Thursday, September 29, 2016

Getting Into Cartoonland

The Huffington Post gives its version of the road map.

... According to the experts at Spiel, it is good to learn how to handle criticism and the weight of reality. In order to get paid, people expect that you will have some working experience, and even if your portfolio is amazing, they might expect you accept an internship first before you can get a permanent position in the company.

To put it bluntly, it will be easier for you to work for free for some time, than to go from one place to another in order to find someone who will immediately appreciate your skills. ....

We're not big proponents of working for free, but many people do it as they struggle to get into the business. Lot's of striving artists ask TAG, "So what's the best way to get a job in the animation business?"

The answer from the grizzled old union rep is a wee bit different than the one found on the Huffington Post, but neither route is wrong.

The animation biz is ever-changing. There are feature-length cartoon studios where story artists, scenic designers and CG animators and technicians are employed inside four walls. There are studios where the front ends of half-hour animated shows get made. Their staffs consist of of script writers, storyboard artists, designers, timing directors, color stylists and animation checkerr.

To get into any part of the biz, it's useful to own high-quality drawing and/or tech skills, a ferocious work ethic, a knack for working well with others and the patience of Job. The L.A. cartoon industry is bigger than it's ever been, but colleges and art schools are turning out graduates with animation degrees at a record clip and the competition is as fierce as it's ever been, so you need calling cards: a strong portfolio, a boffo student film, the ability to give good interviews, familiarity with Storyboard Pro and the willingness to take job tests that often go nowhere are just a few.

Even with strong credentials artists will likely get rejected. But the more arrows they have in their quivers, the more employable they will be. When a twenty-two-year-old artist who's just gotten to town asks for instructions about how to land her first job, the answer given by the business representative is the scenario above, plus this:

To get into animation long-term you need.

1) Marketable Skills

2) The ability to do sustained, high quality work.

3) Luck.

It comes down to having the kind of job chops a studio is looking for, and to be standing at the door ready to go to work when they need you. Then, when you finally get the dream job, to have a talent for playing well with others so that you can keep the dream job.

It's also good to know that nothing lasts forever. (Unless you're a staff member of The Simpsons).

Click here to read entire post

Boffo Box Office

WB's Storks might be under-performing, but there's another animated movie that isn't.

Animated fantasy film charms Japan and soars to top of box office

Your Name, Makoto Shinkai’s fantasy about two teenagers drawn together by gender-swapping dreams, has been seen by more than 8 million people since its release in August, beating the hugely popular Godzilla Resurgence to become the highest-grossing film in Japan this year, and the ninth highest of all time.

It has earned more than 10bn yen (£77m) in box office receipts, an anime milestone previously achieved only by Miyazaki’s films.

The film has made the 43-year-old Shinkai an obvious candidate to continue the anime legacy left by Miyazaki, the 75-year-old creator of global hits such as Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle. ...

The lesson, at least in Japan, is that animation doesn't have to be CG to make a pile of yen at the box office. Hand-drawn features can also be high-grossers, but since very few are, very few get produced.

Click here to read entire post

Hail and Farewell

A long-running series is wrapping things up:

“Adventure Time” will end its journey in 2018, Cartoon Network announced Thursday morning. ...

Since its debut, “Adventure Time” has become a cult and critical favorite for its color animation, creative storytelling and quirky sense of humor. Among its many accolades are the show’s six Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award.

The announcement follows one earlier this month that one of Cartoon Network’s other most recognizable properties, “The Regular Show” will end after its eighth season. ...

Cartoon Network will have 142 half-hours in the tote bag when Adventure Time ends its run, and the network undoubtedly thinks there are now more than enough episodes to syndicate and re-run into infinity.

For those keeping track, AT began life as a Nick project in collaboration with Fred Seibert's shop. But Nickelodeon decided the pilot wasn't there cup of entertainment, and let the produced short go into turn-around and Cartoon Network snapped it up ... much to Nick's subsequent sorrow.

So here we are, eight years further on, as the series ends its long and triumphant run.

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Jumping the Divide

Mr. Kaytis moves to the live-action side of the table:

Amblin Partners has acquired Deb Lucke’s YA novel The Lunch Witch, with Angry Birds co-director Clay Kaytis attached to make his live-action directing debut. ...

Kaytis comes out of Disney where he worked as an animator on such films as Frozen, Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph before Rovio hired him to helm the feature animation adaptation of its touchstone franchise. Angry Birds grossed $346 million worldwide for Sony. ...

