Monday, October 15, 2007

Imagi, the Asian Pixar?

That's what the Hong Kong animation studio is shooting for. And Business Week profiles the company's ambitious plans:

A year ago, Tim Cheung had one of computer-generated animation's dream jobs—working on the latest installment of Shrek for DreamWorks Animation SKG (DWA). Today, the 35-year-old Texas native works in an old warehouse district in a remote part of Hong Kong, helping film neophytes learns the do's and don'ts of how to make a movie featuring computer animation [for Imagi Studios].

Globalization raises its unlovely head. American animation staffers fly overseas to train their replacements, and we kiss the domestic industry goodbye, correct?

I don't think so. If it were just about labor costs, animation would be headquartered in Bangladesh instead of various producton hubs around the world, which include at least two in California.

Because the most important issue, first and last, is quality. It does your cause little good if you turn out a lower budget animated product that underperforms at the box office.

Before the [theatrical] release of TMNT [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles], [Imagi]investors pushed up the company's stock price on the hope that the movie would be a big success. But once it was clear the film wouldn't be a home run, investors fled. Today, Imagi's shares are down 47% for the year, compared with a 40% increase in the benchmark Hang Seng index. From a high of HK$4.87 in January, the stock has lost 60% of its value.

This goes a ways in explaining why Imagi has opened a satellite studio in California. If you want to compete with the current kings of the roost [Pixar and DreamWorks], it's probably useful to hire staff that are from those places.

...[O]n Oct. 4, Imagi announced the hiring of Jakob Jensen—who had spent a dozen years working on pictures for DreamWorks and Disney—to be animation director for Astro Boy ...

So you see, globalization isn't a one-way street anymore. It's not enough to be a lower-cost provider. You must also create product that put eyeballs in front of the big, silver screen; that's why California's gravitational pull on global animation remains strong.


Anonymous said...

I just can`t see how IMAGi represents a threat to Pixar.

So far they delivered well executed clishe.
As far as the history proof need to come up with something original in order estabilish yourself as a land mark.

To move the business to LA is not gonna be enough.

I hope I`m not right.

Anonymous said...

Imagi is just like all the studios 2 years ago who claimed to be the next Pixar...there was Vanguard, Threshold and name a few...

two of them delivered stillborns at the B.O., the third is trying to figure out how to make "Foodfight"
a story worth telling...

if all these studios would just claim, they aim to achieve "mediocrity" there would be no discussion.
they have no vision, its the almighty buck talking...

when you put good projects infront of bad people
what do you expect.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but how long it would take for Imagi to make a film totally by itself in HK both in preproduction and production without us? Then close the studio in Sherman Oaks and lay off all US employees since they have learned how to make an animated feature. We are digging our grave gradually.

hilscreate said...

If the crew at imagi or anyway else can be up to a certain level technically or aestatically near or on par with Dreamworks or Pixar. I am sure the bigger companies Stateside will look at hiring these people.

If they can at that level, would they be happy getting paid 1/6 or whatever the difference is in Hong Kong?

Anonymous said...

to be the next pixar, why would you start off with someone from dreamworks? nuff said.

who? said...

First off- Any savy investor realizes that Business Week is the 'People' mag of the corperate world.- no one takes alot of stock in what they write.
Second- an investor also knows it's all about how well a company is managed. Pixar is a success because the management allows those that are best in their field to do the job they were hired for. And not only do they allow them to do their job- management also goes to bat for them when an yokel with a title/power wants to make a change that will endanger the integrity of the product. When will studios learn that it's ALL about the story and the audience connecting with the characters... what use is a $40 million dollar product that has a $50 million dollar return when had if the story/characters was something that the audience connected with- it would have brought back a MUCH larger return for the dollar. Not just a 1:1.25 return on the dollar.

Exec's are short sighted people who only know how to plug numbers on an excel spread sheet so that it makes them look good. 'nuff said.

Anonymous said...

it seems the Pixar comparison is more a concoction of the reporter than anyone at the studio. The studio person just talks of being competitive, the reporter name drops "Pixar" to get readers' attention in a way that "Dreamworks" or "Blue Sky" will not.

Kevin Geiger said...

Actually, up-and-coming studios routinely tout themselves by saying "we want to be the next Pixar", or by describing their work (or their proposed work) as "Pixar quality". Much as 2D shops used to reference "Disney quality" animation. I've heard it firsthand, and often.

And of course, the media runs with that because it's an easy concept to grasp, if not actually attain. ;-)

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