Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Down at the Summer SPA

At Sony Pictures Animation, work continues on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which is still on the Sony Master Production Calendar. One artist said to me:

"The directors pull it one direction and the execs push it another. Now that we have a new set of people at the top, hopefully that will change ..."

All the crew knows is: We've been working on this sucker a looong time.

I wandered in on a half-dozen staffers looking at color setups for Open Season 2. (The setups looked good to me, but what do I know? I am an old, ex-story guy). "We've moved this whole thing through production in 14 months," said one of the artists around the monitor. "What we need are more Open Seasons! Give us more Open Seasons!"

The first OS, of course, was a mid-range hit, collecting just under $200 million worldwide. This offering, primarily animated in Texas at ReelFX, will be coming to American video stores and overseas theatres in 2009 (thanks for the correction from our astute commenters, and sorry for the original mistake).

It's gonna be SPA's next release, because Cloudy isn't close to the color set up stage.

Adelaide Add On: It looks now like there's a strong possibility that Sony Adelaide's Sit Down, Shut Up won't be moving forward. The writers aren't budging from their position (We need to be WGA ...) and Sony doesn't appear to be changing its recent attitude (We're not going to get sued over this; we're tied to an 839 IATSE contract).

The IA made it clear last week that they expect Sony to honor the agreement in place ... or else.

My position is: this whole fustercluck has been mishandled from the get-go. Sony execs made promises to the SDSU writers they couldn't keep. I mean, it would be nice if someone actually checked before they shot off their mouths, but I keep forgetting this is Hollywood, where the rule is "Talk first and backtrack later. Maybe nobody will notice."

This time, somebody noticed.

And this time, people will lose jobs. Not only are the dozen writers not working, but the forty artistic jobs supporting the show will now be gone. Way to go corporate execs! Your brilliance will not go unrewarded!


Anonymous said...

There does seem to be a new "Era of Good Feeling" over at Sony since the dragon ladies (P&S) were banished. Their idea was to make Sony Animation into Dream Works most westerly campus with executive's notes trumping their film's directors ideas at every turn (ala Jefferey). I'm not 100% sure that the new managemwnt broom is done sweepig just yet though. P&S hired a bunch of their cronies that still haunt the hallways over their in Culver City, if I were within that rank I'd be asking a PA to go and get me some moving boxes just in case.

Cassidy Curtis said...

One question: what's a "color setup"? Is that a term from 2-D animation? Is it like a color key (a hand-painted still artwork intended to guide the color palette and mood for the artists who are going to light a CG scene)?

Anonymous said...

"This offering, animated in New Mexico and India..."

Open Season 2 was primarily animated in Texas by Reel FX. A VERY small portion was animated in India and parts were done by Sony animators waiting around for Cloudy to start.

Anonymous said...

So who is in charge now at Sony -- and don't say the artists...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that should be corrected. Give the Reel FX team some credit!

It's sad to see Sony struggling so much, especially since Surf's Up was such a beautiful, yet under-marketed movie. The artists there cant win even by making an awesome film.

Steve Hulett said...

What's a "color setup"? Is that a term from 2-D animation?

I wasn't clear, was I?

They were looking at a screen with various color c.g scenes on it. A grid with several color images, which looked as though they were from OS2.

Possibly not color setups as the term is used for 2D. But you want precision of language, you won't get it out of me.

Anyway. I glanced at the images, but mainly commiserated with the artists around the monitor. I knew half of them, didn't know the other half.

Anonymous said...

"So who is in charge now at Sony?"

Hannah Minghella, 29. Daughter of the late film director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient). No animation experience, but she was amy pascal's assistant for a year.

Executives pulling the project in one direction while artists pull it in another is EXACTLY how NOT to make an animated feature. There just doesn't seem to be any trust. These executives are not used to the long production schedules of animation, and have NO patience for it. They're only worried about their next job, not the one their working on. They only care about not looking bad.


Anonymous said...

I've been following this whole shutting up and sitting down business for a while, and it's been nice to come here and get the real scoop -- but there's one thing that I think is worth pointing out that isn't mentioned here (probably because Sony isn't exactly going out of their way to let people know.)

The post lays out what Sony's been saying to everyone: "We're not going to get sued over this; we're tied to an 839 IATSE contract."

The IA local 839 contract isn't some big secret; and it has a provision in it that says that the company can hire people who aren't IA, as long as the terms are at least as good as IA's employment terms.

Here's the actual language from the IA local 839 contract:

E. Subcontracting
1. Within Los Angeles County

"The Producer shall not, by independent contract or subletting, utilize the services of any individual, firm, partnership or corporation to perform work in Los Angeles County, California which would otherwise be performed by available and qualified persons subject to this Agreement,"


"unless such work is performed at wages and conditions no less favorable than those provided herein."

"However, before any such work is subcontracted or sublet, the Producer agrees to discuss the matter with the Business Representative of the Union."

Translation: IA's OWN CONTRACT states that the show can subcontract to the WGA as long as the terms are at least as good as IA's -- and the reason the writers want to be WGA is because the terms are significantly better.

All the contract requires is that Sony call IA and "discuss" the matter with them. BUT IA CANNOT SUE SONY FOR SUBCONTRACTING TO WGA WRITERS.

This is not brain surgery. Yes, it's embarrassing for Sony brass, and yes, sure looks like somebody promised Tommy Short something they couldn't deliver. But the excuse that their hands are tied and they'll get sued if they subcontract WGA? Stupid at best, a lie at worst.

Please. Sony foks: shut up and sit down, guys. Or even better, DO WHAT YOU PROMISED AND PUT EVERYONE BACK TO WORK.

Anonymous said...

This isn't about which union has better wages (cause I'm assuming the writers agreed to those wages before they walked in the door) - it's about residuals. If they go WGA they will be paying residuals to the writers forever. The writers want it that way and Sony doesn't.

Dan Segarra said...

Actually, NONE of OS2 was animated in New Mexico from my knowledge. RFX played ( and is still playing) a very significant part in that film. That should be changed in the article as it's false information.

Definitely hope Cloudy does well though, Surf's Up was great and it would be awesome to see another good feature from them that also does well in the box office.

Kevin Koch said...

I don't think Steve caught the corrections, so I just fixed his original post. Sorry for the confusion.

Anonymous said...

Some more Adelaide news. Greg Weisman, producer on Spider-Man, said at CONvergence that they'll have to layoff their crew in a couple weeks if Sony doesn't greenlight the show for a third season soon. Also, if season three takes too long to greenlight, Greg himself will probably leave.

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