Congratulations to Clay for having the talent (and stamina) to go where Frank Tashlin, Brad Bird, Rob Minkoff and several other animation artists have earlier ventured.

(Mr. Kaytis also conducted a series of animation podcast in the not-so-long-ago. Find them here).

Click here to read entire post


It took a bit of time, but TAG has now compiled the data for wages in the last half of 2015 and first half of 2016.

The total return of survey forms was 33% (1,518 returned and tallied out of 4,650 sent out). The 2015 return rate was 30%, if you're wondering. The 2016 survey and some highlights: ...

------ 2016 Member Wage Survey ------

------ Minimum ------ Median ----- Maximum -----

Staff Writers (TV) -- $1,000 -- $2,200 -- $3,750

Timing Directors -- $1,500 -- $2,000 -- $2,865

Production Board -- $1,238.40 -- $2,047.20 -- $3,605

Revisionists -- $950 -- $1,570 -- $2,047.20

Character Layout -- $1,054.55 -- $1,900 -- $4,000

Backgrnd Layout/Design -- $1,000 -- $1,950 -- $2,400

Art Directors -- $1,243.75 -- $2,210.90 -- $3,570

Tech Directors -- $1,200 -- $1,780.08 -- $3,203.50

Character TDs -- $1,270 -- $1,961.53 -- $3,472

Lighters -- $1,040 -- $2,021.05 -- $,769.23

3D Compositors -- $1240 -- $1,884.60 -- $2,600

3D Animators -- $1,500 -- $2,060 -- $4,346

3D Modelers -- $1,100 -- $1,826.92 -- $2,500

This year's data shows a wage decline in 27% of the Guild's job categories, and a hike in 73% of them. Many of the declines were small; the drop for CG lighters, to cite one example, was a whopping 71 cents.

The 2015 and 2016 wage surveys can be found here. Feel free to burrow through the various numbers.

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


The Animation Guild held its September Membership Meeting with a packed meeting hall.

The agenda might have had something to do with it. There was a proposal to raise the Guild's annual dues. There were officer and board member nominations. The results ...

On the question: Shall the Animation Guild raise annual dues $100? (To be phased in over the next four years). -- the vote was a unanimous yes.

The nominations for Animation Guild officer and executive board positions were as follows:

Officers running unopposed; elected by white ballot:

President -- Laura Hohman

Vice President -- K.C. Johnson (incumbent)

Recording secretary -- Paula Spence

Contested Elections

Business Representative -- Tom Tataranowicz, Jason MacLeod, Larry Smith

Sergeant-At-Arms -- Robert St. Pierre, Ray Leong

Executive Board (11 board members) -- Jeanette Moreno King, Zack Atkinson, Lauren Hecht, Mike Morris, Phil Weinstein, Brandon Jarratt, Myoung Smith, David Chlystek, Spencer Knapp, Candice Stephenson, Dominic Polcino, Bronnie Barry, Cathy Jones, Kevin Moore, Andrew Jennings, Jason Mayer, Steve Kaplan, Lisa Anderson, Dave Thomas, Llyn Hunter, David Woo, J.J. Conway, Mark Banker, Bill Flores, David Shair.

Ballots for the new slate of Guild officers will be mailed to the membership on October 11th, and ballots counted on November 12th. The new officers will be installed at the Guild's Executive Board meeting on December 6th.

Click here to read entire post

"South Park" ... Still Impish

The Simpsons isn't the only cartoon series with two decades under its belt.

In an effort to promote the 20th season, which premiered Sept. 14, mobile billboards have been placed in seven locations around the country depicting scenes that coincide with the trucks' placements.

The marketing ploy did not go over so well with three locations: the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the Church of Scientology.

"We knew it was risky," Walter Levitt, chief marketing officer for Comedy Central told The Hollywood Reporter. "We knew some locations might not be pleased to have us out there, but we thought this is a perfect way to celebrate everything the series has covered in its 19 seasons."

The billboard in front of the White House featured a cartoon President Barack and Michelle Obama. The Scientology truck featured a scene from the infamous 2005 episode "Trapped in the Closet" in which the church and its most famous follower, Tom Cruise, were skewered. ...

What keeps the show fresh is the topicality and envelope pushing. And the fact that it skewers various sacred cows at all points of the political compass, which endears it to cynical millenials, also near-millenials (you know, everyone up to about ... oh ... 59).

