Monday, January 31, 2011

John Dorman, 1952-2011

Bad weekend. Word reaches us that production board artist JOHN DORMAN died on Saturday at the age of fifty-eight.

Since 1974 he worked for Bakshi, Ruby-Spears, Hanna-Barbera, Warners, Disney, Project X, Marvel, Fil Cartoons, Graz Entertainment, Crest Animation, MGM, DreamWorks, Sunbow, Spumco, Vanguard Animation, Toonacious, Hyperion, Earthworks and Adelaide Productions. The above drawings are from his website.

Services are pending; I'll post a comment when I have details.

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Boyd Kirkland, 1950-2011

Director, writer and producer BOYD KIRKLAND died on January 28 at the age of sixty, while awaiting a lung transplant. He was perhaps best known for his work on Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men.

Since 1978 he worked for Marvel, Hanna-Barbera, Disney, Living Scriptures Inc., Ruby-Spears, Warners, Graz Entertainment, TMS, Young Sung, New World, Box Office Originals, Tom T Animation, Universal, Adelaide, Crest Animation, Cartoon Network and Film Roman.

UPDATE: Services tomorrow, Tuesday, February 1, viewing from 10-11 am with the ceremony immediately following at 11 am-noon.

LDS Church Building, 27050 Sand Canyon Road in Canyon Country.

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A Conversation with Kathy Zielinski -- Part I

Kathy Zielinski was among the first women in Cal Arts' animation program ...

TAG Interview with Kathy Zielinski

*Click to listen in your browser. Right-Click and Save to download to your computer to listen later.

Find all TAG Interviews on the TAG website at this link

Born and raised in Southern California, Kathy got her first taste of the animation industry with a short working stint at Filmation when she was 19 years old, but her full-time entry into the business came when she was recruited by Walt Disney Feature Animation.

The first project on which she animated was Mickey's Christmas Carol, and she has worked on dozens of theatrical features since, everything from The Black Cauldron and The Little Mermaid to the first and second iterations of Kung Fu Panda.

The interview above was conducted at DreamWorks Animation.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why It Won't All Be Going to the Sub-Continent

Box office results tell the tale, as Indian press admits:

Recently, there have been attempts like Roadside Romeo in Hindi and Inimey Naanga Dhaan in Tamil. The recognition that they got was perhaps not good enough to encourage further such attempts.

But, there is also a good reason for the tepid welcome to these films. The Indian urban audiences have been fed for more than a decade on world class animation movies like Shrek, Ice Age, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Wall E etc that one cannot blame them for finding the products of the fledgling Indian animation industry as a bit amateurish. Hollywood has taken upon animation in such a big way that it would not be wrong to say that it may even overtake the ‘real cinema’ in the future. ...

Beyond lower-end sub-contracting, there are not many animated features being created in India. Mumbai filmmakers know how to capture the locals' imagination with the hundreds of live-action films produced each year, but animation? Not remotely in the same ballpark. Indian movie-goers have flocked to the American animated blockbusters, and turned their backs on the locally-made product. Being less expensive isn't enough, as evidenced by the handful of features that have slid down the production chute not making much money.

To date, Indian animation is caught in a low-budget paradox. It can crank out dvd product, but its wages remain low, and so higher-achieving studio talent soon goes off to Glendale, Emeryville or Vancouver to secure the kinds of paychecks that can't be found in India. As long as this is so, the sub-continent's c.g.i. theatrical features will continue to languish.

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And Then ... Pakistani Animation

Cartoons are not the first thing you conjure up when thinking of Pakistan. So here is a quick overview of what's happening down there.

Filmmakers often complain that they have to travel abroad for post production work due to the lack of animation and post production facilities available in Pakistan. However, production houses and individuals in Pakistan claim they are adding special effects and creating animation work on various national and international projects. ...

While animated music videos are produced in Pakistan, no animated feature films or tele-films are produced and even for minimal animation, Pakistanis are dependent on other countries. ... Majid Khan, an animator who is working on iPhone applications in Pakistan said, “We have a number of Pakistani animators but they are working in the UK, Hollywood and Walt Disney. ...

There's a theme here. Animators in emerging markets who want to create cartoons and are ambitious about it, find their way to places where more cartoons are being done.

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RIP, Tony Geiss

The man who created the animated feature that triggered far more sequels than Shrek or anything else has passed on.

Tony Geiss, the writer and lyricist who helped give life to the animated characters on Sesame Street, died Jan. 21 in Valhalla, NY at the age of 86. ... Geiss also wrote for a number of popular films geared toward young audiences, including The Land Before Time, the popular 1988 animated film about orphaned dinosaurs, several of its direct-to-video sequels and Steven Spielberg’s 1986 children’s movie An American Tail.

Mr. Geiss helped a lot of animation artists have long careers in the Big Black Tower at Universal, where a long string of Land B4 Time direct-to-video features were turned out for a lot of years.

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The Overseas Horse Race

The Long-Haired Girl continues to frolic.

Opening a muscular No. 1 in the U.K. ($7.3 million from 750 venues) was Disney Animation's Tangled, which collected $14.7 million overall from 4,073 locations in 43 territories. It ranks No. 2 overall on the weekend.

Overseas gross total for the 3D animation reworking of the classic Rapunzel tale stands at $254.3 million with about 20% of the international market yet to play. Worldwide, Tangled has grossed $443.9 million, ranking it as the 25th biggest-grossing animation title ever released. ...

Then there is that other (semi) animated feature.

Yogi Bear grossed $6.9 million at some 2,700 screens in 26 markets, hoisting its foreign cume to $33.6 million.

This gives the big bear and Boo Boo earnings of $126.1 million to date.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Animation Down Under

Animal Logic tackles its next super-sized gig:

... [The] fx and production house ... is to lead the animation and visual effects work on BBC Worldwide’s AUS$65 million ($64 million) 3D feature Walking With Dinosaurs. ...

Walking With Dinosaurs 3D is one of a package of eight film and TV projects being backed by the NSW government’s $20 million Film Fund and the Industries Assistance Fund. ...

Animal Logic will also convert the final Happy Potter feature, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 into 3D and is also doing photo-real 3D animation and visual effects for a theatrical short feature, which will be used as a pilot for a large budget digital animation.

See? Animation isn't necessarily going to India. It's also going to Australia, France, New Zealand, and other spots on the globe. But big pieces of it will be remaining stateside, because that's where a big and talented labor pool is.

Walt Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, Rhythm and Hues and Sony Imageworks (among others) won't be passing out of existence anytime soon.

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The Derby on the Last January Weekend

Now with sugar-coated Add On.

Your Top Ten Movies in mid-winter.

1. The Rite (Warner Bros) NEW [2,985 Theaters] -- Friday $5.5M, Estimated Weekend $15M

2. No Strings Attached (Paramount) Week 2 [3,022 Theaters] -- Friday $4.5M (-38%), Estimated Weekend $14.5M, Estimated Cume $40M.

3. The Mechanic (CBS Films) NEW [2,703 Theaters] -- Friday $3.5M, Estimated Weekend $9.5M

4. The King's Speech (The Weinstein Co) Week 10 [2,557 Theaters] -- Friday $3M, Estimated Weekend $12M, Estimated Cume $73M

5. The Green Hornet 3D (Sony) Week 3 [3,022 Theaters] -- Friday $3M, Estimated Weekend $11M, Estimated Cume $78.3M

6. True Grit (Paramount) Week 6 [3,120 Theaters] -- Friday $1.9M, Estimated Weekend $6.5M, Estimated Cume $147.3M

7. The Dilemma (Universal) Week 3 [2,901 Theaters] -- Friday $1.8M, Estimated Weekend $6.1M, Estimated Cume $41.2M

8. Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) Week 9 [2,315 Theaters] -- Friday $1.4M, Estimated Weekend $4.6M, Estimated Cume $90.2M

9. The Fighter (Relativity/Paramount) Week 8 [1,914 Theaters] == Friday $1M, Estimated Weekend $3.4M, Estimated Cume $77.7M

10. Little Fockers (Universal) Week 5 [2,042 Theaters] -- Friday $800K, Estimated Weekend $2.7M, Estimated Cume $145M ...

