Monday, June 30, 2014

Frozen, Hand-Drawn

Some viz dev drawings, showing the blockbuster in a Beauty and the Beast type mode. ...

As we've noted, the picture started existence as a hand-drawn project, then got shelved weeks after its first story pass went up on reels. (Disney production top kick Richard Ross was the culprit; John Lasseter liked the project).

At the time, the studio was veering away from hand-drawn features, since it wasn't thrilled by the box office results of The Princess and the Frog. The company didn't become enthusiastic over Princess movies until Tangled got released ... and Mr. Ross was booted from his Disney job.

So the drawings at the link? A glimpse into Might-Have-Been. And another time.

Click here to read entire post

Biggest Openings

Anything strike you about this list of big openings over the past few months?

Biggest Opening Weekends -- 2014

Transformers -- $97.5 million

Captain America -- $95 million

Godzilla -- $93.1 million

Amazing Spider Man 2 -- $91.6 million

The X Men; Days of Future Past -- $90.8 million

Maleficent -- $69.4 million

The Lego Movie -- $69.0 million

22 Jump Street -- $57 million

Divergent -- $54.6 million

How To Train Your Dragon 2 -- $49.4 million

All but two of these candidates are heavy with animation. And two of the movies have nothing but animation inside them.

Tent poles with lots of animated effects are the order of the day. So there's going to be a lot of people sitting at computers making the entertainment the world craves.

Bodes well for jobs in the global marketplace, particularly jobs in geographic locales where governments are throwing money at our fine, entertainment conglomerates. (Vancouver? I'm talking about you).

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Your Foreign Box Office

Animated titles that are performing well:

Foreign Weekend Box Office -- (World Totals)

How To Train Your Dragon 2 -- $17,900,000 -- ($229,214,532)

Frozen -- $2,700,000 -- ($1,263,716,000)

And semi-animated titles aren't doing badly either.

Foreign Weekend Box Office -- (World Totals

Maleficent -- $16,000,000 -- ($585,571,000)

Transformers -- $201,300,000 -- ($301,300,000)

Edge of Tomorrow -- $6,900,000 -- ($318,654,632)

As Variety tells us:

From Beijing to St. Petersburg, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” was the clear choice of overseas ticket buyers, amassing an astounding $201.3 million, nearly half of which came from China. ...

Among other releases, Tom Cruise’s “Edge of Tomorrow” brought in $6.9 million from foreign markets, bringing its total to $318.6 million worldwide. The $178 million production will still struggle to become profitable, but it’s not the turkey some had predicted it would become. Thank you China.

China, it seems, has a lot to answer for.

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DWA Layoffs

As DreamWorks Animation Television continues to hire, DreamWorks Animation's feature division continues to shed jobs. ...

Last Monday and Tuesday, an estimated forty to fifty DWA employees were called in for one-on-one meetings and informed their services would no longer be required. (The studio, according to the DreamWorks people we talked to, didn't have enough features that required staff building front-end production elements, so employees in departments that were overstaffed -- and who didn't have longer-term contracts or assignments -- were given their walking papers.)

Most, according to DreamWorkers who contacted us, were told to clear out their desks the day of their meetings.

"I get that the company needs to be cautious, but I talked to one employee who said she wasn't allowed back to her desk. She was kind of upset." ....

Another employee said:

"DreamWorks doesn't want somebody who's ticked off to go back and do something to their work or their computers. ..."

The company is working to align staff with the number of in-development/in-production features lined up on the tarmac. Separated employees who contacted us say their contracts are being paid out.

So it goes.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

New Animation Head

This news has already been posted lots of other places, but anyway:

Animation veteran Lino DiSalvo has joined Paramount Animation as Creative Director. The announcement was made today by Adam Goodman, President of the Paramount Film Group, who oversees Animation for the studio. DiSalvo moves to Paramount following a 16-year stint at Walt Disney Animation Studios, where he most recently served as Head of Animation on Oscar-winning pic Frozen.

In his new role, UTA-repped DiSalvo will be assisting Goodman and the Paramount Animation team to build a world-class feature animation studio. He begins his new role immediately. ...

Paramount Animation has had bad luck with finding a crackerjack executive to run its animation division. David Stainton (also from Disney) came and went in four months, which is probably a record.

A retired animation exec said that Paramount wanted to replicate its Rango model, having live-action directors helm animated features. Unfortunately, Stainton had no relationships with live-action talent, so he wasn't a comfortable fit with the Paramount business model.

Or so I was told. So here's hoping Mr. DiSalvo works out in a more satisfactory way.

Click here to read entire post

Your American Box Office

Dragon hangs in at the "Show" position.

1). Transformers: Age of Extinction (PAR), 4,233 theaters / $41.3M Fri. / $34.3M Sat. (-17%) / 3-day est. cume: $103M+ / Wk 1

2). 22 Jump Street (SONY), 3,426 theaters (+120) / $5M Fri. /$5.8M Sat. (+15%) / 3-day cume: $15.2M (-44%) / Total est. cume: $139.4M / Wk 3

3). How to Train Your Dragon 2 (FOX), 3,750 theaters (-518) / $4.1M Fri. / $5.5M Sat. (+35%) / 3-day cume: $13M+ (-45%) / Total cume: $121.8M to $122.5M / Wk 3

4). Think Like A Man Too (SONY), 2,225 theaters (0) / $3.38M Fri. / $4.5M Sat. (+35%) / 3-day cume: $10.5M to $11M+ (-62%) / Total cume: $48.1M to $48.5M / Wk 2

5). Maleficent (DIS), 3,073 theaters (-377) / $2.59M Fri. / $3.35M Sat. (+30%) / 3-day cume: $8.4M (-35%) / Total expected cume: $201.9M to $202M+ / Wk 5

6). Jersey Boys (WB) 2,905 theaters (0) / $2.25M Fri. / $3.2M Sat. (+40%) / 3-day cume: $7.1M to $7.5M (-43%) / Total cume: $26.7M to $27.3M / Wk 2

7). Edge of Tomorrow (WB), 2,535 theaters (-677) / $1.5M Fri. / $2.1M Sat. (+40%) / 3-day cume: $5.15M (-47%) / Total cume: $84M+ / Wk 4

8). The Fault In Our Stars (FOX), 2,845 theaters (-495) / $1.84M Fri. / $1.9M Sat. (+5%) / 3-day cume: $5.2M (-39%) / Total cume: $109.8M / Wk 4

9). X-Men: Days of Future Past (FOX), 2,014 theaters (-667) / $948K Fri. / $1.3M Sat. (+40%) / 3-day cume: $3.2M (-48%) / Total cume: $223.2M / Wk 6

10). Chef (OPRD), 801 theaters (-160) / $435K Fri. / $685K Sat. (+60%) / 3-day cume: $1.58M (-8%) / Total cume: $19.3M / Wk 8

Meanwhile, Maleficent climbs to $200 million in domestic receipts.

But beyond the animated feature and the daughter of an animated feature (Maleficent), three other entrants in the Top Ten are chock full of CG animation. (If you don't have a program book those would be: Transformers, The Edge of Tomorrow and X-Men.)

There might not be as much CG animation being done in Southern California right now, but around the wide world there is a LOT of CG animation work packaged inside various high-budget tent poles.

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Friday, June 27, 2014


On the eve of How To Train Your Dragon 2's third weekend of release, Forbes does its premature post-mortem.

... There are a number of reasons why How to Train Your Dragon 2 didn’t fly to top-tier DreamWorks Animation box office highs in America. It is possible the television show muted the special-ness of the event, while it is possible that parents decided to hold off on a film that they were worried would scare their kids.

Walt Disney’s Maleficent proved to be just leggy enough to eat into the female demographic that otherwise might have showed up for the (mostly) boy-centric dragon adventure. Or it could just be that the lasting popularity of How to Train Your Dragon was overstated by we adult critics and box office pundits who presumed that the kids liked it as much as we did. ...

Or how about: "When people don't want to come and see your picture, you can't stop them."?

Except no, that doesn't work either, because HTTYD2 has opened #1 almost everywhere else in the known universe, so we can't say with total certainty why the U.S. of A. was the market that under-performed. An economist friend of mine told me some years ago that economists get economic predictions wrong because no human can project how 350 million people will be spending their money on any given day.

And so it is with box-office predictions. People go to movies for all kinds of reasons, and the WIlliam Goldman axiom about movie-making holds: "In Hollywood, nobody knows anything." More to the point, nobody knows what any given movie will pull in during its release. Educated guesses are about the best the soothsayers can do.

But I still think it'll rake in close to $200 million. (Letting my prejudices cloud my judgment, I think.)

Click here to read entire post

Box Office Leakage

Timing is, apparently, a large part of the game.

