Monday, November 30, 2015

Speaking of Heights of Glory ...

Even the mighty sometimes drop down a rung or two. The Good Dinosaur's grosses are not (apparently) super robust by Pixarian standards:

... While Pixar's latest animated feature garnered $39.1 million in its first three days and $56.6 million domestically for the entirety of the Thanksgiving weekend, the dinosaur flick had the weakest launch of any film released by the animation company, ever. ...

Many knew there were ... ahm ... issues, no? It wasn't a secret. Directors replaced. Release dates shifted. There were portents.

Making an animated movie is hard. There are no movie stars to root for, just the artists' blood, sweat and tears, the writers' and animators' crafts, the surfacers' and lighters' aesthetic choices. And sometimes the story doesn't come together and the through-line is muddy and there's too many ideas pulling in too many directions. And all the patching and restructuring helps, but it doesn't have that flow, and what the hell are you gonna do?

As a grizzled old feature director said to me eons ago: "You've gotta convince the audience it's real and worth caring about. Because there aren't any real people up there to help you do it. There's nothing up there but drawings and colors." ...

Today the "drawings" thingie would be "pixels." But the same idea.

And so The Good Dinosaur didn't land with a thwacking ker-thud, but there were no bands marching and fireworks bursting after its first weekend either. Disney/Pixar merely got an "okay" opening. But if the bottom doesn't fall out through the holidays, and overseas markets hold up, the movie should make money.

And Pixar's record will remain intact.

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Twelve Years Ago This Day ...

Roy Disney departs Diz Co. President Emeritus Tom Sito recalls::

November 30, 2003 - Roy Disney Jr, the last serving member of the Disney family, was forced to resign from the Walt Disney Company.

It was claimed to be the mandatory retirement policy, but more likely he was forced out by the exec he hired to run the company in 1984- Michael Eisner. So Roy built a successful grass roots stockholders campaign

In 2005 Eisner was compelled to retire after the first vote of no confidence in the companies history. Roy Disney kept an emeritus board position until his death in 2009. ...

In point of fact, Roy Disney jumped from the good ship Mouse before he was shoved overboard. At one of the Guild's Christmas parties Roy told me ...

They didn't fire me off the company board of directors. They were going to, but I quit before they could do it. I could see the thing coming.

Michael had gotten pretty nasty. He wouldn't let me attend animation meetings in the hat Building. He kept me out of my office over there. So I could see the handwriting on the wall, you know? And I resigned. ...

Roy related all this when he was out in the corporate wilderness, running a guerrilla campaign against CEO Eisner. Over the next several months he and Stanley Gold went to state pension plans and large mutual funds and talked to boards and large stockholders about voting aginst Michael Eisner on the next proxy ballot.

Disney's stock was down, its profits were off, and Roy and Stan got listened to. At the next stockholders' meeting, 42% of the ballots were marked against Eisner and much of the Disney board. It's hard for a corporate chieftain to survive a vote total like that, and Michael Eisner didn't. Within eighteen months he was gone, Roy was allowed to participate in company affairs again, and the Walt Disney Company rocketed on to new heights of glory.

The remarkable take-away for me? The son of Disney's co-founder took down two chief executives of the same conglomerate, almost exactly twenty years apart.

And h/t to Professor Sito for letting us steal his stuff.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pixar Top Kick

Pixar President Jim Morris speaks of The Good Dinosaur and other things.

... Pixar have had 15 films, each one of them a major hit, generating $9.3 billion at the box-offices – so, stepping up to the plate can be a nerve-wracking experience.

Jim Morris: Yeah, each new director and producer fears that they’re going to be the one that screws the run up, but, you know, we wanted to increase the output, primarily because we have so many people in Pixar. Trying to get one and a half movies out every year is a tough call, and we’ll always put the quality first, quantity second. So, we’re learning, and we’re cautiously progressing, when it comes to producing more films. ...

Pixar has made good movies and less good movies. This is not a lot different than other animation studios.

The wide moat that divides Pixar from its competition is that it's never turned out a money loser. No other studio can claim that.

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International Derby

Where we observe which movie is doing what at the worldwide box office.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (World Totals)

Hunger Games -- $62,000,000 -- ($440,712,341)

The Good Dinosaur -- $28,700,000 -- ($84,265,000)

The Martian -- $51,350,000 -- ($545,140,849)

Spectre -- $30,400,000 -- ($749,556,967)

The Peanuts Movie -- 000 -- ($125,757,472)

Hotel Transylvania 2 -- $4,700,000 -- ($436,750,072) ...

Three years ago, Hotel Transylvania collected $358,375,603 in world grosses, on a budget of $85 million. Its successor is close to $100 million above that, with a production budget of $80 million, owing to the face that A) production has now moved to Canada, the Land of Free Money, and B) many elements from the first movie were carried to the second, lowering some costs.

And our fine entertainment journals inform us:

... The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 feathered the nest with $62M in 92 total markets. That’s down about 57% from the debut last week. ...

Disney/Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur put down 58% of its international footprint in 39 territories for $28.7M. The story of Arlo and Spot is going out in a staggered release pattern. ... Audiences in the U.S. were 40% 12 & Under and 79% families, and that family play works as a strength given the current and upcoming competitive landscape in some of the individual overseas markets. In what’s looked at as a marathon run, rather than a sprint, the thinking is that word of mouth will also continue to bring older audiences into theaters. ...

Hotel Transylvania 2 checked into seven more markets this frame, scaring up $4.7M from nearly 4,800 screens in 75 total. The offshore cume on the Adam Sandler sequel is now $269.9M. Among the new plays was Australia where it was the top opener at $1.8M from 414 screens, outpacing HT1. ...

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Failure of Movie Magic

Robert Zemeckis is a stylish movie director.

He knows how to move his camera better than any motion picture top-kick this side of Michael Curtiz. He chooses interesting subjects and attacks them with zest. Back to the Future. Romancing the Stone. Forrest Gump. Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Zemeckis had an ingrained habit of directing blockbusters.

Even his least satisfying movies, those forays into motion capture that left audiences cold, had moments to recommend them. So it's one of the mysteries of the age why The Walk, which garnered great reviews and positive audience response, was stillborn.

I mean with a thirty-five million dollar production budget where every nickel counted, he couldn't miss. (See the seamless, vfx bullseyes here.) ...

Sadly, miss he did. Even with positive reviews and an A- Cinemascore, Sony couldn't get his latest movie airborne, and The Walk collected a mere $41,761,174 in worldwide grosses. So the picture isn't going to lose a lot of money, but it won't make much of anything, either.

Few, it seems, wanted to see a French wire-walker trek between the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

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Extended Weekend Box Office

The money is pouring in ... for women with bows and arrows. And lovable cartoon characters.


1). The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (LGF), 4,175 theaters (0) / $21.5M Fri. (+107%) / 3-day cume: $50.3M (-51%) /5-day cume:$74.4M /Total cume: $197.1M/Wk 2

2). The Good Dinosaur (DIS), 3,749 theaters / $15.6M Fri. (+138%) / 3-day cume: $39.5M /5-day cume: $55.9M /Wk 1

3). Creed (MGM/New Line/WB), 3,404 theaters / $11.7M Fri. (+81%) / 3-day cume: $28.7M /5-day cume: $41.1M /Wk 1

4). Spectre (SONY), 2,940 theaters (-719)/ $5.26M Fri. (+96%)/ 3-day cume: $12.76M (-15%)/5-day cume: $18.4M/ Total cume: $176.3M /Wk 4

5). The Peanuts Movie (FOX), 3,006 theaters (-665)/ $3.99M Fri. (+177%) / 3-day cume: $9.8M (-26%)/5-day cume:$13.7M/Total cume: $116.9M /Wk 4

6). The Night Before (SONY), 2,960, theaters (0)/ $3.23M Fri.(+90%)/ 3-day cume: $8M (-19%)/5-day cume:/Total: $11.36M/Total cume: $23.9M/Wk 2

Spotlight7). Secret In Their Eyes (STX), 2,392 theaters / $1.68M Fri.(+126%) / 3-day cume: $4.3M (-35%)/5-day: $5.77M/Total cume: $13.8M/Wk 2

8). Spotlight (OPRD), 897 theaters (+299) / $1.66M Fri. (+187%) / 3-day cume: $4.2 (+19%) /5-day:$5.46M/ Total cume: $12.1M /Wk 4

9). Brooklyn (FSL), 824 theaters (+713) / $1.4M Fri. (+188%)/3-day cume: $3.7M (+219%)/5-day: $4.7M/Total cume: $7.1M /Wk 4

10). The Martian (FOX), 1,407 theaters (-679) / $1.34M Fri. (+109%)/ 3-day cume: $3.23M (-15%)/5-day: $4.48M/ Total cume: $218.6M / Wk 9 ...

And the trades say:

The Good Dinosaur saw a 33% decline on Thanksgiving with $6.56M in second place, bringing its total B.O. over two days to $16.37M. It’s going to pop today and Saturday thanks to family matinees. Current industry forecast for the animated film directed by Peter Sohn is $57M-$59M over five days. ...

