Saturday, December 31, 2011


I haven't read the Steve Jobs biography. But Sharon Waxman has. And one of Mr. Jobs' multipe qualities leapt out at her ...

I knew Steve Jobs was a visionary. What I didn’t know was that he was such a cry-baby

It's one revelation of Walter Isaacson’s biography that hasn’t gotten much attention since the book hit the best-seller list a few weeks ago.

Along with the bullying, the angry outbursts, the moments of epiphany, the parking in the Handicapped spot – Jobs’s penchant for waterworks is striking.

Every time he experiences a setback or a bad outcome, he weeps. He cries over employees ditching. He cries over losing in a negotiation. He cries over his team missing deadlines. ...

I never laid eyes on Mr. Jobs. All I know about him is what I read ... and what different Pixar employees -- former and current -- have related. Since some of the tales aren't flattering, I won't relate them here. Let's just say that Steve Jobs was like a polished diamond -- a man with many facets.

Click here to read entire post

New Year's Box Office

There has been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about "The Shrinking Box Office." But look at it this way: As The U.S. and Canada suffer declines, the rest of the world expands and expands.

The Nikkster's stats: ...

1. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Paramount) Week 3 [3,455 Runs] Friday $10.7M (+8% from last Fri), Est 3-Day Weekend $28.2M Est 4-Day Holiday $40M, Est Cume $141M

2. Sherlock Holmes: Game Of Shadows (Warner Bros) Week 3 [3.703 Runs] Friday $7.4M (+10%), Est 3-Day Weekend $20.8M Est 4-Day Holiday $27M, Est Cume $137M

3. Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Fox) Week 3 [3,724 Runs] Friday $7M (+29%), Est 3-Day Weekend $18M Est 4-Day Holiday $23M, Est Cume $99.3M

4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Sony) Week 2 [2,914 Runs] Friday $5.3M (+15%), Est 3-Day Weekend $13.9M Est 4-Day Holiday $20M, Est Cume $60.8M

5. We Bought A Zoo (Fox) Week 2 [3,163 Runs] Friday $4.7M (+56%), Est 3-Day Weekend $13M Est 4-Day Holiday $17M, Est Cume $44.5M

6. War Horse (DreamWorks/Disney) Week 2 [2,547 Runs] Friday $4.6M, Est 3-Day Weekend $13.1M Est 4-Day Holiday $17.6M, Est Cume $42.8M

7. The Adventures Of Tintin (Paramount) Week 2 [3,087 Runs] Friday $4.4M, Est 3-Day Weekend $11.4M Est 4-Day Holiday $15.5M, Est Cume $50M

8. New Year’s Eve (Warner Bros) Week 4 [2,585 Runs] Friday $2.3M, Est 3-Day Weekend $6.5M Est 4-Day Holiday $8M, Cume $47.7M

9. The Darkest Hour (Summit) Week 2 [2,327 Runs] Friday $1.6M, Est 3-Day Weekend $3.5M Est 4-Day Holiday $5.2M, Est Cume $14.2M

10. The Muppets (Disney) Week 6 [1,541 Runs] Friday $1.1M, Est 3-Day Weekend $2.7M Est 4-Day Holiday $3.6M, Cume $83.4M.

Meanwhile, Arthur Christmas and Happy Feet Two, both out of the Top Ten, have collected $45.5 million and $60.6 million at the domestic box office.

Click here to read entire post

The nineteenth day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

Another card drawn from life. The family had a Christmas heirloom much like the one shown here. (Flesh and blood angels not included.)

Click here to read entire post

Friday, December 30, 2011

Another Tutorial About "Leverage"

Professor James Garner teaches a lesson in studio accounting, and gaining what's yours ...

... I became an actor by accident, but I'm a businessman by design. My company, Cherokee Productions, produced The Rockford Files. I took less money up front in return for a 37.5 percent share of the profits. I was personally paid about $30,000 per episode, which was and still is a lot of money, but it could have been several times that. But I figured once Rockford went into syndication, the profit sharing would be my real reward and annuity for my old age.

Early in 1979, someone at Universal mistakenly sent me an account sheet that The Rockford Files had lost $9.5 million in its first five years on the air. It shocked me. I thought we were doing well.

It's demoralizing to break your neck bringing a show in on budget and on schedule only to find you've been wasting your time and effort because they've been bookkeeping you to death. ...

CEO Lew Wasserman and Universal didn't invent "creative accounting," they just made it a science. Creative accounting is too polite a term for what Universal was doing, it was flat-out larceny. They systematically inflated the expenses to reduce -- to wipe out -- the net profit. ... Universal tried to tell us that despite taking in $120 million in revenues from syndication and foreign sales, the show had earned less than $1 million in profits. ...

If you had the nerve to complain, they pretended not to know what you were talking about. If you persisted, they shrugged their shoulders and told you to sue them. ... And if anybody had the money to hire a battery of lawyers and the guts to risk his career, Universal would drag out the litigation for years. It was like being in business with the Mafia, only Universal didn't need a gun, just a pencil.

Well, I had the money in the bank -- over $5 million. I'd put it there just in case, and I didn't care about hurting my career. I was in it for the duration.

In December 1988, after seven years of filings and depositions, Universal sent me a check for $607,000. It was an insult. A few months later, they offered $6 million. I declined. We'd found out something Universal didn't want us to know.

Universal's salesmen went to TV stations and pitched reruns of popular series, those that had attained the magic number of one hundred episodes. My lawyers discovered that Universal was syndicating The Rockford Files as part of a package. Station managers were told they could have Rockford cheap, but only if they'd also take the less popular Quincy. Universal would bill Quincy at twice the rate of Rockford. In other words, on paper, Rockford earned only a fraction of the income it should have commanded, cheating me out of millions of dollars in profits.

When we confronted Universal with this knowledge, they immediately offered to settle out of court if we would seal the record. They didn't want this practice revealed, and they certainly didn't want to open their books. ...

On March 23, 1989, we settled the case "on the courthouse steps." As part of the settlement agreement, I promised not to reveal the amount Universal paid me. ...[So] I can't legally comment on [the cash total], but I can say that for a week or two afterward, [my wife] Lois had to keep telling me to wipe the grin off my face, and that she drew a big "V" for victory in lipstick on our front door that stayyed there for a year. ...

James Garner -- "The Garner Files" -- pp. 137-142

The above is one more iteration of the ancient wisdom "You get what you have the leverage to get."

In this case, Mr. Garner had all the principle components of Leverage. He had the Power. He had the Knowledge. And he had the Courage/Moxie/Resolve to press ahead with his mission. (Many don't.)

Plus, he had the willingness to fail, which is a major part of leverage. Because without that willingness, you won't press down hard on the lever to get to where you want to go.

Click here to read entire post

The eighteenth day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

More heavily laden pine trees, of the type found in the Sierra Nevada.

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Which, of course, is not good ...

But the happy news is, foreign box office is robust. And animation plays a large part in all the global robustness, either enhancing live-action (Transformers, Roses of the Apes), or standing alone (Cars 2).

Worldwide, animation did quite nicely in 2011. Like for instance:

Kung Fu Panda 2 -- $665,692,281

Cars 2 -- $551,852,396

Rio -- $484,635,760

Puss in Boots -- $391,347,391 *

The Adventures of Tintin -- $270,872,000 *

Rango -- $245,155,348

With all the varied entertainment choices -- cable television, video games, the internet, apps on the smart phones -- it's not surprising that theatrical movies have gotten a smaller slice of the overall pie. Even so, it's a shame.

* Still out there, raking in the moolah.

