Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Studio Walkabout

Today found me at three different studios. That makes me sound like I'm hyperactive, but two of the studios are in the same Sonora Ave. building in Glendale: Disney Toons on one floor, Disney TVA on another.

So I'm not really as omnipresent as that first sentence makes me appear ...

Disney TVA Sonora is pretty much a ghost town. Mickey's Clubhouse is being boarded and designed (one artist said they have another two or three shows to go in this cycle), but that's pretty much it at the Sonora building. A director still works on post-production for My Friends Tigger and Pooh, but the rest of the MFTP crew is long gone, scattered to other studios or unemplolyment.

(Not to be overly gloomy, because there are TVA shows happening at the Frank Wells Building. But as a director informed me as I was exiting the premises:

"Things are sloow right now in T.V. animation, not just here, but other studios. Toon Disney has rebranded itselt Disney XD, trying to capture that boy and early teen demo. They're going to be showing Sony's Spiderman now that Kids' WB is belly up, but they don't want to order more shows until they see how the series does on their network."

Cripes. I guess I am being gloomy.)

Meanwhile, Disney Toons -- the direct-to-video feature division, not the rebranded cable network -- is working on Tink 3 (with Tink 4 to follow.) A crew-member said:

"We're working on our fourth pass, and the picture's getting sharp. We have a screen with Lasseter next month, so we're all working our butts off right now" ...

There are other franchise ideas in the hopper, but I couldn't tell you what they are since I've got no freaking idea, only that other things are "in work." But I'm informed that the Tink dvds are selling briskly, so the Big Mouse will be mining that vein of gold for a while. "Might even be a Tink 5," somebody told me.

And up the freeway at Cartoon Network's fun factory, nine newer episodes of Chowder are being turned out, and crew has just returned to work on (I'm told), twenty fresh episodes of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. The crew has work for the next mine months.

The T.V studios that are fairly busy? There's Nick, and there's Film Roman. The other shops have lots of empty cubes. An artist recently told me that non-union places are down-sizing too. "Mike Young is laying off a bunch of artists."

I've got no way to confirm this, but I assume the gentleman wasn't lying. We must be in some kind of recession or something.


Anonymous said...

How about this week you walk around Mike Young instead of Disney Feature for a change?

Anonymous said...

How about this week you walk around Mike Young instead of Disney Feature for a change?

Mike Young is non-union. Steve works for the Animation Guild, and thus only visits union shops. This isn't a hard question to answer.

Anonymous said...

Aaaand, none of the above visits included Disney Feature (WDAS, as it's now called).

Speaking of which, Steve, any news on how the Disney brass is reacting to the slightly disappointing Bolt numbers? What a shame that an actual *good* Disney movie is getting not-so-good ticket sales.

Steve Hulett said...

any news on how the Disney brass is reacting to the slightly disappointing Bolt numbers?

None detected from my listening post.

I think a chunk of the white shepherd's under performance can be chalked up to releasing it against Twilight, which eated some of Bolt's audience on the opening weekend.

You'll never get Disney corporate to admit to that publically, of course. From their perspective, it was undoubtedly sheer genius to put the picture up against a movie that tween and teen girls were super anxious to see.

Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Quit making excuses and trying to blame someone or group of workers! The movie didn't do well, sux, so move on.

Anonymous said...

Well, for me personally, I worked on Bolt and we sweat our brains out making a GOOD film, and when NO ONE saw it, frankly, it saddened me, especially since it fell to inferior films.

Saying the film sucked is completely ignorant, because clearly it didnt, based on good reviews and critical feedback.

So yeah, I feel like someone's to blame, and it wasnt the filmmakers.


Anonymous said...

The movie did not sux. The fact that it didn't make any money sux. its an ok film.

Anonymous said...

To the folks who worked on BOLT and to folks who work on projects in general.

Yes it takes alot of work to make a movie whether its succeeds in the B.O. or not.

Ultimately its the public that determines if a movie "sucks" or is successful. It doesn't matter about reviews, preview audience feedback or even what you think. Reviewers don't pay to see movies, niether do folks who go to screenings. Its the movie-going public.

If your movie does not make money in the B.O. then its a failure. Doesn't matter how hard you worked on it or how fresh it is on rotten tomatoes.

BOLT is a failure. The public has not embraced it. I am sick of studio brass and crew members using excuses like when the film was released and who it was up against that weekend to explain failure.

