Sunday, November 30, 2008

The IA-AMPTP Deal ... via Deadline Hollywood

The Nikster weighs in with details of the recent IA-AMPTP agreement:

Wage increases for the IA Basic Agreement consist of 3% effective 8/2/09; another 3% effective 8/1/10, and another 3% effective 7/31/11. For Locals 52 and 161 (NY), it's 3%/3%/3% increases on the effective dates of those agreements.

Concerning Pension and Health:

The AMPTP believes the cost of its deal with IATSE amounts to an increase of about 3.8% a year for the next three years. But that doesn't include a $233 million savings to employers in Health Plan "modifications" agreed to by the union.

Both sides agreed that, effective 7/31/11, the Health Plan will change the standards for continuing eligibility from a requirement of working 300 hours to 400 hours.

As for other pension and health terms, the AMPTP believes the employers agreed to increase hourly contribution rates in the agreegate by 35 cents per hour as of 8/2/08; an additional 35 cents an hour effective 8/1/10, and an additional 35 cents per hour effective on 8/1/11.

Additionally, the employers committed to pay an additional 15 cents an hour if consultants' projections show that active reserves drop below 10 months but not earlier than 8/1/10. If that happens, then the employers will be obligated to contribute an additional 15 cents effective 7/31/11 which can go into effect earlier if the reserves dip below 6 months for active reserves and 8 months for retirees.

The employers say that, as an additional funding mechanism after those options, IATSE will "reallocate" an additional 1% from wages or their IAP.

Though TAG isn't in the Basic Agreement's bargaining unit (and hasn't been since 1985), a few observations:

The deal hammered out by the IA and the AMPTP is similar to the DGA agreement from January 2008.

The New Media provisions track the DGA-WGA-AFTRA agreements.

The percentage wage increases, coupled with the annual increases in contributions to the health and pension plans are competitive with or better than the other gt\uild deals negotiated this year.

The other element to consider: This deal was consummated after the economy started its tailspin. The agreements of AFTRA, WGA and SAG occurred months before the stock market and banking system went to hell in a hand cart.

On Nikki's site, from her November 20th posting, there was this comment from someone who claims to be an Editors Guild (Local 700) member:

I will bet our health care plan will be cut to the point of having to pay for our spouses, and children after August 09′. If the IATSE did not give this away, I will be blown away.

Here's some factoids to know about the Motion Picture Industy Health and Pension Plan.

1) The Pension Plan (there are two under the MPIPHP's umbrella) is funded before anything else. Under the new rules laid down by The Pension Protection Act of 2006 to be in the top-ranked "green zone" it must be 80-100% funded. The MPIPHP Pension Plans are currently "green"; 75% of all covered plans in the country are not. (Pension plan assets nation-wide have taken a beating of late.)

2) Health Plan costs have increased by 9.5% annually over the past several years, the funding shortfall growing year by year. Plan trustees -- equal numbers from the congloms and unions -- understood that "design changes" (a polite way of saying "cost savings") were going to have to get implemented.

3) Due to a strike early in the year, Plan contributions fell by four million hours, year to year.

There are no premium payments for members in this deal, nor for their spouses or children. There are higher co-pays for services and pharmaceuticals, but every health plan I know about, union or corporate, has been forced to make similar changes. Whether these changes are the ones that should have been made, or whether some other remedies should have been explored is a subject that could be debated for the next three years.

But every labor rep in the caucus room was briefed about what was going on each day they were there, the health plan changes were pored over for months, and the final package was agreed to by every bargaining unit member in attendance. Is it a perfect, ideal agreement? No deal that has to factor in rising costs and falling assets can be, but this agreement is right in line with every other that's been negotiated this year.

I guess we'll have to wait and see what sort of package SAG ultimately comes up with. Hopefully people won't be thrown out of work while the actors strive to get it.

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SAG and AMPTP Arm Wrestle

And I got my suspicions who's going to win.

In a letter than went out on Thanksgiving eve, SAG president Alan Rosenberg blasted the corporations for harping on the bad economy.

"Like it's our fault," he added. "As middle-income actors, we are the victims of corporate greed. We didn't cause this turmoil."

Eight Hollywood CEOs fired back angrily on Sunday in an open letter to the entertainment industry, accusing SAG of being elitist and stressing that the majors have closed six other master contracts with the town's other major labor unions this year (the DGA, WGA, IATSE, casting directors and two with AFTRA).

"SAG is demanding that the entire industry literally throw out all of its hard work because it believes it deserves more than the 230,000 other working people in the business," the letter said. "To comply with SAG's demands would mean SAG merits more than everyone else. Saying yes would jeopardize the trust we have so carefully established with the rest of the industry -- at a time when this industry needs stability to ensure that together, we effectively evolve with shifting consumer demand."

The way this works is, the Screen Actors Guild will continue to rattle its saber, and the producers will keep saying "we don't care."

Do they both mean it? Are they both bluffing? Sure as hell beats me.

What I do know is that t.v. continues to get made but live-action features aren't being greenlit for production. Studios don't want to be caught with half a movie made if and when the actors walk off the set.

Seems like the conglomerates are loath to part with cash they're worried about going up in smoke, and the actors continue to want a deal that's a different shape than the ones molded by the other unions/guilds.

Why do I have thise feeling we're still in the middle of a mountainous fustercluck?

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Doggy Bounces

Now with vitamin-packed, life-affirming Add Ons.

Bolt surges Friday to Friday.

Not that you wouldn't expect it, what with the white shepherd's fan base out of school for the holidays. But still in all, the Disney flick is now nipping at Twilight's heels as Vince Vaughn and Resse Witherspoon lead the parade with Four Christmases. (America does love those holiday comedies, no matter what the reviewers say.)

Down in the fifth position, Madagascar 2 makes off with $5,750,000 and zooms past the $150 million mark. DreamWorksAnimation has another nice little money maker on its hands.

Add On: More analysis of the Turkey Day weekend here.

Family fare surged on Thursday. Disney's 3-D animated toon "Bolt" was up 150% over Thursday, grossing $10.8 million on its second Friday for a cume of $51.1 million. Film was up an impressive 54% over the previous Friday, when it opened.

"Bolt" tied with Summit Entertainment's "Twilight" for second place on Friday ...

DreamWorks Animation/Paramount's "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" placed an impressive No. 6 on Friday. Entering its fourth sesh, toon grossed $5.5 million from 3,709 playdates for a cume of $150.3 million. "Mad 2" was up a whopping 154% over Thursday, and 50% over the previous Friday ...

Glad tidings for the holidays, hmm?

Add On Too: And the doggy lands in second overall ... and third on a per-theatre basis. $67 million (rounded) after two weekends.

