Tuesday, June 30, 2015

More Netflix Cartoons

Netflix knows a good thing when it sees one. And acts accordingly.

Netflix is adding to its growing slate of original preschool content with three new animated series for premiere in 2016 and 2017.

Word Party, Kazoops! and True & The Rainbow Kingdom join preschool original series Cirque du Soleil – Luna Petunia and Puffin Rock announced earlier this month. The new series feature elements of language acquisition, problem solving and critical thinking throughout each episode, according to Netflix. ...

DreamWorks employees tell us that Dragons: Race To The Edge had a big, big debut on Netflix. (The service doesn't reveal specific numbers, so when word is circulated that the rollout was "big," everybody has to extrapolate from the brief description.)

But Netflix knows what works and knows what doesn't. That might be one reason it keeps ordering up more animated shows.

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Art Babbitt And His Separation From Disney

Hollywood unions were on the march in the late 1930s. I knew something about Art Babbitt and his pivotal role in organizing Walt Disney Productions in the Spring of 1941. But I learned new information about Mr. Babbitt and the Disney Company tonight. This:

Art Babbitt had a long, prolific career as a Disney animation, UPA animator, and an artist who worked at a plethora studios through over half a century. His last employer was the Bill Melendez studios.

Gunther Lessing was a Yale-trained lawyer hired by Walt Disney in 1929. He remained with Disney until 1964, when he retired. He passed away in 1965, fourteen months before Walt.

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Monday, June 29, 2015


A hiccup in world markets.

... The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index fell 2.1%. By contrast, the Standard & Poor’s 500 declined 2.1%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 1.9%, and Nasdaq fell 2.4%.

Viacom (-3.1%) was hardest hit among Big Media companies. It was followed by CBS (-3.0%) Sony (-2.6%), Fox (-2%), Discovery (-1.9%),Time Warner (-1.8%), Comcast (-1.7%), and Disney (-1.7%).

In the broader media universe, big losers include Rovi (-9.9%), DreamWorks Animation (-5.9%), World Wrestling Entertainment (-5.8%), New York Times (-5.4%), News Corp (-4.9%), and Cablevision (-4.7%). ...

Greece has a lot of investors racing for the exits.

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Still More Toonage

The Journal gives details.

... Bugs Bunny and Scooby-Doo are coming off the bench later this year for a new mission: to make Time Warner Inc. a bigger competitor in the children’s television business.

New cartoons featuring the characters are part of a larger agreement between Warner Bros. Animation and sister company Turner Broadcasting’s Boomerang Network. As part of the deal, the studio will create about 450 half-hours of content for the cable channel.

“It is a Time Warner priority to grow a much bigger kids business,” said Craig Hunegs, president of business and strategy for the Warner Bros. Television Group. ...

The one thing you could rely on regarding Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. Animation? Year in and year out? Zero cooperation or coordination or mutual reinforcement between the two. CN was run out of the Turner Group in Atlanta; Warner Bros. Animation reported to the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank.

It was like the two entities were on different planets. And it made no sense. Warners people would complain to me that it took an act of Congress to get a WBA show on Cartoon Network, no matter what it was. Meanwhile, three miles away, the Walt Disney Company was making sure all its cartoon divisions worked together like gears in a Swiss watch.

So maybe it's finally dawned on Time-Warner that Disney has spent a couple of decades eating their lunch (and several desserts) when it comes to cartoons. Whatever the reason is, the divisions have finally, haltingly, started to help and reinforce one another to ... you know ... generate more profits.

Hell of a concept. And I'm pleased the company has turned the big ship around to make more cartoons.

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We are now in negotiations with cartoon studios represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producer (the AMPTP).

We will be in discussions with them tomorrow, and probably Wednesday. When a deal happens, we will let you know. ...

In the meantime, we're not popping off the the press and we're not writing anything specific about negotiations (except that we're having them).

If anyone is disappointed by this, don't worry. Your angst will be over soon.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Paramount Animation and the Subcontractor

From the trades:

... Spain’s Ilion Animation Studios ... is producing a fully animated 3D tent-pole feature for Paramount Animation. ... Paramount Animation out-reach to continental Europe comes after Universal Illumination Studios bought the animation division of Paris Mac Guff, creating Illumination Mac Guff which produced and animated “Despicable Me 2” and now “Minions.” More Hollywood studio deals with continental European studios look set to be announced later this year. ...

The way it work in Hollywood, when one company cuts a new route through the forest, other companies clamber along behind.

For a long time in the animation industry, the only business model for animated features that worked like gangbusters, box office-wise, was having a domestic studio with everything -- story, production, post-production, housed under one roof.

Disney Features in the early and mid nineties set the ace. Sure, pictures like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King were a little pricey, but they made mountains of money. Lower rent specimens like The Care Bear Movie or Once Upon a Forest were boarded in California but animated overseas and fell on their faces at the box office.

And it didn't make a lot of sense to make a cartoon at the bargain price of $10 million when it failed to recoup its production cost. Better to make them at a California studio, start to finish, and rake in bajillions.

That model was followed faithfully by 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros Feature Animation in the 1990s, and failed to work. New studios in Glendale, California and Phoenix, Arizona made cartoon features based on the Disney model and still came up with losers. But the model of having the whole production inside a single studio prevailed through the millennium, until former Blu Sky Studios chief Chris Meledandri showed that story could be done in one country (the U.S. of A.) and production in another (France) and a high-grossing animated feature could be created.

(Can we say Despicable Me? I knew we could.)

And so here we are, halfway through the second decade of the 21st century, and studios are eagerly following the Meledandri business model of "prep the picture in L.A., but make it somewhere else" with a carefree abandon. Now that Illumination Entertainment has shown the way to riches with its overseas supplier, expect other studios to become sedulous apes, tromping down the same road.

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We Get Letters

... on animation directing.

As many know, the Animation Guild negotiates with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for a new three-year contract.

We've had a lot of input from members regarding what the guild should propose, what issues it should focus on, what goals it should pursue. Below are the thoughts of a veteran timing director on the challenges faced by directors in the age of animatics: ...

... I was unable to attend the May 26th meeting but would like to make my comments regarding Freelance rates for Timing Directors.

I'm sure that many have heard of my personal displeasure at the fact that there has been no REAL change to this rate for more than 30 years. Some studios do pay a little higher than others, but not at anything that would come close to matching inflation over that 30 year period.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and their Consumer Price Index from 1984 to 2015 the US has had an average inflation rate of 2.75%. What this means is that the freelance rate of $3.00/ft paid in 1984 when adjusted for inflation to 2015 should be $6.95/ft. Given that studios use a formula of calculation that takes the gross figure of a freelancers invoice and divides it by one of the contract rates for that job description to determine hours and contributions, (sometimes it's Journeyman rate and sometimes it's Apprentice and sometimes it's inbetween ) as the annual contract rates increase the formula calculates less hours of contribution. All this means that freelance rates not only DO NOT keep up with inflation, but FEWER HOURS are credited and contributed to our individual accounts with pension and qualifying hours for medical, etc..

I understand the need of the studios to project costs for their projects. However to not make the necessary adjustments to their budgets is unconscionable. If the studios are not going to make the necessary changes to the footage rates we have, I think, 2 ways to explore:

1. Day rate ...... Freelancer and Line Producer/Producer make an advance agreement as to approximately how much footage can reasonably be expected to be done in an average day ( note: every project has "difficult" sequences and "simple" sequences ..... the Animation Timing Director and Producer will need to keep in close communication should any "difficult" issues arise that may compromise the situation for either studio or freelancer )

2. Continue with a Footage Rate....... however the footage rate MUST be raised to match inflation over the past 30 years and future footage rates MUST be tied to inflation. Calculations of gross invoice divided by hourly contract rates then become reasonable and definable by both parties.

Given the unpredictable nature of production schedules and the often frantic Production Manager mandated by their Executives to move things through an already late schedule...... freelancers are NEVER paid "overtime" to meet what is often a schedule that has been compromised long before the production pipeline brings things to the Animation Timing Directors.

It is long since time for the membership and TAG to get behind the dreadful situation that has made Freelance Animation Timing Direction an occupation that pays considerably less than the plumber who shows up at my house to rooter the main drain for a clog ( I do appreciate his skill set but as a Timing Director I may have a considerably more unique skill set ) ......and he gets DOUBLE time for a Sunday call! Perhaps it's my ego or sense of self worth that thinks that the unique skill set and creative contribution that Timing Directors give to a production should be valued as much or more than that plumber.

I generally suspect that there is a great deal of mystery surrounding Timing Direction, There should be a great effort to demystify that lack of view. When production for TV animation was first being organized, it was clear that people who had a great deal of experience actually animating or assistant animating, were the very talents needed to communicate to outsourced animation studios exactly what was required in terms of the artwork that should be produced. How many drawings and where and when in the time-line of the show they needed to be done, was a critical skill. Overseas studios could only project costs based on the count of how many drawings were likely to be needed and the domestic studios needed to maintain creative control over their properties. After all, these were the very properties and projects that were representing the studios and what they brought to the screen. Their reputations were invested in a quality product and that meant that experienced and talented people here were called upon to contribute to the process in a major way.

