Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Meanwhile, up in the chilly North:

A media workers' union has filed an employment standards complaint against the Vancouver animation studio behind Seth Rogen's latest film, Sausage Party.

The complaint was filed by Unifor Local 2000 on behalf of the non-unionized animators who worked on the film.

It alleges that Nitrogen Studios — which produced the animation for the film — did not pay them for overtime hours spent working on the film.

Jennifer Moreau, vice-president of Unifor Local 2000, said such working conditions are extremely common in the booming Vancouver animation, visual effects (VFX) and video game industries.

"Vancouver has almost become like a sweatshop for these animation companies," Moreau said. "They're shipping all the work up here, because we get the tax credits, but the workers are paying the price." ...

There is always an impulse by companies to reduce costs and maximize profits. It's what companies are chartered to do, after all, within legal limits.

Sometimes corporations do it in smart ways, other times in less-smart ways. Any production-savvy veteran will tell you that when people work seven-day weeks and 12 to 14 hour days, their productivity falls off a metaphorical cliff. I've walked through studios where artists have work fourteen or sixteen days straight, and it's like looking at a mid-season episode of "The Walking Dead". Lots of blank eyes. Lots of slack faces. And there's not a lot of work going on because everyone's frontal lobes shut down day before yesterday.

Overtime pay is designed to discourage companies from overworking employees by making thos additional worked hours costly. Overtime is not simply a clause in a contract or law on a book to enrich employees and impoverish employers. It's designed to give companies incentives to find better, more efficient ways to create a product.

That's why B.C.'s carve-out of o.t. for "technology workers" is short-sighted. It demoralizes workers even as it lowers productivity.

Click here to read entire post

Craft Meeting #3 -- Designers, Layout and Background Artists, Color Stylists

Craft Meeting #3 (at 1105 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank) was called to order by board member Paula Spence at 7 o'clock. The proceedings went as follows: ...

Thumbnail Notes -- Craft Meeting #3

Members were urged to attend the September 27, 2016 General Membership Meeting, as there will be discussion and vote by the membership on TAG's future dues structure. There will also be nominations for board members and officers of the local, and approximately half of the board will be departing, including the Business Representative, President, Recording Secretary and several board members.

There were questions about the duties of officers and board members, also election procedures. The Business Representative described the roles of various Guild officers, who was eligible, and how and when the vote would take place (detailed in TAG's Constitution and by-laws, pp. 10-20).

Review of the 2015-2018 Agreement -- One Year In -- The Guild disavowed piecework for designers, layout and background artists in the 2012 negotiations; a few studios still assign piece work to freelancers, but the rule is: freelancers are paid for work at the daily rate, with a four-hour minimum call.

Work at most studios is robust, TAG has received continuing complaints from supervisors that they have difficulty staffing shows with experienced people. The Guild has record-high employment which will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

New Media -- The Business Representative reported that the 839 New Media sideletter, (Sideletter N -- pp 99-113) which allows production work for Subscription Video On Demand and other work delivered over the internet, to be paid below contract minimums. The largest employer using the New Media sidletter continues to be DreamWorks Animation TV, which pays employees new to the industry below contract rates. At this point, other studios aren't employing many individuals under the sideletter, but it continues to be a concern. New Media will be on of the major contract issues when the sideletter is renegotiated in 2018.

Studio Tests -- There were lengthy discussions regarding studio testing. Members reported that some studios are asking for 2-3 layout designs plus color backgrounds from the designs, and that these tests take 3 or more days to complete. (The test length is considered by the Guild to be abusive). Many employed veterans refusing to take tests. The Business Representative reported that he's told some studios tests are becoming counter-productive because talented, experienced artists won't take them and so studios self-limit the pool of job applicants.

Uncompensated Overtime -- Many design and layout artists reported tight schedules that were impossible to meet in forty hours of work. The Business Representative and several artists said it's important to communicate with other artists on a show's team, compare work-loads and time needed to complete assignments. Studios sometimes use the fastest artists as the standard for the amount of work required.

Several veterans reported when they ask for overtime they get it (although there is some resistance). Production assistants and coordinators are as uptight about confrontation as artists. Members said it was important to share information with co-workers, to build team solidarity, and to communicate with production about how much work can be done in a given period. When a show is overlong and the number of designs/backgrounds required cannot be met within a forty-hour schedule, artists need to communicate that overtime or a longer work schedule will be needed. (Some half-hour episodes are more labor intensive than others).

Production Schedules -- Members said that some production schedules are unrealistic. (See uncompensated overtime, above). Veteran artists pointed out that uncompensated work taken home or done in-studio by artists 1) undermines their co-workers and 2) gives studio management a false idea of how long it takes to complete tasks. Some veteran artists will continue to do uncompensated overtime, but it's important to build team spirit and discourage free o.t. wherever possible.

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

More Players Wade Into the Pool

Apparently this "Hey everybody! Animation Mmes money!" meme is getting around.

Bob Bacon, a former executive at Disney and Paramount Pictures, has just been named CEO of Alpha Animation, a new division of the China-based Alpha Group Co. The division will produce animated features for worldwide distribution. The appointment was announced this morning by Alpha Interactive Entertainment CEO Chen De Rong. Alpha Animation will leverage existing IP and create original fare with plans to release its first film in 2020 and then drop one film a year after that. ...

The company, founded in 1993, is now the largest animation group and a leading pan-entertainment platform in China after it transformed itself from a toy-oriented company.

Besides the formation of Alpha Animation, Alpha Group also recently established an L.A.-based live-action feature film development company called Alpha Pictures to focus on developing U.S.-China co-productions based on properties from, the largest online comic book platform in China. ...

Bacon most recently was EVP Production at Paramount Animation, where he served as head of the animation division, overseeing the production and launch of the 2015 hit film The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water. ...

Prior to his stint at Paramount, he was a production executive for Disney’s Touchstone Pictures on the 2011 animated feature release Gnomeo And Juliet. He started his career at Disney in 1991 working on such animated family favorites as Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Tarzan and Lilo & Stitch. ...

The takeaway from this is that more companies, global and otherwise, are getting into animation in a major way.

Comcast purchases DreamWorks Animation; Hasbro (another toy company) grows its animation arm. Warner Bros. starts a new animation division.

It's a definite trend. And the profit angle has a lot to do with all the movement toward cartoons.

Click here to read entire post

The Widening Pool, TV Division

So more players are jumping into theatrical animation. But also this:

FX cable network programming president Eric Schrier describes the division visit to Cartoonland:

Schrier: We see animation as a place where we feel like we can be more prolific. We’ve had a couple of shows we’ve tried to pair up with “Archer” that haven’t worked out, but that show continues to be super strong for us. We’re doing a pilot now with Louis C.K. and Albert Brooks and we’re going to be growing our animation slate soon and trying to really innovate in that form. I think that’s a form we feel like we can be really successful in. ...

Animation is now a thing in the entertainment world.

Animated features, along with super hero movies, are the highest-profit segment of theatrical motion pictures.

And in TV, animation is a low cost, high eyeball entertainment delivery system that keep providing cash flow year after year. (Nobody has to guess why Fox keeps making episodes of The Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad. There are big bucks being made.

But even cartoons from long ago continue to make money. The Jetsons had one prime-time season in the early sixties, but half-a-century later it's iconic, with additional episodes and animated features getting made. How many 1962 comedy half-hours of the live-action type, that flamed out after 26 episodes, can make a similar claim?

Like zero.

And let's not even talk about Scooby Doo. How many fortunes has that Great Dane created?

Click here to read entire post

Monday, August 29, 2016

Down-List Also Rans

We know which movies are cleaning up at the box office, and many are animated. But what about some VFX and animated losers out in the marketplace? There must be a few, wouldn't you think?

Why yes! ...

Ghostbusters '16, now residing at #20, won't be a box office winner for floundering Sony. In its seventh weekend of release, it made $553,532, for a domestic total of $124,956,153. At first glance, this isn't a horrible total gross, but consedering the flick cost $144 million and has so far earned

Nudging up against Ghostbusters at #21, Ice Age: Collision Course took in a mere $510,412 in its sixth weekend of release for a sad and semi-pathetic domestic accumulation of $61,717,141. What's saved this latest Ie Age from disaster is the robust foreign gross of $305,551,385. The franchise has always done well overseas, and foreign takings are helping to make Collision Course a money-maker, despite the lacklustre box office across the fruited plain.

Spielberg's The BFG hunkers at #27, collecting $314,007 this past weekend. The mocap feature has earned $54,319,626 in nine weekends of release. Since the epic cost $140 million to produce and has made a slim $99,338,473 overseas, it won't be doing much for Diz Co.'s bottom line.

Then there's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, which has turned out to be one of producer Michael Bay's lesser efforts. In it's thirteenth week, it's made $44,214 for an underwhelming domestic total $81,987,616.

Lastly there's Alice Through the Looking Glass taking in $11,945 on its way to a weak-kneed U.S. gross of $77,037,635. It's done a little better overseas, earning $218,100,267, but Disney won't be bragging about this release in its annual stockholder report; it'll be kicking it under the rug and hopeing few will notice it got made.

Sad to say, even the occasional animated feature fails to launch. And some of the big visual effects tent poles? They end up collapsing the corporate canvas, rather than prop it up.