If the show hasn't offended you on some level in the course of 19 seasons, then you probably don't have a pulse.

And we would still like the production company to sign a Guild contract.

Click here to read entire post

Monday, September 26, 2016

Box Office At The End Of The Third

We're speaking of the third quarter of this year:


1 Captain America: Civil War -- $1,152.8m

2 Zootopia -- $1,023.6m

3 Finding Dory -- $970.1m

4 The Jungle Book (2016) -- $965.8m

5 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice -- $873.3m

6 The Secret Life of Pets -- $821.8m

7 Deadpool -- $782.6m

8 Suicide Squad -- $731.8m

9 The Mermaid (Mei ren yu) -- $553.8m

10 X-Men: Apocalypse -- $543.6m

11 Kung Fu Panda 3 -- $519.9m

What's startling about the motion pictures above is that all but one (The Mermaid) is an animated feature or super hero movie layered with animated visual effects.

Think about this. In the history of moviemaking, animation has never been so dominant. Animated features sit at #2, #3, #4, #6, and #11. VFX extravaganzas occupy most of the rest.

Click here to read entire post

Star Wars Cartoon

Off in another sector of the Disney empire ...

... Ben Sherwood, the President of Disney-ABC Television Group, ... confirmed that there was development at Lucasfilm Animation at Disney XD regarding the next animated series set in a galaxy far, far away. Now some shuffling behind the scenes further confirms that some new Lucasfilm Animation projects are on the way, and with that also comes big changes at Star Wars Rebels.

... Dave Filoni is no longer the supervising director of Star Wars Rebels. The man who previously worked as supervising director on The Clone Wars hasn’t been fired from Star Wars Rebels though, as he will still act as executive producer and oversee the show. ...

The Star Wars properties created at Cartoon Network? Under Guild contract.

The cartoons made at Lucasfilm in northern California? Those, sadly, do not have the protection of a collective bargaining agreement, but there's no reason they have to continue that way. All it takes is a majority of representation cards. And sometimes a vote.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Loren Bouchard Speaks

The creator/showrunner of Bob's Burgers says:

... I truly believe animation enters your brain differently.

I am fascinated by that. It would be really interesting to keep picking at that.

I’m hopeful that in a way, what it means is we can connect with the audience in a very deep way. Good storytelling connects, you don’t have to be making animation, obviously. But my optimistic hope is that there’s a light we can turn on, that we can reach, in the back of the brain that no one else can. As deep into your childhood or your lizard brain or whatever you want to call it, there’s a lightbulb in there that I want to get to and fool around with. I assume this is hard to do and do a show on a deadline, so in a lot of ways we just have to discover it together if I’m right ...

Animation comes at television or theater audiences by a separate route than live-action because people know what they're watching isn't real.

Old-style live-action, on the other hand, was real.

When you saw two characters fighting to the death, actual carbon-based life forms were flailing away at each other. When a squad of cavalry came thundering toward the camera, it was actual horses with actual human-type persons sitting atop them. And when you saw a man getting flung through a glass window, the window panes might have been spun sugar and balsa wood, but somebody was actually going through the damn window head first.

All those things impact nerve endings differently than Wiley Coyote going through a window ... or falling off a cliff ... or shooting past Mars on the nose of a rocket. The perception of risk and danger are different. There's a subliminal realization that with analog live-action, actual events in the space-time continuum, staged and choreographed though the events may be, are actually happening.

In the digital age, of course, it's different. When Captain America is duking it out with Ironman and knocking him the length of a football field, or Deadpool is jumping though the roof of a car from two hundred feet up, the action is so over the top and ludicrous, that nobody registers it as "live action" in the way that, say, the chariot races in the 1959 or 1926 versions of Ben Hur come across as flesh-and-blood occurrences: real people at real risk causing real sweat on the palms of audience members. (In the '26 edition, you look at a massive pile-up of chariots and know it's genuine; crew members in knickers are running out onto the track to tend to injured extras).

Chariots plow into each other at 10:02.

In 2016, much of live-action has become a cartoon, with gravity and physics distorted in ways similar to the world of Wiley and his Road Runner pal.

But Mr. Bouchard strikes a chord about good storytelling connecting with audiences. Otherwise audiences wouldn't weep when the dwarfs gather around the funeral bier of Snow White ... or clench with fear when Woody, Buzz and the rest of the Toy Story troupe is swept toward the fires of a furnace.

