfs, Emojimovie and The Star, and two animated features and a hybrid the following year (Hotel Transylvania 3 the live-action animated hybrid Peter Rabbit, and Spiderman).

In all the time Sony Pictures Animation has been open, its slates have never been this ambitious, but Sony animated features have been on a recent roll, with Hotel Transylvania 2 bringing in $473 million last year, bettering the original's grosses by over $100 million.

So yeah. Sony Pictures Animation is working on a lot of projects.

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Guild Elections

Not TAG, but the WGA west.

... [F]our newcomers have been elected to the guild’s 2016 board of directors along with four incumbents. The newly seated quartet includes former "Walking Dead" showrunner and Damien creator Glen Mazzara (1,732 votes of 2,440 ballots cast), "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner (1,597), longtime "Grey’s Anatomy" writer-producer Zoanne Clack (1,393) and 10-year guild veteran Courtney Ellinger (1,281). ...

The guild reported a 26.7% percent turnout among its 9,120 eligible voting members. ...

The Animation Guild has nominations for a new slate of officers in a week's time, then elections that run until mid-November.

TAG will also have a lot of newcomers, since multiple board members and four officers will be departing.

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Awards!!

The Emmys were on tonight, and yeah, we already know some of the them, but here they are again anyway (with the newbies).

EMMY AWARDS

OUTSTANDING CHILDREN’S PROGRAM
It’s Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown!

OUTSTANDING SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
Game of Thrones

OUTSTANDING SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (Masterpiece)

OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN ANIMATION (JURIED)
Jason Kolowski (Adventure Time, “Bad Jubies”)
Tom Herpich (Adventure Time, “Stakes Pt. 8: The Dark”)
Jason Carpenter (He Named Me Malala)
Chris Tsirgiotis (Long Live the Royals, “Punk Show”)
Scott Daros (Robot Chicken DC Comics Special III: Magical Friendship)
OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PROGRAM
Archer

OUTSTANDING SHORT FORM ANIMATED PROGRAM
Robot Chicken

OUTSTANDING CHARACTER VOICE-OVER PERFORMANCE
Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) ...

There is always a bajillion categories, but to each and every sinner (also too, the runners up) TAG blog offers sincere congratulations.

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Your Foreign Box Office

The usual mix of genre titles, animated titles, and big studio movies with lots of animated effects.

WEEKEND FOREIGN BOX OFFICE -- (World Totals)

Bridget Jones's Baby -- $29,900,000 -- ($38,100,000)

The Age Of Shadows -- $21,500,000 -- )$45,000,000)

Chinese Odyssey Part Three -- $17,300,000 -- ($35,800,000)

The Secret Life of Pets -- $9,600,000 -- ($900,000,000)

Finding Dory -- $8,300,000 -- ($961,100,000)

Sully -- $7,000,000 -- ($93,900,000)

Suicide Squad -- $5,800,000 -- ($718,900,000)

Pete's Dragon -- $5,200,000 -- ($113,000,000)

Blair Witch -- $4,900,000 -- ($14,600,000)

Star Trek Beyond -- $4,800,000 -- ($333,153,686)

Ice Age: Collision Course -- $2,300,000 -- ($402,629,990)

Sausage Party -- $2,100,000 -- ($119,559,861
) ...

Kindly note that Ice Age: Collision Course, after making only a few small ripples in the United States, has cleaned up overseas. 85.2% of its take comes from abroad. This pretty well explains why Fox-Blue sky does one Ice Age picture after another.

And as a fine entertainment journal tells us:

... The fish that just won’t quit [Finding Dory] swam to another $8.3M in her 13th weekend of overseas play. ...

Grossing $5.8M this weekend, Warner Bros’ DC superhero adaption Suicide Squad climbed past the $400M mark with a $405.1M overseas cume. The biggest play of the frame was Japan with a sophomore hold of $2.3M on 682 screens. The total there is now $9.4M. All markets are open with play currently in 62. The worldwide cume is now $718.9M. ...

