Friday, June 15, 2007

'Toon Links to Dance To

Another weekend, another lovely bunch of animation links...

Pixar has announced it's going after the seasoned citizen demographic with Up.

When I was looking for work a long while ago, I tried without success to get a writing gig on a cartoon show called Transformers. The story editor told me, "selling toys is what we're about this year..." (The year being 1986.)

My how times have changed (not):

The next few years will see everything from He-Man to G.I. Joe to possibly Monopoly show up on the bigscreen. As the film biz runs out of original ideas, nothing, it seems, is too much of a stretch.

In the last two decades, Hollywood has gone through several crazes: U.S. adaptations of French comedies, remakes of vintage pics, film versions of old TV series, and adaptations of videogames and comicbooks. Now studios and high-profile producers are buying up rights to dolls, action figures and games, hoping their lasting popularity can prop up the next studio tentpoles.

As the thinking goes, the instant recognition of popular toys can only help an opening weekend. But everyone involved is also nervous. Studios are banking millions on just a brand name, while toymakers are risking their crown jewels to work in an entirely new format, knowing that a bomb can cut into their sales.

Filmation had He-Man. Michael Bay has Transformers...

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has altered the regs for animated features up for the little gold statue:

An animated feature film is now defined as a motion picture of at least 70 minutes in running time, in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time.

Business Week Magazine weighs in on whether Disney's purchase of Pixar was a smashing idea or not:

...A lot of folks are waiting to see whether Ratatouille justifies all those Disney dollars that Chief Executive Robert Iger spent. A little background: At the time of the deal, Pixar, majority owned by Apple (AAPL) Chief Executive Steve Jobs, was nearing the end of its 14-year contract with Disney to jointly make films. Jobs and departing Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner were sniping at one another, and Jobs was testing the waters for a move of his animation factory to Warner Bros. (TWX), Sony (SNE), or anyone not named Disney. When Iger replaced Eisner in late 2005, one of the first things he did was make nice with Jobs.

When Iger made the Pixar deal, several Wall Street analysts figured that he had overpaid. Heck, even Eisner came out of semi-exile to speak to board members, pleading with them to veto the rich deal. So now, there will likely be a ton of folks on Wall Street waiting to see whether Ratatouille is, well, a rotten tomato...

Chances are good that Ratatouille won't be a blockbuster. It's not the rollicking, show tune-laden, laugh-fest that Pixar usually makes. It is, however, a tremendously well-made, stylish film that will take your breath away in terms of technology—rat hairs look real and human movements are so authentic you won't believe they were generated by a computer.

The Hindustan Times informs us that Disney is chomping at the bit to make lots of animated films on the sub-continent:

Mark Zoradi, [President of worldwide marketing and distribution for the Walt Disney Studios], said he would like to see 20-25 percent of Disney's revenues in India to come from its film and home video business. "We don't have unrealistic expectations, but as we look long-term, India will be a very important, strategic market," he said, adding Disney would also continue to outsource some of its animation production to India in a "significant manner".

"We had done very well exporting our movies, but then we looked at India and realised the infrastructure was about to explode: theatres were getting better, tax laws were improving."

Disney is also keen to make more films in China despite restrictive regulations, said Zoradi, a 27-year Disney veteran.

When I was but a tot, I used to sit transfixed in front of the old black-and-white Philco watching ancient cartoons. They were all black-and-white, the gags were plentiful and often bizarre, and The Little King was one of the 'toons I watched. ASIFA archives has a fine specimen from 1931 ready for your viewing pleasure:

The early sound cartoons that came out of New York have an indescribable quality that is sorely missing from animation today. The best way I can describe it is "fun factor". New York cartoons are gritty, unpredictable and outrageous with jazzy music forming the foundation for the action. There are no pretentions to be anything other than seven minutes of cartoony joy. This cartoon is no exception...

Reuters reports this exciting news flash: Animation is catching on with adults! Going mainstream! Who would have thought it?

"We used to hear that animation for adults wouldn't work, but now all our competitors are doing the same," said Mike Lazzo, senior vice president of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, the evening line-up of animated shows aimed at 18 to 34-year-olds, like Robot Chicken and Aqua Teen Hunger Force....

..."Hollywood loves success and can't wait to pile on success. When Pixar started with Toy Story, everyone began to put an animated feature in production, if not three."

The word is that Sony's kind of...ah...somber about the opening numbers for Surf's Up. Variety prognosticates about Disney's expectations for the next animated feature on the box office horizon:

Industryites predicted that last summer's "Cars" would play to only young males or NASCAR fans, but the pic attracted a sizable female crowd, as well, after Disney marketed the film as a family-friendly comedy. "The Incredibles," in 2004, also could have solely courted superhero genre fans, but it played more broadly.

Their box office performance only proves just how much of a brand the Pixar moniker and its hopping lamp logo have become among auds. Disney is relying on that kind of name recognition to sell tix to "Ratatouille" later this month.

So far, "Ratatouille" isn't tracking as strongly as Disney would like among most moviegoers. The numbers are lukewarm. It's appealing more to females under 35...

Have a useful and joyous weekend.


Anonymous said...

Chances are good that Ratatouille won't be a blockbuster. It's not the rollicking, show tune-laden, laugh-fest that Pixar usually makes.

Has this fucking reporter ever even SEEN a Pixar movie? Show tunes??? This moron's "analysis" isn't worth the rag its printed on.

Having seen a VERY large chunk of Ratatouille, which was filled to the brim with incredibly wonderful humor, I can safely say that this "reporter" is the epitome of the Hollywood axiom "nobody knows nothing". He'll be eating some major-league crow real soon, as usual.

Anonymous said...

But he did say that the FUR SIMULATION looks amazing.

What a friggin buffon.

David Nethery said...

Yeah, I read that , too, and my jaw hit the ground :

" the rollicking, show tune-laden, laugh-fest that Pixar usually makes"

Right. And this guy is a journalist for a major publication ? Fact checking , anyone ?

Ratatouille looks poised to join the line of hits such as Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc. and all those other show-tune laden laugh-fests that Pixar makes.

Anonymous said...

Me, I'm trying to figure out which Pixar film could qualify as "show tune-laden." Some do feature songs, but not enough to count as "laden," IMO.

Michael said...

With the new Oscar requirements, does that mean that the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie could qualify for best animated movie?

"a motion picture of at least 70 minutes in running time" - check

"in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique" if CGI fits into that category, then check

"a significant number of the major characters must be animated" - check

"animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time" - I guess that depends on what "figure" means. Do SFX shots count?

Anonymous said...

"in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique"

does this mean that MOCAP projects are OUT of the running for Best Ani Feature?

and that Happy Feet's win for Best "animated" film, last year
was a big mistep?

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