Over the years many Executives, Producers and Production people have lost the knowledge or foresight of what Animation Timing Direction contributes to the process. This is the point that the writing, design, voice talents, and the storyboard talents are supposed to come together into the final package to be delivered to the sub-contractor overseas….. with the expectation that the creative control has remained with the “parent” studio. Too often there are parts of the production process that have inexperienced or under qualified people in important decision making positions. Their lack of confidence in their own knowledge that they have hired the right creative people for the task at hand or their misguided desire to make creative changes that, while are seemingly incidental and of little or no cost to the budget or the schedule, have an extraordinary “domino” effect that compromises everything.

Another subject: (though not too far afield) Neither Editors or Storyboard Artists who have no animation experience should be “slugging” these productions (assembling a “Quick Time Movie” of the Episodes). Too often these Quick Times are done because there is someone in the production pipeline who cannot read a storyboard or understand that “too long or too short” on a panel in the Quick Time is more about communicating information to the artists and animators who will execute the work and not for someone who can not understand the real application of these Quick Times……a production tool and not an entertainment tool.

I’m sure that far too much of a production budget is spent on making these movies “pretty” and not the production tools they should be. As an Animation Timing Director I have frequently encountered scenes that are too long or too short. The “cutting” rhythm of a scene or sequences are awkward and often are contrary to the particular style of movement of any given character or “acting” moment. Slugging should be done by an Animation Timing Director ….. the editorial time saved in man hours will actually reduce that line-item cost and save the production money. We are all interested in reasonable costs for production. After all, if a show costs too much none of us work on it again because it is canceled…….

Key here is REASONABLE COSTS….. and they are based on a clear understanding of what is required of the process and the REASONABLE amount of time allocated to do those things. At any point when some part of the pipeline is delayed it cannot be expected that some other part will be required to make up that delay without increased costs or compromised production quality.

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The International Steeple Chase

Here's the usual short list of animated-type projects, and how they fared in lands beyond our shores.

Foreign Weekend Box Office -- (World Totals)

Jurassic World -- $82,500,000 -- ($1,237,557,975)

Inside Out -- $26,400,000 -- ($266,445,010)

Ted 2 -- $20,300,000 -- ($53,222,730)

Minions -- $36,000,000 -- ($51,700,000)

San Andreas -- $10,400,000 -- $439,670,513)

Mad Max, Fury Road -- $3,000,000 -- ($356,377,822)

As Deadline reports:

... Universal’s raunchy comedy Ted 2 cuddled up to 26 markets in its debut overseas frame for an estimated $20.3M.

Minions travels to key markets Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Argentina next weekend as it rolls out slowly across 50 more territories. It bows domestically on July 10.

Inside Out hits Poland next frame, followed by Korea on July 9 in a similarly spaced-out release pattern. Ted 2 is also expanding in a handful of markets, but won’t hit the UK until July 10. It gets to Japan, the 2nd best offshore market for the first film, in late August. ...

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Island of Dinosaurs and Teddy Bears

Seth M.'s latest won't outpace the dinosaurs. Or the little people insdie a girl's mind.

It's pretty freaking amazing when you think on it: animated dinosaurs, animated thoughts in a young girl's head, and animated dinosaurs dominate the Box Office Ten. (At least, it amazes me.)

Seth MacFarlane's R-rated Ted 2 is on course to gross in the mid- to-high-teens at the Friday box office, but that might not be enough to overtake holdovers Jurassic World and Inside Out for the weekend, according to early estimates.

Box office observers expect Pixar's Inside Out and Universal's Jurassic World to gross $50 million or more for the weekend, while Ted 2 is pacing to gross in the mid- to high-$40 million range, somewhat behind the $54 million opening of Ted in summer 2012. ...

The steeple chase as told by the trades:


1). Jurassic World (UNI), 4,198 theaters (-93)/ $14.7M Fri. / $22.5M Sat. (+53%)/ $17M Sun. (-25%)/ 3-day cume: $54.2M (-49%)/Total Cume: $500.1M / Wk 3
Industry calculation:$54.06M, $499.91 cume

2). Inside Out (DIS), 4,132 theaters (+186) / $15M Fri. / $21.1M Sat. (+41%)/ $16M Sun. (-24%)/ 3-day cume: $52.1M (-42%) /Total cume: $184.9/ Wk 2
Industry calculation: $52.7M, $185.6M cume

3). Ted 2 (UNI), 3,442 theaters / $13.3M Fri. / $11.2M Sat. (-16%)/ $8.4M Sun. (-25%)/ 3-day cume: $32.9M / Wk 1
Industry calculation: $33.1M

4). Max (WB), 2,855 theaters / $4.4M Fri. / $4.5M Sat. (+3%)/ $3.4M Sun. (-25%)/ 3-day cume: $12.2M / Wk 1
Industry calcuation: $12.2M.

5). Spy (FOX), 3,194 theaters (-364%)/ $2.1M Fri./ $3.4M Sat. (+60%)/ $2.3M Sun. (-33%)/ 3-day cume: $7.8M (-31%) / Total cume: $88.4M / Wk 4

6). San Andreas (WB), 2,620 theaters (-557) / $1.4M Fri. / $2.3M Sat. (+57%)/ $1.6M Sun. (-30%)/ 3-day cume: $5.3M (-39%) / Total cume: $141.9M/ Wk 5

7). Dope (OPRD), 1,851 theaters (-151) / $839K Fri. / $1.1M Sat. (+34%)/ $899K Sun. (-20%)/ 3-day cume: $2.9M (-53%) / Total cume: $11.8 /Wk 2
Industry calculation: $2.7M, $11.46M cume

8). Insidious Chapter 3 (FOC), 1,612 theaters (-941)/ $665K Fri. / $813K Sat. (+22%)/ $528 Sun. (-35%)/ 3-day cume: $2M (-50%) / Total cume: $49.8M / Wk 4

9). Mad Max: Fury Road (WB), 961 theaters (-463) / $440K Fri. / $740K Sat. (+68%)/ $555K Sun. (-25%)/ 3-day cume: $1.7M (-43%) / Total cume: $147.1M / Wk 7

10). Avengers: Age of Ultron (DIS), 1,097 theaters (-565) / $463K Fri. / $704K Sat. (+52%)/ $476K Sun. (-32%)/ 3-day cume: $1.6M (-42%) / Total cume: $452.4M / Wk 9

In almost any other movie environment, the Pixar offering would be at the top of the Top Ten. But animated dinosuars! (And Ted 2 under-performs the original by a considerable margin.)

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Kevin G. Exits Diz Co.

For the second time.

I'm speaking of Kevin Geiger, longtime Walt Disney Animation supervisor, also a longtime Animation Guild shop steward. (He's the broadly smiling gent in the middle of the picture, above.)

As Kevin says:

... Unexpected twists & turns have been characteristic of my path. I never thought that I would work for Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1995, and I never imagined that my departure from Burbank in 2007 – and my subsequent indie efforts in Beijing – would lead me back to Disney here in China.

In late 2012, I had the opportunity to found Disney’s Greater China Local Content team. Over the course of 2013 and 2014, we assembled a world-class Chinese content development team in Beijing, introduced Disney creative processes & standards, spoke at Chinese media conferences, engaged in community outreach with Chinese schools & institutions, consulted on local productions, developed 10 original & adapted local animation & live-action properties, created 4 high-performing pilots, and produced 3 popular local broadcast series. ...

And now Mr. Geiger moves on. I was surprised when Kevin re-upped with Disney, and I'm surprised that he's living. But Kevin is a man of numerous surprises, so good luck to him on the next challenge

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Antidote to "Microcosm"

For those who were troubled by this, wherein Hulett sniped:

... I'm old enough to remember Disneyland ticket books and $2 admissions. And when the parks were accessible to people without taking out second mortgages on their houses to do it. ...

There's been a rejoinder that points out how the cited article was a wee bit off. (And I should have noticed it myself). ...

... I had decidedly mixed feelings as I read an article in the Washington Post:

How theme parks like Disney World left the middle class behind
By Drew Harwell June 12

When Walt Disney World opened in an Orlando swamp in 1971, with its penny arcade and marching-band parade down Main Street U.S.A., admission for an adult cost $3.50, about as much then as three gallons of milk. Disney has raised the gate price for the Magic Kingdom 41 times since, nearly doubling it over the past decade.

This year, a ticket inside the "most magical place on Earth" rocketed past $100 for the first time in history. ...

But looking closer at the article, I found two math errors. ... Here is the letter I sent [to the Post].

Dear Reader Rep,

I am writing to call attention to the inaccurate (or at best misleading) story and graph in the story on Disneyland.

The story says:

When Walt Disney World opened in an Orlando swamp in 1971, with its penny arcade and marching-band parade down Main Street U.S.A., admission for an adult cost $3.50, about as much then as three gallons of milk.

This number is highly misleading because today's $99 admission includes unlimited rides, and the 1971 admission included no rides whatsoever. Instead, (when I was a kid) we had books of A- through E-tickets, or just E-tickets -- an additional amount that always totaled more than the amount of admission. ...