Frozen took in $48.24 million in China, according to film data site “That’s good, but nowhere near what it could have been,” says Michael Curtin, director of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Media Industries Project research center. He noted that the movie opened in China more than two months after its domestic U.S. release, where it took in more than $400 million. “Hobbit 2” opened in China more than two months after the U.S. release and pulled in 29% of the U.S. box-office takings. “Despicable Me 2” took in 14% of U.S. box-office figures after opening six months later than in the U.S.

Synched international release dates keep people from downloading pirated versions, Mr. Curtin said, noting that they also create the most of online buzz for a film in a crowded market where advertising is tightly regulated. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” opened simultaneously on May 23 in the U.S. and China. The film took in $119 million in China, according to Beijing-based film data firm EntGroup, 54% of its U.S. results. ...

We're never going to prevent streaming and pirated DVDs from chomping into the cash flow of our fine, entertainment conglomerates' movies. But by releasing pictures the same day and date around the globe, we can reduce the flow of money going elsewhere.

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Pacific Rim - The Animation

Exciting news for fans of giant robots.

My second-born was outraged and disheartened that Pacific Rim didn't perform more robustly at the U.S. box office. He thought it was one of the best features of the season.

And I'll take his word for it, because not being a fan of giant robots, I passed the movie up. I'm sure that having an animated series based on the film will make him and other Millenials glad.

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Four Artists

From 1958.

Walt Disney narrates the tale of four Disney artists painting a tree. ...

It's been up before in other places, but I thought it would be useful to post it again here ... and profile the two artists in it that I spent some time around as a kid.

Marc Davis was an animator's animator. I met him once, briefly.

Eyvind Earle had a long career as a fine arts painter. He worked at the studio for a decade, known best today for his background styling on Sleeping Beauty. I never met him, though he and my dad worked in the same department.

Josh Meador lived a few blocks from where I grew up in La Crescenta. Josh was one of my father's close friends, and they painted up and down the coast of California together. At the studio, Mr. Meador was the head of the effects department. He had been put in that position by Disney in the 1930s, jumped over the heads of several senior artists. Josh worked on both live-action and animated effects, and was one of the artists who worked on Forbidden Planet when Walt Disney Productions sub-contracted the effects work from M-G-M.

Josh was known for his classy oil paintings. Walt Disney owned several, some (most?) of which hung in Disney's Palm Springs home.

Walt Peregoy. Feisty and out-spoken (some would say "irascible") Walt Peregoy started at Disney's during World War II in the traffic department, left, then returned to work in the animation department. Eyvind Earle helped him get into the background department, though Walt didn't like Eyvind much. (You can listen to Walt speak his mind here and here.)

I knew Walt when I was a little kid. He was just as curmudgeonly then as he was decades later. "Speaking his mind" only covers part of it. "Blow torching his enemies" comes closer.

Knowing how Walt REALLY talks, it's almost comical listening to him speak in this Disneyland segment. Where the %$#@?! are all the four-letter words?!

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The Next Big Thing

... Noted by the head of DreamWorks Animation:

... Jeffrey Katzenberg traveled south to Anaheim today to talk about online video, a business he does see growing into the next big entertainment business platform. ... [He] talk[ed] about why online video, particularly on YouTube, is such a promising creation and distribution platform for a new generation of talent outside traditional Hollywood.

“I think the opportunities ahead are so immense,” Katzenberg said. “This platform is in its infancy. Monetizing that is still a struggle. What we will see in a very short period of time, that will all start to migrate up to the top of the pyramid. I believe in five years, 95 percent of the value will come from the top 5 percent” of video creators. ...

I was never convinced that 3-D movies, which Mr. Katzenberg's once touted as game changers, were actually going to alter overall theatrical attendance very much. But on internet delivery, Jeffrey is probably onto something. New Media has certainly paid off for his company, what with their humungous deal with Netflix.

The challenge, of course, is how to monetize the tidal wave of internet content. To figure out how to do that will need high-powered, innovative thinking, because tweens, teen-agers and twenty-somethings are not jazzed about having to pay for what they listen to and watch. And there are plenty of ways to get movies, music and cartoon shorts without charge.

(YouTube, which Jeffrey thinks is the wave of tomorrow, is a dandy vehicle for downloading high-quality music. All you need is a handy, on-line converter and voila! You have your own library of free tunes!)

The internet is, at present, a double-edged sword for content providers. I have no idea when ... or if ... that will change.

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Outsourcing -- Another View

TAG Executive Board member (and President Emeritus) gives us his take on the current send-the-work-elsewhere mania:

(Click on the comic for a LARGER image. ...)

I know exactly where Bob is coming from and sympathize with his sentiments. But reality is what it is: We live in a robust corporatist state where the conglomerates play the tune ... and we dance to it. Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pushing the Bill Along

So the Movie/Television Tax Incenitve legislation has taken one more step toward passage.

... AB 1839, the California Film and Television Job Retention and Promotion Act of 2014, cleared a major legislative hurdle today, passing the Senate Governance and Finance Committee by a vote of 6-0. ...

... Figures from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics show that from 2004-2012, California lost more than 16,000 film- and television-industry jobs, resulting in more than $1.5 billion in lost wages and economic activity. ...

I was in the room for the hearing today, and spoke in support (along with a lot of other labor reps) of the bill. Afterwards, I delivered 300 letters from TAG members favoring the legislation.

AB 1839 is a long way from being a silver bullet, but it's about the only way to counter the free money being handed out by Canada, Britain, New York, Georgia, Louisiana and a few other places. There are still multiple hurdles to leap over, but so far, so good.

Click here to read entire post


Two heavy-hitter in VFX land get together.

Prime Focus World and Double Negative have agreed to merge in a deal that represents a major shakeup at the top of the visual effects business.

The combined entity will be the world’s largest provider of visual effects, animation and 3D conversion services. It will have the Double Negative name, and be led by DNeg managing director Alex Hope and CEO Matthew Holben. “We’ve made it clear from our side: You guys run visual effects, we’ll run 3D conversion and animation,” Prime Focus founder and CEO Namit Malhotra told Variety. ...

London-based Double Negative is one of the world’s top vfx studios. Christopher Nolan routinely brings his pictures there and the company won an Oscar for his “Inception.” His next picture, “Interstellar,” is in production there now. The company has also announced a feature animation division.

The last sentence grabs my attention. One more big player will be jumping into feature animation, lured by the possibility of Big Bucks.

Of course, to do feature animation takes more than throwing money at crew and computers. You must also have a story development game plan. And they need to understand that it ain't just script, storyboards, kabboomski! Eight months of production followed by a gangbuster wide release.

There will be lots of false starts and dead ends along the way. Much heartache and sorrow. As Ward Kimball once said:

... We finished Snow White and we said, "Ha! We know how to do features!" And everybody went into Pinocchio with this great load of confidence. Boy, six months later we found out, and Walt found that, that what you learn in one picture doesn't necessarily work on the next picture. ...

Think the boys and girls and the merged Double Negative notice that Pixar has a wee gap in its release schedule? Because it's "fixing story"?

Let's hope the DNeg crowd knows what it's plunging into.

Click here to read entire post


From overseas news services:

Filmmaker Siddharth Anand, who is busy with his film Bang Bang, will be flying to Los Angeles to work on the visual effects of the action scenes. ...

"It is a breathtaking action sequence whose VFX is being done at the Fox Studios in Los Angeles. Sid Anand would be traveling there for 5-6 days to oversee the process. The best VFX guys who have worked on the biggest Fox Films are going to work on this," a source said on Tuesday.

So there is visual effects work going on in L.A. The stuff isn't all happening in London, Vancouver, and Toronto.

(We even know of vfx work for television now happening in the east San Fernando Valley. Who would have thought?)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Taking Pitches

The New York Times tells us:

Two years ago, Viacom’s Nickelodeon announced an annual competition as it battled a ratings drop. Rookie animators could vie for the chance to create an 11-minute cartoon. With any luck, Nickelodeon would find fresh creativity. ...

Nickelodeon’s animation development team will sit for three long days in a trade show booth at next month’s Comic-Con International and evaluate in-person proposals for shorts. Comic-Con, a convention that draws 130,000 pop culture fans, will take place on July 24-27 in San Diego.

“Performance art, costumes, story boards, video, a sketch on a napkin — we’ll look at it all,” said Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon’s president for content development and production. ...

The paper of record as it a teensy bit wrong.

Nickelodeon has been doing cartoon shorts based on cartoonists' pitches for a long time. Nick was doing them when it was in partnership with animation exec Fred Seibert the better part of a decade ago.

And Fred had been doing the "cartoon pitch" thing since his days running Hanna-Barbera in the early 1990s.

