Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cartoon Network Rising

Ted Turner's animated cable outfit continues to prosper:

Cartoon Network in June 2012 ranked as television’s #1 network for total day delivery of boys 2-11, 6-11 & 9-14. Monthly average growth among targeted kid demos vs. June 2011 include kids 2-11 (up 6%, 712,000), kids 6-11 (up 8%, 492,000) and kids 9-14 (up 23%, 505,000).

Also across June, Cartoon Network ranked as the #1 television network (broadcast & cable) among kids (2-11, 6-11, 9-14) and boys on Monday night.

Across June 2012, Adult Swim ranked as television’s #1 network for Total Day Delivery of young adults 18-34, 18-24 and 18-49 as well as men 18-34 & 18-24.

The season premiere of Aqua Something You Know Whatever (Sundays, 12 a.m.) ranked #1 in its time period among adults and men 18-24, and posted double-digit delivery gains including an 88% increase among adults 18-24 (256,000). ...

Meanwhile, the Disney Channel topped longtime rival Nickelodeon in kids' demographics:

Disney Channel delivered its largest competitive advantage ever over runner-up Nickelodeon, surpassing the #2 TV network by 5% in Kids 2-11 (902,000 vs. 861,000), by 31% in Kids 6-11 (594,000 vs. 454,000) and by 44% in Tweens 9-14 (500,000 vs. 347,000). Moreover, this marked Disney Channel’s 4th quarter in a row topping Nickelodeon by double-digit percent margins in Kids 6-11 and Tweens 9-14.

The way I read the above, the Disney Channel triumphed in the second quarter; Cartoon Network came on strong in June.

And when you look at the cartoon shows for kids that have come out on top, they seem to be hand-drawn product, which underscores what I've suspected for a long time: On the t.v. kids don't give two hoots if the cartoon is hand-drawn or C.G.I.

Unlike theatrical animated product, in the television realm, c.g. doesn't necessarily make a show a ratings winner. Characters and story do that. (What a surprise.)
Click here to read entire post

Star Spangled Box Office

Macfarlane triumphs, while the Scottish lass and the zoo animals hang in there.

1. Ted (Universal) NEW [3,239 Theaters] R
Friday $20.5M, Saturday $18.0M, Weekend $52.5M

2. Magic Mike (Warner Bros) NEW [2,930 Theaters] R
Friday $18.0M, Saturday $10.7M, Weekend $38.0M

3. Brave 3D (Pixar/Disney) Week 2 [4,164 Theaters] PG
Friday $10.5M, Saturday $13.4M, Weekend $35.5M (-47%), Cume $132.2M

4. Madea’s Witness Prot (Tyler Perry/Lionsgate) NEW [2,161 Theaters] PG13
Friday $10.2M, Saturday $9.6M, Weekend $27.0M

5. Madagascar 3 3D (DWA/Par) Week 4 [3,715 Theaters] PG
Friday $4.2M, Saturday $5.1M, Weekend $12.5M, Cume $180.7M

6. Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D (Fox) Week 2 [3,109 Theaters] R
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $2.5M, Weekend $6.2M (-62%), Cume $29.2M

7. Prometheus 3D (Fox) Week 4 [1,951 Theater] R
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $2.1M, Weekend $5.1M, Cume $118.4M

8. Moonrise Kingdom (Focus) Week 6 [854 Theaters] PG13
Friday $1.7M, Saturday $2.0M, Weekend $5.0M, Cume $18.5M

9. Snow White & The Huntsman (Universal) Week 5 [2,337 Theaters] PG13
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $1.9M, Weekend $4.5M, Cume $145.7M

10. People Like Us (DreamWorks/Disney) NEW [2,055 Theaters] PG13
Friday $1.5M, Saturday $1.7M, Weekend $4.2M

Lots of animation at the top of the list. And Fox must be freaking thrilled that they passed on Seth's teddy bear picture.

Add On: So let's review: Animated features in the third and fifth positions, a live-actin remake of a well-loved animated classic in ninth position, and an R-rated, mostly live-action comedy written and directed by a cartoon guy in the first position.
Click here to read entire post

Friday, June 29, 2012

Overseas Lift Off

You get the impression animated features might be on a roll?

Twentieth Century Fox's Ice Age: Continental Drift is off to a great start at the international box office, where it has earned $11 million in only two days from 12 markets, including strong performances across Latin America and in France.

The fourth installment in the family franchise secured the the second-highest opening day for an animated film in France ($4.5 million), Colombia, Argentina and Chile and the second-highest opening day for a Fox animated title in Mexico ($1.6 million) and Central America. ...

There have been three releases of high-profile features within the past month, and three big openings.

If animation creators aren't careful, they'll soon have studio chieftans believing that long-form cartoons are a wide, well-lit highway to corporate riches. (Personally, I think we are there already.)

Where this leaves live-action filmmakers in coming years I do not know. But the landscape is changing; feature directors working in animation are accorded more respect than they were a few decades ago. Nothing alters corporate mind-sets like big box office.
Click here to read entire post

More about Paperman

The AnythingDiz blog offers the most detailed preview yet of Paperman, the short that's due to open with Wreck-It Ralph on November 2.

Paperman is a hybrid that fuses the dimension and depth of digital animation with the abstract warmth of traditional line-art. The result is a world seemingly sculpted out of sketches.

The technology used to create the short ... could be the first step in a long-overdue comeback for hand-drawn animation.

“Drawing can have a really powerful, visceral effect on the viewer. You can create anger and surprise or anguish with just a few lines of a pencil,” says director John Kahrs, an animator on The Incredibles and Tangled. “But it can’t just be the same thing it was. I think for 2-D to be revitalized, you have to figure out a way to make it new again.”
Click here to read entire post

Toad and Ratty

Wind in the Willows is one of the great children's novels of all time. Grayson Ponti tells story of how the Disney adaptation came into being:

“Wind and the Willows is one of the studio’s neatest cartoon efforts,” wrote Leonard Maltin in his book Of Mice and Magic. “Like all great Disney films, this one artfully built a believable set of characters and situations on a fantasy foundation. ...

The idea for making a feature out of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind and the Willows came from Jim Bodrero, a member of Joe Grant’s model department during the 1940s.

“I had read the book,” stated the artist in an interview with Milt Gray. “I wanted to do it, a long time before Walt. Walt thought it was awfully corny, but we finally got him around to it.”

[Bodrero] and fellow model department member Campbell Grant (best known for the visual development work he did for the Night on Bald Mountain segment in Fantasia) put together a Lucia reel going over the story and characters. ...

Mr. Ponti relates how WITW was conceived as a low-budget feature prior to Pearl Harbor, but ended up as a featurette in the late 1940s. (The studio was at a low financial ebb at the time; it's last full-length animated feature had been released during the war. Cinderella's debut was a year away.)

Bur read the whole post. You'll learn some interesting factoids about the film.
Click here to read entire post

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Tedster

The green eyeshade types say Seth McFarlane's live-action debut is the feature to beat.

"Ted," starring Mark Wahlberg as a man whose best friend is a talking teddy bear, is expected to open with a robust $40 million in ticket sales, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys. ...

Consider: Two animated features in the Win and Place positions last weekend; a live-action feature from an animation creator favored to top the charts this weekend.

Could there be some sort of trend here?
Click here to read entire post

The Mouse's Super Heroes

So this story gets broken:

... Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh) is reportedly onboard to direct Big Hero 6, with Kristina Reed producing. A script has yet to be written, and the film hasn’t officially gotten the greenlight. Currently in the storyboard phase, the project has apparently been “deemed strong enough” to be put in the production line for the time being. Again, Disney hasn’t confirmed any of this so it’s possible that some or all of the details are inaccurate. ...

Hey hey! Disney's first super hero animated feature! (Not counting the super hero types in Wreck-It Ralph or the Super Heroes in The Incredibles, which was, let us remember, co-financed by Diz Co.

My guess is that there will be many super hero animated flicks before the Mouse's new library gets depleted. Spandex-and-cape protaganists have proven themselves to be major money makers, all the way back to World War II.

Click here to read entire post

Us And Them

Opening July 6 at Gallery 839, works by Michael Baylis, Andrew Brandou, Albert Calleros, Alex Campos, Susy Campos, Mick Cassidy, Kaya Dzankich, Jon Fisher, Lindsay Flinn, Tricia Garcia, Adrienne Lee, Sophia Monico, Andre Nieves, Jack Perkins and Eric Sanford. Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tim Burton's Stop Motion

It isn't all about live-action ...