In the story's graph, the "price" jumps in 1982 because 1982 was when (according to Wikipedia) admissions included unlimited rides. So the 1982 price is not directly comparable to the 1971-1981 price. ... Estimates [are] that the actual net cost in 1971 was $10.25, or almost 3x as much as your newspaper reported:

So yes, Disney pushed through a 65% price increase ($59.88 to $99) in an era when the real price of air travel, computing, TVs and other products fell. (California and Northern Virginia real estate probably increased faster than inflation during this period).

Still, the claim the price went from $3.50 to $99 is inaccurate, since today's readers would assume the admission prices would include unlimited rides (as it has for the past 40+ years). ...

So does everybody get this?

The big D.C. newspaper neglected to factor in the cost of ticket books, part of the Disneyland park-going experience through 1981. "Pirates of the Caribbean" was an E ticket (top drawer ride experience); the horse-drawn trolley cars on Main street a lowly A (bargain basement ride).

The phrase, "That [fill in blank] is definitely an E ticket!" means something to older people. But you have to be a seasoned citizen for the sentence to have resonance.

So Drew Harwell, author of the Post article, was a bit wrong in his analysis. And we can now all sleep better knowing he's been called on it.

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Sixty-Six Years Ago

WDP released a cartoon with Darby O'Gill and the Little People. And it was this one.

Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land

I remember sitting in Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood and watching it. With my math-challenged ten-year-old brain.

I'm still math-challenged, and still decoding DDiMML.

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Active Vs. Passive

Since we haven't done this in a while, time for an investing post (aimed at those striving to put money away for retirement.)

Morningstar has data for participants in 401(k) funds ... and plain old investors.

... The Active/Passive Barometer finds that actively managed funds have generally
underperformed their passive counterparts, especially over longer time horizons
, and
experienced higher mortality rates (i.e. many are merged or closed).

In addition, the report finds that failure tends to be positively correlated with fees (i.e. higher cost funds are more
likely to underperform or be shuttered or merged away and lower-cost funds were likelier to
survive and enjoyed greater odds of success). ...

High costs = higher failure. Big surprise (not). ...

But it ain't just lower cost passive funds. Active funds with below-average costs are likely to outperform higher-cost active funds over the decade studied. (But whattayaknow? low-cost active funds still have lower average annualized returns compared with the average passive fund in nine of the 12 categories studied in the report.)

Morningstar goes on:

* Investors would have substantially improved their odds of success by favoring
inexpensive funds, as evidenced by the higher success-ratios of the lowest-cost funds in all
but one category.

* On the flip side of the coin, investors choosing funds from the highest-cost quartile of their
respective categories reduced their chances of success in all cases.

* The large value category is the most poignant example. The lowest cost funds in this segment
had a success rate that was 28 percentage points higher than the category average during the
decade ending December 2014. Meanwhile, their high-cost peers had a dismal success rate
of just 18.6% during this same span.

* Odds of success generally decreased over longer time periods with value-oriented funds being
the notable exception. ...

What we take away from the report is: broad diversification and low costs are keys for building up a stash that can carry you into retirement. The other part of the investing equation: When you set up an investment strategy and asset allocation plan, stick with them. Most people bail out when stock markets plummet (remember '08?). But in truth, down markets are the best opportunities for buying ... if only the average person had the stomach to do so. (Most don't.)

The axiom "Don't do something. STAND there" applies in long-term investing.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Falling Records

Our entertainment conglomerates are prospering.

... Red-hot Universal Studios sped past $1 billion and shattered the domestic box office mark in record time three weeks ago, on the same weekend that “Jurassic World” broke the record for the biggest U.S. box office opening ever.

Walt Disney Studios crossed the $1 billion mark in domestic grosses in 174 days on Thursday, the fastest it has ever done so, powered by the Marvel superhero sequel “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the live-action fairy tale “Cinderella” and Pixar Animation’s “Inside Out.”

Warner Bros., paced by “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “San Andreas,” should top the milestone this weekend, which will be a speed record, too. And it won’t be long until 20th Century Fox will soon do the same, behind “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” DreamWorks Animation’s “Home” and Spy.”...

Kindly note that animated dinosaurs propelled one conglomerate, and two animated features contributed to the booming bottom lines of two other movie companies.

What's amazing is that animation is now a major influence across Movieland. The live-action Cinderella is the direct descendant of the sixty-five-year-old animated version. And the Marvel franchises are loaded with animated special effects.

Animation used to be a small, sleepy corner inside the House of Entertainment. Now it's the Great Room on the first floor.

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The Con's Cartoon Schedule

Because you WILL be taking a train to San Diego and watch The Panels! The Panels! ...

Comic-Con -- The Animation

Wednesday, July 8 – Preview Night

6-10:00 PM, Ballroom 20
Warner Bros. TV Preview Night: Pilot screenings of Supergirl, Blindspot, Containment, Lucifer, Teen Titans Go!

Thursday, July 9

12:30PM-1:30PM, Room 6A
Disney XD’s Gravity Falls: Alex Hirsch, Jason Ritter.

1:00-2:00PM, Room ABC
Science Channel’s Raiders, Raptors, and Rebels: Behind the Magic of ILM: Surprise guests and exclusive footage along with a very special prize will be given away at this VIP experience where the science behind the movies is unveiled for the first time ever.

5:00-6:00PM, Indigo Ballroom

Crackle’s SuperMansion: San Diego Comic-Con debut with an exclusive first look at the new stop-motion animated comedy series. Join the cast Bryan Cranston, Seth Green, Jillian Bell, Matthew Senreich and Zeb Wells.

8:00-9:00PM, Room 7AB
2nd annual Adventure Time Ball presented by Cartoon Network ...

Friday, July 10

10:00-11:00 AM, Indigo Ballroom
Cartoon Network Presents: Regular Show & Uncle Grandpa: The panel features Regular Show superstars JG Quintel (Creator, Voice of Mordecai), William Salyers (Voice of Rigby), Sean Szeles (Supervising Producer), and Sam Marin (Voice of Benson, Pops, Muscle Man), alongside Uncle Grandpa mega-talents Pete Browngardt (Creator, Voice of Uncle Grandpa), Eric Bauza (Voice of Bellybag), and Kevin Michael Richardson (Voice of Mr. Gus).

10:30-11:30AM, Room 6BCF
Marvel Animation Presents: Join Stephen Wacker (VP, Current Series – Marvel Animation Studios), Cort Lane (VP, Animation Development & Partnerships), and Eric Radomski (SVP, Production & Creative Director, Animation) for exclusive first looks at the exciting new seasons of hit animated series: Marvel’s Avengers: Ultron Revolution and Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man vs. The Sinister 6, as well as Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

11:00-12:00 AM, Indigo Ballroom
Cartoon Network Presents: Adventure Time & Steven Universe: The panel features Adventure Time legends of Ooo Jeremy Shada (Voice of Finn), John DiMaggio (Voice of Jake), Olivia Olson (Voice of Marceline), and Adam Muto (Co-Executive Producer), alongside Steven Universe gems Rebecca Sugar (Creator), Zach Callison (Voice of Steven), Estelle (Voice of Garnet), and Ian Jones-Quartey (Supervising Director).

11:45AM-12:45PM, Room 6A
Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: EPs Ciro Nieli and Brandon Auman; voice actors Seth Green (Leonardo), Rob Paulsen (Donatello), Greg Cipes (Michelangelo), Eric Bauza (Tiger Claw), Fred Tatasciore (Rocksteady).

12:15-1:00PM, Indigo Ballroom
Adult Swim’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force Forever and Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell: Join co-creators Dave Willis, Casper Kelly and cast members Henry Zebrowski, Craig Rowin, and Matt Servitto as they discuss office politics in Hell, reflect on 13 seasons of Aqua Teen, and show clips from both new seasons.

1:00-2:00PM, Room 6A
Cartoon Network’s Go Titans Go!: Panel will be comprised of producers Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath and the voice cast.

1:15-2:00 PM, Indigo Ballroom
Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty: EPs Dan Harmon & Justin Roiland, and writer/producer Ryan Ridley invite fans for a sneak peek of the upcoming second season.

2:15-3:00 PM, Indigo Ballroom
Adult Swim’s Mike Tyson Mysteries: On tap for panel are Mike Tyson along with voice cast Rachel Ramras, and producer Hugh Davidson.

3:15-4:00 PM, Indigo Ballroom
Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken: Join co-creators/EPs Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, EP/co-head writer Tom Root, and actor/writer Breckin Meyer as they discuss their Emmy-winning series. DC Entertainment chief creative officer Geoff Johns will also be joining the panel for an early look at the upcoming third Robot Chicken DC Comics

4:00 – 5:00 PM, Indigo Ballroom
Fox’s Bob’s Burgers: Creator and executive producer Loren Bouchard, EP Jim Dauterive and voiceover cast including H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal and Larry Murphy will attend.

5:00–6:00 PM, Indigo Ballroom
FX’s Archer: Creator Adam Reed and EP Matt Thompson with the voice cast of H. Jon Benjamin, Jessica Walter, Aisha Tyler, Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, Amber Nash and Lucky Yates.

