Thursday, September 17, 2015

China's Culver City Animation Outpost

There is now a new animation studio in town. it's out near the beach.

In a converted warehouse in Culver City, dozens of painters, designers and storyboard artists were quietly huddled at their desks, sketching characters or plotting 3-D images on their computer screens..

The walls of the 8,000-square-foot office were lined with colorful drawings of monsters, race car drivers and ducklings named Chi and Chao — rough scenes and characters for upcoming animated movies. ...

It's the new motion picture division of China's Original Force, a digital animation studio backed by Chinese social networking company Tencent Holdings. ...

Original Force's expansion into the U.S. signals a new phase in the expanding China-Hollywood relationship. No longer content to simply do outsourcing work for American studios, Chinese studios are eager to establish beachheads in Hollywood to compete for talent — and a piece of the lucrative global marketplace for animated family movies. ...

So you ask, "Why do these foreign companies keep setting up shop in Southern California?

I'm glad you asked.

1) The Los Angeles area has an animation talent pool that is wide and deep, and 2) that talent pool has turned out animated features that are Big World-Wide Hits for years and years.

It's that second reason, the creation of high-profit features, that causes animation companies with glittering visions of global grandeur to headquarter in the land of palm trees and perpetual drought. DreamWorks Animation is here. Disney is here. Early Pixar derived a lot of its story talent from here. (And John Lasseter was born, raised and artistically trained in Southern California). Illumination Entertainment, with its string of hit films from its Paris studio MacGuff, uses storyboard artists from here.)

The way it works in Tinsel town is, everybody slavishly apes the latest Perceived Formula For Success. If that means super heroes, then everyone does super heroes. If that means slap happy romantic comedies, then every corporate entity goes that way. In the nineties for animation, it meant following the Disney hand-drawn model, having everything from storyboard to finished color setups under one roof. (Unfortunately it worked for Disney but nobody else.)

And now here we are in 2015, and there are a variety of CG animation models that have proven to do gangbuster business at the box office. But the constant that's run through most of that is, L.A.-based story and design crews play large roles in most of the productions that have become blockbusters. So it's not a surprise that Original Force is setting up shop where proven, successful animation talents are readily available.


Christopher Sobieniak said...

No doubt the place to lure Chinese investors to Toledo failed.

MarkusM said...


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