If a movie fails in the B.O. its because the leadership of the movie failed not the rank and file.

For those of us crew members who "sweat our brains out" we have to remember that we only execute what we are told to do. We follow orders, we don't make them. WE the crew don't come up with the idea of a movie, WE the crew don't write scripts, WE the crew don't determine the art direction of a film. All WE the crew do is what we are told.

Crew members should never blame themselves. Blame your leadership. They are the ones who have failed.

Anonymous said...

Know what, you're wrong. Sometimes shit happens:

Point refuted.

Now shut your mouth.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Shawshank...

I personally liked the movie but it was failure because it made only 28 mil in the B.O.

As I have stated it is the public that determines success or failure of a movie. Not critics, Not preview screening feedback.

Your example of using Shawshank does nothing but support my point.

Anonymous said...

Hey Captain Obvious, there is a difference between financial failure and critical failure. Obviously Bolt is a financial failure, but most everyone who actually bothered to go see it agrees that it was a pretty darn good movie. Certainly much better than the general "perception," whether from the advertising, or from people's initial reaction to the character designs, or whatever.

There have been many movies that were financial failures, but were clearly very good movies. Citizen Cane, Pinocchio, Bambi, Iron Giant, and...yes...Bolt.

Anonymous said...

Yes Ronald there is a difference between critical success/failure and financial failure/success.

However studios don't make movies to have critical success they make movies to have financial success.

A successful business is judged on revenue and income not awards and accolades.

Whether or not people who did see BOLT like it or not the fact is folks are not going to see it. Thats what matters to Studios. Not critics and awards.

Steve Hulett said...

Quit making excuses and trying to blame someone or group of workers! The movie didn't do well, sux, so move on.

Citizen Cane didn't do well on first release.

So I guess it sucks too, eh?

Anonymous said...

I wish Bolt did do better. A lot of great people worked hard on that film and hopefully it will be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Steve I am not the Anonymous who wrote the statement:

"Quit making excuses and trying to blame someone or group of workers! The movie didn't do well, sux, so move on."

Personally I think citizen kane is a good movie whether it made money or not but I think that everyone here needs to be honest with themselves that studios do gauge success on B.O.

If there is an animation studio that is not pulling its weight by having financial success then its doors will be shut. That is a fact. Critical success doesn't pay the bills for a studio.

If no one sees a movie who cares what the critics think or awards and accolades it gets.

Studios don't make movies to be liked over time they want money to be made right out of the gate. Its not like a bottle of wine that you open and let breathe.

Anonymous said...

Right right right....but the question we (or at least me, an artist) are trying to get answered is...

Since it's a good film, WHO or WHAT is to blame for low ticket sales!?

Marketing? Release date? Bad economy? Underestimating the competition? Oversaturated animated-film market? Disney's brand identity?

Anonymous said...

Quit making excuses and trying to blame someone or group of workers! The movie didn't do well, sux, so move on.

Citizen Cane didn't do well on first release.

So I guess it sucks too, eh?

For the second time. What sux is the fact that Bolt did not make any money. NOT THE MOVIE. The MOVIE is just okay, or it would have done better at the Box office.

Try to release Citizen Cane now, I bet you it will still have poor performance. The audience wants what it wants. And Bolt was not it. Nor Citizen Cane at the time. I bet Tinkerbell DVD will out sale Citizen Cane any day. Stop being such film/animation snobs. The rest of the world can't see the extra follow through in the eyelashes, nor do they care.

The movie is not what the general Audience wants. PERIOD.

If there is an animation studio that is not pulling its weight by having financial success then its doors will be shut. That is a fact. Critical success doesn't pay the bills for a studio.

Everything this person said has been dead on.

Mr. Sux

Anonymous said...

Everything you're saying is obvious. It's nothing new or particularly revelatory. Obviously Bolt didn't do well, and studios only exist to make money. Duh.

The real question, however, is WHY people didn't go see Bolt. The answer is that they THOUGHT it would be a bad movie. Their perception of the film, without seeing it, was negative. This was based upon whatever images, commercials, or such, that they saw, and based their perception upon.

The few that DID end up seeing the movie, almost universally came out surprised. This is evidenced by the numerous, almost identical online, and interpersonal comments that have been easily observed. They saw a movie they didn't expect to see, and were very pleasantly surprised.

