Friday, September 12, 2008

Working the Friday Dream

I've rambled around studios a lot this week, but blogged little about it. Everything was either A) boring, or B) stuff I didn't want to wag around the internets.

Nothing screamed at me, "Hey now. This would make a good blog post!"

But today is a little different ...

The animation crews on the east side of DreamWorks' campus will shortly be moving to the Lakeside Building, now that the upper floors have been revamped.

"The studio's been holding meetings about the move. We're gonna be in cubicles instead of offices. A lot of the cubes are nice and roomy, and an improvement for some people. But I donno. I'm going to miss having a room."

I ran across ace animator James Baxter, who is back at the studio animating on Aliens Vs. Monsters and designing characters for an upcoming feature. he said he's pretty much shuttered his company James Baxter Animation for the time being, and is back in the Land of Splashing Fountains as a full-time DreamWorks employee. And is happy with the decision.

"It was good having my own company, and I learned a lot. We did the Enchanted animation and hand-drawn work on Kung Fu Panda. I took the business address off the website, but I might go back and get other projects going in the future ..."

Shrek Goes Fourth has a small animation crew working away on experimental animation, the kind that always goes on during ramp up. A staffer said they're a month or two away from starting work on a sequence, with the normal production cycle following behind.

One veteran DreamWorker who recently returned to the studio after lengthy time away said:

"When I left, morale was not real high around here. But it seems to be a lot more 'up' in the time I've been back.

A string of hit films will do that.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now why the FRICK did Disney contract out for the animation for "Enchanted"??? I THOUGHT the animation looked below par! Walt has to be rolling in his grave! I was led to believe that the new management at Disney had some RESPECT for the company and its legacy. Guess I was wrong. And I thought the bad old days of Eisner, who infested Walt's parks with Power Rangers and Muppets, were over...

robiscus said...

...and I thought the news that James Baxter closed his studio is bad news.

Steve Hulett said...

Call me stupid, but I thought Mr. Baxter's animation for "Enchanted" was great.

But what do I know?

Anonymous said...

Now why the FRICK did Disney contract out for the animation for "Enchanted"???

When Enchanted was greenlit, Disney Feature Animation had switched over to a strictly cg studio (there was talk if I recall of getting Disney Animation to do the sequence in cg but it wasn't felt to be appropriate for the subject matter of the film). They didn't have the equipment to handle the traditional animation needed so they sent it to James Baxter, who did a fine job. John Lassetter and Ed Catmull took over Disney Animation after the film and animated sequence were already in production.

Anonymous said...

I have read this blog since i came across it during the "sit down shut up" writers strike came up. I have been waiting to hear about those artist have been doing since then, but there never seems to be a visit to their studio. All I read about is a Dreamworks or Dinsey, but I have not heard one peep about the "sit down shut up" artists since the writers strike ended. Why is this?

Anonymous said...

Because writer residuals were 'baked' into the production by WGA muscle. They got to bake OUR cake, and then eat it, too. The artists are just 'happy to have a job.' (Or more accurately, shell-shocked from having employment consistently pulled from under them by fellow labor and management alike.)

BTW, the show has been retitled since then as "Sit Down and Shut the F*** Up, Pooh"

Anonymous said...

The last time James Baxter did " below par" animation, his age contained a single digit. :0)

Whoever anon #1 is, but I feel confident in saying that he's not qualified to empty Baxter's pencil sharpener.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the anon above me... the animation in Enchanted is top notch. Really, really nice stuff.

How can anon #1 say that when most of the same people involved with regular Disney features came over to work on it?

"Below par"? Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

The animation in Enchanted was wonderful, even if the designs were not, But the point was to be cliche, so it worked for me!

Anonymous said...

The much more important question is; why is Disney still shipping 2-D work out NOW at bargain rates with Eisner long gone, Lasseter and Catmull fully entrenched and so many artists out of work?

"Meet the new boss,same as the old boss."

ping ping said...

Because writer residuals were 'baked' into the production by WGA muscle. They got to bake OUR cake, and then eat it, too.

They helped bake the cake, but they didn't get to eat it, and Verrone wasn't happy about that. The show wound up under an IATSE 839 contract, since Adelaide Productions has been TAG signatory for over a decade. The WGA didn't have an ounce of law on their side.

Floyd Norman said...

The last time I checked on it, the Walt Disney Company was still a business.

That should answer your question.

Anonymous said...

Floyd,
With all due respect, Starz Media is a business, too. They managed to hire a small army of artists to work on The Simpsons Movie without compulsively obsessing over their profit margin. The success of movie more than made up their investment. This umbrellas-in-the-rain kind of behavior is cynical, mean-spirited and unworthy of company like Disney, especially in times like these.

Anonymous said...

This is li'l ol' me, Anonymous 1. No, I'm not qualified to empty Baxter's pencil sharpener, I'm just someone who paid to see "Enchanted" and was not at all impressed with the animated segments. Just a simple viewer here, who owns DVDs of all the classic Disney Golden Age films and has, apparently, developed too good an eye for good animation. I'll be sure to lower my standards next time I go to any given animated film. Thanks for your kind attention.

Steve Hulett said...

With all due respect, Starz Media is a business, too. They managed to hire a small army of artists to work on The Simpsons Movie without compulsively obsessing over their profit margin. The success of movie more than made up their investment.

Little information. Starz Media did a lot of "The Simpsons Movie" for Fox/News Corp/Gracie Films.

They did it on a "cost-plus" basis. That is, Fox gave them a margoin of profit above whatever costs Starz Media ran up.

Starz Media/Film Roman, by and large, is a "for hire" cartoon studio.

Steve Hulett said...

I have read this blog since i came across it during the "sit down shut up" writers strike came up. I have been waiting to hear about those artist have been doing since then, but there never seems to be a visit to their studio. All I read about is a Dreamworks or Dinsey, but I have not heard one peep about the "sit down shut up" artists since the writers strike ended. Why is this?

Because, my friend, you don't read this blog carefully ... or very often.

From Thursday, August 14:

Over at Rough Draft studios in Glendale, about two-thirds of the Sit Down, Shut Up artistic staff is now in place. As more scripts are completed and recorded, another director is added to the production mix, along with support staff (board artists, designers and affiliated crafts).

There are now four directors on board the good craft SDSU, with another two yet to be brought on.


You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

I have a pretty good idea of why, but WHEN did Baxter Animation close?

Anonymous said...

Steve,
How does "cost plus" and "for hire" explain or excuse Disney's behavior? So the actual business entity is Fox. How does that change the point. Fox, as far as I know, accepted the cost of the film. They didn't say, "the film was too expensive-you hired too many artists."

Disney, the studio that invented the animated feature, seems to be attacking the personnel traditionally employed to get the job done right as an unnecessary extravagance. It seems that Disney the corporation is not allowing Disney the animation studio to staff as they see fit. This kind of intrusive demoralizing micro-managing was supposed to leave with Eisner.

Sandra M said...

Steve,

with all due respect, you're stupid. I too thought the animation of Enchanted was below par. It wasn't horrible, but it didnt tug the heartstrings like classic Disney films either.

And no,I'm not an animator or an insider in the industry. I'm just an ordinary person who happens to like animation, and felt there was something "off" about Enchanted.

I may not be able to pinpoint the exact technical details, but my opinion is as valid as yours. After all, you don't have to be a doctor to know that you're sick--even if you do have to be a doctor to know exactly what is wrong with you.

That said, hope Princess and the Frog is better. It looks pretty good so far (although there was one part when Tiana shakes her head that looks ike it's been lifted right from Mulan)

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