Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Foxy Dominatrix

TV By the Numbers lets us know who's the successful broadcast entity ... with the whip and spit-shined thigh boots.


With strong performances across the week, the network’s premiere of THE Simpsons MOVIE and significant gains in its Animation Domination lineup, FOX ranked No. 1 last week among Adults 18-49, Adults 18-34 and Teens. Season to date, FOX is holding steady in second place with a 2.9/8 among Adults 18-49. ...

A big part of the dominance?

FOX’s Sunday Animation Domination favorites posted week over week gains and won the night among Teens. ...

I've never understood why Fox has taken animation and run with it, while all the other networks have ... for the most part ... avoided cartoons. Certainly there have been a few feeble attempts to replicate Fox's gargantuan success, but to date none of the alphabet networks have been able to pull the feat off.

(The only other networks who've made nighttime toonage work are cable outlets.)

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Number One!

Per the Hollywood Reporter:

Universal's Despicable Me was the most-pirated film on torrent websites last week. ...

More great news, Shrek Forever After was #10 ... with a bullet.

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A Ralph Hulett Christmas, part 3

Ralph Hulett Christmas card
Click on the thumbnail for a full-sized image

My parents had recently returned from Paris when Dad designed this one. Paint what you know ...

As I've mentioned before, Mr. Hulett painted the Christmas cards

A) In his home studio,

B) In various hotels and pensions in Europe,

C) During lunch breaks and after-hours at Walt Disney Productions, using studio paints and studio paper and hard board. (Happily, the statute of limitations has run out on these infractions.)

© Estate of Ralph Hulett
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Monday, November 29, 2010

Pick Ups!

It's always nice when series are picked up ...

Cartoon Network has ordered new seasons of Monday night ‘toons "Adventure Time", "Regular Show" and "MAD", the network announced Monday. ...

And it's particularly nice for the artists working on those series.

(Adventure Time began life as a Nickelodeon short created by Fred Siebert's Frederator. Good to see that it's taken off.)

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Tangled posts second-best Thanksgiving opening numbers ever

And do you remember who is in first place?

In 1999, Toy Story 2 grossed $80.1 mil over the five-day weekend.

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Post-Thanksgiving Linkorama

Now with information-rich Add On.

Where there are a few animation stories not related to Tangled.

... 49-year-old entrepreneur [Erel Margalit’s] $830 million Jerusalem Venture Partners is the main investor in movie studio Animation Lab. Margalit says the country, with the world’s largest number of start-ups per capita, needs to build on its traditional high- tech industry to develop virtual offerings -- from films and online games to social media ...

Not everyone is convinced Margalit’s animation movie push will pay off. David Simon, former head of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.’s television studio in Los Angeles, said ... “There are many animation companies in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, China and Korea, who have attempted and fallen short of their goals,” he said. “The computer graphics film business is overcrowded, with too many new players competing with each other, not only for a finite fickle audience, but also with DreamWorks and Pixar.” ...

TAG had a short-term contract for storyboard artists working on an Animation Lab project. It didn't last particularly long, but it was enjoyable while it was going ...

Economic Times, India is bullish on the sub-continent's animation growth:.

Boosted by higher demand, the fast-growing Indian animation and gaming industry is expected to be worth $ 2.5 billion (Rs 11,435 crore) in the next three years, says global consultancy Deloitte.

According to estimates, the Indian animation and gaming market was valued at around $ 750 million (Rs 3,430.5 crore) in 2009. ...

(Be interesting to see if the biz reaches the two billion level over the next thirty-six months.)

TV sitcom Community morphs into animation on December 9th.

Singer-actor Jesse McCartney talks about the Cartoon Network series Young Justice.

I had worked with the director before on some other projects, and he gave me a call. He’s like, “We’ve got this project. You’ve gotta come in and put your voice down to see what you sound like as Dick Grayson. You may be a little too old because it’s the young Justice League and your voice is kind of lower.” So I went in there and put a little bit more of a pre-pubescent voice on the track.

YJ, long in work at WB Animation, has now rolled out with positive results:

Young Justice made its debut on Friday night with an hour-long edition on the Cartoon Network. It was a clever concept that was pretty well executed: above-average animation; intriguingly different takes on a few familiar characters ...

Young Justice Animated Series premiered tonight on Cartoon Network and all I can say is WOW!, this is what I have been waiting for from DC. The episode titled “Independence Day” was a delightful blend of comedy and sarcasm. DC was above par on the animation here and never cut any corners. ...

The New York Times notes that a new silver disk is coming out:

O.K., Hippos, Grab Your Tutus

... After a 10-year home-video moratorium, “Fantasia” returns this week in a magnificent Blu-ray edition, featuring a brilliance of color and clarity of sound that have probably not been recaptured since the film’s premiere at the Broadway Theater in New York City on Nov. 13, 1940. ...

Add On: Okay, so we break down and toss in Tangled-related, like a Glen Keane interview:

G.K.: I showed Ollie a scene of Tangled. I was pointing it out. I said “Ollie, look”, and it was a little scene of her holding a squirrel, that was in the movie at this point. I said “look, freckles!” We’ve never had freckles on a character before! “Look at the satin on her dress, we’ve never been able to do that, the light reflecting on it”.

Ollie said, “Well, Glen. What I was wondering is, what is she thinking about?”

Add On Too: Then there is the new Superman animated feature soon to fly near you:

All-Star Superman' Animated Feature Coming to You on ... Feb. 22, 2011.

All-Star Superman is the adaptation of the Grant Morrison-written, Frank Quitely-drawn miniseries by the same name that is widely considered one of the best Superman stories ever. ..

Okay. Go start your week with a nice, caffeinated jolt.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leslie Nielsen, RIP

A comedy icon passes.

Leslie Nielsen, who dazzled with deadpan in The Naked Gun and Airplane!, passed away on Sunday at a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he was being treated for pneumonia, according to the New York Times ...

If you're a television viewer of certain age, you first became aware of Leslie Nielsen in the 1950s, when he was a handsome dramatic actor doing feature films like Forbidden Planet and Disney mini-series like The Swamp Fox.

It was only after his hair turned white that he carved a career U-turn and took up comedy. (Mr. Magoo, anyone?) As Mr. Nielsen explained to the New York Times:

“It’s been dawning on me slowly that for the past 35 years I have been cast against type ... and I’m finally getting to do what I really wanted to do.”

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Animation Beyond Our Shores

Let's step away from U.S. box office for a moment, and peer at the rest of the world. The Hollywood Reporter informs us that:

"Tangled" ... opened No. 2 in the U.S. and Cnada, and scampered to $13.8 million from 2,025 screens in seven markets in its first multi-market break overseas ... [The feature] finished No. 1 in six of the territories played ...

"Despicable Me" generated $3 million from some 3,200 venues in 44 markets. Overseas gross total stands at $284.4 million. ... Other international cumes: DreamWorks Animation/Paramount's Megamind, $32.6 million ...

The continuing theme: High-end, high profile animation does exceedingly well at world box offices, no matter who makes it. And there seems to be no ceiling. As Despicable Me's Chris Meledandri says:

... The marketplace just keeps expanding for these movies. Going back to your question about competition, there's room in the marketplace for all these movies because as long as these movies are really good and satisfying to the audience, it expands. The perception that one company's success was going to mean that another company was suffering -- that been disspelled.