8:00-9:00PM, Room 7AB
Cartoon Network’s Clarence & Friends Pajama Party

Saturday, July 11

10:00-11:00AM, Room 6A
Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants: Panel featuring a live table read of the episode “Idiot Box” with Tom Kenny (SpongeBob), Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick Star), Rodger Bumpass (Squidward) and Dee Bradley Baker (all other Bikini Bottom citizens). The performance will be followed by a Q&A with the cast and creative director Vincent Waller.

12:00 -12:45 PM, Ballroom 20
Fox’s The Simpsons: Creator Matt Groening, EPs Al Jean and Matt Selman, Supervising Director Mike Anderson, long-time director David Silverman and the woman behind Bart Simpson, Nelson Muntz and Ralph Wiggum, Nancy Cartwright.

1:00-2:45 PM, Ballroom 20
Seth MacFarlane Animation Block: Family Guy, American Dad, Bordertown: Casts and EPs from each show, including: Seth Green, Alex Borstein, Mike Henry, Scott Grimes, Dee Bradley Baker, Wendy Schaal, Rich Appel, Steve Callaghan, Matt Weitzman, Brian Boyle, and from Bordertown — Missi Pyle, Nicholas Gonzalez, and Mark Hentemann.

2:00-3:00 PM, Indigo Ballroom
Hulu’s The Awesomes: Panelist include co-creators Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker, Taran Killam, Ike Barinholtz, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey, and EP Dan Mintz.

Sunday, July 11

1:45PM-3:15PM, Room 6DE
Nick’s Sanjay and Craig: Panel featuring a live table read followed by a Q&A with creators and co-EPs Jim Dirschberger and Jay Howell, and voice actors Chris Hardwick, Maulik Pancholy, Matt Jones and special guests. The panel will be moderated by Claudia Spinelli, Nickelodeon’s VP of current series animation. Fans will get a behind-the-scenes look at Sanjay and Craig, Harvey Beaks and the upcoming series Pig Goat Banana Cricket and The Loud House.

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Now with Extra Lawsuit Add On.

First there was this:

... [Kelly] Wilson filed her lawsuit [against Diz Co.] in March of 2013 claiming that there were distinct similarities between her short film The Snowman and a trailer for the Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck- directed Frozen.

And then came this:

... Federal Judge Vince Chhabria agreed. “The sequence of events in both works, from start to finish, is too parallel to conclude that no reasonable juror could find the works substantially similar.” ...

Because of the judge's non-cooperatino with one of our fine, entertainment conglomerates, Disney twice failed to get the lawsuit tossed out of court. Which ultimately led to this:

... The two sides [Wilson and Disney] have reached a deal. “The Court was advised on June 10, 2015 that the parties have resolved this case,” wrote U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in an order filed on Wednesday. “Therefore, it is ORDERED that this case is DISMISSED without prejudice”

The confidential settlement stops an October court date for the civil trial in its tracks, and I'm guessing that the settlement was worth Kelly Wilson's while. Because I'm guessing that the legal minds working for the Walt Disney Company believed it was important to make the lawsuit go away.

Leverage. Based on the above, I would say that's what Kelly Wilson had.

Add On: And an example of less leverage.

In late May, 2015, Royce Mathew, an Altamonte Springs, Florida, resident, filed a complaint with his local FBI office regarding alleged fraud and corruption perpetrated by the Walt Disney Company upon him and the other shareholders in that corporation. ...

And so it goes.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The New Rules

... to earn a little gold man.

... In the animated short film and live-action short film categories, a film qualifying via a theatrical release must now have a theatrical run in Los Angeles County for at least seven consecutive days, with at least one screening per day. The film must also appear in the theater listings along with the appropriate dates and screening times. In both categories, the number of nominees is now set at five. ...

That ought to pare the competition down. (It'll be no problem for Disney. The Mouse can always release its latest short at the El Capitan on Hollywood Boulevard. The company owns the venue.)

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Still More Cable Cartoons

Comedy Central snuggles up to more cartoons.

... Comedy Central is expanding its animation offerings by ordering “Jeff and Some Aliens” to series, it was announced today by Kent Alterman, President, Original Programming, Comedy Central.

“Jeff and Some Aliens” is executive produced and created by Sean Donnelly and Alessandro Minoli and executive produced by ShadowMachine’s Corey Campodonico and Alex Bulkley. A spin-off of the animated incubator series “TripTank,” the series’ ten-episode season will premiere in 2016. ...

Yesterday, as it happens, I got a call from a Comedy Central person, sniffing around for details of how TAG's contract works. I gave him a detailed rundown, and he said he might be talking to TAG later.

Shadow Machine is what's known as a "non-signator" studio, but that can always change, can't it?

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When I was growing up, it was a joke around the house that Walt Disney Productions paid minimal dividends on its stock. When I was an adult, same thing. Three cents a share, maybe. Over time, a bit more. But now, this:

... [The Walt Disney Company has] announced that it will raise its dividend 15% to 66 cents a share, and begin paying it twice a year instead of once. ...

It's a fine way to get people to buy shares in your company, though Disney didn't need to raise dividends to do it. The stock has been on a tear for some time.

So to all those Walt Disney Company stockholders, congratulations. And to the poor souls who sold off their pieces of the corporation to soon, my condolences.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Shorts on Disney XD

New animated fare from the Mouse.

... Mike and Matt Chapman, creators of the series "Homestar Runner," will present the eclectic "Two More Eggs," a series of 40 original cartoon shorts, on Disney XD's Youtube Channel.

The series launches with three animated shorts. ... Each installment of "Two More Eggs" incorporates a variety of animation techniques, ... including flash, computer-generated imagery and animation mixed with live-action. ...

The Brothers Chaps have worked with Disney TV Animation on several projects. Matt Chapman wrote for the Emmy Award-winning "Mickey Mouse" cartoon shorts and "Gravity Falls," and voiced some characters for the latter and "Star vs. The Forces of Evil." Both Matt and Mike Chapman wrote for the Annie Award-winning "Wander Over Yonder." ...

And I get why Disney is doing this product out of Atlanta: wages are lower, the Chapmans reside in town, and there's the opportunity to get a bit of Free Money from the fine state of Georgia.

What could be finer?

Click here to read entire post

Backing Into Live-Action

So it goes like this ...

AwesomenessTV is acknowledging the growing importance of its movie business with the launch of a film division, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The Brian Robbins-led digital media company has created Awesomeness Films and has hired Chapter One Films founder Matt Kaplan to build out the new division.

Kaplan will work closely with Robbins to release between 12 and 15 films for theatrical and digital distribution. Awesomeness Films is already in production on several projects and will look to produce and acquire additional young adult projects that combine traditional and digital talent. ...

And (as noted previously) DWA sidles further into live-action. ...

Awesomeness, of course, was purchased by DreamWorks Animation a year and a half ago for $33 million bucks, and 25% of it .

It was really DWA's first foray into live-action content since it split off from the live-action movie studio named DreamWorks (which is currently hanging on by its corporate fingernails at the Disney Co.). This is, when you take the whole deal over to the light and take a good look at it, a 21st century version of the playbook of Walt Disney Productions from seventy years ago.

Then, WDP edged out of the cartoon business and into live-action with hybrid live-action/animated features, then full-blown live-action product. Then television.

Now, DreamWorks Animation edges into the TV business through the internet, purchasing AwesomnessTV. Awesomness moves into the movie business, and voila! DreamWorks has marched down the old Disney path of long ago.

Naturally, there are differences. Jeffrey Katzenberg started out in live-action at Paramount, continued with live-action at the Mouse House in the mid 1980s, then got into animation in a big way. Walt mostly started as a cartoon guy ... but ... hey, wait! Walter Elias Disney did Alice in Cartoonland in the early 1920s! Well I'll be damned!

Parallels, parallels.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

In and Around the Studios

Today I went through the well-loved Hat Building on Riverside (Walt Disney Animation Studios) which is 85% closed due to construction on the second, third and gragment of the first floors. Remaining staffers tell us that noise levels are tolerable because much of the jack-hammering and pounding gets done before or after normal work hours. (I told some Diz employees: "That's a good thing. Because when the Sherman Oaks Galleria was being renovated, Warner Bros. Animation artists had to suffer through a lot of high-decibel reconstruction and suffered a lot.") ...

The majority of Zootopia animation (being done at other Disney locations) is complete, although as always story tweaks and revisions are on-going. Forbes calls Diz Co's new animal picture its "B-movie", meaning it's not the main event in the conglomerate's feature line-up next year. But hey, Dumbo was the B-movie of its era, so the latest talking animals extravaganza is in good company.

Meanwhile, at DreamWorks Animation in Glendale, we're told that half the animation for Kung Fu Panda 3 -- being done in California and China -- has been completed. We're also informed that KFP3's story is pretty well locked down. (Kindly note: In animation, the story is never fully "there" until the last fifteen minutes of production. Way it works.)

DreamWorks staff says the lates "KFP" looks outstanding. Judging from the trailer above, this appears to be the case.