Click here to read entire post

Gimme Some Moneee

Rupert and his minions could be staring at some seriously high mounds of cash in the not-distant future.

... While 20th Century Fox Television re-signed the longest-running comedy on television [The Simpsons] for two more seasons in October, it is unlikely the run will go any further given the tumultuous negotiations that took place with the voice actors.

And here’s why it will mean a windfall for the company within three years. The syndication agreement was signed years ago at a different time in the media landscape and only allowed Fox to sell the show to local affiliates.

Now, News Corp. could sell to cable stations such as TBS and Comedy Central and so-called over-the-top distributors like Netflix. ... [T]he company could easily get $1 million to $2 million per episode for the 500-plus episode library. ...

I'm sure that the News Corp. folks will be more than delighted to share a little of this windfall with the artists who have toiled on the show all these years.

Won't they? Won't they?!

Click here to read entire post

The seventeenth day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

A stylized religious procession in a stylized Jerusalem (or perhaps a fantasy city from the Middle Ages?)

Click here to read entire post

The Floyd Norman Interview - Part III

Full video interview below the fold.

Mr. Norman returned to Diz Co. for the third time in the go-go nineties, when animation was in its "Second Golden Age." (That photo above? That's Floyd from an earlier Disney work period. Just so you know ...)

TAG Interview with Floyd Norman

Find all TAG Interviews on the TAG website at this link

In the final decade of the millenium, Floyd was again working as a storyboard artist, and he soon found himself on detached duty at a small studio in the Bay Area.

The place was named Pixar, and he he ended up working on a brace of pictures for them: Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc. (Floyd imagines that working at Pixar in its early days, when it was in a non-descript industrial building, was a bit like working at Disney's Hyperion studio, when it was jammed into an apartment block and overstuffed studio facilities.)

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Tim created the original in 1984. Time for an expansion and do-over.

The new feature -- still in work -- is in production in northern California. (The original can be found among Disney silver disks. Not well-received by studio management in '84, but times change do they not?)

The IA negotiated a contract with Diz Co., and we represent some of the artists. (We post the pictures because they became available today, and it's a major animation release, and ... why the hell not?)

Click here to read entire post

Reporter Declares the Winner

It's all over but the shouting, I guess.

[Rango] has vastly outperformed [other animated features] in virtually every other respect [except box office]: critical reception (it is at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, better than every other 2011 animated film except Arthur Christmas); early critics/precursor awards (it has been voted the year's best animated film by virtually every major awards-dispensing group -- among them the National Board of Review, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Boston Society of Film Critics, and San Francisco Film Critics Circle -- except the New York Film Critics Circle, which skipped the category this year, and the New York Film Critics Online, which opted for Tintin); ...

My guess? The live-action directors Spielberg and Verbinski are the heavy-weight contenders for "Best Animated Feature" this year. They have the name recognition, the leverage, and the Big Mo.

Everybody else is in a lighter weight-class, doesn't matter how good the other pictures are, doesn't matter what the box office of this or that feature is. Heft and influence matter. That's the way Hollywood has rolled for the last ... oh ... century. It's the way the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has behaved since it's inception. (With, of course, the occasional exception.)

Click here to read entire post

The Floyd Norman Interview - Part II

Floyd departed the House of Mouse after his Jungle Book stint. He thought it was time to spread his wings and start his own company, and that he did. For the next half-dozen years he worked in every facet of the biz, live-action, animation, development, you name it ...

TAG Interview with Floyd Norman

Find all TAG Interviews on the TAG website at this link

But Disney came calling again, and Mr. Norman returned to work on Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Robin Hood, and then it was on to layout, animation and screenwriting at Hanna-Barbera and other cartoon fun factories ...

Click here to read entire post

The sixteenth day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

A nighttime snow scene, done in the early 1950s. Vaguely reminiscent of Grandma Moses's snow scenes. Vaguely.

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Bambi (1942) makes the big list:

Walt Disney’s Bambi, Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi, John Cassavetes Faces and Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump, are just a few of the 25 movies the Library of Congress selected for the 2011 additions to the National Film Registry of films for preservation “because of their enduring significance to American Culture.” ...

Anytime an animated feature or short gets an accolade, we should celebrate. (Ed Catmull's A Computer Animated Hand also made it onto the registry.)

From the official announcement:

One of Walt Disney’s timeless classics (and his own personal favorite), this animated coming-of-age tale of a wide-eyed doe’s life in the forest has enchanted generations since its debut nearly 70 years ago. ...

Bambi, in point of fact, isn't a "wide-eyed doe," but with the name being what it is, I suppose it would be kind of easy to get the gender of the animal confused, eh?

Click here to read entire post

Have you been forced to deal with Yurcor? Let us know ..

Many thanks to all who have taken the time to write and keep us informed of their experiences working through the Employer of Record company, Yurcor. We have received many emails and phone calls from artists who have read our posts. Many are glad that some action is being taken against companies of this nature and are interested in retrieving the pay that was illegally withheld from them.

The Guild is interested in assisting all artists who have been effected by Yurcor's improper wage withholdings. We have created a form on our site that is meant to give us a better understanding of how many artists have been effected and which studios are utilizing Yurcor's services. If you have worked for a studio that has used Yurcor and would be interested in seeing your wages returned, please take the time to fill out the information on the form and submit it back to us:

Animation Guild Yurcor Form

Our goal is to help enforce labor laws and returning wages that were improperly withheld from visual effects artists. Once we receive your information, we will contact you to discuss our current progress and the next steps in retrieving your wages.

Click here to read entire post

The Floyd Norman Interview - Part I

Floyd Norman got a turn down from Disney the first time he tried to get a job there...

TAG Interview with Floyd Norman

Find all TAG Interviews on the TAG website at this link

He was eighteen at the time, and he was told to get some more art training. Which he did. And two and a half years later, the House of Mouse called up and offered work.

That was in 1956. Eight years later, Mr. Norman was a story artist working on Jungle Book, involved in story sessions with the man whose name was prominent at the studio gate. Floyd talks about those years at Disney -- and his Jungle Book story collaborator Vance Gerry, in the latest TAG Blog podcast ...

Click here to read entire post

The fifteenth day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

A still life rendered in oil paints. (Not Hulett's usual style of card, but he liked to occasionally mix things up.)

Click here to read entire post

Monday, December 26, 2011

Box Office Beyond the Seas

On foreign shores, movie grosses pile up:

... [S]urpassing the $200-million mark is DreamWorks Animation’s Puss In Boots ... Distributor Paramount puts the film’s total foreign box office at $223 million thanks to a $17 million Christmas weekend take. ...

And among other animated entries ...

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked grossed an estimated $20.1 million from 5,677 venues in 52 markets. ... Arthur Christmas, with an overall estimate of $9.7 million collected from 5,925 situations in 74 markets. Overseas cume comes to an estimated $90 million.

Globally, AC has collected $178.3 million. And Puss has now made $367 million. Tintin, an underperformer stateside, is up to a gloabl total of $263.2 million.

And Brad Bird's live-action epic has made $218.6 million ... and counting.

Click here to read entire post

The fourteenth day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

A sparse winter scene. At first glance out in some snowy nowhere, but on closer inspection, not.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, Ralph-Hulett style

Shepherds wandering through the olive trees.

Interesting factoid: Hulett lived in La Crescenta, which is in a long narrow valley north of Los Angeles. When he moved thre in the early 1950s, La Crescenta still had grape vineyards and olive groves, and there were olive trees on the property where he built his house.