Disney’s Dragon had a solid $5.2M 6th weekend, hitting No. 2 in Mexico with a $2.1M start behind local pic No Manches Frida. Elsewhere in Latin America, the live-action/CGI mix bowed to No. 1 in Ecuador, Bolivia and Central America; and held the top spot in Chile for Week 2. Pete picked up $700K in Australia, just ahead of school vacations. The international cume is now $40.2M for a global total of $113M ...

Putting $2.1M in the grocery basket, Sony and Seth Rogen’s [Sausage Party] has rung up $24.2M so far overseas. The weekend was in 27 markets with Portugal the highlight at $125K from 50 screens. The UK is the top offshore play with $8.6M after three frames. ...


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Jeffrey K.'s Future

Mr. Katzenberg departed DreamWorks Animation just shy of a month ago. Why did he agree to exit after 22 years? Could it be the price was right?

... The day after selling his company to Comcast for $3.8 billion, Jeffrey Katzenberg is doing what he’s always done — presiding over back-to-back breakfast meetings. ... It’s clear Katzenberg isn’t planning on spending the rest of his life bobbing around on a yacht in the Bahamas. In fact, he’s champing at the bit to start his next chapter: running his own investment firm. Over a bowl of seeded pecan granola and a Diet Coke, he is simultaneously taking calls on his cell phone and answering questions. ...

Sources close to Katzenberg say he’s intrigued by the model his longtime mentor, Barry Diller, has built. IAC, Diller’s conglomerate, owns everything from dating services like Match.com and Tinder to video sites like College Humor and Vimeo. How Katzenberg will put his own spin on that model remains to be seen.

What’s absolutely clear is that he has zero plans of retiring. Ever. “No, not possible,” he says incredulously when asked. “My work is my happiness.” ...

To J.K's credit, a decade ago he saw that smaller, stand-alone companies were spiraling down to extinction. He was interested in selling DWA not long after Pixar was snapped up by Diz Co. but the financial meltdown in 2009-2009 put an end to the possibility of a Pixar-sized sale.

Years passed and the economy recovered, even as DreamWorks Animation hit a rough patch with a string of animated features that failed to turn a profit. (It's tough to survive on a business model that dictates creating nothing but theatrical blockbusters. The odds are high that this particular biz model will, sooner or later, fail).

To the company's credit, it reacted to its movie under-performers by diversifying in multiple directions, by getting into television, amusement parks, and merchandise, and building a Chinese partnership. All of these strategies were steps in the right directions, but DreamWorks Animation was, at the end of the diversification, still a smallish company.

And DreamWorks was likely to remain smallish. Given all that, Katzenberg's decision to cash in with a sale makes perfect sense. Better to take a bundle of cash and strike out in new directions than plow the same old fields in the hopes gold will sprout under your feet.

Here's hoping Comcast-Universal does right by its new acquisition.

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Your American Box Office

The miracle on the Hudson continues to reside at the top of the heap.

WEEKEND GROSSES

1). Sully (WB), 3,525 theaters / $6.6M Fri. / $9.6M Sat./ $5.8M Sun. / 3-day cume: $22M (-37%)/Total: $70.5M / Wk 2

2). Blair Witch (LG), 3,121 theaters / $4M Fri. / $3.6M Sat. / $1.9M Sun. / 3-day cume: $9.65M / Wk 1

3). Bridget Jones’s Baby (UNI), 2,927 theaters / $3M Fri. / $3.25M Sat. / $1.95M Sun. / 3-day cume: $8.24M / Wk 1

4). Snowden (OR), 2,443 theaters / $3M Fri. / $3M Sat. / $1.97M Sun. / 3-day cume: $8M / Wk 1

5). Don’t Breathe (SONY), 3,208 theaters (-176) / $1.6M Fri. / $2.5M Sat. / $1.3M Sun. / 3-day cume: $5.6M (-32%)/ Total cume: $75.3M / Wk 4

6). When the Bough Breaks (SONY), 2,246 theaters /$1.6M Fri. / $2.6M Sat. / $1.2M Sun. / 3-day cume: $5.5M (-61%)/Total: $22.7M Wk 2

7). Suicide Squad (WB), 2,740 theaters (-363) / $1.1M Fri. / $2.2M Sat./ $1.25M Sun. (-45%) / 3-day cume: $4.7M (-18%) / Total cume: $313.8M / Wk 7