Are there differences between animation and live-action? Abso-freaking-lutely. But each has the capability to reach audiences.

Click here to read entire post

Foreign Box Office

A Western remake and a new animated feature roll onto the big international list.


Bridget Jones's Baby -- $21,900,000 -- ($83,600,000)

The Magnificent Seven -- $19,200,000 -- ($59,800,000)

Storks -- $18,300,000 -- ($40,100,000)

The Secret Life Of Pets -- $8,100,000 -- ($820,900,000)

Sully -- $6,500,000 -- ($126,900,000)

Finding Dory -- $5,300,000 -- ($969,800,000)

As Deadline says:

... Storks swooped into 33 international markets for an estimated $18.3M debut. Family friendly Latin America was a strong play with about 40% of the total estimated weekend box office. The film came in No. 1 in nearly all markets there (save Peru and Argentina where it was No. 2 behind local pics). ...

Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory found another $5.3M in 14 territories. With Germany still to come, the forgetful blue tang continues to swim closer to the $1B worldwide mark. Current stats are: $484.2M domestic, $485.6M international and $969.8M global. ...

Disney’s Pete's Dragon made $2.9M in 30 offshore markets this frame to get the international cume closer to $50M at $47.5M to date. The worldwide cume is $121.7M ahead of bows in Brazil and Kore next session. ...

Kubo an the Two String grossed an estimated $1.8M in 27 territories for an< international total of $12.6M. Combined with Focus Features’ U.S. total of $45.9M, the worldwide gross is $58.1M. France, which leans towards this sort of fare, opened 317 dates to $754K for the No. 2 Laika launch ever, 15% behind Coraline. ...

Bridget Jones’s Baby delivered a strong $21.9M in 47 territories. That takes the international total to $67.1M for a worldwide cume to date of $83.6M. ...

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Student Academy Awards

The winners have been known for a bit of a while, but the list of student academy awards honorees (animation) bears repeating:

Silver award -- "The Wishgranter"

Seventeen winners of Student Academy Awards were honored Thursday as the Academy unveiled the medal standings at its 43rd Student Academy Awards ceremony, held at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. ...


Gold: “Once upon a Line,” Alicja Jasina, USC

Silver: “The Wishgranter,” Echo Wu, Ringling College of Art and Design

Bronze: “Die Flucht,” Carter Boyce, DePaul University

Left to right: Echo Wu, Alicja Jasina, Lucy Liu and Carter Boyce.

Alicja Jasina accepting the Gold.

Ringling student Echo Wu accepting the Silver.

Click here to read entire post

The Box Office of the Weekend

A Western (of all things) tops the charts, with WB's Storks a distant second:


1). Magnificent Seven (SONY), 3,121 theaters / $12.7M Fri. / $13.8M Sat. / $8.5M Sun. / 3-day cume: $35M / Wk 1

2). Storks (WB), 3,922 theaters / $5.7M Fri. / $9.4M Sat. / $6.6M Sun. / 3-day cume: $21.8M / Wk 1

3). Sully (WB), 3,955 theaters (+430)/ $4.2M Fri. / $6M Sat./ $3.6M Sun. / 3-day cume: $13.8M (-36%)/Total: $92.4M / Wk 3

4). Bridget Jones’s Baby (UNI), 2,930 theaters (+3) / $1.47M Fri. / $1.97M Sat. / $1.1M Sun. / 3-day cume: $4.5M (-47%)/Total Cume:$16.5M/ Wk 2

5). Snowden (OR), 2,443 theaters / $1.2M Fri. / $1.8M Sat. / $1.1M Sun. / 3-day cume: $4.1M (-49%)/Total Cume: $15.1M/ Wk 2

6). Blair Witch (LG), 3,121 theaters / $1.27M Fri. / $1.75M Sat. / $930K Sun. / 3-day cume: $3.95M (-59%)/Total cume: $16.1M/ Wk 2

7). Don’t Breathe (SONY), 2,438 theaters (-770) / $1.1M Fri. / $1.7M Sat. / $955K Sun. / 3-day cume: $3.8M (-33%)/ Total cume: $81.1M / Wk 5

8). Suicide Squad (WB), 2,172 theaters (-568) / $800K Fri. / $1.5M Sat./ $820K Sun. / 3-day cume: $3.1M (-34%) / Total cume: $318.1M / Wk 8

9). When the Bough Breaks (SONY), 1,444 theaters (-802) /$715K Fri. / $1.2M Sat. / $565K Sun. / 3-day cume: $2.5M (-54%)/Total: $26.6M/ Wk 3

10/11). Kubo and the Two Strings (FOC), 1,209 theaters (-548) / $261K Fri. / $510K Sat. / $332K Sun. / 3-day cume: $1.1M (-57%) / Total cume: $45.9M / Wk 6 ...