No. 6 is 20th Century Fox’s The Peanuts Movie $1.44M (-42%), five-day: $12M-$14.5M, cume to date: $107M ...

It'll be interesting to see how Peanuts holds through the holidays. Might not make it to the $150 million level after all.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

The First American Long-Form Cartoon

We're not talking Snow White here, but this:

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor was released 79 years ago today. ...

Sinbad was the first of three Technicolor featurettes made by Dave and Max Fleischer, back when they were in hot and heavy competition with Walt Disney Productions. (Disney's exclusive use of full-spectrum color had ended the year before.)

All three Popeye specials are public domain now, but they hold up well. And this first, before the 1937 strike, before the Fleischer Studios' relocation from New York City to sun-kissed Miami (which was a contributing factor in the studio's ultimate demise), can be considered part of the high-water mark for two animation pioneers who, by rights, should be remembered more than they are.

It wasn't just about Walt Disney, after all. It was also about Max and Dave.

H/t -- President Emeritus Tom Sito.

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Charlie Brown Resurgent

ABC (as did CBS before it) runs and runs this animated half-hour.

... "We thought A Charlie Brown Christmas was a little slow, and it was certainly not a traditional Christmas show," said Lee Mendelson, the producer who persuaded "Peanuts" cartoonist Charles M. Schulz to adapt his popular strip about lovable loser Charlie Brown and his childhood friends into an animated holiday offering. ...

The story above points out how the producer of ACBC believed the show about a Loser would be a loser. (In Tinseltown, almost always somebody thinks they've got a flop on their hands, and are proven resoundingly wrong.)

But there is a better, unremarked story underneath the Times article that involves animator/director Bill Melendez ... and Disney.

Mr. Melendez, owner-operator of the studio that made A Charlie Brown Christmas, was one of the artist-strikers out on the sidewalk in front of Walt Disney Productions, way back in 1941, when Art Babbit, Bill Melendez and numerous others walked out in a labor action designed to get Disney employees recognition under the Screen Cartoonists Guild. The picketing was lengthy and bitter. After the strike was over, Mr. Melendez never went back to WDP, and didn't want to.

He told me once: "I'm never going back there! I'm STILL on strike!"

And Bill's issues with Disney didn't end with that '41 job action. Ten years later, Walt Disney -- not a man who forgot old betrayals -- was trying to dislodge the Screen Cartoonists Guild as the labor union repping animation artists inside WDP's gates. IATSE representative Roy Brewer plotted with Walt to set up a NEW organization called the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists (now called the Animation Guild), Local 839, IATSE. The plan was to replace the old union (SCG) with the new one.

In an industry-wide election, the Screen Cartoonists Guild was pushed out, and Local 839 was ushered in. (Many of Walt's key creative personnel had their names on Local 839's founding documents, which ought to tell you something.) At the time, Bill Melendez was the President of the Screen Cartoonists Guild, and he didn't forget what had happened to the guild he'd led. Years later, when he formed Bill Melendez Productions, his studio signed with the Teamsters union, not Local 839.

"I'm STILL on strike!"

So of course, ABC now controls the rights to one of Bill Melendez's great cartoon achievements, and ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Company.

Nothing is forever.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Hulett Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving is upon us, we'll present a Ralph Hulett Christmas card or three...

The bad news is we're sort of out of designs that haven't made an appearanc at some time or other. The good news is a gallery presentation (at 1105 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank, California) will be happening through the month of December. ...

Ralph Hulett (my father) was born in Illinois in 1915, and worked at Walt Disney Productions from 1938 to 1974. From 1948 until the early 1970s he created an annual line of Christmas, including landscapes, character cards, and still lifes.

You can find many of these art pieces at the link to the right, titled "Hulett Christmas".

A week ago, somebody asked me "Did your Dad work with Eyvind Earle? Did your Dad use Eyvind Earle's style?" (You'll noet the Eyvindesque approach with today's sample.)

The answer: Yep, my dad and Eyvind worked in the Disney background department for a number of years, and their styles rubbed off on each other. Padre was a fairly eclectic painter; he was facile with a brush and used a wide variety of approaches: oil paints, watercolor, whatever was at hand and useful. He actually painted a lot of the cards at Disney during his lunch break, using Disney paints and materials. (Nobody much cared about things like that in the fifties and sixties.)

We'll put up a few more cards during the month of December.

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Box Office's Extra Long Weekend

What the trade press foretells.

Extended Five-Day Grosses

Walt Disney/Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur is off to a decent start with an A CinemaScore and a No. 2 Wednesday gross of $9.8M at 3,749 venues. That’s not as high as their animated princess pics – read: Frozen‘s Thanksgiving eve wide opening of $15.2M and Tangled‘s $11.9M, but then again this film skews more boy and this dinosaur isn’t wearing a tiara. ... A great start nonetheless, which will take Good Dinosaur to a $58M-62M five-day.

Liongate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 owned the Wednesday before Thanksgiving with $13.8M at 4,175 theaters, +21% over Tuesday for a running cume of $136.3M. ...

The Peanuts Movie which slotted fifth with an estimated $2.5M, +12% from yesterday with a cume of $105.6M. The Blue Sky Animation title should rake in $16M-$17M over five days, bringing its total through four weekends to $120M. ...

The question here is how the animated features perform through the holidays. The trades predict a multiple of four with The Good Dinosaur, which would carry it north of $200 million by the end of it's U.S.-Canadian run.

As for The Peanuts Movie, the Schulz opus will probably land in the $150 million range by the time all the box office receipts are tabulated.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Further Up the Food Chain ...

We'll find Paramount's new offering:

Produced in France and Canada (the better to take advantage of large dollops of Free Money that Canadians like to hand out), the picture has (had?) a budget of $77,500,000. It's already seen successful releases in various overseas markets, many where TLP started the box office run over a year ago.

As you'll note, the picture is part stop motion and part CGI. Cautious producers like to cover their bets. The Little Prince will receive it's North American rollout in March, 2016.

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Niche Player

Lionsgate, which has the number one movie at the global box office, is going with a cartoon produced by Splash in mid January (after Katniss Everdeen wears out her welcome).

Lionsgate, known for the HG franchise and some edgy live-action TV shows, is distributing this Splash Entertainment feature, much of which has been produced in India.

Splash Entertainment, if you don't know, is headquartered out in Warner Center, where the Brothers Warner used to make a lot of Westerns eighty years ago. It's owned and operated by Mike and Liz Young, who have mostly focused on TV animation but make occasional forays into theatrical animation (Clifford the Big Red Dog). Before it was called Splash Entertainment, the name was MoonScoop and co-owned by a French company, and before MoonScoop the handle was Mike Young Productions.

Norm was produced in India for what looks to be a not-excessive amount of money; with luck it will get some traction at the global box office and make its creators (and Lionsgate) some money. But I doubt it will make anyone forget Zootopia.

There will be two shorter followup features after the eighty-six minute theatrical, so it looks like NoN is being platformed to aid and abet the sequels. It could be a shrewd move making a whacky animal feature tied to the snow-swept polar region, particularly if the budget is right. We will probably find out how this offering does in relatively short order.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015


The Mouse unveils some internet bells and whistles in Britain.

... Be prepared to part with £9.99 a month, as DisneyLife has just launched in the UK.

In this age of streaming services, one of the biggest movie and TV companies in the world has decided it doesn’t want to miss out, and so DisneyLife has been created.

Disney has rolled out its direct-to-consumer streaming service in the United Kingdom, offering more than 2,000 TV episodes and 5,000 music tracks, ahead of a wider worldwide push.

This includes animation classics like The Jungle Book, live-action features like the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and Pixar’s own back catalogue. ...

Our fine entertainment conglomerates find new and exciting ways to squeeze money from content via the internet. New Media, baby! And lots of it!

The big companies tell unions and guilds that this internet delivery thing continues to be dodgy, and who knows if there's any money in it?

But that is less and less true all the time. There was a lively discussion at tonight's General Membership meeting about animated shows are increasingly delivered online, and how Disney, DreamWorks and the rest of the gang get a wage break for New Media productions. Weekly paychecks are holding up (kind of) because the animation job market is tight, but that can always change in two or three heartbeats.

The internet is going to be fought about by the conglomerates and unions during the next contract negotiation. Count on it.

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Out In the Studios

Today was a visit to a cartoon landmark ...

... the old Bob Clampett Studio on Seward Street, where the animated version of Beany and Cecil was made five and a half decades ago. ...

The Warner Animation Group has a unit in the building working on Lego sequels. As one of the board artists told me:

We've been working on three different pictures. Phil Lord and Chris Miller are writing one of them. Warners is in the Lego sequel businessbig time. We'll be working on these movies for the next few years. ...

The story artists are situated in the basement of the building, in a large bright open space with both a slide and stairs providing access from the first floor, where execs and administration are located. I asked which artists used the slide to come downstairs, and was told "younger ones."