And in the sixth position, our animal friends from Mad Deux take in $14.5 million, for a grand domestic total that nudges against $160 million (again rounded).

(The L.A. Times and Deadline Hollywood offer their analyses here and here.)

It is a good thing to be in the animated feature business, yes?

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Bolt's Legs

The Disney flick appears to be gaining some traction as it trots into its second weekend:

Disney's Bolt finished No. 4 with $4.3M Thursday and a big comeback of $5.1M Wednesday in 3,651 plays after a difficult debut last weekend when Twilight skewed younger than expected. But the superpooch could also end up #3 because of big kiddie matnees with a projected $24M for the 3-day weekend and $33M for the 5-day holiday since Thanksgiving audiences love family pics so much.

The Guardian in the United Kingdom thinks the feature's prospects are bright, even with its ... ah ... less than serendipitous launch:

Bolt was unlucky to go against Twilight last weekend but it's a classy piece of film-making and should grow through enthusiastic word of mouth. This is the kind of weekend it will use to really dig its claws into the box office and it should hold well on about the same amount as Australia.

And there's other hopeful signs. The Italians appear to be taking the white shepherd to their hearts.

In Italy, Disney's "Bolt" is bowing big on 540 screens, 31 of which are 3-D equipped, in a crowded frame which also sees "Max Payne" making its Italo outing. But neither "Bolt" nor "Payne" are expected to oust "Twilight," in its sophomore sesh, from the top Italo spot.

Disney's dog hero pic has drawn rave reviews with Corriere della Sera praising "Bolt" for its "originality" and "tight editing," while comparing its mix of fantasy and reality worlds with that of "Pinocchio." ....

The bottom line? The picture has gotten good word of mouth, and looks to do middling well domestically, and fine overseas.

The Mouse House's story crew worked and reworked the picture's gags and continuity right up through the early part of this year, and production turned and burned to hit the release date. During crunch time, I heard everything from "No way we make the deadline..." to "Hey, we're in under the wire, but there's some funky shots I wish we could work on more ...".

Outside the studio, I've heard complaints that Bolt's design was too uninspired and "generic," the trailers weren't good enough, etc. But there are always a zillion eager analysts willing to step forward when a picture underperforms. They always have a ready-made explanation about why events didn't go as swimmingly as expected and hoped, and who's to know? Maybe they're right. It's impossible to prove one way or the other.

But since I'm a believer in Occam's razor, I'll go with the simplest, most obvious reason for the dollar totals of the flick's opening weekend: Twilight's demographics collided with Bolt's audience and the vampires won.

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The Mega Collector's Preston Blair: The Squirrel

Below, signed by the artist, the star of Screwball Squirrel is about to give his little friend a well-deserved thumper.

Below, directed by Tex Avery, one of the most wonderfully anarchic 'toons ever.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Linkomatic

As you digest your turkey, peruse the 'toony links that have gathered here at TAG blog, all for your enjoyment and edification.

First, the edification. Time Magazine has a piece on a very non-Disney animated feature:

Waltz with Bashir, which ... opens in the U.S. in December, has already found fans well beyond Israel's borders: it earned a Palme d'Or nomination at Cannes and will be in the running for Oscars next year. The film's images may seem simply drawn, and move at a sleepwalker's dreamy pace, but Folman uses them to capture war's surreal brutality. The title refers to a scene when an Israeli soldier, pinned down by sniper fire from the surrounding Beirut apartment blocks, leaps up and starts firing his heavy machine gun as he waltzes across a rooftop past posters of murdered Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel ...

A long way from Cinderella ...

Bolt might not be flying super high at the box office, but Disney artist's Mark Walton acting career appears to be taking off like a rocket:

... Walton is the unlikely voice of Rhino, an overweight, television-obsessed hamster who is shaping up to be the film's breakout character. (Sorry, Bolt.) Described in the script as "rolling thunder" because he is both excitable and confined to a plastic exercise ball, Rhino gets most of the laughs. Test audiences loved the character so much that Disney is playing him up in the marketing campaign.

Walton is so thrilled that he can barely contain himself, but it's not because an average guy like him is getting more attention than John Travolta, who provides the voice of Bolt.

"Who cares about fame and fortune?" he said, clenching his fists in excitement and waiving them in the air. "I'm going to be a plush animal."

Click your way over to the ASIFA Animation Archives where you'll find a plethora of Disney caricatures (also signatures) from 1952, created for artist Clair Weeks as he prepared to journey to India.

A missionary's son, Clair Weeks was born in 1912 in India. He lived there until the early 1930s, when he relocated to America. In 1936, he joined the staff of the Walt Disney Studio and set to work as an assistant on Snow White. He went on to assist Marc Davis on Bambi, Cinderella and Peter Pan, taking a brief break from animation to serve in the military during WW2.

In the early 50s, Weeks left the studio travel the world. He eventually settled in Bombay, India, where he headed up a government owned studio that produced animated shorts. Weeks' impact on Indian animation was immense.

Oh, and Professor Layton? From fabled Level 5? He'll now be coming to anime.

It was inevitable. Professor Layton, the DS title from developer Level 5, is getting an anime feature film.

Titled Professor Layton: The First Movie (there will be others?), the flick is slated for January 2010 in Japan and will follow the adventures of Professor Layton and his young assistant, Luke. This isn't the series first foray into features. Last year, Level 5 announced a live action Professor Layton film.

... It will be produced by Japanese studio TOHO and will get an entirely new story drafted by Level 5 president Akihiro Hino.

John K. explains the shortcomings of "The Illusion of Life," also the good things. Also what's wrong with Disney (and high time he got around to it):

Most of the book was just propaganda for the Disney studio. It was a written history of the studio that claimed everything that was ever done with any quality or worth came from Disney, and no one else ever did anything good, or invented anything important ...

But there was one chapter that I thought was great "The Principles Of Animation". This spelled out technically, the basic tools of how to make smooth animation. I wish the whole book would have been about this and had expanded each principle into actual methods and details.

... The funny part is that while I agree totally in theory what the importance of each principle is, I am also surprised that the Disney animators didn't actually practice all of them ...

Have a fantabulous Thursday and Friday. Go for several long walks.

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The Mega Collector presents Mr. Bug Goes To Town

... a/k/a Hoppity Goes To Town. Below, some stunning artwork from Fleischer Studios's last theatrical feature.

Click the thumbnails for larger images

For those who think Disney blew it by putting Bolt up against Twilight, that's nothing. Mr. Bug Goes To Town was scheduled to come out in November 1941, but to avoid going up against Dumbo the studio changed the release date to ... December 9, 1941.