So the olive trees in this card? They're drawn from life. But they aren't the olive trees of the Holy Land, but of La Crescenta in Southern California.

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Your Local Derby

Now with buttery-smooth Add On

Per the Nikkster:

1. Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Paramount) Week 2 [3,448 Theaters] ... Estimated 3-Day Weekend $25.8M, Estimated 4-day Holiday $39.5M, Estimated Domestic Cume $71.5M, Estimated International Cume $105M

2. Sherlock Holmes: Game Of Shadows (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,703 Theaters] Estimated 3-Day Weekend $16.7M, Estimated 4-Day Holiday $25M, Estimated Domestic Cume $83.8M, Estimated International Cume $27.1M

3. Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Fox) Week 2 [3,726 Theaters] Estimated 3-Day Weekend $12.8M, Estimated 4-Day Holiday $21.1M, Estimated Domestic Cume $58.1M

4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Sony) NEW [2,914 Theaters] ... Estimated 3-Day Weekend $13.5M, Estimated 4-Day Holiday $20M Estimated Domestic Cume $28.5M, Estimated International Cume $950K

5. The Adventures Of Tintin (Paramount) NEW [3,087 Theaters] Opened Wednesday December 21 ... Estimated 3-Day Weekend $8.8M, Estimated 4-Day Holiday $14M, Estimated Domestic Cume $22M, Estimated International Cume (Sony) $240M ...

So Mr. Bird's film is doing solid business. The rodents are doing tepidly and fading. And the Boy Reporter isn't nearly as strong as he was in Europe, and will probably be fortunate to get near $100 million in domestic grosses.

None of the above seems a surprise when you take the stats over to the light and study them. Pure mo-cap -- separate from a live-action environment -- continues to be a tough sell.

Add On: The Wall Street Journal wraps up the weekend:

A Christmas miracle eluded Hollywood, as strong holiday ticket sales weren't enough to help the industry overcome year-end declines in both attendance and revenue compared with last year. ...

As the number of feature films released this year increased, the average film's box-office gross, when adjusted for inflation, dropped to $14.2 million, from $17.5 million in both 2010 and 2009 ...

"The Adventures of Tintin" and Twentieth Century Fox's "We Bought A Zoo," were beat by earlier December releases like "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" from Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. Pictures and "Alvin & the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" ...

And so it goes. The foreign markets grow, the domestic market is kind of ... stagnant.

Click here to read entire post

The twelfth day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

One of the religious-themed cards, with the Three Wise Men. Hulett always had a few of these in each year's line-up, like this ... and this.

(Of the three, I prefer the card with the camels.)

Click here to read entire post

Friday, December 23, 2011

Kitty in Hat Watch

Puss in Boots continues to roll out overseas:

... Puss in Boots, now in 2nd place with $29.8 million for an international total of $188.2 million and $331.1 million worldwide ...

Puss continues to roll out healthy grosses, even as it winds down in the States. Since I don't know the kitty's release schedule, I haven't a clue about where hiss foreign totals will end up.

(But I'm sure that DreamWorks has a pretty strong idea ...)

At the other end of the box office spectrum, the chipmunk franchise seems to have run its course.

... In 4th place was Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, equally disappointing overseas with $13.3 million in 36 countries. Back in 2009 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel opened with $23.4 million from 38 countries so Chipwrecked is slowly turning into the box office dud of this franchise. ...

As the wise old producer once said: "When they don't want to come see your movie, you can't stop them."

Click here to read entire post

The Continuing Box Office Story ...

Your Reporter and mine says:

... Fox's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked moved up the chart to No. 3 on Thursday, grossing $4 million for a seven-day domestic cume of $36.9 million. ... Chipwrecked had no trouble besting Steven Spielberg's 3D family film The Adventures of Tintin, which is off to a soft start, opening Wednesday to $2.3 million and grossing $2.5 million on Thursday for a two-day cume of $8 million. ...

So is Tintin the Boy Reporter the problem (being as how he hasn't made a big dent in the American consciousness), or is it the mocap, or is it the story itself?

I continue to think that, all things equal, mocap aliens, dinosaurs and chimpanzees work well in a live-action environment, but mocap humans are a harder sell. And mocap humans in a totally digital environment are a problem because everybody knows how humans in live-action look, move, and act ... and their mo-cap cousins are always a little ... what's the word? ... creepy.

On the other hand, Europeans bought Tintin hook, line and bobber, so perhaps I'm gazing at this through the wrong prism.

Click here to read entire post

The eleventh day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

Another card with the bell motif. Not unlike other bells, except this one has decoration on it.

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Deep in the Snow

So Slash Film (and other media) are catching on to what selected fanboy sites .. and a few commenters ... have known for some time:

Walt Disney Studios has announced the title for their Holiday 2013 movie — Frozen. All of the Hollywood trade papers are reporting that the movie in question is the Pixar film announced at D23 Expo: Bob Peterson’s “The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs“. This is not the case. It seems that the confusion came as the Dinosaur project originally had the November 27th, 2013 date, and it appears Walt Disney Animation has now taken that date for their own release. What is the film? The project formerly known as The Snow Queen.

... When the project was last in development, it was set to be Disney’s next hand drawn animated film after The Princess and The Frog. We don’t know if that is still the case or if it is now a computer animated release. BleedingCool seems to think it will be hand drawn. ...

This is the problem with wandering around studios. You (sometimes) know what's going on but don't want the wrath of management to crash down on you. So you keep your mouth buttoned and wait for The Official Announcement.

So now the word has come that the feature following Wreck-It Ralph will be the Hans Christian Anderson tale. There's other pictures in development but SQ/Frozen is the farthest along. The movie got put up on story reels a long while ago; immediately thereafter, the Main Lot decided to place it on the backburner. (Wasn't Lasseter's idea to do this, but someone who wears a suit.) Then Tangled grossed a lot of money and Frozen got put on a front burner.

And here we are.

Judging from the article above, there are those who can't figure out if the oncoming feature is "hand drawn" or "C.G.I." Bleeding Cool thinks it's still in the hand drawn category. BC is certainly entitled to its opinion, but if anyone is still hazy regarding the movie's format, they can check recent box office grosses for animated features and do a bit of high school math.

And perhaps the clouds will dissipate.

Click here to read entire post

The tenth day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

A snow scene that contains quite a bit of green, for a somewhat different effect.

In 1946, Hulett went on a weeks-long painting (and sightseeing) sojourn through New England. Outside of that, there weren't a lot of trips to that part of the U.S.A. So if you look for images "drawn from life" in the Christmas cards, the one above would either be from '46, during his honeymoon vacation, or pulled from his imagination.

Probably the latter.

(As is often the case, there is foreground framing with birds and tree branch.)

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Early Wednesday Numbers

A fine trade paper reports:

... Early projections show Alvin grossing $3.5 million-$4 million for the day, while Tintin was expected to gross $2.5 million-$3 million.

Tintin is tracking at 76% fresh over at Rotten Tomatoes, while Alvin and the Chipmunks is a tad lower. Yet the ever-popular rodents are outgrossing Europe's favorite boy reporter.

Only in America.

Click here to read entire post

Early Grim

Grim Natwick had a cartoon career only slightly shorter than his hundred-year life span. Mega Collecter has given us some of Mr. Natwick's early work ....

Mr. Natwick is known for Betty Boop, Snow White, and mentoring newbies to the animation business that included Marc Davis, Chuck Jones and Walter Lantz. (You could make a persuasive argument that Grim Natwick was more influential in furthering 20th century animation art than anyone this side of Walt Disney.)