Click here to read entire post

Another Animated Entry

Gaumont takes the plunge.

Marking the first new series under the leadership of President of Animation, Nicolas Atlan, Gaumont Television has partnered with Kristen Bell, Jackie Tohn, Michael Scharf and Ivan Askwith on preschool toon Do, Re & Mi. Billed as a quirky, whimsical musical adventure, it will feature original tracks performed by Bell, Tohn (American Idol) and surprise guests. The plan is to extend it into apps, games, music videos. ...

Hopefully Bell can make a bit of that Frozen magic rub off on her new animated project.

We can never have too many cartoons.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Meanwhile, Up North In the Land of Free Money

From the Vancouver Sun:

... More than 60 digital media companies make up the local VFX (visual effects) and animation industry, representing the highest concentration of domestic and foreign-owned studios in the world, according to the Vancouver Economic Commission. Even with the provincial government poised to trim to 16 per cent from 17.5 per cent the tax credits for visual effects and animation studios come October, production at studios is booming all over town.

Creative BC’s Annual Activity Report for 2013-14 reported the dollar value of salary and wages resulting from digital animation and visual effects at $270 million. This figure doesn’t include video games and interactive media. Film and TV production is separated out as well, with a $1.611 billion value in 2013-14 (Profile 2014: An Economic Report on the Screen-based Media Production Industry in Canada). ...

As I said to a British Columbia radio reporter a week or so ago, it's fine that Vancouver is bursting at the seams, work-wise, but it would be even finer if overtime pay was a larger part of the mix.

According to the radio reporter (and maybe he's not entirely correct?) the folks sitting in front of all the cintiqs and flat screens are paid flat rates rather than hourly/overtime wages ... since the province's work rules allow that.

Me, I'm not an expert on which studios pay what in B.C., but considering the grinding hours employees at VFX and animation studios endure, time and a half and double time should be the standard after forty hours of work.

After all, it's not 1893 anymore. So why the hell not o.t.?

Click here to read entire post

Weekend Foreign Box Office

Sill a whole lot of animation going on.


Jason Bourne -- $56,800,000 -- ($347,900,000)

Ice Age: Collision Course -- $50,000,000 -- ($367,700,000)

The Secret Life Of Pets -- $24,600,000 -- ($724,400,000)

Suicide Squad -- $19,600,000 -- ($636,000,000)

Finding Dory -- $6,100,000 -- ($929,100,000)

Pete's Dragon -- $3,500,000 -- ($76,215,378)

Don't Breathe -- $1,900,000 -- ($28,000,000)

Sausage Party -- $1,600,000 -- ($88,708,510)

Kubo and the Two Strings -- $1,500,000 -- ($27,620,378)

The Jungle Book -- $1,300,000 -- ($959,800,000)

A trade journal tells us:

... Ice Age: Collision Course was new in China this frame, trapping $42.5M there for a No. 2 start behind Bourne. The debut makes it the top non-local animated opening in the Middle Kingdom this year. ...

The Secret Life of Pets clawed away at another $24.6M in 57 territories to bring the international total to $371.2M. The pack now has $724.4M in worldwide kibbles. ...

Sausage Party ranked No. 1 in Israel for the 3rd consecutive weekend and showing strong holds elsewhere, Sony’s Seth Rogen comedy has chomped down on a total $8.7M overseas. This weekend filled the taco with $1.6M in 16 markets. Australia saw a 29% dip for a local cume of $5.3M and Israel has now grossed $1.3M. ...

Finding Dory swam to Scandinavia this weekend, adding $6.1M in 19 total territories for an international cume of $449.5M. ...

You look at the global market, it's super heroes, action and bucketloads of animation.

Even the latest Ice Age feature, which failed to launch in the U.S. of A., will be collecting north of $400 million before it plays all the theater chains in all the countries around the globe. IA's total grosses will be four times its $105 million production cost, and so end up being another winner for Blue Sky.

Click here to read entire post

Why Play The Game If You Don't Have To?

When you've tucked away sufficient cash to retire in comfort, why continue to invest heavily in the stock market?

How To Tell If Your Retirement Nest Egg Is Big Enough ...

During past bull markets, many Americans nearing retirement fleetingly acquired a nest egg adequate for later life. Then, as quickly as that nest egg came, it went -- leaving behind regret, sleepless nights, and in the worst case, panic selling near the bottom that eliminated any possibility of recovery. ...

When you've won the game, stop playing. ...

Take a few minutes. Add up your basic annual expenses, and make sure to include the taxes you'll owe on required and voluntary withdrawals from your retirement accounts, and on the income and capital gains in your taxable assets. Then subtract your Social Security and, if you're lucky, pension checks. This leaves you with your residual living expenses, or RLE.

If you need $70,000 a year to meet expenses and pay taxes -- and if your Social Security and pension income amounts to $30,000 a year -- you must come up with an RLE of $40,000. A good rule of thumb is to have, at the very least, 25 years of RLE saved up to retire at 60, 20 years at 65, and 17 years to retire at 70 -- or in this case, $1 million, $800,000 and $680,000, respectively. ...

Both historical back testing and Monte Carlo analysis suggest that a 65-year-old with only 20 years of RLE in his nest egg should hold no more than 50% of his or her portfolio in equities; if you have 35 years of RLE, then up to 70% is probably safe. ...

Here in the 21st century, with pension plans under stress and Social Security under political assault, it's wise to save as much as possible as soon as possible. Don't wait until you're fifty to think about putting money away. By that time there will be a huge amount of catching up to do.

As previously noted, Animation Guild members working under a Guild contract have several retirement advantages: they have a defined pension under the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan (monthly annuity), they have a bucket of tax-sheltered money unde MPIPP (Individual Account Plan), and they have the option of creating a second bucket of money through the Animation Guild's 401(k) Plan.

Happily, the Guild will be holding many 401(k) enrollment meetings over the next month, so be there!

Disney Tujunga
Mon., August 29th - 10 am
Room 1700
6904 Tujunga Ave.

Dreamworks Animation - Main Campus
Tue., August 30th - 2 pm
Dinning Rooms B & C
1000 Flower St.

Disney - Hat Building, Riverside Dr.
Thurs., September 1st - 10 an
Room 2401

Nickelodeon Burbank - 321 W. Olive Avenue
Thurs., September 1st - 2 pm
Dora Conference Room B87

Fox Animation -- 5700 Wilshire Blvd.
Wed., September 7th - 2 pm
Family Guy Conference Room
5700 Wilshire Blvd.

Disney Sonora
Thurs., September 8th - 10 am
Room 1172

Disney TVA -- Empire Center
Thurs., September 8th - 2 pm
Room 5223

Disneytoon Studios
Tue., September 13th - 2 pm
Room 101

Cartoon Network
Tue., September 20th - 2 pm
Main Conference Room

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Top Four

Since it's the weekend and we're on the subject of movie grosses ...

... The top four films at the global box office are Captain America: Civil War ($1.15 billion), Zootopia ($1.02 billion), The Jungle Book ($955.6 million), and Finding Dory ($916.4 million). The Jungle Book and Finding Dory continue to add several million dollars per week to their totals, with The Jungle Book holding strong in Japan where it just opened two weekends ago and Finding Dory having most of Europe left in which to open later this month and through September (which means it will probably make a run at $1 billion). ...

Which remaining films this year have the best shot at breaking into the top four or five? Only three movies seem to have any chance, and two of them are Disney films. ... Allow me to offer this hypothesis for the possible final top-seven list at year’s end…

1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($1.1+ billion)

2. Captain America: Civil War ($1.1+ billion)

3. Zootopia ($1+ billion)

4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ($900 million to $1 billion)

5. Finding Dory ($950+ million to $1 billion)

6. The Jungle Book ($960-970 million)

7. Moana ($875-900+ million)

Disney has a strong grip, so it seems, regarding what kinds of features work, and what kinds don't. Britain's Guardian today published what some film experts say:

... "The flopping of Ben-Hur confirms what we think we know about Hollywood at the moment,” said Peter Kramer, a film expert teaching at the University of East Anglia, “which is that it is only doing well at franchises and sequels.”

Though far from a dead cert, a sequel is simply a safer bet. “As the old William Goldman Hollywood saying has it, ‘Nobody knows anything’, but there is a good chance the sequel of a profitable film will make money,” said Kramer. “It might even be more successful. It is the one exception to that rule. And when a big film needs an investment of about $200m, and then around $100m in marketing, it is not surprising studios opt for them." ...

Professor Kramer overlooks the box office of animation in today's marketplace, something that Forbes magazine doesn't overlook in the piece above the fold.

You would have to be seriously myopic not to see that almost every movie projected to be at the top of 2016's Blockbuster Movie List is either an animated feature or a live-action flick with lodaded down with generous amounts of animated visual effects.

If that isn't a trend, then there are no trends.

Click here to read entire post

Your American Box Office

Lots of animated entertainments, some of them of a family nature, remain in the Big List.


