Friday, December 19, 2014


I motored to Glendale this morning and talked to staffers on three floors of the 'scraper that DreamWorks now occupies. There is a LOT of production (or should I say pre-production) going on. ...

All three floors re busy hives of activity. As one of the employees explained to me:

"It took awhile to get DreamWorks executives used to doing television. They had to adjust to not tweaking and micro-managing, there isn't time. But they get it now." ...

Another employee gave me a heads up about this new rollout ... that happened today:

... The Netflix series [All Hail King Julien] is a prequel, set at the time of Prince Julien's ascension to the lemur throne after his Uncle King Julien (Henry Winkler, continuing his productive late period) suddenly abdicates. In fact, he is throwing his nephew into the jaws of what he believes is a fatal prophecy, and planning to take back the crown after that dust settles.

As in the film, the lemurs are threatened by the fossa — the island's predatory cats. Although it's common enough in animated feature films, this is the rare short-form cartoon series in which the threat of violent death underlies the action.

It also makes for philosophy. Under Julien's uncle, the lemurs live in a state of soul-crushing silence, so as not to become targets; but once Julien takes over, he fires up the boom box, cranks up the bass and lets the rave begin. ...

I talked to a director who said it's been a challenge to find seasoned storyboard artists and storyboard supervisors because (as was related to me) "anybody with experience, and who's any good, is already working."

I confirmed that this was true, that things are tight all over, and I had visited a studio the day before where the supervising director said he was going to have "to build a crew from scratch" and he was dreading it. "Because the pickings beyond the studio walls are pretty slim."

This is a good thing for newer artists, because it makes it easier to break into the business. Lots of shows are getting produced, and lots more opportunities for a paycheck present themselves.

On the other hand (and there is always one of those), DreamWorks Animation's feature division continues to lay off artists as production schedules are rejiggered. An under-performing feature hurts. But (happily) the television product will be getting made for the next three to four years and should produce income streams far into the future.


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