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A Ralph Hulett Christmas, part 2

Ralph Hulett Christmas card
Click on the thumbnail for a full-sized image

This is the cover of Ralph Hulett's 1958 Christmas card catalog. Stationery stores would have these large albums available for those who came in to order their cards pre-printed with their names and greetings ... cards like this.

© Estate of Ralph Hulett
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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Final Words of Advice

Not mine, but former Wall Street exec Gordon Murray's.

Mr. Murray made a pile at Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse First Boston and elsewhere, then retired, and then discovered he had terminal cancer.

So he did what anybody would under the circumstances: He wrote a thin book summarizing what he had learned during his thirty-plus years in the investment biz, asking the questions:

Is your financial advisor a fiduciary who really works for you?

What is your percentage mix of stocks, bonds, and cash?

Do you know how your investments are doing and how much risk you are taking?

How much are you really paying in fees and investment-related taxes? ...

It took me twenty years to figure out the hotshot stockbroker to whom I was paying 2% of my assets was losing me money. (If I had dumped everything into an index fund I would have done better; I'm a slow learner.)

But I'm not alone. It took Gordon Murray a quarter-century to understand it's a fool's errand to try to outpace broad market indexes. He had to leave Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers for the light to go on.

... Mr. Murray knew little up until that point about basic asset allocation among stocks and bonds and other investments or the failings of active portfolio management .... “It’s American to think that if you’re smart or work hard, then you can beat the markets” ...

The high-rollers at Goldman Sachs had a generous Uncle to save their bloated corporate backsides when they loused up; you and I (sadly) don't have the same luxury. That's why Mr. Murray's little book is useful, and why I traipse around to studios urging artists to tuck money into TAG's 401(k) Plan. It's important to have a savings strategy up and running, because it gives you a financial cushion ... and more options when you hit the proverbial bump on the smooth highway you call your career.

The truth is, investing well and wisely is relatively simple. Just tie a broad-based bond allocation to your age (30% bonds=30 years old) and the rest to equities, both foreign and domestic. The only hard parts are

A) Initiating the program (sooner instead of later) and

B) Sticking with the program.

(If you're a participant in TAG's 401(k) Plan, you can make the investment thingie ridiculously simple for yourself with one-stop shopping via Vanguard Target Date Funds. You can put in $16,500 in 2011; $22,000 if you are fifty or over.)

I'll be doing a raft of 401(k) meetings over the next few weeks. The times and places:

Warner Bros. Animation -- Tues., Nov. 30th -- Building 34R, Main Conference Room -- 10 a.m.

Cartoon Network -- Wed., Dec 1st -- Main Conference Room, 1st floor -- 12 noon.

Nickelodeon -- Thurs., Dec. 2nd -- Main Conference Room -- 10 a.m.

DreamWorks Animation -- Tues., Dec. 7th -- Dining Rooms B & C -- 2 p.m.

Film Roman -- Thurs., Dec. 9th -- "Glass" Conference Room -- 10. a.m.

Walt Disney Animation Studios, Southside Building -- Tues. Dec. 14th -- Room 1300 -- 2 p.m.

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"Harry No Match For Hair" ... ???

Now with a multitude of Add Ons ... and relocated to the weekend.

About an hour ago, Nikki Finke admitted she had had her headline written for the holiday b.o.: "Hair No Match For Harry".

But maybe not ...

At 2:45 pm Nikki quoted "rival studios" saying that Tangled could be opening "much bigger that expected". The CW has been in the range of $35 to $40 mil for the five-day weekend. At 5 pm she quoted a Disney exec predicting numbers in the high $60s. Word may have gotten out that Harry Potter 7.1 is too intense for little ones (I personally observed a parent leading a sobbing five- or six-year-old out of the Cinerama Dome last Sunday, after the scene where Hermione is tortured).

We shall see ...

Add On: I went to see Tangled (flat screen edition) today. Happy to report there were no sobbing kids being led from the theater. Feature went over well. It was great seeing the whole thing after watching bits and pieces for the past sixteen months.

Good movie. And assuming projections hold up, the Mouse will have its first bonafide animated hit after several lower-grossing efforts. Congratulations to the crew, top to bottom. They did themselves proud.

-- Hulett

Add On Too: Time Magazine makes some salient points:

... [T]his Disney near-classic wades into the DreamWorks style of sitcom gags and anachronistic sass. ("Sorry, Blondie," Flynn tells Rapunzel at one point, "I don't do backstory.") But the visual palette is more sophisticated, especially in the scenes where sparkling nocturnal lanterns illuminate Rapunzel's birthday; and the film gradually achieves the complex mix of romance, comedy, adventure and heart ...

Add On #3: The Nikkster says in an update: Disney sources now tell me that Tangled opened with $10M-$11M today ...

Add On #4: Ms. Finke has the projections for the holiday weekend:

1. Harry Potter/Deathly Hallows, Pt 1 (Warner Bros) Week 2 [4,125 Runs] -- Friday $14.4M, Estimated 5-Day Holiday $90M, Estimated Cume $230M

2. Tangled 3D (Disney) NEW [3,603 Runs] -- Friday $11.7M, Estimated 5-Day Holiday $69M

3. Burlesque (Screen Gems/Sony) NEW [3,037 Runs] -- Friday $2.8M, Estimated 5-Day Holiday $17.8M

4. Megamind 3D (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) Week 4 [3,401 Runs] -- Friday $2.6M, Estimated 5-Day Holiday $22M, Estimated Cume $135M

5. Love And Other Drugs (Fox) NEW [2,455 Runs] -- Friday $2.1M, Estimated 5-Day Holiday $15.1M

We have two animated features in the Top Four. And of course Harry and the other wizards rely on a lot of animated visual effects for their pizzazz.

Add On #5: Animation does well on Turkey Day:

... "Tangled"... took in something north of $8 million on its second day of release.

And "Megamind" ... took the fifth slot for the day, collecting about $2 million as it ended its third week in theaters with more than $115 million in its account.

Add On #6: The Nikkster tells us, "... [T]hough I and many others took early swipes at new marketing czarina MT Carney, she ensured this toon wasn't dismissed as just another Disney fairy tale princess story, taking pains to attract boys by emphasizing the toon's male hero and making some surprising TV ads aimed at parents. (I especially liked the clever hair growth spot during a recent Saturday Night Live.) This was the largest U.S. word-of-mouth screening program for a Disney animated film ever ..."

2. Tangled 3D (Disney) NEW [3,603 Runs] Wednesday $11.8M, Thursday $8.1M, Friday $19.7M -- Estimated 3-Day Weekend $50M, 5-Day Holiday $70M

3. Megamind 3D (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) Week 4 [3,401 Runs] Wednesday $2.6M, Thursday $2M, Friday $5.3M -- Estimated 3-Day Weekend $15M, 5-Day Holiday $19.7M, Cume $132.6M

So as we come around the far turn of the holiday weekend, the animated entries are running "place" and "show" against the wizard. Disney Feature Animation (aka Walt Disney Animation Studios) is back in the game, this time assisted instead of hindered by Disney marketing, and Megamind will pick up almost $20 million for the holidays. Splendid work all around.

Add On #7: Richard Corliss of TIME Magazine weighs in on the long weekend:

... [A]s an overachiever, Tangled takes the prize. An arduous six years in production, with numerous directors and reimagineerings - and a final budget in the $260 million range, which may make it the costliest animated feature ever ... Industry touts forecast another Disney disappointment ... Instead, the picture amassed a fairy-tale $69 million, for the second biggest Thanksgiving week opening, after the $80.1 million for Toy Story 2 in 1999. ...