Here's a Nick Tafuri drawing of Mr. Bumble and C. Bagley Beetle:

Below, in eight segments, the entire feature:

In addition to Tafuri, sections of the film were directed by Shamus Culhane, Al Eugster, Reuben Grossman, Abner Kneitel, Hal Seeger, Dave Tendlar, John Walworth and Bob Wickersham.

Mr. Bug was originally meant to be an adaptation of Maurice Maeterlinck's The Life of the Bee, but the Fleischers were unable to get the rights to the book, and the studio came up with its own story inspired by Maeterlinck instead.

Fleischer was the first U.S. animation studio to sign a union contract, after a bruising strike in 1937. The Fleischers responded by moving the studio to Miami, to save costs and in hopes of breaking the union. As Tom Sito relates in his book Drawing The Line, the move actually increased costs and set the pro-union and anti-union employees even farther apart.

In May 1941, faced with bankruptcy during production on Mr. Bug, the Fleischers were forced to sell the studio to Paramount, who kept the brothers on but forced them to sign undated resignation letters. By the time Mr. Bug was released, Dave Fleischer, who was credited as director, had moved to Hollywood to head up the Screen Gems unit.

Paramount closed the Miami studio and set up Famous Studios back in New York to continue the Popeye shorts that had made the studio's reputation. Of course, they signed a union contract.

Appreciations to Jeff Massie, Tom Sito, and of course Mega Collector for their contributions to this post.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Joyous Thanksgiving Greetings

The season commences with Turkey Day, and we wish you a joyous holiday that finds you healthy, happy, and with an abundance of roasted bird meat and cranberry sauce ...

Doesn't everyone get served by jesters on Thanksgiving? (And TAG blog is thankful for this, its 2020th post ... and the 1,516,351 million page views. We keep rolling along.)

The above is a Ralph Hulett Christmas card, posted a year ago. But it seems appropriate to roll it out today.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Shorter Week's Flotsam and Jetsam

Though there were only three days in the workweek, I hopped around to a number of studios. Herewith -- before I totter off into overeating land -- a few snippets from the days recently gone by:

A lead Disney Feature artist:

"Some of us told marketing that opening Bolt against Twilight was a bad idea. They said they knew best ..."

Which reminds me of a letter writer-producer-director Nunnally Johnson wrote to a friend regarding the marketing department at 20th Century-Fox:

"The marketing people here on the lot said the failure of the picture was a 100% the fault of production ..."

This was fifty-five years ago. Funny how most things never change. If the film underperforms, it's the creators responsibility. If the picture succeeds, the credit should be given to the folks who put together the terrific advertising campaign.

And at another studio across town, management sent out the following memo to the artists:

There is a real possibility that SAG will decide to go on strike as early as January ...

Hopefully this contract dispute will be resolved without a strike but everyone should be prpeared that there is a possiblity that this may happen. We're not sure how this would impact productions at this time.

Enough to set teeth on edge, yes? No wonder people are asking me what I know about the voice actors going out.

Lastly, at Film Roman, artists still aren't sure of future production plans for The Simpsons. Is the Yellow Family good for one more season? Two? Five? If Fox and Gracie Films know the answer, they aren't revealing it.

It's yet another workplace wrinkle that has made things tense. When I was up there yesterday and gave my usual cheery "Hi how's things going?", the artist I posed the question to growled: "Don't ask."

If you can, have a good four-day holiday anyway.

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The Mega Collector's Preston Blair: The Girl

Preston Blair is best known as the author of a series of well-loved books on animation techniques that have inspired generations of animators.

As a principal animator for Tex Avery at MGM, he was responsible for a number of iconic characters, including The Girl who appeared in several relatively risque WWII vintage cartoons including The Shooting Of Dan McGoo.

Above, the star of the show, Droopy (artist unknown). Below, the final cartoon.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Way To GO!

Here's a surprise:

... The prospect of SAG going on strike by mid-January, just as primetime's pilot season starts in earnest, is ensuring that more broadcast network pilots will be produced under AFTRA contracts rather than SAG next year, top studio brass confirm ...

"If they're about to go on strike in mid-January, why would we not do deals with AFTRA wherever possible?" said a senior business exec at a top TV shop. "The short-term mentality of (SAG's) leadership is just staggering to us." ...

Nine months ago in Florida, a highly-placed IA rep said to me:

"If these SAG idiots get real wild and crazy, then guess what? They won't have a lot of actors under their jurisdiction. AFTRA can sign up digital productions and SAG's going to be out of freaking luck" ...

This looks to be happening right soon, if Variety is halfway correct.

... [L]ong-standing agreement has been that SAG reps all projects shot on film, while SAG and AFTRA have an equal shot at projects shot electronically, which used to translate to shows shot on video (multi-camera sitcoms, soaps, daytime and latenight yakkers, etc.).

But with most primetime skeins now shot in high-definition digital formats, AFTRA's electronic purview has greatly expanded. And in the past year, with the biz on SAG strike watch, a number of upcoming skeins have opted to go with AFTRA deals ...

The resistance among producers to shooting on digital vid rather than film has abated in recent years as the quality of high-def digital vid has improved. And in cost-conscious times, studios are unlikely to bend to the will of film purists, especially on new projects, studio execs say.

So let's go over the high points, shall we?

Point One: SAG has exclusive jurisdiction of television shows and theatrical features shot on film. And film is slowly, steadily going away.

Point Two: SAG and AFTRA share jurisdiction of shows in the digital format.

Point Three: AFTRA has no possibility of going on strike, as it's ratified it's new three-year deal. But SAG could pull the strike trigger at any time.

Which labor organization you think might be signing up more work? Which labor organization might be signing up more work into the distant future, since it is less apt to hit the streets with picket signs at an inopportune moment?

SAG throws around words like "fair" and "just" as it complains that the producers' last contract offer wasn't (isn't) good enough. To an extent, I sympathize with the guild, but I learned years ago that whining about what's fair, or "what we deserve" doesn't get you far in corporatist America. What gets you much further down the Road of Economic Justice is having the leverage to attain your stated goals.

Because every other labor group is on board with the current deal, I honestly don't think SAG has the muscle to reach its self-described Promised Land. But if it keeps threatening job actions, it could find itself in a small, hot hell of its own creation.

And what's that hell, exactly? A world where AFTRA has more working members and more contracts than the Screen Actors Guild, and SAG -- no longer the Alpha labor organization for actors -- ends up the smaller, weaker union.