Hell. Cartoonists' ideas (Power Puff Girls, Johnn Bravo, Dexter's Lab, etc.) built Cartoon Network out of the remnants of H-B, and then CN went on to make a hit of Adventure Time, the brain child of Cartoon Network's godfather Fred Seibert and ... Nickelodeon.

So here we are, come full circle. Nick is back taking pitches from all comers. It will no doubt be an exhausting exercise, but Nick might find a few diamonds in the big pile. If so, the attempt will be worthwhile, yes?

Click here to read entire post


Live action goes through a rough patch.

Runaway production and new broadcasting strategies have really cut into one of the backbones of Los Angeles’ TV industry, a new report out today from FilmL.A. says. For the first time since records have been kept, the home of Hollywood’s share of total pilot production has fallen below 50% according to the nonprofit local-permitting organization. In fact, with a 6% drop from 2012/2013, the total share for 2013/2014 is 44%. ...

This comes as a big contingent of union members and union reps (me included) is up in Sacramento pushing for passage of AB 1839 (the t.v. and feature tax incentive bill designed to counter the free money being handed out by Canada, New York, Georgia, Louisiana, etc.)

Today we traipsed to different State Senators offices in the state capitol, seeking support for 1839. And over the last couple of weeks, TAG and other IA unions have been doing this:

[IA unions] sent out packages to members urging them to sign letters to two state Senate committees and the Governor to stop runaway production and pledge support and passage of the multi-sponsored Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act. “We are in a fight to save our families and our livelihoods,” said the letter to Brown

At this stage, the prospects for the bill's passage out of its first Senate committee hearing look (we're told) pretty good. Tomorrow, a lot of us will be in the capitol bright and early to see how AB 1939 does in its first Senatorial test. There's still a lot of work to do, and more hurdles over which to jump. In August, when the legislature reconvenes, there are more committee hearings (and votes), then the final Senate up-or-down, and lastly negotiations with the governor that will (everyone hopes) leads to final passage and the guv's John Hancock.

We'll just have to see how it goes.

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Sito's Animation History

President Emeritus Sito on Norm Ferguson:

One thing Homer Brightman's memoir Life in the Mouse House finally cleared up was what may have happened between Walt Disney and Norm Ferguson to get Norm fired. Everyone since has always been very oblique about what happened. For years Fergie was one of Disney's top animators, the man who gave Pluto his personality. Shamus Culhane called him the greatest pantomime actor in animation. But by the mid 1940s, Fergusons older animation style was considered behind the times to the more sophisticated draughtsmanship of the Nine Old Men. By then many of his generation like Ham Luske and Wilfred Jackson had moved into supervisory roles.

Ferguson was directing and supervising on Three Caballeros. Brightman explains (Page 80) during the completing of Caballeros, Walt and Ferguson had a argument over the cost overruns. " After Walt left the meeting, D (Fergie) said he could have finished the picture a lot sooner and cheaper if Walt had stayed out of it. It was something someone says in anger. One of Walt's lackeys reported the comment to Walt, and he cornered D(Fergie) in the hallway with the story. Ferguson faced up to it and admitted he said it. Walt never forgave him."

Brightman says Walt gave Ferguson his own short to write, direct and animate, knowing it was beyond his abilities without a good support team. He was an animator's animator, rather than a writer or story guy. Ferguson slaved away, but the final result got a thumbs down. Norm Ferguson was unceremoniously terminated. When Guild President Bill Melendez went to Walt to ask Fergie be re-instated, Walt waved him off. "Dead wood," he said.

Norm Ferguson had said he'd stay at Disney until he couldn't draw any more, then work in the parking lot if he had to. Now he was through. He bounced around the studios, drinking heavily, even though he was a diabetic, until a heart attack killed him at age 55.

If anybody has heard otherwise or another version, I'd love to know. I'm very curious.

What happens to the Great Men of history is that after they're dead, they too often become marble saints. Their genius gets buffed to a high gleam, but the darker corners of complex human personalities are forgotten or ignored.

Walt could be petty. Walt could be petulant, impatient, short-tempered. My old man told me stories of Walt's gruff put-downs and dismissals. So did Ward Kimball and Don Lusk. It takes nothing away from his gifts for story-telling or building new art forms, it simply makes him a fully dimensional human being.

Owning a full, human portrait of people we admire is a hell of a lot more interesting than having a marble saint.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Stock Down

More Wall Street disappointment.

... B. Riley’s Eric Wold cut his domestic forecast [for How To Train Your Dragon 2] by 36% to $175M, and his international by 20% to $400M. As a result, the analyst trimmed his target price for DreamWorks Animation shares from $37 to $32. He cut his revenue estimate for the company’s current fiscal year by 5.5%, and cash flow forecast by 14.8% to $109M.

Maybe I'm delusional, but I still think the picture's domestic take nudges $200 million and the world wide accumulation ends up at $600+ million. Click here to read entire post

Disney TVA Greenlights

The Mouse announces new and renewed cartoon t.v. shows.


Studio Also Receives Season Pickups for "Mickey Mouse" Cartoon Shorts and "Wander Over Yonder"

Scheduled for a fall 2015 premiere on Disney XD, "Pickle & Peanut" employs an innovative mix of 2-D animation and live-action clips to tell the small-town adventures of two underdogs who dream up plans to be anything but ordinary. The series was created by Noah Z. Jones ("Fish Hooks") and developed by Joel Trussell ("Yo Gabba Gabba!"). ... Mark Rivers ("Jimmy Kimmel Live!") is the story editor.

[Disney TVA Senior Vice President Eric] Coleman said, "We see very few pitches that are as funny and original as 'Pickle & Peanut.' We instantly fell in love with these characters, and Noah and Joel have built a world with a visual style and sensibility unlike anything on TV."

The animation studio ... also received a third season order of the Emmy and Annie Award-winning "Mickey Mouse" cartoon shorts and a second season order of Craig McCracken's comedy series "Wander Over Yonder." "Mickey Mouse" cartoon shorts ... have reached over 135 million unduplicated viewers worldwide, in 34 languages. ...

The last couple of weeks, I've been in and out of a bunch of different studios. But I'm not doing a lot of fist-hand posting about it, because even though I don't get hassled by studio managers that much, after years of slogging around I get tired of the occasional churlish phone call from this or that exec. (It's been known to happen even when I'm saying something positive and uplifting. Hard to fathom, but there it is.)

It gets old, you know? So I shy away from it.

Mostly. But a little about the MM shorts: What I find refreshing about them is how visual they are. One of the Mouse Short artists told me that the writers are largely responsible for that. I find the minimal dialogue/maximum sight gags a very good thing.

Click here to read entire post

The Mouse Never Stops

Now with synergistic Add On.

The Disney animated feature that could.

Frozen took in another $3.6M in Japan over the weekend to take its box office tally in the nation to $233.3M.
The Disney film has now been the box office leader in Japan for 15 weeks in a row as its warm response continues to shock analysts.
Frozen's $1.259B worldwide gross places it 5th all-time with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 within striking distance at #4.

All I can say is, my face has fallen atop the floor.

Add On: But it shouldn't, since Disney has long been built of inter-locking pieces that reinforce each other:

... [The Disney] ecosystem is amazing. Second, the opportunities for strong growth going decades into the future exists. The Shanghai theme park and Star Wars franchises are simply two of the more high profile examples of the sort of thing to expect over and over from Disney in the future. ...

Even since I was a little kid watching Anette and the other Mouseketeers dance their hearts on the teevee, I was kind of aware that walt Disney Productions had a lot of moving parts.

The Disneyland shows about Davey Crockett sold a lot of 45 rpm records and coonskin caps. The Mickey Mouse Club (also the nighttime show) tirelessly plugged Disney theatrical releases and cartoons. And sold a lot of Mouseketeer caps.

The big amusement park in Anaheim built a lot of its rides and exhibits around the animated features. Which (in those ancient days) were recycled into theaters every seven years.

Smart. And certaintly forward-looking. At a time when most movie companies didn't look beyond the next quarter of profits and losses.

Understand that Diz Co. was cross-promoting and plunging into new media (then known as "television") before any other movie studios were doing it. The corporation got into amusement parks decades before other entertainment conglomerate ventured into that pool. In the seventies and eighties, when its movie operations withered on the vine, Disneyland and Disneyworld did a lot to keep Diz Co. afloat.

That fact that, today, it has morphed into the Berkshire-Hathaway of entertainment conglomerates shouldn't take away from the fact that in building a healthy corporate "ecosystem", Disney was there first.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, June 22, 2014

As Goes Netflix ...

... So goes Amazon Prime., Inc. today announced a U.S. content licensing agreement with Aardman Animations that will make Prime Instant Video the exclusive subscription streaming home for the beloved, award-winning television and short film series Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Timmy Time and classic animation Rex the Runt. ...

