Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Brief History of the Roman Empire

When TAG organized Film Roman a few years back, the studio was in a large but run-down building on Chandler.

When I walked around inside the place, the low ceilings and dim lights always made me feel like I was in some weird, wide-bodied submarine. The work spaces were funky but strangely functional. One animator told me, "You get used to it after awhile, and make it work..."

So now Film Roman/Starz Media is over next to the Bob Hope airport, in a way nicer building with way higher ceilings. But the vibe is much the same (at least to me) because the same artists -- for the most part -- work there.

The LA TIMES has a nice piece in the morning paper about Film Roman's beginnings and recent history. Which is fitting since the studio was heavily involved in Fox's weekend blockbuster:

For 15 years, Film Roman has produced most of the [The Simpsons] animation under the direction of 20th Century Fox Television and Gracie Films Inc. That led to work on "The Simpsons Movie," which cost about $75 million to make and is Film Roman's biggest project to date.

Over the last 18 months, the company has hired about 130 animators on top of its regular staff of 400 to simultaneously work on the film and the 18th and 19th seasons of the series. Some of the animation work was farmed out to two studios in South Korea, Rough Draft and Akom. Although largely drawn by hand, the film used various digital tools to speed up the process and incorporated some 3-D scenes.

The Times doesn't go into it, but studio founder Phil Roman was a director for Bill Melendez's studio for fifteen years and the director of that studio's first Garfield special.

When Charles Schulz let Bill M. know that there wasn't room at the studio for both the Peanuts and Garfield francises, Phil went off to set up his own studio (orignally on Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake) and produce the show with Lee Mendelsohn (Bill M.'s Peanuts producer.)

And the rest, as they say, is Hollywood history.


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