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A New L.A. 'Toon Studio

The L.A. Times reports on a new animation studio plunking down in the city of the Angels:

Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, whose giant Buddha, bug-eyed monsters and magical mushrooms packed in huge crowds last year at the Museum of Contemporary Art, is putting down roots in Los Angeles. A multifaceted artist who embraces painting and sculpture, film and mass-produced goods as part of a single enterprise, he is planning to open an animation studio here next summer ...

The company has leased a building on North Highland Avenue, to be adapted to the studio's needs. With 6,220 square feet of space on the first floor and 2,760 square feet on the second level, the facility is expected to accommodate about 30 employees, said Daniel Rappaport of Management 360, Kaikai Kiki's talent management firm in Los Angeles.

The studio's first project will be a feature-length animated film based on "Planting the Seeds," the shorts that premiered at Murakami's mid-career retrospective at MOCA ...

Interesting, is it not, that with all the talk of outsourcing and downsizing (and yes, that stuff does go on), other animation companies relocate here from overseas.

Why? Because we have a talent base that is second to none, and foreign producers want to tap into it. (Nobody is coming here for the low labor costs and rock-bottom costs of living.)

TAG's task, as always, is to get Murakami signed to an agreement, so if you end up working there on Highland in the near future, do take action and let us know. The future you protect will be your own.

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The MegaCollector's Private Snafu

Robert "Bobe" Cannon is best remembered as the director of UPA classics such as Gerald McBoing Boing and as a principal animator in Tex Avery's Warners and MGM units. Here are some of his extremes from the Private Snafu series of WWII cartoons produced by Warners for the U.S. Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit, from a character created by FMPU chairman Frank Capra.

And here's Snafuperman, directed by Friz Freleng, the tenth in the Private Snafu series:

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Monday, November 24, 2008

The #1 Topic of Conversation

Everywhere I've gone the last few days, the Big Question is:

"So ... Is SAG going on strike?"

I'm asked this because I'm a union rep, and therefore (supposedly) knowledgable on the subject. But what I know about the internal workings and political dynamics of the Screen Actors Guild is next to nothing.

What I do know is that a second strike will do serious damage to everybody else who works in the entertainment business. Grips, cinematographers, editors, makeup artists and costume designers, animators, sound technicians, and all the rest.

Now, I get that SAG President Alan Rosenberg ... and no doubt a lot of other SAG members ... don't like the deal that other labor organizations hav made with the AMPTP. It's understandable that SAG isn't crazy about various aspects of the "last, best and final offer" now on its plate, because truth to tell, there are sections in the freshly negotiated IATSE deal with the Alliance that the IA reps were less than totally enthusiastic about.

But hey. Nobody ever negotiates the ideal, but merely the possible. The template for New Media was in place before the International and its guilds and unions sat down in the big AMPTP meeting room, forged by the DGA, WGA, and AFTRA over the previous ten months. Some of it was good, some not good, but all of us knew we had to hammer out something that lived inside that model ... and live with it. And live to come back and negotiate a new template another day.

SAG, however, seems hell-bent on moving down a more militant road. Mr. Rosenberg says that a strike vote doesn't necessarily mean a strike, but we heard this refrain twelve months ago from the Presidents of the WGA, and the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan now has four million fewer contribution hours in it than without the writers' job action. And trust me, it impacted where our November 2008 deal ended up, because everything, and I mean everything, is interconnected.

Which brings us to now. There's a strong chance that the Screen Actors Guild will go out in a couple of months time. The trades say it will mainly impact prime-time television, but that's nonsense. A SAG strike will stop television, theatrical films, and voice recording for animation. If it last long enough, like three or more months, it will destroy livelihoods, trigger bankruptcies, cause idustry workers to lose their homes.

If SAG was the first labor union out of the negotiation box, a strike -- however bad the ultimate result might be -- would at least make some sort of sense. But SAG is now the last guild up to bat, and so is saddled by the contract points already negotiated. Worse, it's saddled with the deal made by the actors union with which it refused to merge (and thereby control) not once but twice.

And now SAG is on the brink of piling more stupidity on its earlier idiocies. The Directors Guild spent two million dollars to learn that New Media remains embryonic, and the money to be made there is still paltry. This might be different in three years, which is why most unions' New Media agreements sunset in three years and almost everyone starts over.

None of this, however, is good enough for SAG. The guild will continue its brinkmanship strategy and go after strike authorization. Despite Rosenberg's softer cooing noises, I think the odds are high that the Screen Actors Guild will hit the bricks. Once it does, several things will happen:

1) IATSE member won't be joining SAG picketers in solidarity. They will most likely be hurling tomatoes from passing cars.

2) Producers will accelerate the shift from film to digital chips and tape. And AFTRA, which has a jurisdiction in digital, will get a surge of new signators.

3) The entertainment conglomerates will endure whatever small flesh wounds they receive and ultimately laugh all the way to the bank.

4) Lots of film workers will cry all the way to bankruptcy court.

Let us pray that this sad script doesn't play out the way I've described it. Because the last thing the movie industry needs as the economy melts down is a long, debilitating job action.

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Mega Collector Presents: The Flying Sorceress

Siteen months before M-G-M shuttered its cartoon studio, Bill and Joe produced this little number.

Click the thumbnail for a larger image

A bit of character design work from the M-G-M cartoon studio in its sunset years. Artist: Gene Hazelton; The Flying Sorceress, Tom & Jerry short, directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, 1955.

The Flying Sorceress was released in glorious Cinemascope in January, 1956. By that time, top-kick Fred Quimby had retired, and Joe and Bill were the heads of the studio. They were able to enjoy their new and exalted positions until the Spring of 1957, when Metro's brass closed the cartoon unit.

And so the curtain rang down on MGM's foray into the animated arts, and poor Bill H. and Joe B. were never heard from again.

Oh, wait ...

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Linkorama of a Sunday

Three score and twenty. Who would have believed it? (Copyright the Disney Co ... we believe.)

All the animated fooh fah worth reading ... and some that's not.

Using Bolt as its lede, the New York Times has a cautionary piece on the commercial and holding power of stereoscopic movie going:

Bill Thomas, producer of the 3-D Fernando Lamas vehicle “Sangaree,” in a Time magazine cover story on 3-D, June 8, 1953:

“Whaddya mean they won’t wear glasses? They’ll wear toilet seats around their necks if you give them what they want to see!”

The feature-length Woman of Wonder to visit a teevee screen near you:

In late February, Wonder Woman will get her own feature-length animated film -- her biggest solo spotlight since the cancellation of the Lynda Carter television series in 1979 -- and today we're bringing you the very first glimpse of it ...

Keri Russell, the Golden Globe-winning star of "Felicity" and Edward Norton's co-star in the upcoming film "Leaves of Grass," gives voice to the Amazon princess in the straight-to-DVD release that will tell the origin tale of the most iconic female character in comic book history.