Some more early thumbnails. Per Mr. Mega, they are from the mid to late twenties, and a long way from Grim's UPA work. (My camera picks up irritating oranges, for which apologies) ...

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmastime Mega

In the early sixties there was a new (but not overly loved) Disney character by the name of Ludwig Von Drake ...

Drake showed up in the Fall of 1961 to introduce color to Walt's revamped anthology show, then moving from ABC to NBC.

Drake continued showing up for some years thereafter, and I, a kid at the time, always found him irritating. (Maybe it was Paul Frees' fake German accent, maybe it was Von Drake's frenetic personality. But whatever the underlying issue, I found the fowl forced and unfunny.)

L.V.D. had a short-lived comic book (four issues), and he's appeared sporadically in various animated products throughout the years. Mega Collector -- who own the drawing up top -- doesn't know who did the thumbnail board, but speculates it was done early in Von Drake's professional life, probably '61 or '62. (By Ward Kimball? Ward once told me he animated Von Drake at a breakneck pace, drawing him small on the hole-punched paper so he wouldn't waste a lot of pecnil mileage on him.)

But I can understand why Mr. Kimball would work on L.V.D. has quickly as possible. The bird is something of a pain in the backside.

Click here to read entire post

Name Negotiation?

For the navel gazers among us, I offer this:

The Walt Disney Company and Atlanta National League Ball Club [otherwise known as "The Braves"] are reported to be in negotiations, trying to sort out a thorny trademark issue. They’ve reportedly been taking meetings for months, and still the dispute continues.

None of this would have happened had Pixar’s next picture not had a name change. ...

Ah, the litigous society in which we live.

One of the most lawsuit-ready corporations on the planet locks horns with Major League Baseball. My only disappointement with this will be if Bleeding Cool and Stitch Kingdom have this wrong. Otherwise, it's kind of a hoot.

Click here to read entire post

Monday, December 19, 2011

Movie Studios' Report Cards

The Mouse pares its budgets.

... Burdened the last few years by a flurry of ambitious films that were undermined by their costs -- "A Christmas Carol," "Prince of Persia" and "Tangled" -- Disney downshifted in 2011 to a lower-risk strategy. ...

Through last week, Disney's film slate had grossed $3.36 billion globally, down about 12 percent from 2010's $3.77 billion despite a 20 percent decline in the number of movies released.

Overall profit for Disney's studio entertainment operations for the fiscal year ending Oct. 1 -- a tally that also includes home video -- decreased 11 percent to $618 million on revenue of $6.4 billion. ...

It's been a rugged season for movie studios and film distributors.

Looks like Wall Street is reacting to a weak holiday season at the box office, judging by how the movie-exhibition stocks fared Monday.

Regal Entertainment shares dropped 9 percent Monday to $12.11 and are off 14 percent since Dec. 1. Carmike Cinemas, meanwhile, dropped 5 percent on Monday, while Cinemark Holdings was off 3 percent. ...

With tepid box office results and thinner profit margins, nobody seems able to catch a break.

Even when a company has a hit, there's somebody to point out that secondary markets are sucky, and that follow-up features should be making more money.

Disappointing DVD sales for Kung Fu Panda 2 and lower-than-expected overseas box office receipts for Puss in Boots has one analyst lowering his expectations for DreamWorks Animation. ...

Even if you rake in four or six hundred million dollars, the troubles just don't entirely go away. DVD sales will never be what they were a decade ago.

Click here to read entire post

Double Standards?

So then there is this from Marshall Fine in today's Huff Post:

As a member of the New York Film Critics Circle who voted in the Nov. 29 selection of awards for the best films of 2011, I naturally get questions about our results ...

This year, it was, "How come you didn't pick a best animated film?" ... The answer to that is, "Because the group voted not to give an award in that category this year." In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess to making the motion to vote on exactly that.

I made the motion because I didn't believe that any of the year's animated features deserved our award. ...

Now me, I thought there were a number of solid animated features. But I'm not a member of Marshall's posse, so I don't get a vote. However, the question I would like to ask is: How often do the New York Film Critics fail to gin up a "Best live-action feature?" I'd wager it would be something close to "never."

I mean, there's animation, and then there's all those real feature films ... like The Artist.

Click here to read entire post

The ninth day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

Here's a lot of the same elements we find in the previous card. The sleigh, the snow, and the dark trees. Only now Hulett adds a New England bridge and its reflection, so the card has a different character and mood. (He does a lot of New England bridges over slick, frozen bodies of water, only here he mashes up the elements a bit ...)

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dorse Lanpher, RIP

Dorse on the left; Mitch Rochon in the middle; Dave Brain on the right.

Dorse Lanpher was the Grand Old Master of effects animation. He'd (almost) worked on everything worth working on, and passed his knowledge on to others. Among his credits:

Sleeping Beauty

The Rescuers

The Secret of NIMH

The Land Before Time

Beauty and the Beast


Lion King

And a multitude of others ...

After a long and fulfilling career, Dorse hung up the nine-to-five routine half a dozen years ago, and went on to pursue other things. He stayed busy and engaged; he kept in touch with a wide circle of pals. I encountered him in any number of places, and he was always quick with a witty observation about life and the state of the industry.

About the Final curtain, he recently wrote this:

If I could die without my knowledge of the event, death would be nothing to fear. The avoidance of illness and pain, not the avoidance of death, is what motivates me to live a relatively healthy life style. Of course, death will eventually overcome me but knowing that my death will occur sometime in the future is not useful information ....

From reports from friends, Dorse died at home, getting ready to go out to eat with old effects crew buddies. (There was, I'm told, water running in the bathroom sink.)

So, although his passing leaves a lot of Dorse's friends sad and missing him, if you squint at his death in the right way, you could rationalize that Dorse got his wish: He died without knowledge of the event, and so moved on unafraid.

Travel well, Mr. Lanpher, you were one of the good guys here on the planet.

Click here to read entire post

The Foreign Steeple Chase

... belongs to Brad Bird.

... [T]he foreign theatrical circuit to some degree shook off its box office blahs with Paramount’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol taking the No. 1 weekend spot, gathering $68.2 million over five days ...

Meantime, the kitty cat with the sword has moved to Number Two.

... Foreign cume for the 3D animation spinoff [Puss in Boots] stands at $188.2 million, as per distributor Paramount. A muscular No. 2 opening in Italy registered $3.3 million from 385 locations. ...

No. 4 Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked ... drew $14.5 million from 3,815 situations. A No. 2 U.K. debut provided $4 million from 756 situations. ...

Ranking No. 5 was Sony's Arthur Christmas ... which grossed $9.7 million from 6,745 screens in 62 markets. Cume stands at $72.8 million. ...

The most interesting factoid gleaned from the above? A respected animation director has the Number One live-action feature, and the next three out of four positions are filled by animated long-forms.

Click here to read entire post

Tintin, the Adventures of

Over the weekend, I got a chance to see the flat-screen version of the new Spielberg opus ...

Watching it, I completely understood what the New Yorker was driving at in its review:

... The great thing about “The Adventures of Tintin” is that it never stops moving — and the terrible thing about it is that it never stops moving. ...

Frankly, it was like watching Michael Curtiz direct, if Michael Cutiz was directing on crystal meth.

In virtual camera-land, you don't need cuts! You don't need a dolly or steady cam or a platform on the camera truck! All you need is imagination and a strong stomach. If you possess both those things, you can pirouette the virtual wide-screen lense through time and space until vertigo sets in.

Which is what Mr. Spielberg often does.