In addition, new shows from the Shaun the Sheep and Timmy Time series will be added to Prime Instant Video, including seasons 3 and 4 of Shaun the Sheep, the Shaun the Sheep: Championsheeps special and two new Timmy Time specials. ...

It's particularly gratifying that Rex the Runt will be available, yes?

But seriously. Animation is becoming a valued commodity on the web. A couple of years ago, Amazon was setting up an animation production entity here in town and wanted to sign a contract with TAG. But it also wanted some changes in the contract.

The Guild said no.

And lo. A few months back, they came back and said (paraphrased): "Okay then, if you're going to be stubborn about it. We'll sign your standard deal."

And they did. (Not that they have ramped up into a big fat cartoon studio as yet, but they are obviously thinking along those lines. Netflix, on the other hand, is engaging existing studios to turn out cartoon product.)

Click here to read entire post

The World Movie Market

Two movies with dragons in them are doing really well.

Maleficent crossed the $500 million mark globally after adding $44.7 million to it haul from 54 foreign territories. Its foreign grosses were robust in large part because it opened in China, the world’s second largest film market, to $20.3 million. ...

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (World Totals)

Maleficent -- $44,700,000 -- ($521,580,000)

How To Train Your Dragon 2 -- $43,500,000 -- ($172,376,735)

Frozen -- $3,400,000 -- ($1,259,103,000)

Meantime, HTTYD 2 had the biggest worldwide haul over the weekend, taking in $68,800,000 to Malificent's $57,712,000.

... “How to Train Your Dragon 2” flew into the record books — and past concerns about the World Cup denting the global box office — with a $6.8 million opening in Brazil.

That's the second biggest animated opening ever in that country, which is playing host to soccer's biggest event. It's also three times more than the original's debut there, and 10 percent better than last summer's debut of “Despicable Me 2.” ...

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Your American Box Office

How To Train Your Dragon 2 hangs onto the third rung of the ladder.

1). Think Like A Man Too (SONY), 2,225 theaters / $12.17M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $32M to $33M / Wk 1

2). 22 Jump Street (SONY), 3,306 theaters (0) / $9.35M Fri. / 3-day cume: $30M to $32M (-47%) / Total est. cume: $111M to $112M / Wk 2

3). How to Train Your Dragon 2 (FOX), 4,268 theaters (+15) / $7.6M Fri. / 3-day cume: $25M to $26.2M / Total cume: $94.6M to 95M+ / Wk 2

4). Jersey Boys (WB) 2,905 theaters / $4.6M Fri. / 3-day cume: $13.8M to $14.4M / Wk 1

5). Maleficent (DIS), 3,450 theaters (-173) / $3.96M Fri. / 3-day cume: $12.7M (-32%) / Total expected cume: $185.6M / Wk 4

6). Edge of Tomorrow (WB), 3,212 theaters (-293) / $3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $9.85M to $10M (-39%) / Total cume: $73.9M to $74M+ / Wk 3

7). The Fault In Our Stars (FOX), 3,340 theaters (+67) / $3.095M Fri. / 3-day cume: $8.6M to $9M (-42%) / Total cume: $98.7M to $99M / Wk 3

8). X-Men: Days of Future Past (FOX), 2,681 theaters (-361) / $1.79M Fri. / 3-day cume: $6M (-39%) / Total cume: $216.6M / Wk 5

9). Godzilla (WB), 2,088 theaters (-1,022) / $530K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.8M (-46%) / Total cume: $194.9M / Wk 6

10). Chef (OPRD), 961 theaters (-141) / $480K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.77M (-21%) / Total cume: $16.8M / Wk 7

HTTYD will tick over the $100 million mark early next week. Meantime Maleficent steadily closed in on the $200 million marker. Click here to read entire post

Media Warfare

It ain't just movies that cannibalize movies ...

If marketers didn’t have enough to worry about as they start to position movies against sequels in the “Star Wars,” “The Avengers” and “Jurassic Park” franchises, the videogame industry has some serious competition of its own. ...

“The studios should at minimum be aware of big game launches,” says Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities. “The biggest games all come out between September and November, and there are typically a dozen big ones, so fall movie releases have trouble avoiding some overlap. A medium-budget action film can get bowled over by a big release.” ...

At last year’s Visual Effects Society Summit, Illumination Entertainment CEO Chris Meledandri said that the feature film business is losing — or has already lost — the next generation of potential moviegoers. “The thing I worry about the most is the competition for young eyeballs,” he said. “We’ve got so many other competing forms of media and entertainment and content.” ...

Pay attention to historical trends, and you see that the entertainment pie is getting sliced up in smaller and smaller wedges.

I Love Lucy, Mash and other popular t.v. shows of forty and sixty-five years ago commanded 35% to 50% of the eyeballs glued to the idiot box in the living room. We're talking forty or sixty million people.

Today, with a larger population, high-rated network offerings are doing well when they hit an audience of ten or fifteen million. Numbers that were routine in the fifties, sixties and seventies are now seen only for big sporting events. Numbers that used to get a television series cancelled are now cause for rejoicing in executive suites.

And movie audiences? They've been steadily eroding for decades. Key demographic groups, the eighteen to thirty-five-year-olds, now spend way more time playing with their computers, tablets and smart phones than goggling at a 3-D film on a dim screen at the neighborhood AMC. There's lots more entertainment choices, but leisure time? It hasn't expanded much. In fact, it's shrunk.

Meledandri's right. There's lots more competition for our shortened attention spans. So movies and t.v. episodes that want their place in the sun, they better be really, really outstanding.

Click here to read entire post

Friday, June 20, 2014

Aristocats' Add Ons

The last two development sketches for Aristocats.

Because you deserve the full set. ...

And because I'm too lazy to do a lot of typing/writing late on a Friday night.

Click here to read entire post

Turnstile Predictions

What Mojo says the domestic weekend take will be:

Forecast (June 20-22)

1. Think Like a Man Too - $37.5 million
2. How to Train Your Dragon 2 - $29.2 million (-41%)
3. 22 Jump Street - $26.3 million (-54%)
4. Maleficent - $11.3 million (-39%)
5. Jersey Boys - $11 million
6. Edge of Tomorrow - $10.1 million (-39%)

No steep drop-off for Dragon 2, which means that it's got a pretty good hold on the audience's long-term attention. Which also means (I think) that it will do a multiple of four when all the cash from its domestic theatrical run is raked in.

Compared to other June cartoon releases, HTTYD2 came in on the low side, but it should still play well through most of the summer.

Click here to read entire post

The Hub

A small dark cloud amidst the sunshine.

Almost a week after Hub Network president and CEO Margaret Loesch announced that she will be stepping down at the end of the year, speculation about the future of the upstart kids cable channel — a co-venture between Discovery Communications and toy maker Hasbro — is growing.

At the time of Loesch’s announcement, I was hearing the name of Discovery veteran Tom Cosgrove — CEO of another Discovery co-venture channel, 3D Television Network — as a potential replacement. Cosgrove continues to be rumored for the job. Complicating a potential hire is the fact that 3D is a three-way venture of Discovery, Sony and Imax, but I hear Discovery has been exploring becoming a majority or sole owner of the fledgeling 3D TV channel. There is talk that Hub might be put under the purview of Henry S. Schneiff, group president of Investigation Discovery, Destination America, American Heroes Channel (formerly Military Channel) and Discovery Fit & Health. ...

I continue to hear that Hub, which reaches nearly 73 million U.S. homes, may be re-branded, with its headquarters, currently based in Burbank, potentially moving to Discovery’s home base in Silver Spring, MD. After trying with little success to gain ground in a crowded marketplace dominated by Disney Channel and Nickelodeon while kids advertizing is steadily declining, HUB recently expanded into family-oriented programming. ...

As it happens, I was up at Hasbro yesterday afternoon. The studio has three shows in various stages of work, some staff working on series, and other staff on hiatus. The word I got is that one Hasbro show has been greenlit for a second season, and a new series awaits approval to move ahead.

The Hasbro studio, up near Burbank's Bob Hope Airport, has generally supported 2-4 shows over the course of its existence. With Ms. Loesch's departure, there will obviously be changes. It just isn't clear yet what those changes are going to be.
Click here to read entire post

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Aristocats Development Art

Long ago (like in the late sixties), a Disney artist did some development work for the first feature made after Walt Disney's death ...

Ralph Hulett (my old man) did a number of color studies for The Aristocats.

The feature was set in Paris, and Ralph tried to talk the studio into letting him remain on salary while he flew to Paris (where Aristocats was set) at his own expense. And there he would sketch, draw and paint for a month, doing research and development work for the feature.

Studio brass said "No."

So Mr. Hulett remained in the Animation Building in Burbank, used the studio library, and created the small paintings you see here.