(There's really no way for civilians to know how much Tangled cost, and Disney accountants aren't saying.)

Add On the Last: Our final Add wraps things up:

... Tangled unfurled with an estimated $49.1 million on approximately 5,400 screens at 3,603 locations, lifting its sum to $69 million in five days and ranking as the second highest-grossing Thanksgiving opening ever (behind Toy Story 2).

So now maybe the Mouse will now pick up the production pace and hire more animation employees back. Here's hoping.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

The Visual Effects Specialist

Scratch the surface, you'll find your journey animator.

A working life: The special effects animator

Animator Kevin Spruce brings magic to movies, creating new worlds and mystical characters for films such as The Matrix

... Spruce found employment as an "inbetweener" at Amblimation, the short-lived London animation division of Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment ... During his five years there, he became a fully fledged 2D animator. ...

The difference between animators in visual effects and animators in animated features is ... not very much.

Lots of times they're the same people.

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Cash Flow

... and here comes the next billion.

To Infinity And Beyond ... Toy Story 3 Breaks Sales Record

... Day one sales of the Disney/Pixar ToyStory 3 blockbuster at retail have smashed records for UK Blu-ray, DVD and download sales. ...

Jeffrey Katzenberg. formerly of the House of Mouse, has pointed out that DVD sales for animated features hold up much better than the (plummeting) sales of live-action features, because the demographic that watches animation -- largely the elementary school set -- tends to watch it over and over and over.

So Mom and Dad purchase the little silver disk.

Mr. Katzenber is right. And his former employer is now raking in its second tall pile of cash courtesy of Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang.

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A Ralph Hulett Christmas, 2010 edition

Ralph Hulett intro
Click on the thumbnails for full-sized images

Starting on Sunday until New Year's Day, we continue our annual tradition of posting Christmas cards designed by Disney background artist Ralph Hulett for card publisher California Artists. A new design will be going up every other day -- twenty in all. (To refresh your memory, here are the postings from past years.)

This year we took special attention to make sure these are all-new images that have never been posted on the TAG Blog. If some of them look familiar, it's because padre would take every opportunity to use variations on his most popular themes. (This is sometimes known as "maximizing Christmas card royalties.")

Also starting in a week, our annual December show of Ralph Hulett card designs can be seen in Gallery 839 at our headquarters, open Monday-Friday 8:30 am-5 pm.

About Ralph Hulett
All artwork © Estate of Ralph Hulett
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Two Animation Veterans From Japan

A couple of Japanese cartoon icons, one a well-loved franchise and one a man, and both with new releases:

"Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess," the latest creation of animation king Hayao Miyazaki, is a 12-minute story about two characters running away from a witch named Baba Yaga ...

The motion picture is a live-action feature based on a sturdy cartoon series and several long-form animated sequels.

The "Space Battleship Yamato" franchise ... began life in 1974 as a TV cartoon space opera then generated a hit animated film ... [The movie] is one of the biggest domestic releases this year ... One reason was the ¥2 billion budget, a huge amount for a Japanese film, much of which has been lavished on effects. ...

We've discussed "Battleship Yamato" around here previously, but since it arrives on the big screen December 1st, we thought we would mention it again.

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Ups and Downs

The Wrap points out the highs and lows of DWA's stock price:

"We continue to prefer stocks with exposure to TV and advertising-driven assets with higher growth and less earnings volatility than DWA," read a Morgan Stanley report, labeling DreamWorks Animation stock "underweight" compared to its trading price.

The latest downturn came with the studio's latest 3D-animated film, "Megamind," stalling out at the box office short of Street projections, and "How to Train Your Dragon" DVD sales lagging behind forecasts. ...

See, the problem is that DreamWorks Animation has released three (count 'em) disappointing features this year.

First, How to Train Your Dragon rolled out to thunderously favorable reviews, but then made a paltry $493.2 million in the global marketplace (not counting DVDS.)

Then came the very disappointing Shrek Forever After. The media went on and on about how its domestic box office "stalled out." And you'll recall that the feature earned a tepid $737.4 million around the world.

And now comes Megamind, with its very weak half-month at the top of the box office heap. So far its world wide box office total is only $144.4 million, but you never know. It hasn't been released in many foreign markets and it still has months left to under-perform.

You see the problem here, don't you? Animated features are expected to make a half billion dollars, or a billion in Shrek's case, each and every time one gets released. If the movies don't burn up the box office, there is disappointment -- and sagging stock prices -- and the world starts to cave in.

Live-action features have it easy. Expectations are lower.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Predictions Begin

Prognostications regarding Thanksgiving box office? The consensus is Tangled will end its opening five days in the #2 position:

"Tangled" ... is expected to earn $47 million. Exhibitor Relations expects $30 million of [the movie’s] take will come from Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That would put the film slightly ahead of last year’s "The Princess and the Frog", which earned $24 million its opening weekend

And Movie Web's Box Office Predictions has it in the same ballpark.

The movie is predicted to earn about $28.6 million in its opening week.

Question is, would that be $28.6 million for Wedneday through Sunday? Or Friday through Sunday?

By the end of the second weekend, Disney number crunchers will have a reasonably accurate idea how the Mouse's 50th animated feature is going to perform domestically. Will it gross three times its opening weekend? (Slight underperformer.) Four times its opening? (Solid.) Or will it rake in five times its initial roll-out? (Exemplary.)

Eighteen days hence, we should know.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fox Animated Shows ... Moving

Some staffers over at Fox Animation have lately been a wee bit on edge. While Family Guy received a complete new-season order, American Dad has had to make do with a script go-ahead, but no official greenlight for Season #8. (This was as of last week.) ...

I was told this turn of events was due to a new top-kick at the Fox Network not wanting to commit too soon. I still don't know if American Dad has received a full go-ahead, but there's been this bit of news about the network's schedule:

... The animated series “Bob’s Burgers,” about a man, his family and their burger joint, debuts 8:30 p.m. Jan. 9 ... “The Cleveland Show” moves to 9:30 p.m. Jan. 9; “American Dad” moves to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16 ...

If the fates are kind, Dad will get a full pickup on or before the 16th.

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IMD's Final Feature

In a few more weeks Image Movers Digital shuts down. Here's the last work of one of Disney's shortest-lived studios ...

When Dick Cook was shown the door at the House of Mouse, I wondered how long it would take before Robert Zemeckis's digital studio in northern California would get down-sized or closed. Since it was set up on Dick C.'s watch, I didn't figure its odds of survival were high, since the handiwork of ousted execs is often expunged with them.

In Image Movers Digital's case, the answer came quickly: "Not long."

In fact, IMD's life-span turned out to be shorter than the rodent cousins of the Disney corporate symbol. The studio was opened, "Christmas Carol" underperformed, and Mr. Cook's successor was prompt about seeing that I.M. Digital got shuttered as quickly as possible. (After the usual facility visit saying everything was peachy, of course.) Feature Number Two was well underway, so the decision was made to complete it in-house, closing each department as that unit's work came to an end.

So the second and last of IMD's produced features comes out next year, and we catch our first major glimpse of the movie in the trailer above.

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"It gets better"

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Sometimes, the good guys win

This afternoon, the IATSE and Reveille Productions announced an agreement to unionize the reality show The Biggest Loser. This agreement will bring the largest remaining non-IA reality show under the seamless cloak of IATSE contractual benefits and protections.