Don't misunderstand me. I dig truck ins, pans, and truck outs. Up to a point. And for a while the incessant camera movement is zestful and uplifting, but ultimately it wears you out. (Okay, it wore me out.) In contrast, the plot is boy's adventure minimalist, but it's mostly there to provide a structure on which to hang all the action set-pieces. Since Steven Spielberg knows how to deliver action set pieces, this works out more than okay.

Despite my gripes, I can understand why overseas audiences have flocked to it, and critics have been more favorable than not. The virtual worlds and art direction are downright dazzling, and the "uncanny valley" fails to trap many of the characters, although the large, cartoon noses get distracting. (Some players are free of it altogether. Tintin's wily terrier Snowy is a downright hoot.)

My guess is that The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn will open respectably stateside, and have a decent run. A sizable part of its audience, taken up by the film's environments and slam-bang forward momentum, will recommend it to family and friends.

Who knows? It might even inspire people to go out and read the comic "albums" on which the movie is based.

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Middle December Derby

Nik (not Saint, but the other one) has the totals. ...

1. Sherlock Holmes: Game Of Shadows (Warner Bros) NEW [3,703 Theaters] Friday $14.7M, Estimated Weekend $40.8M

2. Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Fox) NEW [3,723 Theaters] Friday $6.8M, Estimated Weekend $24.2M

3. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol 3D (Paramount) NEW [425 Theaters] Friday $4.7M, Estimated Weekend $12M

4. New Year’s Eve (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,505 Theaters] Friday $2.5M (-50%), Estimated Weekend $8M, Estimated Cume $25.2M)

5. The Sitter (Fox) Week 2 [2,752 Theater] Friday $1.4M (-61%), Estimated Weekend $4M, Estimated Cume $17.3

6. Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Summit) Week 5 [2,958 Theaters] Friday $1.3M, Estimated Weekend $4.1M, Estimated Cume $266.2M

7 Young Adult (Paramount) Week 2 [986 theaters] Friday $1.1K, Estimated Weekend $3.5M, Estimated Cume $4M

8. Hugo 3D (Paramount) Week 4 [2,532 Theaters] Friday $1M, Estimated Weekend $3.5M, Estimated Cume $39M

9. The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) Week 5 [878 Theaters] Friday $930K, Estimated Weekend $3.5M, Estimated Cume $28M

10. The Muppets (Disney) Week 4 [2,808 Theaters] Friday $903K, Estimated Weekend $3.5M, Estimated Cume $71.1M.

Just out of the Top Ten we find Arthur Christmas at #11 and (sadly) in a death spiral, taking in $35.8 million after 24 days. And Happy Feet Two stands at #13 after 29 days, $58 million in its haversack.

Click here to read entire post

Mr. Tytla

"50 ... Influential Animators" profiles Vladimir.

... [U]nlike many animators who have great acting and emotions but limited draftsmanship or have excellent draftsmanship but less impressive animation and acting [Vladimir "Bill" Tytla] really was the big man on campus in both areas. ...

Mr. Tytla marks Numero Uno on "50's" Hit Parade, rolling out today.

Click here to read entire post

Friday, December 16, 2011

Our Fine Entertainment Conglomerates

... which rule everybody's lives. ...

Media Consolidation Infographic

Source: Frugal dad

Some years back I was working to organize a small animation studio.

The artist I was trying to convince to sign a representation card wasn't that interested. He said:

"Steve, I don't like working for big studios, not my bag. I enjoy the small places. I know I make less money and get worse benefits, but I'm okay trading that for working at a nice, Mom and Pop studio ...

At the time, his "Mom and Pop" studio was doing sub-contract work for Disney. I pointed out how, if he was going to work for a conglomerate anyway, even if indirectly, he should be better compensated for it.

He looked at me as though I'd just stepped off an interstellar starship from the Narbak star system.

We can all drift along, pretending that we have multiple decisions as entertainment workers about what which entity receives the fruits of our labor. But there are really only a handful of choices. At the end of the work week, most everybody who is not working for DreamWorks Animation is giving their brain and wrist power to one of the fine companies listed above.

(And how much longer will DreamWorks Animation remain independent? Even Pixar is part of the Big Company syndrome now, paying "Mom and Pop" wages still. Such a deal.)

Click here to read entire post

Ricky Garduno, 1976-2011

We have learned of the death of storyboard artist RICKY GARDUNO. Since 2001 he worked for Disney, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros., Fox and Cartoon Network.

Further details on Garduno's life at Cartoon Brew.

Services tomorrow at 3 pm at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. Here is a map.

Click here to read entire post

The Eighth Day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

Blacks, whites and grays with a splash of red. Hulett designs black trees in a world of white to suggest fresh snowfall, though we see no swirling flakes.

Add On: (Since this is from the original artwork, you will note the brown aging at the edges, the cropping/registration marks, writing, etc.)

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, December 15, 2011

More Fox Animation

Say what you will, Fox is the one broadcast network that keeps developing prime-time animated properties:

It’s been a busy day for Russell Brand. Fox has picked up an an animated comedy co-created and voiced by the British actor-comedian ...

Mr. Brand does live-action comedies. (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sara Marshall.) Mr. Brand does live-action comedies that die quickly. (The Arthur remake.) And now Mr. Brand does animation. ...

Hopefully Russell's half-hour 'toon will fare better than his Greek co-star Johan Hill's short-lived series Allen Gregory.

Click here to read entire post

Spheres that Glitter

The Times asks:

Golden Globes: Can Pixar continue its winning streak with 'Cars 2'?

And we have an answer!


Click here to read entire post

Joe Simon, RIP

The father of Captain America passes from the scene:

Joe Simon, a writer, editor and illustrator of comic books who was a co-creator of the superhero Captain America, conceived out of a patriotic impulse as war was roiling Europe, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 98. ...

Mr. Simon, unlike some other creators of super heroes, ultimately hammered out an agreement to get royalties for the intellectual property that he authored.

Imagine, receiving actual money for the characters you bring to life. What a concept.

Click here to read entire post

New Member Orientation

For the past decade or so (give or take a few years), TAG has gathered its newest initiates in local restaurants to introduce them to the existence and inner workings of the Health and Pension plans. We do this to promote the best use of the plans so members can make better choices regarding their health care and retirement savings.

We hold these meetings for one studio at a time and when there are enough new members to warrant the meeting. For a variety of reasons, there are members who don't attend these meetings. For those members, and anyone interested in learning about the basics of the plans, the material we discuss is posted on a new page on our site.


Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ghouls, Dead People

Before I crawl off to bed, the longer trailer from an Oregon studio.

LAIKA, the creator of this 2012 feature, has hired a number of L.A. based animation artists. And the studio has brought in a number of artists and stop motion animators from beyond the seas. (We know this because we review O-1 immigration visas and have seen a few with the studio's name on the application forms.)

We hope this second LAIKA feature is a success. Looks polished.

Click here to read entire post


Digital Domain said this today:

... The new Digital Domain - Galloping Horse Studio [in China] will provide visual effects, animation and production services for motion pictures, television and related media. The company expects that the facility in China will be comparable in scale to the company's nearly completed animation studio in Port St. Lucie, Florida, a facility that was funded by the city with an investment of approximately $50 million for land and building. ...

So you see? It isn't just going to India. It's also traveling to the Middle Kingdom.

Whether this will mean lots of domestic work will be going to the People's Republic, or that Digital Domain is catching the wave of expanding movie-making opportunities in China, will be known in the fullness of time.

Click here to read entire post

The Transitioners

The New York Times plays the game of, "Who's made the successful jump from animation director to live-action director. And comes up with its list:

Kevin Lima ...