Tangled, which was bopping along in tenth place as of Thursday, will be over the $190 million (domestic) mark by Sunday. The Yogster, no doubt something of a disappointment to Warner Bros., will be up over $90 million.

Add On: All you need to know is that it was a sleepy weekend, and that Yogi -- hanging in at #10 -- now stands at $92.5 million, and Tangled (#12) has $189.5 million in the saddle bags.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Getting Is Good

Some unlucky duckies might be unemployed, but there are others who are prospering.

... [Disney chief Robert] Iger's salary and bonus reached nearly $16.3 million, up from $12 million a year earlier. His total compensation, including equity awards, reached $28 million ... Disney's head of strategic planning, Kevin A. Mayer, collected a 42.5% hike in his salary and bonus to $2.3 million. Including equity awards, his compensation reached $4.1 million ...

It's always good to see folks making the best of their situation. Diz Co.'s net income is up 20%, while income is up 5%.

Sadly, the stock fell 61 cents today. Can't have everything.

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End-of-Month Linkorama

The usual kind of links regarding the usual toonage, now with Add On.

We climb on the intertube bandwagon and offer the opening of Rio -- which looks like a kick.

<a href="" target="_new" title="'Rio' Exclusive: Film's First Two Minutes">Video: 'Rio' Exclusive: Film's First Two Minutes</a>

Rotten Tomatoes ranks all fifty Disney animated features. And number fifty?

Chicken Little -- Critics Consensus: In its first non-Pixar CGI venture, Disney expends more effort in the technical presentation than in crafting an original storyline. ...

It's not all about the U.S. of A. Some of our brand-name animation houses do a robust business on the other side of the globe.

Cartoon Network Tuesday acquired a package of 10 new children’s short-form series from Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF). The move is in a bid to continue Cartoon Network’s support of local Australian original content, said the firm.

Under the terms of the acquisition, the comedic animated and live-action shorts will be aired on Cartoon Network in Australia, New Zealand and Asia; and include Dukes of Broxstonia, Monster Chef, Black Knight White Witch, Desdemona, Horace in Slow Motion, Itty Bitty Ditties, My Strange Pet, Casa de Evil and Laser Beak Man. ...

How to Train Your Dragon directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders ain't in it for the kiddies.

We don’t make movies for children. We wanted to make a story like the adventure stories we loved as kids. ...

Since we're on the intertubes, watch Mr. Google lay down the law.

I haven't seen this cartoon show, but Entertainment Weekly likes it:

... Archer, taking full advantage of FX’s mature-content flexibility, isn’t just funny — it boasts solid plotting, vividly distinct characters, and some of the most unexpected punchlines and sight-gags in prime time. ...

Byron and Nathan, the next Ron and John?

Q: You must look at the Musker and Clements partnership [at Disney], and Wise and Trousdale, and look at what their successes allowed them to do and build up. Is your future looking at more Disney fairytales [like Tangled] ...?

Nathan Greno: We've already pitched more movies to Lasseter. A few months ago we pitched six ideas to John of films we'd like to make, and John picked one of them. It's very different than this movie in that it's a completely different world, and it's very, very different.

Enjoy your Friday.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The IA Executive Board -- the Wrap-Up

Thursday night saw the end of the Winter Executive board for the IATSE ...

Lots of reports from Canada and the U.S. A lengthy seminar and series of reports about digital theft. And the struggle to get reality show "The Biggest Loser" under contract, how the company went to war with its long-time crew and the International but in the end was forced to negotiate a deal when the crew held together and the p.r. was turning against it.

Always good to remember that at some point people who work for a living get tired of eating steaming bowls of excrement.

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Animated Feature Symposium, February 24

On the evening of Thursday, February 24 at 7:30 pm at the Motion Picture Academy in Beverly Hills, animator, historian, and TAG President Emeritus TOM SITO will host a symposium on the three films nominated for this year's Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

The Animated Feature Symposium celebrates the work of the 2010 Oscar nominees in the Animated Feature Film category. The nominees (schedules permitting) will discuss their films’ development and their creative processes as well as present clips illustrating their techniques.

The 2010 nominees are:

  • How to Train Your Dragon, directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
  • The Illusionist, directed by Sylvain Chomet
  • Toy Story 3, directed by Lee Unkrich

Tickets will be on sale starting Tuesday, February 1 at 9 a.m. General admission $5; Academy members and students with a valid ID (limit 2) $3. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; all seating is unreserved. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

DWA's New Voice Cast

DreamWorks keeps announcing its progress on various features.

Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Alec Baldwin and Isla Fisher will voice the 2012 DreamWorks Animation 3D film Rise of the Guardians. ...

You'll recall that Leonardo DiCaprio was once in the cast, but has departed for one reason or another. If memory serves -- and sometimes it doesn't -- Leonardo was interested in doing a motion capture performance for the feature. Be interesting to know why he ultimately decided not to do this production. (No mo cap? DreamWorks once flirted with motion capture for the first Shrek, but Jeffrey decided "meh" and the big green ogre was animated in the usual way.)

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Variety on Unionization of VFX

Posted in today's Variety, David Cohen writes of the "Tech Tussle" over the organization of Visual Effects. If you've subscribed, read the article on their site. If you haven't renewed your subscription yet, you can read a copy of it here.

David writes about Academy governor Bill Taylor's introduction of the recent Visual Effects Bake-Off evening held at Kate Mantilini in Beverly Hills. He summarizes the opening statement by saying Mr. Taylor asked the community to:

.. not squander its power in squabbling.

We agree with Mr. Cohen that the squabble Bill Taylor is referring to is the recent and strong push for organization of the visual effects industry. The idea of organizing visual effects under a union contract has reached a level its never seen before. Artists are speaking regularly and often about the process and benefits of organizing. TAG and IATSE Organizer Jim Goodman have held countless meetings with visual effects artists across Los Angeles where we've answered questions and even countered a few slanderous comments about unions.

We are not surprised that the sentiments of "its too late" or "it will just chase the jobs away" are present. We are saddened that they reside in such high profile names like Robert Legato and Jeffrey Okun.

On the contrary, we feel that there is never a bad time for artists to band together and use the leverage that is inherent with their skill and numbers to get for themselves contractually stipulated benefits and minimums that the rest of the laborers, actors, directors and even producers enjoy.

We also acknowledge the effects studios attempts to increase their profits by chasing tax subsidies across state and even federal borders. However, we have to point out that for as many VFX houses that closed in the Los Angeles area this year, a greater number have opened. We postulated in an earlier post that the work will remain because of the available talent and the proximity to those ordering the work.

Finally, we have to acknowledge the sentiment recently Tweeted by Jeff Heusser of FX Guide:

@neonmarg: Re-reading that Variety article - it is clear the unions have not gotten their message out from the quotes from #vfx people

We'll keep trying Jeff.

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The Academy Award for Most Successful Nominees ...

Click on the thumbnail for a larger view

... goes to animation and visual effects.

Our anonymous friend VFX Soldier posted this chart showing the average grosses of this year's Oscar-nominated films by category.

Nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards were announced yesterday. A reader forwarded me some numbers with this message:

Just wanted to point out the discrepancy in the $$$ area in regards to VFX vs ANY other category this year. And, this is non-Avatar $$ year too! Pretty damn fascinating.

Pretty sure all the other Categories having some union or guild does not hurt them.