Warners now has clusters of animation work in Hollywood, in the old NBC studios (now a rental lot) in Burbank, at the Warner ranch on Hollywood Way, also on the Warners live-action lot in a multi-story building, where the Warners Animation Group occupies two floors. This is a huge change in the Warner animation presence in the mid-eighties, when the company had a small office in Toluca Lake in a medical building, and very little else.

But then, when you produce and release a forty-million-dollar animated feature that grosses almost half a billion in the world marketplace, your enthusiasm for cartoon tends to grow.

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Awards Season

The Art Directors Guild hands out some trophies.

The Art Directors Guild has announced three recipients for its 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award. William J. Newmon II, Hollywood’s first African-American set designer, will be honored along with Oscar-nominated matte artist Harrison Ellenshaw and scenic artist Bill Anderson. ...

Starting his career at NBC as a stock scenery draftsman, Newmon later was hired at Disney to set design The Apple Dumpling Gang and The Shaggy D.A. His other film credits include 1982’s Poltergeist and Big Top Pee-Wee. ...

Ellenshaw, who produced many of the matte visual effects background for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back at George Lucas’ Industrial Light + Magic, was Oscar-nominated along with his father, Peter Ellenshaw, for the visual effects for The Black Hole. In 1982, the younger Ellenshaw became the first visual effects supervisor to be credited in a film for Tron. ...

Anderson’s backgrounds and mural artistry can be seen in films such as Cleopatra, The Sound of Music, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Fantastic Voyage and Hello, Dolly! ...

I remember Harrison Ellenshaw telling me about doing the Star Wars mattes on a very tight deadline. The last one he did had to be shot and cut into prints of the film the day the movie went out to theaters. No matter how you slice it, that is one tight schedule.

Congrats to ALL the recipients.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Hey, Yesterday!

The journals of entertainment tell us:

Nickelodeon] is developing a new TV movie based on “Hey Arnold!,” the animated series that ran between 1996 and 2004 and focused on a fourth-grader with an oblong noggin who lived with his grandparents in a boarding house. The TV movie will feature a storyline that picks up where the original series ended and resolves unanswered plotlines–including the whereabouts of Arnold’s parents, long missing from the program. Executives at the network declined to offer a specific date for when the new content might be ready or air.

With the revival of “Arnold,” Nickelodeon is formalizing a quest to build part of its future by tilling its past. The network has named Chris Viscardi, co-creator of the classic Nickelodeon series, “The Adventures of Pete & Pete, as its senior vice president of content development for franchise properties – a new role. ...

In truth, ALL of our fine entertainment conglomerates mine their vaults.

Diz Co. is turning all their animated features into new live-action extravaganzas. Warner Bros. Animation has taken a cue from the latest wave of Mickey Mouse shorts and developed Wabbit, using the tried and true story development of artists in a room, pinning gags up on cork boards as fast as they can draw. (Story rom joke sessions! Imagine that!) And Disney TV Animation is producing a reboot of Duck Tales, the series from th '90s that kicked the division into high gear.

Even Jeffrey Katzenberg is asking for drawings pinned up on boards in the classic style when he's watching sequences get pitched. (Digital story boards only take you so far.)

But for Nick, the all-new, all CG approach didn't work all that well. Kids don't care if their television cartoons are hand-drawn or computer-generated, and hand-drawn is less expensive. Plus there is no reason not to re-imagine the animated half-hours that put Nick on the map. Everything old can be new again.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Giving It Away

Actors audition for free, and animation studios often ask industry artists to do a test of 2-6 days in length. The reason studios give is "to see if the artist's style fits the show."
So this:

One of the major (and constant) complaints of storyboard and design artists is animation studios wanting lots of drawing done before hiring "to see if they are right" for the demands of the offered show. There have been gripes about this practice for more than a dozen years.

The practice goes back far longer than that. In the early thirties Disney made potential new-hires work gratis and in-house for a couple of weeks to see if they had the chops to do Mickey and Silly Symphony cartoons. This practice faded after studios unionized, but has long-since come back.

The Animation Guild pushed multiple proposals during the last two negotiation cycles to limit the complexity and length of tests. Four years ago the negotiation committee worked until the small hours of the morning trying to get the producers to agree to new contract language that would limit storyboard, layout and design tests. (In the end, no agreement on tests was reached.)

As we begin the first year of a new collective bargaining agreement, the issue of free testing has diminished due to the tight job market for experienced professionals. Still, the subject remains contentious, and TAG's executive board continues to ask members to report excessive testing. A majority of the board thinks that the issue can be handled internally; few directors or supervisors want to use precious time to review long tests. Most believe it's a waste of their time.

We don't think they're wrong.

H/t Trevor Tamboline.

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Your World B.O.

The international movie box office looks remarkably like the domestic office.


Hunger Games -- $146,000,000 -- ($247,025,000)

Spectre -- $65,700,000 -- ($677,802,879)

The Peanuts Movie -- $1,300,000 -- ($108,743,137)

Hotel Transylvania 2 -- $5,800,000 -- ($430,001,741)

The Martian -- $1,800,000 -- ($486,439,442) ...

And the entertinment journal of record informs us:

... Katniss and crew kicked off their final hurrah with a $146M start, on par with 2013’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. ... Spectre continues to pace ahead of Skyfall in some key markets with China adding $12.8M in its 2nd weekend for a $77.8M total. That raced past the previous film’s lifetime total by 32%. ...

With Australia and Korea still on deck, Sony’s Hotel Transylvania 2 added $5.8M this weekend from nearly 5,200 screens in 74 total markets. The international cume has vamped out to $263.6M. ...

Ahead of its China bow this week, Fox’s The Martian from director Ridley Scott landed another $1.94M in 34 markets. That takes the cume to $273.4M internationally. ...

Warner Bros grabbed another $1.7M on the Hugh Jackman-starrer Pan for an international cume to date of $88.8M. ... In its staggered international rollout, the The Peanuts Movie scooped up another $1.31M in 11 territories. The offshore total on the Snoopy & Friends animation is $9.8M. The next markets hit in early December. ...

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Nickelodeon's "Harvey Beaks" signing.


I've never seen the event so packed. Or so large.

The Creative Talent Network exposition has been going for five years now. It started in the main hall of the Marriot, and now occupies the hall, two large tents in the parking lot, and presentations and events in the main hotel. The two long tents out in the parking lot have lots of exhibits ... and two large fans going at the entrances. (I don't think anybody planned for days in the high eighteis and low nineties this far into freaking November, but here we are.) ...

The Animation Guild has manned a booth again this year. I've been there a few hours; Organizer Steve Kaplan has been at the table a LOT of hours. We've gotten asked about the state of the cartoon business, how to break into the cartoon business, how to get a non-union studio to sign a contract. People want to know about pension and health benefits (who would have thought?

There are folks here from all parts of the country, come to check out the exhibits and demonstrations, to watch the lectures and the panels. Last night Disney veterans Jerry Reese, Dan Haskett, Bill Kroyer, Henry Selick, John Musker and Brad Bird held forth about the fun and frivolity in the Rats' Nest, a small rectangle of a room into which they were jammed in Disney's original animation building, way back in the 1970s. (Okay, the original animation building in Burbank. Not the one on Hyperion.)

Reese, Haskett, Kroyer, Selick, Musker, Bird.

Events and exhibits continue today until 5:00 p.m.


I have to echo Steve Hulett's observations of the event .. bigger and better than last year. There were more people attending, more panels to participate in, more exhibitors to meet, and more fun to be had. Once again, I've talked myself hoarse speaking about the Guild and what we do in the industry.

Many students appreciated hearing about the workplace conditions provided in the contract. Almost as much as they appreciated taking a copy of the wage survey and hearing about 'going rates' and our Job Email Archive. Members came by to say hello, and ask questions about MPI or clarify concerns about various studio matters.

Training programs came by to learn how to participate in the CSATTF Skills Training Grant, and the founder of the Zerply network wants to reach out to members and make themselves known to our group.

All in all, another fine year that regularly highlighted reasons we continue to sit in the exhibit hall and espouse what we do and for whom we do it.

- Steve K

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Your American Box Office

With JLaw on top ... to nobody's surprise.


1). The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (LGF), 4,175 theaters / $46.2M Fri.* / 3-day cume: $104M /Wk 1
*includes $16M in previews

2). Spectre (SONY), 3,659 theaters (-270)/ $4.3M Fri. (-57%) /3-day cume: $14.3M (-58%)/ Total cume: $153.4M /Wk 3

3). The Peanuts Movie (FOX), 3,671 theaters (-231)/ $2.9M Fri. (-48%)/3-day cume: $12.6M (-48%)/Total cume: $98.6M /Wk 3

4). The Night Before (SONY), 2,960, theaters / $3.55M Fri. **/ 3-day cume: $10M /Wk 1
*includes $550K in previews

5). Secret In Their Eyes (STX), 2,392, theaters / $2.3M Fri. +/ 3-day cume: $6.9M /Wk 1
+includes $170K in previews

6). Love The Coopers (LGF), 2,603 theaters (0)/ $1.17M Fri. (-58%) / 3-day cume: $3.9M (-53%) /Total cume: $14.9M /Wk 2

7). The Martian (FOX), 2,086 theaters (-702) / $1M Fri. (-47%)/ 3-day cume: $3.6M (-46%)/ Total cume: $212.9M / Wk 8

8). Spotlight (OPRD), 598 theaters (+538) / $1M Fri. (+161%)/3-day cume: $3.4M (+152%) / Total cume: $5.7M /Wk 3

9). The 33 (WB), 2,452 theaters (0)/ $686K Fri. (-63%) / 3-day cume: $2.3M (-60%) /Total cume: $9.9M /Wk 2

10). Bridge of Spies (DIS), 1,532 theaters (-1,156) / $555K Fri. (-56%)/3-day cume: $1.9M (-55%)/Total cume: $65.1M /Wk 6

If you're wondering, Hotel Transylvania 2 has dropped a ways down the box office list and now holds on to 828 screens across the fruited plain. Domestically, it's raked in $165,786,741 to become one of Sony's top grossers in 2015.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

What Ed Said

An entertainment journal does a lengthy question and answer with Dr. Catmull, including:

... How much pressure [does Pixar] get from Disney to make more sequels?