The Times fails to note that Mr. Lima also director the two live-action entries of 101 Dalmations. Added to which, it says Rob Minkoff isn't a "successful" live-action director, conveniently overlooking that Stuart Little, Mr. Minkoffi's first live-action undertaking grossed $300 million.

And the NYT claim that Walt Disney didn't direct any animated features is technically correct, but there is this from feature director Wilfred Jackson:

... Well, the first couple of features we made, Walt was very actively interested, and in it up to his hilt. I think it was right after "Pinocchio" that Walt began to pull away from being so closely involved, so intimately involved with each little thing that was done.

Up until "Pinocchio," absolutely nothing happened without his being in on it. All the color models he saw before they got okayed. All the rough animation. We ran it for him before anything moved into cleanup, and ink and paint. Nothing happened without his having his finger on it.

The directors, to a limited extent, could check his own thing into it, but under Walt's very careful eye. Just as the story man, just as the animators themselves. Animation was probably the one end of it where Walt had to depend more on the animators themselves, than he did on the other functions. ...

So Walt was maybe a feature director without being credited as a director?

The Times also failed to note that Brad Bird is not the only Pixar alum who is making the transition to live-action. There is also feature director Andrew Stanton with John Carter of Mars.

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dan Mills, 1931-2011

Dan Mills with Dora Yakutis at the TAG party, January 2011.

Animator and layout artist DAN MILLS died on December 5 at the age of eighty. From 1956 until his retirement in 2002 he worked for Disney, Snowball, Hanna-Barbera, Filmation, Hyperion, Universal and Fox Animation.

Services will be tomorrow, December 14, at 4 pm, at the First United Methodist Church, 18120 Saticoy St, in Reseda. Here is a link to a map.

Click here to read entire post

Feature Employment Factoids

I was at Disney Feature (aka "Walt Disney Animation Studios") yesterday. Wreck-It Ralph is going full bore, with a couple of supes telling me that there will be more hires in the near future. Another artist has a pretty strong idea about the next picture going into production after Ralph, but he informs me nothing has been officially greenlit yet. And of course, I won't reveal it here. (Besides, I've been inaccurate in some recent posts. Acch!)

More than one person said that the company plan is to get one animated feature out of each division (WDAS/Pixar) every year. My hope, as always, is that Disney ends up with a continuity of employment that gets it away from the "hire, layoff, hire" syndrome that it's followed of late.

I saw some interesting stuff now in work inside the Hat Building. Though the studio isn't totally walking away from hand-drawn features, there doesn't appear to be any features on the map that will look like the old-style, hand-drawn specimens we enjoyed in our youth. Executives look at theatrical grosses and draw their conclusions. And their conclusions are, based on all evidence, that c.g. style features are where audiences' enthusiasms are now centered ...

Meanwhile, at DreamWorks Animation, a number of laid-off staffers have returned to the campus, now that the work-flow has ticked up. (This isn't yet reflected in the chart below, as work status slips for December are now being processed.)

If you're wondering, feature employment at signator studios totals about half of employed TAG members.

Click here to read entire post

The seventh day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

A church bell in a nook of an adobe wall, so this isn't a new England Christmas scene, but something in the Southwest. As is often the case, compositional foreground elements are in strong evidence.

Click here to read entire post

The Ed Ghertner Interview -- Part II

TAG Interview with Ed Ghertner

Find all TAG Interviews on the TAG website at this link

Although Ed Ghertner has produced and directed popular cartoon shows, he has also served as the supervising layout artist on well-loved animated features ...

Ed served as supervising layout artist on Beauty and the Beast, and continued working in similar capacities on the Disney features Lion King, Mulan and Hunchback of Notre Dame. He's written a book how-to about composing and designing environments for animated features, and today works on prime-time television shows.

Click here to read entire post

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Disney TV Series

I've been going over to Disney TVA's Yahoo location near the Bob Hope Airport, watching this series slowly develop:

... Disney will introduce a little girl princess to its celebrated legacy of princess fairytales in an animated television movie and series, "Sofia the First," premiering in fall 2012 and spring 2013 respectively, on Disney Channel and Disney Junior channels around the world. ...

They've had a mess of talent working on this puppy (Larry Leker and Linda Miller, among numerous others), and until today I kept being told "The Channel hasn't announced the project! Keep your mouth shut."

Good corporate shill that I am, I kept my mouth shut. But now the Channel has announced the Sofia, so I can talk about it. This half-hour has been in development some little while. Everyone was leaning forward in their chairs, waiting for higher ups to greenlight it to series. And now it's finally happened.

Click here to read entire post

The Ed Ghertner Interview -- Part I

TAG Interview with Ed Ghertner

Find all TAG Interviews on the TAG website at this link

Animation veteran Ed Ghertner has had a different animation career than most ...

Ed has worked extensively as a supervisor and lead on both top flight television projects and animated features. (More often than not, people in the cartoon biz spend most of their working lives on one side of the animation divide or the other.)

Mr. Ghertner, a graduate of Cal Arts, started his time in the industry working as an animator for Ralph Bakshi, then traveled to Disney where he worked as a layout artist on The Great Mouse Detective. From there, he segued into television work, being among the first hires at a new studio called Film Roman (the entity that produces The Simpsons.) He's been zig-zagging back and forth ever since.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kitty Cat Watch in Foreign Lands

The latest DreamWorks Animation feature keeps rolling along.

Seizing the No. 1 box office spot on the foreign theatrical circuit for the first time since its Oct. 27 overseas opening, DreamWorks Animation’s Puss In Boots purred all the way to $45.6 million. ... Offshore gross total stands at $142.3 million ...

It would seem that "animation domination" is more than a cute phrase of the Fox Broadcasting network. Especially when you consider some of the other wide releases now in play. For example:

... The weekend’s No. 3 is Sony’s Arthur Christmas, which collected $14.3 million ... Fourth was Warner Bros.’ release of Happy Feet Two. Overseas gross total to date stands at $49.2 million. ... [T]he cume for Steven Spielberg’s [Tintin] rose to $233.7 million. ...

Added to which, Lion King 3D is still out in theaters, rubbing up against $70 million. At the moment, overseas box office is a bit soft, but animated fare is comparatively robust. My guess is that our fine, entertainment conglomerates, never the kinds of persons to miss an obvious bet, will create a lot more animated product in the near and medium-length future.

Click here to read entire post

The Weekend Linkorama

Another of our intermittent Link Fests.

Genndy has some concept art from Star Wars, the Cartoons, and it shows up here. ..

Animated short morphs into long-form feature.

Hybrid Animation (of the older style):

The Reporter interviews Kung Fu Panda 2's Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Angelina Jolie.

Andy Young interviews animation veteran Jerry Rees.

TIME Magazine's Richard Corliss leaves animation off his "Ten Best Movies" list for the first time in years.

Women who make video games happen. (They are a whopping 12% of the development work force.)

While we're on the subject: The Reporter tells of the paucity of women in creative positiong in the Hollywood entertainment industry.

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Brave and Brenda

Blackwing Diaries Jenny Lerew writes of Brave and Brenda Chapman.

And Pixar Portal interviews Brenda about her animation career. (Something that TAG blog would like to do ... and hasn't.)

Five years ago, both Brenda and Jenny participated in a TAG panel discussion about women artists and directors in the cartoon industry. You can find a lengthy post about that panel here. Sadly, the audio link to that event has gone missing.

Click here to read entire post

Clearly A Commie

Fifteen or twenty years ago, I noticed an interesting thing about the American economy.

Whenever the Top Dogs end up with most of the money, the economy tends to crash.