There was Mr. Burton's 1980s version, and now this. Click here to read entire post

Fire Starter

These fragments of animated frivolity from "Team Fortress 2" are always life-enhancing. Here's the latest:

One could argue that you have to be a twisted freak to enjoy them. Count me as one of the twisted.

(Other "Team Fortress" offerings here.)
Click here to read entire post

Chasing Adult Swim

Cartoon Network, as many know, has reaped a bounty of greenbacks with its late-night animation offerings. And Fox knows a good thing when it sees it. Therefore ...

Nick Weidenfeld was head of program development at Adult Swim, overseeing a string of breakout animated hits. Now he’s bringing those sensibilities to Fox, extending the channel’s animation dynasty into late night. Here’s how he hopes to make lightning strike twice.

Weidenfeld: I loved my time at Adult Swim. I was there for seven years—since its earliest days. I saw the talent and everything grow over the last decade. I saw it go from this late night block that a lot of people were watching, but nobody knew about, and grow and grow. Now it’s this humungous, successful business, and this huge part of the success of Cartoon Network and Warner as a whole. ...

[Fox's] Animation Domination High Def will be broader than some of the stuff that we worked on at Adult Swim, but in terms of execution, it will still be weird and late night — the shows will have the kinds of jokes and the kind of storytelling that will be too fucked up for primetime. ...

So, more animation on the television, that's a good thing.

But ... as is the case with "Adult Swim," we expect that some of the product will be under TAG contracts, and some (much?) won't. And on a related (but sad) note, we received this e-mail yesterday:

Subject: A Storyboard Test Email Announcement - Fox Has Really Lost Their Minds..!


Friends Night is the production company behind Fox's new Saturday late-night Animated block called ''Animation Domination High Definition'' (ADHD).

AXE COP, the popular animated comic, is the first series we've green lit for production.

Currently looking for: Experienced Story Artists with great Comedic Sensibility.

Salary: DOE

If interested in the position, please complete the following BOARD TEST:


Overall direction.
Board to the humor and tension of this scene. Axe Cop the character and the show should be deadpan and take it's self seriously, but also have a dynamic visual language and a childlike sense of fantasy and imagination. Explore the crazy over the top violence and the humor with this sequence.



A Woman approaches the fruit stand. She frowns

WOMAN: ''Well I hate apricots.I wanna banana.''

Axe Cop stares at the frowning Woman, considering. While he is
casually reaching for his axe.

AXE COP: ''I'm afraid I can't sell you any bananas.but I can. CHOP OFF YOUR HEAD!''

Axe Cop jumps out of the fruit stand and chops the Woman's head off.

FLUTE COP (FREAKED): ''Why - why,'d ya do that?''

AXE COP: ''She was making a mean face which OBVIOUSLY means she's a bad guy.''



We would like the boards to be presented in a black and white
animatic, done in flash, or after-effects/final cut, fully timed
. You can add scratch track dialog and sound fx, or use subtitles for dialog. ...

Etcetera, etcetera.

They don't want too much, do they? And all for such a marvelous fee ($000.)

We should point out that this storyboard test, although filled with rib-tickling wit ("Axe Cop jumps out of the fruit stand and chops the Woman's head off."), is not offered by a signator (union) studio, so there is little we can do to rein in the abusive exploitation that it offers.

However, it's one more dandy illustration of how animation artists who seek employment in the cartoon industry are preyed upon. (We'll be highlighting other examples of abuse as they come to us. Axe Cop might not take "it's self" seriously, but we do.)
Click here to read entire post

Female Action Stars

In animation land, they have been few and far between. But of late there are a few: Rapunzel, the red-headed Merida, and in television?

... Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko's Avatar mythology is akin to the Harry Potter series, beginning with Airbender, a kid-friendly hero's journey peppered with action, fleshed out characters, and a heap of emotion, and growing up with the audience into The Legend of Korra. Whereas Airbender felt like a Lord of the Rings for all ages, Korra scales down the scope, while upping the consequences, dropping us into a world seventy years in the future that's on the brink of an Industrial Revolution.

Walking through Nickelodeon, I've watched Korra getting developed as the successor of Avatar, and how passionate the creators are about their project.

... [D]irectors Joaquim Dos Santos and Ki Hyun Ryu push the series into greatness with action filmmaking that's on par with any of this year's summer blockbusters. Mixing martial arts fights with expertly designed chase sequences and large scale battle scenes, the directing duo leave no opportunity untapped. When you have element-bending at your disposal, the possibilities are endless. ...

Always good to see female leads ...

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Financial Advisors

I was visited by two financial advisors this morning. They seemed like nice guys, and had some useful information to impart. But I told them my misgivings about f.a.'s, how they charge too much, push people into high-cost managed funds, and generally skim off too much client money over lengthy periods of time.

Given my skepticism about financial advisors, it pleased me to read this:

Becoming a winning investor often means adopting a new investment philosophy that’s in conflict with your adviser’s self-interest. This is particularly true when you decide to transform a high-cost actively managed portfolio into a low-cost index fund strategy. ...

Expect that your adviser will urge you to meet in his or her office. If you go, be prepared.

You’ll get a barrage of information about your current investment performance. Most of these reports will compare investments to market benchmarks that aren’t really relevant ...

Next you’ll hear nasty stories about index funds and how they failed investors over the years. They will keep talking about the S&P 500 as the only index fund in the universe, and that the current price is below where it was in 1999. They’ll forget to talk about the S&P 500 total return including dividends ...

Funny thing about the S & P 500. This is what happened when I brought up the subject of Standard and Poor's benchmark index ...

Letting go of my broker/financial advisor of twenty-plus years wasn't difficult.

I had been quietly seething about costs and the nature of the investments he had me in for some time. Finally there was a meeting in my advisor's palatial offices in Newport Beach, California. He and his sons (who worked with him in the palatial offices) rolled out the pretty bar graphs to show how much my money had grown. When the presentation ended, I said:

"So how have my accounts done compared to the S & P 500?"

"Oh, we're outpacing the index. By a good 1%"

"Is that before or after you charge your 2%?"

Long pause.

Finally one of the sons said: "Uh, before."

"So if I'd just put my money in an S & P 500 Index fund, I would have done better."

By this time I wasn't getting much eye contact. Finally another of the sons piped up: "Yeah."

Soon thereafter, I vacated the accounts my broker/financial advisor had been managing for two decades. I didn't receive a lot of cooperation with the money transfers, and drove down from Los Angeles to make sure I got the checks.

By that time, firing my advisor wasn't hard at all. In fact, it was a pleasure. There were no farewell lunches.

Despite the above, I think there are useful purposes for financial advisors. When animation artists don't have a foggy clue about stocks and bonds or managing their money, advisors provide a service getting clients into savings/investment plans, in setting them up with a budget that gets over-the-top spending under control.

That part of the business is good. But 2% off the top? That's a pretty steep price for providing a budgeting service.
Click here to read entire post

Manon Washburn, 1922-2012

Golden Award recipient Manon Washburn passed away peacefully on Thursday, June 21, 2012. She is survived by three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

From 1953 until her retirement in 1994, she worked as an inker and cel painter for UPA, MGM, Kling, Warner Bros., Mary Cain, Snowball, Format, Hanna-Barbera, C&D, Sanrio, Bakshi, Kurtz & Friends, Filmation, Aurora, Bluth and Cool Productions. She was awarded the Animation Guild's Golden Award in 2005.

Manon was an award-winning watercolor artist and teacher. Four months shy of her ninetieth birthday, her love of life kept her active and laughing right up until a sudden stroke last week.

A memorial service is being planned tentatively for Saturday, July 21, with the location to be determined.

For further information please contact her daughter, Carla Washburn, by emailing
Click here to read entire post

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tartakosvky's New Assignment

You can't keep a fine animation talent down.

... Genddy Tartakovsky is attached to develop and direct Sony Pictures Animation's upcoming 3D Popeye movie, about the good ole spinach-eatin' sailor.

Genndy, as the article notes, is finishing up the feature Hotel Transylvania, and Sony Pictures is well-pleased with the result. Recently an artist who's been working on HT told me:

Genddy's really delivered a solid picture. Adam Sandler [one of the voices] had a lot of ideas, and some of them didn't work with Genddy's, but Genddy threaded a a bunch of needles and ended up with something good.