If there is one reason to have high high hopes for this Hellenic revival of a character that celebrates her 67th anniversary next month, it's the presence of producer Bruce Timm ...

Another tale of the first animated feature ... which is now long gone. (The way these things work, a reel or three will show up in somebody's basement someday, preserved intact because of arctic cold.)

Young Quirino only wanted to draw and was especially fascinated with representing movement, and later made a living drawing political satire cartoons for various newspapers and magazines. Newsreel producer and entrepreneur, Frederico Valle, first commissioned Cristiani to make artwork for the end of his newsreels, and wanted Cristiani to see if he could make them move.

This lead to them making El Apostol: a 70-minute animated feature satirizing Argentina's President Yrigoyen, which premiered in 1917 and was a runaway success, playing to packed cinemas for six months.

One would think, with all that "runaway success,\" back in the day, that a print would have been squirreled away somewhere.

And we'll note here that the rodent who launched a multi-national conglomerate turned eighty last Tuesday.

This is not, strictly speaking, just about animation, but it's highly amusing in spite of that:

Twelve Comic Book Shows That Were Never Made

... We list some of the of the terrible and sublime shows that never made it into production.

The Adventures of Superpup (1958): The Superman TV series was such a hit that television producer Whitney Ellsworth tried to recreate the show with canine characters. The live action pilot featured little person actors in dog costumes ...

ASIFA Hollywood's archival wizards put up more of animation veteran Bob Given's interview.

You'll be pleased to learn that The Drinky Crow Show will soon debut on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim:

... [T]he first animated adaptation of Tony Millionaire's sumptuously debauched comic strip Maakies [was] a half-dozen or so shorts shown between skits on Saturday Night Live in the late '90s ...

In the latest stab at adaptation, which turns Maakies into The Drinky Crow Show (debuts November 23 at 12:15 am on the Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim"), Drinky is voiced by Dino Stamatopoulos (Mr. Show, Moral Orel). His constant companion, Uncle Gabby, a simian-looking fellow with a shamrock in his top hat and a shared lust for liquor, is voiced by David Herman (MADtv, Office Space) ...

Have a short but glorious workweek.

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Here We Go Again?

This will (hopefully) come to naught. But it still causes me to fill my pants:

In a move that ups the ante in the stalemate between actors and the studios over a new labor contract, the Screen Actors Guild has decided to pursue a strike authorization vote from its 120,000 members.

The decision came early Saturday morning after two days of mediation failed to bridge deep differences between the sides over how actors should be paid for work that is distributed over the Internet. Actors have been working without a contract since June 30.

Although a last-minute breakthrough is still possible, the actors and the studios now look to be inching closer to a costly showdown that would have seemed remote only a month ago.


The economy is in free fall, every other Hollywood labor organization has signed new three-year deals, and the actors get ready to pull the trigger.

I'll give it you as gently as I can.

If the actors go out, everybody else who works in the motion picture industry is screwed. Live action will shut down. Unemployment will skyrocket. And the various movie industry health and pension plans, which have been eating it already because of the drubbing their invested assets have taken, will very quckly be in desperate, desperate trouble because their cash flows will stop.

Animation employees wouldn't be slammed immediately, because they could continue working with the voice tracks that are in the can, but it could impact health coverage, and impact it in major ways.

And if a strike were to last three, four, five months? Don't even think about it, because you'll end up throwing yourself off a high cliff.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Franchises Rule

Now with extra spicy Add On.

Okay, so I was wrong.

The Friday box office numbers are in, and the well reviewed Bolt falls victim to the ho-hum reviewed Twilight.

(I kind of guessed which film was going to come out on top when I saw the news reports for Twilight's sold out midnight shows. Excited, eager teenaged girls as far as the eye could see.) ...

Twilight collects $35.7 million -- twice the initial Friday take of the very successful Madagascar Deux.

Quantum of Solace hangs in with $8,750,000 for the start of its second weekend ($90.8 million to date).

Bolt earns $7.l million. Not awful, but a long way from what I assume the Mouse House was hoping for. And less than half the initial Friday take of the New York zoo animals.

Speaking of which, Madagascar the Second descends to fourth place, raking in $3.7 million (of a $125.2 million total.)

And what lessons do we draw from all this, class? (And let's see some NEW hands up, please?)

1) Never but never underestimate the power of a franchise or movie-going demographic.

2) Never assume that the audience for your movie is different from the competition's, because in the 21st century, with ten-year-olds playing bang-bang shoot-shoot video games, and tweeners dressing like high-schoolers and thinking young-adult thoughts, there is huge overlap.

3) Having two weeks between major animated releases is maybe two weeks too little.

Onward to Saturday and Sunday ... and thank Gawd for the oncoming four day holiday weekend.

Add On: Okay. The good news is that there are two animated features in the Box Office Top Five.

The bad news is that they did some cannibalizing of one another.

Plus, the Disney schedulers miscalculated putting Bolt up against the vampire picture over which 'teen and 'tween girls salivate. When it comes down to teen-aged vampires or an animated version of Miley Cyrus, the vampires win.

More's the pity.

The (almost) final weekend numbers: Twilight hugs and kisses a mighty $70.5 million. And Quantum Solace makes off with $27.4 million after a near sixty percent box office drop.

Bolt makes a partial receovery from a tepid Friday opening and ends with $27 million, while Madgascar 2 suffers a 54.3% decline and earns $7.2 million and a $137.4 million total.

Now it's on to the Thanksgiving box office and the fabled holiday season, where hopefully turnstiles will spin and cash registers will ring.

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Mega Collector Presents: Ragtime Bear

Here is another collectible from the Mega Collector's trove of cartoon goodies ...

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An original color setup from Ragtime Bear, the first Mr. Magoo cartoon. (Pardon the reflections. You go with the photographic equipment you have, not the equipment -- and lights -- you wish you had...).

After Magoo was successfully launched in 1949, United Productions of America, the studio that made it, became one of the most successful animation companies of its time, winning both acclaim and awards. (All those damn lefties who departed Disney after the '41 strike had careers in cartoonland after all...)

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Friday, November 21, 2008

On the inside of our new building

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Yesterday we showed you how the outside of our new headquarters in Burbank is shaping up.

This is taken from the future site of the lobby, in the general direction of what will be Marta Strohl and Jeff Massie's offices. The reception desk will be at the left.

(Right) Facing west from the main lobby, the hallway towards the classrooms, the life drawing room and the computer lab.

(Left) Facing towards the main entrance and the art gallery.