1). Don’t Breathe (SONY), 3,051 theaters / $10M Fri (includes $1.9M previews)/$10M Sat (-1%) / $6.2M Sun (-37%) /3-day cume: $26.1M / Wk 1

2). Suicide Squad (WB), 3,582 theaters (-342) / $3.3M Fri./ $5.5M Sat (+67%) / $3.3M Sun (-40%) / 3-day cume: $12.1M (-42%) /Total cume: $282.88M/ Wk 4

3). Kubo and the Two Strings (FOC), 3,279 theaters (+19)/ $2M Fri /$3.4M Sat (+75%) / $2.5M Sun (-33%) / 3-day cume: $7.9M (-37%)/Total cume: $24.9M/ Wk 2

4). Sausage Party (SONY/APP), 3,135 theaters (+32) / $2.3M Fri. /$3.1M Sat. (+37%) / $2.3M Sun. (-28%) / 3-day cume: $7.7M (-51%)/Total cume: $80M/Wk 3

5). Mechanic: Resurrection (LG), 2,258 theaters / $2.6M Fri (includes $390K previews) / $2.8M Sat. (+6%) / $2.1M Sun. (-24%) / 3-day cume: $7.5M / Wk 1

6). Pete’s Dragon (DIS), 3,244 theaters (-458)/ $1.8M Fri. /$3.3M Sat (+75%) / $2.2M Sun (-33%) / 3-day cume: $7.3M (-36%)/Total cume: $54.7M/Wk 3

7). War Dogs (WB), 3,258 theaters (0) / $2M Fri /$3M Sat. (+50%) / $2.25M Sun. (-25%) / 3-day cume: $7.3M (-51%) /Total cume: $27.8M/Wk 2

8). Bad Moms (STX), 2,565 theaters (-246)/ $1.8M Fri./ $2.4M Sat. (+35%) / $1.6M Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $5.8M (-28%)/Total cume: $95.45M/ Wk 5

9). Jason Bourne (UNI), 2,445 theaters (-442) / $1.4M Fri. /$2.4M Sat. (+66%) / $1.4M Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $5.2M (-35%)/Total cume: $149.4M/ Wk 5

10). Ben-Hur (PAR/MGM), 3,084 theaters / $1.3M Fri /$1.95M Sat. (+49%) / $1.3M Sun. (-35%) /3-day cume: $4.5M (-60%) /Total: $19.6M/ Wk 2

Kubo and the Two Strings drops only 37%% (a pretty good hold) while the very wholesome Sausage Party drop 51%. Pete's Dragon holds relatively well, declining a mere 36%.

Click here to read entire post

Friday, August 26, 2016


Kubo and the Two Strings, it turns out, has performed in the same range (though a bit lower) as other Laikia features:


Coraline -- $16,849,640

Para Norman -- $14,087,050

The Box Trolls -- $17,275,239

Kubo and the 2 Strings -- $12,608,372 ...

It's surprising that, even with overwhelmingly positive reviews, Kubo did not open with a higher gross.

The Boxtrolls, by contrast, has the highest opening weekend domestic gross of any Laika feature, yet its reviews are less positive than KATTS.

Why did Kubo open so much worse? Did Suicide Squad chew into its grosses? Are audiences just not jazzed by stop motion? What is it?

Click here to read entire post

Shiny Gold Trophies

We have a number of artistic victors at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

... Today the Academy announced the the first winners of the season, for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation.

Cartoon Network scored multiple times, with Adventure Time and Long Live the Royals, while Adult Swim’s long-running favorite Robot Chicken earned its fourth Emmy win for their latest DC Comics Special. ...

It's always good to be recognized for artistic achievement, yes?


(NoHo Arts District, Calif., Aug. 26, 2016) – The Television Academy announced today the juried award winners for the 68th Emmy® Awards in Animation. The juried awards for Animation will be presented on Sunday, September 11 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California. This year’s juried winners include:

Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation

Adventure Time • Bad Jubies • Cartoon Network • Cartoon Network Studios in association with Bix Pix Entertainment

Jason Kolowski, Production Designer

Adventure Time • Stakes Pt. 8: The Dark Cloud • Cartoon Network • Cartoon Network Studios

Tom Herpich, Storyboard Artist

He Named Me Malala • National Geographic Channel • Fox Searchlight Pictures in association with Image Nation Abu Dhabi and Participant Media

Jason Carpenter, Animation Production Designer

Long Live The Royals • Punk Show • Cartoon Network • Cartoon Network Studios

Chris Tsirgiotis, Background Designer

Robot Chicken DC Comics Special III: Magical Friendship • Adult Swim • Stoopid Buddy Stoodios

Scott DaRos, Character Animator

Juried categories require all entrants to be screened by a panel of professionals in the appropriate peer group, with the possibility of one, more than one or no entry being awarded an Emmy. As a consequence, there are no nominees, but a one-step evaluation and voting procedure. Deliberations include open discussions of each entrant’s work, with a thorough review of the merits of awarding the Emmy. At the conclusion of each deliberation, the jury considers the question, “Is this entry worthy of an Emmy award – yea or nay?” Only those with unanimous approval win.

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Settlement Moneys

Remember the class-action lawsuit on behalf of animation employees against a whole raft of animation studios?

Some of the litigants have settled, but the suit trundles on. We've gottoen multile calls about it in the last couple of days, probably because this:

Welcome to the Animation Workers Antitrust Litigation Website

If you were an employee who held an animation or visual effects job title at Blue Sky Studios, Inc., DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., Two Pic MC LLC (f/k/a Image Movers Digital LLC), Lucasfilm, Ltd., LLC, Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation Inc., Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc., or The Walt Disney Company during the time periods set forth in the Notice, an ongoing class action lawsuit may affect your rights, and you could get money from settlements with two of the multiple defendants in the lawsuit.

We get asked: "Is the Animation Guild involved in the lawsuit?"

We reply: "Only peripherally."

The Guild hosted some information meetings, hosted a presentation and Question and Answer session with an attorney from a large northern California law firm that was initially driving the lawsuit but ultimately pulled out.

We referred a number of members to lawyers involved with the case, and later were subpoenaed for documents and testimony. Yours Truly spent three hours getting deposed in a Century City law office.

Beyond those things, TAG has no connection to the case, though we hope that justice prevails.

Cartoon Brew has put up a post about the case and settlement. As the Brew states, a number of hurdles must be negotiated before folding cash finds its way into the hands who (likely, allegedly) were damaged by the actions of various animation studios.

Click here to read entire post

Marvin Kaplan, RIP

A veteran character actor departs.

Marvin Kaplan, a prolific character actor best known for his recurring role as Henry Beesmeyer on the 1976-85 sitcom Alice and as the voice of Choo-Choo on the cartoon Top Cat has died. He was 89 and died from natural causes in his Burbank home. ...

Kaplan’s voice became familiar to generations of children thanks to his work on the cartoon series Top Cat from 1961-62. Voicing Choo-Choo, the pink, turtleneck-clad cat, he reprised the role for 1987’s Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats. He also voiced characters on Garfield and Friends, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Johnny Bravo, and 2011’s The Garfield Show among others. ...

Mr. Kaplan began a long career in films and television with Adam's Rib after discovery by Katherine Hepburn. He was a series regular through nine season of the sitcom Alice, had a recurring role on Becker and did innumerable guest shots on a wide variety of half-hour TV comedies and hour-long dramas.

He leaves no survivors.

Click here to read entire post

DreamWorks Animation Staff Changes

Most everyone knows that Jeffrey Katzenberg has departed as the Big Kahuna of DreamWorks Animation (and taken a tidy sum with him during the exit). However, many of the execs he put in place remain in their positions, with Universal Comcast enhancements. To wit:

Marjorie Cohn will lead the integrated DreamWorks Animation and Universal Pictures television animation businesses.

Marjorie CohnShe will become head of animation TV at the merged group, reporting to NBCUniversal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Jeff Shell.

She had joined DWA as its first head of television in 2013 after leaving Nickelodeon, where she had been president of content development at the culmination of a 26-year stint. ...

Also remaining are animated feature topkicks Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria, under the leadership of Universal Pictures Chairman, Donna Langley.

Ann Daly, DWA's President, is leaving the company. But she will also be receiving some lovely parting gifts in the form of tall stacks of money. We wish everybody all the best.

Deadline's take on DWA reshuffling is here.

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Craft Meeting #2 -- Timing Directors and Animation Checkers

Animation Directors and Animation Checkers met at 1105 N. Hollywood Way at 7 p.m. on August 22nd for the second TAG Craft Meeting.

The Business Representative reviewed current employment (now north of 3500 staff and freelance employees) and the numbers of shows in work at different studios.

Footage rates, part of the contract for the first time, were discussed at length. The current rate of $3.35/foot was thought too low by many, especially if lip assignments are included as part of the job. ..

It was also pointed out that action shows with casts of thousands took more time to do than two-character comedy shows. The current rate will be in effect for 12 months, at which time the footage rate will rise to $3.45/foot.

Directors thought there should be proposals to revise the footage rate in the 2018 contract negotiations, and also revise weekly and daily wage rates. It was noted that the footage rate for timing had been $3 per foot for twenty years, and that reported Pension and Health Contribution hours were "all over the map", with some freelance animation directors being paid 20 hours for a week's work. Under the current contract, for every 100 feet of freelance animation timing, 8 hours of health and pension contributions are provided to the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan.