While everyone is fighting over who got snubbed and who will win best picture, one thing seems abundantly clear:

VFX is the heavyweight champion when it comes to making money for the film industry.

It’s also important to note that the Animated Feature category would have been higher were it not for the low grossing film The Illusionist getting a nod.

I find it remarkable that the highest paid groups: Writers, Directors and Actors, are all in the bottom half of the graph. While VFX and other technical and artistic craftspeople are in the top half.

Even though the VFX category dominates the film industry, I still hear stories of people in our industry not getting paid, not getting overtime, illegally misclassified, and not having health insurance.

I doubt any of this is true for any writers, directors, or actors. After all, it’s all about fairness and usually that depends on how you define it.

Is it fair that first class VFX artists are the last in line?

A few observations on the numbers that VFXSoldier used for his chart. First, his observation is correct -- substituting any of the other highest-grossing 2010 animated features* for The Illusionist would have kicked the Best Animated Feature average into first place. Get rid of the (imho arbitrary) three-nomination rule, and the difference would certainly have been even more pronounced.

Even more significant, the numbers BoxOfficeMojo used were for domestic gross only. As anyone who reads our box office posts know, animated features always make more dinero overseas, whereas only three of the five Visual Effects nominees took in over fifty percent of their gross outside the U. S.

* The top five domestic-grossers for 2010:

  1. Toy Story 3 ($415 million)

  2. Shrek Forever After ($238 million)

  3. How To Train Your Dragon ($217 million)

  4. Tangled ($186 million)

  5. Megamind ($146 million)

The Illusionist has grossed $370,000 in the U.S., $2.9 million worldwide.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Congratulations to the Oscar nominees ...

... including Toy Story 3 which is the third animated feature to receive a Best Picture nomination*.

For Best Animated Feature, the nominees are How To Train Your Dragon (directed by TAG members Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois), The Illusionist and Toy Story 3.

TS3's nominations also include Randy Newman for Original Song ("We Belong Together"); Tom Myers and Michael Silvers for Sound Editing; and Michael Arndt for Adapted Screenplay with story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich. John Powell is nominated for Original Score for How to Train Your Dragon.

In addition to TAG members Geefwee Boedoe for "Let's Pollute" and Teddy Newton for "Day & Night", Animated Short nominees include Jakob Schuh and Max Lang for "The Gruffalo", Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann for "The Lost Thing" and Bastien Dubois for "Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)".

The awards will be presented on February 27. Congratulations to all!

* Previous nominees: Beauty and the Beast and Up. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs got a Special Award in 1938, but no Best Picture nomination.

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Mark Kausler Interview - Part 2

Several years back, Mark rolled out his homage to 1930s cartoons, It's the Cat. Mark explains that it took him over a decade to do it, since he was doing most of the creative tasks himself. But the piece is (happily) long-finished, and Mark has shown it at film festivals around the world to good results ...

TAG Interview with Mark Kausler

*Click to listen in your browser. Right-Click and Save to download to your computer to listen later.

Find all TAG Interviews on the TAG website at this link

Mark is now working on another short (as he explains during the interview) and hopes to have it out in the not-distant future. (You can define "not distant" however you like.)

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Monday, January 24, 2011

The Prime Time Lineup

Fox's Sunday night offerings (mostly) hold their own against the sports onslaught.

... FOX's ANIMATION DOMINATION lineup faced strong competition from the AFC Championship Playoffs on CBS. At 7pm an encore THE SIMPSONS posted a 2.1/5 among Adults 18-49 followed by AMERICAN DAD (2.2/5), up +29% from last week (1.7/4).

THE SIMPSONS at 8pm posted a 3.1/7 among Adults 18-49 -- same as last week -- while BOB'S BURGERS declined -12% from last week's telecast (2.2/5 vs. 2.5/6) ... FOX ranked No. 2 among Adults 18-49, Adults 18-34 and Teens. ...

The best news here is that American Dad, which was the last of Fox Animation's three McFarlane shows to get a new-season pickup, is climbing in the ratings. And why Fox is getting traction and continued success from prime time animation while every other broadcaster appears to have given up putting cartoon comedies on the air in the evening hours is a mystery known to programmers and God, but certainly not us.

I mean, nobody gives up on live-action sitcoms just because a half-dozen of them tank. But few networks give animation the same love and support.

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Time to remember, again

Yesterday the Afternoon of Remembrance committee met to set the date for our next affair, our annual event honoring members of the animation community who have passed away in the previous year.

The Animation Guild, ASIFA Hollywood and Women In Animation present
a celebration of the lives of departed friends from our animation community:

  • Alex Anderson
  • Yvonne "Vonnie" Batson*
  • Tom Bird
  • Betty Brooks*
  • Eddie Carroll
  • Robert Culp
  • Robert Dettloff
  • Peter Fernandez
  • Frank Frazetta
  • Ronald Gans
  • John Garling
  • Louis Gorham*
  • Ernie Guanlao
  • Heidi Guedel Garofalo
  • Steven Hodgson
  • Chris Jenkyns
  • Alex Johns
  • Kihachiro Kawamoto
  • Peter Keefe
  • Betty Kimball
  • Aron Kincaid
  • Kip King
  • Satoshi Kon
  • Rudy Larriva
  • Annette Leavitt
  • Phil Lewis
  • Bill Littlejohn
  • Carl Macek
  • Diane Jacobs Matranga
  • Grant McCune
  • Robert McIntosh
  • Ann Oliphant
  • Shana Ozark
  • Betty Paraskevas
  • J. C. Ponce
  • Tom Ray
  • Dan Read
  • Billie Mae Richards*
  • Jesus Rodriguez
  • Pres Romanillos
  • Don Schloat*
  • Te Wei
  • Andrew Witkin
  • Ilene Woods

Saturday, March 5, 2011
Food and refreshments, noon
Memoriams, 1 pm
Hollywood Heritage Museum (Lasky-DeMille Barn)
2100 N. Highland (across from Hollywood Bowl), Hollywood

The Afternoon is free of charge and is open to all; no RSVPs are necessary.

*If you can help us in finding speakers or memoriam writers for those persons marked with an asterisk above, please leave a comment below. If you cannot appear or speak in person please write something for us and we will have a volunteer read it (one speaker and three minute limit per honoree.) When possible we will give preference to those who knew the honoree personally.

This event covers everyone in the business of animation and visual effects – traditional and CG, labor and management, artists, producers, directors, writers, technicians, editors, voice actors, etc. If you know of anyone in our community who passed away between January 1, 2010 and January 31, 2011 and is not on our list, please post a comment below and I will contact you.


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NCS Reuben Awards

My friend Chad Frye sent this information to me and I'm happy to pass it along. It's about submitting your work to the National Cartoonists Society for consideration for their annual Reuben Awards. Apparently this isn't common knowledge among our Guild members. When you go to the NCS website you'll find plenty to read in addition to the information you'll need to submit your work.

Here's what Chad sent. Check it out. My apologies for the short notice, but there's still plenty of time to submit if you hurry.

Each year since 1946, the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) has held their annual Reuben Awards named after the award's founder and designer, Rube Goldberg. A professional cartoonist organization created on a foundation of newspaper comic strip cartoonists, today's NCS welcomes with open arms professionals from all genres of cartooning which is reflected in its annual awards.

If you are interested in entering any of the Division Awards the NCS is offering, please visit the NCS website where you can read all the rules and download the needed entry forms before the deadline of February 6.

While the guidelines for the animation division indicate you are to send in a reel, please note that only applies to actual animators. Folks who do visual development, storyboards, character design, background painting, and any other of the artistic production work may send in still samples from projects released during the 2010 calendar year.