Sony management, on the other hand, is inept. They started moving jobs up to Vancouver to take advantage of the tax rebates, and they announced this to the Culver City crew like they thought people would embrace it. Then they started walking the announcement back when the reaction was bad: "Well, we haven't decided what's going up and what's staying... "

And they're not paying people in Vancouver particularly well, often worse than in Southern California, and Vancouver is the most expensive city in North America. On top of that, they're not guaranteeing people that they ask to move up to Canada long-term employment. No three-year contracts, no big moving bonuses, just vague promises. People worry about they're next job after Hotel Transylvania wraps. ...

He went on to tell me that morale is not particularly high among some staffers at Sony Vancouver (Gee, I wonder why?) and that there is a lot of competition for jobs there in the north country, so the Imageworks employee isn't exactly sure what Sony thinks it's doing.

But then, we seem to live in a time of low morale, so what's new?
Click here to read entire post


I started to notice this activity two decades ago:

Last year's "Puss in Boots"was made on the lush 13-acre DreamWorks Animation campus in Glendale by 300 people working for four years at a cost of $130 million.

Its knockoff was made on the second floor of an office building just two miles away— by 12 people, in six months, for less than $1 million.

The DreamWorks version, which starred the voices of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, was a box-office smash.

The other, produced by tiny Renegade Animation, went direct to DVD. ...

LA Times writer Ben Fritz called me about the story above and asked if there was outrage and anger in the animation community over the knock-offs. I told him I've heard remarkably little talk about it, one way or the other. (Wasn't the quote he was looking for, and I don't blame him for cutting the phone call short.)

I first noticed this kind of "imitation" activity back during the hey-day of Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Lion King. But God knows, it's been going on for the better part of a century. Low-rent producers were doing low-budget imitations of Douglas Fairbanks's Robin Hood and Thief of Baghdad back in the silent days.

The watch words then were: "Anything for a smooth buck." Nothing has changed.
Click here to read entire post

Sunday, June 24, 2012

District Two

Not the title of an indie sci-fi film, but a medium-sized IATSE convention held this weekend in Reno, Nevada ...

I've attended District conventions for the entire time I've served as Animation Guild business representative. What they are is gatherings of IA locals in Hawaii and a cluster of Western states. They occur annually, and they are usually filled with education seminars, fiery political speeches by politicians who support labor (there's a surprise), and advocacy for fraternity, equality, and liberty.

... Also higher wages and better working conditions. (Another surprise.)

In years gone by, TAG's President Tom Sito was one of the first union officers to publically advocate health coverage for same-sex couples, and I supported a renegade candidate for District Two Secretary-Treasurer. (Nobody else was willing to nominate him.)

This time around, the convention was larger than usual and people were energized.
IA President Matt Loeb gave a speech detailing the change in attitudes by the studios negotiating labor contracts. He described how negotiations for new labor contracts have turned nasty and rancorous, and that this likely reflects newer corporate attitudes toward labor in general and entertainment unions and guilds in particular.

And beyond unpleasant negotiations, unions in general are under attack by billionaires with money to burn, and we had several barn-burner speeches about anti union initiatives percolating in California and elsewhere.

Everybody at the convention understood that their middle class life-style was on the line. Everybody got that we are out-matched in the moolah department, and that if there is any hope of turning back the Koch brothers and their allies, minds will need to be concentrated, wits gathered, and action taken. Nobody kids themselves that they can match the oncoming campaign dollar for dollar.

The IATSE is making strides in boosting its political PAC, and several thousand dollars was raised from delegates. It isn't nearly enough, but it's better than four quarters in a tin cup. One speaker said earlier today: "Labor, decimated though it is, is still the last line of defense for working people to make a decent living and enjoy a dignified retirement."

There's lots hanging on the elections in November. The delegates up in Reno signalled clearly they're acutely aware of the high stakes.

Click here to read entire post

The Box Office Across the Seas

The zoo animals might have been knocked off the high perch stateside, but they cling to the top rung beyond the Atlantic and Pacific.

... The foreign theatrical circuit logged a lackluster session with Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted hanging on to its No. 1 ranking for the third consecutive stanza, drawing $30.1 million from 11,250 locations in 44 territories. ...

And the other animated title?

Pixar’s Brave made its debut overseas, generating $13.5 million in its premier launch in 10 markets, which distributor Disney describes as “17 percent of the international market.” ...

So let's review: In the U.S. of A., animated features are #1 and #2 on the Ten Biggies, List, while everywhere else they run #1 and #3 in reverse order.

Not bad.

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Or so says the Disney Channel's Top Dog:

... Two months ago, we launched Marvel Universe on Disney XD, which became the exclusive home for new Marvel television content. We've developed Ultimate Spider-Man. Subsequent to the success of the Avengers movie, we've been developing a new Avengers Assemble. We're talking about a Hulk series and an Iron Man series, too. ...

Actually Diz Co. is doing more than talking about Hulk animated episodics. Marvel is producing one, even as we speak.

And Marvel Animation will be doing other series, using a model (we're told) where the in-house staff is small and the outside staff is bigger.

There will be lots of Marvel animation in our futures, because when the super hero catalogue is as successful as the comic book universe now is, no conglomerate worth its salt can resist exploiting it to the max. Which means lots of animated (and live-action) iterations.
Click here to read entire post

End of June Steeple Chase

As the Nikkster tells us:

Pixar’s heroine-in-the-highlands Brave will open to around $70M this weekend and $25M for today. So it’ll be an easy #1 this weekend – incredibly, Pixar’s 13th straight first place finish. That’s just about where DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted opened two weeks ago for distributor Paramount ($60.3M). ...

So the question: Where does this leave Mad 3? ...

According to BO Mojo, it leaves Madabascar in the third slot for Friday, but only barely:

Friday Box Office

Brave -- $24.5 million

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter -- $6.3 million

Madagascar 3 -- $6.1 million

So as of Friday, we have the two animated features sandwiching "Honest Abe vs. the Bloodsuckers."

Add On: Mad 3 ends up at #2, with President Lincoln fading in the stretch.

1. Brave (Pixar/Disney) 3D NEW [4,164 Theaters] Friday $24.5M, Saturday $23.5M, Weekend $66.7M

2. Madagascar 3 3D (DreamWorks Anim/Paramount) Week 3 [3,920 Theaters] Friday $6.1M, Saturday $7.7M, Weekend $20.2M, Cume $157.5M

3. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D (Fox) NEW [3,108 Theater] Friday $6.3M, Saturday $5.6M, Weekend $16.5M

4. Prometheus 3D (Fox) Week 3 [2,862 Theaters] Friday $2.9M, Saturday $3.9M, Weekend $10.0M, Cume $108.5M

5. Snow White & The Huntsman (Universal) Week 4 [2,919 Theaters] Friday $2.5M, Saturday $3.3M, Weekend $8.0M, Cume $137.0M

6. Rock of Ages (New Line/Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,470 Theaters] Friday $2.5M, Saturday $3.1M, Weekend $8.0M (-45%), Cume $28.7M

7. That’s My Boy (Sony) Week 2 [3,030 Theaters] Friday $2.4M, Saturday $2.8M, Weekend $7.9M (-41%), Cume $28.1M

8. Marvel’s The Avengers 3D (Disney) Week 8 [2,230 Theaters] Friday $2.0M, Saturday $2.8M, Weekend $7.0M, Cume $598.2M

9. Men In Black 3 3D (Columbia/Sony) Week 5 [2,462 Theaters] Friday $1.7M, Saturday $2.3M, Weekend $5.6M, Cume $163.3M

10. Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (Focus) NEW [1,625 Theaters] Friday $1.2M, Saturday $1,5M, Weekend $3.8M

Click here to read entire post

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thirty-five YEARS!?

Seems like yesterday.

... Based on “The Rescuers and Miss Bianca” by Margery Sharp, ... “The Rescuers” was the first Disney animated film that brought together members of Disney’s “Nine Old Men” animators (including Milt Kahl, Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas) with a new crop of animators, including Glen Keane, Ron Clements and Andy Gaskill. ...

And Don Bluth was a directing animator (with John Pomeroy and Gary Goldman making sizable contributions). Also a host of other youngsters who went on to make major marks in the business.

Milt Kahl departed the studio before The Rescuers finished. Frank and Ollie left in '78 to write "The Illusion of Life," and Woolie Reitherman exited in 1980.