Happily, soon after these sketches were done, Ralph did make it to Paris. The summer of 1969, he flew the family across the Atlantic, picked up a Volkswagen camper van in Frankfurt, and spent a couple of months sketching and painting his way across Germany, Switzerland and France.

And he painted a bit in the City of Light. Only he didn't paint anything for the Aristocats. He was there on his own hook, and painted what he liked.

Click here to read entire post

Roll-Over Rip Offs

Because the TAG 401(k) Plan has a bit of money in it, and because a number of Plan participants have big slabs of money that can be rolled over into other accounts, we offer this cautionary tale.

Retirees Suffer as $300 Billion 401(k) Rollover Boom Enriches Brokers

Kathleen Tarr says AT&T Inc. employees looked to her as “their de facto 401(k) expert.” Visiting their homes and offices, she advised them on their retirement plans as they called up balances on computer screens.

Actually, Tarr worked for Royal Alliance Associates, a brokerage firm owned by insurer American International Group Inc. (AIG) She encouraged hundreds of departing AT&T employees to roll over their retirement money into the kind of risky high-commission investments that Wall Street’s self-regulatory agency warns against on its website.

Tarr and her business partner reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in commissions and trips to the Bahamas and Florida resorts. Not all of her clients fared as well, and 37 of them have filed complaints against her, according to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority records reviewed by Bloomberg News. Tarr and Royal Alliance say the investment choices were appropriate. ...

Suurre the investment choices were appropriate. Ms. Tarr was making beaucoup bucks off them. You can't get more appropriate than that.

But here's the small, golden secret about investing for retirement: Park yourself in mixture of low-cost index funds, specimens like Total Market Stock, a pinch of small value stocks, and a nice intermediate bond fund. Sprinkle in an International stock fund, and you're all set. Broad diversification across multiple asset classes, tiny costs, and over time your investments will grow.

You'll want to keep fund expenses down around eight or eighteen basis points, because studies show that the surest way to predict future returns is the costs of your investments. What you don't want to do (in my opinion) is hand your 401(k) money over to brokers like Kathleen Tarr.

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


No animation here, brothers and sisters ...

... just a whole lot of "digital makeup".

Click here to read entire post


From yesterday's New York Times:

... Last year, 71 percent of DreamWorks Animation’s revenue came from new films, according to Anthony Wible, an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott. Next year, he expects it to be closer to 48 percent, [with] an aggressive move into consumer products. ...

... DreamWorks Animation’s merchandising onrush comes as Hollywood’s unsexy consumer products business starts to attract more investor attention. “Disney Consumer Products: World’s Most Valuable Afterthought?” read the headline of a March report from Todd Juenger, a Bernstein Research analyst. Mr. Juenger estimated that merchandise would be Disney’s fastest-growing unit through 2018, in part because of [Disney merchandising chief] Bob Chapek’s strategies. ...

Amazing how neatly this ties in with yesterday's merchandising story regarding the Mouse. Disney is reaping billions stacked on billions from its consumer products. DreamWorks Animation strives to do the same.

For DWA, of course, branching out is a necessity, since relying on one hit film after another isn't a sustainable business model.

Click here to read entire post

Additional Turtles

The network is committed.

Nickelodeon orders another season ahead of the show's third season's debut in Fall 2014

The Turtles are kicking their way into another season! Nickelodeon has ordered a fourth season of animated series “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” The 20-episode season is set to premiere in Fall 2015.

The order is a clear vote of confidence that the show will continue to hold its audience as new episodes are currently airing, and the series’ third season is scheduled to debut this fall. ...

Paramount Pictures and producer Michael Bay will release the live-action film “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” starring Megan Fox and Will Arnett on Aug. 8. ...

TMNT has been a lucrative franchise for decades. Some CG animated television shows don't perform well on the home screen, but Turtles is one of the half-hours that does. And Viacom is making sure to work all the angles. producing new installments for the the neighborhood AMC and the family flat-screen at home.

When you're riding a proven money-maker, you want to dig the spurs in and keep the lucrative steed going. This is good news for the Turtles crew working hard in Burbank.

Click here to read entire post

2014 Wage Survey

Another year, another opportunity to share information about wages with others in the animation community. ...

TAG has been conducting wage surveys since the 1990s, and the return of survey forms usually falls in the 20%-25% range. We get that some high-end employees are shy about revealing what they make (even though the reporting is anonymous). And we understand that a chosen few ... because Mom and Dad taught them it's rude to inquire about what one makes ... are downright hostile to the idea, to wit:

But what we don't get is why the response of most cartoon emplyees isn't "Hell yes! Here's my info! When you gonna publish the results?!" Because the studios already know what you and your colleagues pull down, so why folks resist having access to similar information (the better to negotiate wages) escapes us.

We have sent out both digital and snail-mail versions of the survey form, the window for submission is open for the next couple of months, so get those forms back to us pronto! So we can start compiling the results!

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In and Around the Changing Hat

The House of Mouse appears to be doing well in the toys, clothes and bright shiny baubles department.

Merchandise featuring Marvel’s superheroes, Disney’s princesses, Pixar’s toons and Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars” helped the Mouse House ring up a record $40.9 billion in global retail sales in 2013.

The sales topped 2012′s $39.4 billion, $37.5 billion, in 2011, and $28.6 billion in 2010, according to Disney Consumer Products. Those kinds of numbers have long made the company the world’s top licensor.

Disney isn’t likely to give up that title anytime soon. ...

In Las Vegas on Monday, Josh Silverman, executive VP, global licensing for Disney Consumer Products, was joined by Mickey Mouse; Iron Man; Buzz Lightyear; Stormtroopers; Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ chief creative officer John Lasseter; Marvel’s senior VP of marketing Mike Pasciullo; and Lucasfilm’s executive VP of franchise management Howard Roffman during a company presentation for licensees and retailers.

While toys are still Disney’s top seller, apparel is also strong for DCP, and custom collaborations with designers like Stella McCartney and MAC cosmetics are growing around films like “Maleficent” and “Cinderella” that enable the division to court various age groups with product. ...

At least some of that good fortune is washing back to Disney's feature animation division. Mr. Lasseter, back from Vegas, was in the hat building today detailing the heavy-duty redesign the inside of the structure will soon be getting.

J.L. was in Feature Animation's theater showing drawings for the new interior of what has been an interesting but basically awful work place since the day it was completed. The structure went up during the Eisner era, when new Disney buildings on the lot and at the amusement parks had an edgy and flamboyant "look at me!" quality. (The Swan and Dolphin hotels at Disney World are good examples of this.)

The finest examples of "high Eisner" in Burbank are the Team Disney "Dwarf" building on the northeast side of the Disney lot, and the Hat building -- seen above -- on Riverside Drive. Both are visually arresting structures outside but dysfunctional inside, with long dark halls, cramped offices, wasted spaces. You go through the Dwarf building, you find yourself navigating narrow alleys between cubicles, searching for somebody's office. The structure itself might look all right on top of four acres of sloping lawn, but jammed tight against the corner of Alameda Avenue and Buena Vista Street, it's as out of place as a potato bug on a slice of lemon chiffon pie.

The new plan for the hat building is simple: keep the exterior as is, and gut the interior. There will be more open space and a much larger common area on the second floor near the current entrance (similar to the the Toon Disney building in Glendale (pictured below) and Pixar building in Emeryville) There will ge airy, open stairways.

All this will be a good thing, because the building, as currently configured ... how to I put this diplomatically? ... sucks big time. The joint is dark, the joint is hard to heat and air condition, none of the spaces inside the building flow together in a coherent way. (Did I mention it was "high Eisner"?)

It's going to take a while to reconfigure the place, and I'm sure it will disrupt various employees' work rhythms, but it's a project well worth doing, because the building as it exists today is pretty damn inhospitable.

Click here to read entire post


Mr. Katzenberg thinks he's a keeper.

Jeffrey Katzenberg said his company will turn the feline cartoon into “one of the most desired fashion brands in the world.”

DreamWorks Animation has acquired all rights to Felix the Cat, the feline cartoon from the silent film era, DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said during a speech at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas.

A popular cartoon throughout the 1920s, Felix first appeared in film shorts and a comic strip. He resurfaced in various TV shows and movies since the introduction of sound, and ranks as one of the greatest cartoon characters of all-time. ...

And oldie but a goodie ...

And I'm sure just because the character sprang to life in 1923 as a comic strip character, cartoon character, and then a beloved trade-mark, DWA has big plans for the kitty.

I always wonder about copyright protection going on and on, but a friend in the biz confides that the courts are almost always protective of rights holders, and trade-marks are pretty much forever, aren't they? No doubt DWA attorneys vetted Felix's commercial longevity, copryight-wise, before the deal was finalized.

So congratulations to DreamWorks Animation on its acquisition of Felix. Now go out and exploit the new acquisition. America will expect nothing less.