There was discussion about animatics, how the slugging of boards has been supplanted by animatics. The only show being done without animatics is "Samurai Jack".

It was felt that freelancers should make more than staff animation directors, incentivizing studios to being animation directors in-house. The Business Representative noted that the Guild negotiates wage floors, not ceilings, and directors, board artists, designers are free to negotiate about the minimum rates. No freelance board artists work at the unit rate minimums because no studio used them.

Freelance directors could budget the time spent on assigned footage. Discussion of quantity vs. quality; some attendees thought that it was important to maintain quality to keep the work in Los Angeles. Almost all directors attending were working. The Business Representative said he knew of few directors who weren't working either staff or freelance.

This was a major change from five years ago, when there was far less working many directors weren't employed. Cartoon Network, which has many successful shows, uses timing directors on almost all its productions and most enjoy solid ratings. Many in the room attributed the success of CN's timed shows to more timing work at other studios.

Animation checkers are under pressure to work uncompensated overtime, which continues to be an issue on various shows at different studios for many classifications.

Meeting adjourned at 9:35.

Click here to read entire post

Adios, Jeffrey

Mr. Katenberg bids farewell to his troops:

... As I've said to many of you over the past week, my work is my happiness. And for 22 years, my happiness has been DreamWorks. But DreamWorks isn't the beautiful campus, the fountain, the panini maker or even the movies, TV shows and incredible entertainment we've created together.

To me, DreamWorks is all of you, the people, who have made it all happen over the years, and who will continue to do so after I drive through those gates for the last time.

But, as Jakob Jensen, a longtime colleague of ours recently reminded me (via Dr Seuss): "don't cry because it's over, be happy because it happened." ...

Jeffrey K. has been heavily involved with the making of cartoon features ever since he rolled onto the Disney lot in the mid eighties and Michael Eisner said to him, "See that building? It's filled with animators. They're your problem now."

Mr. Katzenberg had a seriously successful run creating hand-drawn cartoons at Walt Disney Productions, then more hand-drawn features at DreamWorks Animation. When CG came in, he leaped the great divide and became one of the leaders of the CG revolution. (There was Pixar, there was DreamWorks Animation, and then there was Blue Sky Studios).

DreamWorks Animation had a run of twenty hit pictures in a row, then hit a rough patch. One under-performer followed another, and corporate cash flow ebbed. The studio sold its physical lot in Glendale and then leased the property back, gaining badly needed working capital in the process. Jeffrey K., taking a cue from Uncle Walt's 1950s business model, diversified the stand-alone company, moving it into television, the internet, merchandising and amusement parks. (The only thing DreamWorks Animation didn't take from the earlier Disney model was getting into live-action features.)

Jeffrey spent years working to find a buyer for his cartoon studio, but one deal after another failed to reach consummation. With the rapid construction of a television animation division providing content for Netflix (an earlier version had fizzled out in the middle 1990s) DreamWorks slowly turned itself around. Then Universal Comcast came knocking, a merger was reached, and Jeffrey found himself exiting the company he had helped found.

So for the first time in thirty-plus years, Jeffrey Katzenberg will be a mogul without a big-time movie studio. But please keep your crying hankies pocketed, for Mr. K. was given a nice chunk of change prior to departure. And he's still in his sixties, so there is time for him to grow yet another corporation.

And no doubt he will.

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Los Angeles Animation Production

Every so often we review animation productions happening in and around Los Angeles. This is one of those times.

As always, we'll put up a list of shows, but the list will be "ongoing". Meaning, if you see a title that's wrong or a title that's missing (always a sad possibility), post a correction in comments. Adjustments will be made.

And now the list. ...


Bento Box

Bob's Burgers
Legends of Chamberlain Heights

(Other projects in development)

Cartoon Network

Adventure Time
Ben 10
Mighty Magiswords
Powerpuff Girls
Regular Show
Samurai Jack
Steven Universe
We Bare Bears

(Also shows in development)

Disney TVA

Big Hero 6
Billy Dilly (wrapping up)
Country Club
Duck Tales
Elena of Avinore
Future Worm
Lion Guard
Mickey Mouse shorts
Mickey's Road Racers
Milo Murphy's Law
Penn Zero (wrapping up)
Pickle and Peanut
Puppy Capers (Wild Canary)
Star Vs. Forces of Evil
Sheriff Calley (Wild Canary)

(Multiple shows in development by Disney-owned Advanced Media)

DreamWorks Animation (feature)

The Boss Baby (production work out of county)
Captain Underpants (prod. work out of county)
The Croods 2 (in development)
Larrikins (in development)
How to Train Your Dragon 3 (in development)
Shrek 5 (recently announced)
Untitled Shadows Project

DreamWorks Animation TV

DreamWorks Dragons
Monsters vs. Aliens
VeggieTales in the House
All Hail King Julien
The Adventures of Puss in Boots
Dawn of the Croods
Voltron: Legendary Defender
Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh
Spirit Riding Free
Cow Boy

(Other shows in development.)

Fox Animation

American Dad
Family Guy
The Simpsons


Transformers Rescue Bots
Stretch Armstrong
My Little Pony (scripts)

Marvel Animation

Avengers Assemble
Guardians of the Galaxy
Spiderman (newer version)


Bug Salad (6 eps)
Bunsen Is A Beast
Fairly Odd Parents (scripts)
Glitch Tech
Harvey Beaks
Hey Arnold
Loud House
Pig Goat Banana Cricket
Pinky Malinky
Shimmer and Shine
Sponge Bob Square Pants
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Tom & Jerry (non-Guild)

Robin Redbreast (Titmouse)

Home: Adventures with Tip and Oh (DWA tv series for Netflix)
Future-Worm! (Disney series)
Nikko and the Sword of Light (Amazon series)
Big Mouth (Netflix series)

Rough Draft

(Multiple Disney projects - T.B.A.)

Shadow Machine

Bojack Horseman (non-Guild)

Splash Entertainment

Chloe's Closet (non-Guild)
Norm of the North (2 short features - non-Guild)

Stoopid Buddies Stoodios

Buddy Thunderstruck (non-Guild)
Camp WWE (non-Guild)
The Grand Slams (web series - non-Guild)
Robot Chicken (non-Guild)
Supermansion (non-Guild)

Warner Animation Group

Lego Batman Movie
Lego Ninjago Movie

Warner Bros. Animation

Justice League Action
Be Cool Scooby Doo
Mike Tyson Mysteries
Teen Titans Go!
D.C. Girls
Green Eggs and Ham (limited Netflix series)
Vixens (web series)
Wacky Racers
Dorothy of Oz

(Also various video features in work)

Universal Cartoon Studios

Curious George
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Land Before Time

Walt Disney Animation Studios

Moana (nearing end of production)
Wreck-It Ralph 2

(Plus various projects in development.)

There is ongoing re-structuring going on in the Los Angeles animation industry. Disney TVA is outsourcing more production to local studios such as Wild Canary, Robin Red Breast, and Rough Draft. Walt Disney Animation Studios (Diz Co.'s feature arm) is completing the refurbishing of the Hat Building on Riverside Drive; with a gap between Moana and the next feature, it's also reducing staff somewhat.

Hasbro is moving its L.A. production offices to the former Yahoo Building just south of the Burbank/Bob Hope Airport. Fox Animation is now producing The Simpsons, with the production located in the Pinnacle complex in Burbank (not at Fox Animation's Wilshire Boulevard studio).

Matt Groening's new Netflix series is in development, but we haven't pinned down exactly where it's being developed. So this show (whever it is) we can consider "in process".

* Kindly note that almost all TV animation production in L.A. is pre-production (scripts, storyboards, designs, background keys, etc.) and post-production (editing, dubbing, etc.)

Most feature work is done in Southern California, soup to nuts, but there are some DreamWorks Animation features and all Warner Animation Group features that are produced outside of California. Illumination Entertainment (of Universal Comcast) does some pre-production of its theatrical long-forms in Southern California, but production work is done in Paris, France.

Click here to read entire post

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Top Title of '16

If you were wondering, it's this:

'Finding Dory’ Still Top Movie of 2016 ...

The Pixar entry's global earnings to date are $915,943,343.

Over the weekend it was still in 450 theaters stateside, and took in just under a million bucks. (This after ten weeks of release.) It's made $478.4 million across the fruited plain.

Click here to read entire post

Marriage Consummated

From a noontime announcement.

Comcast Corp. has closed its $3.8 billion acquisition of DreamWorks Animation, four months after announcing its plans to buy the studio.

Dreamworks Animation will become part of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, which includes Universal Pictures, Fandango and NBCUniversal Brand Development and is headed by Jeff Shell. Comcast made the announcement after the market closed Monday.

The deal calls for DWA stockholders to receive $41 in cash for each share of DWA common stock. DWA shares will no longer be listed on the NASDAQ. ...

DreamWorks Animation employees have asked: "Is the studio going to stop being Guild after it changes ownerhsip?"

A DWA lawyer confirmed with us this afternoon that DreamWorks Animation (feature and television) is still under TAG's collective bargaining agreement. Nothing changes, except that the company ceases being a corporation with its own stock and now exists as a division under the Universal-Comcast umbrella.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, August 21, 2016


The Secret Life of Pets is chewing through the global box office.

