Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MoCap Factoids

Per the trade papers:

... With its budget at a reported $150 million, Mars seemed to have the deck stacked against it almost from the start. The pic, from Zemeckis' ImageMovers, was an orphaned project, grandfathered into the Disney pipeline as the Dick Cook regime ended. ...

A summary of Imagemovers' MoCap box office:

Mars Needs Moms -- $15.9 million (world cume) -- cost -- $150 million

A Christmas Carol -- $321.5 million -- cost - $180 million

Beowulf -- $195.3 million -- cost - $150 million

Monster House -- $140.2 million -- cost - $90 million

The Polar Express -- $270.8 million -- cost $170 million

Although Christmas Carol and Polar Express picked up considerable coin, the movies' production costs were high. The Mouse (and before it Sony and Warner Bros.) were probably looking for higher profit margins. Or in some cases, just plain profits.


Anonymous said...

While Imageworks may not have been a fan of the final product they were a HUGE fan of having Bob Z's dollars in the vault. As I heard tell, Imageworks pushed back hard on Bob Z. to cough up some additional coin when he was making changes to Beowulf. So much so that when Beowulf ended there was no love lost between the two and Bob took his toys (and a considerable number of the Imageworks mo-cap crew) and headed north.

Anonymous said...

Although Christmas Carol and Polar Express picked up considerable coin, the movies' production costs were high.

One of the next Dis/Imageworks projects rumored to be on the slate (besides the sunken Submarine) was "The Nutcracker".
Beowulf hype aside, there was one reason above ALL that Disney wanted to ally themselves with IMD, and "Mars" wasn't it--If only Zemeckis had ever had another hit for analysts to talk about besides Polar Express, he wouldn't be constantly bothered by studios asking him to remake it all the time.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Bob Z started his own studio as he thought he could do his mocap projects better and for LESS than with Imageworks. With The enormous costs of his last 2 films it appears not to have been the case. Also Bob Z had huge start up costs to factored in to get the new facility staffed up , ready up and running to deliver a full feature. Or a steady slate of features as was the original plan. Without the framework of an established pipeline and having to build a facility from scratch. This must have added additional expenses and resources.
When Polar X came out it was known to have cost a huge ton of cash, but its steady numbers and especially its 3D numbers were of interest to others studios. Imageworks has always been Bob Z vfx studio and no question it was huge loss to them when he took his business elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

quest for camelot, "produced" by frank gladstone and max howard, cost $140 millipon to make, and grossed less than $23 Million in it's entire run. And that was 1998. A much bigger failure, and a far worse film.

Anonymous said...

That's a made up number. Even if you adjust for inflation, that number is way too high. Yes, lots of money was wasted on Quest, and people were paid to sit around and do nothing for a few months, but I've seen more wasteful productions. Warners didn't have nearly the overhead of Imagemovers, where they literally built out a new studio with many hundreds of workstations and a huge render farm. The Warner's infrastructure costs were much lower, and were spread out over more films.

Anonymous said...

Not a made up number at all. Specific to that one film, with overall more overhead than imagemovers (especially once the bought the Turner animation studio and crew). Yes, lots of waste and sitting around-but all on the budget. And the same number of features as Imagemovers, too.

And one can only wonder what it cost WB to set up that digital studio and shutter it before completing an entire film!

Anonymous said...

You really don't know what you're talking about. Imagemovers only made two features at their brand new, completely refurbished facilities in what was formerly two aircraft hangers and associated buildings in Novato. This was after they'd built out their original digs in San Rafael. The entire cost of the Novato build out was amortized over just Christmas Carol and MNM.

Warner Bros. Feature Animation rented three floors of a high rise in Glendale, where they produced four films. They also had some space in a nearby building, which came when Turner sold out to Warners. That sale was not a part of the cost of Quest for Camelot, and only a small portion of the Turner crew ended up working on Quest for Camelot.

The electronics and pipeline costs for Quest were a tiny fraction of those for Imagemovers, even when you consider the beautiful, expensive animation desks Warners had built. Quest was a traditionally animated film with a tiny bit of CG involved.

Also, Quest for Camelot did not give insane profit sharing deals to it's director or to it's voice cast, as was standard at Imagemovers. Warners ended up taking about a $40 million write down on Quest. The film's entire production costs were probably around $70-80 million, which was indeed high at the time, but were a fraction of what Disney spent a few years later on Treasure Planet.

Anonymous said...