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SCOTUS Finds For Marvel

A "creator vs. company" story.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled against the inventor of a Spider-Man toy who claimed a half-century-old legal precedent prevented him from earning deserved royalties.

On a 6-3 vote, the court handed a victory to Walt Disney Co's Marvel Entertainment LLC in its legal fight with Stephen Kimble and an associate, Robert Grabb.

Kimble had asked the court to overrule the precedent, which said royalty payments generally do not need to be made after a patent has expired as is the case with the Spider-Man Web Blaster toy. Marvel, which has paid Kimble more than $6 million over the years to use the patent in the toy, had argued that the precedent set in a 1964 Supreme Court ruling should stand.

Kimble obtained a patent for his web-shooting glove in 1991, later assigning it to Marvel in return for a royalty fee.

After Kimble in 2008 claimed breach of contract, Marvel argued that the 1964 Supreme Court ruling in the case Brulotte v. Thys Co involving a harvesting machine meant it would not be required to pay the royalties once the patent expired in 2010.

A federal judge in Arizona agreed. ...

Always sad (on some level or other) to see the little guy lose to the Man. In this case, however, the Man had precedent and a string of court decisions on his side.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

The World of Box Office

No less than two animated features have started solid rollouts.


Jurassic World -- $160,500,000 -- ($981,330,180)

Inside Out -- $41,000,000 -- ($132,056,000)

San Andreas -- $18,800,000 -- ($414,228,894)

Minions -- $12,300,000 -- ($12,300,000)

Mad Max: Fury -- $4,900,000 -- ($346,101,829) ...

And the trades tell us:

... Jurassic World added $160.5M at 18,718 dates in 66 territories. That’s a 50% drop from last frame’s record-breaking debut and is in line with expectations. ...

Inside Out opened to $41M in 37 markets. ... Covering about 42% of its offshore footprint in the initial frame, the Disney/Pixar charmer will continue to roll out over the rest of the summer with critical and audience response already at an emotional high. Principally debuting this weekend were France, Russia, Australia, Brazil and Mexico. In Latin America, IO opened to $21.8M, led by Mexico where it took an estimated $8.8M. ...

In Australia, Inside Out had tough competition from Universal/Illumination’s animated spinoff Minions which hatched at No. 2 there, leaving room for its dino cousins to hold at No. 1. Down Under, Minions lifted $4.4M in the frame and was 12% bigger than Despicable Me 2. ...

It would seem, judging from the above, that audiences aren't getting tired of animated features. In actuality, audiences are behaving the way they always do. They flock to movies they enjoy (animated or not), and avoid those they don't.


Add On: Variety notes that Inisde Out's #2 opening is still a triumph.

... “‘Inside Out’ would have been number one in any other weekend,” notes Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. Being number one is overrated.”

Still, “Jurassic World” gets to proclaim in television spots and newspaper ads (are those still a thing?) that it is the “number one movie in America.” “Jurassic World’s” victory ends Pixar’s streak of consecutive number one openings, a record it had maintained with each of its previous 14 pictures. But the end of an era doesn’t mean much. ...

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Microcosm of the Wider World

Disney World (and its cousins) in the Second Gilded Age.

How theme parks like Disney World left the middle class behind

When Walt Disney World opened in an Orlando swamp in 1971, with its penny arcade and marching-band parade down Main Street U.S.A., admission for an adult cost $3.50, about as much then as three gallons of milk.

Disney has raised the gate price for the Magic Kingdom 41 times since, nearly doubling it over the past decade. This year, a ticket inside the “most magical place on Earth” rocketed past $100 for the first time in history. ...

“If Walt [Disney] were alive today, he would probably be uncomfortable with the prices they’re charging right now,” said Scott Smith, an assistant professor of hospitality at the University of South Carolina whose first job was as a cast member in Disney’s Haunted Mansion. “They’ve priced middle-class families out.” ...

Disney park admissions revenue has grown about 10 percent every year for the past decade, to total more than $5 billion in 2014, financial filings show. (That’s not including park food, drinks or merchandise, which brought in another $5 billion.) ...

I'm old enough to remember Disneyland ticket books and $2 admissions. And when the parks were accessible to people without taking out second mortgages on their houses to do it.

Ah, but that was a couple of lifetimes ago, back in the time of Lyndon Baines Johnson. When CEOs only made twenty times their average employee's salary ... instead of the three hundred times that occurs now. And somewhere along the line, this became the norm and everybody just accepted monster salaries as an immovable reality of American (global?) life.

Which might, come to think of it, explain why there is so much seething discontent in the world. When 99.8% of the population has to live on the food crumbs dropped by the Chosen Few, unhappiness tends to bubble to the surface.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Other #1 Animated Feature

Inside Out is going like a house afire, but there's one more animated movie doing quite well.

Minions bowed in four international markets this week and has so far collected $12M in 615 runs.

The Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment animated film opened No. 1 everywhere except for Australia where it was No. 2 to Universal’s Jurassic World, which is on track stateside to gross well over $100M for the weekend. Kids are off of school Down Under, which will help propel box office there.

In Malaysia, it not only opened to No. 1 but opened 72% bugger than Despicable Me 2 and logged the highest opening day of all time for an animated film in the country ahead of Kung Fu Panda and Toy Story 3. ...

Minions isn't getting quite the rapturous reception that IO has received. (As I write, 83% Fresh Tomatoes vs. 98% Fresh Tomatoes.) But the odds are high that it will clean up at the global box office.

One thing Chris Meledandri has learned to do is deliver an entertaining feature at a reasonable price. More than one type of production model can deliver the goods.

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Your American Box Office

The dinosaurs continue their stampede into a second weekend. And Pixar has themselves another hit. (There's a surprise).

Weekend Grosses

1). Jurassic World (UNI), 4,291 theaters (+17)/ $30.7M Fri. (-63%)/ 3-day cume: $106.8M (-49%)/Total Cume: $405.1M / Wk 2

2). Inside Out (DIS), 3,946 theaters / $32.8M Fri. / 3-day cume: $83M / Wk 1

3). Spy (FOX), 3,558 theaters (-157)/ $2.9M Fri. (-38%)/ 3-day cume: $9.7M (-38%) / Total cume: $73.7M / Wk 3

4). San Andreas (WB), 3,177 theaters (-358) / $2.1M Fri. (-34%) / 3-day cume: $7.3M (-33%) / Total cume: $131.2M/ Wk 4

5). Dope (OPRD), 2,002 theaters / $2.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5.9M / Wk 1

6). Insidious Chapter 3 (FOC), 2,553 theaters (-461)/ $1.4M Fri. (-46%) / 3-day cume: $4.2M (-43%) / Total cume: $45.5M / Wk 3

7). Pitch Perfect 2 (UNI), 2,146 theaters (-531) / $1.3M Fri. (-39%)/ 3-day cume: $3.9M (-39%)/ Total cume: $178M / Wk 6

8). Mad Max: Fury Road (WB), 1,424 theaters (-810) / $701K Fri. (-%) / 3-day cume: $2.5M (-38%) / Total cume: $143.3M / Wk 6

9). Avengers: Age of Ultron (DIS), 1,662 theaters (-494) / $615K Fri. (-42%) / 3-day cume: $2.3M (-38%) / Total cume: $448.9M / Wk 8

10). Entourage (WB), 1,304 theaters (-1,804) / $559K Fri. (-60%)/ 3-day cume: $1.7M (-59%) / Total cume: $29.4M/ Wk 3 ...

Inside Out will likely end up the second best Pixar bow of all-time with an estimated gross that is now in the $89 million to $92 million range. Critics love it, the pic gets an A Cinemascore, so it should play well through the summer.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Women in Animation

WiA is in Annecy, and pointing out this:

Women in Animation Offers Dismal Stats on Current State of Affairs, Proposes Paths toward Progress

... In the last five years, only three features in the US and two in France were helmed by women -- and all as part of a male-female directing team. Jennifer Yuh Nelson ("Kung Fu Panda") and Jun Falkenstein (“The Tigger Movie”) were the only two female solo directors to helm US-produced animated features in the last 15 years.

“The numbers are out of proportion because there has been very little work done to intentionally change the status quo," said WIA co-president Marge Dean. "Most hiring in entertainment is risk-averse, where people hire who they know. It’s easier, but what that leads to is the hiring of the same people and, up until recently, primarily men.” ...

Jennifer Yuh Nelson is helming Kung Fu Panda 3, but this time in conjunction with a man.

Reversion to the mean.

We got a big spike in web traffic a few days ago; apparently the Women in Animation report had something to do with it. We've been pointing out the lopsided employment in Cartoonland for some time now. (Find a few of them here, here and here. There are numerous others.)

But employment stats have been pretty consistent over the years. Lots of men in the biz. Relatively few women.

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Social Media Prognostications

Social media foretells the box office.

Digital Tracking: ‘Inside Out’ Tussles With Dinos For $75 million

“Inside Out” has put up huge numbers, with an impressive 126 million YouTube views and a healthy 35 million Facebook video views on top of that. This is around twice as many views as “Home” and “Spongebob: Sponge Out of Water” delivered earlier this year, when both opened in the mid-50s.