Production on the hit NBC show shut down temporarily Monday, Nov. 8, after members of the production crew voted to support the IA. Intensive talks took place during the week and over the weekend and the new agreement was ratified by the crew in a meeting this morning. As previously reported, AFTRA and DGA already have agreements with the production.

Crew and members of other IA locals have been picketing at the Calabasas location of the show since Tuesday, although production continued during the picketing.

Mike Miller, Vice President of the IA and Director of its Motion Picture and Television Division said, “This agreement is a positive step forward for the crew of The Biggest Loser, especially in the area of health benefits. We are pleased to see them go back to work.” Lee Rierson, Managing Director and Head of Business and Operations for Reveille said, “We have reached a fair agreement with the IA while managing to avoid significant disruption to the production, and are happy to see our entire crew working together again.”

This was a relatively short but intense walkout, brought about by workers who had the courage to vote with their feet in opposition to working conditions at one of the most profitable reality series that had obstinately refused to provide benefits to its below-the-line crew. Congratulations to everyone -- on both sides of the table -- who made it possible.

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*Add-On: More photos at the end of the post courtesy of President-Elect Bob Foster

The Creative Talent Network held its Animation Expo over the weekend at the Burbank Marriott Convention Center. TAG purchased a table in the main exhibit hall which I manned along with Jeff Massie, Bob Foster and Steve Hulett. I had the pleasure of meeting many current and soon-to-be professionals in the animation and visual effects fields.

You couldn't tell this conference is only in its second year by the amount of people who attended. To say this was well received would be a gross understatement as I was witness to many a long line and crowded hallway of eager conference attendees.

CTN packed the weekend with such popular panels as "The Talented Minds behind Megamind" and "Untangling the Look of Tangled" as well as a string of well known industry professionals who spoke to packed rooms.

The featured speaker/attendee this year was Jean “Moebius” Giraud who made himself available through discussions, exhibitions of his skill and an evening dedicated to his life and work. (Pictured below as he was displaying his skill to an attentive audience in "Opportunity Alley")

Our time was spent in the main exhibit all which was filled with attendees circling among the studios, vendors, associations and schools that also attended to reach out to the community. I personally spoke with so many people, I found myself hoarse by the end of each day.

Many thanks to Tina Price for putting together such an amazing and well received event. Also, our thanks goes to Jerry Beck of Cartoon Brew for allowing our banner to stretch behind his table. We look forward to returning next year.

Thanks to President-Elect Bob Foster for bringing his camera and snapping these pictures of attendees he saw.:

Steve Kaplan

Sherm Cohen

Kent Melton

Bob McKnight and Tim Walker

Ovi Nedelcu

Jean 'Moebius' Giraud

Bob and Rusty Mills

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Last Bastion

The American motion picture industry is an anomaly. Movies from the U.S. are one of the country's biggest exports, and dominate around the world. But unlike other U.S. exports, they are heavily unionized.

One of the last citadels with minimal unionization in Movieland is digital visual effects. The reason most of the sector is without union representation is simple: When union strength was at its peak and the movie industry aggressively organized, digital effects didn't exist. ...

In the digital age, visual effects have become a lower cost add-on to high-budget (and unionized) motion pictures. Many movies studios -- from Disney to Warner Bros. to Sony -- tried launching their own in-house effects divisions, but all that Sony have shuttered their units. Why? Because studio overheads drove up their expenses way beyond the non-studio competition.

Low cost and lower cost is what's on the visual effects industry's mind these days, so it isn't surprising to see this:

Digital Domain, a leading visual effects house partly owned by director Michael Bay, is bulking up -- but not in California.

The parent company of the Venice-based studio said Thursday that it was acquiring Westlake Village-based In-Three Inc., and that it planned to move most of the 3-D conversion company's 70 employees to Florida.

... "I'd rather keep the jobs in California,” but Florida is “more economical than California, I'm sorry to say,'' said Cliff Plumer, Digital Domain's chief executive.

The current theme is "Deep discounts, now and forever." But TAG member Dave Rand (and long-time visual effects artist) disagrees with the concept:

Funny how in every non or partially unionized industry, each time unions are mentioned, the same tired arguments begin to fly about and yet lasting companies that evolved with unions have the greatest respect for their employees and those employees have a better life as a result, become more creative/productive and giving more to the employer.

In our case, If the artists can no longer take the fall, maybe studios will adopt smarter business plans, instead of the laughable bidding process now in place and the wasted time I've witnessed over the years by keeping the decision-maker (client, director, studio exec) at bay rather than having them participate in the day to day evolution of the post production. Directors need to direct the fx portion of the film as if it were the live portion instead of sitting around waiting for the black box to call them with some new stuff to be spoon fed to them by endless creative hierarchies and reems of clipboard people.

By making fx work a cost-plus model rather than bidding, I've found the the average fx shot takes 1/10 the time and money. It creates an environment where the client would be happy to be on site and get the whole thing to the point quickly and economically as it's now their dime, much like on the production side. Decision makers would not direct a film from their iPhone so why do they go remote and only get scheduled peaks at the progress in post?

Fx artists make their living in North America, New Zealand, London, and Australia because of entertainment unions that sprung [up] in Los Angeles; its their presence and growth that has elevated all fx artists' positions, union or not. Because of this, right now the only incentive in California is to seek cheap fx work elsewhere in less organized talent pools. If this tide were to begin to shift, a more even landscape should develop.

If and when viz effects become organized, business models will go through changes. Over the years, I've listened to studio executives piss and moan about the cost of unionized labor, only to come back later and say what a fine idea having a union contract was ... after they signed one.

So what made the difference? Studio chieftans discovered that

A) They couldn't get the work done without union artists.

B) Having somebody around who knew what they were doing was pretty cost efficient after all, even if they had to pay higher wages. (It doesn't do a lot of good to your bottom line if you ship the work to the low-cost provider, only to find out that the work stinks and you have to do it over.)

Further, if unions control most or all of the work force, then companies pay the union freight because they have few options; directors work under a pricey DGA contract, actors emote under the umbrella of SAG, writers create under the protective wing of the WGA, residuals and all. As I've heard over and over through the years: "It's the cost of doing business."

Case in point: I once sat in Gabor Csupo's office listening to him rail against the Animation Guild, and in the next breath extol the wonderfulness of the Screen Actors Guild. Why did Mr. Csupo hate one union, but love the other? Because with SAG, he had no option other than to sign their contract. He couldn't get the work done without them because they had leverage, so of course he claimed to love them. He was affiliated with them, like it or not, therefore making nice made perfect sense.

With luck, also hard work, one day TAG and the IATSE will get the same generous reaction from Digital Domain, Rhythm and Hues, Sony Imagworks and most of the other visual effects houses in the U.S. of A. ...

Click here to read entire post

Overseas Derby

It seems as though a movie featuring some sort of school-boy wizard is doing very well.

'Deathly Hallows' Nabs $205 Mil Over Five Days to Claim No. 1 Spot Overseas ...

On the animated front, the usual suspects keep rolling along.

... Universal's 3D family animation title Despicable Me drew hoisted its foreign boxoffice total over a 20-week run to $278.3 million thanks to an estimated $4.7 million weekend ... Megamind, which has realized nearly $110 million in the U.S. and Canada, is in its early stages of foreign playoff, grossing $1.3 million on the weekend at 694 spots. Foreign cume is $30.2 million ...