So the picture marked the final project on which much of the animation crew from the 1930s labored from start to finish. Nobody knew it at the time, but The Rescuers was the swan song for Lounsberry, Johnston, Thomas, Kahl, Reitherman, and Ken Anderson. And 1977 was the year that four decades of work with the animation department's long-time core came to an end.
Click here to read entire post

New Sony Animation Project ...

... with an animation vet soon to be attached.

Kelly Asbury is in negotiations to direct Kazom & The Unicorn for Sony Pictures Animation. Asbury co-wrote and directed 2011 Gnomeo and Juliet for Disney and co-directed Shrek 2 in 2004. ...

Kelly has been in the animation business a long time. That he was able to take an orphaned project like G and J speaks well of his many talents and ability to get the job done. We wish him the best on his prospective SPA project..

Meantime, animation has pretty much wrapped on Sony Picture Animation's Hotel Transylvania in Culver City, though we're told that back-end departments continue on in Vancouver, B.C., where Sony has shifted a lot of work due to hefty tax rebates.

HT hits screens later this year.
Click here to read entire post

Meet Zachary Ryan Kaplan

Born June 22 at 2:10 am, 7 pounds 10 ounces, 21.25 inches.

Congratulations to Steve and Violet. Has he signed a rep card yet? ;)

Click here to read entire post

Stop Motion Animators

TAG has repped stop-motion animators in the past, but not many. In the 21st century, stop-motion animators are a sub-set of the business, just as (unbelievable as it once would have been) animators who draw by hand are a sub-set.

Below, a stop-motion animator shares his insights into one corner of our business ... and the trials and tribulations of working without a union contract. ...

It probably wont surprise you that we Stop-Motion Animators have been talking about helping each other out in the tough and competitive field of our industry for a while now...

I myself (and a few others) have been seriously thinking about starting a website to facilitate information exchange etc. about jobs and negotiation facts when it comes to the individual bargaining part and such things... The thought was to have a secure selected members forum, where freature-stop-motion animators, ideally anonymously, would share things like how much they get paid, where and for what etc... and what offers have been made and so forth - because the fact remains that on the stop-motion shows I've recently worked on, everybody has been given a different deal pretty much - and if you are bold enough and self confident enough in your negotiations, (or know what you can get) you can walk away with a much better deal than others, who on the ground do as much and as hard work - that often is qualitatively on the same level (!)

It quickly gets pretty unfair... although most animators recognize talent of course, and some people are simply better than others... still - my impression is that most of us animators would much rather work in a place that treated everybody fairly and had a transparent pay-scale, and ideally regular reviews that take quality, speed and experience into account.

Thus far the only place that ever came close to this has been Aardman over in the UK - they were not part of a union unfortunately, but they had a clear and transparent pay scale, from assistant animator to animator class 1, 2, 3, - a review of your work every 6 months and everybody knew where abouts they were. It was one of the best studios I have ever worked in - they shot the whole of "Pirates" on a 45 hour week schedule - amazing. So it is possible...

Another fact is - there simply aren't many Stop-Motion Animators around that can do feature animation - I would guess about 100 people max? If we could agree on a couple of basic demands it could make our lives and careers so much better... working hours are probably the biggest issue - (for example working up in Portland at LAIKA simply wasn't fun anymore once you did 3 months of 55 to 65, sometimes 70 hours per week... no life, making mistakes... losing confidence etc... pretty horrible really.) But we also need some clear rules on demo-reel material and such things - the list could go on...

What strikes me over and over is that animation artists who work without collective bargaining agreements make less ... and often far less ... than their union brothers and sisters. Outside of Los Angeles, that is mostly the norm.

But then, that's true of a lot of professions as we (briskly?) move back to the work protections and income distribution ratios of the late nineteenth century.
Click here to read entire post

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Brave Projection

Up there.

Can there really be any other elevation with Pixar?

The competition will cower in the face of "Brave" at the box office this weekend, as the 3-D animated picture is expected to dominate at the multiplex.

The movie from Walt Disney Studios' Pixar animation unit will likely debut with a strong sum of around $65 million in ticket sales, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

Of course, the question isn't will Brave open in a major way, but how that impacts Madagascar 3.

Because I like to see all the animated product perform well in the marketplace, and hate to see one feature cannibalize another feature. Ah well ...
Click here to read entire post

Ann Guenther Hospitalized

Yesterday, Tom Sito and I visited animation veteran Ann Guenther, who's recovering from surgery at Valley Presbyterain Hospital in the mid San Fernando Valley ...

Ms. Guenther has had a long and storied career in animation, working on a wide variety of iconic Disney features, from Sleeping Beauty to The Rescuers. She has also been a major creative force at Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. Animation.

If you have a chance to call or visit or merely mail a card, please do so.

(You'll find the TAG interview with Ms. Guenther here and here.)
Click here to read entire post

Talking about board tests

The blog post about storyboard tests (which also went out as an e-mail) is less than twenty-four hours old, and it has already generated quite a few responses ...

I am glad to see that this is finally being addressed. Some time ago now I took 2 tests for ******** under the title of storyboard revision test. It was nothing of a revision test but a board test. This was for ****** *** and **** ** *****. I can't even tell you what an elaborate job I did on the **** ** ***** test but needed the job so thought I'd do my best as I always have done. Never heard back and they still have the USB I submitted the work on, Maybe storyboard revision tests should be just that... Revisions, not a board from a script.
From these tests and character design test with out ever receiving comment or word back for that matter, I do not test for ******. It's like working and giving them work for free. There should be a policy that the artist gets back their tests if not hired for the position, otherwise it is like [the] studio being able to generate a vast library of work to pull from. (Especially after they have you sign a rights release.) Whatever happened to the body of some ones work counting for itself and experience?
I recently took a color key test for ****** *** ******* at ***** that took more than 2 days to do. They accepted so many tests that the art director had a hard time deciding who to hire. I didn't find out for 6 weeks that they had filled the position.
I find that it is a huge waste of my time to take tests. I have never gotten a job out of 25 years from a test, but through word of mouth … There is no pay for the test, nor compensation for childcare. It severely limits the amount of job searches one can conduct.
The tests have to stop. There is always a learning curve and that used to be factored into a schedule. When I was art directing I never expected a new hire to get the style down in the first two weeks. It takes time to do quality work.
I have done tests for *** ******* where I have to do writing tests on top of story board tests for ******* **** … the tests are a 3 days to 1 weeks worth of work for free! Crazy.
Just wanted to mention something about the board tests. I've worked on boards on a few shows at ******** and ***** and so far the tests have always been about 1.25-1.5 pages of script. The problem seems to lie within how long the boards are going to be, not the script. A page of script could be anything, from two guys talking in the desert, to an army of mutants flying above a populated NYC. Both of these examples could be a page of script but the latter would definitely cause the board artist to do much more work.

Also, the creators and directors are almost always the ones creating the tests, not the studios or producers.

It'd be great to see test restrictions placed on how long the storyboard should be, or better yet, the test should simply be "a day's worth of work." Right now, most board tests take about a week of hard work to complete.
Thanks for taking care of this. The test process has really gotten out of hand and I'm glad you're trying to rectify it.

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Animation News Bits


We seldom do this anymore, so maybe it's time to share animation news items and other pieces of cartoonish interest.

Yahoo said Wednesday it's partnering with Liquid Comics to offer motion-comics. ...
Floyd Norman remembers time clocks (and why artists disliked them.)

Something different: An animated remake to an animated remake to a live-action adaptation.

Disney supervisor Mark Kennedy discusses costumes ... and how they intersect with character and story.

Owald the Rabbit LIVES! ...

Disney Television Animation has begun production on the new animated series "The 7D," a comedic take on the world of Seven Dwarfs.

Per the Guardian: "DreamWorks Animation's latest is still on top and on course to cruise past $350m internationally but Pixar's Brave may be a real threat" ..."

The ins and outs of Futurama's development.

Tax rebate wars in Britain: "U.K. Government Launches Consultation Process for TV, Animation, Games Tax Breaks" ...
Click here to read entire post

Storyboard tests: We need your help

In light of the recently concluded CBA negotiations, the Guild is taking action against the problem of excessively long storyboard tests.

The Guild is looking for information about tests currently in use for hiring storyboard artists, at studios with which we have contracts.

If you have knowledge of tests that are based on more than 1¼ script pages, please contact the Guild immediately.

We don't ask that you supply a copy of the test. If you prefer, you may contact us anonymously.

All that we need you to report to us is the studio giving out the test, the name of the show and the length of the test. We'll take it from there.

Thank you for your help in addressing this ongoing problem.