Click here to read entire post

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Japanese Scooby Doo

Guess who it is.

Astro Boy, one of Japan’s most famous and long-running anime and manga properties, is being rebooted with a new series that mixes traditional 2D and modern CG animation.

The new series, which was announced at the Annecy Festival’s International Animation Film Market, will be comprised of 26 half-hour episodes that are targeted toward children from eight to twelve years of age. It’s a joint production from studios across three separate countries, including Japan’s Tezuka Productions, France’s Caribara Animation and Monaco’s Shibuya Productions.

There will also be a separate series of animated shorts developed by Tezuka Productions and YTV. These will run between five and seven minutes long each and are described as an “edutainment” series aimed at children from three to five years of age. ...

Even Imagi couldn't kill AB. Like a few American series in the Golden Circle, Astro Boy rockets through the decades.

Click here to read entire post


Now with multi-media Add On.

Second place finishes don't excite New York stock brokers.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2″ didn’t prove to be enough of a box office fire-breather for Wall Street, sending the share price of DreamWorks Animation sliding more than 12% on Monday.

The animated sequel opened to $50 million domestically and picked up in an additional $24.8 million from 26 international territories. However, going into the weekend some analysts had predicted that the film would open to north of $60 million. ...

As it happens, I was wandering around DWA's Glendale studio this afternoon. Nobody seems distraught over a fifty million dollar movie opening.

I still think a $200 million U.S./Canadian box office is a realistic number. There aren't going to be any significant animated features in the marketplace until mid-July, and Dragons 2 is a good movie (with gags and plot points that pay off!)

I would be surprised if HTTYD2 doesn't tick up against $650-$700 million in worldwide grosses -- with a 70% international/30% domestic split.

Add On: DreamWorks Animation continues its evolution toward the 1950s Disney model, expanding into projects that aren't animated.

Oriental DreamWorks, the joint venture between DreamWorks Animation and a trio of Chinese companies, has unveiled a diversified live-action and animation development slate of third-party content.

The Shanghai-based company has struck development deals with a trio of local Chinese companies, spanning five feature film projects.

This is a significant departure from the company’s previous mission, which was originally focused on in-house developed animated features, such as the now in production “Kung Fu Panda 3.” The change of tack was first signalled by Variety in September last year.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Updated Calendar of Features

DreamWorks Animation has updated its oncoming list of movies, to wit:


Penguins of Madagascar -- November 26th


Home -- March 27th

B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations -- June 5th

Kung Fu Panda 3 -- December 23rd


Boss Baby -- March 18th

How to Train Your Dragon 3 -- June 17th

Trolls -- November 4th


Captain Underpants -- January 13th

Mumbai Musical -- March 10th

The Croods 2 -- November 3rd


Larrikins -- February 16th

Madagascar 4 -- May 18th

Puss in Boots 2: Nine Lives & 40 Thieves -- November 2nd

If memory serves, Larrikens is the first Australian-set animated feature for J. Katzenberg since The Rescuers Down Under in 1990.

We'll note here that DreamWorks Animation has various features coming out of different studios. (The company has studios in China, India and Redwood City, California in addition to its Glendale campus).

I watched Dragons 2 today (terrific film, by the way) and noticed that DWA's India facility is in the movie's credits. That studio has done sequences of other features, and I've been informed that it will be turning out a complete feature in the not-too-distant future.

Staffers inform me that most story work on the features happen in Glendale, with some work in Redwood City. Beyond the long-form entertainments listed above, there's development being done for other animated features to be released in the Chinese market. How far along these pictures are, or when they'll be completed and rolled out, I know not.

Click here to read entire post

Shaggy Passes

Casey Kasem, after a long battle with Parkinson's and dementia, dies on Father's day. A self-aware quote from Mr. Kasem:

"Shaggy is one of my claims to fame," the radio personality told the New York Times. "But I think Casey surpasses him a little bit.

However, one will last longer than the other, and Shaggy will go on forever. 'They are going to be playing Shaggy and Scooby-Doo for eons and eons, and they're going to forget Casey Kasem — unless they happen to step on his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I'll be one of those guys people say 'Who's that?' about. And someone else will say, 'He's just some guy who used to be on the radio."

Warner Bros. Animation is still creating Scooby Doo for an eager public. It will likely always be creating Scooby Doos Click here to read entire post

Your Foreign Box Office

via the ever-popular Rentrak:

Foreign Weekend Box Office -- (World Totals)

How To Train Your Dragon -- $24,800,000 -- ($76,500,000)

Maleficent -- $56,208,000 -- ($436,425,000)

Frozen -- $3,800,000 -- ($1,252,681,000) ...

In foreign markets, Dragon 2 came in No. 1, including Russia with $12.8 million. Click here to read entire post

Saturday, June 14, 2014

52 Episodes

If it works as a movie, it should work as a series.

Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp is teaming with Gallic conglom Lagardere Active, a major French force in kids’ TV entertainment, to develop an animated 3D TV adventure series inspired by Besson’s “Arthur and the Invisibles” movie trilogy. ...

Conceived as a 52 part, 15-minute seg series, “Arthur and the Invisibles” will target kids 5-8. ...

Arthur and the Invisibles was a long way from being a blockbuster in that long-ago time of 2006. It grossed $15 million stateside and $92.8 million everywhere else. Considering it cost $86 million to produce, these aren't stellar grosses.

But it's still good to see t.v. episodes being made.

Click here to read entire post

Box Office of 22 Dragons

The turnstile calculations as of now:

Weekend Totals

1). 1). 22 Jump Street (SONY), 3,306 theaters / $25M Fri. / $18.6M Sat. (-25%) / $60M Sun. (-10%) / 3-day estimated cume: $60M / Wk 1

2). How to Train Your Dragon 2 (FOX), 4,253 theaters / $18.5M Fri. / $17M Sat. (-7%) / $14.6M Sun. (-15%) / 3-day cume: $50M+ / Wk 1

3). Maleficent (DIS), 3,623 theaters (-325) / $5.8M Fri. / $7.25M Sat. (+25%) / $6.5M Sun. (-10%) / 3-day cume: $19M to $19.4M (-44%) / Total expected cume: $164M / Wk 3

4). Edge of Tomorrow (WB), 3,505 theaters (+15) / $4.5M Fri. / $6M Sat. (+33%) / $5.4M Sun. (-10%) / 3-day cume: $16M (-46%) / Total cume: $56.5M / Wk 2

5). The Fault In Our Stars (FOX), 3,273 theaters (+100) / $6.3M Fri. / $5.7M Sat. (-10%) / $3.7M Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $15.7 (-67%) / Total cume: $81.7M / Wk 2

6). X-Men: Days of Future Past (FOX), 3,042 theaters (-597) / $2.6M Fri. / $3.6M Sat. (+34%) / $3.2M Sun. (-10%) / 3-day cume: $9.5M (-37%) / Total cume: $205.9M / Wk 4

7). Godzilla (WB), 2,088 theaters (-1,022) / $870K Fri. / $1.2M Sat. (+37%) / $1M Sun. (-15%) / 3-day cume: $3.1M (-49%) / Total cume: $191.2M / Wk 5

8). A Million Ways to Die in the West (UNI), 2,413 theaters (-747) / $941K Fri. / $1.2 Sat. (+32%) / $924K Sun. (-25%) / 3-day cume: $3M (-58%) / Total cume: $36.9M / Wk 3

Since Dragon is pulling down an "A" Cinemascore, and there aren't any significant animated feature on the near-horizon, the Koch Box Office Calculator sees a multiple of 4+ by the time the picture's domestic run is completed. Which will mean $200+ million in U.S. and Canadian grosses. Click here to read entire post

Friday, June 13, 2014

Budding Conglomerate

The new DWA release looks to be a hit, howsoever ...

... "I don't think you can be an animation company and just be an animation company anymore," said Sandra Rabins, an executive producer on the original "Shrek" ... "It's just not sustainable for anybody, even Jeffrey Katzenberg," she said, adding that publicly traded entertainment companies must build out libraries and develop revenue streams beyond the box office to make franchises worthwhile. ...

But this is kind of obvious, no?

Entertainment companies that remain in one creative box run the risk of hitting a wall and shattering to pieces. It's happened lots of times before. The Fleischer Studios. UPA. Even M-G-M. All stayed inside their original business models and ultimately disappeared.

Every movie studio alive today has expanded far beyond the sound stages, back lots and long-form features that comprised their initial corporate missions. All of the survivors either expanded from the inside out or got absorbed by another (and often larger) corporate entity.

For Disney, the strategy was to build on its early successes, becoming a producer of live-action movies and television shows becoming the owner/operator of amusement parks at a time when no other movie company did these things.