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Never Let That Film Genre In Here Again

The Los Angeles Times informs us:

Disney Animation is closing the book on fairy tales

'Tangled' will be the last such movie it makes for the foreseeable future. The studio is aiming for wider appeal. ...

Funny thing. Back in 1985, the new managers of Disney decreed that stodgy, period fairy tale-type cartoons were over. Henceforth, they said, the only projects greenlit at the House of Mouse would be modern, urban tales. To that end, the new guys in town (Katzenberg and Eisner) gave the go-ahead for a contemporary version of Oliver featuring dogs.

Shortly thereafter, Disney changed course, bringing out a period fairy tale entitled "The Little Mermaid." The film made a whole lot of money, and over the next few years Disney created a bunch more fairy tales featuring princesses. Most of the princesses sang.

So now the House of Mouse is bringing out another princess movie, saying it's the last. But know what? If Tangled pulls down $500 million box office dollars, I'm betting the company will rethink its "No princess fairy tales" position.

Because nothing changes corporate hearts and minds faster than half a billion (or more) bucks.

Click here to read entire post

Mr. Potter's Weekend

Now with butter-rum Add On.

Pretty obvious which movie owns the latest three-day period.

1. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (Warner Bros) NEW [4,125 Theaters] -- Friday $65M, Estimated Weekend $140M

2. Megamind (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) Week 3 [3,779 Theaters] -- Friday $4.5M (-42%), Estimated Weekend $16.5M, Estimated Cume $110M

3. Unstoppable (Fox) Week 2 [3,209 Theaters] -- Friday $4.2M (-47%), Estimated Weekend $13M, Estimated Cume $42M

4. Due Date (Warner Bros) Week 3 [3,229 Theaters] -- Friday $2.9M, Estimated Weekend $8.5M, Estimated Cume $72M

5. Next Three Days (Lionsgate) NEW [2,564 Theaters] -- Friday $2.5M, Estimated Weekend $7.5M

Next Wednesday Tangled rolls out, taking over some of Megamind's 3-D screens, at which point we'll see how two animated films aimed at families and the second-to-last installment of one of the biggest franchises in movie history battle it out.

What with the oncoming holiday weekend, all three should put up respectable numbers.

Add On: Harry Potter collects $125.1 million, and Megamind drops a notch.

Megamind took the weekend's silver medal, raking in another $16.2 million to push its cume to $109.5 million through three weekends in release.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Rainy Weekend Link Festival

The Burbank Animation Expo (across from the Bob Hope Airport) began today.

... [On November 20] Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Moebius, the 78-year-old artist whose work has rippled throughout pop culture and influenced several generations of filmmakers and comic-book artists ... is a featured speaker at the CTN Animation Expo ... at the Burbank Convention Center.

Be there or ... miss out.

Comedy Central will shortly be doing more cartoons using the Cartoon Network model:

Comedy Central has picked up an animated pilot from TV and film production company ShadowMachine (Robot Chicken, Moral Orel). The untitled project will serve as a showcase for original animated comedy shorts, with each micro series coming from a different creator/writer

I'm so old I remember when Fred Seibert at Hanna-Barbera was doing the same thing ...

So is it all going to ... Southeast Asia?

Animation Industry Finds a Home in Singapore

...Many of the changes in the Singaporean animation landscape can be attributed to the arrival of Lucasfilm, which opened the doors of its digital studio in Singapore in 2005. The presence of the big Hollywood name acted like a magnet, attracting more companies and creating employment opportunities. ...

(One thing for certain sure: Singapore isn't a low-rent/ low-cost area in which to do animation.)

In case you missed this small item while I was out campaigning, we offer it now:

...My buddy Hunter over at Blue Sky Disney seems to think [Disney directors John Musker and Ron Clements] ... will dive right into the crazy imagination of Terry Prachett from his 4th Discworld book, "Mort"...

J. Katzenberg took some time on a Miami cruise to tout the DWA brand:

Six of the top-grossing movies this year have been 3-D films, Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told CNBC Friday. ... Katzenberg acknowledged that 3-D movies don’t always thrill audiences. “This was the beginning of a very new way to experience movies in movie theaters,” he said. ...

(I'm not sure how thrilled Jeffrey was being called "Jeff" by the anchors.)

The Daily Telegraph names its favorite "adult animations."

Renaissance (2006)

Influenced by American film noir such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and M Le Maudit, Christian Volckman’s debut feature is a shadowy Blade Runner style detective story, set in Paris 2053. The high contrast black and white makes for a stunningly original dystopian cityscape, while still managing to capture some depth in the characters movements and emotions. ...

Not long ago, I was told by a Cartoon Network management person that one of their live action shows wasn't going too well. Guess it wasn't.

Cartoon Network’s first hourlong live-action series Unnatural History is history. The cable network has opted not to pick up a second season ...

So maybe Cartoon Network will produce ... more cartoons?

We'll end with the trailer for Pixar's next big summer movie.

Click here to read entire post

Upbeat Appraisal

The New York Times has nice things to say about Tangled:

... By some measures this is classic Disney storytelling. There is a princess at the center, the mother figure is the villain, and the setting is magical. It’s loaded with physical humor. ... “I think we’re there,” Mr. Lasseter said of a creative turnaround at Disney. “This film is as good as a Pixar film, but it’s classic Disney, and I love that: heart, humor, beauty, music, wonderment, the love story.” ...

I think the film will do just fine at the global box office. I've been staring at alluring bits and pieces of it on Disney computer monitors for a long time now. Come next week, I'll watch the whole thing at an AMC near me.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Oncoming Animation Mashup

Megamind has held down the Number One box office position for the past two weeks, but that will be coming to an end:

With only a few hours to go before its 12:01 AM Friday premiere, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 is past $30 million in advance sales and may be looking at $60 million for Friday's opening day and a 3-day debut weekend total of $130+ million. ...

And Warners execs will be dancing until dawn out on Pass Avenue ...

So where does that leave the two animated entries, Megamind and the oncoming Tangled? Probably as second-place bridesmaids, since Mr. Potter will be sucking most of the oxygen out of the domestic box office for the next few weeks.

Mega has done well during its roll out, but other recent features have done somewhat better. (Despicable Me -- another "lovable villain" movie -- collected $56.4 million during its first weekend of release, while Megamind rolled up $46 million. Both held well in their second weeks, and DWA's third feature of the year will undoubtedly play straight through the holidays.)

In the meantime Tangled, out in eight days, has its own set of challenges, the biggest being its close proximity to J.K. Rowlings' creation in the nation's multiplexes. But the marketing execs on Buena Vista Street in Burbank certainly know more than us mere mortals.

Happily, early reviews for the new Disney fairy tale are sterling:

Tangled proves that sincerity in animated films did not die with the advent of Shrek. ...

An appropriately commingled sense of classic sentimentality and contemporary, gender-equal romance and adventure meet in Tangled, which underscores the still existent pleasures of traditional storytelling. ...

So everything is good, yes? And maybe this mashup will end with both new animated entrants smelling like roses.

Click here to read entire post

Adios Asylum

Around and about the wide blogorama (and visual effects community), this has gotten some reaction.

After 11 years it appears that Asylum Visual Effects in Santa Monica is closing. ... Phones across Los Angeles were buzzing today with reports of a company meeting where everyone was let go, and in this socially connected world Twitter and Facebook exploded with the gossip including mentions of filing Chapter 11 ...

