Friday, June 20, 2008

The June Linkorama

Another week of linky goodness ... now with Add Ons!

Disney rolls out Toy Story Mania:

Toy Story Mania is part ride, part video arcade game. You pile up points for how many targets you can hit with cartoonish bullets sprayed at giant screens in a 3-D environment ... The Pixar-inspired game that Disney's Imagineering technology gurus came up with is the first part of an estimated $1 billion makeover for the California Adventure theme park that has never quite lived up to its billing ...

The ride is one of the many side benefits that Iger secured for Disney when he struck a $7.4 billion deal to buy Pixar from its majority owner Steve Jobs in 2006. That price was derided by some critics as way too much to pay for an animation factory in a mercurial box-office world, even one with a string of blockbusters. But as I sprayed yellow marshmallow bullets at targets being held aloft by bunny rabbits, it was pretty clear Iger may have something here ...

Lasseter was quick to a remind the crowd at Toy Story Mania's sun-drenched opening, he got his entertainment start sweeping Disneyland streets before graduating to guiding a boat on the Jungle Boat ride. Lasseter has become Disney's resident crazy, helping to think up rides like Toy Story Mania (which also opened at Disney World in Orlando) and the upcoming attraction based on Pixar's 2006 animated film Cars. "This is the start of the rebirth of California Adventure," Lasseter told the crowd ...

(See Mr. Lasseter demonstrate the ride here).

Oh my, the Veggie Tales folks are getting put on the auction block again:

Big Idea, the Nashville-based studio best known for “Veggie Tales,” is being lined up for a possible sale by Entertainment Rights’ CEO Nick Phillips. Big Idea became part of Entertainment Rights when the latter acquired Classic Media in January 2007.

Although it has made coin in the past, the company, which produces fare for the U.S. Christian market, is not one of the business’s more profitable parts ...

Imagi's Astroboy finds a new home:

Summit Entertainment will distribute Imagi Studios' CG-animated "Astro Boy" worldwide, except for Japan, Hong Kong and China ...

"Astro Boy," slated for worldwide theatrical release next year, had previously been set for distribution via Warner Bros. and TWC. Voice cast includes Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy and Eugene Levy, with Freddie Highmore in the title role.

And I have no idea if this is a good or a bad thing.

Continuing the Spielberg, Geffen, Katzenberg watch, financing for the new DreamWorks could be at hand ...

Steven Spielberg and Indian billionaire Anil Ambani are close to forming a venture that may help the movie director's DreamWorks SKG team exit from Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group will invest as much as $600 million in the studio, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter. The venture may borrow another $500 million to finance about six films a year, the Journal said ....

Disney releases the 45th anniversary edition of Sword and the Stone, which includes the most expensive Mickey short made in the 1930s:

Brave Little Tailor: When Mickey tells a white lie about his fighting prowess, he ends up facing down a rampaging giant ...

Thing about Tailor? The story goes that the director on it busted the budget and got himself un-directored and fired. Good short, though.

As for SITS, it was the last animated feature completed and released before Walt Disney's death, the first animated feature where Wolfgang Reitherman was the sole director, the last animated feature on which Bill Peet received screen credit (though he did considerable work on Jungle Book, he departed the studio before it was done and asked that his name be taken off the credits).

The Financial Times of London details the wonders of rising computing power at DreamWorks Animation:

... In 1999, DreamWorks had 140 computing cores, but as costs have fallen, the company greatly increased its processing and rendering capabilities ... Managing the often conflicting demands of movies in different stages of production is down to senior technologist, Scott Miller ...

"We have a 'hard partition' for each movie," says Mr Miller. "We have a share for each movie, and for each department within each movie. The movie that is in the most intensive phase [of production] gets the most resources" ...

A typical 90-minute feature film contains 125,000 frames of animation, or between two and a half and three terabytes of data. But before the final cut is rendered, ready for duplication on to 35mm film or to disc for digital cinemas, a movie will consist of about 45 terabytes of pre-computed caches of scenes and working copies, mostly at a low resolution. "Kung Fu Panda had a total footprint of about 50 terabytes," says Mr Miller.

Jenny LeRew and Blackwing Diaries previews animator/director Eric Goldberg's new book:

... it comes with not only a distillation of Eric's prodigious knowledge of the craft of personality animation but a DVD as well loaded with quicktime tests he's done himself, illustrating the principles he describes in the book--all the essentials ...

Lastly, we exit Linkorama with Dorse Lanpher's memories of the days when Disney's Feature Animation department split apart and animator/director Don Bluth exited for greener pastures with a large part of the Diz animation staff:

... Ron Miller called an emergency meeting of all the remaining animators. We were to meet in his conference room at 2:30 that afternoon. The whole studio was talking about the mass resignation. I had decided to resign from the studio to join Bluth in what I thought would be a great adventure. No one but Don knew of my decision to join a handful of artist silly enough to think we could start an animation studio and do a successful feature in the next year.