Seventy years on, Jeffrey Katzenberg strives to recreate Walt Disney's mid-twentieths century hat trick, except this time it's Mew Media, foreign markets, and high tech games and amusement centers. Whether Mr. Katzenberg is successful or not should become clear in the next half-dozen years. But even if the newer endeavors pay off, creating successful theatrical features will remain a crucial part of the DWA empire.

Click here to read entire post

Social Media Tea Leaves

As we roll into HTTYD2's first day of release:

Social[Media STATS] suggests there is huge interest in "How To Train Your Dragon 2" as it'ss chalked up a massive 60 million trailer views with a very impressive 0.50% Buzz, ahead of “Frozen” and this year’s biggest animated movie so far “The Lego Movie” which opened to $64 million with 36.4 million trailer views. This can also be attributed to the fantastic visuals of the franchise, which helped make the first movie such a hit with moviegoers. This aspect has also been brought to the fore via a longform Buzzfeed article showcasing the impressive 3D used in the movies.

Word of mouth is key for family titles and as such a lot of the online campaign has focused around interesting and engaging parents, with clips being released with Yahoo! Movies which has an older audience. Twitter has been used to reach out to parents, in particular moms who are key decision makers for family titles. Parental advisors and mommy bloggers hosted a #HTTYD2chat and re-tweeted features through parenting advice channels. This chat drove over 7,000 Tweets from moms during release week. Overall “Dragon” chatter is on a par with “Lego” which drove 98,000 tweets, and ahead of “Mr.Peabody” which opened to $32 million with 27,000 Tweets. Twitter and Instagram also featured a #spottoothless hashtag competition for fans, and the official site hosts an in-depth dragonpedia for kids and parents alike, appealing to anyone who enjoyed the first movie.

Search is a good indicator of intent among older audiences and “Dragon” is up with the 126,000 of “Lego,” but below the 155,000 searches of Disney’s blockbuster “Frozen.” “Dragons’” massive trailer count — well ahead of “Lego” and “Frozen” — counts in its favor, but it seems Hiccup will fly below the close to $70 million totals of these movies. ...

Around about now, the trades will be weighing in on which new release comes out on top for the weekend. Methinks Dragon will nose close to $70 mill.

Soon enough we'll discover if I'm thinking wishfully.

Add On: Okay, maybe over-optimistic by a teensy bit:

... Matinees for How to Train to Dragon 2 are performing very well today, and estimates now look like Dragon [will be] pulling in maybe $21M tonight for a $58M-$60M weekend. ...

Click here to read entire post

At Fox Animation

I spent the morning at FA on Wilshire Boulevard. overall, the staff on Fox Animation's two prime-time shows is serene. ...

Not only is work continuing steadily on both Family Guy and American Dad, but TBS (Turner Broadcasting System) has picked up more shows for Dad, which means that the crew will be working into next year.

We got the word last week that the back fifteen episodes were getting picked up. The writers found out close to their deadlines they were being held over, and that's when everyone else found out. People are going to have hiatuses, but they'll be coming back to work after that. Good news.

The main question I got from staffers on Family Guy and American Dad staffers was, "How's the animation biz doing?" I replied that employment levels are up due to the expansion in television product, and even though we are losing some work to Canada, employment levels are higher today than a couple of years ago. (It's hard for our fine, entertainment conglomerates to resist those subsidies. If the playing field was level, we would have more employment.)

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mid-Week Animation Totals

It doesn't seem like it, but on the eve of How To Train Your Dragon 2's big launch there are other animated features in the American/Canadian market-place. And they are ...

Movies -- Total Screens -- Total Dollars

Rio 2 -- 702 -- $126,105,500

The LEGO Movie -- 274 -- $256,041,204

Mr. Peabody and Sherman -- 224 -- $110,443,631

Legends of Oz -- 84 -- $8,309,951

Interesting factoid: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the directors and writers of The Lego Movie, are also the directors of this weekend's 22 Jump Street, an odds-on favorite to launch at or near the top of the Box Office Ten, even as their previous movie remains in theaters.

Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller the only directors working today who swing back and forth between live-action and animated features, having equal success in both formats. (Okay, Brad Bird does it, but he really hasn't come back to animation as yet.)

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Our Most Excellent Corporatist State

Because it's always good to be reminded.

And of course, American entertainment conglomerates are about as generous with their Top Dogs as any corporations on the planet.

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The Big Magic Bus

Reconfigured in CGI, no less.

Netflix and Scholastic Media announced Wednesday they will join forces to launch a new series for kids, based on the award-winning '90s hit “The Magic School Bus.”

The original series featured a wacky schoolteacher, Ms. Frizzle, who brought her students on fantastical, yet educational, adventures on her unique school bus. Based on a series of children’s books, “The Magic School Bus” first aired on TV in 1994.

The new show, titled “The Magic School Bus 360°," will be a CGI re-imagining of the original series. The reboot will feature a modernized Ms. Frizzle and her class, along with a new bus equipped with some inventive and high-tech equipment to help a new generation of kids explore the world of science. The 26 new episodes will be available to stream on Netflix in 2016. ...

The series originally aired on PBS two decades ago; these days, PBS is holding fast to Curious George and Netflix is gobbling up various properties.

It's remarkable that the boys and girls are going CGI with this one, since CG shows sometimes perform well on the t.v. but often don't. And the hand-drawn format often comes out on top.

Meanwhile, Netflix seems to be content with its hand-drawn version of Turbo, and I can tell you that a number of other DreamWorks Animation shows will be in the time-honored, hand-drawn format.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reaching Back To The Nineties

Old hits can create new profits.

Disney is looking to get new mileage out of its “Lion King” franchise with a new animated series and TV movie planned for its Disney Channel and Disney Junior cablers.

Disney Television Animation is producing “The Lion Guard,” a series that continues the storyline of the Mouse’s boffo 1994 hit feature. “Lion Guard” will bow next fall with a TV movie and transition to a regular series in early 2016.

“We look forward to introducing a whole new generation of kids to both the Disney legacy characters and to new friends and heroes,” said Nancy Kanter, exec VP of original programming and g.m. of Disney Junior Worldwide.

The original Lion King raked in just under a billion dollars during its theatrical releases and re-releases. It's spawned a couple of home video sequels (Lion King 2; Lion King 1 1/2) and three seasons of comedy with supporting players Timon and Pumbaa. Little wonder then that it's now being dusted off to provide more cash flow.

If you've got a viable property, it does little good if you don't exploit it. Happily, Disney is expert at maximizing profits.

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Britain's the Place

... for new Lucasfilm blockbusters.

Another Star Wars movie will be filmed in Britain next year, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said as he visited the set of Star Wars: Episode VII today.

The new stand-alone Star Wars movie, to be directed by Gareth Edwards and written by Gary Whitta, will be filmed at the Pinewood Studios, near London, according to an e-mailed statement from the Treasury. Star Wars: Episode VII is being filmed in the U.K.

“This will mean more jobs and more investment,” Osborne said. “I have been determined that we back our brilliant creative industries which is why we have invested in skills and training as well as providing tax relief for films, high-end TV, animation, video games and regional theater.”

Osborne has increased tax relief for higher-budget films to encourage bigger-budget productions to choose the U.K. as a location. Films made in Britain get 25 percent tax relief on the first 20 million pounds ($33 million) of expenditure, and 20 percent after that. ...

I'm not a big fan of free money getting showered on international conglomerates, but I'm a realist. We live in a fine corporatist state (and world) ruled by excellent corporate oligarchs. So of course Star Wars Umpty Ump will be getting generous subsidies. Diz Co. really, really needs them.

The Walt Disney Company is currently trading at 5 year high, passing the $84 mark on Wednesday (6/4/2014), and climbing towards $85 as of Thursday (6/5/2014). Disney had an excellent 2 quarters and the second half of the year seems just as prosperous with some major films set to be released. ...

So yeah, some free money from the state seems entirely appropriate. (This is nothing like handing money to some icky to some welfare queen; this is totally different.)

We are talking about free enterprise, after all. And the magic of the marketplace.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

One More Franchise

At least, that's the general idea.

Looking to launch a new family film franchise, Sony Pictures Entertainment has teamed with SEGA Sammy Group division Marza Animation Planet to develop a hybrid/live action and CG-animated feature film based on the Sonic The Hedgehog video game series. The film will be scripted by Evan Susser and Van Robichaux. 22 Jump Street’s Neal H. Moritz will produce through his Original Film banner, with Marza’s Takeshi Ito and Mie Onishi. Toby Ascher will be exec producer.

The plan is to release one movie per year. Pic will focus on Sonic’s rivalry with characters from the vidgame, including his evil nemesis Dr. Eggman. Sonic uses his stature as world’s fastest hedgehog to move at supersonic speed to protect his friends from their enemies. The game has been around two decades, selling over 140 million games and generating $1 billion in revenues. ...