Some people don't believe this: They don't give us any pressure and they don't pick any of the films. ...

Two Pixar directors, Andrew Stanton (John Carter) and Brad Bird (Tomorrowland), have made expensive live-action flops for Disney. Will there be reluctance to draft Pixar filmmakers for these big Disney projects?

It's not that we "draft" people into live action. These are two people who've been extraordinary here and they love live action, so that just is what it is.

Disney is now making live-action remakes of its classic animated movies. Would you endorse a Pixar film being remade?

It has never come up. So I haven't even thought about it. We're not involved in that. ...

In the beginning, Pixar paid artists with production experience, particularly story artists, top dollar. The company needed to pay a premium to entice a seasoned crew into leaving Southern California and moving north to work on movies for a small, barely-known animation studio. But when Pixar matured, making hit movies and building its reputation and culture, it stopped using so many artists from Southern California, and stopped paying top dollar.

Because it no longer had to.

A couple of days ago, a former Pixar staffer communicated that he had been making 30% less up in Emeryville than at an L.A. signator studio, even woking at contract minimums.

I answered that the "Pixar discount" he was telling me about stands to reason, since they've

1) Never had a collective bargaining agreement for artists and technicians that drives pay upward, and

2) No longer need to shell out high wages, because people are happy to work at Pixar for less, just to gain the experience.

When you're a red hot cartoon studio with leverage, you use the leverage.

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Series Wraps

A Disney TVA show reaches its finish.

Disney XD’s mystery toon “Gravity Falls” will end with an hourlong episode expected to air early next year.

Series creator/exec producer Alex Hirsch announced via a Tumblr post his decision to bring the story to a close after 40 half-hour episodes and 17 shorts. Hirsch said he had always envisioned the mystery coming to a close on a specific timetable. The series’ penultimate episode, “Weirdmageddon Part 2: Escape From Reality,” is set to bow Monday.

“The first thing to know is that the show isn’t being cancelled — it’s being finished. This is 100% my choice, and its something I decided on a very long time ago,” Hirsch wrote. “I always designed Gravity Falls to be a finite series about one epic summer- a series with a beginning, middle, and end. ...

While Gravity Falls wends its way to a conclusion, we're aware of another Disney cartoon series that's ending. Unfortunately, since its wrap-up hasn't been announced, and because I'm in too delicate a condition to be snarled at on the phone by a Disney administrator, will let the other ending reveal itself in the fullness of time.

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TAG at CTN 2015!

The Animation Guild is happy to be attending the CTN Animation Expo this weekend at the Burbank Marriott Hotel. For the sixth year in a row, we look forward to speaking with animation professionals and enthusiasts, sharing how we strive to keep the benefits and workplace conditions in the animation industry the best they possibly can be.

If you're planning to attend, be sure to stop by table T046 in Exhibit Hall A, which is located at the lower right corner of the room as you walk in from the front. We are fortunate to be placed near our CSATTF training partner the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Out of the Shadows

Another live-action director visits Cartoonland. (Usually it's the other way around).

In what will be his first fully animated feature debut, Shaun Of The Dead director [Edgar Wright] is taking on DreamWorks Animation’s shadowy pic. The Jeffrey Katzenberg-run toon studio announced today that Edgar Wright will helm and co-write a as yet-untitled feature “centered on the concept of shadows.” ...

This effort co-written by David Walliams is not a revamping on the long-on-hold Me & My Shadow feature, sources say, but something entirely original dealing with a the same basic concept. “Edgar will spearhead a new approach to this fascinating concept, and we’re ecstatic to have him onboard as director along with David as co-writer,” DreamWorks Animation’s Co-Presidents of Feature Animation Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria said Thursday. ...

The trend of having live-action helmers try their hand at animation kind of started with Gore Verbinski and Rango. Rob Minkoff started in animated features as an animator, then became a feature director on Lion King, and then moved on to a variety of live-action films. He returned to his roots with Mr. Peabody and Sherman, but has since moved on to more live-action.

There was a time when I was dubious about live-action directors slumming in the sun-kissed uplands of animation, but as live-action becomes more like cartoons, and vice-versa, I don't think the gaps between the two types of movies is nearly as wide. So good luck to Mr. Wright. So best of luck to him.

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MacFarlane Award

From an entertainment journal.

Seth MacFarlane has been set to receive the WGA West Animation Writers Caucus’ 2015 Animation Writing Award. It’s a lifetime achievement honor for MacFarlane, and will be bestowed tonight in a ceremony at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. He follows Len Uhley, who won the award last year, and The Simpsons‘ Sam Simon the year before. ...

Gold trophies are always nice. Our congratulations to Seth, who of course started his career as a board artist on early Cartoon Network shows.

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Altered Movies

Den of Geek puts up a piece on animated features that changed a lot.

10 Animated Films That Underwent Big Mid-Production Changes

The Black Cauldron

...The film was already in the works when Jeffrey Katzenberg - who now heads up DreamWorks Animation - was appointed studio head in 1984. It was already shaping up to be the most expensive animated movie of all time, and yet Katzenberg didn't like what he saw. The film has, even in its released version, a far more sinister edge than most Disney material (that's some understatement), and with its release planned for 1985, Katzenberg ordered some hefty cuts to be made to the film.

Among the excised material was much of the undead Cauldron Born, a partially naked Princess Eilonwy, and the slaying of people with a magic sword. ...

Nakedness and dead people were the least of the problems.

Vance Gerry, one of the great Disney story artists, created wonderful early storyboards for the Cauldron, but the directors and producer decided to go in a different, darker direction and the picture took an unhappy turn. (Find details here). The young story crew that started the picture was, sequence by sequence, removed from the picture, and replaced with another more to producer Joe Hale's liking.

But this sort of thing is old news in the movie business. First ... or second ... or third story passes often fail to make it to the screen. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes not. What's important to keep in mind, particularly when reading the above: there have been few big-budget animated features that didn't go through wrenching alterations during the course of production, from Pinocchio and Snow White straight through to today. (Good Dinosaur had big changes? Well hey. So did the cartoon version of The Jungle Book. Story artist Bill Peet wanted JB to go one direction, Walt Disney wanted another. Walt won.)

What I would like to see is some first-hand, no-holds-barred accounts of what really went on in various story sessions. Sadly, for a lot of features made far back in the twentieth century, the true and gritty stories of their creation are now lost.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Challenges of The Peanuts Movie

A fine entertainment journal interviews two Blue Sky animation supes.

Supervisors Nick Bruno and Scott Carroll talk to David Cohen about why the classic “Peanuts” look proved a wee bit complicated in CG, and mucked up the computer graphics pipeline of “The Peanuts Movie.”

(The animators at Bill Melendez Productions had it easier. They animated with pencils a comic book character drawn with pencils. Much easier match.)

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My Big Money

One more long-form animated movie:

Hasbro and Lionsgate has announced that My Little Pony The Movie will trot into theaters on November 3, 2017. At this point in time, My Little Pony will face off with the Disney/Marvel sequel Thor: Ragnarok. ...

It's good to understand why there's interest in doing a theatrical version of the franchise:

My Little Pony toys and accessories rake in $650M annually.

Hasbro credited My Little Pony as driving their 2014 girls’ sales by 2% to a $1.02B figure. The last big screen My Little Pony film was in 1986 and it grossed $6M. Danny DeVito, Tony Randall, Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn were among those providing voices.

Are corporate motives clear to you now?

The first MLP, now thirty years distant, came at a time when feature animation was in flux. Disney had floundered after the dull thud made by The Black Cauldron soon after a major management change. At the time, the costly flop from the House of Mouse was overshadowed by Nelvana-produced The Care Bears Movie, which was created on a shoe-string budget and made $34 million. And the feature was produced to ... let's face the realty fearlessly ... boost sales of kids' toys. Disney newbies Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg weren't even sure it was a good idea to continue doing animation stateside, given the profit margin of Bears compared to Cauldron.

So consider My Little Pony, the New Generation as a throwback to that glorious era when animated features not produced by Disney were ninety-minute ads for toy lines. And that the era will soon come again.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Newer Adult Swim Series!