Previous winners in these categories include folks like Chen Yi Chang, Nicolas Marlet, Chuck Jones, Glen Keane, David Silverman, Eric Goldberg, Joe Grant, Nick Park, Bruce Timm, and Stephen Silver to name a few. Even Walt Disney himself won his first time back in 1957. Here's the the list of previous winners.

So, get those samples together and send in your submissions before February 6! Good luck!

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The Mark Kausler Chat -- Part I

Above, Mr. Mark Kausler.

Mark Kausler journeyed to California from St. Louis in the late 1960s, and he's been here ever since working as both an animator and story artist. He numbers Yellow Submarine, Beauty and the Beast, Fantasia 2000 and Who Framed Roger Rabbit among the projects on which he's animated and boarded ...

TAG Interview with Mark Kausler

*Click to listen in your browser. Right-Click and Save to download to your computer to listen later.

Find all TAG Interviews on the TAG website at this link

Mark sat down recently at Animation Guild headquarters to regale us with tales of animation from the sixties to the present day. And about growing up cartoon crazy in the Midwest during the Era of Eisenhower.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cross Pollination

One more reason it's difficult to quantify the worth and profitability of Disney animated features like Tangled (or Cars, Toy Story 1, 2, 3 etc.) ...

Walt Disney World has announced big plans to make over and expand its popular Fantasyland area in the Magic Kingdom park. In the 38 year old park history, the park is calling this the biggest overhaul yet. ... The announcement is said to be a huge response to Universal's "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" attraction that opened last year and was a big hit to its visitors. ... Being interactive with a lot of the characters and attractions is seems to be one of Disney's primary goals with this expansion. ... Construction has already been started as part of this massive expansion to Fantasyland. Expect the first attractions of the project to be open by late 2012 and everything to be completed by 2013.

See? The features feed the parks with new characters and rides, which in turn attract new Disney World guests. Who are then separated from their money.

It's that "synergy" thing, and you can't really put a price tag on it. Let me just say that without fresh content, you don't get fresh crowds, and that ends up being a bad thing, profits-wise.

So on that level, Tangled will be a dandy little profit center for years to come, regardless of whether the picture's film revenues officially go into the black in the next three months. I'm sure Disney wishes that they hadn't poured so much money into the feature's development over all those years. I'm also sure that the company is delighted with the way the Long-Haired Girl has been raking in cash around the globe.

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The January Executive Board Meeting of the IATSE

At the moment, I'm in Las Vegas for the semi-annual gathering of the IATSE's official family: IA President Matt Loeb, a dozen IA Vice Presidents, West Coast office staffs and other elected officers ...

These meetings take place in winter and summer. I used to come to very few of them when my children were small and I didn't relish flying long distances to sit in a room and take notes on different union reports. I mean, it's good to know what's going on inside the House of Labor, but I made the calculation that not knowing what the Cinematographers Guild was doing in New York, or the latest organizing drive of editors in Canada would not hinder me in repping Animation Guild members in Los Angeles.

Sometimes I was right. Sometimes wrong. (You do miss the opportunity to hob-nob with your fellow wizards, but you soldier on as best you can.) Now that my children have reached adulthood, I attend more of the Exec Board Meetings. Unending fun.

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The Wintertime Foreign Derby

Now with Reporteresque Add On.

The trade papers inform us that animation remains a major player in non-U.S. venues.

Trio Atop Overseas Box Office -- "Tangled," "Green Hornet," "Little Fokcers" draw crowd ...

It seems as though the long-haired girl with the skillet is hanging in there.

... ["The Green Hornet"] landed in the midst of several holdovers like "Little Fockers" and "Tangled," all of which ran a horse race for the overseas B.O. crown. Disney's "Tangled" came in with $15.6 million.

... "Tangled" held well in Oz with $3.1 million, slipping 47% from the toon's record-setting Australian bow last weekend. The pic now stands as the market's biggest debut ever for a nonsequel animated pic ...

Further, as Box Office Mojo reports: "['Tangled'] will easily pass $400 million worldwide this weekend before opening in the United Kingdom and South Africa on Jan. 28. ...'

Add On: Lastly. The Hollywood Reporter informs that:

... Tangled has generated $231.8 million overseas. Its worldwide total stands at $418.1 million. ...

Of course, the little long-haired girl is still a financial failure for the Mouse, but what you gonna do? Just let her hang out there and keep making money, I guess.

Happily, the Yogster still ambles along.

"Yogi Bear" pushed its overseas cume to $22.7 million thanks to a $5.9 million weekend from some 2,000 screens in 15 markets. Its second Australia round provided $2.5 million from 383 sites for a market cume of $9 million.

The cash keeps rolling in from various points of the globe.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Simplicity of Accumulation

Regarding (yet again) how an animation employee -- or most anybody else -- should save:

Take 10% of whatever you make and tuck it into savings/investments. Pay yourself first. Pretend that slice of the paycheck isn't there and live on what's left.

And here's what you should put the money into (and I think the investment reporter writing this is dead on) ...

... Mutual funds reporters lead a secret investing life. By day we write 'Six Funds to Buy NOW!' We seem to delight in dangerous sectors like technology. We appear fascinated with one-week returns. By night, however, we invest in sensible index funds. ....

After months of interviewing managers and studying statistics and strategies, I made only one move in my own retirement portfolio--into my fund family's more diversified index fund. The fund reporters I knew came secretly to favor low-cost index funds. ...

Unfortunately, rational, pro-index-fund stories don't sell magazines, cause hits on Websites, or boost Nielsen ratings. ...

The above was published in 1999, at the peak of the tech fund craze, a time when Animation Guild members were stopping me on the street to exult in their huge runups in the TAG 401(k) Plan's tech stock index fund. (What can I say? It was a simpler, more optimistic time. Of late, nobody has bragged about the huge profits they're making. Draw your own conclusions.)

Here's the distilled wisdom: Keep your investing costs as low as possible. Be broadly diversified with both stocks and bonds. Add more bonds to the mix as you get older.

That's it in a nutshell. (And the shell is simple, is it not?) But here are the two rules that are more difficult, and make the points above tougher to execute.

1) Don't chase returns in the latest "hot sector" (even though all your best buds are doing it.)

2) Don't bail out of your allocation of stocks and bonds when it's tanking. (And at some point it will tank.)

I encounter people at 401(k) meetings who tell me they have no interest in investing. I (sort of) understand their position, but let's get realistic here. This is your money we're talking about. And if you haven't got the gumption to read a couple of books on where to put the moolah and take a few hours to educate yourself, you're as foolish as somebody who declares they have zero concern about their health. ("I'm going to go right on drinking six packs of Colt .45 and gnoshing on Big Macs. I like it!")

I'm not advocating becoming some kind of obsessive expert on stock market trends, just arming yourself with rudimentary facts. If you do no more than putting your extra cash in a one-stop target retirement fund or asset allocation fund, you'll be ahead of ninety percent of the population.

Click here to read entire post

The Box Office Race In Winter

Now with warm, buttery Add On.

Slow time of year for movies. No holidays, no kids out of school. But animation hangs in there.