The above is a shocker only if you know nothing about today's visual effects business and the old visual effects business -- the cartoon industry.

When TAG was founded in 1952, there were a myriad of large and small cartoon studios in Los Angeles. There was Disney, there was Warners, there was MGM and UPA and a wide range of small commercial houses cranking out animation. Seven years later, the television animation business exploded and we got Hanna-Barbera, Snowball, Filmation, DePatie-Freleng and lots of others.

And fifty years later? Every one of those studios -- with the exception of Walt's place -- is gone, off to the great animation research library in the sky.

With visual effects houses, the turnover is brisker than it once was for cartoon studios. As an effects supe on "Dinosaur" told me a decade and a half ago:

"Effects studios are like mushrooms. They sprout up, bid for jobs, get big, and all of a sudden disappear. And the people who work at them go out and start their own places, and the cycle repeats. Then those studios disappear. ..."

Effects studios are not high-margin businesses. Competition is fierce, and the attrition rate is high. And one of the dirty little secrets attached to that attrition is: if you're a happy employee of Big Fish Visual Effects, Inc. who enjoys a 401(k) and health plan, when Big Fish rolls belly up, your 401(k) is safe (by Federal law) but your health coverage ends ... and there is no COBRA option to see you through those cold, jobless nights, even if the health insurance is Aetna, Blue Cross, or some other large health insurer.

Because COBRA only works if the company that is paying for it is ongoing. If the company liquidates, there is no COBRA. You are on your own.

(This sad fact smacked employees of a non-union feature animation studio in their collective faces back in the go-go 1990s. TAG made a vigorous attempt to organize the facility, came up short in the employee support department, and walked away. Eight months later, the company collapsed -- owing staffers a month's worth of salary and vacation.

Sadly, there was no money or assets to pay any employees what they were owed. There was also no money or government protection with health coverage either; the staff was left high and dry.

For a month afterward I fielded angry phone calls from unemployed artists, lamenting the fact that they hadn't signed rep cards and organized the place. As one of them said to me: "The bastards sill would have gone under, but at least we would have had Motion Picture Industry Health Insurance ...")

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Interview with Ruben A. Aquino

We here present our first TAG interview with a leading light of the animation industry, kicking off this new feature via a conversation with one of the pillars of the Walt Disney Animation Studios, supervising director Ruben Aquino ...

Click here to play | Right-Click and Save here

Find all TAG Interviews on the TAG website at this link

We'll be running interviews throughout the coming year. They won't be appearing with any kind of metronomic clockwork, but as we get around to

A) Conducting them,

B) Editing them, and

C) Putting them up.

Hope you like the results.

Copyright © 2010, Animation Guild Local 839 IATSE. All rights reserved.
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Best Picture!

Disney's Richard Ross is forceful.

"We’re going for the Best Picture win [for Toy Story 3]. We wanted to have the best movie and the reviews have clearly said that and it’s the number one box office hit of the year so I’m not sure why we would not go for it all... for some reason an animated film has never gotten Best Picture and I always wondered was there not an appetite?" ...

This is a simple one, Richard, so let me clue you in.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is made up of a whole bunch of people, most of whom work in live-action motion pictures. And no matter how good an animated feature might be, no matter how graceful the story-telling or how vivid the images, it's still a car-toon. And a majority of Academy members will never, ever vote in high enough numbers to make a cartoon feature the Best Picture of the Year. It goes against everything they know and love about the movie industry, everything embedded in their DNA.

In other words, an animated feature winning B.P. won't happen in ten gazillion years. Didn't happen in 1937. Didn't happen in 1991 or 2009. Won't happen in 2010.

Okay, Richard. I got that off my chest. Now you can go back into your "hard-headed realist" mode.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

India Outsources To ... Canada?

Probably outsourcing is the wrong word. But there's this:

Toonz Animation India has launched a Canadian production arm in partnership with Montreal-based Mediabiz International.

The Toonz Entertainment Global joint venture will focus on producing animation and live action properties out of a Montreal studio ...

The question I used to get: Isn't it all going to India?" target="_blank" appears to be answering itself.

... [S]ome of the problems with the VFX in India: The cost was rising faster than the quality. ...

Click here to read entire post

It's official: the vote tally

Now that we have the official Certification Of Results from the American Arbitration Association, Steve H. has asked me to post the official vote count, which you will find below the fold.


2010: 21.2% (487 ballots received from 2,289 eligible voters)
2007: 16.3%


 1. Steven Hulett*...........295 votes
 2. Karen Nugent2............178 votes1
    No response...............14

 1. Karen Carnegie Johnson*..308 votes
 2. Nicole Dubuc*............305 votes
 3. Bronwen Barry*...........304 votes
 3. Cathy Jones*.............304 votes
 5. Gordon Kent..............285 votes
 6. Janette Hulett*..........276 votes
 7. John Cataldi*............259 votes
 7. Michael Roth.............259 votes
 9. Nathan Loofbourrow3......251 votes
10. Christopher Simmons......249 votes
11. Jack Thomas..............234 votes
12. Eugene Son...............228 votes1
13. Kevin Moore..............225 votes1

* incumbent
1 not elected
2 incumbent Executive Board member
3 Executive Board member, 2004-2007

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Dreamworks Animation Day

Today my afternoon was spent at the Glendale campus, where I found out something I didn't know about Megamind from one of the people who worked on it:

"Most of the movie was done up at PDI, but about 25% of the feature was done in Glendale. And about 30% of the effects animation was done at the DreamWorks campus. There were four effects animators in Glendale to start out, but there was a lot of effects ...

Crews are working full-tilt on a bunch of other projects. I saw work being done on The Croods, on Puss in Boots, and Kung Fu Panda II. There's work being done on DVD extras (new shorts, things like that.) And I fell into discussion with a couple of animators how DWA is the first animation studio in history to have three feature-length hits in a single year. (You could go back to 1940-1942, when Disney released Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi and the compilation feature The Reluctant Dragon in a space of 26 months, but that would be the closest parallel. And only Dumbo was a major hit, due to its relatively low cost. The war in Europe really slammed Disney's markets, more's the pity.)

Meantime, the alien with the blue dome had a strong Friday, Saturday, Sunday:

"Megamind" remained the No. 1 movie with $29.1 million in its second weekend ...

So Mega hangs tough with a 36% decline, and is probably set to glide profitably through the holiday season. If it does 4 times its opening weekend, we're looking at a $165-$200 million accumulation by the end of its domestic run.

Click here to read entire post

The Big Fifteen

So there are fifteen animated films in the running for the little gold man ...

Beverly Hills, CA — Fifteen features have been accepted for consideration in the Animated Feature Film category for the 83rd Academy Awards®.

The 15 features are:

“Alpha and Omega”

“Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore”

“Despicable Me”

“The Dreams of Jinsha”

“How to Train Your Dragon”

“Idiots and Angels”

“The Illusionist”

“Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole”


“My Dog Tulip”

“Shrek Forever After”

“Summer Wars”


“Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue”

“Toy Story 3”

“The Dreams of Jinsha,” “The Illusionist,” “Summer Wars” and “Tangled” have not yet had their required Los Angeles qualifying run. Submitted features must fulfill the theatrical release requirements and meet the category’s other qualifying rules before they can advance in the voting process.

Under the rules for this category, in any year in which 8 to 15 animated features are released in Los Angeles County, a maximum of 3 motion pictures may be nominated. If 16 or more animated features are submitted and accepted in the category, a maximum of 5 motion pictures may be nominated.