A corporate press release informs us:

Adult Swim, basic cable's #1 network, has greenlit Dream Corp, LLC., a new animated comedy series from creator Daniel Stessen (The Gold Sparrow) and executive produced by both American and British The Office alums, John Krasinski and Stephan Merchant, as well as Krasinski's Sunday Night partner Allyson Seeger. ...

The first Adult Swim original series to utilize the latest rotoscope technology, Dream Corp, LLC. will be an innovative standout in the current animation landscape. Each week viewers will watch as a rotating cast of desperate patients have their dreams recorded and analyzed by Dream Corp's absent-minded professor, Dr. Roberts (Jon Gries), and his team of unremarkable scientists. The new series is set to start production in Los Angeles, CA later this year. ...

This will be interesting.

Word reaches us that various branches of the Turner/Time-Warner empire want to do more animation, and more animation in Los Angeles. Though Adult Swim is owned by one of our fine, entertainment conglomerates, the Top Dog of the division likes many of the animated shows to be non-Guild. That being the case, TAG has to gallop out and organize them, (Rick and Morty being a recent example.)

Dream Corp, LLC may or many not come under the union umbrella, but as more and more animated shows get produced for cable and new media in L.A., the ranks of experienced animation writers and artists gets stretched thin. And it becomes harder and harder for non-Guild outfits to field needed talent without a TAG contract.

So here's to more animation work. Also, too, more guild productions under spanking new TAG contracts.

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Lion King Record

The hit feature birthed a hit stage production, which in turn has now hit a new milestone.

Disney’s blockbuster The Lion King passed Cats last week to become the third-longest-running show in Broadway history. But Disney’s claim that a new ad for the show represented a first in 360-degree promotion had Cats master Andrew Lloyd Webber well, baring his claws.

On Wednesday morning, Disney is planning to unveil a virtual reality clip of The Lion King‘s famous “Circle Of Life” opening number, noting that it’s the first time the technology has been used inside a Broadway theater. “The 360-degree footage has been compiled to create the first-ever virtual reality experience of a theatrical production number captured exactly as it is seen onstage,” according to Disney.

Have you no memory, asks Lord Lloyd Webber. Just last month his new show, School Of Rock, released its own 360-degree promo, the song “You’re In The Band” from the musical. OK, so it wasn’t shot in the theater, it was shot in a genuine New York City classroom. ...

THe point here isn't which Broadway hit was Numero Uno with the cool new technology (like who really cares), but that Disney animated features have a dandy track record when they morph into stage musicals. Not every one is a monster hit, but most seem to be nicely profitable.

And if they're still-born as Broadway shows, they can get re-tooled as a "Disney on Ice" presentation, no?

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History of an Animation Startup

New animation studios happen from time to time. Pixar. DreamWorks Animation. And this one.

... For relative peanuts (at least compared to the price of acquiring a fully fledged toon studio), Universal underwrote the launch of Illumination Entertainment, which started with just two employees — Chris Meledandri and Kelly Martin, who had been Meledandri's executive assistant at Fox — and has since grown to more than 700, thanks to a successful partnership with Paris-based animation outfit Mac Guff. ...

Meledandri makes it a habit to share ideas for possible upcoming projects with Universal honchos Donna Langley and Jeff Shell at a very early stage. “Part of our strategy has always been to keep a very low ratio of developed projects to produced projects, which helps us to stay very focused on where we spend our resources,” Meledandri says. ...

When Illumination Entertainment began, it used a production process used often in television animation but seldom with its theatrical cousin. Illumination developed its movies in Los Angeles (often with moonlighting Disney and DreamWorks artists) and did the production overseas.

But it didn't use the traditional low-rent studios of India, Malaysia or the Philippines. It employed the MacGUFF animation studio in Paris. And with Despicable Me, MacGUFF and Illumination produced itself a hit right out of the box.

Illumination focuses on keeping its budgets in check and putting as much value as possible up on the screen. All of its animated features have been made at budgets below $80 million, which make them half as expensive as the DreamWorks Animation and Pixar product. To date, the lower budgets haven't impacted Illumination Entertainment's bottom line in the least. All of the company's animated features have made money, which has led Illumination Entertainment to buy MacGuff outright.

IE has upended old feature animation business models and gone on to produce hit after hit. It's become a force and influence in theatrical cartoons, and that influence will likely continue to grow. Where the number of successful theatrical animation bosses could be counted on two fingers (Lasseter and Katzenberg), three digits are now required.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

The President Emeritus Presents November's History Cavalcade

Time once again for Professor Tom Sito's Month in Animation (with, as is the custom, other things).


Nov. 1, 1968- To replace the outmoded Hays Production Code, the Motion Picture Ratings System is introduced- G, M, R, and X- Later PG, PG-13, and NC-17 replaced X.

Nov. 2, 2001- Pixar’s Monsters Inc. opens.

Nov. 2, 2012- Walt Disney’s Wreck-it Ralph premieres.

Nov. 3, 1977- Disney's original version of Pete's Dragon starring Helen Reddy and Red Buttons hits America's screens.

Nov. 3, 1981- WALLY WOOD was one of the most influential cartoonists of the 1950’s and 60’s. His amazing versatility enabled him to draw everything from superhero comics to very cartoony to playfully naughty comics like Sally Forth. He drew EC Comics, the Mars Attacks series, Mad Magazine, Weird Science, THUNDER Agents and much more. He had done an infamous drawing of the Disney characters having sex that brought down upon him the wrath of the Disney legal dept.

But hard living and deadlines took their toll. Suffering from a stroke, and failing kidneys, Wally Wood put a 44 cal pistol to his right temple and pulled the trigger. On this day police find his remains.

Nov. 5, 1937- Walt Disney's silly symphony The Old Mill debuts. The first film featuring the multiplane camera technique. (Snow White has its world premiere a month later.)

Nov. 5, 2004- Pixar's The Incredibles premieres. ...

Nov. 8, 1966- Doctors at St. Joseph's hospital remove one of Walt Disney’s cancerous lungs and discover the cancer has spread to his lymph nodes. They determine he does not have long to live.

Nov. 8, 1973- Walt Disney’s animated Robin Hood premieres.

Nov. 9, 2004- Mozilla-Firefox starts up.

Nov. 10, 1950- Paramount's "Mice Meeting You" The first Herman and Katnip cartoon.

Nov. 10, 1953- Disney’s short Toot Whistle, Plunk and Boom is released. Legend has it Walt was abroad when Ward Kimball pushed this experiment in the UPA style to completion. When Walt first sees it, the short is without credits. He turns to Kimball and says, “Aren’t you glad we don’t do crap like that?”

TWPaB wins an Oscar.

Nov. 10. 1969- The children’s education show SESAME STREET premieres on PBS TV. The world is introduced to Bert & Ernie, Cookie Monster, Grover, Big Bird and Mr Hooper. And SS employs a lot of animators.

Nov. 11, 1978- The renovated Hollywood Sign is unveiled. The second O was paid for by rock star Alice Cooper in memory of his idol, Groucho Marx.

Nov. 11, 1992- Premiere of Walt Disney’s Aladdin.

Nov 12, 1937- Alan Turing delivers his famous paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem" at Kings College, Cambridge.

In it he postulates on the ability to create a "universal machine" that uses numbers to solve problems and could be re-programable for different tasks. In his day they were called Turing Machines, but we know them now as Computers.

Nov. 12, 1946- Walt Disney's "Song of the South" .

Nov. 13,1940- Walt Disney's 'Fantasia' premiered. As Walt put it, "This'll make Beethoven!" Frank Lloyd

Wright's opinion was 'I love the visuals, but why did you use all that old music?"

Nov. 13, 1971- Walt Disney’s The Aristocats opened.

Nov. 13, 1978- Mickey Mouse got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Nov. 13, 1986- Directors John Huston and Woody Allen join Martin Scorcese to denounce the fad promoted by Ted Turner of computer-colorizing classic Black & White films like the Maltese Falcon.

Nov. 13, 1991- Disney's animated film Beauty and the Beast opens, the first animated film ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

Nov. 14, 1922- Happy Birthday B.B.C., the British Broadcasting Companies first radio service 2LO goes on the air with general election results.

Nov. 14, 1967- Jack Warner, the last surviving Warner Brother, sells out his stake of Warner Bros and it’s huge film library to a Canadian company called Seven Arts.

Nov, 14, 1998- Pixar's A Bugs Life premieres.

Nov. 15, 1881- The American Federation of Labor AF of L formed under the leadership of former cigar-maker Samuel Gompers. In 1951 they merge with the CIO.

Nov. 15, 1907- The comic strip Mutt & Jeff debuts. The strip was so popular that it’s creator Harry “Bud“ Fisher becomes a celebrity and negotiats the first large backend deal. He builds an animation studio, but spends all the profits on partying with showgirls.

Nov. 15, 1920- The League of Nations holds its first meeting in Geneva.

Nov. 15, 1926- FIRST NETWORK BROADCAST- NBC hooks up 20 cities across America and Canada for a radio program "The Steinway Hour" with Arthur Rubinstein.

