Sunday, December 03, 2006

The New Pixar (Or Is It Blue Sky?) Down Under

Variety reports that the Australian digital house "Animal Logic" is now striving to become a player in cgi animation alongside the likes of Pixar, DreamWorks and Blue Sky Animation. (It's done commercials and visual effects, why not animated features?)...

As "Happy Feet" continues its joyful tap-dance atop the B.O. Stateside, and bows in some key Euro and Asian territories this week, the cloak of secrecy that's enveloped the Animal Logic digital effects house, where the pic was painstakingly assembled, has finally been shed.

For four years, gossip from Fox Studios Australia, where the privately owned shingle is located, has been that Animal Logic was bursting at the seams with hundreds of artists laboring to realize director George Miller's vision.

Animal Logic topper and "Happy Feet" exec producer Zareh Nalbandian confirms that indeed, the studio peaked at a whopping 550 employees this year.

About half of those are core staff; nearly all others were engaged to make "Happy Feet."

Animal Logic has plans to stay up in the big time (what digital house doesn't?) with a line-up of cgi features. Now that it's produced its first box-office winner, AL has credibility and (most likely) a willing line of studios more than happy to finance the next project. But what it's going to take for long-term viability is a staff -- both story development and production -- that can deliver features that audiences want to see. (This is often more easily said than done.)

AL appears to be going the route of some cgi feature houses in the U.S. of A.: it will have its "core" group, and it will have "production hires" brought on temporarily when the latest project is hurtling along at full bore and a deadline looms. Unlike the mid-nineties, when many companies' business model was building a full staff and hanging onto it, there's now two-tier systems in place: the permanent staff, and the impermanent production hires.


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