1. No Strings Attached (Paramount) NEW [3,018 Theaters] -- Friday $7.3M, Estimated Weekend $20M

2. The Green Hornet 3D (Sony) Week 2 [3,584 Theaters] -- Friday $5.2M (-53%), Estimated Weekend $17M, Estimated Cume $62.3M

3. Dilemma (Universal) Week 2 [2,943 Theaters] -- Friday $3M, (-51%), Estimated Weekend $10M, Estimated Cume $33.5M

4. The King's Speech (Weinstein Co) Week 9 [1,680 Theaters] -- Friday $2M, Estimated Weekend $7M, Estimated Cume $56.5M

5. True Grit (Paramount) Week 5 [3,464 Theaters] -- Friday $2M, Estimated Weekend $6.7M, Estimated Cume $137.3M

6. Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) Week 8 [2,407 Theaters] -- Friday $1.7M, Estimated Weekend $5.7M, Estimated Cume $83M

7. Little Fockers (Universal) Week 5 [2,979 Theaters] -- Friday $1.2M, Estimated Weekend $4M, Estimated Cume $140.8M

8. The Fighter (Relativity/Paramount) Week 6 [2,275 Theaters] -- Friday $1.2M, Estimated Weekend $4M, Estimated Cume $72.5M

9. Tron: The Legacy 3D (Disney) Week 7 [2,018 Theaters] -- Friday $975K, Estimated Weekend $3.5M, Estimated Cume $163M

10. Yogi Bear 3D (Warner Bros) Week 6 [2,510 Theaters] -- Friday $750K, Estimated Weekend $3.5M, Estimated Cume $88.3M

As of Thursday, Tangled was tracking at #12 with a grand total of $183,274,499.

Add On: Mojo gives us the (almost) weekend finals:

9) Yogi Bear -- $4,060,000 -- $88,890,000

11) Tangled -- $3,006,000 --- $186,281,000

Click here to read entire post

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fairy Tales = Westerns (?)

NPR does its take on the future of animated fairy tales.

The Fairy Tale Struggles To Live Happily Ever After ...

(NPR is somewhat late to the party, but what's new? ...)

The article linked above marches through the usual litany: Disney is backing away from the genre, fairy tales are old-fashioned and sexist, the public is too hip for princess stories, blah-blah-blah.

Stripped to the essence, the fairy tale is now enduring all the arguments thrown against the Western for the past thirty-five years. But whatever the argument, it's really just bullcrap-colored wrapping paper that surrounds the real reason:

"Every time we make one of these things we lose our ass. So let's not make any more of these things."

If you don't have the strait-jacketed brain of a production exec, you know that genre doesn't matter. Content does. An audience doesn't walk to the front of their neighborhood AMC, stare at the electric signs and say "A fairy tale. Ewww." or "A space opera. Yaay." It reacts to stories and characters that it wants to see. (Might be a long-haired blonde with a frying pan ... or a gray-haired marshal with one eye, who knows?)

This is why conventional wisdom so often turns out to be wrong. The studio development executive with a death-grip on his seven-figure salary isn't going to greenlight a genre that isn't "safe," but a creator with clout -- be it John Lasseter or the Coen brothers or James Cameron -- will. And when the resulting feature makes half a billion dollars, then Conventional Wisdom begins to change. Slowly.

But the supposed bias against fairy tales is bogus anyway. What is Avatar if not a fairy tale? It's got the princess in the beautiful and mythical kingdom, the out-of-sorts hero, the black-hearted villain, the heroic final battle and uplifting ending. It might be dressed up as sci fi, but it's little different than Snow White, The Little Mermaid or Aladdin in many of its story beats.

Disney might not be making another Tangled anytime soon, but 20th Century Fox will be making as many sequels to Avatar as it can. And Paramount? I have no doubt that the Viacom company is delighted it greenlit that remake of an old John Wayne picture.

Click here to read entire post

Ratification at the SPA

Yesterday there was a vote at Sony Pictures Animation on a new three-year SPA-IATSE contract ...

With a 65-70% turnout of the crew, the tally for ratification was:

92.6% - Yes

7.4% - No

The Sony Pictures Contract had wage bumps that followed the current industry norm (2%), and there were some title changes for a couple of classifications. Other than that, nothing in the contract changed.

(The SPA-IA contract has been in effect a bit over seven years, and covers writers, board artists, designers and pre-visualization artists on animated features at Sony. The contract is held and negotiated by the Mother International. The last two cycles, the Animation GUild has helped out with getting the contract ratified.)

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pattern Bargaining

The Directors Guild of America, true to its nature, has negotiated its latest contract early and ratified its contract early.

The DGA membership on Tuesday ratified a new motion picture and television deal with the AMPTP. ... The tentative deal was reached last month and endorsed by the union’s board. ...

This follows the recent SAG and AFTRA deal that saw annual wage-minimum increases of 2%, bigger company kick-ins to the pension and health plans (an agenda item that is high on every guild's wish list), and the usual give and take in other corners of the contracts.

But also true to its nature, the Writers Guild of America is getting aggressive about its oncoming contract.

... [T]he WGA may not schedule negotiations until March and engage in a brinksmanship strategy in order to seek improvements in areas that SAG/AFTRA did not, such as certain new media and basic cable provisions. ... An ambitious “Pattern of Demands” – an outline of negotiating priorities – is out to WGA members ...

The WGA is working to break through the hardening concrete that SAG-AFTRA and DGA deals have set up. Good luck with that. Come Springtime, the writers will negotiate into the dark hours of the morning and likely come away with ... the same package every other union has achieved. Because the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers isn't in the habit of giving more jams and jellies to one labor organization than it hands to another. There will be minor differences from deal to deal, but the pattern will remain pretty much the same:

* 2% wage bumps.

* More money into pension and health plans.

* Horse trading on smaller contract points.

The IATSE, with a basic agreement that ends the summer of 2012, will be the last entertainment union sitting down at the long, Alliance table. And the odds are good it will get the same rice pudding that has been spooned out to everyone else. ("Please sir, may I have some more?" will not meet with a positive response.)

Click here to read entire post

Dreamworks is the 10th best ...

... company to work for -- or so says Fortune magazine.

It reported the studio was voted the 10th best company to work for in this article, explaining some of the reasons for the company's popularity:

Employees get star treatment when they work at the film studios, which include a full breakfast and lunch for free. On top of that, workers can also go to free movie screenings, company parties, yoga and art classes.

Film students looking to work at DreamWorks Animation Studio are sure to find an amazing career experience and according to Yahoo, everyone is given the opportunity to pitch movie ideas to studio executives. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the studio by providing the strength of the collective voice to the artists and keeping the seamless cloak of health and pension benefits over their corner of Glendale.

As a bonus, CEO Jefferey Katzenberg will call up candidates and encourage them to stop by. ...

It's kinda nice that Dreamworks reaches those accolades while delivering entertaining and profitable cinematic experiences. And they work under a bunch of labor agreements, too. (How is that possible?)

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Here Today ...

... and a memory tomorrow.

Disney Interactive Studios has closed its Vancouver, Canada-based game development studio Propaganda Games ... The Canadian studio had been hit with a round of layoffs last October, after Disney cancelled Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned ... Disney has sold only 190,755 copies [of "Tron: Legacy."] ...

And so it goes.

In the 1990s, the Mouse opened two television animation studios in Canada -- one in Vancouver and another in Toronto. They employed talented, hard-working artists, they did good work. And they didn't last. Canadian-based Disney studios spring up and disappear like mushrooms.

Click here to read entire post

The McEntee Interview -- Part II

The second half of our interview with Brian McEntee ....

TAG Interview with Brian McEntee

*Click to listen in your browser. Right-Click and Save to download to your computer to listen later.

Find all TAG Interviews on the TAG website at this link

In addition to working on a wide variety of animated features and shorts, Brian is also a novelist. (His first book, "Eve", is shown above.)

Brian still returns to animation from time to time, but his first love is writing. He has just completed a second novel, "GENeration eXtraTERrestrial", coming out right around now. (And yes, he has a pen name: "Aurelio O'Brien.")

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kevin Lima: Still One Foot in Animation

Kevin Lima cut his eye teeth in feature animation, then branched out into live-action (as did other animators before him.) Although he mostly lives in the live-action universe these days, he's still keeping his drawing hand in:

"Enchanted" director Kevin Lima and scribe David Sussman have sold an untitled pitch to Sony Pictures Animation.

Described as a hybrid live-action and CGI feature in the vein of "Alice in Wonderland," the project was originated by art director Michael Kurinsky and in development before Lima and Sussman were brought aboard.

