Monday, December 22, 2008

Cuts In Non-L.A. Animation

Animation here in the southland has been getting squeezed, but rollbacks far to the north are also happening:

Portland-based animation studio Laika Entertainment has laid off 65 people and axed its troubled project in development Jack and Ben’s Animated Adventure. The CG-animated feature was slated to be the studio’s follow-up pic after the upcoming Coraline. Mulan director Barry Cook was signed to direct the film.

This isn't wholly surprising, since Laika has had a lot of hires and outlays the last few years and nothing coming in. (The income half of the equation will start happening when Coraline gets released in February.)

No doubt it's an anxious time to be an animation start-up with a sizable overhead. Or any kind of start-up. We'll see what happens when Mr. Selick's picture hits the AMCs two months from now. Meantime, the company putting the best face on the cuts is totally understandable.

“Basically, we lost some people on the development side for a project we’re not working on any more, which is a natural part of the animation process because it takes so long to make these films and market them,” Begley said. “The layoffs were the result of the project being shelved and Coraline being no longer in production.” ...

“Phil Knight’s commitment to the company is complete and total, and it’s unfortunate what’s happened but it’s something we needed to do from a business point of view,” she said. “Everything at Laika is onward and upward.”

Yeah, hm hm. Onward and upward. Only if Coraline like, under-performs, what's the forward momentum going to look like then?

Just asking.


Anonymous said...

"Coraline" is one I'm really looking forward to. The trailers are great, and although it's hard to judge from a trailer, everything I've seen about "Coraline" is quite appealing.


Anonymous said...

Let's see... The CEO said he wouldn't know a Finding Nemo if it hit him in the head, the board members have NO previous experience making animated features (with the exception of HS), the producers and managers have been ignoring good advice from seasoned veterans - people who were ridiculed and dismissed, and now they have let the entire crew go to join the masses already looking for work - the week before Christmas. What a mean spirited group! Even Scrooge was more charming.

Anonymous said...

CEO Dale Wahl most recently served as CFO for OH! Shoes - nice.

Hopefully someone from Laika who reads this blog can post a comment with some truth and transparency as to what is going on and not blow smoke up our rear ends...

Here is my take on what I learned based on an interview I had with them at SIGGRAPH.

Their upcoming Stop Motion movie Coraline has a distributor - Focus Features. Their next movie which was supposed to be CGI which was Jack and Ben dis not have a distributor. Basically with the exception of Coraline they are trying to find a distributor and so far (at least based at SIGGRAPH) they are trying to find a distributor for their movies.

Right now this studio is basically vaporware. At the time of SIGGRAPH they still didn't break ground for their new campus they are building which they have been talking about for a while. As I said so far they got nothing - emphasis on so far.

I thought it was actually a waste of my time to be interviewing with them since they have no film in production. In fact they shouldn't have been at this year's SIGGRAPH in the first place when they were not even close to being in production.

They have alot of films in "development" but no distributor. They don't even know right now which films they have in development will be CGI or Stop Motion.

By the news of this layoff it appears they put all of their eggs in one basket - Jack and Ben assuming that studios would like it and it appears they got no takers.

I think its a bad idea to put all of your egges in one development basket. If you are trying to get a distribution deal you show the studio everything that you have in development and the studio decides what picture if any they like you don't assume what they will like and start major development on it before you have distribution.

Even when they get a distribution deal it will most likely be for only one picture. No studio is going to take a chance on an entity that has no track record to give them a multi-picture deal. They want to see how the movie does in the B.O. and then make a decision to extend the relationship.

It will be similar to Animal Logic and Happy Feet. Animal Logic got a deal with Warner Bros but it was for only one picture - Happy Feet. After production was over they had to lay everyone off because they had nothing else in production.

The movie did very well in the B.O. and it also won the Oscar for Best Anim movie so Warner Bros. extended their relationship.

Laika will most likely layoff everyone on their first project after production wraps. I think going up there is a suicide mission for right know.

Laika is on its own little island up there in the Pacific Northwest, they'll have a harder time bringing in new people next time around for future films. Their location only hurts in this situation.

They need to dot their I's and cross their T's and get their act together.

I would rather wait to see what happens to them AFTER their first movie before I would even consider working for them.

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