At right, the area where the main stairway from the lobby to the second floor will be installed (The interior wall used to be the exterior wall, as earlier photos here show.)

At left, facing southeast from the back of the second-floor auditorium, towards the stairway landing and elevator lobby.

If all goes as scheduled, the building should be ready for occupancy by the spring of 2009.

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Walking the Disney Walk

After being sequestered in Sherman Oaks for half the week, I got back to basics with a stroll through the Disney Animation Studio Thursday afternoon.

Artists on the hat building's first floor were wondering how Bolt was going to open on the morrow, and checking the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. (As you'll note, critical response is strong.)

Disney staffers are anxious for a hit. I'm anxious for two animated features in the Box Office Top Three.

(I'm not stupid ... or optimistic ... enough to believe that James Bond is going to fade in his second weekend. But I'll predict that Bolt finishes strong but second for the weekend, behind Twilight mania*. Naturally I could be -- as I sometimes am -- wrong.)

Also on the first floor, I got pulled into a production t.d.'s room. He asked me about the new 45-hour workweek that management has been touting. I said:

* If management gets people to agree to work "on call", then they can have people work additional hours without additional compensation, Monday through Friday.

(It's time-and-a-half for work on the "sixth or seventh day" -- usually Saturday or Sunday. This elicited the remark: "Oh, that must be why they're discouraging on call people from working on the weekend ...")

* It seems management is trying to cut and/or contain costs (big duh). Disney is reinstituting the "on call" classification after a break of fifteen years.

* When negotiating a newer salary, ask peers what the range of weekly wages are, so that salary talks with the friendly studip rep is not so ... ah ... lopsided. (To this end, it's also a good idea to check the '08 TAG wage survey.)

He was happy to have the information, and I was happy to give it to him. Knowledge is power.

Up on the second floor of hat, a "Thanksgiving Lunch" was wrapping up. They were breaking down a long buffet on the outside patio, and tables and chairs still crowded the main halls.

I missed the festivities completely, but an animator told me the pumpkin pie was excellent.

* Even now, the sold-out midnight shows for Twilight are unspooling...

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Our new building, from the outside

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Progress is being made over at 1105 N. Hollywood Way in Burbank, where we hope to be moving in the spring of 2009.

Here's the main entrance, with the art gallery to the left.

This newly built enclosure (left) will hold the main stairway from the lobby to the second floor auditorium. Directly below the auditorium will be the Guild offices.

(right) The entrance to the main lobby from the south parking lot, above which is a newly installed skylight.

The exterior of the art gallery (left), adjacent to the main lobby at the southeast corner of the building.

And here's the inside of the art gallery space (right), which we plan to use for member art shows, historical exhibits, etc.

Tomorrow, some more views of the inside of the building.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Negotiations

The last day scheduled for the IATSE-AMPTP contract talks, and we have touch down...

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees agreed to a tentative three-year contract with the major Hollywood studios Wednesday, becoming the fifth union this year to conclude a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The proposed agreement was modeled on similar pacts negotiated by writers, directors and the smaller actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, that established pay terms for programs streamed on the Web.

Although terms were not disclosed, the pact was said to include a modest hike in union minimums and increased contributions to the union's health and pension plan as well as benefit cuts in response to rising health insurance costs ...

"This was a tough negotiation during tough economic times, but both sides worked hard and negotiated reasonably to come to this agreement," IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb said in a statement.

Those of us in the negotiations know the details of the deal, but we're keeping our yaps shut until the negotiating parties roll out their press releases.

Considering the times, the deal is a solid one (hell, even not considering the times.) It wasn't particularly easy to get to, and my hat is off to IA Prez Loeb, who hung in there and negotiated skillfully to a successful conclusion.

It was aslo helpful, I think, that SAG is still out there with its own issues. As a union mucky-mucky said to me as we packed up to go home:

"The producers wanted a deal with us, wanted it a lot. They had big motivation to go into the SAG talks tomorrow with every other labor group on board the original DGA deal. They had to get it done today, and they did."

Two things happened at the AMPTP over the last two weeks. The International had the negotiating chops with its leadership, to nail a contract down, and it had some useful leverage.

Deal memo to follow.

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The Mega Collector Presents: Dick Bickenbach's Sleepy-Time Tom

Bick's layout of the opening shot:

And a Bickenbach model sheet for the 1951 cartoon:

And the final version (complete with Vietnamese subtitles -- ain't the Internet great?):

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Madagascar Deux In Foreign Lands

We know that the zoo animals are collecting heavy coin across the fruited plain. But how are they doing overseas?

"Madagascar 2," still warming up nicely in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, tallied $6.4 million from 990 screens in only seven markets to lift its early cume to an encouraging $48.5 million. The animated hit comes out in full force in late November and early December.

When the flick reaches full velocity, it will most likely do as well in the other parts of the globe as it does here. I'm estimating a world-wide cume of ... oh ... $450 million to $550 million.

(Of course, we'll see how Madagascar performs when the Little White Dog shows up.)

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This Will Kick Start the Hand Drawn Franchise

Apparently the stereo viewing experience is really taking hold.

The Mouse House is adding "Beauty and the Beast" to its already packed dance card of 3-D pics it will unspool over the next two years ...

Pic's original team of filmmakers, including producer Don Hahn and co-directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale will oversee the process, along with Sara Duran-Singer, senior VP of worldwide post production at Walt Disney Feature Animation.

... [W]e're able to come up with a fun and unique 3-D experience for existing and new fans of the film," [producer Don] Hahn said ...

It'll be intriguing to see what kind of audience is out there for a 3-D Beauty. (Bugs once went the stereo cartoon route, but the road petered out). If only half those existing fans show up, they'll have a winner.

Non-existing fans need not apply.

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And Still Negotiatin'

Say now, this contract talk thing is hard.

You jaw ... then you go and wait ...

Then you jaw ... and you take a dinner break.

Then you wait some more.

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Burny Mattinson -- The First 55 Years Are the Toughest

Burny Mattinson

We would be remiss in not noting the dinner held at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena on Friday honoring longtime Disney employees.

Burny Mattinson, who's done almost everything that can be done at the Disney Animation Studio and worked with almost everybody, was honored with his fifty-five-years-and counting trophy. This comes on top of his Disney Legends nod (albeit with a misspelled last name on the website).

I posted in greater detail about Burny in August, and there's a podcast from Clay Kaytis' website, so I'll just add my congratulations on his award, and his astonishing longevity.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Mega Collector Presents: Eatin' On The Cuff or The Moth Who Came To Dinner

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Rod Scribner extremes from Eatin' On The Cuff or The Moth Who Came to Dinner, directed by Bob Clampett, 1942.

