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.


Alex Dudley said...

That didn't really work out for Imagi. Luck of the draw I suppose, but Illumination did a MUCH better job marketing their content.
It does kind of suck for animators stateside if this becomes a trend.

Steve Hulett said...

And then somebody will get the bright idea to do the WHOLE project in So. Cal. Just watch.

Imagie didn't work out for a lot of reasons. But they employed 100-plus members of the Animation Guild for a few years. Fun while it lasted.

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