So why not a tent-pole? The character's been around for decades and already made tons of money. This is another platform to be exploited, correct?

Just so long as they understand that it's not enough to have a character. You also need a story and a wee bit of character development.

'Twill be interesting to see where this long-form cartoon gets written and story-boarded. Methinks Southern California will be involved.

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Battling Posters, Battling Features

So here you have it: Sponge Bob's latest big screen offering from Viacom/Paramount:

And also ...

Diz Co.'s followup to Frozen, the highest-grossing cartoon feature in history.

So who comes out on top?

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The Disney Junior Environment

The Mouse apparently does well with the pre-K faction of the population.

Disney Junior starts to pack a punch

Disney Junior is providing an unexpected boost to sales of consumer products at Disney as the network's ecosystem of characters resonates with the preschool set. Though Disney Junior is still in a tight ratings race with Nickelodean, the strength of the network's brands have turned it into a meaningful property.

Disney Junior only charges pay-TV operators $0.14/month per subscriber, according to estimates from SNL Kagan. This gives Disney some upside potential to raise revenue through carriage deals as the prospect of pulling Sofia the First programming becomes trickier. ...

I enjoyed the snark in Seeking Alpha's comment section:

" ... the network's ecosystem of characters resonates with the preschool set." ?!? What netherworld did I wake up in ? ...

Since when did a group of fictitional characters become an "ecosystem"? The function of language is to bring clarity and comprehension to a complex world and misusing it only adds to the confusion.

Disney Junior has built a roster of successful shows, which has increased industry employment. Sofia the First, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and now the 7D have given animation crews longer-term employment. And it's always good to have stability in your work-life, rather than churn from job to job.

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Monday, June 09, 2014

Artistic Football

A nicely done short.

Oregon Live supplies some details:

... Ad agencies Wieden+Kennedy of Portland and Passion of London collaborated with Nike to produced the video. The W+K creative team included Alberto Ponte and Ryan O'Rourke, global creative directors for Nike, based out of W+K Portland. The director was Jon Saunders, of Passion.

... The beginning, showing an animator's eye view of the gritty roots of many of the world's best soccer players. And toward the end when it's made clear the climatic battle will be a one nil game, and it will be exciting.

"The idea behind 'The Last Game' is to show the world that Nike, like any true lover of football, believes that the game should be brilliant, daring and bold. Having the confidence to take risks is absolutely vital in football. Imagine a world without the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo, the acrobatics of Zlatan or the wizardry of Neymar," Nike's chief marketing officer Davide Grasso says in a news release. ...

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Lust for Free Money

When Loonies are being handed out, people hungry companies come running.

France's Technicolor is close to acquiring Mr. X Inc. to expand its offering of visual effects for film and television in Toronto, one of Canada's leading production centers, according to a person familiar with the matter.

An announcement of the transaction could come as early as Tuesday. ...

There's a lot of eager corporate welfare queens. (Huge surprise, eh?). But there appears to be some misgivings.

Ontario’s Liberal government continued to give out hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tax subsidies to TV and film productions despite a scathing internal assessment that questioned whether the money was the best way to help the industries.

A Ministry of Finance presentation obtained by The Canadian Press through a freedom of information request is highly critical of the long-standing tax credits, which allow up to 45 per cent of labour and a quarter of other production costs to be reimbursed from government coffers.

The 2011 analysis said the credits don’t appear to make the media sectors “sustainable” by bolstering exports or keeping lucrative ownership of creations inside Ontario, instead leaving productions reliant on provincial assistance.

The document suggested that pivoting from the subsidies, which are handed out after projects have wrapped up, to direct funding could be a better option, calling the credits “not an optimal delivery mechanism” for aid.

“Stakeholders need financing up front — not an option in the tax system.”

The internal criticism gets to the heart of one of the themes of the June 12 election campaign: whether, and how, government should be lending a helping hand to industry in the hope of creating jobs. ...

The document states the subsidies may be a “zero-sum game or simply a race to the bottom” as Ontario and other jurisdictions outdo themselves to offer juicier tax credits while the total number of film and TV productions remains static. It also suggests that production locations may be determined not so much by the subsidies, but rather by fluctuations in the Canadian dollar and other factors. ...

Free enterprise. Isn't it fine?

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Sunday, June 08, 2014

R-rated Animation

Below the fold in an industry rag, this caught my eye.

... [Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg] are in production on their first animated movie, Sausage Party, which they said is tedious and challenging, and only bearable because they love what they are creating.

Rogen said it is not true that they get stoned on marijuana and then think up movie ideas – except in the case of Sausage Party. He said that began during a session with Jonah Hill, as a joke. They thought about what a movie with that title would be like, and eventually it came to be real.

“We’re literally just playing phallic symbols now,” laughed Rogen.

Shit yeah.

It's high time that somebody picked up Ralph Bakshi's mantle. And it might as well be Rogen and Goldberg as anyone else. They know how to do comedy and they know how to do raunch, and God knows we need more than G-rated animation. Let's cast the freaking net a little wider.

As Brad Bird says, animation is a format, not a genre. It should be more than just kid and princess movies.

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Foreign Box Office

The weekend take, and the grand totals.

Weekend Foreign Box office -- (Total Accumulations)

Maleficent -- $59,700,000 -- ($335,470,000)

Frozen -- $5,800,000 -- ($1,245,052,000)

Rio 2 -- $2,500,000 -- ($468,644,565)

Overseas, Diz Co. is romping.

... “Maleficent” was second overseas this weekend, with an impressive $59.7 million from 53 foreign markets. That ups the foreign total for the live-action update of “Sleeping Beauty” starring Angelina Jolie to $208 million, and pushes its worldwide total past $335 million.

“Frozen” has taken in $218 million in Japan, where it is the highest-grossing Disney film of all time, the No. 3 movie overall and the second-highest grossing Western film ever in that country, behind only “Titanic.” ...

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Dino Animation

This was pretty much when live-action visual effects stepped off into the digital age.

And the technology of Ray Harryhausen and Willis O'Brien became a part of motion picture history. Click here to read entire post

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Student Golden Trophies

... were handed out tonight.

Students from Brigham Young, Columbia, Stanford, the Art Institute of Jacksonville and the University of Television and Film in Munich have won gold medals at the 41st Student Academy Awards, the Academy announced on Saturday night at a ceremony in West Hollywood.

In the Animation category, the winner was Brigham Young's Daniel Clark and Wesley Tippetts for “Owned,” while silver and bronze went to Teng Cheng for “Higher Sky” and Hayley Foster for “Yamashita.”

“Owned,” which depicts a showdown between a video games champion and a young child who gets the better of him, had already won first place at the College Television Awards (the “Student Emmys”) in the animation category. ...

It's a nice way to launch a career, yes?

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Your Weekend Box Office

It's Young Adult all the way.

1). The Fault In Our Stars (FOX), 3,171 theaters / $26M+ Fri. / 3-day cume: $53M to $55M (Fox says $52M) / Wk 1

2) Maleficent (DIS), 3,948 theaters (0) / $10.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $34M+ (-51%) / Total expected cume: $127.9M / Wk 2

3). Edge of Tomorrow (WB), 3,490 theaters / $10.6M Fri. / 3-day cume: $29.6M to $30.1M / Wk 1

4). X-Men: Days of Future Past (FOX), 3,639 theaters (-362) / $4.5M Fri. / 3-day cume: $14.6M to $15.65M (-52%) / Total cume: $190M+ / Wk 3

5). A Million Ways to Die in the West (UNI), 3,160 theaters (+2) / $2.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $6.8M (-59%) / Total cume: $29.8M / Wk 2

6). Godzilla (WB), 3,110 theaters (-391) / $1.7M Fri. / 3-day cume: $6.2M (-48%) / Total cume: $185.4M / Wk 4

7). Neighbors (UNI), 2,674 theaters (-265) / $1.6M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5M to $5.2M (-36%) / Total cume: $137.7M / Wk 5

8). Blended (WB), 2,928 theaters (-627) / $1.25M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.1M (-49%) / Total cume: $36.6M / Wk 3

9). Chef (OPRD), 1,298 theaters (+674) / $716K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.55M (+36%) / Total cume: $10.35M / Wk 5

10/11). Million Dollar Arm (DIS), 1,643 theaters (-686) / $565K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.9M (-46%) / Total cume: $31.5M/ Wk

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (SONY) 1,481 theaters (-671) / $540K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.9M (-48%) / Total cume: $196.3M / Wk 6

Through June 5th, there are no animated features in the Top Ten, and only Rio 2 remains in a lot of theaters (950+ screens with $124,909,565 and counting). The LEGO Movie ($255,590,340) and Mr. Peabody and Sherman ($110,162,081) remain in a few hundred theaters each, but are pretty much done with their domestic runs.

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