# 2

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# 3

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# 4

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There's nothing more to say ... except here's the complete, restored cartoon:

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Still Negotiatin'

Once more, a large part of the day was whiled away at the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, where the IATSE and the AMPTP continue to jaw over a new three-year agreement ...

And the news blackout continues. But I can say this: we burned through another day, and it's eight hours I'm not going to get back. We go at it again tomorrow.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bob Clampett's Brown Derby caricature, 1950s

One more from the Mega Collector. The young Robert Clampett, formerly a resident wall-hanging of the Brown Derby Restaurant (most likely the Hollywood branch).

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The Brown Derby had rows and rows of celebrity caricatures over its leather-lined booths. To capture the Derby aura in 2008, you'll need to fly a few thousand miles to Orlando and scope out the recreated Hollywood location at Disney World.

The interior of Disney's Florida duplication has a lot of the details right -- the caricatures, the fixtures, the decor -- but for obvious commercial reasons is larger than the first edition.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Autumn B.O.

Now with low calorie Add On.

Madagascar 2 has a Friday to Friday drop of 50% as Mr. Shaken-Not Stirred enters the b.o. competition and enjoys a $27 million Friday, sucking a lot of the oxygen out of the air (unsurprising, since it's had big paydays everywhere else it's opened ...)

Still in all, Madagascar is closing on the century mark ($100k) after one week in theatres. Using the Koch Box Office Calculator, we can estimate the flick will likely land in the $200 million range when all is said and done. (This assumes that Bolt doesn't hammer next week's grosses.) B.O Moja had this to say about Madagascar's weekend #1:

Comprising five and a half percent of Escape 2 Africa's weekend was an IMAX gross of $3.5 million at 129 venues, ranking as the format's top animation debut. By comparison, Kung Fu Panda nabbed $2.2 million at 90 venues on its opening weekend, or less than four percent of its overall start. Panda's IMAX haul ultimately reached $13 million, accounting for six percent of its $215 million total gross. Producer DreamWorks Animation's exit polling on Friday and Saturday suggested that 51 percent of Escape 2 Africa's audience was over 25 years old and 60 percent was female, while half of Friday's and a two thirds of Saturday's moviegoers were classified as "family."

Add On: Madagascar Deux has the third lowest decline of flicks in the weekend's Top Ten, collects $36,000,000 additiona dollars, and now has a cume of $118 million.

And Mr. Bond, to nobody's surprise, surpasses the zoo menagerie's take of the previous weekend by $7 million. The holiday season is indeed upon us. (Next week we see how Disney's small, feisty white dog performs.)

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The Mega Collector's Home On The Range

The Mega Collector's Home On The Range
  • Among TAG's members are a number of animation buffs, people who not only work in the cartoon biz but love the whole essence of the biz, revel in it, and collect artwork from its lengthy past. One of TAG's Mega Collectors has allowed us to tiptoe upstairs to his crowded attic and peep at some of his treasures. Here's the first offering ... Home on the Range. (We're not talking about the Disney feature here, but a Rudy Ising short released by MGM in 1940.)

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The framed thumbnails are small, but give them a click anyway, since I don't plan on writing anything to wear out your eyeballs. Artist, Bob Allen; MGM-Ising. Home On The Range (1940)

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Picture #2

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Picture #3

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Picture #4

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Picture #5

And here's a YouTube of the cartoon made from the sketches:

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Friday, November 14, 2008

The Links of November Toons

I've been buried of late in the negotiation tap dance, and the linkfest has languished, which I now rectify.

France has trouble keeping its c.g. animators and tech directors down on the old Parisian farm:

While Gaul has had a thriving animation industry with Oscar-nominated 2-D features like "The Triplets of Belleville" and "Persepolis," Gaul lacks the financial backing to produce mainstream CGI pics that can export well.

"In France, it's nearly impossible to raise more than E15 million ($18.7 million) to make a 3-D animation film unless you're a movie mogul like Luc Besson," says former Duran Duboi topper Pascal Herold, who has just wrapped post-production on "Le Chat Botte" (Puss 'n Boots).

A series of recent casualities has hampered the mood of French animation producers working with CGI:

* The production of "Monster in Paris," helmed by Eric Bergeron ("Shark Tale") for Bibo Films and produced by Luc Besson's EuropaCorp, has been halted.

* Rumors spreading within the animation circuit even have it that the Gaumont's $35 million animated feature "Rock the Boat" has been delayed because of financial trouble.

A film festival devoted strictly to animated feature rolls out November 14-16 -- The Waterloo Festival of Animated Cinema (I was waiting for this!):

An integral feature for the festival was that they were going to use original 35 mm film for all the screenings. “There was no way to enjoy these movies the way Japanese audiences were. To be able to see this in a theatre, to be able to see this the way it’s supposed to be was very important to us.”

While many die-hard fans of certain genres, often anime, will certainly have seen the films before, seeing them on 35 mm is something special. “A lot is lost in translation from the big screen to the little [TV] screen,” said [festival found Joseph] Chen.

Chen notes that throughout the history of film, animation has had a stigma attached to it, one that WFAC can hopefully dispel. “A lot of people don’t take animation seriously. Back in the 1920s when Lotte Reiniger was looking for people to back her film Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed, they [the studios] didn’t want to talk to her. They thought animation was too difficult a medium. That continues to this day. People think that it’s too hoity- toity, or that it’s for kids.”

Madagascar 2 director Eric Darnell gets interviewed by his home-town teevee station here:

Q: How does one go from Prairie Village, Kansas to Hollywood?

A: Slowly ...

Sound designer Ben Burtt -- most recently of Wall-E -- talks about matching sound to image:

I've always found, when you're trying to create illusions with sound, especially in a science fiction or fantasy movie, that pulling sounds from the world around us is a great way to cement that illusion because you can go out and record an elevator in George Lucas's house or something, and it will have that motor sound. It will be an elevator and you might associate it with that, but if you use it in a movie people will believe it's a force field, or maybe it's the sound of a spaceship door opening.

...and of course Pixar has released its new trailer for Up ...

Animation legend/veteran Bob Givens holds forth at the ASIFA Hollywood archives, and Will Finn is there to participate:

I dropped by the ASIFA Hollywood Animation Archives this afternoon to find animation legend Bob Givens regaling Steve Worth and Mike Fontanelli with insights and memories from his past 95 years, including going to grammar school with John Wayne, assisting on Disney's SNOW WHITE, storyboarding and doing layouts on countless classic LOONEY TUNES and TV shows for Hanna-Barbera, Depatie Freleng and others. Somewhere in there he found himself drafted into World War II as well, where he wound up tagging along on covert ops and doing Kitchen Patrol with author William Saroyan before being tapped by Rudolf Ising to return the Culver City and participate in animating training films that saved the lives of countless Allied soldiers.

