Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Town Hall!

Today as I stumbled into the Walt Disney Animation hat building, employees were streaming out.

"They're holding a town hall at the equestrian center in Griffith Park! ..."

Which I understood to mean, "John [Lasseter], Ed [Catmull], and Andrew [Millstein] are holding a big employees' meeting down Riverside Drive at the big horse building ..."

I went into the studio anyway. A layout artist asked: "Aren't you going?" I said, "Only if Bob Iger comes along and invites me ..."

Upstairs, a staffer told me that King of the Elves is going through some changes, and that one of the directors has departed. (Nothing new there; Woolfgang Reithermann was displace by Art Stevens on Fox and the Hound; Chris Sanders exited American Dog. Stuff happens.)

Finally, since there's been discussion here about what The Princess and the Frog really cost (the Wall Street Journal quotes a $150 million figure), I went to a Wise Old Disneyite who is in a position to know. She said:

"Management's told us that they want to 'do Winnie the Pooh for $35 million, which they said was one third of the P and F budget. Do the math. Thirty-five times three is $105 million."

One hundred and five million dollars. That pretty much sounds right to me. Disney's new, hand-drawn feature had a smaller crew, inbetweens and cleanups outsourced to Yowza in Toronto, and a focused schedule.

Sadly, I don't think the large staffs that populated Walt Disney Animation Studio in the halcyon days of Aladdin and Lion King are returning in the near term. But the Mouse House as a steady stream of product rolling down the pike, and if the big, round ball of fickle fate bounces right, they'll be profit centers.

34 comments:

Blank Stare said...

Isn't 35 million really cheap for a theatrical feature from Disney? Can we look forward to a cheap looking DVD quality film or will they pull it off.

And the big question, if they CAN pull it off, then why does their other films have to cost a hundred million???

Anonymous said...

I'm going to guess that an established thing like WTP needs less visual development and the established style means it needs fewer expensive visual pyrotechnics than a fairy-tale story does.

Anonymous said...

And shipping it even more worldwide than Princess and Frog. Disney Feature Animation will continue to do this, more and more. They'll be utilizing the animation studios they partner with in India on upcoming features as well (already in the works).

Anonymous said...

Let me guess. The big equestrian center meeting was (as it always is):

"Great job you guys! Disney is the best animation studio in the world! We've successfully brought 2D back from the dead! Princess and the Frog looks amazing!

Pay no attention to the fact that half the people who brought the Disney magic back are no longer here!

Oh, and we're in panic-hire-mode for Rapunzel even though no one wants to work here because theres no stability!

What exactly have we accomplished Ed? No idea John! Kool aid for everybody!"

Anonymous said...

" Disney's new, hand-drawn feature had a smaller crew, inbetweens and cleanups outsourced to Yowza in Toronto, and a focused schedule."

----

And Clean-Up and some Layouts and BG work outsourced to former Disney Feature Animation employees in Orlando, Florida (working on their own former Disney desks yet)

Anonymous said...

So if POTF cost $105 million I guess maybe the author of that Wall Street Journal article accidently reversed the 5 and the 0 on his hastily scrawled notes to come up with the $150 million budget figure he mentioned in the article.

But still ... $105 million. Wow. So even with the much reduced in-house staff (and their much-reduced pay rates) and the outsourcing (to even lower paid non-union freelancers in Toronto and Orlando) POTF ended up costing more than 'Lilo & Stitch' or 'Brother Bear' , which were made all in-house with a union crew at the Disney Orlando studio ?

Anonymous said...

105 million is way too much money for an animated movie. 2D priced itself out of business a few years back because of escalating budgets.

Anonymous said...

What exactly have we accomplished Ed? No idea John! Kool aid for everybody!"

In fairness, the Kool aid was delicious.

Anonymous said...

..but you have to supply your own Hawaiian shirt...

Sandro Cleuzo said...

Besides Canada and Orlando, over a thousand feet of cleanup and ink and paint for Princess and the Frog was also done by a great crew in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Anonymous said...

"105 million is way too much money for an animated movie."

Well, if it makes 500 million, no one will be saying that.

Ice Age 3 cost more than that and you dont hear Fox complaining with almost 900 million worldwide...

Floyd Norman said...

Equestrian Center?

Please. No jokes about beating a dead horse.

Anonymous said...

In fairness, the Kool aid was delicious.

Hehehe

Anonymous said...

"In fairness, the Kool aid was delicious."

---

Oh, it always tastes good going down. It's that bitter aftertaste and the laying on the floor heaving your guts out later on that's not so fun ...

Yeah: "Great job guys ! 2D is back !" (just not most of the crew who brought it back ... they'll be back (maybe) sometime later ... we think ... if we don't outsource even more of the next movie... but great job ! Thanks everyone for making us look good. Don't let the door hit you on your way out. )

Anonymous said...

"105 million is way too much money for an animated movie. 2D priced itself out of business a few years back because of escalating budgets."

Excuse me????!!!!! Who posted this, Michael Eisner?

Anonymous said...

Excuse me????!!!!! Who posted this, Michael Eisner?

I guess I'm coming at this from an independent filmmaker's perspective, but the more money that is invested into a film, the more eyes are on you. When you make a 200 million film, everybody at the studio has a vested interest in your film doing well, so they'll want to make it's as successful as possible. This often means a dumbing down of the film to appeal to a (very) large demographic. That's why so many summer blockbusters are bland and inoffensive: anything resembling originality has been stripped out in favor of playing it safe. By contrast, a film costing under a million is more likely to be a reflection of the filmmaker's vision, rather than something watered down by the suits.