Happened in the 1890s. Also happened at the end of the 1920s. Both times there was a sizable concentration of wealth, and soon thereafter a Major Depression came about, and social instability ensued.

Also appears to be happening now. But this isn't a recent phenomenon ...

Here's a Dead Historical Figure noting the same thing.

An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.

-- Plutarch

The man is clearly a Commie. But I happen to agree with him because I'm a Librul Socialist. (And you know how Librul Socialists are.)

So who was most responsible for our Current Troubles and the 2008 crash? Wasn't Bush. Wasn't Obama. And it wasn't Barney Frank.

It was This Guy.

Click here to read entire post

Weekend Derby For Early December

Now with blue-tinged Add On.

Two animated features in the Top Ten, but neither of them chart busters:

1. New Years Eve (Warner Bros) NEW [3,505 Theaters] Friday $5M, Estimated Weekend $14.5M

2. The Sitter (Fox) NEW [2,750 Theaters] Friday $3.7M, Estimated Weekend $10M

3. Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Summit) Week 4 [3,605 Theaters] Friday $2.4M, Estimated Weekend $7.7M, Estimated Cume $259.3M

4. The Muppets (Disney) Week 3 [3,328 Theaters] Friday $1.6M, Estimated Weekend $7M, Estimated Cume $65.7M

5. Hugo (Paramount) Week 3 [2,608 Theaters] Friday $1.5M, Estimated Weekend $6M, Estimated Cume $33.3M

6. Arthur Christmas (Sony) Week 3 [3,272 Theaters] Friday $1.4M, Estimated Weekend $6.5M, Estimated Cume $33.4M

7. The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) Week 4 [876 Theaters] Friday $1.3M, Estimated Weekend $4.3M, Estimated Cume $23.5M

8. Jack and Jill (Sony) Week 5 [2,787 Theaters] Friday $870K, Estimated Weekend $3M, Estimated Cume $68.4M

8. Happy Feet Two (Warner Bros) Week 4 [2,840 Theaters] Friday $840K, Estimated Weekend $4M, Estimated Cume $57.1M

10. Tower Heist (Universal) Week 6 [2,069 Theaters] Friday $734K, Estimated Weekend $2.3M, Estimated Cume $74.1m ...

Puss in Boots, bubbling at a low simmer underneath the top tier, now has $140.2 million in its domestic knapsack.

Add On: The Reporter gives us the bad news (as do some commenters):

New Year's Eve' Leads Worst Weekend Since 2008 With $13.7 Million. Jonah Hill starrer "The Sitter" comes in second with $10 million; weekend is down 15 percent from last year as a nervous Hollywood prepares for a make-or-break Christmas.


Click here to read entire post

The sixth day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

The sixth day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas 12/10/2011 The choir at winter's sunset (or perhaps sunrise.) A stylistic rendering of an exterior ... mimicking a cathedral's majestic interior. And one of the explicitly religious cards that were part of the fifteen or sixteen designs created each year. Click here to read entire post

Friday, December 09, 2011

Back in the Game!

He's been gone for a while, but now he's returned.

Andy Heyward and his wife Amy ... announced a joint venture with Indian mega-conglomerate Tata late Thursday to create, develop and distribute original entertainment for children, including animation, video games and consumer products. ...

One of the first projects expected to be made in India is Stan Lee’s first animated feature, which will be officially announced next year.

Andy was robustly non-union when he was the topkick of DIC. TAG made runs at it several times, and the last go-round the Animation Guild won a Nation Labor Relations Board election while DIC was a subsidiary of Disney. Before it happened, Disney Labor Relations passed along the word that DIC would sign a contract if TAG had a majority of the vote.

Well, we ended up winning. And DIC ended up fighting us in negotiations over a contract for a year before walking away from the table. When I complained to the House of Mouse about it, the company said: "Hmm. Guess Andy changed his mind."

Big companies. Always as good as their word.

But we wish Andy well with his new endeavor. And offer our condolences about The Governator project not working out.

Click here to read entire post

Candidates for The Visual Effects Oscar

The Long List:

“Captain America: The First Avenger”

“Cowboys & Aliens”

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″


“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

“Real Steel”

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”

“Sucker Punch”

“Super 8″


“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

“The Tree of Life”

“X-Men: First Class”

In a month, the Academy whittles the Big Fifteen down to the Shortlist Ten, and then one of the survivors walks away with The Little Gold Man.

Having seen a minimal number of the named films, I wouldn't have the foggiest notion about which epic ultimately gets it. A half century ago, The Guns of Navarone beat out The Absent-Minded Porfessor for the vfx Oscar. We've traveled a bit of a ways since then.

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Bad News Nick ...

... and good news Disney Channel. As the Reporter reports:

... [Nickelodeon] is on track to surrender its ratings crown to rival Disney Channel for the year among the coveted demo of kids ages 6 to 11 for the first time since Disney Channel launched in 1983. ...

When the Disney Channel got started, most of us young, smart-ass WDP employees thought it was a really lame idea. The cable channel launched with a Winnie-the Pooh series produced for $25,000 per half-hour with actors in animal suits in front of a green screen, decades-old programming from out of the vaults, and cheap-jack documentaries. "This leadass turkey will never fly. What is Ron Miller thinking?"

Twenty-eight years later, it turns out that Chairman Miller was thinking clear and smart, and a lot of the twenty-something snot-noses (me included) had their heads embedded in their large intestines.

Click here to read entire post

Jerry Robinson, RIP

The father of a major live-action (and animated) villain has passed.

Jerry Robinson, a prolific comic-book artist, comics historian and editorial cartoonist who is credited with having created the Joker, the archenemy of Batman with devilish eyes and ghoulish smile, died on Wednesday at a hospice on Staten Island. He was 89 and lived in Manhattan. ...

“Villains, I always thought, were more interesting,” Mr. Robinson said last year ... “I think the name came first: the Joker. Then I thought of the playing card.” (His parents were bridge players).

The Joker made his debut in 1940 and has created havoc ever since, in print as well as on television ...

Seventy-one years on, the Joker remains a force in Batman's universe, whether that universe is in the live action or animated realm.

Click here to read entire post

Stating the Obvious

And the L.A. Times is good at it.

... "The Adventures of Tintin," which Spielberg directed and Jackson produced, is stretching the very definition of animation. ... "Tintin" makes the leap to the big screen via motion capture, with Jamie Bell as Tintin and Andy Serkis as his sidekick Capt. Haddock. Snowy, Tintin's canine companion, is a wholly animated character.

Gee. Sort of like the rotoscoped/motion-captured Snow White and Prince, existing side by side with the wholly animated Seven Dwarfs. ...

The tools Spielberg used to make Tintin are in many cases identical to ones James Cameron relied on for "Avatar," a movie treated by critics and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as live action.

Which would lead one to believe that the categories of "animation" and "not animation" are kind of ... what's the word? ... arbitrary. If an Important Person With Leverage wants it to be a cartoon, it's a cartoon.

And if a VIP wants it to be live action, it's live action.

The problem, you see, goes all the way back to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Prince is not exactly the same kind of character that the Seven Little Men are. He's not conceived the same way, nor drawn (or moved) the same way. But the label for everything in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been ... and will continue to be ... "animation."

So when you chew on that awhile, you start to see why, seventy-four years further on, there is a big fat Gray Area for Mr. Spielberg and Ms. Kennedy to drive their semi-trailers through.

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Oncoming Prime Time Toonage

The Nikkster's site informs us that new prime time animation is on the horizon.