Blogging Stocks pats DreamWorks Animation on its furry back for the most excellent launch of Madagascar the 2nd:

... [K]udos to the studio's marketing department for improving the previous film's opening weekend. Madagascar, which was released in May 2005, took in $47 million during its opening weekend. As of this writing, Escape 2 Africa has been credited with about $63 million. Considering that this isn't the summertime, I thought the sequel's debut performance was pretty cool.

And here's another equally cool fact: if the estimates hold, then Escape 2 Africa's first-weekend take will be slightly higher than Kung Fu Panda's opening weekend of $60.2 million. You've got to call that a success.

Film Roman/Starz Media has itself a new studio head:

[Jay] Fukuto, who joined Film Roman two years ago from MGA Entertainment, will now oversee all of the studio's animation production operations for TV series, feature films, homevid, commercials and visual effects ...

Fukuto, who will report to Starz Animation CEO Kent Rice, formerly served as veep of entertainment for MGA, where he oversaw development of the "Bratz" and "Alien Racers" series.

He also served a stint at Walt Disney TV Animation, where he worked on "Kim Possible" and "Lilo & Stitch: The Animated Series."

Lastly, the trades and various outlets announce the animated contenders for the oncoming Academy Awards:

The contenders are "Bolt," "Delgo," "Dragon Hunters," "Fly Me to the Moon," "Igor," "Kung Fu Panda," "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," "$9.99," "The Sky Crawlers," "Sword of the Stranger," "The Tale of Despereaux," "Waltz With Bashir" "WALL-E" and "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!

Because there are at least eight but fewer than 16 submissions, a maximum of three movies can share the spotlight when Oscar nominations in all categories are announced January 22.

Have a nutritious weekend.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Those Other Labor Talks

While all us IATSE types have been hanging around the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, this other union-management kerfluffle has been percolating:

Federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez continued his slow-paced shuttle diplomacy Thursday, meeting for the second time with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers about resuming talks with SAG. The guild, which requested mediation a month ago, has also met twice with Gonzalez.

No date's been set yet for the resumption of SAG contract negotiations, which broke off July 16 after 42 sessions. Neither side had any comment Thursday ...

Word has circulated around -- and I have no idea how true it is -- that the Screen Actors Guild is not at all happy that the IATSE is negotiating a new contract with the producers.

The thing of it is, the IA has negotiated eight or nine months before contract expiration for a bunch of congtract cycles. Like the Directors Guild of America, the International believes it's in our collective interest to hammer out a new contract way in front of the expiration date. And who am I to say that belief is wrong? Recent results have been pretty good.

In any event, the actors don't get their next swing at the plate or bite at the apple (feel free to choose your own metaphor) until the IA and the Alliance of producers finish their scheduled Monday through Wednesday sit-downs. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt SAG will end up striking, the times being what they are. The leadership, I think, have painted themselves into a dandy little corner, and they are now faced with a crappy economy and crappy odds in getting a strike vote.

But hey. We'll see where it goes, won't we?

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At El Disney Animation Studio

An afternoon jaunt through Disney's hat building put me smack dab in the middle of a company press roll-out for Bolt.

Outside the front entrance, there were civilians rolling around in a big plastic ball and Disney staffers giving interviews ...

Inside there were lots of tables and food ... and more Disney staffers giving interviews. A corporate person told me:

"We're going to have press rolling through here for the next few days ..."

Work continues apace on Princess and the Frog, the same as before. An artist informed me:

"Management's talked about people doing a 45-hour week, and of course our supervisors have shifted to on-call. They say 'Hey, it's better than the 50-hour weeks at Pixar."

How accurate this information is about the work-week in Emeryville, I have no way of knowing. I post it here for entertainment (educational?) purposes only ... Click here to read entire post

And Still More Negotiations

Posting here has been light because I have been sitting in a caucus room with other union reps as a new IA-AMPTP collective bargaining is hashed out.

What I can tell you is:

The news blackout and zipped lips are still in force.

The talks are scheduled to go until November 19th.

And that won't be a moment too soon for me, as there's nothing more scintillating than sitting at the AMPTP in a hard chair while others hash out contract details in smaller rooms across the hall. (Usually known as "side bar meetings.")

When news breaks and there is something to post, it will be posted.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Roadside Romeo Triumphs ... in India

Disney's other animated dog picture has already done damn well:

When Walt Disney recently released Roadside Romeo , its first animated movie aimed specifically at the Indian market, it got all the proof it needed that the country's cinemagoers appreciate films made especially for them.

The film came out last month and scored Disney its best opening weekend performance in India, outstripping previous animation hits such as Toy Story . "In its first four days it exceeded the entire Indian gross of The Incredibles ," says Jason Reed, general manager of Walt Disney Studio international productions.

The film's success confirmed what Disney and its rivals in Hollywood have long suspected: Hollywood's best prospects for growth are in emerging theatrical markets such as India, China and Russia.

The point to be made here is that Hollywood congloms are going to be producing an increasing number of locally-based animated features. The Indian market in particular is huge, revenues are going up, and it would take a doltish studio exec not to see the oncoming reality.

Which doesn't mean, of course, that the big ticket, animated extravaganzas coming out of California aren't going to be on the sub-continent's movie screens too. Just that companies will be pressing as many revenue buttons as they can in as many ways as they can.

So someday soon there will be Roadside Romeo, the Sequel, yes?

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

At the Mall

Because the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers headquarters is cheek by jowl to Imagi Animation in the fabled Sherman Oaks Galleria, I took the opportunity to bop over there during an afternoon break. (Multi-tasking, that's me.)

As I went into Imagi, two story artists were coming out with pleased looks on their faces. One of them said:

"We had a new screening for Gatchaman an hour ago, and the picture has really come together in a good way. For a long time it seemed to be two separate films, but now it forms a seamless whole. We've got some notes, but everybody agrees that it works, and works well. It knows what it wants to be."

The rest of the story crew I talked to feels pretty much the same way about the quality of the picture.

And what about the other features happening at Imagi? I got to see some impressive scenes for Astroboy on various computer screens, and Tusker (late of DreamWorks) is now on Imagi's plate. As one artist remarked: "We're getting a big DreamWorks contingent around here ..."

And as for those AMPTP-IATSE negotiations, there's a blackout on the talks, but the lunchtime bunji-jumping competition in the Alliance's three-story lobby was a hoot.

Thank God I was wearing a helmet when my turn came.

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