Steve Kaplan

Jeff Massie

Steve Hulett
Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Disney Vs. Google?

From The Street:

While most people are focusing on battles between technology companies or between entertainment companies, a more important skirmish is shaping up between Walt Disney, the leading entertainment company, and Google, the biggest Internet search firm. ...

[T]he big driver of [Diz Co.'s] revenue over the past several years has been ESPN. The company has a tight relationship with cable operators such as Comcast, with escalating rights fees allowing the cable operator to keep raising its prices. ... Just as the Department of Justice starts looking at how cable companies (like Comcast) may be hampering the online video sector, YouTube is talking up the idea of fees for “channels” — read cable channels — so consumers can buy what they want, rather than what their cable operator decides is “basic.” ...

Google has the technology to make the threat of unbundling real, and to make ISP’s political arguments against Web video crumble into dust. ...

Apparently it isn't all about cartoons, Marvel, and amusement parks. Who would have guessed? Click here to read entire post

What the members want(ed)

When the Guild's Negotiation Committee met on June 12, they needed a means of ranking the relative importance of the proposals being made to management. So, after the May 30 membership meeting, the Guild took an online survey of its active members on the e-mail list.

The survey asked respondents to consider eight contract proposals in order of priority, with 1 being most important. The "weighted ranking score" was computed by dividing the sum of all weighted rankings by the number of total responses (therefore, lower numbers are better).

In first place, comfortably leading all the proposals, was the overall economic package of wage minimums and health and pension benefits, with 255 first-place votes and a weighted ranking score of 1.4.

Second place went to the proposal that production schedules be expanded to accommodate contract holidays, with a weighted ranking score of 3.2 and 19 first-place votes.

In third place was the proposal that storyboard tests be limited to one script page; 9 members gave it a first-place vote, and its weighted ranking score was 4.3.

Here are the weighted ranking scores for the other proposals:

Eliminate unit rates for storyboards: 4.8

Storyboard revisionist category: 5.8

Script fee parity with WGAw minimums: 6.0

Animation art director category: 6.3

Staff writers paid per script in addition to weekly rate: 6.6

Animation Story Editor category: 6.9

This survey may seem moot in light of the undeniable fact that the economic package and the storyboard revisionist category were the only ones of the above that we actually got in the negotiations. But we have the basis on which to base future contract demands and goals.

Click here to read entire post

The Sequel

Shades of 1959 ...

Angelina J. in the role created by Marc Davis and Eleanor Audley ...

It's interesting how, even though the studios claim that live action is lots more sophisticated and complex than icky animation, they keep making live action projects based on animation.

I wonder why that is?
Click here to read entire post

Monday, June 18, 2012

Second Class Citizens

Apparently various animation show-runners are a bit agitated:

We the undersigned animation showrunners and writers desire to address what we have regarded as a pernicious and unfair ruling by the Academy for the past 20 years, which we believe now, more than ever, should be redressed.

We have been told that animated program writers could not also submit their work for writing Emmys, for reasons we never understood, but supposedly pertaining to the purity of the branches.

This is why no one was more startled than we when last year “Community” was able to submit for comedy series, writing, and animated program, in the face of everything we had been told for two decades. We were told that for some reason, a one-time waiver was granted.

Imagine our surprise when this year we see “Community” once again eligible for comedy series, writing, animated program, and short-form animated program. ...

I believe I have a clue.

In recent negotiations, the corporate side of the table informed writers repping the Animation Guild that live-action writing was more "complex" and "sophisticated" than the stuff turned out for, you know, cartoons.

This probably helps explain why live-action gets a major pass over at the TV Academy when it's time to hand out the shiny gold statues, while animation gets stuffed into a small, constricting box. When something is that much more complex and sophisticated, you give it lots more leeway. (Wouldn't anybody?)

Pay no attention to the the animated feature that, this year, triggered two live-action remakes seventy-five years after its production. If you care to name a film from 1937 more profitable or memorable than the very unsophisticated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I'm eager to here about it.
Click here to read entire post

Artists in caves

Bob Foster writes:
Lately I’ve been reading about the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in southern France where some of the earliest known cave paintings were discovered in 1994. Radiocarbon dating places the creation of this art at 30,000 years ago. The quality of the drawings is amazing and I struggle to understand how such great work could have been done with such skill and beauty and can still be an inspiration to today’s artists everywhere. Where did this ability come from, who did it, and how did they learn to be so good at it?

In the wacky world of animation, when I see all the great art that’s been done and is being done, I ask myself the same question - how could such great work be done with such skill and beauty and continue be an inspiration to today’s artists everywhere? I bet if I tried hard enough I could find a thread between the Chauvet Cave artist and the animation masters we all admire and learn from.

Then I started to wonder what the incentives and rewards were for the cave artist. Was it simply something he had to do, much like a child has to draw on the wall with a crayon? Or was he paid to do it?

I can imagine some knuckle-dragging type suggesting that Chimpy the Cave Artist draw some pictures of the family’s pet Rhinoceros for a bag of clam shells or spearheads. Next thing you know Mr. Knuckledrag is correcting Chimpy’s drawings and insisting that Chimpy do the Rhino drawings faster but for half a bag of clam shells or spearheads, otherwise he’ll hire Trog, the cheap cave artist on the other side of the swamp to do the work.

At that point the reason for doing the art became the payment for doing the art and the payment became a primary motivation. Chimpy the cave artist became an interior decorator.

Sure, whether we write, draw or paint, it’s all art and we’ve learned to do what we do for some form of compensation. But what we do is something we loved to do long before compensation got in the way. We didn’t always do it for the money. We kind of loved doing what we do, just like a kid with crayons. Only now, we use computers and Cintiqs.

But at some point the bins of money that Uncle Knuckledrag makes from that art is out of all proportion to the compensation doled out to the artists who create the work.

What artists do at their end is create art. Not art that was done for compensation but art that was done for the love of it. If Uncle Knuck wants to make a mega-pile of cash from that art and live better than the creator of the art, the least he can do is share.

Then maybe the artists could move into a nicer cave.

Empires have been built on products created by writers and artists but not to the mutual benefit of the writers, artists and Uncle Knuckledrag. While artists are motivated by the love of art, Uncle Knuck is motivated by numbers. The bigger the numbers the more of it he keeps. And if he finds a way to sell the art over and over and over, in various forms and versions, continuing to make silos full of cash, where’s Chimpy’s cut?

Providing a venue for the creation, process and resultant product is not enough. Clams and spearheads don’t go as far as they used to.

Great art that was created 30,000 years ago lives on. Early drawings that attempt to depict motion have been found in Paleolithic cave paintings where animals are shown with multiple legs to convey motion.

Clearly, Chimpy wanted to be a director.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, June 17, 2012


The six to eight-minute cartoon extravaganza appears to be back in style, but only somewhat.

Short films before the feature presentation are one of those things that fell out of fashion for a long time in Hollywood and, while they’re more popular now than they have been in years, they still aren’t common. Yet, three of this year’s major animated releases will have animated short films screening before them, starting with Disney/Pixar’s Brave, in theaters Friday. ...

Disney Animation announced that its hand-drawn/computer-generated hybrid animation Paperman will get a theatrical release as the opening act for Disney’s upcoming Wreck-It Ralph. And 20th Century Fox is bringing yet another Ice Age movie to the theaters this year and a new Simpsons short film will roll before that one.

Then there are the Looney Tunes pieces that have rolled into theaters on a regular basis.

Sadly, Disney, Pixar, and Blue Sky do short animated subjects infrequently, and Warner Bros. has disbanded their shorts department altogether. It's too bad, because people like these colorful bits of entertainment.

Studios are, it seems, reluctant to make cartoon shorts on anything like a regular basis. I get how on an actuarial basis, shorts don't return a lot of money to their respective conglomerates, but it would be nice if corporations would look beyond the immediate profit-and-loss figures because

1) Shorts provide a continuity of work for employees who might otherwise be laid off and move on to the competition.

2) They are added value for the features to which they're attached.

3) They provide valuable training for up-and coming board artists, directors, and writers.

4) They help keep well-loved franchises alive and viable between the ninety-minute tent poles.

5) They can be magnets for shiny gold statues that studios covet.

And so on and so forth.

A wise old staffer once said to me: "Studios should be developing shorts every chance they get. Because sooner or later they'll get their money back and it's a lot better than getting ride of talented people due to no work."