Nov. 15, 1934- Animator Bill Tytla starts work at Walt Disney's on a trial basis for $150 a week. He would create Grumpy the Dwarf, The Devil in Fantasia and the little elephant Dumbo.

Nov. 15, 1965- Walt Disney announces he plans to build a second Disneyland, this time in Orlando Florida.

Nov. 15, 1989- Walt Disney Productions' The Little Mermaid debuts.

Nov. 16, 1946- The Television Academy of Arts and Sciences founded. Fred Allen once said: "We call television a Medium because nothing on it is Rare or Well Done."

Nov. 16, 1952- The first time in a "Peanuts" comic strip where Lucy pulls away the football as Charlie Brown is attempting to kick it.

Nov. 16, 1960- CLARK GABLE DIES- The 59-year-old star had just completed the film The Misfits, a film in which director John Huston demanded a great deal of physical exertion. He had told his agent that the unprofessional antics of his moody co-star Marilyn Monroe had driven him so nuts “ That dame is going to give me a heart attack!”

Gable had one after shooting, and on this day while convalescing in Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital reading a magazine, a second heart attack kills him. He writes his own epitaph, but it's never used: "Oh Well, Back to Silents."

Nov. 16, 1990- Disney’s feature film The Rescuers Down Under premieres. The first traditionally animated film to be painted digitally on computer instead of acetate cels and paints.

Nov. 17, 1978- "The Star Wars Holiday Special", a two-hour variety show on CBS, with Harrison Ford, Beatrice Arthur and Nelvanas animated cartoon.

Nov 17, 1989- Don Bluth's animated film "All Dogs Go to Heaven." premiered.

Nov. 17,1993- The US Congress votes for the free trade, job-killing bill called NAFTA.

Nov. 18,1902- THE TEDDY BEAR BORN - The Washington Evening Star published a story of how

President Teddy Roosevelt while hunting couldn't bring himself to shoot a grizzly bear cub. Cartoonist Cliff Berryman illustrated the incident with one of his signature “dingbat” bear cubs in a gesture of “oh no!” Brooklyn toymaker Morris Mitchcom sewed a doll from the illustration in the newspaper and sent the first one to the White House.

Nov. 18, 1928- HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICKEY MOUSE- At Universal’s Colony Theater in New York, Walt Disney’s cartoon "Steamboat Willie" debuts before a movie called Gang War It's the first major sound cartoon success and the official birth of Mickey Mouse. Two earlier silent Mickey's had been done, but they're held back when the sound experiment goes ahead.

Nov. 18, 1985- Bill Watterson’s comic strip Calvin & Hobbs debuted.

Nov. 18, 1988- Disney’s Oliver & Company released.

Nov. 19, 1959- Jay Ward's TV show Rocky and his Friends debuts.

Nov. 19, 2007- Disney’s The Enchanted premieres.

Nov. 21, 2008- Walt Disney’s film Bolt premieres.

Nov. 22, 1888- According to Edgar Rice Burroughs, this is the birthday of the boy who would become Tarzan.

Nov. 22, 1995- Pixar’s Toy Story opens, the first all-CG movie, and the first true CG hit.

Nov. 23, 1952 - Animator Fred Moore, who drew Mickey Mouse in Fantasia and the Brave Little Tailor, dies from injuries incurred in an auto accident in the Big Tujunga Canyon area of Los Angeles. He is 41.

Nov. 23, 1960- The Hollywood Walk of Fame is dedicated, featuring over 1,500 names - but not Charlie Chaplin, who is banned until 1972 because of his alleged lefty political views.

Nov. 24, 1947- THE HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST- 50 Hollywood moguls like Harry Cohn, Jack Warner and Dori Charey meet at the Waldorf Astoria in New York to formulate a group response to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee's anti-commie hearings that are targeting Hollywood. Besides the heat from the feds, their stockholders are clamoring for them to get the Reds out! They agree to enforce an industry-wide blacklisting of anyone refusing to cooperate with the HUAC Committee. Nothing was ever officially written down or published, but if you are blacklisted, you suddenly were unable to find any work.

Nov. 23, 1963- The very first episode of Dr. Who premieres on the BBC TV. (William Hartnell plays the first Dr. Who. There have been eleven doctors since.

Nov. 24, 1999- Pixar's Toy Story 2 in theaters.

Nov. 24, 2010- Disney’s Tangled is released. (The feature is over a decade in the making.)

Nov. 25, 1949- Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, sung by Gene Autry, hits number one on the musical charts.

Nov. 25, 1997- Pixar's A Bug's Life and Geri’s Game premieres.

Nov. 25, 2009 Disney’s Princess and the Frog is released.

Nov. 26, 1939- The first Woody Woodpecker Cartoon, "Knock-Knock.’

Nov. 27, 1924- The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The marvel of the parade were large displays that moved down the street thanks to small automobiles concealed under them. They seemed to "float", so they are called parade floats . The huge balloons were added in 1927. Originally after the parade the balloons were let go to float away into the sky. Macy’s offered a bounty to people who found them after they landed, sometimes in rural New Jersey.

Nov. 27, 1933- Former Terrytoons animator Art Babbitt, now at Walt Disney's, writes to fellow animator Bill Tytla encouraging him to move to California. "Terry owes you a lot and Disney has plans for a full length color cartoon!"

Nov. 27, 1936- Max Fleischer's cartoon featurette, "Popeye meets Sinbad the Sailor".

Nov. 27, 2002- Disney’s “ Treasure Planet” opens.

Nov. 28, 1947- Disney's "Chip and Dale".

Nov. 29, 1915- In the first years of animated films, one artist like Winsor McCay drew everything. This day John Randolph Bray's "Colonel Heeza Liar in Africa" cartoon debuts. Bray adapted Henry Ford's assembly line system to making animation, creating the job positions of layout, background painter, inkers, cel painters, checkers and camera. After 1919 J. R. Bray shifted his studio’s focus from entertainment to technical and training films. Paul Terry, Walter Lantz, Max & Dave Fleischer and Shamus Culhane all got their start at Bray's.

Nov. 29, 1972- Atari introduces Pong, the first mass-marketed interactive game.

Nov. 30, 2003- Roy Disney Jr, the last serving member of the Disney family, is forced to resign from the Walt Disney Company. It was claimed to be the mandatory retirement policy, but more likely he is forced out by the exec he hired to run the company in 1984 - Michael Eisner. So Roy builds a successful grass roots stockholders campaign In 2005 Eisner is compelled to retire. Roy Disney then keeps an emeritus board position until his death in 2009.

[Roy Disney told me he resigned from the board because he had it on good authority that he was going to be pushed out. "I left before they could fire me." -- Steve Hulett]

Birthdays: Steve Ditko, Gustav Tennegren, Osamu Tezuka, Jim Cummings, Ben Sharpsteen, Ed Rehberg, Bram Stoker, William Hogarth, Carl Stalling, Tim Rice, Sue Kroyer, Russell Means, Tracy Morgan, Rodin, Cecil B. DeMille, Shamus Culhane, Edvard Munch, David Brain, Will Ryan, Zhang Yimou, Bill Melendez, Daws Butler, Lorne Michaels, Martin Scorcese, Ted Turner, Chester Gould, Ming Na, Bill Kroyer, Rodney Dangerfield, Terry Gilliam, Scarlett Johanssen, Boris Karloff, Billy Connolly, Charles Schulz, Bruce Lee, Katherine Bigelow, Jon Stewart, Randy Newman, Ridley Scott, Henry Selick.

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After studying the investing thing for awhile, I've come to the conclusion that your best chance of long-term success is to

1) Set up a simple, executable plan (invest in three to four broad-based index funds);

2) Start doing the plan;

3) Don't f*ck up* the Plan.


* Like freaking out at the wrong time and bailing; like changing your mind all of a sudden to chase "hot" returns; like flipping in and out of investments looking for something better; etc.

Barry Ritholtz has some useful thoughts on why we're afraid of the wrong things and how we undermine ourselves: ...

1) Understanding What We Fear -- and Why.

2) Misunderstanding "Risk" -- hurts performance.

3) Recognizing these errors and avoiding them.

* * * * *

NEURO FINANCE -- How Your Brain Interferes with Your Investing

1. Risk Aversion; Herding, Groupthink

2. Optimism Bias

3. Confirmation Bias

4. Expert Opinions

5. Recency Effect

6. Endowment Effect

7. Hindsight Bias

* * * *



5-10 People a year are killed by sharks worldwide annually.

Deaths From Other large predators:

Lions - 100

Elephants - 100

Hippos - 500

Crocodiles - 1,000

Snakes - 50,000.

Dogs - 25,000 (almost all due to rabies). ...

* * * * * *


2010: U.S. noncombatant fatalities from terrorism worldwide = 25

2011: Terror deaths = 8

People who die after being struck by lightning = 29. ...

* * * * *


1) Mis-Managing Losses
2. Excess Trading
3. Lack of Discipline
4. Costs, fees
5. Position Sizing
6. High Turnover = High Taxes
7. Taking profits too soon
8. Leverage
9. Deviating from Strategy (“style drift”)
10. Emotional Decision making
11. Over Confidence
12. Poor Risk to Reward Ratio ...