So remakes are still gold (with the right actors), but some animated features fly much lower than others.

As Deadline notes:

... Storks opening is reminiscent of Sony’s Open Season which made $23.6M, earned an A- CinemaScore (which isn’t good for an animated movie when its opening is this low), had a similar cost to Storks of $85M, and did a 3.6x multiple with a final stateside take of $85.1M. Overseas was $112.2M.

Though Open Season created a launchpad for animated pics in late September, property/cost/box office-wise, it didn’t warrant a theatrical sequel (just video), and that might be the case here with Storks. The fact that it skews way younger to the under 10 crowd, and is not a ‘five-quad’ animated film will slow its pace. If you’re a frosh toon brand, you have to have wide appeal if you’re going to be a studio cornerstone franchise.

DreamWorks Animation’s The Penguins of Madagascar was another handholder-skewing movie that opened in this Storks range ($25.4M FSS, with an A- CinemaScore and an $83M final stateside take). Though Penguins was pained by its $132M production cost, the reason why it made 78% of its global tally overseas ($289.7M/$373M) stemmed from the fact that it was an established DWA brand. It would be a shocker if Storks hits those foreign B.O. numbers even with a $18.3M launch this weekend in 33 territories (including China). ...

Click here to read entire post

Friday, September 23, 2016

Thirty-Three Years Back ...

President Emeritus Tom Sito tells us:

Sept 23, 1984 --- Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Frank Wells met the Disney Animation Dept. and are pitched storyboards for the film Basil of Baker Street, later called the Great Mouse Detective. Up to now their thinking had been to dismantle the animation department and earn income from the licensees of the existing library. Roy Disney was instrumental in insisting the animation division remain. Eisner dictates memos to start the television animation division. ...

Well, something like that.

Walt Disney Productions animation division was on pins and needles about whether the production group was going to get shuttered or was going to continue. Rumors abounded. Rectums were tight.

Then word came down that the animation department was still in business and the new guys (Eisner, Wells, Katzenberg) okayed opening a TV animation division. Michael Eisner came up with the idea for The Gummi Bears (okay, he wanted a cartoon developed around the candy) and the resulting series became Disney Television Animation's first hit.

A lot of water has passed beneath Diz Co.'s bridge since those nerve-wracking days in the early eighties. It's good to see the place has prospered, even if most of the personnel at the studio in 1984 have moved on ... including Frank, Michael and Jeffrey.

Click here to read entire post

Union Vote

For some odd reason, a group of entertainment workers want improved wages and benefits.

By a vote of 43-20, employees of Deluxe Technicolor Digital Cinema tonight voted to join IATSE and its postproduction local the Motion Picture Editors Guild. This comes a year after postproduction technicians and artists at Deluxe’s Culver City unit on the Sony lot overwhelmingly jumped into the union game. ...

This particular further unionization of Deluxe employees comes after what sources tell me was a very heated campaign on both sides. ...

There's a lot of pushback right now from people who have to work for a living. When the standard of living slips year by year by year, folks working long hours in front of the flat screens commence taking action that will push the trend line in a different direction.

So why would this be happening in this best of all possible worlds? ...

... Over the past three decades, the share of household wealth owned by the top 0.1% has increased from 7% to 22%. For the bottom 90% of families, a combination of rising debt, the collapse of the value of their assets during the financial crisis, and stagnant real wages have led to the erosion of wealth.

The share of wealth owned by the top 0.1% is almost the same as the bottom 90%. ...

So this union vote? A small step to alter the maldistribution at the base of the pyramid.

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Handicapping Weekend Box Office

B.O. Mojo tells us:

... Industry expectations for Magnificent Seven and Storks have both films opening around $30+ million. For Storks this number appears to be about right on target, but for Magnificent Seven it seems grossly conservative. Sony is projecting a $30-32 million weekend, but if it doesn't top $40 million it would be a bit of a surprise. ...