Films submitted in the Animated Feature Film category also may qualify for Academy Awards in other categories, including Best Picture, provided they meet the requirements for those categories.

The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre.

Tinkerbell was mostly produced in India as a (mainly) direct-to-video release.

I'm so old I can remember when the Acadamy Awards happened in April.

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The Foreign Horse Race

Animation in international markets? Steady as she goes.

"Megamind", which ranked No. 1 domestically, grossed $4 million overseas from 1,108 situations in 11 markets, for a very early foreign cume of $27 million.

"Despicable Me" came in No. 3 overall thanks to an estimated $9.5 million weekend at some 3,800 venues in 40 markets. Universal's 3D family-oriented animation comedy has grossed $270.6 million since opening offshore 19 weeks ago. ...

And then there were the other animated bon bons that are halfway off the radar screen:

Warner's "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" ...$4.6 million weekend at some 5,000 screens in 47 markets; ... "Arthur 3: The War of Two Worlds", $24 million in France only ...

The way animation continues to perform around the world, I think we'll see more product ramping up over the next few years.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Times In Which We Live

We talked about the IA picketing of the reality show "Biggest Loser" down below. Here's the latest from the front:

IATSE decries 'strike-breakers' hired by production company to cross picket line.

It looks like there will be fireworks Monday morning at NBC’s Biggest Loser, as IATSE picketers confront replacement workers hired by the show’s production companies. ... As previously reported, 100% of the production crew voted to support the IA. According to the IA, the producers refuse to recognize the IA as the bargaining unit for the crew ...

Our own Steve Kaplan has been out on the line picket line aiding in the fight. Here's my take-away from this labor-management wrestling match:

Companies, at the moment, are not interested in "being reasonable." I mean, does 100% of the production crew want to go union?

Yeah, but tough toe-nails.

Do people want better wages and conditions on a show that is making the producers and network pots of money?

You bet. But it'll be over the producers' cold, dead bodies.

You can yell about "justice" and "fairness" all you want, but corporations don't care. If they can get it done cheaper, with scab crews, they will. It really boils down to whether the IA can make the production entity bleed enough money. If the international can shut down production, win the P.R. wars, keep the striking crew together, the employees and union will ultimately win.

But if the producers can grind their picketing workers into the ground and keep the tape rolling, they win.

Simple as that.

Like always, this is about leverage. Not justice.

Add On: The Nikkster has an interesting post (and comment thread) on the strike. Well worth perusing.

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Here's where it is ...

The answer to yesterday's post, below the fold.

Nothing has (yet) been done to the exterior of our old building at 4729 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood, since California Capital Management bought it in April of this year. But based on the changes to the interior, a lot's going on inside.

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The Next Three Years

So the ballots have been counted, and I have been returned for another three years of Business Repping ...

I want to thank those who voted for me, also those who voted against me (Because hey. You participated in the process, and that's important.)

So let me cut, as they say, to the climax. The next thirty-six months are going to be busy ones. The IA will have to figure out its strategy for negotiating the next Basic Agreement. Though we're not part of the IA bargaining unit, we have considerable skin in the game because we participate in the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans. I will be sitting in on those negotiations.

And of course, we'll have our own set of negotiations for the 839 local agreement. Before we drive over to the AMPTP to sit at the big long conference table, I plan to make sure everybody, from board artists and designers, to writers, animators and directors (tech and otherwise) has a chance to give input about what's important in the new contract cycle. To that end, we will set up meetings in or near each of the studios so people can provide us with their two cents.

And please know that I will be continuing my studio visits, not just during regular hours, but also, where warranted, on nights and weekends. This will help studio management stay honest. (And honest management is happy management; ask anybody.)

Last up: organizing. We have made a big push in recent months to reach out to employees of non-signator studios. Steve Kaplan, who came aboard in June to head up these efforts, has done yeoman's service doing meetings, creating web-sites and laying the groundwork for new organizing drives at Los Angeles animation studios not currently part of the TAG family. We expect these activities to broaden and accelerate in the months ahead.

I've done this job for a bit of a while now, and I've learned that labor organizations are as strong or weak as the general enivironment and their members allow them to be. (This isn't the sunniest of times to be a labor leader, but that's my problem.) Regardless, I urge you to join us in the months and years ahead, helping to extend the seamless cloak of benefits that Animation Guild members have happily worn for over half a century. Chat me up in the studio hallway. Show up at the next 401(k) enrollment meeting. Attend the next General Membership Meeting. You won't just be helping us, you'll be helping yourself.

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Results of the 2010 TAG officers' election

UPDATED as of 3:36 pm.

The vote-counting is now complete. Winners below the fold.

Due to a mathematical error on my part, the earlier results were in error. These are not official until we receive the Judge's final report on Monday although they are unlikely to change. My apologies for any confusion ... JM.

Contested positions:

Business Representative

  • Steve Hulett†

Executive Board

  • Bronwen Barry*†
  • John Cataldi†
  • Nicole Dubuc*†
  • Janette Hulett†
  • Karen Carnegie Johnson*†
  • Cathy Jones*†
  • Gordon Kent
  • Nathan Loofbourrow
  • Mike Roth
  • Chris Simmons
  • Jack Thomas

Elected without opposition on September 28:

  • President: Bob Foster
  • Vice-President: Earl Kress†
  • Recording Secretary: Jeff Massie†
  • Sergeant-At-Arms: Jan Browning†

† incumbent

* the three highest vote-getters on the Executive Board also serve as Trustees. This year we have a tie for third place between Bronwen Barry and Cathy Jones; the final choice as Trustee between them remains to be determined.

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Mid November Steeple Chase

Now with butter-flavored Add On.

As the holidays roll toward us, Megamind rounds the second turn, chasing a big train ....

1. Unstoppable (Fox) NEW [3,207 Theaters] -- Friday $8.1M, Estimated Weekend $24.5M

2. Megamind 3D (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) Week 2 [3,949 Theaters] -- Friday $7.9M (-37%), Estimated Weekend $25.5M, Estimated Cume $85M

3. Due Date (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,365 Theaters] -- Friday $5.5M (-54%), Estimated Weekend $16.5M, Estimated Cume $60M

4. Skyline (Relativity/Universal) NEW [2,880 Theaters] -- Friday $4.7M, Estimated Weekend $14M

5. Morning Glory (Paramount) NEW [2,518 Theaters] -- Friday $3M, Estimated Weekend $9.2M, Estimated Cume $12M

Add On: Megamind comes out on top for a second weekend:

... 3D animated comedy Megamind repeated at No. 1, using a modest 35% decline in its second frame to conjure a $30.1 million session and $89.8 million in cumulative box office.

... Megamind's terrific marketplace hold following a more ho-hum bow is reminiscent of the spring theatrical run of DWA's How to Train Your Dragon. ...

Quite an accomplishment for DreamWorks Animation. Three animated features, three hits. And all in a single year. Gotta be a record.

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What the Biz Rep's Been Doing

So let’s catch up a little. While I was out in the studios, a Disney animator related: ...

I hadn’t seen “Tangled” in close to a year. Last time I saw it, there was still a lot of story reel and unfinished animation and I thought it worked okay, but didn’t completely grab me. But I saw the whole thing last week and they’ve really goosed it. They’ve added some short sequences that weren’t there before, with the parents, put in new things into some of the existing sequences, nothing major, but it really works now. Works really well.”