My take away from the above is, concentrate and manage the important stuff that you can control ... or at least impact.

(Worrying about dying on the next Southwest Airlines flight to Vegas is non-productive, so don't do it -- or do it as little as possible.)

Think long-term about investments.

Ignore the day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year.

You cannot successfully time the market, cannot successfully out-think the market, so it's not a good strategy to try.

Time is your ally. And when you have saved/earned ENOUGH, stop playing the game and shift more of your stash to less risky investments.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Animation's First Modern Turning Point

Not Toy Story (that was the second), but the release of this:

It was released 26 year ago. It was the start of animation's renaissance. ...

And at the moment of its first pitch, studio brass turned it down.

Ron Clements presented Mermaid as one of his ideas for a new feature at an Eisner-Katzenberg "gong show" the summer of '85. The pitch session was in the conference room of the Disney commissary, and almost every animation director and story person was in attendance.

Jeffrey Katzenberg passed. ("Splash is the studio's mermaid picture." ... "We're not doing any more fairy tales." ... etc.)

Ron wouldn't take no for an answer. He sent a longer treatment to Mr. Katzenberg, and Mr. Katzenberg changed his mind. And the rest -- the hiring of Ashman and Mencken, story development, test animation -- unfolded over the next four-plus years ... until the feature was released in November of '89 and changed the course of animation.

It was the first feature to use the CAPs ink-and-paint system (developed by a tiny little northern California company named Pixar).

It was the first animated feature in ages to put songs and musical numbers back into the foreground.

It contained full-bodied characters the audience cared about, and that were funny.

And the feature made a whole lot of money. And the studio ... and ultimately the wider movie industry, began to take animation seriously as a theatrical force.

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The Global B.O.

Pungent. As it generally is.


Spectre -- $152,600,000 -- ($543,800,181)

The Peanuts Movie -- $2,500,000 -- ($90,489,856)

The Martian -- $5,300,000 -- ($477,407,616)

Hotel Transylvania 2 -- $8,900,000 -- ($417,844,692)

Pan -- $3,900,000 -- ($119,331,140)

A plucky entertainment journal reports:

... After crossing $400M globally last week, Hotel Transylvania 2 continues to perform. Halloween is long gone, but this picture, which along with Spectre will be one of Sony’s biggest hits this year, added $8.9M this weekend from 10,150 screens in 77 total markets. The international cume has now reached $252.6M. ...

The Martian continues to cultivate box office wherever it lands. A $5.3M weekend from 3,082 screens in 47 markets blasts the offshore total to $270.5M. This film, from Fox, is on track to best all of Scott’s overseas performances. ...

Spectre grossed a phenomenal $152.6M in its 3rd overseas outing. That’s 30% up on last week and largely down to the addition of China, Korea and Australia. In total, Spectre added 14 markets. ...

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Lou Scheimer's Digs For Sale

The late Lou Scheimer, founder of the late Filmation, had his house placed on the market two weeks back:

4 Beds/5 Baths on 5,500 sqft on a total lot size of 2.88 acres built in 1972 in Tarzana available for $5.5 million on November 2, 2015. This home was designed by Dion Neutra, the son of legendary architect, Richard Neutra. ...

Scheimer commissioned Neutra to build this home and therefore it's the first time on the market. So you have the son of the greatest architect and a legend behind cartoons and I am just foaming at the mouth wishing I could buy this home although the $1K per square foot price tag is not helping one bit. ...

I visited Lou's expansive pad, high atop the Hollywood Hills, exactly twice. I was there to interview Mr. Scheimer for a podcast, but he was too ill at the time to talk at any length. I did however, get a tour of his residence.

The house is a one-of-a-kind architectural wonder. I saw the rooms upstairs and down, the expansive views out the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and my mouth was continually agape. Make sure you click on the link above to see more photographs of the place.

Thanks to Jeff Massie for tipping us off about the house being on the market.

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Your American Box Office

The numbers according to the entertainment journal of record.


1). Spectre (SONY), 3,929 theaters (0)/ $10.2M Fri. (-63%) /3-day cume: $33.9M (-52%)/ Total cume: $129.2M /Wk 2

2). The Peanuts Movie (FOX), 3,902 theaters (+5)/ $5.6M Fri. (-54%)/3-day cume: $23.9M (-46%)/Total cume: $82.1M /Wk 2

3). Love The Coopers (LGF), 2,603 theaters / $2.8M Fri. / 3-day cume: $8.4M /Wk 1

4). The Martian (FOX), 2,788 theaters (-67) / $1.9M Fri. (-26%)/ 3-day cume: $6.7M (-26%)/ Total cume: $207.4M / Wk 7

5). The 33 (WB), 2,452 theaters / $1.8M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5.6M /Wk 1

6). Goosebumps (SONY), 2,805 theaters (-246) / $1.1M Fri. (-33%)/ 3-day cume: $4.6M (-32%)/Total cume: $73.4M /Wk 5

7). Bridge of Spies (DIS), 2,688 theaters (-79) / $1.3M Fri. (-28%)/3-day cume: $4.3M (-26%)/Total cume: $61.7M /Wk 5

8). Hotel Transylvania 2 (SONY), 1,834 theaters (-440) / $515K Fri. (-36%)/3-day cume: $2.3M (-36%) / Total cume: $165.2M /Wk 8

9). Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (FIP), 286 theaters / $698K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.25M /Wk 1

10). My All American (AVI), 1,479 theaters / $519K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.5M /Wk 1

The Peanuts Movie drops 46 percent but still comes in at #2. It'll be north of $80 million by Sunday night.

Box Office Mojo compares The Peanuts Movie to Wreck-It-Ralph, another animated feature tha opened against James Bond. Turns out Wreck It made $68 million its opening week, while Charlie Brown and Company collected $63 million.

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Friday, November 13, 2015


We received word that Warners Animation Group (otherwise known as WAG) and located on Warner's Burbank lot in a multi-story building, is purchasing newer computer equipment and looking to expand. As of now, they have multiple projects in development, also this ....

...In a roundtable discussion with Polygon, Advenutre Time executive producer Adam Muto downplayed the ‘official’ nature of the film but was quick to point out that the film is still “in the works.” He also told Polygon that the film would essentially happen once creator Pendleton Ward finds the right story to tell: “[Series creator Pendleton Ward] is working on the premise of it.” ...

Adventure Time began life as a Fred Seibert/Nickelodeon project -- one of the myriad shorts developed at Nick in the great line ago.

At the time of it initial production, AT was not picked up for a series order. The short ultimately went into turnaround, and then picked up by Cartoon Network.

Where it turned into a major TV hit. Last March, development for a large screen version commenced; shortly thereafter the feature version dropped off our radar. But we're happy to see the project was simply hibernating, not dying a quick death.

It may yet see the inside of an AMC movie theater near YOU.

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Early Review

... of the next major animated feature.

Serving up a sweet tale of interspecies friendship and a stunning prehistoric vision of the American Northwest, “The Good Dinosaur” is easily one of the great landscape films of 2015, even if what unfolds against that landscape isn’t always as captivatingly rendered. Pixar’s 16th animated feature centers around a boy-and-his-beast dynamic that will strike some of the same audience chords DreamWorks did with “How to Train Your Dragon,” albeit with a crucial reversal of perspective this time around. That largely successful gambit turns out to be the boldest stroke in a picture that, for all its signature visual artistry, falls back surprisingly often on familiar, kid-friendly lessons and chatty anthropomorphic humor. Clever and cloying by turns, it’s a movie that always seems to be trying to evolve beyond its conventional trappings, and not succeeding as often as Pixar devotees have come to expect. ...

Other reviews I've seen to date are positive but not ecstatic for the latest Pixar offering.

The Good Dinosaur opens Wednesday, November 25. Business will likely be brisk.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Happiest Place In the Middle Kingdom

... happens this spring.

... The Disney Shanghai Resort, which takes up about a fifth of the Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone, is less than half an hour by car from the financial district of China’s wealthiest and most populous city, but it feels like a kingdom all its own. Six square miles of the zone are vacant, set aside by Chinese authorities as part of a decades-long plan to draw tourists here. ...

Disney Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger has called it the greatest opportunity the company has had since Walt Disney himself bought land in Central Florida in the 1960s. ...

Disney’s local partner -- the state-owned Shanghai Shendi Group, which will own 57 percent of the resort and contribute about $2.1 billion of the equity -- is under pressure to get it right, too, after China’s long orgy of real estate speculation. ... Disney, betting on China’s rising middle class with its largest foreign investment ever, has a lot of competition.

On the other side of the Huangpu River from Disney’s resort, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and its local partners are building the $2.4 billion Shanghai Dream Center. Scheduled to open in late 2017, it will feature an animation studio, live performance venues and an attraction tentatively called the Kung Fu Panda Experience. ...

A lot of entertainment companies are betting big that China will keep growing ... and continue contributing to their bottom lines. It's a lot about theme parks, but Disney, DreamWorks and others have their eyes on China's domest movie market too.