Foreign Box Office -- (World Totals)

The Secret Life Of Pets -- $45,000,000 -- ($674,500,000)

Suicide Squad -- $38,000,000 -- ($572,700,000)

Jason Bourne -- $11,300,000 -- ($278,800,000)

Ben-Hur -- $10,700,000 -- ($22,100,000)

Finding Dory -- $6,700,000 -- ($915,700,000)

War Dogs -- $6,500,000 -- ($20,800,000)

Ice Age: Collision Course -- $3,430,000 -- ($314,909,701)

Sausage Party -- $2,100,000 -- ($71,326,019)

The Jungle Book -- $2,100,000 -- ($955,500,000) ...

A fine trade journal gives us highlights:

... With a $45M weekend in 53 markets, The Secret Life of Pets leapfrogged over another motley bunch as Suicide Squad came in with a $38M third session in 64. ...

Kubo and the Two Strings opened in eight international markets with an estimated $900K. ...

Sony’s Sausage Party stuffed $2.1M into the bun on 540+ screens in 13 markets. The overseas cume is $6M. ...

Disney’s The Jungle Book swung a 30% drop in its second weekend in Japan to post a $2.1M frame. That was after strong midweeks. The total there after 11 days is $13.7M.

Click here to read entire post

Jurassic Park's Visual Building Blocks

"Computers are a tool."

You hear the above said a lot. The well-worn "computers are just one of many wrenches and screw-drivers in the production tool box." But today, they are often the Main Event. The thing that producers of big-budget, event motion pictures rely on.

Jurassic Park holds up almost q quarter-century after its making because it relies on animatronic puppets and close-ups of skin and eyes and claws to make the audience believe the dinos are there.

Two and a half decades later, it's easier to make the CGI do the heavy lifting. Which makes the cumulative power of some (many?) of the screen images weaker.

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wander ...

... Over Yonder.

It's cancellation was announced some months back, but this:

... News of [Wander Over Yonder's] cancellation reached the team after season two had been written but before it had even premiered–Disney thought that 80 episodes was “enough,” and the fact that the show garnered better ratings in repeats than premieres seemed to bolster that. While the crew was both open and optimistic in their discussions about Disney’s handling of the show, ... it was pretty disheartening to see that Disney both refused to let the show take a serialized turn in season 2 (which discourages repeat viewings) and then doubling down on that by cancelling. ...

The compromise the writers reached after being turned down for serialization–to have four 22 minute “plot” episodes and the rest as 11 minute stand-alones–earned the series a bit more time in the spotlight (including a review slot on the AV Club), but also some accompanying frustration from fans who came in looking for a more narrative-driven, Gravity Falls sort of experience rather than a stylistic hybrid. Wander Over Yonder is a weird, earnest show that was only starting to find its niche before it was cancelled. ...

Word circulates that Disney TVA is restructuring a bit. There are more shows being outsourced to smaller L.A. studios (this saves the Big D money) and some series receive smaller episode orders. Both Netflix and Disney have decided that fifty-something episodes work just fine.

Click here to read entire post

End of Summer Box Office

Three animated features inhabit The List of Ten, but Kubo does not start strong.


1). Suicide Squad (WB), 3,924 theaters (-331) / 3-day cume: $20.9M (-52%) / Per screen avg.: $5,315 /Total cume: $262.4M/ Wk 3

2). Sausage Party (SONY/APP), 3,103 theaters (0) / 3-day cume: $15.5M (-55%)/ Per screen: $4,991 /Total cume: $65.5M/Wk 2

3). War Dogs (WB), 3,258 theaters / 3-day cume: $14.7M / Per screen: $4,507 / Wk 1

4). Kubo And The Two Strings (FOC), 3,260 theaters / 3-day cume: $12.6M / Per screen: $3,868/Wk 1

5). Pete’s Dragon (DIS), 3,702 theaters / 3-day cume: $11.3M (-47%)/ Per screen avg: $3,066 /Total cume: $42.9M Wk 2

6). Ben-Hur (PAR/MGM), 3,084 theaters / 3-day cume: $11.2M / Per screen: $3,633 /Wk 1

7). Jason Bourne (UNI), 2,887 theaters (-641) / 3-day cume: $8M (-42%)/ Per screen: $2,777 /Total cume: $140.9M/ Wk 4

8). Bad Moms (STX), 2,811 theaters (-377)/ 3-day cume: $7.9M (-30%)/ Per screen: $2,827 /Total cume: $85.7M/ Wk 4

9). The Secret Life Of Pets (ILL/UNI), 2,404 theaters (-554) / 3-day: $5.9M(-35%)/ Per screen: $2,446 /Total cume: $346.8M / Wk 7

10.) Florence Foster Jenkins (PAR), 1,528 theaters (0)/ 3-day cume: $4.4M (-34%)/ Per screen: $2,869 /Total cume: $14.5M/Wk 2

11). Star Trek Beyond (PAR), 1,966 theaters (-611) / 3-day cume: $3.9M (-43%) / Per screen: $2,007 / Total cume: $146.9M / Wk 5 ...

Sausage Party declined a precipitous 66% first week to second, but a lot of schools are now back in session, so that was probably inevitable. No picture had a strong box office hold. The well-reviewed remake Pete's Dragon will have earned $42,500,000. Its overseas rollout has scarcely begun.

Kubo's international performance remains to be seen.

Click here to read entire post

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Powerhouse Known As Animation

Five Thirty Eight, known as a polling aggregator for American politics, and also a sports blog (it's owned by ESPN/Disney) has done a breakdown and analysis of animated features and the studios that make them.

The domestic box office made $11.3 billion last year ... [of which] animated movies pulled in $1.4 billion. ...

So far this year, digital animation has accounted for 21 percent of domestic box office revenue. ... Although the annual number of tickets sold overall is down since 2000, that’s not true for animated movies — those numbers are up, entirely thanks to the genre’s digital branch. ...

Five Thirty Eight shows, in various graphs and charts, the grosses for animated features going back twenty years, pointing out that digital animation has exploded over the past two decades, enriching a plethora of companies and causing even more product to be made year after year. The website's conclusion?

... The animation field is ... somehow bigger than all the studios [doing animation].

“The Lego Movie,” the top-grossing animated movie of 2014, was made by none of [the regular animation producers]. It was produced by Warner Bros., (animation by Animal Logic), and there are sequels and spinoffs to come.

“Sausage Party,” which I understand is essentially pornography but still made $34 million in its opening weekend, was not made by any of these wholesome firms. Rovio, a cell phone game maker, commissioned an “Angry Birds” movie, which went ahead and made $100 million domestically. The commercialism is getting out of control! ...

In actual fact, animation is proving that it has broad global appeal, even when it comes in an R-rated format. As TAG blog has previously noted, cartoons are a form of story presentation, not a genre.

Click here to read entire post

Then There's THIS Regarding Board Artists

The craft meeting last Tuesday covered a lot of workplace issues, but it didn't cover one hugely important subject, raised by a veteran board artist:

... I decided to take my pension. It was a hard decision. Who wants to leave their career?

I had well over 60,000 hours, so it was doable. I have also segued into teaching.

Here's what pertains to our industry and me personally:

For me, this was a stress and eye related move. Storyboard has become untenable. It's been mentioned for years. And I know that nothing will change.

With the advent of cintiqs, board artists are ruining their eyes, [staring endlessly at computer screens]. I have gotten letters from so many artists, a number of them from Pixar. They are having retinal detachments.

Wacom says the cintiqs were designed for four hours of work a day. Staring into an LED blue light is the light that damages the retina.

I called UCLA a while back and asked them if any studies had been done on the effect of cintiqs/LED light. I explained that artists stare close to the monitor for eight hours. The research/clinical trial person told me there would be no trial unless wacom paid for it.

We are canaries in the coal mine and I am hearing more about it. Artists will not speak up about it because they do not want to rock the boat.

-- Sharon Forward

We should point out that while wacom tablets are terrific, innovative devices, artists' faces peer down at them from inches away. It's like sitting a foot from your wall-mounted flat-screen tv eight or more hours per day.

So besides damaged, misaligned backs and blown wrists from repetitive-stress injuries, artists need to watch out for eye damage:

... A 2015 report from The Vision Council, "Hindsight Is 20/20/20: Protect Your Eyes from Digital Devices", found that 61 percent of Americans have experienced eye strain after prolonged use of electronic devices — nearly 2 out of every 3 people. Long-term damage or not, we have an outbreak of eye strain. ...

One difficulty for artists in the business is, there's not a lot of long-term research about eye damage from sustained viewing of computer screens. even so, it's good to take precautions. Industry veterans have told us:

1) Wear yellow-lensed glasses while working to reduce blue light;

2) Take rest breaks; walk around and stretch your back;

3) Don't put your nose too close to the cintiq.

Paper storyboards are over. Artists must do what they can to proect their eyes and physical well-being.

Click here to read entire post

Biggest Welfare Queens Around Are Movie Conglomerates

Some fool shooting off his mouth:

“Every studio can get the work done cheaper now. All they have to do is outsource it to a job shop, and let the job shops bid on the work, and they’ll lowball each other to get [the work]. It is a low-margin business, because everybody is bidding against one another.” ...