The Office and Parks & Recreation executive producer Greg Daniels is teaming with a writer from each of his two NBC series to develop new animated comedy projects for the network. ...

First question: Will these be done under a WGA contract, no contract, or a TAG contract? (I'm guessing that it will be a Writers Guild collective bargaining agreement, since these are Writers Guild members were talking about here. But you never know. Never under-estimate the persuasive powers of our fine, entertainment conglomerates.)

Second question: Is there going to be an artist or three in the mix? Because prime time shows created by cartoonists and artists (along with a writer) have much higher success rates than ones solely created by writers.

Third question: What studio is going to be doing the boarding, designing, and production work? When we find out where it is, we'll run down there and work to organize the artists. (Because everyone needs to be warm and snuggly under a seamless cloak of benefits.)

Click here to read entire post

WGA Writing Awards

The Writers Guild of America nominates animation writers for some shiny trophies. (The Writers Guild Awards):


“Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts” (The Simpsons), Written by Tim Long; Fox

“The Blue and the Gray” (The Simpsons), Written by Rob LaZebnik; Fox

“Donnie Fatso” (The Simpsons), Written by Chris Cluess; Fox

“Homer the Father” (The Simpsons), Written by Joel H. Cohen; Fox

“Moonstruck” (Ben 10: Ultimate Alien), Written by Len Uhley; Cartoon Network

“The Silence of the Clamps” (Futurama), Written by Eric Rogers; Comedy Central

Most of these shows were written under a WGAw contract (Simpsons, Futurama.) Nice to see that Ben 10: Ultimate Alien got in. That one was done under TAG's jurisdiction.

Click here to read entire post

The fifth day of Ralph Hulett’s Christmas

We go from panorama to still life. Usually in this kind of set-up you would find a mouse in a Santa hat, but not so here. Just objects of the holiday season.

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Around DreamWorks Animation

I spent the morning at the Glendale campus, along the banks of the L.A. River. While there are empty cubicles, more were filled than a month ago ...

One artist had just returned from a months long hiatus, and a supervisor told me:

"There are a lot of projects lined up to go. They haven't all gotten greenlights, but we've been hiring because we've got to get ready."

Some experimental animation is happening on How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Guardians is reaching its production mid-point, and Madagascar 3 is going full tilt. (There's also The Croods and probably some others I'm forgetting.)

An animator speculated that, with the returning staff and new hires, the campus is "Maybe 10% under its peak?"

An educated guess.

Meantime ...

Shares of DreamWorks Animation Receive a Boost, Up 3.3% ...

Maybe the latest release has something to do with it.

Puss in Boots ... had a strong $9.4 million opening in France (a noteworthy improvement over Kung Fu Panda 2) and also got off to a solid start in Mexico ($3.7 million). The movie's impressive total in Russia passed $50 million, and it should wind up as the third highest-grossing movie ever ...

Domestically, the feature is bumping against $140 million. As one of the PiB crew members said: "I hope it keeps doing well." Maybe we'll see some bonus money."

Add On Factoid: Puss in Boots is the first Spanish language feature that Spanish speakers Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas have made together.

Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas have made six movies together. Not one has been in their native tongue, Spanish. ... "This is our Spanish language film we've done together!" Hayek screams. ... "We both dubbed it in Spanish. It's actually the first time we've both been in a film in Spanish, and it's odd that we were cats." ...

Pretty strange.

Click here to read entire post

3D (Un) Ending

During a long and busy day, this caught my eye:

Ever since ... Avatar squatted its bloated, blue, Na'vi ass on American cinema, every film that comes out with some semblance of special effects has "3D" pasted on top of it.

Most people know the drill by now: you go to a 3D movie, pay a little extra, chuckle at how stupid everyone looks wearing those glasses, and the film starts. For the first two minutes, it's impressive. Stuff pops out of the screen and it's pretty neat. For the remaining 118 minutes, however, you either forget you're watching a 3D movie or simply stop giving a shit.

And it only really works once ...

3-D appears to in decline across the fruited plain. The rest of the world still appears to love it, so maybe they are behind us ... or know something we don't.

I can take the Moving View Master or leave it alone. I've enjoyed the stereo versions of some DreamWorks movies; Jeffrey K.'s place seems to push the medium in entertaining directions. Still in all, as a DreamWorks animator remarked to me today:

"... I was watching a 3-D feature a couple of weeks ago, and the glasses everyone was wearing were really thick. Halfway through the movie I took mine off a minute and the colors were a lot more intense. Those goggles really subdue the brightness and colors ..."

3-D does, on occasion, add value. But generally not three or five bucks worth. And with some features, there is almost none at all. The "3-D" is so tepid, and the trade-off in screen brightness so pronounced, that it's really better to stare at the flat-screen version.

(When I saw a flat-screen version of Avatar, I liked it fine. This probably makes me some kind of visual Luddite. Sue me.)

Click here to read entire post

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Future?

Possibly ....

... Verbinski sees a new frontier in animation where audacious outlaws may finally win. He said R-rated animation projects (such as David Fincher’s discussed adaptation of “The Goon“) may be pioneer projects to watch.

“There’s so much you can do in animation, and maybe what’s interesting is a movie where you don’t bring your 6-year-old,” Verbinksi said, adding that the the animation legacy of Ralph Bakshi and “Heavy Metal” may be a compass point for Hollywood as far as mature audience ambitions. “You can tell so many stories. I think where it’s going is very interesting if we let it be.”

But I tend to think that Hollywood conglomerates will want to make features that make a good deal more money than Verbinski ... or Ralph Bakshi in his heyday ... pulled in with their animated creations.

Don't get me wrong. Some high-powered player will be able to get his pet "adult" animated project off the ground. But if the feature doesn't make a lot of swag, our fine entertainment conglomerates will quickly run away from it.

Disney, Viacom, Warners and the rest are not Renaissance art studios. They are in the game for profit.

(Even Johnny Depp, with all his power and influence, will be unlikely to get Rum Diaries II off the ground. Because RD Uno made pretty close to nothing.)

Click here to read entire post

The Anti-Piracy Thing

Hollywood players are working overtime to knock out pirate streaming sites and other rogue operations on the internet that infringe copyright. A Hollywood trade paper weighs in, wondering about the future if the MPAA, IATSE, SAG and other don't prevail in their lobbying efforts with congress ...

... Even if Hollywood fails to bring lawmakers on board to pass the latest anti-piracy measures, it's likely we'll see alternative attempts by copyright holders to attain injunctive relief against search engines, social media sites, advertising networks, and domain registrars. If the MPAA is successful in its lawsuit against Hotfile, for instance, the next step might be wiping off the company from the face of digital Earth. The MPAA is already collecting data on its many affiliates. The future of copyright cases looks to be a dragnet.

The way the internet usually goes, the next firewall put up will be countered by a new flame thrower. Then another barrier -- legal or logistical -- will be built and that too will be breached. People motivated by greed (and who among us doesn't have a bit of that disease?) will find a way to make money.

This fight is going to be a long one. And Switzerland has decided it doesn't want to participate:

... Based on a new report on the impact of unauthorized downloads, Switzerland seems to be saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The study, released by the Federal Department of Justice and Police, has concluded that piracy doesn’t have a negative economic impact on the nation and contends that the current legislation, which allows for copyrighted material to be downloaded for personal use, is sufficient. Chris Marcich, president of the Motion Picture Association, Europe, tells me it’s a “surprising and disappointing result.” ...

So I guess all the pirates in St. Petersburg, will be moving to Lausanne and Geneva. Such a deal.

Click here to read entire post
Site Meter