8). The Wild Life (LG), 2,493 theaters / $530K Fri. / $1.3M Sat. / $797k Sun. / 3-day cume: $2.65M (-21%)/Total:$6.7M/ Wk 1

9). Kubo and the Two Strings (FOC), 1,757 theaters (-578) / $521K Fri. / $1.2M Sat. / $783M Sun. / 3-day cume: $2.5M (-24%) / Total cume: $44.2M / Wk 5


10). Pete’s Dragon (DIS), 1,948 theaters (-737) / $459K Fri. / $1M Sat. / $520K Sun. / 3-day cume: $2M (-34%) / Total cume: $72.8M / Wk 6 ...

As happens from time to time, animation can under-perform at the box office. Kubo and the Two Strings has yet to break $50 million after five weeks of release, and The Wild Life, dead on arrival last weekend, looks to pick up $2.5 million at #8 in its second weekend of release.

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Trailer ... Late To The Game




This has been out a few days so TAG blog is slow out of the blocks (especially since millions of people have SEEN it already). But TAG blog would be remiss in ignoring it since .... you know ... we represent the artists and technicians and writers who are making Moana. ...

And as the interwebs say:

... Over the last five years, [Walt Disney Animation Studios'] output has consisted of Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia, each of them creative triumphs that are at the head of the class for family films over that time. Hot streaks like that are hard to sustain, but if Disney falters, it doesn't look like it's going to happen with Moana. ...

Every department is pretty much done except for lighting, which will be done with the last of its shots in a few weeks (the picture comes out at Thanksgiving). Crew members have been moving out of the big building at the end of the Burbank/Bob Hope runway was their jobs wrap up, returning to the Hat Building on Riverside Drive.

Moana, from the looks of it, will be doing well.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

One More Feature In Release

Because you can never have too much toonage.



CGI Australian toon Blinky Bill: The Movie will get a platform release starting October 7 in Los Angeles. The character is widely popular Down Under — with credits including a 1992 film and a local TV series the following year — and the distributor is hoping to ride that wave to American shores. The pic originally was set to arrive here this month. ...

The new Blinky pic was directed by Deane Taylor and co-directed by Alexs Stadermann. The screenplay was written by Fin Edquist.

BBTM currently tracks at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, twenty points lower for audiences' "want to see". Come October, audiences will determine how the picture opens.

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... And One More Feature Into Early Prep?

20th Century Fox Animation buys material for a long-form animated movie:

The Littlest Bigfoot, author Jennifer Weiner’s latest book for kids, will be made into an animated feature by Chris Bender (We’re the Millers) and Jennifer’s brother Jake Weiner (Leap Year), courtesy of 20th Century Fox Animation in a deal that was negotiated by another in the Weiner family, brother Joe. The IP seems set for a sequel as the author is writing the next installment called Little Bigfoot, Big City. ...

Bender and Jake Weiner will produce via the newly launched Good Fear Film production company, and Jennifer Weiner will serve as executive producer. Andrea Miloro will oversee the project at Fox Animation. ...

So many animate features have done so well over the past few years (though some have flamed out) that our fine entertainment conglomerates are eager to step up and create more.

This is a long way from the 1970s and 1980s, when long-form animation was shunned by big studios and left to Disney. Success at the box office turned earlier avoidance into passionate embraces. But some of these new features will fail, because failure is the lot of many movies, no matter how successful the segment in which they exist happens to be.

So will see if all the hugs the majors now give animation turn less ardent as some movies come out and bomb.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Batman In All Directions

Netflix is so ... yesterday.

Batman: The Animated Series is coming to a Mattel’s View-Master VR Viewer, the toy company announced today. Batman will be brought to View-Master VR Viewer through a partnership with Warner Bros. and the use of OTOY Inc cinematic rendering technology. ...

Batman: The Animated Series producer/director Bruce Timm and writer/producer Paul Dini collaborated with OTOY’s artists and engineers on the VR project. The original voice cast of Kevin Conroy (Batman), Mark Hamill (The Joker) Loren Lester (Robin) and Tara Strong (Batgirl) also reprised their roles, with the guidance of Batman: The Animated Series voice director Andrea Romano.

