Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Evolving Content, Evolving Distribution Systems

Anybody not living in a deep burrow knows that animation ain't the same animal it was fifty years ago. Or twenty years ago. Or even five years ago. Theatrical hand-drawn animation has (with a few exceptions) vanished. And hand-drawn t.v. animation, although still robust, isn't made with paper anymore. Storyboards are now digitial, along with most everything else. Show me a work space without a computer under the desk and a Cintiq on top of it and I'll show you a crack in the space-time continuum.

But it isn't just animation studios that are changing. It's the whole damn pipeline that delivers whole damn entertainment packages ...

There is little doubt that [Disney's entertainment] segment will do well over the next two years if box office expectations are anything to go by. The company had six movies out in 2013 and is expected to launch twelve in 2014 and nine in 2015. More importantly, slate quality is very strong in 2014 and even stronger in 2015 when such heavies as the Avengers, the Pirates and Star Wars will be hitting the big screen.

The longer-term outlook is less promising. Credit Suisse featured an article in the Financialist publication of October 28, 2013 which said that:

"The movie business has a serious problem. Even though 2013's U.S. box office revenues are on par so far with 2012 - about $8.66 billion so far this year compared to about $8.65 billion at this time last year - the long-term outlook is gloomy. Whether it's video-over-the-Internet that's headed for the television or simply the world available on a tablet, the decades-old tradition of "going to the movies" is under fire from all fronts. And it's showing: Movie theatre attendance peaked at 1.6 billion in 2002 and only reached 1.36 billion last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. So what's Hollywood going to do? Can it script itself a happy ending? Truth be told, it's even worse than that. The hero of the last installment of this story - DVDs - is now a victim. People are also buying fewer physical copies of movies these days, putting additional pressure on studio earnings. An industry organization called the Digital Entertainment Group went so far as to stop keeping track of DVD sales as a discrete category in 2010, when they fell to $14 billion from a high of $20.2 billion in 2006. Even when lumped together with Blu-Ray, it's still getting uglier by the year. Sales of the two combined dropped to about $8.5 billion in 2012, 5.4 percent lower than in 2011."

Like a great many industries, the movie business is undergoing fundamental technological changes and these will not be limited to the U.S. alone. Undoubtedly, Disney is aware of this but there is nothing they can do to stem this particular tide over the longer-term. ...

On the brighter side, revenues from internet streaming are up, even as DVD sales decline:

Online purchases of movies rose 47% to $1.12B in 2013 in the U.S., according to Digital Entertainment Group. The striking growth rate has calmed fears that consumers would opt to wait for rental windows to open up before buying movies.

Streaming subscription rentals rose 32% to $3.16B during the period.

Kiosk DVD sales slipped 1%, but the aging business still commanded $1.9B in sales. Brick-and-mortar rentals were off 14.3% to $1.042B.

If there was a surprise, it might be the relatively slow pace of VOD movie sales, up only 4.8% to $2.11B. ...

The point to be made here? The business of entertainment is changing in major ways, and if our fine conglomerates aren't nimble, the undertow of technology will swallow them up and spit them out. Disney, News Corp., Time-Warner, Viacom and the others will have to adapt to changing realities, or they won't be around in anything like the forms we know and love them today.


Mark Mayerson said...

Can you link to the first quote please? Thanks.

Steve Hulett said...

The first quote is now linked. What I get for posting late at night when the major lobes have shut down.

David said...

”Theatrical hand-drawn animation has (with a few exceptions) vanished.

Perhaps that parenthetical qualifier should be amended to ”Theatrical hand-drawn animation has (with a few exceptions) vanished from mainstream American studios. Worldwide there are still hand-drawn features being made.

Unfortunately it seems like hand drawn feature film production is going to remain dormant in America for the foreseeable future, which is kind of a shame given that America was pretty much where cartoon animation was invented (which some purists would dispute , but with all due respect to the European pioneers like Émile Cohl , cartoon animation as we know it was mostly developed and flourished in America).