For Warner Bros., Storks is the second film for the newly formed Warner Animation Group, which so far has only The LEGO Movie to its credit. Storks, of course, doesn't have the name recognition of LEGO so don't expect a $69 million opening, instead we're looking at titles such as Mr. Peabody & Sherman ($32.2m opening), Hotel Transylvania ($42.5m opening) and Rio ($39m opening) for comparison and, with Storks opening in 3,922 theaters, a $30 million weekend or just a bit more seems inevitable, the question is can it go any higher?

If anything will hold it back it could be the 51% rating the film currently holds at RottenTomatoes. Of course, a 45% rating for Hotel Transylvania didn't prevent it from opening over $42 million and Hotel Transylvania 2 carried its 54% rating to a September record. All things considered, Mojo's projected $31.7 million opening seems relatively safe, but to go much higher would go against the majority of the data available. ...

Storks did its pre-production here in Los Angeles, its production at Sony Imageworks Vancouver, where the Free Money roams. As a member of Storks production team related:

"Sony Imageworks has enough Vancouver staff to do three features at once. There was a lot of communication between L.A. and Vancouver as the movie was made. You can do a lot of supervision over vide up-links. It's totally feasible to have production sites in different parts of the world and make the movie. It's a wave that's coming."

The question is, however the production was done, will audiences like the story enough to flock to Storks? If the move hits $33 or $36 million on opening weekend, it will probably be viewed as a success.

Click here to read entire post

Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan Annual Reports

Artists, writers and technicians under TAG contracts receive pension and health benefits from the MPIPHP (Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan).

TAG has been getting an increasing number of calls from members asking, "So where are the Annual Reports? I need to know how my Individual Account Plan* and Defined Benefit Plan** are doing."

Today there is good news: trustees of the Plan say that the Annual Reports will be out in October. That's a few months late, but better late than not getting the reports at all. ....

Unlike the Guild's 401(k) Plan, where members self-manage their investments ... or hand the job off to Vanguard Mutual Funds ... the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan has a squad of investment experts that invest in a wide array of stocks, bonds, real estate and alternative investments (commodities, private equity, futures, etc.)

Here's how the IAP investments break down:


U.S. Core Equity - 4.5%
U.S. Growth Equity - 3.1%
U.S. Value Equity - 1.2%
Global Equity - 14.8%
Emerging Markets - 1.8%
Total Equity - 25.4%

Fixed Income - 32.2%

Alternative Investments - 36.4%

Real Estate - 6%

The percentages above are not static. They can grow or shrink on direction from trustees of the MPIPHP. (Prior to the 2008 meltdown, the Plan's investment were more heavily weighted to fixed income. The financial experts saw at least some of the disaster coming, and shifted the Plan's portfolios to more conservative investments).

* Individual Account Plan = a big basket of investments, directed by the MPIPHP, that earns interest and capital gains.

** Defined Benefit Plan = a monthly annuity (much like Social Security) that pays you X amount of dollars twelve times per year. The amount you receive is based on the total number of qualified pension years and total number of contribution hours in your account.
Click here to read entire post

Cartoon Interstitials

From a fine entertainment journal:

Disney Channels Worldwide is set to launch interstitial programming designed to help kids lead healthy lives. Starting on Friday, animated shorts featuring characters from such series as The Lion Guard, Miles from Tomorrowland and Star Wars Rebels will start airing in rotation on Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior.

Created by animators including James Curran (Star Wars Rebels, Gravity Falls) and David Calcano (The Adventures of Papchu and Dr. Kapatoo), the shorts are designed to inspire, inform and motivate kids’ nutritious food choices and physical activities. ...

Physical fitness and nutrition are good things.

Artists having more projects to work on? Also a good thing. (The assumption here: some of this work is being done in L.A.)

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

2016 Wage Survey Preview

TAG has completed compilation of 2016 wage data and is in the process of formatting and laying out the info.

Until the full survey is complete, some selected numbers:



Feature Writers 2016 Median: $3100 (weekly)
Feature Writers 2015 Median: $3,157.89 (weekly)

TV Writers 2016 Median: $2,267.24 (weekly)
TV Writers 2015 Median: $2,200.00 (weekly)


Feature 2016 Median: $3,752.10 (weekly)
Feature 2015 Median: $2,743.87 (weekly)

TV 2016 Median: $2,493.87 (weekly)
TV 2015 Median: $2,414.06 (weekly)

Story Art:

Storyboard Artist 2016 Median: $2,378.50 (weekly)
Storyboard Artist 2015 Median: $2,227.27 (weekly)

Production Board 2016 Median: $2,038.11 (weekly)
Production Board 2015 Median: $2,000.00 (weekly)


3D Animator 2016 Median: $2088.96 (weekly)
3D Animator 2016 Median: $2021.05 (weekly)

Over the past few years, pay rates have been relatively stable. With the surge in employment, there's some upward push on overscale wages, but that's countered by:

1) The continuing flow of new artists and technicians from universities and art schools to entry level animation positions with lower salaries. This tends to slow upward trajectories of other rates.