"Sending work to Canada] makes good business sense; if you can get some chucklehead — in this case, the Canadian taxpayer — to cough up 50 cents on the dollar for you to do your movie up there, why not? It doesn’t make sense not to. The biggest welfare queens around are movie conglomerates. All they do is go where there’s free money. If you’re poor and getting a subsidy, you’re beneath contempt, but it’s perfectly OK if you’re a large corporation.” ...

Okay, so maybe the "fifty cents on the dollar" remark was a wee bit hyperbolic. The subsidies are moving around a bit, but you get the idea.

When you've got a nice tax credit, a good exchange rate, and a work force that doesn't have to be paid overtime because of favorable provincial labor regulations, large entertainment conglomerates, and the studios that suckle at their large full teats, stampede to your door.

I've had more than one entertainment potentate explain to me how the major studios now look at which geographical locations offer subsidies, and go where the Free Money is.

It's hard to blame them for it makes good business sense, but let's call this practice what it is: government welfare for the good folks we call entertainment companies.

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, August 18, 2016


A fresh food fight has erupted between Cartoon Brew and Rick and Morty, baked lasagna flying with carefree abandon:

Class act @JustinRoiland loved his Rick & Morty crew so much that he created a shell company to avoid having to give them health care. ...

This looks to be old news to us, because R & M has been signed to a Guild agreement from some time. TAG responded: ...

@cartoonbrew @JustinRoiland To let folks know, "R and M" has been a fine TAG 839 show for a while now, No issues.

Rick and Morty today chugs merrily along, with the crew getting full health and pension benefits under the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan.

Also too, the Guild makes regular visits to Rick & Morty's offices in Beautiful Downtown Burbank. There are no complaints, and the show is rolling right along.

Add On: And the Brew tweets:

@839_BizRep Aware of that. But JR decided to rehash a two-year-old story b/c it still rankles him that we covered the unionization efforts. ...

Maybe everyone should let this lie, yes? But then, Twitter wars are the new non-contact sport.

Add On Too: Further research shows that old Twitter posts went viral again because of the situation in Vancouver ... and events took their course. (Old Zombified issues occasionally come back to life, proving the immortality of all things internet!)

To reiterate: the past is the past, and R & M crew is doing fine.

And here comes Season #3:

... [W]e’ll be getting to know some of the characters in the Galactic Federation prison. ...

Click here to read entire post

A Disney-Hasbro Marriage?

Seeking Alpha (an investment site) wonders.

... The Walt Disney Company is adopting the evolving industry trends after losing more than 7 million ESPN subscribers since 2013. Disney has responded to continued cord cuttings with seemingly small but crucial investment in BAMTECH, which will help the company roll out an ESPN-based multi-sport streaming service.

Disney is implementing a long-term plan that revolves around penetrating direct-to-consumer video streaming market. In the meanwhile, Disney is working on the multi-year expansion of theme parks and resorts by adding new attractions to compete with Dalian Wanda Group and Comcast. Similarly, Disney has scheduled movie releases well into the next decade to benefit from expected growth in global per capita film spending. ...

Disney is not very good at selling toys, which is evident from the disappointing sales performance Playmation and substantial discounts on Marvel-based connected wearables. Hasbro, on the other hand, utilizing franchised and licensed brands to generate healthy sales and profits growth.

Hasbro is one of the primary beneficiaries of favorable toys & games industry dynamics due to its strong storytelling abilities. According to Euromonitor, with a substantial improvement over the past five years, the U.S. toys & games industry sales will grow at a CAGR of 3% by 2020. However, on the global scale, the growth prospects are even brighter due to improving per capita income in emerging markets. ...

Of course, Hasbro is also in the cartoon-making business, which is well inside Diz Co.'s wheelhouse.

But that wouldn't stop the Mouse if it thought buying Hasbro would be a good buying opportunity. (Disney has purchased cartoon companies before, after all, because John Lasseter and Ed Catmull. And if Hasbro is a toy/game powerhouse and Disney believes that it needs one of those, why not do a buyout?)

The question is, does the purchase of Hasbro make corporate sense to Robert Iger and co.? And what would become of Hasbro's animation arm? And new Irish studio? These are things to ponder.

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Why All The Success?

Now that the old meme "Animation is failing because all the animated features are cannibalizing each other!" has faded into the roiling mist, a trade journal ponders... and answers ... the question above:

... [A]nimation has been the story — and savior — of the disappointing 2016 box office.

Three of the ten highest-grossing animated movies of all time hit theaters this year, with “Dory” in the top spot, as it gulped down $476.8 million at the domestic box office and $897.6 billion worldwide. Disney’s “Zootopia” and “The Secret Life of Pets” from Universal’s Illumination Entertainment placed ninth and 10th, with $341.3 million and $336.2 million, respectively. ...

One distinct advantage of animation over live action is that it’s not terribly difficult to produce customizable alternate language versions that look perfectly natural, with characters’ mouth movements aligned with the specific soundtrack. ...
but the fact that these movies are good helps even more. ...

Hollywood hasn’t forgotten how to make good movies in at least one genre. The kids are not just all right — they’re keeping the box office afloat.

It's eve simpler than that.

Animated features, though they've become more captive to Hollywood's corporate movie-making machinery than previously, are still less caught up in the live-action power structure.

Board artists who know the craft still have considerable input with story development.

Newer talent can move up to director slots.

Some studio management does understand that animation development can't be done in the same way as live-action. (The more successful stuff is driven by visuals, not dialogue.)

And the media is finally accepting the reality that animation is a mode of story-telling, not a genre. When a live-action feature fails, neither Variety, the L.A. Times nor Deadline blather on about "cannibalization" or an "over-crowded live-action lineup." They say the movie kind of sucked, and so it didn't make much money.

The same exact cause-and-effect applies to animation. No cartoon eats another cartoon. The bad cartoons simply fail. (Simple, no?)

Click here to read entire post

Surf's Up Once More

For those who don't recall, Surf's Up was Sony Pictures Animation's second animated feature, and a movie that, by and large, received glowing reviews. It opened at #4 at the box office in June 2007 and went on to gross $58,867,694 in North America, and $90,176,819 in the rest of the world. (The total take was $149,044,513).

Chris Buck and Ash Brannon helmed the original. Mr. Buck subsequently returned to Disney and co-directed Frozen. Mr. Brannon has since directed Rock Dog, scheduled for American release in early 2017.

Henry Yu the sequel Surf's Up 2: Wavemania, coming in early 2017. Today a short trailer for the feature dropped:

The first picture was produced in Culver City, California. The second was done by CG studio Rainmaker Entertainment, Inc. located in Vancouver, Canada. There are a lot of CG animation and visual effects facilities in Vancouver, due to large amounts of Free Money being handed out by the provincial government. (The Free Money is working.

Most of our fine entertainment conglomerates are in Vancouver and other Canadian provinces, vacuuming up cash as they do live-action productions, animated productions, and loads of visual effects. This is now the way the game is played: locate a generous subsidy, go and slurp it down.

Welcome to the brave new world of Free Enterprise.

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Craft Meeting #1 -- Storyboard Artists and Storyboard Revisionists

photo - Bronwen Barry.

Tuesday night, one hundred and thirty artists packed the upstairs meeting hall of the Animation Guild to discuss the state of the animation industry, finer points of the contract, and how professional lives can be made better inside studio walls. ...


One year into the 2015-2018 contract, there are 3750 people at signator studios.

Staffing levels continue to be robust, and board supervisors at some studios continue to say it's difficult to hire and hang onto seasoned talent.

Disney Television Animation is doing some restructuring, and outsourcing some shows to Rough Draft (recently signed to a contract), Wild Canary, and Robin Red Breast/Titmouse in Hollywood.

New Media (Streaming Video On Demand and other internet-delivered content) will be one of the major negotiating items during 2018 contract negotiations. A number of new artists are working below minimum wage rates because their jobs happen to be under the New Media sideletter, and none of the New Media productions reach budgetary tiers that trigger higher minimums.

The Business Representative noted that the sideletter in the 2015-2018 contract reflects live action budgets that are considerably higher than TV animation budgets. But the sideletter is almost identical to other New Media sideletters, and one size doesn't really fit all, but that's what we've got.

Studio tests have been a hot button topic at recent General Membership Meetings. A Guild Testing Abuse Committee has been created and is reviewing a sample studio test. It's recommended that the test be no longer than thirty panels with ten of those panels being "clean-ups". It recommended a 72-hour turnaround time for each test. The committee is now waiting to hear back from the studio on its proposal.

Uncompensated Overtime. The biz rep said that uncomped o.t. has been a long-term problem. Artists continue to work free extra hours because production deadlines are too tight and a number of artists are perfectionists regarding their work. Several veteran board artists said that individuals need to stop working free o.t. and sepak to production when schedules can't be met. Too many employees do uncomped work because they're frightened of blowing a deadline.

It was pointed out that that artists need to communicate how much work they can get done in forty hours, and work looser where necessary. Several artists said that production needs to be told "no" when something can't be done. Quality artists who are somewhat slower than the norm continue to be employed because talent remains at a premium in the Los Angeles labor marketplace.