If the Disney animators want to make daring, original films, they're going to have to do it so that it's not perceived as a potential risky product. And that means lower budgets unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

As if the "Disney Animators" have any say in what get's made...

I wish.

Anonymous said...

Here, let me fix it for you:

If the Disney animators want to make daring, original films, they're going to have to do it elsewhere, or on their own

rufus said...

Carefull what you say about Disney movies. If you say something negative they'll whine and complain that you're hurting their feelings, and try to get those posts deleted.

rufus

Anonymous said...

You sure it wasn't Hawaiian Punch?

Anonymous said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Disney throws more money away in a day than most people make in their entire lives. It would be different if their budgeting somehow made their stuff better but it doesn't. They spend all of their cash on a seemingly endless line of vice-presidents who contribute nothing and none of it on creative people.

Anonymous said...

Wow, DW is out in full force...

Anonymous said...

Haters...

Anonymous said...

Haters?

Shit, I work at Disney and I agree with most of this. Havent you noticed the morale around here lately?

Im sick of the pats on the back, followed by laying off everybody!! Its ridiculous!

Dysitopic Enuciator said...

A little more than a month away and you may not have that problem. If Frog does really well I have a feeling Disney will start to ramp up production.

Success has a way of doing that.

Anonymous said...

But what will constitute "really well"?

150 mill? 200 mill? 300 mill?

How high are they going to set the bar before they decide it's no longer a gamble...?

Anonymous said...

"Success has a way of doing that"? Horseshit. Disney execs are ALWAYS claiming that if their next hacked out flop does well that things will turn around and it never happens because most of their stuff (except for Pixar) is so mediocre and the cycle of idiocy continues. They make empty promises to keep people optimistic despite their proven inability to deliver.

Anonymous said...

A little more than a month away and you may not have that problem.

Yeah, Ill tell my former coworkers that.

Johnson said...

Here are some numbers to determine whether Frog Princess will be considered a success.

1) The reports of the budget being aprox. $105 million sound about right, given the entirety of information I've heard. Might be a little more or less, but basically in the right ballpark.

2) The advertising budget is likely to be somewhere around $30 million, roughly.

3) Theater owners will take nearly half of the boxoffice gross for themselves.

THEREFORE...Disney must make at least $260 million total before seeing any profit. Once you factor in international boxoffice, this sounds quite do-able. Bolt ended up making $300 million internationally, and the studio is going to be making a much larger marketing push for Frog than they did for Bolt.

Here's my (very) ballpark prediction for Frog's boxoffice:

US domestic gross: ~$160 million
International gross: ~$180 million
Total: ~$340 million
Theatrical profit: ~$80 million


And this doesn't include DVD, merchandise, tie-ins, etc. I predict it will all be quite profitable for Disney. Are my numbers too optimistic? Maybe, but I think the public wants to see a traditional Disney princess fairy tale.

Anonymous said...

If the Disney animators want to make daring, original films, they're going to have to do it elsewhere, or on their own

Then do it. Don't wait for us.

Anonymous said...

Then do it. Don't wait for us.

Why should they do it, when it's so much easier to whine and complain in a blog comment thread?

Okie said...

"The reports of the budget being aprox. $105 million sound about right, given the entirety of information I've heard."

---

Ok, so I'll ask again: if it cost as much as $105 million, then were there truly any big cost savings that came from the outsourcing to lower-paid, non-union artists in Toronto, Orlando, and Brazil ?

If Disney was able to make "Lilo & Stitch" and "Brother Bear" entirely in-house with a union crew at the Orlando studio for about $80 million (Lilo) and $85 million (Bear) and we adjust for inflation in the years since 2003 (but also adjust the animation staff's overall pay rate DOWN from what most were making during those days) , then where did the big savings come in by outsourcing it ?

(adjusted for inflation $85 million in 2003 dollars is $101.7 million in 2009 dollars)

So they probably could have made the same picture in-house, without the outsourcing. My guess is that the outsourcing on POTF was part of a long-range plan testing the production pipeline to expand the amount of outsourcing they can do for future 2D productions. If Brazil was cheapest then all the breakdowns and inbetweens go to Brazil next time. (or maybe India or who knows ? )

Anonymous said...

As was suggested before the costs of starting up a brand new 2D studio were probably tacked onto this film as well as opening overseas pipelines isn't cheap and if they aren't expensing them across several films couls be a big hit. Not to mention all the plane trips and hotel stays for JL and his guys.
Also any overhead that could be slid over form some of their CG films probably found it into Frog's budget just to keep their budgets from looking enormous (I'd be willing to bet Rapunzel will be the most expensive film ever masde by the time they finish - assuming they don't cheat and actually tell you what it cost. Glen's salary alone for the duration was probably huge).

Anonymous said...

Then do it. Don't wait for us.

I love how people always say this, as if it's easy.

The very reason I (and most of my coworkers throughout the various studios Ive worked at) work at ta large studio is because I dont want to risk personal bankruptcy making my own movie.

Period. THATS the reason. Same reason most artists dont. I literally wont put my wife and kids through that.

But then again, Im not the one complaining. I like my big studio job.

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