2) The desire of animation studios to keep wages as close to minimum contract rates as possible.

3) Lower-compensated non-union work.

Though there's been a record level of employment, 1990s-style bidding wars for artistic talent have not reemerged.

Click here to read entire post

Blue People Not From Avatar

As we all know, humankind can NEVER get enough animation.

Sony is getting seriously involved in animated features. Probably because Sony is making money with them.

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Craft Meeting #5 -- Animation Writers

The Animation Guild's fifth craft meeting took place Tuesday night in the Guild meeting hall at 1105 N. Hollywood Way in Burbank California.

It was noted that TAG Vice President Earl Kress passed away five years ago yesterday at age 60. Earl was a prolific, talented writer who was instrumental in securing better conditions for freelance writers, negotiating health benefits for freelancers who wrote two half-hour outlines and scripts.

New Media: There were discussions regarding the Guild's New Media sideletter (pp 99-113 of the CBA), how its production budget tiers are tied to live-action that don't reflect the budgets for animation. New Media will likely be a central issue in 2018 negotiations, and there will be early indications where New Media language is going when the WGA and DGA negotiate their contracts next year.

Some writers at DreamWorks Animation TV are writing at below minimum rates, which is allowed under the sideletter. Animation work that's distributed over the internet (Netflix, Amazon, etc.) comes under New Media. If a negotiated contract fails to be ratified, then contract talks resume until a new agreement is reached or the talks reach impasse. ...

Script Fees: Only one studio has script fees (payments on top of salaries); that studio is Nickelodeon.

General Membership Meeting: Members were encouraged to attend the September 27th General Membership Meeting and run for the board or an officer position, since several officers and board members are departing.

Bank of Hours: Why hasn't the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan's Bank of Hours been raised? Because the bargaining parties (AMPTP and IATSE) haven't negotiated a hike. The 450 hours has been in place for a number of years, though the threshold for health coverage was raised eight years ago from 300 hours to 400 hours per 6-month period. This had the effect of knocking some participants off the Plan and there was some anger from members about it. Five years ago, premium payments of $25/month for participants with one dependent and $50/month for participants with 2 or more dependents were introduced.

Writer Categories: Animation Writer is a job classification in the contract. Story Editor in not in the contract, though the AMPTP told the Guild in negotiations four years ago it was part of the writer classification.

Discussion of how story editors get paid: Some writer/story editors in attendance liked total fees divided over 26 episodes and being paid weekly, and didn't want the fees tied to a weekly salary because payments would be lower. It was noted that TAG negotiates wage floors, that individuals are free to negotiate better pay and conditions.

Discussion about animation writers forming their own union. Mechanics of this are difficult, there would have to be de-certification then a new union created. There was also talk about making the Animation Guild into a national union that covers the whole country, the better to organize studios in Atlanta and elsewhere.

Screen Credits: It was noted that the contract requires screen credits for story on features and half-hour broadcast "non-segmented" half-hour television shows. It was suggested that screen credits should be required for all lengths of programs, since screen credits trigger foreign levies.

Storyboard artists should be allies with writers; where storyboard artists/writers and outline writers work together on non-scripted shows, they should share script fees.

Production Schedules: Writers/producers and show runners need to insist on reasonable production schedules. Story editors need to do the math and build reasonable time lines for scripts (and storyboards).

Many studios are using freelance writers, but some studios have staff writers. There's beginning to be more integration. DWA tv has staff story editors and small staffs of writers. Writers are in demand so studios are starting to employ staff writers to have their services full time.

Writers who know what the board artists can do are more effective because they can write scripts that reflect what can be achieved on storyboards.

Click here to read entire post


Going for originals.

Three years after it entered the original content business, Netflix looks to have originals make up about half of its offerings. ...