Sam Register, President, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Digital Series, said: “We are extremely excited for our fans to be able to experience Batman: The Animated Series in a new and immersive way. ...

I've been told by more than one industry guru that virtual reality is the latest big Thing.

Third Floor is working on a VR project; various animation studios are toying with it. So maybe the guru is right. Virtual Reality is what all the thirteen-year-olds will be doing (the hell with binge-watching on the computer flat screen!) in the next thirty-six months.

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The Power of Free Money -- Part 52

Apparently France hears the siren call of Canadian cash ... like many others

Paris-based On Entertainment, the company behind recent feature-film release The Little Prince, says it plans to hire a staff of 300 over the next three years to run a new studio in Montréal, Québec.

"Our new Montréal studio gives us a foothold in North America and provides us with the resources we need to ramp up production and extend our reach with films intended for international release," said On Entertainment co-founder Thierry Pasquet in a prepared statement. The company expects to ramp up production and release one animated feature every two years.

On Animation Studio will receive about $3.7 million (U.S.) in government loans, split between the governments of Canada and Québec (the latter granted through financing corporation Investissement Québec) to help fund the studio's opening, the company said. ...

Generous subsidies won't be going away anytime soon. They are now embedded into the fabric of Canada, the great state of Georgia, Britain, France, and to a somewhat more limited degree, California.

As an IATSE Vice President who studies tax subsidy cultures said to me a week ago:

"Tax subsidies are pretty well established in a lot of countries now, and a bunch of states. Georgia has a big subsidy program and they've done studies so they know the subsidy doesn't pay for itself, but they're all in. They've got studios and sound stages and they're going to keep on giving the money away. Because they want the industry to be there."

And there you have it, our free enterprise system at its finest. "Pay us, and we will come. Otherwise we go to Montreal or Vancouver."

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DWA Downsizing

From a fine entertainment trade paper:

About 200 positions are being eliminated from the DreamWorks Animation unit in Glendale, CA following Comcast and NBCUniversal’s $3.8 billion acquisition of the company this year. The news came as a memo to the staff from Jeff Shell, Chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, who wrote: “We have begun sharing organizational decisions that will result in the elimination of approximately 200 positions at our Glendale campus. These changes are focused in the corporate overhead groups as well as distribution and consumer products, areas where we can fully integrate operations with NBCUniversal.” ...

Employees in marketing, distribution, consumer products and financial areas in Glendale will start receiving termination notices as early as this week. ...

TAG members at DreamWorks Animation tell us that no Guild jobs are impacted.

These layoffs aren't a surprise. Restructuring is a fact of life in Tinsel Town. Disney (as was reported yesterday) is doing it, but the reality is that studio tweek, trim and reconfigure on an ongoing basis. No animation employee has to be reminded that her/his job is only viable until "end of project". After that it's off down the side walk in search of the next gig.

That's simply reality in 21st century Hollywood. For live action and animation alike.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Downsizing at the House of Mouse

A fine entertainment journal tells us:

Disney has trimmed approximately 5% of its consumer products and digital media staff in job cuts affecting 250 people, the company confirmed today through a spokesman.

50% of the cuts came from the company’s remaining video games-related workforce. Disney largely exited the video game publishing business in May in favor of a licensed games model, announcing the cancellation of its Disney Infinity line of interactive games and toys at that time. Several of the affected employees came from a team working on Marvel: Avengers Alliance in Bellevue, Washington. That series was cancelled last week.

The other 50% of affected employees were casualties of Disney’s recent merger of its Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media divisions. ...

Layoffs at Diz Co. aren't limited to consumer products and digital work.

Walt Disney Animation Studios is laying off dozens of staffers as Moana nears the end of production. Disney Television Animation is undergoing significant restructuring as more shows get outsourced to smaller Los Angeles animation studios and DTVA employees are shifted to various shows that remain in house.

Disney is always shifting, tweaking, working to squeeze more profits out of its far-flung enterprises. Diz Do. isn't a Renaissance Art Studio, after all. It's a huge conglomerate trying to get huger.