Sussman on to pen the script and Lima to helm and produce. ...

Hope it gets green-lit for production. We can always use more animation.

Click here to read entire post

The Brian McEntee Interview -- Part I

TAG Interview with Brian McEntee

*Click to listen in your browser. Right-Click and Save to download to your computer to listen later.

Find all TAG Interviews on the TAG website at this link

What do you do to top being Art Director on Beauty and the Beast? ....

You art direct the first Ice Age.

Brian McEntee, layout artist, art director, color stylist and writer, talks about leaving Cal Arts to start an animation career at Disney, riding the cresting wave of feature animation in the early nineties, then moving to Blue Sky Animation to work on the first hit CGI feature from Twentieth Century Fox.

As per always, the interview is in two parts: one listenable fragment today, and one tomorrow. Click here to read entire post

Monday, January 17, 2011

January Linkage

Now with Add Ons.

A linked reading list of animation topics, beginning with:

Disney/DreamWorks writer goes to Canada to script Canadian-Korean feature The Nut Job ...

Frances McDormand signs on for voice work on Madagascar 3. ...

L.A Times' Plot Spoiler:

"... most of the original [Cars] centered on Radiator Springs and its motley, motorized population; ... the sequel Lightning ventures to Europe and Japan to compete in the first World Grand Prix. ... "Mater has never been out of Radiator Springs," says [supervising animator Shawn] Krause. "We thought of him like Woody from 'Cheers.' He's not stupid, he's simple, sincere and childlike."

Steve Jobs announced to his employees:

That he will take an indefinite leave of absence from the company to focus on his health. ... While Jobs did not address specific health reasons, many experts say it's likely that his leave is related to his ongoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Two Singapore animation studios -- Storm Lion and Egg Story Creative Production -- close down. (Happens to the best of them.)

DWA's Tim Johnson gives details on How to Train Your Dragon's sequel and upcoming series:

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a much bigger movie. Everyone is already terrified of pulling off the movie. [Director Dean DeBlois] had a big pitch two weeks ago and now we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to pull off that story.

You're to the middle of the workweek. Press on.

Add On: Don Rickles talks Potato Head:

John Lasseter came to me, down in our home at the beach, Malibu, and said, you’re going to be Mr. Potato Head. It was that simple. I said, oh come on, I don’t do cartoons ...

Add On Again: LeBron James and his Alter Egos Star in an Internet Animated Series -- The cartoon series, called “The LeBrons” and planned for a spring debut on its own YouTube channel and Mr. James’s Web site,, will revive the characters from a popular series of Nike commercials ...

You're now past the middle of the workweek. Rejoice.

Click here to read entire post

Descendants of Jay Ward

DreamWorks always has an eclectic mix of projects. Same goes for voice actors.

Actor Robert Downey Jr is to star in the new Dreamworks movie Peabody and Sherman.

Downey Jr, 45, will voice the role of the genius dog Mr. Peabody in the film ...

Rob Minkoff, a talented animator who became a wildly successful feature animation director and has directed a number of live-action flicks, is helming S & P. A nice guy. And here's hoping that his c.g. movie at DreamWorks Animation does well when it rolls out three years hence.

Click here to read entire post

TeeVee Toons

Cartoons, as we jump into 2011, are well-represented in what is still called Prime Time:

Top Prime Time Shows -- January 3-9

2) The Simpsons -- 12.55 million

5) Family Guy -- 9.33 million

7) Bob'S Burgers -- 9.38 million*

15) The Cleveland Show -- 7.39 million


Fox has clearly cornered the market in nighttime animation. All the scripting is done under the WGAw while the boarding, designing and directing is performed under an Animation Guild contract.

At the time the WGA finally got around to organizing the Simpsons' writers back in 1997, the complaints from other studios were audible. Corporate types said to me over lunch: "Oooh. Disney, Sony, Warner Bros? They aren't happy with what Fox is doing."

I'm sure they weren't, but in my experience big fat conglomerates act in their own perceived self-interest, not according to the wishes of fellow congloms. And in '97, Fox's interest was in keeping the Yellow Family franchise operating smoothly. So when The Simpsons writers got rambunctious and demanded a contract (threatening the flow of News Corp.'s high-rated shows), Rupert's minions did a deal with the Guild. (Leverage = power.)

Obviously the deal has long-since paid off. Being #2 after twenty years on the air ain't shabby.

* Why does a lower-rated show have a bigger audience than a higher-rated show? Because the viewer numbers on the far right represent total audience, and the ratings ranks are determined by the 18-49 demographic. We're dealing with different numbers.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Best Animated Golden Globe

... Turns out to be Toy Story 3.

What a relief. The suspense was killing me.

Click here to read entire post

The Foreign Movie Races

Nothing new in the overseas markets. Animation continues to rake in sizable coin.

"Tangled," last round's No. 1 box office winner, finished a close second this weekend with $15.6 million generated from 4,723 screens in 33 territories for a foreign box office total of $212.5 million so far. ...

"Megamind" ... pushed its foreign gross total to $158 million due to a $7 million weekend from 4,262 venues in 60 territories. ... "Yogi Bear" opened No. 1 in Australia and New Zealand, and collected $5.7 million on the weekend from a dozen overseas markets, pushing its cume to $13.3 million. ...

For those of you keeping score at home or work cubicle, worldwide totals from the movies above are now as follows:

Tangled -- $393.5 million

Yogi Bear -- $95.4 million

Megamind -- $303.4 million

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Image Movers Moving On

... to their own company.

Former ImageMovers Employees Launch Atomic Fiction

The new full-service VFX business will aim to cut costs for clients without sacrificing quality.

Three VFX veterans let go from Robert Zemeckis’ recently shuttered ImageMovers Digital have launched a new facility in Emeryville, Calif.

Named Atomic Fiction, the business was co-founded by Kevin Baillie, who serves as president and VFX supervisor; Ryan Tudhope, creative director and VFX supervisor; and Jenn Emberly, performance and animation supervisor.

Atomic Fiction is opening in Emeryville ... as a full-service business, with art direction and concept design. It is focusing on high-end character work and digital environments as well as fire and water effects and compositing. ...

A long while back, c.g.i. supe Jim Hillin and I discussed the ongoing phenomenon of effects houses spawning the next generation of effects houses when employees went off and formed their own companies. This regenerative thing has been happening since the 1990s, the horse-and-buggy era of computer graphics.

Click here to read entire post

January 2011 Derby

Now with life-affirming Add On.

No animation in the Top Ten, but Tangled and the Yogster hover just below the upper slots ...

1) The Green Hornet -- $11.1 million

2) The Dilemma -- $6.1 million

3) True Grit -- $3.2 million ...

11) Yogi Bear -- $1 million

12) Tangled -- $825,000

Interesting/amusing Rumour Factoid: A good friend of mine recently attended a screening where he overhead a big-time Hollywood director saying:

"Lots of weather and shooting problems on 'True Grit' ... Paramount didn't like the version the Coen brothers turned in and recut the picture. Coens didn't like what the studio did, but Paramount released it anyway and the movie's a hit ..."

Add On: The Reporter and B.O. Mojo give us the weekend numbers:

Sony's 3D The Green Hornet grossed an estimated $34 million from 3,584 theaters over the weekend to nab the second-best opening ever for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. ...

Ron Howard's new comedy had an under-powered opening, but the animation's hung in there real good. The Yogster dropped a measly 19.5% percent and grossed $5,345,000, and Tangled did almost as well, dropping 22.7% while raking in almost $4 million.

Yogi Bear -- $82,095,000

Tangled -- $180,977,000

Click here to read entire post

Signups for AAI classes begin Monday

Signups begin on Monday, January 17 for the Spring 2011 semester of the American Animation Institute, the program of art and craft classes sponsored by the Animation Guild. This semester features a master class by BOB KURTZ.