Seems obvious when you dwell on it. Maybe it's becoming obvious to the People Who Count. But I'm not betting the ranch on it.
Click here to read entire post

The Foreign Accumulation

As Mad 3, performs domestically, so does it do overseas:

Dropping a relatively modest 31% from its opening foreign launch, DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted claimed the No. 1 offshore box office spot for the second consecutive weekend with $53 million drawn from 10,957 locations in 43 markets.

That puts the overseas gross total accumulated by the second sequel in the animation franchise at $157 million. ...

Based on the Koch box-office muliplier, Mad 3 should earn between $190 million and $220 million domestically, and something north of $300 million overseas. (Of course, Brave should take a bite out of next weekend's performance, but we'll just have to wait and see. Brilliant move, releasing three high-profile animated features so close together. Gives them all a chance to cannibalize each other. Yippee.)

Meantime, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax still hovers just below the $100 million mark in overseas gross. If the foreign box office matched Lorax's domestic take, it would be above $400 million.
Click here to read entire post

Saturday, June 16, 2012


The Cars franchise is many people's least favorite of the Pixar features, but hey! The cartoons have fueled a lot of toy sales, and they've now become useful for this:

At least one Wall Street analyst is bullish on the prospects for revitalizing Disney's California Adventure theme park as crowds lined up for Friday's opening of the Cars Land attraction.

The 12-acre expansion is the cornerstone of Walt Disney Co.'s $1.1-billion upgrade of the Anaheim park, which long has operated in the shadow of neighboring Disneyland. ...

"We were impressed by the totality of the [Disney California Adventure] renovation," wrote Bernstein Research Analyst Todd Juenger in an investor note published Thursday. ...

Diz Co. has sunk big bucks into the CA redo. When this 2nd Disney "gated attraction" opened, it was truly one of the worst amusement areas around: two great rides along with a lot of crapola of the type you find at county fairs and church carnivals -- twirling seats on long chains, Ferris wheels, and other innovative stuff -- most of it bordering a large and useless reflecting pool masquerading as a "lake."

The Eisner administration was gleeful about how inexpensively it had constructed this entertainment extravaganza, but from Day One people stayed away in droves, so what, really, was the point? Even the transplanted "Mainstreet Electrical Parade" couldn't save it.

"Cars Land" and all the rest of the expensive do-over is being well-received, and more people will likely show up. But let's face facts squarely: Diz Co. had to do something.
Click here to read entire post

Zoo Animals Repeat

Now with butter-creme Add On.

Madgascar 3 resides once more atop the Big Movie Chart.

1. Madagascar 3 (DreamWorks Anim/Paramount) Week 2 [4,263 Theaters] PG Friday $9.9M (-52%), Weekend $33.5M, Cume $118.4M

2. Prometheus (Fox) Week 2 [3,442 Theaters] R Friday $5.8M (-73M), Weekend $20.5M, Cume $89.1M

3. Rock Of Ages (New Line/Warner Bros) NEW [3,470 Theaters] PG13 Friday $5.3M, Weekend $15.5M

4. That’s My Boy (Columbia/Sony) NEW [3,030 Theaters] R Friday $4.5M, Weekend $14M

5. Snow White & The Huntsman (Universal) Week 3 [3,701 Theaters] PG13 Friday $4.0M, Weekend $12.5M, Cume $121.3M

6. Men In Black 3 (Columbia/Sony) Week 4 [3,135 Theaters] PG13 Friday $2.7M, Weekend $9.5M, Cume $152.2M

7. The Avengers (Marvel/Disney) Week 7 [2,582 Theaters] PG13 Friday $2.2M, Weekend $7.8M, Cume $585.7M

8. Best Exotic Marigold (Fox Searchlight) Week 7 [1,184 Theaters] PG13 Friday $625K, Weekend $2.3M, Cume $36.1M

9. Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features) Week 4 [178 Theaters] PG13 Friday $611K, Weekend $2.0M, Cume $6.6M

10. What To Expect (Lionsgate) Week 5 [1,216 Theaters] PG13 Friday $450K, Weekend $1.5M, Cume $38.9M

The question, of course, is how the Madgascar crowd holds up when the Scottish lass rides into the AMCs. I'm looking for two animated features at the top of the list, but we'll see.

Add On: As the trades inform us:

... Madagascar 3, from DreamWorks Animation and Paramount, fell less than 42 percent from its opening weekend and has earned $120.5 million in its first 10 days of play domestically and a resounding $277.5 million worldwide ...

So the magic of 3-D pays off? Or is it the comedy?
Click here to read entire post

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jam Up

Why the crush of animated features in June and July? ...

... One animated creative exec notes that studios wanted to stay out of the way of May tentpoles The Avengers and Men in Black 3, both of which played to families. In 2010, there also were three animated tentpoles, but the first, Shrek Forever After, rolled out in May, a month before the next title unfurled. ...

I think there's a simple explanation for the cluster of film within weeks of each other: Each studio thinks their title will do fine, no matter what the competition is. (And they have to release them sometime over the summer, so why not early rather than late?)

DreamWorks Animation launched its franchise tent pole last week without a hitch. And Mad 3 looks as though it will repeat as Top Dog in its second weekend.

Pixar films always open, and Brave will likely do well, even though reviews have been less than stellar.

Ice Age, last of the trio to be released, has a huge global following and so is as close to being bullet proof as an animated feature can get. Plus it's got lovable fuzzy animals, and who doesn't like those?

My guess: The two animal movies outperform the Pixar princess picture.
Click here to read entire post

Edgar Payne show in Pasadena

From Bob Foster:
In the short list of highly influential California Plein-Air painters, Edgar Payne (1883 - 1947) is at the top of that list.
Now through October 14, 2012 the Pasadena Museum of California Art presents The Scenic Journey, a retrospective of Payne's work.

The first major exhibition of his work in over forty years, The Scenic Journey traces Payne’s artistic development as he traveled the world and features over 100 objects, from paintings and drawings to photographs and studio artifacts.

If you know who Edgar Payne is I don't have to say anything more. If you don't know who he is, treat yourself to some amazing scenic art that'll make you want to grab some brushes, paint and canvases and hit the road.

The Pasadena Museum of California Art
490 East Union Street
Pasadena, CA 91101

626 568 3665

Wednesday - Sunday
12:00 - 5:00 p.m.

$7 for adults
$5 for Seniors and Students
Free to Members
Free the First Friday of the Month

Here is general info about the PMCA and here is information about the Edgar Payne show.

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, June 14, 2012

San Francisco Stop Motion

This week has been non-stop. First negotiations. Then a quick trip to San Francisco to visit a Disney project in development at Henry Selick's Cinderbiter studio, housed in a big nondescript building in the warehouse district of San Francisco. ...

I was there for meetings with 839 members (working under a Disney-IA contract) and to get people into the ever-popular TAG 401(k) Plan. The studio is BIG. Lots of sets behind dark curtains, a screening room, rooms with design artists and storyboarders bent over Cintiqs, and a big area on a lower floor where props and characters are made. The place resembles Santa's workshop.

IATSE rep Steve Aredas and I had a couple of impromptu meetings with stop motion animators who said:

So what can the union do for us? There's not a lot of us working in this field. We go to Laika [in Portland], we come here, we go to work in Europe and Britain. We're always travelling to the next job. Are we going to be here long enough to get a pension? ...

When asked, I said that TAG had represented stop-motion artists in the past, and nothing would please us more than to represent a whole lot of them in the future. I said that the goal was to cover the whole animation business with a cloak of benefits so that people would end up with a decent pension and benefits.

Nobody I talked to objected to that idea.

The studio's staff reminded me of DreamWorks Animation's -- lots of artists from other parts of the globe along with lot of Americans. Some of them wanted to know why they should bother getting into a 401(k), since they planned to go back to their home country when Henry's current project (slated to go for another year) wraps next Spring.

I explained that there were a lot of French and English DreamWorkers who declined to get into the TAG 401(k) Plan years ago, telling me then that they wouldn't be in the States for very long, but whattaya know? Eight years later they were still at the Glendale campus, regretful that they hadn't enrolled earlier.

I mentioned something about how life always doesn't unfold the way you plan and anticipate, and that it's wise to take advantage of opportunities as they pass by, since they might not come around again.

(As to the plot of Mr. Selick's new picture: a staffer gave Mr. Aredas and me a thumbnail description of it, but it was very sketchy and we can't reveal story points in any event, since everything is under wraps.