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Craft Meeting #4 -- CG Animator/Modelers, Technical Directors, and Compositors

On Tuesday night, the fourth Animation Guild Craft Meeting took place in the Guild's meeting hall at 1105 N. Hollywood Way. Notes of the proceedings:

Review of First Year of 839 Contract: There was a discussion of collective bargaining agreement, how Tech Directors and CG animators are being impacted. At the feature studios (Disney and DreamWorks) overtime is being paid and there have been no major complaints. Production schedules are compressed, but opinions are divided on the negative impacts. Some people like the extra overtime pay; others would prefer more weekends and evenings spent with family. At tv animation studios – principally DreamWorks Animation TV -- more work is being piled onto leads and supervisors, with more job stress.

For CG Classifications, there are no job descriptions and no clear parameters about what the jobs entail. This is a problem. Companies can reconfigure and redefine what a CG lead is, what a supervisor is, at a moment’s notice. There needs to be some controlling language in the CBA. Business Representative described the history of CG classifications getting into the contract in the mid-90s, when non-Guild tech directors working on “Dinosaur” at Disney agitated to be covered by the contract and to have pay rates track contract rates. At that time, numbered classifications were introduced.

New Media: Studios are hiring artists and tech directors at below contract minimums (this is happening at IA locals covering live-action as well), but studios ARE paying the 6% Individual Account Plan pension percentage at the contractual minimum rate, not the actual rate of pay. The New Media Sideletter (Sideletter N – pp. 99-113 of 839 CBA) enables studios to negotiate freely below minimum rates. The budgetary tiers that would mean 85% of minimums would have to be paid reflect live-action budgets, and animation budgets are way lower so “budget tiers” in the Sideletter are never reached. This was an issue at the last negotiation, will be an issue at next IA and TAG negotiation in 2018.

Simplifying Contract classifications: There was discussion of simplifying contract categories, keeping categories broad-based and simple and having fewer classifications and categories (Senior artist; jumior artist, apprentice artists, trainee). Some CG artists wanted definitions and more specific names in classifications. The Business Representative said that studios had resisted defining classifications in the past, that it might be more doable to get descriptive names in contract than definitions.

There is also an additional concern at some jobs about the combination of different job classifications into one; some people have reported doing multiple jobs in the same deadline, whereas before they only had one. The issue there is that people are taking those jobs and not fighting against the job compressions.

Wage Suppression Lawsuit: Individuals have gotten letters regarding the Wage Suppression class-action lawsuit involving Blue Sky Studios, Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation (etc). A number of attendees had received letters. Business Representative said that the Guild is not directly involved, although it held a meeting with one of the lawsuit attorneys and referred people to his law firm early in the process. Business Representative said he was subpoenaed for a depoition and that documents were also subpoenaed. It was noted that Blue Sky Studios and Sony Pictures Animation have reached settlements on the suit, but Disney, DreamWOrks and Pixar have not settled.

Live-Streaming: Some artists thought that live-srtreaming was a viable way to involve members who could never get to General Membrship Meetings; others though meeting conversations need to stay in the meeting room. There was a worry that the streaming of meetings would keep people from speaking up.

CG Classes at Guild: There was a discussion of reconfiguring the computer lab so that in-house classes could be held. Right now, CG classes are held off-site under the Contract Servicies Administration Trust Fund.

Meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m. ...

What comes through at craft meetings to date?

A) Concern about lower wage rates of New Media work. Animation budgets for Subscription Video on Demand is far below live-action, yet the "budget tiers in Sideletter N (pp. 99-113 of the CBA)

B) Interest in sharing work and wage information. Interest in building better employee in various studio departments.

C) Desire to begin crafting possible proposals for 2018 contract negotiations.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Joe Resurgence

Let's journey back ...

... In 1982, G.I. Joe was brought out of retirement thanks to a brilliant marketing campaign executed with military precision.

The Hasbro toyline had been defunct since the late '70s, with the American public soured on the military following the Vietnam War and the toys falling victim to rising oil prices that made 12-inch figures too expensive to manufacture. As Joe sat in retirement, Hasbro watched with envy as Star Wars toys made obscene amounts of money by trading off the emotional attachments children had to the film series' colorful characters.