I happen to know for a fact it cost $140 million. All gone. Been in the business 35 years--12 year WB employee. Certainly know the ropes and details more than tou--that much is obvious. The stack of final budget reports from that (and all 4 wb features) says it all

Same primary group of zemeckis artists formed imagemovers after zemeckis' disappointment with the inferior work of Sony, and made the same number of features as wb. And all but one between them lame.

Anonymous said...

Zemeckis' troubles aren't all due to mo-cap. He makes lousy storytelling decisions sometimes. Roger Rabbit was a mess, and in Christmas Carol...I'll never forget sitting in the theater watching that movie, and the scene with Marley comes up, and so far the movie's been pretty good, and then, just as Marley says "Mankind was my business!" Zemeckis puts in a STUPID sight gag involving Marley's separated jaw. Totally ruined the scene, ruined one of the signature lines of dialogue of both book AND movie and muddled up the reason Marley was condemned to an eternity in chains in the first place. What a stupid stupid move by Zemeckis! He does things like that in his movies. He also ruined the scene in Roger Rabbit where Eddie tells Roger about his brother's death. Roger is sympathetic at first, but then focuses on how badly Eddie's been treating HIM. It was all about Roger in the end, so far as Roger was concerned, which made the rabbit look like a jerk, and ruined a moment that could have deepened the character and the two leads' relationship.

Zemeckis has bigger problems than mo-cap. He and his buddy Spielberg BOTH have misfired on their latter directorial efforts. The man needs a long rest and a refresher course on HOW TO TELL A STORY.

Anonymous said...

> Imagemovers only made two features at their brand
> new, completely refurbished facilities in what was
> formerly two aircraft hangers and associated
> buildings in Novato.

A small peek inside:


Anonymous said...

That was a gorgeous space! Looks like a better version of the old Northside building.

Matthew Maners said...

Let us state correct facts. Warners was over on Brand Blvd in Glendale and occupied 5 floors. Floors 3, 4, 5, 18 and 19. I think those were the floors and I remember floor 2 being used at during Iron Giant. Total cost of Quest is still up in the air because no one could get the truth about it. There was the studio here along with the studio in London. They also had the studio in Sherman Oaks during Space Jam. Space Jam was a WB film and not a WBFA film. WBFA did Quest, Iron Giant and Osmosis Jones and Back in Action. Truth be told they could of done The Incredibles if only they knew what they had in Brad Bird. I remember working at Warners on Curious George and The Incredibles came out, the following Monday someone posted signs throughout the Galleria Studio that said $89 million bitches and counting. Those guys at Warners should have been wiser.

Anonymous said...

You're correct about Warners having more floors on Brand Blvd., but my point remains. Imagemovers spent a huge fortune building out an entirely new studio in San Rafael, then almost immediately spent another fortune building out another new studio in Novato. With the massive digital pipelines in both places, as well as the need to be able to stream hi-def images and do real-time conferencing between those studios and Zemekis' home in Santa Barbara, massive amounts of overhead money were spent on the Imagemovers films, separate and apart from the cost of paying for development and crew.

On the other hand, Warners was smart enough not to take long term leases and build completely new studios, and they didn't need the massive digital infrastructure. They rented existing business space, shoved lots of traditional animation desks in there, and saved a fortune. Granted, they weren't smart about much else in the process, but they never had a fraction of the overhead that Imagemovers eagerly and repeatedly embraced.

And even though Space Jam wasn't WBFA, it did use a lot of what infrastructure WBFA was creating, and that made the WBFA films that much cheaper. You're right to recall the WBFA London studio, which was a fairly expensive waste of time, but that mess only lasted a couple of years, and the crew there was never that large.

And again, what money the WBFA films made went to Warners. Zemekis had a sweetheart first-dollar-gross deal, as did Tom Hanks, Jim Carey, and other key talent, so that the Imagemover films that did make a little money actually provided very little benefit to the studio.

In terms of studio bottom line, WBFA was a sink hole, and Imagemovers was a galactic black hole.

Anonymous said...

> the need to be able to stream hi-def images and do
> real-time conferencing between those studios and
> Zemekis' home in Santa Barbara

During the final months of delivery for A Christmas
Carol, Bob Z. was living at his Tuscan villa in Italy.

This required an even more elaborate review system.

Anonymous said...

When people ask why Zemeckis has been so in love with mo-cap filmmaking, the answer is in the above.

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