Since I had not revealed my future resignation I had to attend the meeting with Ron Miller. Every one, maybe 20 or 30 people, were seated around the very big Walnut conference table waiting for the king, Ron, to enter. There was excitement in the air. Finally Ron entered the room. He was late but no one was going to contest it. Not only was he head of the Walt Disney Company, a much, much bigger entity than the animation department, he was a 6 foot 4-inch tall ex- pro football player. A very tanned, hansome, formidable figure. He sat down at the head of the very large shiny table, paused for a moment, and said “Well, now that the cancer has been cut out…”

All my friends who I thought were attempting to save the art of “classical animation” had just been called “a cancer” by the head of the Walt Disney Company and the greatest animation studio in history ...

Add On: Wall-E is now rolling to the starting blocks, and so Mr. Stanton is out doing the publicity tour thing:

... the beginning of WALL-E contains few words but lots of scene-setting, which Stanton knew would be a challenge to pull off but worth the effort.

"It is meant to be the definition of futility," he says of the film's introduction. "I think WALL-E is the loneliest character I've ever met, and I wanted to make sure I established just that."

Add On Too: The New York Times has a fine review of the new Pixar book, which we offer though the tome has been orbiting for awhile:

... Frustrated with Lucas, the Computer Division renamed itself Pixar in 1986 and sought an outside investor. ... Pixar’s central figures were introduced to Steve Jobs, already worth $185 million and beginning his Apple exile. After Jobs’s $5 million offer was rejected, the team attempted to do a deal with Disney, then a bastion of hand-painted cel animation. Pixar’s cause was championed by Disney’s chief technologist, Stan Kinsey, who was convinced that Pixar’s technologies would “not only lower costs, but also allow freer camera moves and a richer use of colors.” Kinsey wanted Disney to buy Pixar outright for $15 million, but he was overruled by Jeffrey Katzenberg, then head of Walt Disney Studios. “I can’t waste my time on this stuff,” Kinsey says Katzenberg told him ...

And on such minor matters does history pivot.

Have a useful and excellent weekend ... and don't over-heat yourself.


Anonymous said...

Steve, could you post a link to Dorse Lanpher's site so we can read the rest of the account?

Steve Hulett said...

Click REFRESH then "memories".

Anonymous said...

Great set of links today , Steve. Thanks.

About Bill Roberts , who directed "The Brave Little Tailor" : I don't think he was demoted and fired after "Brave Little Tailor" . He continues to be credited as a director after 1938.

His IMDB listing shows him as a director on subsequent short cartoons at Disney , including Society Dog Show (1939), The Winged Scourge (1943) , Reason and Emotion (1943), The Grain That Built a Hemisphere (1943) . But he is also credited as a Sequence Director on these feature films at Disney:

Fun & Fancy Free (1947)
The Three Caballeros (1944) (sequence director)
Saludos Amigos (1942) (sequence director)
Bambi (1942) (sequence director)
Dumbo (1941) (sequence director)
Pinocchio (1940) (sequence director)
Fantasia (1940) (director : segment "Rite of Spring")

Bill Roberts was a magazine illustrator ln New York c.1929-1932 and started at Disney in 1932 or '33.
He animated on many shorts throughout the 1930's , then went on to Snow White as one of the animators working on the Dwarfs unit in 1936 - 37. After that he began as a director on Mickey's Parrot (1938) .

Jack Kinney, in his book "Walt Disney and Assorted Other Characters", says that Roberts retired from the animation industry in the late 40's , went into real estate and construction after Disney and reportedly became wealthy.

Larry Levine said...

I'm very excited about the Eric Goldberg book!!!

Is there any way to find out if he'll be doing a NYC book signing?

Steve Hulett said...


Thanks for the correction and update. I blat our things here fast, and too often rely on flawed memory.

But I do think that Mickey's Tailor was one of the most expensive shorts of its time, a precursor to Mickey and the Beanstalk.

(I can understand why Mr. Roberts left the business to get rich. Wasn't going to happen if you stayed in the cartoon industry.)


You'd probably have to call the publisher ... or Eric at Disney.

Mark Mayerson said...

There are places that credit Burt Gillett as the director of The Brave Little Tailor. According to animator I. Klein, Gillett was in progress on The Moth and the Flame at the time he was fired, so it's possible that he was also in progress on Tailor and Bill Roberts finished it up.

Anonymous said...

Here's a link.

Cookie Jar is buying DiC

Jeff Massie said...

Re the above link: According to Saturdays' LA Times business section, the Cookie Jar/DIC buyout isn't going to happen without a fight.

Has anyone in the history of Hollywood ever made as much money as Andy Heyward just by selling his own company and then buying it back?

Anonymous said...

Under the proposed deal, Cookie Jar would acquire DIC's stock for $0.7153 a share, or a total of $31.5 million. It also agreed to assume $42 million in outstanding debt and pay $14 million in transaction fees. Upon closing, DIC would become a division of Cookie Jar.

Only two years ago, DIC was worth considerably more. But the firm, which last year acquired a European licensing company, has struggled recently in a field that is dominated by three giant players: Walt Disney Co. with its Disney channels; Viacom Inc., which owns Nickelodeon; and Time Warner Inc., which owns the Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera characters and the Cartoon Network. -- LA TIMES

Welll now. DIC is a penny stock.


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