Besides the many recent Japanese hand drawn features most of the recent hand drawn features are European co-productions , with production being spread out to France, Ireland, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Spain (and also in Brazil and Canada) . All of which is irrelevant to the U.S. animation industry as it exists now, but maybe a way forward ? As you noted: The whole damn pipeline that delivers whole damn entertainment packages is changing.

(The annual Cartoon Movie trade show -- http://www.cartoon-media.eu/ -- is huge in Europe. Deals are done , co-financing and co-production is arranged. In the global economy the European animation industry seems to be ahead of the U.S. animation industry in this respect.)

David said...

[continued from above] -

CartoonBrew reports that independent comic book artist/animator Michel Gagne’s “The Saga Of Rex” feature (based on his graphic novel) has recently been announced at Grid Animation in Belgium. It will be 2D animation.


Soon to be released or recently released hand drawn features:

“Song of the Sea” (Ireland, 2014 , from the makers of the Oscar nominated “The Secret of Kells”) .

“Ernest and Celestine” (France , 2012) U.S.A. English-language release (from GKids) in 2014.

“The Wind Rises” (Japan, 2013) U.S.A. English-language release (by Disney) coming in 2014.

“Loulou, l'incroyable Secret"(France, 2013)

“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” (Japan, 2013)

“Omoide no Marnie” (Japan, 2014)

“The Day of the Crows” (France, 2013)

“Moon Man” (France/Ireland/Germany, 2013)

”The Fake” (Korea, 2013)


Christopher Sobieniak said...

Yeah we still have Europe to look over us now that they have the torch lit.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Other recent hand drawn feature films:

“A Letter to Momo” (Japan, 2013) ,

“Up from Poppy Hill” (Japan, 2012) ,

“Wolf Children” (Japan, 2012)

“Zarafa” (France , 2012) ,

“The Rabbi’s Cat” (France , 2011) ,

“A Cat in Paris” (France, 2011) 2012 Oscar Nominee for Best Animated Feature

“Wrinkles” (Spain, 2011)

“Chico & Rita” (Spain, 2011) 2012 Oscar Nominee for Best Animated Feature

I’m sure there are a few more I’m forgetting and some forthcoming films I don’t know about.

“The Prophet” (anticipated release 2014) International co-production, Produced by Salma Hayek, Directed by Roger Allers. Inspired by the classic book by Kahlil Gibran, “The Prophet” is an animated feature film, with "chapters" co-directed by animation directors from around the world. Reportedly a mix of hand drawn and cg animation.

Gaëtan Brizzi (segment director) France
Paul Brizzi (segment director) France
Joan C. Gratz (segment director) U.S.A.
Mohammed Saeed Harib (segment director) United Arab Emirates
Tomm Moore (segment director) Ireland
Nina Paley (segment director) U.S.A.
Bill Plympton (segment director) U.S.A.
Joann Sfar (segment director) France
Michal Socha (segment director) Poland

”Sponge Bob Squarepants 2 (anticipated release in 2015) like the first Sponge Bob movie, a combination of 2D animation and live-action . According to the director Paul Tibbitt: “mostly 2D animation”. (of course , the actual 2D animation production will probably be off-shored to studios like Rough Draft in Korea )

Will any of these 2D features do the kind of huge box-office that mainstream CG features do ? Nope. But I’d still contend that it’s not entirely accurate to say that ”Theatrical hand-drawn animation has (with a few exceptions) vanished” . I think the films listed above are more than just “a few exceptions” .

Steve Hulett said...

Hand-drawn animation has thrived on television. The conglomerates keep discovering (over and over) that the higher production costs of CGI doesn't translate into higher ratings or profits.

It's one reason that Nickelodeon, to take one example, is tilting away from CG and back to hand-drawn. (Okay, in some cases it's flash animation, but you get the idea ...)

Grant said...

gagne's project was only "optioned." Chances are it'll never get made. While I admire his fine art of self promotion, his skills as a storyteller a nil.

Steve Hulett said...

As people say, there are theatrical hand-drawn features being made, hither and yon.

But as far as the L.A. animation industry is concerned, there aren't any. And there are certainly no high-end, high profile projects from any of the majors. That's over.

CGI is, like it or not, the coin of the realm.

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