The “Inside Out” total is partly driven by a series of short videos created to introduce each character/emotion. ...

A week ago, the box office projections/totals for Jurassic World kept going up ... and up ... and up some more. A day or two ago, Inside Out was projected to earn $60-$65 million; now it's looking at $75 million.

How accurate are digital/social media prophecies?

Good but not great. Digital tracking foretold that Tomorrowland would collect between $35 and $40 million on its opening weekend, but the picture ended up at $33 million (whoops).

Fancy projections are fine, but they are still projections. It's like Samuel Goldwyn said all those years ago, "When audiences don't want to go see your movie, you can't stop them."

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Disney -Israeli Deal

The Mouse helps make cartoons in the Middle East.

Disney has inked a major deal with Israel’s Snowball Studios to produce a new animated television series in Jerusalem, in one of several new long-term animation deals announced this week by the Jerusalem Film Fund.

The deal culminates months of work by the fund and the city of Jerusalem, which has been courting animators as part of a larger drive to bring international film and TV production to the heart of Israel’s capital. ...

The Jerusalem Film Fund will be offering Snowball (and other studios in similar deals) a 25% rebate on their costs in exchange for working in Jerusalem.

It's good to see that Israel is ALSO into the "free money" game. Because there's nothing we like better than to see various governments give money to needy international conglomerates. Does our hearts good.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015


Nick unveils a newer show.

Indie artists Dave Cooper (Futarama) and Johnny Ryan (MAD Magazine, DC Comics), who previously collaborated on comics for kids for Nickelodeon Magazine, serve as co-creators and co-executive producers, with Emmy and Golden Globe winner David Sacks (The Simpsons, 3rd Rock from the Sun) as executive producer.

Produced by Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif., this 26-episode half-hour series of the absurd interweaves stories of a Pig (the fool), a Goat (the artist), a Banana (the wise-guy) and a Cricket (the brain), as four friends and roommates who live in a fantastical city where just about anything comes to life. ...

It wasn't too many years ago that Nick was going in an "all CGI, all the time" direction. But like TV animation studios before it, the Viacom company discovered that the younger television audience didn't care if its animated entertainment was of the computer-generated variety, or drawn by the Keebler elves.

Oftentimes family viewers preferred the elves.

For Nick, ratings have often been no better (but sometimes worse) with good old hand-drawn cartoons. Also production costs are lower. Meantime, CGI shows are more expensive (but often no better.)

So in 2015, Nickelodeon has returned to its roots, creating shows in the style of their ground-breaking television productions of the 1990s. The lesson that "CG animation means nothing to the three-to-eight-year-old demographic" is a hard one for conglomerates to digest, but Nick, along with Disney, Warner Bros. and even some DreamWorks Animation TV product have received the message, all the way down to their large intestines.

Still in all, it's nice to see Nick cartoons return to the style of a simpler yesteryear.

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Low Information

I received a phone call this morning from a member who was very upset that he had lost his Motion Picture Industry Health Coverage. He explained that he did a lot of freelance work, and suspected that the studios had under-reported his hours. But he didn't know for sure. He said that he had a sick wife who needed expensive medication and that he couldn't afford to pay the $932 that the meds cost.

SO I talked to him for a few minutes, and found out a few things. ...

Like for instance that this particular member is in his middle seventies, on Medicare* and Social Security, and has worked under TAG's jurisdiction since the 1990s, and likely qualifies -- he isn't sure because he doesn't keep records -- for an industry pension. And quite possibly retiree health coverage.

And here's the thing: If the above is true, then the member can work full time and collect his pension and not be penalized because he's over 70 1/2 and so can be a full-time pensioner. And still do as much staff work or free-lancing as he likes.

The gentleman didn't know any of this. I told him, "You're leaving money on the table. There's no reason not to be collecting a pension now if you're eligible. You're just letting cash stay in the Pension Plan's pockets." He said he would drive to the Motion Picture Industry pension office, talk to an advisor, and fill out paperwork.

After we finished talking, I sat at my desk ruminating. Over the years I've gotten a number of calls like his. Usually it's from somebody confused (and often angry) over the fact that they've tripped over a Pension or Health Plan rule due to ignorance and are royally ticked off about it.

I understand their frustration, but here's what I've learned: When you don't take the time to familiarize yourself with the rules of the road, when you throw away envelopes that arrive in the mail under the belief that they're junk mail or some stupid ad, you are setting yourself up for heartache and sorrow.

This doesn't just apply to the details of the motion picture industry's health and pension plans, but everything else in the 21st century that we come in touch with. When we don't pay attention, we raise the odds that we'll get our backsides chomped into down the road. When we deny ourselves knowledge, making the tactical decision to be low information participants in life's carnival, the carny barkers stomp all over us and leave us bruised and bleeding in a corner.

I hear the complaint over and over, "But it shouldn't BE this way!" In a perfect world, perhaps it shouldn't be, but perfection -- if it exists -- is off in the clouds someplace, not down here in this sad, valley of tears.

So I urge you, plead with you, to:

Open envelopes that slide through your mail slot and look at the contents. Figure out what the confusing letter inside means before you toss it away.

Read Summary Plan Descriptions of pension and health plans under which you're working.

At your new workplace, keep your mouth closed and a smile on your face until you find out how the joint really operates. Find out who the bullies and problem children are, and give them a wider berth. And stay at your desk working during business hours.

Get a passing knowledge of state and federal labor laws. Know what the basic regulations are.

Keep improving your skill sets. If there are low-cost classes someplace that teach you the rudiments of software you need to know, take them.

Play well with others.

Understand that life isn't fair. Understand that there is no "fair." But also know that the more useful information you possess, the higher will be your odds for success.

* Medicare, he says, doesn't cover the drugs cost, but the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan does.

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In case you missed this before ...


Egyptian Theatre - Sat, June 20, 2015 - 3:00pm

Presented by the American Cinematheque and Animation Resources

A Time Machine Trip Back To The Golden Age Of Cartoons! ...

Film preservationist Steve Stanchfield will turn back the hands of time and present a program of newly restored vintage cartoons on the big screen at the legendary Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Stanchfield is a champion of rare and forgotten animation, and his company, Thunderbean Animation is helping preserve our cartoon heritage, utilizing modern digital technology to return these precious films to their former glory. Also on board for this exciting program is Stephen Worth, the president of Animation Resources, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to serving animation artists and researchers. Worth will be sharing the stories of the artists who made the films and providing historical background.

The program will include a little bit of everything, from animation's biggest stars to its most unusual obscure characters. There will be silent films and sound films, early experimental color cartoons, as well as good old black & white. Highlights of the program include a newly restored copy of Ub Iwerks' "Hells Fire", presented uncut and in color for the first time since it debuted in 1934. Felix the Cat, the very first cartoon superstar, will be represented by pristine prints of "Felix the Cat Shatters the Sheik" and "Draggin' the Dragon (1926). There will be rare stop motion puppet films by Lou Bunin, a wartime training film made by Warner Bros that was never released to the troops, and rare films starring the deliciously obscure Mickey wanna-bes, "Cubby Bear" and "Binko the Cub". The rarest of the rare will be back up on the big screen where it belongs!

Tickets for this program are $11, and are available for advance sale at the Fandango link below. They will be on sale at the Egyptian Box Office the day of the event.




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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wages Then ... Wages Now

Old-timers look back with fond memories on the go-go nineties, when wages were in high orbit because

1) there was high demand and

2) relatively limited supply of qualified talent for the making of cartoons.

By 1996, animation salaries had reached all-time highs as fledgling DreamWorks Animation (then part of DreamWorks, the new movie studio) bid against Disney Feature Animation and Warner Bros. Feature Animation for animators, board artists, and designers.

Television production was also going full tilt and tv production board artists were commanding salaries that we eight hundred dollars per week above Animation Guild minimums. Then, artists would say to me, "What do we need minimums in the contract book for? I way above that." ...

Twenty years back? Many folks were in Fat City. And today?

Wages haven't plummeted exactly, but they aren't at double the contract rates anymore, either. ...

There are a variety of forces responsible for the change.

A) The industry was robust through the center of the 1990s, but it's also doing well today. (We had 2800 union members then, we have over 2900 today ... with a few hundred more artists, technicians and writers working under our jurisdiction.)

B) Although Los Angeles has a lot of animation in 2015, there are many more animation departments inside universities today, and a lot more art schools, graduating people who are aiming to work in the business. Supply is closer to demand in 2015 than it was twenty years ago.

C) Since 2008, the studios have been on a systematic campaign to belt tighten and hammer wages down wherever possible.

On the live-action side of the fence, this means getting rid of big, overscale deals that studio once did as a matter of routine. It means every production expense is scrutinized, and star deals are stingier.

For animation, it has meant the end of a lot of long-term employment contracts, and keeping individuals working closer to union contract minimums.

D) Never under-estimate corporations' polished abilities to "coordinate" rates of pay between animation studios. Lawsuits, after all, don't happen in a vacuum.