Several artists stated it was important for story crews to communicate among themselves and share information. Exchanging work-load info about different shows in on a TAG 839 private Facebook page operated by members was noted as a good way for artists to know how much work was expected (and done) on various TV series

Many Production Schedules are tight and unreasonable because production managers have a distorted idea abut how much work can be done on a forty-hour basis because of uncompensated overtime. Several artists said a culture and community needs to be built that can push back on free work being done.

Freelance Work. The business agent and two executive board members reviewed the Unit Rate Wages in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (pages 76-79). All three noted that the minimum wage rates are low and no studios use them. The bigger problem are the Pension and Health contribution hours are low, although they were raised 30-35% in the last contract negotiation.

Questions were asked about daily minimum wage rates vs. weekly minimum wage rates. The business agent said that daily rates are 117.719% above weekly rates, 10% of which is a premium, while 7.719% constitutes vacation and holiday pay.

Animatics were discussed. The business agent emphasized that animatics work is under the jurisdiction of the Editors Guild, not the Animation Guild. The biz rep said that the Editors have filed a grievance against Cartoon Network over animatics, and under which guild's jurisdiction it should be placed. Several Warner Bros. Animation artists said that Warners has them doing animatics work. The business representative stated he'd reported this to the Editors Guild.

It was noted that many board artists do animatics where the Editors Guild has no contract. The biz rep said artists should charge for the time they do animatics because it's important they be compensated for their time. One board artist said that since employees are asked to be layout artists, storyboard artists, writers and animatics editors, they should be paid for each of those jobs. The business agent said if the extra work puts them into overtime as storyboarders, they should charge overtime for it.

There was general agreement that members need to push on issues that could become bargaining proposals in 2018.

The meeting, which began at 7:02 p.m. was gaveled to a close at 9:32.

Click here to read entire post

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Teasers Keep Coming

Moana, even as the surfacers and lighters finish their work ...

And don't forget the Warner Animation Group.

The feature rolls out in September.

Click here to read entire post

Trouble in Vancouver?

From the Times:

... On the animation news website Cartoon Brew, several animators who identified themselves as members of the “Sausage Party” crew talked of unpaid overtime, poor working conditions and walkouts at Nitrogen, the Vancouver, Canada-based animation studio that made the film. ...

“The production cost were kept low because Greg would demand people work overtime for free,” said one Cartoon Brew commenter. “Over 30 animators left during the coarse [sic] of the production due to the stress and expectations.” ...

Nitrogen Studios Chief Executive Nicole Stinn disputed this account.

“These claims are without merit,” Stinn said in a statement. “Our production adhered to all overtime laws and regulations, as well as our contractual obligations with our artists.” ...

Me, I don't know if alleged animators' alleged claims have merit or not.

And I'm not versed in British Columbian labor regulations, so who knows?

What I do know is that animation contractors often low-ball their bids to land a project, then squeeze the crew to bring the production in on budget.

Is this what happened with Nitrogen and Sausage Party?

Naw. Sony probably went with the high bid because "quality" was their tippy-top priority, profits be damned.

This is what I wrote to Cartoon Brew when they asked for a statement:

Long, unpaid hours aren’t the norm in feature animation studios covered by labor contracts, but it happens often in low-budget grind shops. Sony is in Vancouver for two reasons: 1) the animation studios are non-union and often willing to offer a competitive (i.e. low) bid to get projects inside their walls, and 2) the Free Money that the provincial tax payers (bless their generous hearts) hand out to entertainment conglomerates is substantial.

The fact that the supervisors on “Sausage Party” [allegedly] demanded that animators hit their deadlines without overtime or additional compensation is a feature of these kinds of productions, not a bug. And a young crew, desperate to break into animation, will put up with the abuse and general horsesh*t because they are keen to hang onto their jobs (underpaid though they may be). The watchwords are “don’t rock the boat”; the goal is to just hang on until the show wraps. Understand that most staffers are in their twenties, and (sadly) a kind of Stockholm Syndrome develops.

[The allegation] that animators were denied screen credit because they didn’t toe the line would, if true, demonstrate an amazing level of petty vindictiveness. But it’s occurred before on animated projects and will likely rear its ugly head again. ...

Of course, maybe the production was above board as Ms. Stinn claims.

Maybe no threats, pressure or retribution went on.

And maybe this person commenting at CB is a troll:

This was my first job on a feature film, after watching it the other day I was very impressed how everything came together and how good it looked. Feeling super proud to be a part of this groundbreaking project.

The awe & excitment quickly turned sour after the credits had rolled with my name not showing up. I was on the animation team for just over a year, at the start of production, but had to seek employment elsewhere due to visa issues. Through emails towards the end of my contract, I felt I left on good terms with the studio.

Apparently not.

The people I worked with at Nitrogen were incredible. Some of the most friendly and down to earth folk I have ever met. It's a massive shame we weren't credited for all the hard work we put into this movie. I honestly can't understand the angle Nitrogen was going for and why you'd want to burn bridges with all this great talent after your first feature.

I've been at this union gig too long, because I've seen this sort of stuff go down many times before. At Klasky-Csupo. At Bluth-Sullivan. Even at union studios where a production supervisor got a teensy bit overbearing.

When low budgets collide with the crew's health and well-being, the people cobbling the movie together fourteen hours per day often lose. It's a reality as old as film-making.

More on the fun at Nitrogen here and here.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Latest Animated Hit

... is more Fritz the Cat than Toy Story 3. An entertainment journal explains why it prospered:

1. It’s one of a few original concepts. ...

2. Fans who saw it early liked it. ...

3. A very popular trailer. The trailer was viewed more than 182 million times when it dropped, marking the biggest red-band trailer launch in Sony history. ...

4. Sizzling reviews. The film started last week with a super-high 93 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, which settled into a still-glowing 83 percent. ...

5. Timing was key. ...

6. Seth Rogen got creative with marketing. He ... was featured in a video with a talking cantaloupe. And Rogen narrated original food recipe videos — just to name two examples. Indeed, the movie’s marketing budget was spent on online promotion — approximately four times more than the 12 percent that’s usually allocated. ...

Also too, Rogen has spent years building the Rogen brand. This is the End, Superbad, Neighbors, Pineapple Express, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Knocked Up, come on already. Seth is known for raunchy comedies, and SP sails right down the middle of that fairway.

Various critics are amazed audiences turn out for a naughty cartoon, but they apparently missed the memo (now widely circulated) that animation is a style of presentation, not a genre. R-rated animated features should be ... and eventually will be ... no rarer than R-rated live-action comedies. (That other Seth, the one named MacFarlane, also knows a lot about edgy animated and live-action comedies, having made his share).

Sausage Party also has the benefit of being produced with Free Money, since it was made in Canada. And when production costs stay low, it becomes easier to see your movie go into profits. Seth's latest animated feature looks to be making money in relatively short order.

Click here to read entire post

International Box Office

This week's overseas (and world) totals.


Suicide Squad -- $58,700,000 -- ($465,400,000)

The Secret Life Of Pets -- $40,000,000 -- ($592,600,000)

Sausage Party -- $2,600,000 -- ($36,200,000)

Jason Bourne -- $18,600,000 -- ($246,200,000)

Finding Dory -- $8,100,000 -- ($897,400,000)

The Jungle Book -- $6,200,000 -- ($947,800,000)

Pete's Dragon -- $5,100,000 -- ($26,600,000)

The Legend Of Tarzan -- $4,100,000 -- ($347,008,688)

Ice Age: Collision Course -- $6,100,000 -- ($305,942,747)

Star Trek Beyond -- $2,500,000 -- ($211,279,949)

Independence Day: Resurgence -- $1,300,000 -- ($382,570,912)

X-Men: Apocalypse -- $3,100,000 -- ($539,701,327)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- $1,700,000 -- ($239,012,726) ...

Kindly note that, as it is with domestic box office, so it is with international. Lots of CG cartoons, and lots of live-action with animated visual effects. There seems to be a trend.

... An $8.1M weekend lifts Finding Dory to $420.6M internationally and $897.4M worldwide. ...

Swinging up a further $6.2M in four territories, Disney’s The Jungle Book opened notably in Japan, its final market. The four-day haul in Japan was $6.2M. That wasn’t good enough to top The Secret Life Of Pets, but there’s no need to shed a tear for little Mowgli and big Baloo, as the film closes in on $950M worldwide. ...

Skating past $300M globally, Ice Age: Collision Course added $6.1M this frame in 52 international markets. France was the top holdover at $854K for a 47% drop in its 5th week. The cume there is $20.1M. Germany also held well in its 6th frame for a total $22.6M. ...

Never underestimate the power of pet owners. With a $40M weekend, The Secret Life Of Pets helped push Universal Pictures International over the $1B mark for the 10th consecutive year. ...

Sausage Party is just getting started overseas where rollout began in nine markets this frame to ring up $2.6M from over 470 screens. ...

Pete's Dragon opened to $5.1M. With an A CinemaScore domestically and great reviews, it’s still got a lot of play to go overseas. The major launch markets were Russia, Italy and the UK. ...

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Seventy-Four Years Ago ..

Disney's Bambi opened in theaters nationwide. Today the film looks quaint but in its time many artists felt it was as realistic as artists could attain.