Obviously, if the public perception of the movie was x, and the reality of the movie was y, then the marketing is at fault. The marketing is the ONLY chance a studio has to publicly present its product in the best possible light. If the movie was objectively good, but the public perception of it was bad, then the studio's efforts to persuade the public of the film's intrinsic merit were flawed.

This is why, absolutely, a significant portion of the blame can be squarely placed on the marketing. Additional blame can be placed on the fact that the movie directly competed with 'Twilight,' which shared essentially similar demographics as what Bolt's marketing was targeting.

The film itself cannot much be blamed, if those who actually saw the thing agree that it was a very quality product. What else can the filmmakers do, but make a quality film?

Whether its financial failure spells big trouble for the studio remains to be seen.

Anonymous said...

I agree with peanut.

I think the easiest way to say it is:

People who havent seen Bolt, seem to make negative comments about it. "Looks like a kids movie." "Oh great, more talking animals." "Disney sucks, Pixar rules." "I hate Miley Travolta." etc etc.

But people who have actually SEEN it (all three of you) say marvelous things about it.

In my opinion, it's a better movie-going experience than Wall-e and Kung Fu Panda, and given different circumstances and history, I think it'd be the front-runner for animated film oscar.

Anonymous said...

We are all stating the obvious about Studios judging success as financial but it seems that folks who read this tag blog need to figure out what success means.

Studios make movies to make money we already know that. Movies are made to reach a mass audience. "Duh" as peanut said.

Based on that criteria a movie that doesn't reach a mass audience is a failure. Without a mass audience - little money in the B.O.

According to Mr. Sux and myself BOLT fits into that category. Mr. Sux thought that it was okay but that is his single opinion - but what is the majority opinion.

The majority opinion to me is what counts since a movie is meant to reach a mass audience.

The fact that BOLT hasn't made alot of money tells me two things. One there are people who saw the movie and didn't like it because if there were a vast majority of folks who saw it and liked it the movie would have "legs." The movie would have been propelled by word of mouth. The second reason why is hasn't done well is that there are folks who just don't want to see it - its not appealing to them. You can blame marketing or whatever you want but folks have decided not to go and see it.

Between little word of mouth and folks desire not to see it BOLT has not been successful.

IMHO Marketing of a movie ONLY counts for the opening weekend. You can't judge a movie's success based on the opening B.O. - thats due to good marketing. I look at a movie's 3rd & 4th week at the B.O. to determine whether or not it will be successful. That tells me it has legs. Marketing does not make a blockbuster its word of mouth. The Dark Knight didn't become a blockbuster because of marketing it became a blockbuster because of word of mouth and I'll throw in a new factor - repeat viewing.

If you like a movie thats great but that means its your personal opinion. That doesn't mean the movie is a success. It just means it was successful to you.

How do all of you judge success.

Anonymous said...


NONE of us are saying Bolt is a financial success. We are all wondering WHHHYYYYY Bolt was not a financial success.

I swear its like talking to a brick.

Anonymous said...

Does Bolt *deserve* to be a blockbuster? Does it have what it takes to generate buzz, get friends to tell friends, can it sustain momentum?

I'm just guessing that the previews/word of mouth reviews are not inspiring an exceptional amount of people to go see it. And I think today you've GOT to get the adult audience involved to get those high box office numbers.

It's pretty obvious Disney is NOT on a winning streak when it comes to the animation department. Since around 2000 they have also had a fair amount of "rewrite-itis" going on with their features, where directors have brought a property so far with their own vision, get yanked and the whole feature gets retooled. I personally believe this is not a formula for box office success.

Beyond that, I think that a feature needs to carry it's own excitement, novelty and soul to the big screen. "Non animation" folks who go to be entertained are going to remember Kung Fu Panda this year for it's style and humor and Wall-E, at the very least for it's message. This is what people mention to me, the particular quality in these movies that have stuck with them.

Where does Bolt stack up here? What is it's exceptional offerings in an oversaturated, competitive market?

I say it has not been a success because nothing about it really stands out. Doesn't mean it's *bad* but it probably isn't going to be that memorable.

As far as comparing it to Citizen Kane..I highly doubt in 50 years film historians are going to rediscover it as a groundbreaking original film that is going to be emulated for decades to come. Nice thought, but it is what it is.

Animation Gal

Anonymous said...

It is a great blog and i can know more information about studios.

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