We're a long way from '95-'96. And today I'm more likely to here: "Man, I'm sure happy we've got contract minimums"

So am I.

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Professor Sito's Month in Cartoon History

From the TAG Prez Emeritus:.

June 1, 1939 - SUPERMAN - Joe Seigel and Jerry Shuster, two aspiring cartoonists in High School, create a character called “Superman”. Being Jewish kids, they read about the Nazi racial concept of the Aryan Superman and wanted to show a Superman that could be on the American side. On this day, they sell all the rights to their characters to Detective Comics (D.C.) for $130.

June 1, 1931 - 48-year-old Swiss artist Albert Hurter joins the Disney staff, giving cartoons like Snow White a more Germanic storybook look. He creates a new type of job at the studio, the Inspirational Sketch Artist. Today, they’re called Viz-Dev artists.

June 2, 1973 - London animator Richard Williams closes down his Soho studio for a month so his staff could be lectured by Hollywood animation legends Art Babbitt, Chuck Jones and Ken Harris.

June 3, 1964 - Hanna & Barbera’s first feature Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear premieres.

June 4, 1938 – The Walt Disney Studio holds the crew party to celebrate the success of Snow White. The young artists, released of tension and filled with booze, swap bedrooms and gallop horses through the Hotel Norconian. Walt and Roy flee the scene for fear of bad publicity.

June 6, 1982 - The film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan premieres. Besides starring Ricardo Montalban as “the bad guy with the great pectorals”, the movie features the Genesis Effect. This one minute sequence was a landmark of computer graphics effects. Done by the Lucas Graphics Group, who four years later would break off and become Pixar.

June 6, 1984 - In Moscow, 29-year-old mathematics Professor Alexey Pajitnov invents the game Tetris.

June 7, 2002 – Disney’s Kim Possible premieres.

June 8, 1946 - Bob Clampett's cartoon Kitty Kornered, the first Sylvester the Cat cartoon, premieres.

June 9, 1934 - Walt Disney short, The Little Wise Hen, introduces Donald Duck.

June 9, 2006 - Pixar’s Cars opens.

June 10,1910 - Cartoonist George Herriman has been drawing a strip for Hearst called The Family Upstairs. He was amused at the idea of a friendship between a cat and a mouse. So Herriman put them in the corner playing marbles while the family quarreled. First an office boy and later editor Arthur Brisbane suggested they have their own strip. Krazy Kat and Ignacz Mouse are born. ...

June 10, 1995 - 110,000 people jam Central Park in New York to see Disney's Pocahontas. It’s the largest audience ever to attend a single movie premiere.

June 11, 1984 - Wall Street corporate raider Saul Steinberg announces he intends to target the ailing Walt Disney Company for takeover. Disney CEO Ron Miller pays him $23 million to make him go away. The Disney shareholders, outraged at this payment of "greenmail”, demanded Miller’s resignation. This is exactly what Roy Disney had hoped would happen.

June 11, 1993 - Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park opens. The film sets a box office record for the time of $931 million. The production started with modelers and puppeteers planning to create the dinosaurs with clay and beeswax. But after seeing tests using the new 3D CGI – computer graphic imaging, Steven ordered ILM to do it digitally. Jurassic Park marks the digital takeover of Hollywood and set the standard for future VFX.

June 12, 1999 - Disney’s Tarzan premieres.

June 15, 1994 - Disney’s The Lion King premieres.

June 16, 1902 - A musical play of L Frank Baum’s fantasy story The Wizard of Oz premieres at Chicago’s Grand Opera House.

June 16, 1955 - Disney’s Lady and the Tramp premieres.

June 16, 1960 - Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Psycho premieres.

June 18, 2010 – Pixar’s Toy Story III opens.

June 19, 1954 - Bugs Bunny short Devil May Hare debuts featuring the first showing of the Tasmanian Devil.

June 19, 1998 - Disney’s Mulan premieres.

June 20, 1941 - Walt Disney's The Reluctant Dragon opens while striking cartoonist's picket the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. Police actually have to close part of Hollywood Blvd. out of concern for what the rampaging animators might do.

June 21, 1988 - Who Framed Roger Rabbit? premieres at Radio City Music Hall.

June 21, 2002 - Disney’s Lilo & Stitch premieres.

June 22, 1342 – According to JRR Tolkeins’ The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins returns to his home at the Shire with the one true ring.

June 22, 1977 - Disney’s The Rescuers premieres, featuring the last work of animator Milt Kahl.

June 23, 1989 - Disney’s Roger Rabbit short Tummy Trouble premieres with Honey I Shrank the Kids featuring animated titles by Kroyer Films.

June 25, 1934 - Young artist Milt Kahl's first day at Walt Disney Studios. It was said he was the first artist to ever show Walt a real portfolio of drawings to get hired.

June 25, 1997 - Disney’s animated feature Hercules premieres.

June 26, 1926 - From his London flat, John Logie Baird invents television.

June 26, 1974 - Bob Taylors’ The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat opens.

June 27, 1984 - Hollywood introduces the PG-13 rating to indicate graphic violence. It was invented for the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

June 29, 1936 - Pope Pius X publishes an encyclical warning of the evils of Motion Pictures. “They glorify Lust and Lascivious behavior.”

June 29,1940 – According to Batman Comics, this is the day mobsters rub out a circus highwire team known as “The Flying Graysons”, leaving their son Dick an orphan. As the story goes, millionaire Bruce Wayne then adopts the young Grayson as his ward so Batman could have his Robin the Boy Wonder.

June 29, 2007- Pixar’s Ratatouille premieres.

June 30, 1933 - A group of actors meet in secret at Frank (The Wizard of Oz) Morgan’s house and form the Screen Actors Guild. They needed secrecy because studios threatened to blacklist anyone who so much as breathed the word “Union”. Among the founding members attending that night meeting are James Cagney, Groucho Marx, Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone, Frederic March, Robert Montgomery and Boris Karloff.

June 30, 1999 - South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut opens.

Birthdays: Lotte Reiniger, Dick Huemer, John Dykstra, Gary Trousdale, Maurice Sendak, Gustave Courbet, Richard Sherman, Tim Allen, Cliff Edwards (the voice of Jiminy Cricket), Pete Burness, Oskar Fischinger, Phil Harris (voice of Baloo), Alex Toth, Ricky Gervais, Woolie Reitherman, Katherine Beaumont (the voice of Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Wendy in Peter Pan), Mel Brooks, Ray Harryhausen, Lena Horne,

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When You're Hot ...

... you launch a new television series (to go along with your wildly successful theatrical features).

... Lego Movie duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are tapping into their TV animation roots with Son Of Zahn, a new animated/live action hybrid comedy, which has received a presentation order at Fox. The project, written by former Wilfred showrunners Reed Agnew and Eli Jorne, has cast its live-action male lead, with Miller and Lord recruiting young actor Johnny Pemberton, who had a supporting in their 21 Jump Street movie franchise. ...

Understand that Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller were brought in to rescue Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, which had been in development hell for eons. They had no animation experience, but they knew funny. And they turned CWACOM into Sony Picture Animation's first unalloyed hit.

I met them once or twice, and they were (are)jovial guys. By all accounts they were not infatuated with Sony management, but few SPA artists were. This became more evident when Sony e-mails got hacked and went public. Sony tried valiantly to lure them back into the corporate fold, to no avail.

Lord and Miller today have projects set up at various conglomerates, but Sony ... unless I'm misinformed ... is not one of them.

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Drac's Back

And since this will go the rounds, will round it up here too.

Directed by Genddy Tartakovsky. Pre-production in Culver City, California. Production in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the free money roams.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Extending a Tentpole

DWA/Netflix series unveiled at Annecy.

DWA TV’s new series spinoff “Dragons: Race to the Edge" is an action suspense drama with comedic interludes, if its first two episodes screened at Annecy are anything to go by. “Race to the Edge” episode one and two are written by F.M. de Marco, John Tellegen, Jack Thomas and exec producers Ari Brown and Douglas Sloan. Chad Hammes produces, Elaine Bogan directs. ...

“’Race to the Edge’ is a kind of prequel to ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2.’ In the Cartoon Network series, the kids are still young; here they’re young adults,” DWA's Margie Cohn explained. ... “We are assuming consumers will want to watch ‘Race to the Edge’ in a linear kind of way. So we definitely want it a little bit more serialized, with a more sophisticated story structure. We are really trying to distinguish the Netflix series from the Cartoon Network series." ...

The CN "Dragon" series rolled out in the fall of 2012 and has been in continuous production. The Netflix episodes, arriving in late June, have been in work for the past year at DWA tv's Central Avenue studio in Glendale, CA. (and, of course, at production studios overseas.)

The first Dragon TV episodes had pre-production done in the Valley by a non-DWA sub-contractor, but DreamWorks jumped in mid-season and commenced doing the work itself. It's been in charge of the show ever since.

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New Is Old

This is what video games (if there had BEEN video games) might have looked like eighty years ago.

They've certainly got the cycle animation down cold.

(Thanks to Tom Sito and Ezra Edmond for the heads up on this.)

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When your movie makes north of three-quarters of a billion dollars, the sequel thingie is a disease that is catching.

