Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What's happening in animation

It's always the case in Los Angeles animation that one studio is roaring while another is...relatively quiet. Here's a quick overview of studio activity right now (click on the header of this post for specifics): Sony Adelaide Productions produces "Boondocks" in a satellite building near Sony Pictures ImageWorks in Culver City. Cartoon Network Studios has a lot of series in work at their facility in Burbank near the AMC theatres. They've expanded into the skyscraper next to their original building, so you KNOW they're busy. DreamWorks Animation is wrapping on "Over the Hedge" and in full production on "Flushed Away." "Bee Movie" is getting going and "Kung Fu Panda" is in the early stages. DPS Film Roman just moved to a spanking new building on Hollywood Way near the Burbank Airport. High time, too, as the old building in North Hollywood was...ahm...kind of dumpy. (When you see a sign warning you about cancer-causing chemicals as you enter, you're heart drops.) Big news here is they have picked up twenty new episodes of "King of the Hill." Fox TV Animation is over on Wilshire Blvd. on the Miracle Mile, and clicking right along with "Family Guy" and "American Dad." Nickelodeon Studios has a lot of pilots in work via its "Oh Yeah Cartoons" division. Fred Seibert is the top-kick on this; he's using the same strategy he used years back at H-B developing the original Cartoon Network slate. Otherwise, Nick has a couple fewer series going than they did last year. Walt Disney Feature Animation -- big changes afoot here-- some detailed below. Obviously the major changes will come after the Pixar-Disney merger is finalized. Walt Disney TV Animation -- in case you didn't know DTVA now reports to the Disney Channel. It used to be under the umbrella of Feature Animation, but that has now changed. (And one of the reasons a Disney TVA exec ankled after many years. DTVA managers and Diz Channel managers were somewhat redundant.) Warner Bros. Animation -- Warners is doing two episodic shows and one Direct to Video at present. The DVD is a "Scooby Doo" extravaganza. A Time-Warner exec recently informed me that there is the intention to do more Scooby Doo TV episodes. Apparently the world community just can't get enough of the big dog.


Anonymous said...

Hey noww! Im diggin this TAG blog. Now lets hope this blog gets linked so that we can spread the word of the Union wether it be good, bad, or ugly. Now tell me how sleep feels like nowadays cuz I cant wait to get some.

PS Theres an awesome shot in the end credit of Clover the Ledge animated by the union prez. Still cant believe you pulled that off in the time you had. We gotta get together soon. Ciao

Kevin Koch said...

Mondo thanx for the kind words! Yeah, I tried to go out with a bang on that last shot, even if it half killed me.

And sleep is good. I'm definitely doing some catching up in that department. Ciao.

John S. said...

I love this blog. Informative and fun to read. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Steve and Kevin, thanks for getting this going. It's terrific and much needed.
One little thing: there's a habit I see in the reportage of "what's happening at the studios" reflected in your report here--i.e., writing that "Bee Movie" is getting going. Getting going? It's been "going" very very strong since July of 2004! What's just beginning is the animation. Quibbling about semantics? I don't think so; I've spent years reading the Pegboard where the real focus was 97% on animators and animation--that is, on the phase of production involving animation only. Since I've been an 839 member for 17 years but never an animator, I've often felt this was a bit of a myopic view. Dozens of story people and visual development have worked on "Bees" for over 18 months--quite a large crew, and the same happens on every other film. Not every member is an animator who thinks that it's only when animation starts that the film is in full production. ; ) Just sayin'. But hey, fellas--thanks again, and I mean that very sincerely.

Kevin Koch said...

Anon, of course you're right that we were guilty of using a common short-hand, which we do all the time. We often say "animator" when we mean anyone who works on an animation production. Sometimes we use the more general "artist," which still doesn't fit many, many non-writer categories. I suppose we could only use something like "animation professionals" when we're talking about a mixture of job titles, but that sounds awfully stiff to my ear.

Likewise, we could mention the 6 or 8 productions at a place like DreamWorks that are in various stages of development and preproduction (and that have Guild members working on them), but I think doing that could be more confusing than the current shorthand of talking primarily about films that are definitely greenlit and entering full production.

Also, it's my impression that most studios would prefer we not talk about films that may or may not be greenlit, even though they have some of our members working on them. Makes 'em look bad when a film gets canned after a couple years of writing and viz dev/character design/story work has been done.

In the end, I'm not sure what the ideal solution is, but we will try to be more exact in the future. And, seriously, thanks for the feedback. Regardless of all my explaination, your point was well taken.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kevin-typically thoughtful reply to my earlier comment--"all" your explanantion is much appreciated! I'm so pleased that there's a union blog.
I understand about the deal with studios not wanting projects bandied about that aren't official yet, but the fact remains that in my job classification the opportunities for a slot are always pretty much over by the time the green light is official, and that's a shame from an information perspective. You know what's in production at Disney and DW, FR etc. and while you can avoid talking about projects by name, wouldn't it be an option to say that "several projects" are staffing in story-without names? Certainly the studios themselves often seem eager to hire for un-greenlit films! Whether it makes the studio "look bad"(and I know you're repeating what your impression is), I feel that the chance of employment for a story guy is more important than the possible embarrassment of an eventually-possibly-canned film--after all, canned or not, it still needed to be boarded by a flurry or 839 members! And it's not as though you're writing for the trades or the major dailies with this info--this is still a pretty closed community, and in the past the Pegboard has been pretty frank about "troubled" productions, as I recall.
Forgive my minor frustration--it's just that "full production" by your definition just doesn't involve me or my colleagues--our jobs are often over by then. You do a great job informing for animators(not a catchall term, but in the actual sense), and I'd like to see more info offered for storyboard people.
Truthfully? Taking TV and feature story people together, while we may not number as many as those in the animation categories, isn't it a pretty good-sized number of the membership? And in TV, we really are the entire project! No offense to sheet timers. ; )

Kevin Koch said...

I agree 100% with everything you're saying. But we do have a bit of a dilemma with our "what's happening" articles and postings. Part of what Steve reports is what the studios tell us. This info is often sketchy incomplete at best. Much of the rest is what Steve hears about through conversations on studio visits. That's a pretty spotty process.

For the Pegboard aticles, Jeff also usually calls a contact or two at the studios for which he doesn't have much info. But at a larger studio, those contacts (of which I have usually been one at DreamWorks) don't always know everything that's going on, or they don't want to put out potentially false leads ("I think they might be hiring lighters, but that might only be for PDI. And I think I heard they were looking for story people for the dragon movie, but they may have already filled those internally...") Or sometimes Steve and Jeff's contacts keep their mouths shut because they're hoping a friend or two will get hired before the word gets out.

All that said, we'll try to do a better job than we have been.

Steve Hulett said...

Regarding the "Bee Movie": Per members of the crew, it's not yet in full production, but very close.

The designs, I'm told, have become more "cartoony" from their earlier "straighter" incarnations.

The story crew is still doing changes.

Steve Hulett said...

And anonymous is right, we do at times dwell on the animation side. Of course, in television land, we dwell heavily on pre-production because until recently (with Flash), that was all that got done here.

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