Joe Grant told me Designer Rico LeBrun had a hunter friend bring in a real deer he shot in the Sierras. LeBrun set up drawing and anatomy sessions to study the dead animal.

But LeBrun was so inspired by the opportunity he refused to dispose of the carcass even after several days. And it began to smell badly and attract flies. Finally the other animators waited until LeBrun had left for lunch and tossed the rancid thing. Walt arranged to bring in some live deer.

-- TAG President Emeritus Tom Sito (aka "Mr. History")

My favorite Bambi story was told to me by Disney veteran Frank Thomas:

The picture was finished and a bunch of us went with Walt to a sneak preview in L.A.

The movie started showing and was going over pretty well. Then it got to the scene where Bambi's mother is shot, and Bambi wanders through the snow crying out "Mo-ther! MO-ther!" You could hear a pin drop. Then some wise guy up in the balcony shouts back: "Here I am Bambi! Here I AM!"

I leaned out and looked down the row at Walt. You could almost see the steam coming out of his ears." ...

Bambi today is a well-loved classic, but it didn't turn a profit until its second release in 1947. The first animated feature into development after Snow White, it was the last pre-war animated feature to be released. There wouldn't be another until Cinderella in 1950.

Add On: Screenwriter William Goldman, in his book Adventures in the Screen Trade, has this to say about Walt Disney's fifth animated feature:

... Deer Hunter told me [what] I already knew and believed in: No matter how horrid the notion of war, Robert de Niro would end up staring soulfully at the beautiful, long-suffering Meryl Streep.

So I say in spite of its skill and the seriousness of its subject matter, we have a well-disguised comic-book movie. Nothing shook my world.

Okay, Bambi.

If the shower scene in Psycho was the shocker of the sixties, and for me, it sure was, then its equivalent in the entire decade of the forties was when Bambi’s mother dies.

And what about that line of dialogue ‘Man has entered the forest’?

And the fire, and the incredibly strong anti-violence implications […]

I know it was a cartoon. I know Thumper had one of the great scene-stealing roles, I know there was a lot of cuteness.

But I left that movie changed.

It had, and has, a terrifying sense of life to it, and not life as we like it to be. You may think I’m crazy, and you may be right, but Bambi still reverberates inside me. ...

So says Willian Goldman, author of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, The Princess Bride, All the President's Men and on and on.

And he ought to know (even though Goldman maintains that "Nobody knows anything.")

Despite the assertion, I say William G. knows his movies.

Click here to read entire post

Your American Box Office

Animated features keep landing near the top of the Big List, Sausage Party being the latest.


1). Suicide Squad (WB), 4,255 theaters (0) / $13.3M Fri./ $17.9M Sat (+34%) / $12.5M Sun. (-30%) / 3-day cume: $43.8M (-67%) /Total cume: $222.9M/ Wk 2

2). Sausage Party (SONY/APP), 3,103 theaters / $13.6M Fri (includes $3.25M previews)/ $11.4M Sat (-16%) / $8.7M Sun. (-24%) / 3-day cume: $33.6M / Wk 1

3). Pete’s Dragon (DIS), 3,702 theaters / $7M Fri. / $8.4M Sat (+20%) / $6.2M Sun. (-26%) / 3-day cume: $21.5M / Wk 1

4). Jason Bourne (UNI), 3,528 theaters (-511) / $3.9M Fri. /$5.9M Sat (+53%) / $3.8K Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $13.6M (-39%)/Total cume: $126.9M/ Wk 3

5). Bad Moms (STX), 3,188 theaters (-27)/ $3.6M Fri. /$4.5M Sat (+26%) / $3.4M Sun. (-25%) / 3-day cume: $11.45M (-18%)/Total cume: $71.5M/ Wk 3

6). The Secret Life of Pets (ILL/UNI), 2,958 theaters (-459) / $2.5M Fri. / $3.7M Sat (+46%) / $2.6M Sun. (-30%) / 3-day: $8.8M(-23%)/Total cume: $335.9M / Wk 6

7). Star Trek Beyond (PAR), 2,577 theaters (-686) / $1.8M Fri./ $3M Sat (+62%) / $2M Sun. (-32%) / 3-day cume: $6.8M (-32%) / Total cume: $139.7M / Wk 4

8.) Florence Foster Jenkins (PAR), 1,528 theaters / $2.1M Fri. (includes $190K previews) /$2.65M Sat (+27%) / $1.85M Sun. (-30%) / 3-day cume: $6.58M / Wk 1

9).Nine Lives (EUR), 2,264 theaters / $1.1M Fri./ $1.4M Sat (+31%) / $990K Sun. (-31%) / 3-day cume: $3.5M (-44%)/Total cume: $13.55M/ Wk 2

10). Lights Out (WB/NL), 1,652 theaters (-929) / $985K Fri. / $1.4M Sat (+38%) / $880K Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $3.2M (-46%) / Total cume: $61.1M / Wk 4


Farther down the box office roster you will find Ice Age: Collision Course and Finding Dory. The Pixar feature is an unalloyed hit, tracking north of $475 million, but Ice Age, in release for a mere 22 days, has fallen flat, with $57,223,271 in the tote bag.

Happily, the picture has done much better overseas, and has now earned $236,117,791, 80.5% of its $293,341,062 worldwide gross.

Click here to read entire post

Friday, August 12, 2016

Employment At L.A. Animation Studios

As is TAG blog's habit from time to time, we give you the employment numbers at our larger* signator studios.


Bento Box -- 89
Cartoon Network -- 300
Disney Television Animation -- 382
DreamWorks Animation -- 584
Dr4eamWorks Animation TV -- 309
Fox Animation -- 243
Marvel Animation -- 66
Nickelodeon Cartoon Studios -- 288
Paramount Animation -- 65
Rick and Morty -- 54
Robin Red Breast (Titmouse) -- 117
Original Force Animation -- 23
Six Point Two -- 27
Sony Pictures Animation -- 85
Walt Disney Animation Studios -- 570
Warner Animation Group (WAG) -- 47
Warner Bros. Animation -- 275
Wild Canary -- 45
Woodridge (Hasbro) -- 35 ...

Animation work in Los Angeles has grown steadily over the past four years. Studios still strive to hold down costs, however, laying crews off as soon as a current project has ended. But show supervisors continue to complain "We just can't find enough qualified people out there!"

Some studios are restructuring, and some shows are outsourcing storyboards and design work to Canada, but the Los Angeles animation industry continues to do well, even with the cascade of Free Money happening north of our national border.

Globally, animation continues to be a growth industry, booming in Canada, growing in the United Kingdom, making gains at various studios across Europe and South America. China and India are also growing their domestic animation studios, and China is setting up satellite studios (like Original Force) in Southern California.

* Studios with less than twenty (20) employees are not listed.

Click here to read entire post

Why They Keep Making The Cartoons


Cartoon Network Enterprises announced the addition of new apparel and accessories partners for Rick and Morty, Adult Swim’s animated series. Joining current apparel and accessories partners Ripple Junction and Zen Monkey, Underboss, Bioworld, Hot Properties Merchandising, Daylight Curfew, Hyp and Surreal Entertainment have all signed on to create ranges of products based on the popular original series. ...

Bioworld (Booth #25099) will introduce an assortment of new Rick and Morty accessories including bags, wallets, belts, headwear, wristbands and more, which will be available at specialty stores nationwide this fall.

Hot Properties Merchandising is set to debut key chains, magnets, patches, buttons and stickers this fall at specialty stores nationwide.

Adding to their existing offering of Rick and Morty t-shirts and sweatshirts for men and women, Ripple Junction (Booth #26019) introduced enamel pins earlier this year.

Daylight Curfew introduced limited edition, co-branded apparel, including t-shirts and sweatshirts, as well as a collaboration with Run The Jewels this May. The collection is available on ...

And so on and so forth.

It was a challenge getting Rick and Morty under contract. Cartoon Network/Turner treats its Adult Swim content as edgy/experimental/ lower budget fare. And the policy of the suits in the executive suites is to have a lot of AS series ... including R & M ... be non-signator.

Of course, a lot of this "lower budget" product, where the crews work for sub-par wages and benefits. reaps enormous profits for the fine, entertainment conglomerates that own the shows. A lot of those profits come from the t-shirts, jackets, bandanas, leather straps, video games, action figures, and apps for your favorite mobile devices that (let's face the reality squarely) rake in large amounts of currency. This enables the corporations (plus profit participants, if any) to make out like freebooters sailing the South Seas.

Free enterprise, fck yeah!

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, August 11, 2016

THIS Will Test the Waters

The Reporter tells us:

... Sausage Party, debuting in roughly 2,800 theaters, has the potential to be a breakout hit, thanks to a modest budget, glowing reviews and producing duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the team behind This Is the End. The pair partnered with Annapurna's Megan Ellison and Sony to make the movie, which is about a brave sausage who leads his fellow hot dogs on a quest to learn what really happens when they leave the grocery store. ...

Ah, but it's so much more than a tale of food exiting the market. ....

SP has 83% of discerning critics saying "This is a bit of okay!" with a 95% want-to-see rating.

Over the next four days, we'll discover what that high percentage desire translates into at the American box office.

Click here to read entire post
Site Meter