Thursday, October 16, 2014

At Paramount Animation

Today, for the very first time, I visited Paramount Animation on the Paramount Studios lot. ...

I've tried over the last several months to find out where the hell Paramount Animation actually is. I had read about the studio in the trades, read about the hiring of Disney veteran David Stainton, then the resignation of David Stainton. Heard about products being started on the lot, but it all seemed amorphous and not quite real.

This was reinforced when I called Paramount and asked, "So where's your feature animation studio located?" And received the terse reply: "We'll get back to you."


Particularly since we had a contract with the studio and I wondered what the hell was going on. And couldn't find out.

But a couple of weeks ago I called (again) and Paramount said:

"Give us a a few days, we'll get back to you."

And lo and behold, they did. And invited me over.

So I motored through the Cahuenga Pass to Paramount, drove through the arched gates, and found the place is much like a 65-acre sardine can. Cars are packed into the parking lots side to side and end to end. The sound stages, all of them filled with sitcoms, are jammed next to each other. The office buildings, some in the European mode from the twenties and thirties, some in the trailer park mode (modular units that look like portable classrooms), are filled with administrators and production offices.

There is also, for the first time, a cartoon studio.

Paramount took over the Fleischer Studios in the early 1940s and turned it into Famous Studios, which was headquartered on the east coast for a quarter century. This is Paramount's first animation studio (not counting Nickelodeon) on the west coast.

Right now Paramount Animation is housed in four different buildings on the property, three containing artists, one containing execs. There are multiple feature projects in development. I would tell you how many and what they are except I've been sworn to secrecy, since the company hasn't announced any of them yet.

A feature pitch had just wrapped up when I walked into one of Paramount Animation's buildings, and there are additional features in work in the other outposts (and it's more than two, but less than ten). There are thirty-five to forty artists working in the studio right now, with several coming aboard in the last few weeks. The company is looking to hire another thirty-five to forty artists by January.

I asked if Paramount Animation was going to outsource production work, a la Illumination Entertainment (or, for that matter, Paramount Animation with Rango.) The answer?

"It depends on what the production is. No final decisions have been made."

My assumption is, the company will outsource animation work, but nothing is set in stone. On the other hand, the new Sponge Bob movie had its production work performed overseas and the pre-production done in an office building in Burbank across the street from Warner Bros.

So we can safely guess that for Paramount Animation, all things are possible.


Jeff Massie said...

“This is Paramount's first animation studio (not counting Nickelodeon) on the west coast.”

Not true … The George Pal Puppetoons unit was on the main lot in the late 1940s. (My dad was the Screen Cartoonists Guild shop steward.)

Unknown said...

It's amazing how many people have left Pixar for Paramount. It's practically Pixar South!

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