The picture rolls out in October of 2013; if it's successful, I'm sure that there will be more productions coming out of the nondescript building by the bay. And those roving stop-motion artists will get the pension bennies and health coverage they desire.)

Click here to read entire post

Disney's Paperman plays in London

The London chapter of the Visual Effects Society hosted a screening for Paperman today. The screening was followed by a Q&A with the director John Kars, the animation supervisor Patrick Osborne and the art director Jeffrey Turley.

The word from those who've seen it has been full of praise and wonder:
David Stripinis - @WaltDisneyAnim has something truly special on their hands with #Paperman. Wonderful short from @PatrickTOsborne @john_kahrs @GennieRim

Catherine Hicks - I saw Disney's new short "Paperman" yesterday. I have never seen anything like it before. Absolutely incredible. Hard to describe.

Brad Bird - Just had the great pleasure of watching John Kahrs innovative & wonderful hand-drawn/CG mash up "PAPERMAN". Annecy, you're gonna love it.

One thing that has caught my attention in all of the adulation is the overwhelming description of something new. Coming from the those who are on the cutting edge of the fields, I'm excited to read about a melding of animation and CG that was born from the work done on Tangled.

John Kars describes it this way in an Indiewire article from June 6:
"When I was on 'Tangled,' it just seemed a shame that we had to leave those drawings behind [...] And I thought about a way for the drawings to track along the foundation layer of CG. I wanted to see that expressive line back up front on the screen. And I thought there was a new way we could do this. But it came about technologically in a way I wasn't expecting, by people who are smarter than me"

I'm excited to learn what Disney has uncovered. With their well founded history in advancing the craft of storytelling, I'm not going to be surprised at how wonderful it will be.

Click here to read entire post

38 Studios: a spouse speaks out

In light of the bankruptcy filing of Rhode Island-based videogame company 38 Studios, Gamasutra has published an anonymous letter from the spouse of an employee, that gives the perspective from one of the "foot soldiers" caught in the middle of this ongoing mess.

38 Studios was founded two years ago by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. It was brought to Rhode Island via a $75 million state-backed loan. The company took out an $8.5 million loan this year based on film tax credits that were never actually granted by the state. In late May, 38 Studios defaulted on a loan payment to the state and was forced to lay off nearly four hundred employees. Two weeks later it declared bankruptcy.

The family's tale is a sad one, but it's worth a read. And of course, it begs the question: how much different would things have been for them, and hundreds of others, if there had been a union?
Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The New Studio on Flower Street

From time to time I get asked about Marvel Animation. Where is it? What are they doing?

I'll tell you, it's headquartered in Glendale, in the middle of a lot of Diz Co. buildings. The place isn't super large, but it's ramping up. And the name of the first project the facility has in work has now hit the internet:

Marvel's television department is working on an animated Hulk series called Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., which is expected to debut in 2013. ...

Naturally enough, Marvel is also prepping another animated project ...

The Avengers movie has been the ambassador to the world for the Marvel Universe so we want a show that has the feel and the tone and the incredible adventures like that movie. So the next project that we’re working on — and this is down in our lab, top secret, with the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents protecting us at all costs — is Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, which will be a brand new and really extraordinary looking animated series dealing with the Avengers in that same world.” ...

I'm informed that the studio will be doing two or three series over the next couple of years, and that Spidey (not one of the three) will remain at Starz-Film Roman. I'd wager that Disney and Marvel will be exploiting the company's comic book universe over the next decade or three, as it seems to be a license for Disney to open its own mint.
Click here to read entire post

Negotiations Reopen ... and Conclude

The TAG negotiating committee in the early morning hours of today.

We restarted the Animation Guild-AMPTP negotiations early yesterday, and stayed into the early hours of today to finish the new contract deal. There was planning and waiting and too much eating in the caucus room. There were small side bars*. There were larger side bars. And there were negotiations and a final agreement across the table in the the Big Room ...

From TAG's press release:

The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE has reached tentative agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. The labor contract, for a period from August 1, 2012 to July 31, 2015, was negotiated with animation producers represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

The contract calls for two percent (2%) annual compounded wage increases. Health, pension and IAP benefits are to be provided under the terms of the IATSE Basic Agreement, on which agreement was reached in April and which is currently awaiting a ratification vote. Other provisions of the new agreement include a new storyboard revisionist classification, and changes to the talent development program and the DreamWorks Animation wage minimums.

We were in talks until 1:00 this morning. We ended up, at the finish line, with the same economic package that the Basic Agreement bargaining unit reached in April. It was not easy. The producers made clear that we weren't necessarily going to be recipients of the deal bestowed on the IA locals inside the bargining unit, and we had to argue, push and horse trade for everything we finally got.

As you can see up above, we had a sizable committee, and everybody contributed. But I would like to offer a heartfelt "thank you" to Mike Miller, IATSE International Vice President, Vice President In-Charge of the West Coast Office and Director of the Motion Picture and Television Division. Mike was in there pitching from morning to night, and really helped drive the wagon to our final result.

* "Side bars" are off-the-record discussions that take place in hallways and small rooms without windows. Sometimes they're long and other times short. Sometimes you make progress toward a contract in them, but not always.
Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A very long day

I'm here at the producers' association with the two Steves and Bob and the rest of our committee, celebrating (?) our twelfth hour in negotiations.

We're closer than we were twelve hours ago. Close enough that I don't want to hex it by going into details.

Sorry, no posting while we're locked up.
Click here to read entire post

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mr. Peabody Plays

... at an earlier calendar date:

... DreamWorks Animation is so high on Mr. Peabody it is pushing up the release of the film from March 14, 2014 to Nov. 8, 2013. The movie swaps places with the studio's Me & My Shadow, another high-profile project that is a combination of CGI and hand-drawn animation. ...

DreamWorks Animation chief creative officer Bill Damaschke said Mr. Peabody is "coming together beautifully" in the hands of director Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little) ...

Rob Minkoff, of course, hit a grand slam for Jeffrey K. before as half of the directorial team for a charming little hand-drawn film titled Lion King. The feature opened big in the mid nineties, then opened big again in September of last year, when it clawed its way to the top of the box office heap in genuine, reconstituted 3-D.

If Mr. Minkoff could do it twice with one picture in two centuries, he can do it with Mr. Peabody and Sherman in one.
Click here to read entire post

On the Subject of India ...

The Times says this:

... According to a recent report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers International Limited, an international level business consulting service provider, country's animation arena is likely to expand by about 23 per cent in the next four years. ...

The good folks on the sub-continent have been predicting an explosion in the cg animation biz for some time now. While there seems to have been steady (if slow) growth, I come away with the impression that the goal of making world-class animated features is a ways down the road.

I don't know how long that road is, but it isn't short.
Click here to read entire post

So, what about Matchbox?

So what substance is going to end up in the dump truck?

Sony Pictures Animation and Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions announced today that they are partnering with Hasbro on a feature animated film based on Tonka, the yellow metal toy truck brand known for its virtual indestructibility. Fred Wolf (Grown Ups) will be penning the script.

The project marks Happy Madison’s second project with Hasbro and Sony, after the live-action production of the board game Candy Land.
Click here to read entire post

Sunday, June 10, 2012


It ain't just in Glendale and/or Redwood City anymore.

Madagascar 3 has a Bangalore connect, just as last year's Puss in Boots did. Technicolor, the DreamWorks dedicated unit in Bangalore, has done a significant amount of the animation and visual effects for the third installment in the franchise about a group of escaped zoo animals. So, you may see a long line of Indian names as the credits roll at the end of the movie which released on Friday.

Times Of India wrote last December about the contribution that Technicolor had made to Puss in Boots. The work they did for Madagascar 3 is even more, say people in Technicolor. The company has animators, lighting artists, special effects experts, atmosphere and volume metric experts, and image rendering specialists. It also has secondary animation experts for creating foliage , fur, hair, dust, fire, hay, particles and simulation for water, waves, wind and air. ...

Doing it overseas. A relatively new phenomenon in live action. But an old story in animation. Click here to read entire post

The Academy Awards David Wolter

We would be remiss not to point you to this:

David Wolter [was presented with] the top prize in the animation category at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 39th Annual Student Academy Awards on Saturday night in Beverly Hills.

Wolter ... works as a story artist on feature films at DreamWorks Animation. He won for his short animated film, “Eyrie,” which he made in 2011 during his second year as a character animation student at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. ...

Mr. Wolter's acceptance speech was terrific, as is his film.

(You will find David's blog right here.)