The Spring 2011 AAI catalog can be found here on our website.

To sign up, call (818) 845-7000 between 8:30 am and 5 pm. You must sign up by phone; signups are not accepted online. It’s not unusual for classes to fill up very quickly, so we recommend you call during office hours to make sure your signup is received and accepted, rather than leaving after-hours voicemails.

After signing up by phone, registration can be completed by sending a check to our offices made out to the American Animation Institute. Registration is complete when payment is received. Do not wait until the first class session to pay for the class; if the class is full you may be turned away even if you previously signed up by phone.

Among the classes offered in the spring is Film Sense and Nonsense: The Bob Kurtz Master Class in Comedic Film Staging, Timing and Storytelling, taught by master animation artist BOB KURTZ.

Kurtz has championed the composition, film story and design principles of T. Hee, Don Graham, Marc Davis and Bill Moore for more than thirty years and has successfully utilized those principles in his own career. As founder of Kurtz and Friends, Bob is the recipient of over two hundred and fifty international awards for animation including an Emmy, a Peabody and an Annie Award for lifetime achievement. His wealth of expertise and information will inspire students and professionals alike.

This is a must-do class for anyone who wants to learn or re-experience the fundamentals of the creative process and the basic principles of composition, staging, timing and storytelling for film, storyboarding and animation. By breaking down classic film clips and analyzing their staging, timing and structure, you'll see what works, what doesn't work and why. Through a series of assignments and follow-up critiques, you'll learn how these principles can be applied to your own work and see results right away. Demonstrations, lectures and film analysis will inspire you to apply the principles to your work as soon as possible.

The class runs for four Monday evenings from March 21 to April 11, from 7 to 10 pm. Enrollment is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis. This class is likely to fill up, so sign up and pay for the class promptly.

Click here to read entire post

Friday, January 14, 2011

Wisdom With a Bullet

I first noticed Paul Giamatti in Sideways. And noticed him again in John Adams (and other things.) Hell of an actor. And not dumb, either.

[Giamatti] entered Yale as an English major, concentrating on 19th-century American literature. (“Although I had a friend who was taking film, and I remember saying, ‘Wait, you’re going off to see ‘The Searchers’ and I’m sitting here reading ‘Typee’?”) ...

“After graduation, I moved to Seattle thinking I would — oh, I don’t know what in hell I was thinking, ... Get into animation, I guess — although, wow, just put a bullet in your head, there’s a really hard way to make a living. ...

Obviously Paul knows something about the business.

Click here to read entire post

Splashing Around the SPA

Part of the afternoon -- after an hour on the 101 and 405 Freeways -- was whiled away in Culver City at Sony Pictures Animation ...

First thing, I ran into a director I know who is developing a new feature. He said:

I developed this at another studio but they put it in turn-around and I've worked on it here for several months. Doesn't have a title, but we're hoping to get it made. When we finish the script revisions, we hope to get approval for storyboards and then story reels ..."

I won't tell you more about the project becasue A) I have no clue about what it is and (assuming I did) B) I've got no interest in getting reprimanded*.

Meanwhile, a lot of SPA staffers were preparing for Hotel Transylvania meeting (Yes, Virginia, HT is still in pre-production.) And a long teaser for the upcoming Smurfs was being worked on. Look for it in a theater or on a Sony DVD next Fall.)

* Reprimands for reckless blogging that Steve Hulett has received:

1) Reprimand from "Simpsons Movie" producer for revealing the feature was in Cinemascope. (But Fox lawyer said: "Uh, no. Screen shape is not proprietary information.")

2) Reprimand for revealing that a character model sheet had changed slightly.

3) Reprimand for putting up proprietary artwork from unreleased animated Sony feature Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs on blog. (One small problem: artwork had nothing to do with movie; was actually a screen grab of a doughnut advertisement.)

4) Received reprimand from Disney publicist for revealing title "Lion King 1 1/2." (Hulett's response: You're sh*tting me.")

5) Reprimand for revealing Disney employees were being laid off. (Not recklees blogging in this case, but reckless talking to energetic reporter.)

Hulett's conclusion: Steve Hulett is reckless. And some studio people have overtight sphincters and too much time on their hands.

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fox Reshuffles the Executive Deck

Twentieth Century Fox (part of Rupert's sprawling empire) has not had a great year, and the bloodletting has commenced.

Fox Marketing Shuffle Signals Management Turmoil

... When a major studio suffers a bad run at the box office and then lets go of a top marketing exec, it’s considered a scapegoat maneuver. ... Take out Fox’s 2009 carryover grosses on Avatar ($408.4 million in 2010) and Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 ($63.7 million in 2010), which boosted the studio’s domestic total to a fourth-place market share on $1.39 billion (down 4% from 2009), and the studio’s domestic gross was $918 million. ...

What's interesting to me is that Fox's two hits are animation hybrids. And what are they expecting big things from in 2011?

... Blue Sky’s animated Rio should perform, as well as the sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules. ...

Funny how studios keep counting on animation to deliver.

Click here to read entire post

Not Going Up

The Reporter notes that feature animation's sister art-form has had twenty-four months of not great news:

Video Game Industry Slumps for Second Straight Year

Marking a rarity for the industry, sales of new video games, hardware and accessories in the U.S. were down for the second straight year, according to data released Thursday from NPD.

The research firm said 2010 revenue generated from purchases of new items was at $18.6 billion, off 6% from $19.7 billion the year earlier. ...

For a business that spent years shooting up like a rocket, back to back "negative growth" (as the euphemism goes) must be disconcerting. And there's a lot of people who move from games to c.g.i. features and back again. So this must be a nervous time for many of them.

Sadly, nothing goes in one direction forever.

Click here to read entire post

At the Diz

In between talking on the phone, plowing through e-mails (these days 1/3 of them are Spam) and all the other business reppy things that I do, I found my way to the Hat Building in Burbank ...

I spent most of my time in the story department. Presently, King of the Elves is in script development and board artists are waiting to see pages.

"The new take on Elves is solid, and the story is shaping up. ..."

The next installment of Prep and Landing (the half-hour version) is in work, and Reboot Ralph is bopping along.

Morale is better in and around the Hat. Having a high-grossing film can do that.

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

At the Top of the Movie Marketplace

The Mouse's news division is pleased to let us know about the Mouse's latest animated feature.

International Movie Marketplace Gets All 'Tangled' ... 'Tangled' braids itself around the top of the international box office chart.

"Tangled" ascended to the top of the international box office race in its seventh weekend of release, jumping from sixth place in 21 territories to the top spot in 28 territories and earning $24.8 million as it crosses the $350 million mark in worldwide revenue.

1. "Tangled," $24,745,055, 5,129 locations, 28 territories, $350,496,102, seven weeks. ...

No doubt we'll get the comments about how Tangled costs a poopload to produce and still hasn't made money, blah blah blah. But I'm telling you, when all the cash from theaters, DVDs, network and cable licensing is factored in, when the dolls and games contribute their revenue streams, the picture will be in profits.

Click here to read entire post

At the Autry party

All photos by and © Enrique May. Not to be reproduced without permission. Click on thumbnails to connect to a larger version of each photo.

Our longtime de facto party photographer ENRIQUE MAY has come through once again with an album of pictures of our wildly successful party last Friday at the Autry Museum.

Over a hundred guests were waiting patiently in the courtyard when the museum opened its doors a few minutes before 7 pm. ABOVE: Norly and Karen Paat, Janette Hulett, Debbie Mark, Bonnie and Tim Callahan.

We estimate we had over twelve hundred guests total through the evening, making this most likely the biggest party we've ever had (not to mention the biggest private party in the Autry's history). But because the group was broken up among the various galleries and public areas over two levels, there was no sense of overcrowding or claustrophobia.