Disney has begun moving toward a sequel to Maleficent, the 2014 blockbuster fairy tale that starred Angelina Jolie as the winged title character. The studio has engaged Linda Woolverton to write the sequel, and I’m told the studio is keeping Jolie in the loop and that the sequel will be written for her to reprise. ...

Disney is fully invested in the franchise business, and this is now one of those, by virtue of the boffo box office.

Understand that the Disney movie business model is now: Animation. Marvel Super Heroes. Princesses. Live-action reboots of old animation titles.

Sometimes the above categories overlap, and sometimes not. But the idea is to make movies that travel well globally, make a lot of money, and can be merchandised nine ways to Sunday. All the movie types listed above do that in spades, so Diz Co. will spend a lot of time and money making pictures that fit the prototypes, and less time and money creating movies that don't.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Speaking of Europe ...

The animated marketplace beyond our shores.

... Nicolas Escbach launched Indie Sales two years ago and has become one of France’s leading purveyors of arthouse animated features. The company indeed won this year’s Cartoon Tribute for best European distributor. ...

“Zucchini” is one of the four animated features on Indie Sales slate, along with Anthony Roux and Jean-Jacques Denis’ vidgame franchise-based “Dofus – Book I Julith” (in production), Raul de la Fuente and Damian Nenow’s “Another Day of Life,” Xavier Picard’s “Moomins on the Riviera.” ...

So how many arthouse animated features have you seen lately? Not a whole lot, I'm willing to bet. But niche animated features are abundant in other parts of the world. And when production costs are (relatively) low, and one of these features connects with audiences in France, Italy or Brazil (to name a few places) then profits are made.

A cartoon creator doesn't need to get picked up by, say, the Weinstein brothers to get into the black. S/her needs only to connect with the audience that attends screenings of pictures without comic book super heroes and princesses waiting for love's first kiss.

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European Animation

A new study says it has a ways to go.

Studiocanal, Aardman Animations, Ben Stassen’s nWave Pictures and Germany’s Constantin emerge as current drivers of Europe’s wide-audience movie animation industry, according to a pioneering study, “Focus on Animation,” which contains a wealth of pan-European and single-territory stats. ...

The hard facts in “Focus on Animation” put Europe’s still-young toon pic production sector in perspective: 3% of Europe’s movie production volume from 2010-14, European animation punched just 2.94% of its cinema theater sales.

Despite that, Europe’s toon production levels look to be powering up, though that has yet to feed through into bigger box office. Per “Focus on Animation,” a yearly average of 50 animation films were produced in Europe over 2010-14. ...

According to “Focus on Animation,” Japan (110 movies made) and the U.S. (109) ranked as the world’s biggest animation producers over 2010-14, followed by France (47), China (42) and Spain (28). ... European animation does travel better than its movies in general: Only 38.3% of European animation films’ admissions were generated in the main country of production, compared with 50% in the case of European productions of all genres. ...

U.S. filmed animation industry overperforms in its domestic market, Repping 2.8% of the U.S. production volume, U.S toon pics took 14.2% of total admissions from 2010-14. In contrast, 3% of Europe’s movie production volume, 2010-14, Europe’s animation punched just 2.94% of its cinema theater sales. European toon movies took a 2.96% U.S. market share from 2010-14, and just three films, “Gnomeo and Juliet,” “Arthur Christmas” and “The Pirates (Band of Misfits”), repped 75% of that trawl. ...

Why Gnomeo and Juliet from the Walt Disney Company, is considered "European" when it was produced in Canada and helmed by American Kelly Asbury, escapes me. But the study (article?) says what it says.

No mention here of Illumination Entertainment's highly profitable features, which are produced in France though controlled out of the Illumination Entertainment offices in Los Angeles. Maybe they didn't considered MacGuff's contributions as truly European.

What the "Focus on Animation" highlights is how dominant U.S. animated features are in the world market. There are plenty of long-form cartoons getting made across the globe, but for the most part they are niche players. Some make okay profits because they're costs are low and they end up with nice margins when all the receipts are counted. But there are few breakout hits from non-U.S. studios.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

World Box Office

Appears to be controlled by dinosaurs.

... [Jurassic World] entered the record books several times over the weekend and today has made worldwide box office history. With an estimated $307.2M opening frame overseas, and a domestic take of $204.6M for the weekend, the global opening is $511.8M — the first time a film has ever grossed more than $500M in one weekend. ...

There's a lot of CG animation in the world box office list, through no 100% animated features near the top until Pixar launches its latest.


Jurassic World -- $307,200,000 -- ($511,796,380)

San Andreas -- $42,500,000 -- ($373,320,914)

Mad Max: Fury -- $5,400,000 -- ($333,707,827

Tomorrowland -- $4,600,000 -- ($186,508,000)

Avengers: Ultron -- $2,000,000 -- ($1,361,943,000)

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The Blue Franchise

The one that doesn't display Avatar in the title.

Sony Pictures Animation unveils Get Smurfy as the title for the studio’s until-now movie-without-a-name third adventure in the brave blue world. Casting has been firmed with pop star Demi Lovato giving voice to the single Smurfette, Rainn Wilson seizing the role of the villainous Gargamel as well as the previously announced Mandy Patinkin as Papa Smurf. ...

Directed by Kelly Asbury and produced by Jordan Kerner, Get Smurfy opens March 31, going up against Walt Disney Pictures’ adaptation of Japanese manga comic Ghost In The Shell ....

The Smurfs have traveled well over the years, going from TV to theatrical formats.

Kelly Asbury is a longtime veteran with lots of experience with smallish characters. He directed Diz Co's Gnomeo and Juliet in 2001, and before that DWA's gargantuan hit Shrek 2. So a Smurf's movie fall right in the middle of his wheel house.

And Sony, of course, is doing what all our fine, entertainment conglomerates are doing: Looking to make another installment of a popular franchise. (Although the Smurfs sometimes pay off like gangbusters, and sometimes don't. We'll see what happens this time around.)

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Your B.O.

... is owned by Universal, an exec producer named Spielberg, and Chris Pratt.

The biggest Friday openings ever to date are Warner Bros’ 2011 Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows 2 with $91.0M on Friday, followed by this May’s Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron with $84.4M. Next comes 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers with $80.8M and Warners’ 2012’s Dark Knight Rises with $75.5M.

Jurassic World is tracking 12% ahead of DKR on fewer screens (4,273 vs. 4,404). Jurassic World, which has a running time of only 117 minutes compared with Dark Knight Rises (165 minutes), will have the benefit of extra plays. ...

Every time the trades look at the big dinosaur picture, the numbers go up. It was going to do $140 million for the weekend a couple of days ago, maybe $120 mill. And now?


1). Jurassic World (UNI), 3,274 theaters / $78.6M Fri. / 3-day cume: $181M / Wk 1

2). Spy (FOX), 3,715 theaters (+4%)/ $5M Fri. (-52%)/ 3-day cume: $16.3M (-44%) / Total cume: $57.4M / Wk 2

3). San Andreas (WB), 3,535 theaters (-277) / $3M Fri. (-61%) / 3-day cume: $10.5M (-59%) / Total cume: $118.7M/ Wk 3

4). Insidious Chapter 3 (FOC), 3,014 theaters (+12)/ $2.8M Fri. (-74%) / 3-day cume: $8.6M (-62%) / Total cume: $38.7M / Wk 2

5). Pitch Perfect 2 (UNI), 2,677 theaters (-726) / $1.5M Fri. (-42%)/ 3-day cume: $4.5M (-41%)/ Total cume: $169.1M / Wk 5

6). Entourage (WB), 3,108 theaters (0) / $1.3M Fri. (-64%)/ 3-day cume: $4M (-61%) / Total cume: $25.5M/ Wk 2

7). Mad Max: Fury Road (WB), 2,234 theaters (-486) / $1.2M Fri. (-49%) / 3-day cume: $3.94M (-50%) / Total cume: $138.2M / Wk 5

8). Tomorrowland (DIS), 2,540 theaters (-472)/ $1.2M Fri. (-46%) / 3-day cume: $3.91M (-41%) / Total cume: $84M / Wk 4

9). Avengers: Age of Ultron (DIS), 2,156 theaters (-315) / $1.1M Fri. (-42%) / 3-day cume: $3.5M (-45%) / Total cume: $444.6M / Wk 7

10). Love & Mercy (RSA), 573 theaters (+92)/ $454K Fri. (-29%) / 3-day cume: $1.5M (-30%)/ Total cume: $4.5M / Wk 2

Everybody is now into franchises (even old ones). And that will be where the money goes and what gets made, for the most part. It's where our fine, entertainment conglomerates will be going, like it or not.

Add On: The box office for Jurassic World keep going up ... and up:

... The opening weekend for Universal’s Jurassic World is being called at $204.59M, making the fourth Jurassic Park film the second biggest bow at the domestic B.O. of all-time, overtaking Disney’s Marvel Avengers: Age of Ultron‘s ($191.27M) and sitting right under the all-time opening champ Avengers which zapped $207.4M back in May 2012. ...

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