”I was amazed how much better the movie’s gotten. It’s real good.

At the Disney theater on the Burbank lot: Left to right: Charles Solomon, Ruben Aquino, Chen-Yi Chang, Serguei Koucherov, John Musker.

I went to Pres Romanillo’s memorial at the Disney studio.

”Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free.

I’m following the path God laid for me.

I took His hand when I heard Him call,

Turned my back and left it all. …”

It was a moving service with a lot of sharp reminiscences from Pres’s co-workers. They showed a lot his artwork, a lot of his animation and characters, and I was hit with the thought (again) that none of us know the time or place when God or fate or whatever you choose to call it will take our hand and whisked us out of this bright, carnival tunnel.

The memorial was upbeat, and the reception at the Disney commissary afterward was lively. Given the artist and animator we were there to remember, it seem entirely appropriate.

Earlier this week a reporter for a Great Metropolitan Daily called and said:

”I’m hearing that Disney/Pixar is going to do another Toy Story feature. Have you heard anything about that?”

I allowed as how I hadn’t, since I’m not plugged in to all things Pixar, but that I would lay odds that it was true, since the Big Mouse isn’t one to walk away from a billion-dollar feature franchise when there is still money on the table.

By coincidence, A DreamWorker said that he thought DWA would do another Shrek feature. I had the same answer for him that I had for the reporter:

“Of COURSE DreamWorks will do another movie! Number Four made $700 million! You think DWA is going to walk away from that kind of Big Casino?”

Companies, in the end, are not Florentine art studios pursuing some high, artistic ideal, but money-making enterprises. This is why there is a Cars Too, and later a “Son of Monsters, Inc.” It’s about the money, first and always.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Which Bear Will Ultimately Prevail?

Yogi? Or Winnie the Pooh? Having seen pieces of both, I'd vote for Winnie.

... On the other hand, never under-estimate the public's thirst for hybrid features.

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Five Weeks Later

Good evening, blogees. I’m back.

It’s after five p.m. on Friday, the polls for union officers have now closed, and I can officially post once again. Tomorrow the ballots will be counted and I will either win another term, and be a presence here for the next three years … or lose, and post until December 7th, at which time I commence searching for a new job and vanish from this site.

Win or lose, here’s what I’ve learned (once more) about running for union office ...

Spell words in your candidate statement correctly.

A simple rule … which I did not do. (Proofread the thing! Then proofread it again!). My election statement in the printed Peg-Board had a dumb typo – “elegted …” Arrgh! -- Recording Secretary Jeff Massie corrected no errors in any candidate’s statement and mine was no exception. Pissed me off, but it’s my own damn fault …

Give members a lot of face time.

I’ve been doing this biz rep thing for awhile now, and the single most important activity I do as a union official is tramp through studios on a daily basis. It gives people a chance to ask questions, allows me to see what’s going on, and keeps the lines of communication open.

Always run scared.

Over the years, I’ve seen a number of union representative at other IA guilds and unions act as though the union is them, that they were impregnable, that no way could they lose.”

And then, they lost.

Tomorrow, in the early afternoon, we will post the winners and losers of the 839 election for 2010, and I get to see if my studio visits and sunny good cheer carried the day, or I go down in "The year of the anti-incumbent."

Either way, please know that my attitude is: I’m a guy who works for the Animation Guild. I report to TAG’s President and Executive Board. If they want to go East while Yours Truly prefers to go West, I swallow and go East. I’ve enjoyed the job, worked to succeed at the job, but I don’t assume I’m the king, or the position is mine by right, in perpetuity.

Enough already. Whoever sits in this office during the next 36 months will have plenty of challenges. The IA will shortly be moving into industry-wide negotiations, and we will follow. I doubt the talks will be easy or pain-free. The Animation Guild will be rolling out a new website and adding some additional bells and whistles to our internet presence. And TAG will go on being a representative of animators and technicians in the industry, policing contracts and filing grievances just as before.

Animation is as big and lucrative in the global marketplace as it has ever been, and Los Angeles and California remain where much of the product is centered. Whoever is at the helm, the Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE will have new opportunities and challenges. With fresh effort from the Guild’s members and officers, TAG will meet them.

-- Steve Hulett

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The 2010 TAG officers' election is over

It is now 5 pm on Friday, November 12, 2010. As of this moment, ballots for the 2010 officers' election will no longer be accepted. Only those members who are paid in full for all dues and fees as of 5 pm will have their received ballots counted in tomorrow's ballot count.

The following changes to the TAG Blog take effect as of now ...

  • Comments on this blog will no longer be pre-moderated. The blog moderators retain the right to remove inappropriate comments, but comments will be posted when they are submitted by their authors (as they were before October 6). Within those guidelines, comments on the election will now be allowed.

  • Candidates for contested positions in the election may now post and comment on the blog.

Sometime Saturday afternoon, the election results will be posted on this blog; also tomorrow they will go up on the e-mail list.

Resume your normal activity. That is all.

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Do you know where this is?

The answer will be posted in exactly twenty-four hours.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Two Percent Solution

The Screen Actors Guild has wrapped negotiations on its animation contract:

... [M]embers will receive a 2% increase in pay in each of the three years of their contract. Studios also have agreed to increase by 10% the contributions they pay to the union's health and pension plan ...

Everybody seems to be getting 2/2/2 these days. On the other hand, pension and health plans (the high priority areas in the current environment) are getting sizable bumps.

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Too heart-stopping to put above the fold ...

Fox has renewed The Simpsons for a twenty-third season.

The Simpsons will cross the 500 episode mark with a 23rd season at Fox, which will bring the number of episodes of the animated series to 515. “Like many 22-year-olds, The Simpsons is extremely happy remaining at home, on Fox, and hopes it doesn't have to go out into the real world for many years to come,” said The Simpsons executive producer Al Jean. In addition to running for 22 years, The Simpsons also spawned an animated feature, which will have its broadcast premiere on Fox on Thanksgiving night.

Our congratulations to Hollywood animation's perpetual success machine, and to the wonderful artists, writers and technicians who make it happen.

(Apologies for the headline, I've been reading too much Nikki Finke ...)

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Meanwhile, Union Stuff Goes On

The L.A. Times is reporting on this:

In a dispute over union representation, crew members on the hit reality TV show "The Biggest Loser" have gone on strike. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees ... confirmed Wednesday that it was leading a strike against the show after crew members sought to join the union. ...

I was out on the picket line today. It's amazing how people working on hit shows want better treatment and money.

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A Night at the Fantasyland Dark Rides

This will be interesting (maybe):

Jon Favreau is in talks to direct Magic Kingdom, the Disney film with the premise that the attractions at the venerable theme park come to life. The studio set the project up nearly two years ago ...

We'll now go out on a limb and guess that the computer generated images will be numerous. (And who will be cast in the Ben stiller part?)

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Publicity Upticks for "Tangled"

Promotion for the next high-profile animated feature (guess what it is?) kicks into higher gear with recent new clips on the internets ...

... and star on Hollywood Boulevard for a veteran Disney composer. (Can you say "Beauty and the Beast"? "Aladdin"?)

Today in Hollywood Alan Menken got his own star in Hollywood with the cast of Tangled (Disney's new movie) standing by his side. The star, a real honor for anyone who is part of the entertainerment business definitely was well deserved. ...

We don't know what kind of opening "Tangled" will have (naturally we hope it's big), but the publicity has ramped up. (Clips yesterday. Star today.)

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