Hasbro chairman and CEO Stephen D. Hassenfeld was at the helm of the company when the Joes were taken out of mothballs and reconceived for a new generation. For the first time, the Joes were given a storyline: They were good guys locked in an eternal battle with the ultimate villains, Cobra. That story transformed Joes from generic figures into an intellectual-property-driven concept. ...

It gets lost in the mists of time, but the mid-eighties saw a resurgence of TV animation because of 1) Disney getting into the TV animation game (Gummi Bears!) and 2) TOYS.

It wasn't just G.I. Joe. There was He-Man. There was She-Ra. Filmation, now a fading memory in the long history of cartoons, created hundreds of animated half-hours in support of plastic action figures that sold very well. It was noted at the time that the cartoon industry was becoming a sales tool for toy companies, but animation selling toys had been a long-term trend.

True, the cartoons usually came first, then the toys. But honestly? Whether the doll came first ... or the theatrical short, was there really that much difference?

What the tv cartoons of the eighties foretold was the total and complete marketing of product we all enjoy here in the 21st century. Today, we first get the multi-colored moments of animated entertainment on our flat screens and theater screens, then (two days later) the toys, apps, video games, lunch boxes and Christmas tree ornaments which are derived from that entertainment that we order from Amazon.

Ain't progress grand?

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Music and Cuteness

From a fine trade magazine:

Gwen Stefani and Nickelodeon are joining forces.

The singer's animated series, Kuu Kuu Harajuku, is set to make its American debut on the Viacom-owned cable network, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Inspired by the Harajuku girls that became a staple of Stefani's solo act in 2004, Kuu Kuu Harajuku is co-created and exec produced by the former No Doubt lead singer. The series first premiered in Australia in November 2015 after Stefani announced the series the year prior.

Like the name of Stefani's 2004 solo album, the series centers on four Harajuku girls named Love, Angel, Music and Baby who form the group HJ5 with their inspirational leader, G. ...

A chip off the old Powerpuff.

Or is that over-projection?

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Working At TAG Studios

Several days ago we broke down jobs by classification. Now we'll break down employment by studios, largest to smallest. Understand when we get down to the micro-studios with a handful of employees, companies like "Made in Paradise, Inc." and "Daisy, Inc." we won't bother listing them.

TAG MEMBERS' EMPLOYMENT BY COMPANY

DreamWorks Animation -- 569

Walt Disney Animation Studios -- 561

Disney TVA -- 391

DreamWorks Animation TV -- 325

Cartoon Network -- 298

Nickelodeon -- 276

Warner Bros. Animation (tv) -- 269

Fox Animation -- 254

Robin Red Breast/Titmouse -- 121

Bento Box -- 88

Sony Pictures Animation -- 83

Marvel Animation -- 72

Paramount Animation -- 65

Hasbro -- 59

Rick and Morty -- 50

Wild Canary -- 47

Warner Animation Group -- 45

Original Force -- 22

PUNY LLC -- 19

Six Point Two -- 18

Universal Cartoon Studios -- 15 ...

The only company on the list above that has been continuously under IATSE contract is Disney. There was a period of time when Warner Bros. went away, and every other corporate entity is new since Local 839's charter six-and-a-half decades ago.

Nothing is forever.

But even with Disney, labor contracts have changed. Disney Feature Animation (aka "Walt Disney Productions" in the great long-ago) was under an 839 contract from 1952 until the turn of this century, when an IA contract titled "TSL" (The Secret Lab, after the secret lab in The Emperor's New Groove) took precedence.

Today, Local 839 (otherwise known as TAG) has a contract with Disney Television Animation, and the feature division has been rechristened Walt Disney Animation Studios and operates under the TSL contract, as does the remnants of the Disney Toon Studios.

As for the rest, studios come and studios go. Warners, as noted above, ceased existing for several years then came back with a vengeance in the late eighties. There was Warner FEATURE Animation for a brief while, but that Warners division died after six years ... and now there is Warner Animation Group which concentrates on pre-production work for theatrical animated features (The Lego Movie) produced outside California.

The take-away: Local 839 and Disney have danced together for sixty-four straight years, while every other corporate entity has come to the dress ball at a later time. (Except Warner Bros. They were there at the start, then got bored and exited, then returned to drink more party punch.)

And here we are.

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