Everybody has learned, as Disney did decades ago, that theme parks, movies and shelves full of toys, games and action figures are all slices of the same huge pie, all of the lucrative and each one interlocking with the others. A hit animated motion pictures triggers the building of an amusement park attraction, and high mounds of high-margin merchandise.

They don't call it "synergy" for nothing.

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This Day, 1946

Song of the South was released.

I saw it multiple times as a kid, and the racism sailed right over my pointy little head.

But you know? This was mainstream stuff in the middle forties. And far milder than Gone With the Wind, which Time-Warner has kept in continuous circulation without apology, even as Diz Co. keeps its film with Hattie McDaniel off the American market.

Movies, all movies, are the products of the time in which they are created. It's important to remember that. Even Charlie Chaplin concocted gags that now make many people cringe. But we need to remember the context of the era in which Chaplin ... and all other filmmakers ... existed.

Thanks for the reminder, President Emeritus Sito.

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Film Roman Purchase

This has been in the offing for some time:

Waterman Entertainment has bought Film Roman — best known as the source animator for “The Simpsons” — for an undisclosed price from Starz Media.

Waterman is headed by Steve Waterman, who has exec producer credits on “Stuart Little” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”

Film Roman’s Dana Booton has been promoted from general manager to president of production and will continue to oversee the day-to-day business of the company, in addition to her new responsibilities of managing co-productions and development.

Additionally, founder Phil Roman is returning as chairman emeritus, serving in an advisory capacity and working closely with Booton, Waterman and the development team on the creative vision for the company and its subsequent projects. ...

This purchase has been known to FR staffers and TAG for a while. Word circulated weeks ago to Simpsoins crew members. Our information is that there will be other changes down the line, but (so far) announcements have not materialized in the press.

However, this press release clarifies the context for the Facebook photograph showing Phil Roman standing next to the Film Roman sign on Hollywood Way. That photograph has been up for a few weeks, without a lot of attached information.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Animated Feature of the WB

Warner Bros. Animation rolls out a new Dark Knight saga.

Take pieces of Batman: RIP, stir in bits of Batman Inc. and a pinch of Batman and Robin, and you've got a semblance of WB's latest offering.

Batman Bad Blood is directed by Warners' veteran Jay Oliva. And as a young, hardcore fan of superheroes told me recently, "Marvel has the best live-action super-heroes, but Warners Animation does the best animated super heroes. By far."

A connoisseur has spoken.

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The Unending Siren Call of Free Money

Far to our south, New Zealand movie production is having a very good year.

... The New Zealand film and TV business is thriving even without its signature [Tolkien] franchise, turning the land that once served as Middle-Earth into a host of brave new worlds.

Despite a dearth of hobbits on set, 2015 has been a record year for international productions. Feature films and TV series alike are lining up to shoot there.

The biggest player in New Zealand’s next phase is Lightstorm Entertainment’s trio of “Avatar” sequels. The original “Avatar” had a local qualifying spend of NZ$362.8 million ($246 million) with incentives worth $35.8 million, but producer Jon Landau says it is more than just the coin that prompted James Cameron and him to return to New Zealand.

“Jim is not going back because of the financial incentives,” Landau says. “It’s part of it, but he is going because of the labor pool and the creative talent that is down there. And I think that says something.” ...

Okay, it's not totally about the subsidies.

But this is a horse laugh. Without the subsidies, does anybody honestly believe the Avatar sequels would be down there? Or lots of other work for that matter. Because there are plenty of other locations waving green stuff under the conglomerates' noses: Canada. London. Georgia. To name but a few.

The underwriting entity, in this case Fox, would pretty much insist that Mr. Cameron go where the moolah is. Because a sound stage is a sound stage is a sound stage. And crews and actors can be imported, as can visual effects wizards.

So of course the money matters, it always does. Did we all just fall off the apple truck?

H/t VFX Soldier, who remarks: "Avatar Producer says its not all about subsidies yet demanded an increase last year or else they would leave."

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Paramount/Viacom's Cartoon Schedule

Story work proceeds on Paramount's Hollywood lot for several animated features, among them:

Monster Trucks, the live-action/CG hybrid that is hauling a $125M price tag, will now premiere on January 13, 2017. Its’s the third release date for the pic which began production in May 2013 as the studio is making sure its marketing ducks are in a row. It originally had a summer 2015 release date, was moved to Christmas 2015, then March 2016.

Other dates: The Little Prince, March 18. 2016; the just announced Sherlock Gnomes, January 12, 2018; SpongeBob SquarePants 3, February 8, 2019; and Amusement Park, March 22, 2019. ...

There have been those who have wondered how committed Viacom is to producing animation. The company has had big success with its Nick unit, and SpongeBob has been a continuing success on the large screen, but what about a fuller slate of films?

This announcement indicates Paramount is serious about staying the course.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Border Town

Now with Add On.

Remember how I quoted a fine trade paper that said: "Bordertown still hasn't found a spot on Fox's schedule?" Down here?

Well, that's changed now. Because Fox tweeted out ...

Just announced! #Bordertown will join the FOX​ Sunday lineup starting JAN 3, 2016! Details:

Bordertown has been in the process of becoming since 2013. Seth MacFarlane, Mark Hentemann, Alex Carter and Dan Vebber are executive producers. The series, of which there are now thirteen half-hour episodes, is produced at Bento Box's North Hollywood studios.

Add On: Creator/exec producer Hentemann recounts how he came up with Bordertown:

“I was racking my brain over what could I do that ‘Family Guy’ or ‘The Simpsons’ or ‘South Park’ hasn’t already done,” he said. “And I immediately knew: the border. What’s interesting to me is that whites are going to become a minority in this country in 2017, a historic shift in the United States demographics. My family growing up my dad told our family’s immigration story a thousand times. My worldview is from the lessons I learned from my father and his father, coming over to the United States and work the four jobs. ...

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One Hit Wonder?

Usually when you have a hit movie, there are plans afoot to soon produce another ... and then another. But other times, not.

... Fox would love “The Peanuts Movie” to become a franchise, but the studio only has the rights to one film and Jean Schulz [Charles Schulz's widow] said she is no rush to produce a sequel. “This one took eight years, so maybe we’ll talk again then." ...


So the question is, why wouldn't Rupert and his troops have the rights to several more? I suppose the answer is, you negotiate what you can negotiate, and hope for the best. Mr.s Schulz appears to have had some leverage.

And now she has more.

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Lawsuit Time

This is kind of a Hollywood ritual: "You stole my idea!"

“Wreck-It Ralph” might be heading for an adaptation from the big screen to the courtroom.

The Walt Disney Company is being sued by a man who claims that the company ripped off his idea for the 2012 animated feature, “Wreck-It Ralph.”

In the suit, filed in a Texas federal court last week, Dyke Robinson claim that “Wreck-It Ralph” infringes on his copyright for his manuscript “Digiland.”

Robinson claims that he submitted his manuscript to Disney in 2012, but that it was turned down by Disney. ...

Funny thing. I've walked through Walt Disney Animation Studios since it was called Disney Feature Animation. And I kept seeing this video game feature in development, titled Joe Jump at the time.

The picture was in development, then on the shelf, then back in development. It had a succession of different story people working on it, and Robert Iger liked the concept. (At the same time, a project that Disney feature veterans were working on fell out of contention. This happens all the time, features come and go.)

I suppose it's physically possible that a manuscript submitted to the Mouse in early 2012 could result in a full-blown feature by November 2, 2012, but since it's never happened in the history of Disney animation, from Snow White to the upcoming Zootopia, I don't think it occurred here.

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TV Hybrids!

Animation-live-action features have long been the rage at your local AMC. Now they're migrating to your local TeeVee.

... Hybrid live-action/animated comedies have emerged as a hot commodity for next season. Fox is throwing its hat into the ring in a big way with a series order to Son Of Zorn, from Last Man On Earth executive producers Phil Lord & Chris Miller and former Wilfred showrunners Reed Agnew and Eli Jorne. The live-action/animated project, toplined by Jason Sudeikis as the voice of Zorn, is set to debut during the 2016-17 season. ...

Son Of Zorn will likely be joined next season by ABC’s Imaginary Friend, a comedy blending live-action and CGI animation from Oscar-winning Disney feature animator Patrick Osborne and The Goldbergs team of Adam F. Goldberg, Happy Madison and Sony Pictures TV. ABC nabbed the project in a very competitive situation with a pilot production order. ...

These half-animated projects are the new hot commodities in television development land. As the Deadline article points out, some animated concepts are boffo in the executive suites and some are not exciting many corporate Vee Pees. Bordertown, a new offering from Seth MacFarlane's shop, has thirtyeen half-hours sitting on the shelf, waiting for a pickup.

Fox Broadcasting doesn't say "yes" to BT, Fox doesn't say "no." Fox just sits on its hands. At least with the thirteen episodes of Murder Police, Fox was decisive. It kicked that series out the door, and the thirteen lonely half-hours continue to sit out in the snow, crying for someone, anyonea, to rescue them.

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