Click here to read entire post

Animation on the Summit

As it was domestically, so it goes in lands beyond the seas:

... DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted claimed the No. 1 box office spot on the foreign theatrical circuit by logging a muscular $75.5 million in its opening launch at 10,148 venues in 28 countries.

Distributor Paramount said the second sequel in the Madagascar franchise took the No. 1 spots in “nearly all” of its opening markets with the biggest numbers coming from territories mostly outside continental Europe. ...

Which means that Mad 3 has $136 million in the till after three days of release.

In the meanwhile, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is close to ticking past the century mark in overseas' accumulations, with a worldwide gross of $310 million.
Click here to read entire post

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Hitting the Bricks

This has been percolating for a wee bit:

... [L]ooks like there’s no escape from an IATSE picket line for The Great Escape, a new TNT reality show. ... The feet hit the street Saturday morning, with a strike declared just hours after IATSE labeled the show’s producer, Profiles Entertainment, an unfair employer for allegedly obstructing the union’s organizing efforts.

Add On: All's well that ends well:

... [A]fter seven hours, IATSE called off its strike against Profiles Entertainment’s The Great Escape, a new TNT reality show about ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges. The union and the production entity, TGE Productions, have reached an agreement, IATSE and the company said.

An actual contract, embodying pension, health and working conditions, will now be negotiated, but the union was comfortable enough to end the walkout. ...

On a related topic, shuttling around to different studios the last few weeks, I've been asked a lot if the Animation Guild will go on strike if we don't get much of anywhere in our contract talks (resuming next week.)

I've explained that going on strike is a complicated process because:

1) The contract has to run out first, which would take us to the first week of August.

2) Our Mother International (the IATSE) has to authorize a strike, and then

3) The membership has to vote for a strike action.

Now, I happen to be an optimist. I think we'll reach an agreement next week when we sit down to bargain with our friendly neighborhood conglomerates. Over the past week and a half, we've gotten input from members about where they want to go and where they want to end up. Hopefully the producers will see the light on Tuesday and Wednesday next, and all will be peace and gladness.

But whatever happens, we will be updating folks about it here, and on the website, and by e-mail. In the meantime, think happy thoughts.

Click here to read entire post

Reconfigured Super Heroes

The thing about about those people in spandex and capes, they never go out of style, but just get repurposed for a new era ... much like, come to think of it, Scooby Doo.

DC Nation, Cartoon Network’s home for action-packed animated series and original shorts based on characters from DC Comics, will soon be joined by a new generation of superheroes as Teen Titans Go!, ... Featuring the principal voice cast from the original series – Greg Cipes as Beast Boy, Scott Menville as Robin, Khary Payton as Cyborg, Tara Strong as Raven and Hynden Walch as Starfire – Teen Titans Go! recaptures everything audiences loved about the original show, while adding laughter ...

Funny thing, but I thought the first incarnation of Titans had laughter. When I was traipsing through WB Animation when it lived in the Sherman Oaks Galleria (before our friends at the AMPTP moved in), I thought it was a humorous show even then. Or certainly trying to be.

But I'm always glad to learn how wrong I was back in the day.
Click here to read entire post

Friday, June 08, 2012

Tent Pole Box Office

Where the name of the game is creating screen entertainment that oodles of people will come and see.

This weekend, Ridley Scott's science fiction prequel and some African animals appear to fill that bill.

1. Prometheus (Fox) NEW [3,396 Theaters] R
Friday $21M, Weekend $55M

2. Madagascar 3 (DreamWorks Anim/Paramount) NEW [4,258 Theaters] PG Friday $21M, Weekend $58M

3. Snow White & The Huntsman (Universal) Week 2 [3,777 Theaters] PG13 Friday $7.3M (-64%), Weekend $23M, Cume $98.5M

4. Men In Black 3 (Sony) Week 3 [3,792 Theaters] PG13 Friday $4.3M, Weekend $15M, Cume $137M

5. The Avengers (Marvel/Disney) Week 6 [3,129 Theaters] PG13
Friday $3.3M, Weekend $12M, Cume $573M

6. Best Exotic Marigold (Fox Searchlight) Week 6 [1,298 Theaters] PG13 Friday $874K, Weekend $3.1M, Cume $30.9M

7. What To Expect When (Lionsgate) Week 4 [2,087 Theaters] PG13
Friday $850K, Weekend $2.7M, Cume $35.7

8. Battleship (Universal) Week 4 [1,954 Theaters] PG13
Friday $700K, Weekend $2.4M, Cume $60.0M

9. The Dictator (Paramount) Week 4 [1,651 Theaters] R
Friday $625K, Weekend $2.0M, Cume $50.1M

10. Dark Shadows (Warner Bros) Week 5 [1,550 Theaters] PG13
Friday $425K, Weekend $1.5M, Cume $73.9M ...

Madagascar 3 has a 76% score from Rotten Tomatoes, and solid launches overseas. So the third installment of the series will probably perform in exemplary fashion.

Add On: Mad 3, on top of solid critical reviews, received a Cinemascore of "A" from moviegoers, which bodes well for the long-term prospects of the feature. It has the family trade to itself until Brave hits the multiplexes.

Add On Too: The Nikkster tells us:

... Prometheus (3,396 theaters) edged Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (4,258 theaters) in a dog fight for #1 on Friday. But the toon came back with a +8% kiddie bounce on Saturday to end its opening weekend with a fierce $59.6M. ...
Click here to read entire post

Spidey Renewal

The webbed crusader gets a new order:

[Disney XD] has renewed animated hit Ultimate Spider-Man for a second season ...

The series, which was used to launch the network's Marvel Universe programming block, has been a constant performer for the youth-skewing cabler, posting gains in total viewers and across boys ages 6-14, 6-11 and 2-11.

The series has been produced at Film Roman for the past eighteen months (FR also does The Simpsons and Dan Vs..) I've been informed that despite Marvel launching its own brand spanking new animation studio, Ultimate Spiderman will remain at Film Roman, across from the Bob Hope airport.

(Sony Adelaide -- Sony Pictures tv animation unit -- produced an earlier incarnation of Spiderman a decade ago, when Toby MacGuire was playing the lead in the live-action features. The franchise never dies, but the actors and production entities continually change ...)
Click here to read entire post

Howard Terpning at the Autry

Traders Among The Crow, by Howard Terpning

From Bob Foster:
Sometimes it's a fine line between good illustration and fine art. Maybe it's a blurry line. Maybe there's no line at all, depending on who's doing the viewing.

Back when I was in art school studying to be an illustrator (because all the adults in my life thought that "commercial art" was the only viable art form to pursue), I collected illustrations cut from the pages of Ladies' Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, The Saturday Evening Post, Redbook and countless other publications that kept a lot of illustrators busy in the 40s, 50s and well into the 60s before photography took over. I had large envelopes filled with illustrations from all my favorite illustrators.

One of them was Howard Terpning. In 1974 Terpning crossed the line.

From around 1950 until 1974 Terpning was one of the most prolific illustrators in America creating advertising and story illustrations for many of the major American magazines. He began his career as an apprentice to Haddon Sundblom and soon was working for himself. But in 1974, having grown weary of the commercial art grind, he decided to follow his interest in the American West and the Plains Indians. He created paintings and sold them in Western art galleries. Three years later he moved to Arizona and two years after that was elected to the National Academy of Western Art and the Cowboy Artists of America.

His early western paintings sold for about $2,000. One of his most recent paintings sold for $1.5 million.

Terpning will turn 85 this November but you'd never guess it by looking at him or listening to him. There are 86 of his paintings in the show and I urge you to see it.

It's easy to stroll through the galleries and look at his pictures but I suggest you try looking at the painting that went into the creation of those pictures. Yes, they're illustrations because there are stories being depicted, but they're fine art because his painting is so damn good.

When you're done, get the book. If you don't get the book, please get the DVD documentary on Terpning and his career. From rough sketch to finished masterpiece, the film shows the creation of the painting Traders Among the Crow. This is the kind of inspiration artists thirst for.

Here's a link to the movie poster work Terpning did during his Hollywood years. This is a revelation. I didn't even know he had done all this stuff. Check out all four sections of images:

And here's a link to more Terpning art:

And most importantly - Admission to The Autry National Center of the American West is free to the public on the second Tuesday of every month. That means next Tuesday, June 12, is free admission day. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The show runs until June 30. Please don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these paintings by Howard Terpning at the Autry.

Abandoned, by Howard Terpening

Click here to read entire post
Site Meter