Monday, September 14, 2009

DreamwWorks Animation Afternoon

Things are humming at DreamWorks Animation; apparently market analysts agree.

... [W]e came away from the preview impressed with DreamWorks' upcoming content," [analyst Ralph Schackert] said, singling out "Shrek Forever After," the fourth in the Shrek franchise.

Schackart also pointed to the company's aggressive push into 3-D films. DreamWorks has decided to release all of its new titles in the new format, which Schackart said boosts development costs by 10 percent but has the potential to grow box office gross returns by 30 percent as more 3-D screens become available ...

As it happens, I talked to one of the layout artists on Shrek #4, who told me:

"We've had a good time on the show. The story's good, and we've been designing the 3-D the way we designed the color on the others, to punch each sequence, make it flow and make it better.

We've always designed the color, and how it works through a sequence, and it's the same with 3-D. We figure out where best to use it, have some scenes pretty subdued and flat, then push the 3-D in key scenes. ... Captain 3-D is a big help with what we're doing. We're lucky to have him ..."

I had a long discussion with a group of artists about work going overseas to Mumbai, about the prospects of foreign-made features in the world marketplace. ("Doesn't do any good to make an animated movie for half the price if it does a quarter the business ...")

I said that I haven't seen too many blockbuster feature cartoons made on other continents (Happy Feet being one exception) but of course it can happen. I told them that, in my experience, studio execs are not naturally big risk takers, that they know they can get fired for "acting out of the box," and subsequently failing, but seldom (if ever) will get the axe if they achieve lousy results after going the safe, obvious route. Which explains why there haven't been more big, high-end blockbusters produced overseas. In the current climate, it's too outside the box.

I encountered people with a bunch of different questions, such as why the new contract (recently ratified) ended up where it did, and what some of the new DreamWorks clauses in the Memorandum of Agreement mean; hopefully I supplied a few semi-clarifying answers.

Add On: DWA has just put out a teaser for How to Train Your Dragon, the first DreamWorks Animation feature release for 2010. One Dragon artist said to me this afternoon that they're working lots of hours on the 'toon now, but work occasionally slows down as story gets polished. (Which is pretty much the case for every animated feature produced in Hollywood since Snow White.)


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