Thanks to the hard work of Cheers Catering, the food was universally praised as the best we've ever served.

Where's Stephan? Executive Board member emeritus Stephan Zupkas is towards the front in the gray sweater.

Executive Board member Bronnie Barry with Bruce Woodside.

ABOVE LEFT: Larry Eikleberry. ABOVE RIGHT: Martin Forte and Roman Arambula.

Dan Mills and Dora Yakutis.

As they left the museum, guests who had attended previous TAG parties were, at first, a little confused that they didn't have to wait for shuttles and that they could actually find their cars in a large but well-lit parking lot ;) Seriously, the feedback on this party has been more positive than any we've held in a long time.

The entire album of Enrique's 2011 party photos is online as a Photobucket album. We've made a stab at identifying some of the faces; if you recognize others and are so inclined, post the photo # and identification in comments and I'll update them in the album. And thanks for helping make our party a smash success!

Click here to read entire post

Organizer's Notes: Letters of Persuasion/Intimidation?

On the organizing front, I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't have a couple of "irons in the fire" going. At a local animation studio, TAG has been collecting representation cards, and the artists recently received a letter from the company's management. We thought it would be good to share that letter ... and our response.

Dear Employees,

We have been told that a union representative is trying to organize the artists of [company name removed]. If that is the case, I believe this is a good opportunity to explain to you what you can expect to hear from the union representatives.

First of all, in the event a union organizer (or fellow employee) hands you a union authorization card, we suggest you consider it carefully before signing it. Authorization cards are legal documents, and if you sign a card, you give the union the right to use it for two purposes:

  • (1)If the union gets cards from over 50% of the employees, it may use them to try and demand to be recognized as the employees' representative without there being a free, secret ballot election.
  • (2)If the union gets cards from 30% of the employees, it can petition the National Labor Relations Board for an election

If you look closely at the cards, you will see that they are the same as signing over your rights like a legal "power of attorney". We suggest you give careful thought to the importance of an authorization card before you sign one and turn over your personal rights to the union.

Union organiziers may use every trick in the book to get you to sign. They may say such things as - the Company is going union; that you are obligated to sign by contract; that everyone else has signed, so get on the bandwagon; that your signature means you have only talked to the union. They may even promise you better wages, a pension, health benefits, or a regular, full time position if you sign the card. None of these claims are true, so don't let the union organizers mislead you. Keep in mind -- the union cannot guarantee any changes in your wages, benefits or workplace policies. The union can only guarantee your handing over your money to them in monthly union dues.

In making your decision, it is important to remember what you have already without paying monthly union dues and running the risk of being ordered to strike. Also, at [the company], employees do not need a union to speak for them. We have an open door policy that gives you the ability to address your concerns one-on-one with management.

The decision you make may be the single most important decision you are asked to make concerning your employments with [the company]. We are confident that once you know the facts about unions, you will agree that unions are not in the best interest of [the company's] employees and will therefore not sign an authorization card.

If you have any questions feel free to talk with [names removed] or any member of management or your supervisor.


Below the jump you can see our response ...

It's come to our attention that a [manager of the company] has distributed a letter to you regarding signing representation cards and what we'll be telling you. After reading the letter, we're surprised to find that [the manager] has accused us of using tricks when the letter [the manager] sent to you is filled with distortions and half-truths.

Representation cards are vehicles TAG uses to gauge the level of support we have in organizing studios. As we stated [previously], once we receive a majority of cards based on the amount of artists in the unit, we'll approach [the company] to negotiate a contract on your behalf without an NLRB election. However, [the company] is the deciding factor in that decision. If they don't recognize the Animation Guild as your bargaining agent, we'll approach the NLRB to be named the agent by earning a majority of your secret ballots.

Have we stated, "the Company is going union, so sign now and get on board?" Or that you have any obligation to sign a representation card? Nope. It's our hope and intention to provide the strength of a collectively bargained contract, but giving us the right to represent [the company's] employees is up to you. (That's the law) Any contract would be based on our current contract, but it could be different. That would depend on the negotiation process, as well as input from you.

[The company] is fighting against your right to make decisions about your working conditions. In our contract, we stipulate overtime hours, which days are holidays, wage minimums and more. Why would that be something they wouldn't want you to have input on?


  • Our contract has a No-Strike / No Lockout clause that says while the contract is in place, a strike can not take place
  • The union cannot order a strike, only you can. If *YOU* want to strike, *YOU* have to vote on and approve it.
  • If we reach agreement with [the company] on a contract, you will pay no initiation fees, only dues ($28-36/month.) If we don't reach a contract, you will pay neither initiation fees or dues. Simple.

While the letter states that one of the benefits of employment at [the company] is the ability to have one-on-one conversations with management, we feel the strength of the collective voice to be much more effective.

While we expect animation and effects studios to push back against organization efforts, fear mongering of this nature needs to be made public. Its important for everyone to understand the lengths that some companies will go to when attempting to protect the imbalance of power they hold in the workplace.

Nobody should get the idea that management's response up there at the top is unusual.

They know they can't say: "Sign one of those g.d. cards and you're fired!" so they don't. They know they can't say: ""You vote to go union and we'll close the place down!", and they're careful not to.

But they are certainly free to imply, to elliptically threaten, to wring their hands and whine: "We just don't know HOW we'll be able to keep the doors open with all the extra UNION costs!"

The name of the game is to get employees to vote NO in a National Labor Relations Board election. Employers can't directly threaten to shut the workplace down, since that's prohibited under Federal law. But employers are certainly at liberty to use the various other tricks, one of which is on view up above.

In the unending struggle to bring non-union facilities under contract, it's all about which entity has the momentum, hearts and minds, and ultimately the juice.

-- Steve Hulett

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

From India and DWA Comes ...

... a locally produced animated feature.

So DreamWorks Animation plunges into the cartoon biz on the sub-continent:

... [DreamWorks Animation] has announced ... that they have hired composer A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours), Broadway lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Enchanted, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas) and husband-and-wife producing team Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges (Bend It Like Beckham, Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging) to work on the animation studio’s first animated feature musical Monkeys of Bollywood ...

Although execs from the Glendale, California campus will be overseeing this, Monkeys is a project slated for the Indian studio used by DWA. It's based on a Hindu poem called "The Ramayana" and will be using some heavy hitters.

(By the strangest of coincidences, Disney got into the Indian market a couple of years ago with a musical called Roadside Romeo ...)

Sadly, RR didn't have the magical touch of Tangled, and failed to set the turnstiles spinning. Ah well ...

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A member needs our help

A message from Miranda Cristofani:

Franco Cristofani has been a part of the Animation community, and a member of Local 839 since the late 70's. He has been a part of the community here in LA as well as an instrumental force in development of the industry in Asia and the Pacificrim. Franco has been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma which is cancer of the blood plasma cells present in your bone marrow. He fell ill while working in Asia and he was flown to the Philippines and put into intensive care at the Makati med Hospital in Manila.

Franco is now stable but we are unable to get him the medication and care he needs due to outrageous hospital bills and medication expenses. Franco has medicare and could get the treatment he needs to survive here in the States but the Hospital is not letting him leave the country till he has paid his bill, and they are refusing to treat him further.

Although this seems inhumane and criminal, (we have called Amnesty International) it is legal in the Philippines to do so. Without treatment and medication we fear for the worst. We are pulling all our resources to pay for the bill and fly Franco to the States where he can start treatment that could save his life. Our goal is $7000. Please help us and donate whatever you can to our save Franco fundraiser, even $5 helps. All donations are tax-deductible. Thank you so much!!!

Visit this blog to donate through Paypal. Feel free to subscribe to the blog to get updates on his progress.

-- Miranda Cristofani

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