“It will take us a couple more years” to hit that target, CFO David Wells says. “We’re a third to half way to where we want to be…We’ve got a ways to go” as the company looks for “a mixture of production models” — although not sports or ad-supported offerings.

But he warned the Street that Netflix likely will burn more than $1 billion a year to satisfy its growing appetite for content, and may borrow more money. The streaming video power will be “a consumer of cash” for the next year and a half, and it “could take longer building content.” ...

What's important to note here: Lots of Netflix original content is animation. The service wants to rope three-to-six year-olds into the wacky cartoons it has to offer with the expectation that the pre and elementary schoolers will stick around to consume adult fare as the years roll on.

That's the theory, anyway. And Netflix is acting on it. (As is Amazon).

Click here to read entire post

Monday, September 19, 2016

Down at the SPA

Sony Pictures Animation is (and has been) kinda busy.

There are six editorial crews working on different movies on the Sony Imageworks lot and at nearby Culver Studios. Artists are in three different buildings at Imageworks, and some will also be moving into offices at Culver. ...

Sony Pictures Animation is as busy as it's ever been. Smurfs: The Lost Village is finishing up, and Hotel Transylvania 3 awaits Genndy Tartakovsky to finish up Samurai Jack at Cartoon Network so that it can kick into high gear. (There might be some commuting back and forth for awhile).

Most of Sony Imageworks is up in Vancouver, scarfing down the Free Money. But some Imageworks employees remain in Culver City, working on various projects. If schedules hold, the company will be releasing three animated project in '17 (Smurfs, Emojimovie and The Star, and two animated features and a hybrid the following year (Hotel Transylvania 3 the live-action animated hybrid Peter Rabbit, and Spiderman).

In all the time Sony Pictures Animation has been open, its slates have never been this ambitious, but Sony animated features have been on a recent roll, with Hotel Transylvania 2 bringing in $473 million last year, bettering the original's grosses by over $100 million.

So yeah. Sony Pictures Animation is working on a lot of projects.

Click here to read entire post

Guild Elections

Not TAG, but the WGA west.

... [F]our newcomers have been elected to the guild’s 2016 board of directors along with four incumbents. The newly seated quartet includes former "Walking Dead" showrunner and Damien creator Glen Mazzara (1,732 votes of 2,440 ballots cast), "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner (1,597), longtime "Grey’s Anatomy" writer-producer Zoanne Clack (1,393) and 10-year guild veteran Courtney Ellinger (1,281). ...

The guild reported a 26.7% percent turnout among its 9,120 eligible voting members. ...

The Animation Guild has nominations for a new slate of officers in a week's time, then elections that run until mid-November.

TAG will also have a lot of newcomers, since multiple board members and four officers will be departing.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Awards!!

The Emmys were on tonight, and yeah, we already know some of the them, but here they are again anyway (with the newbies).


It’s Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown!

Game of Thrones

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (Masterpiece)

Jason Kolowski (Adventure Time, “Bad Jubies”)
Tom Herpich (Adventure Time, “Stakes Pt. 8: The Dark”)
Jason Carpenter (He Named Me Malala)
Chris Tsirgiotis (Long Live the Royals, “Punk Show”)
Scott Daros (Robot Chicken DC Comics Special III: Magical Friendship)

Robot Chicken

Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) ...

There is always a bajillion categories, but to each and every sinner (also too, the runners up) TAG blog offers sincere congratulations.

Click here to read entire post

Your Foreign Box Office

The usual mix of genre titles, animated titles, and big studio movies with lots of animated effects.


Bridget Jones's Baby -- $29,900,000 -- ($38,100,000)

The Age Of Shadows -- $21,500,000 -- )$45,000,000)

Chinese Odyssey Part Three -- $17,300,000 -- ($35,800,000)

The Secret Life of Pets -- $9,600,000 -- ($900,000,000)

Finding Dory -- $8,300,000 -- ($961,100,000)

Sully -- $7,000,000 -- ($93,900,000)

Suicide Squad -- $5,800,000 -- ($718,900,000)

Pete's Dragon -- $5,200,000 -- ($113,000,000)

Blair Witch -- $4,900,000 -- ($14,600,000)

Star Trek Beyond -- $4,800,000 -- ($333,153,686)

Ice Age: Collision Course -- $2,300,000 -- ($402,629,990)

Sausage Party -- $2,100,000 -- ($119,559,861
) ...

Kindly note that Ice Age: Collision Course, after making only a few small ripples in the United States, has cleaned up overseas. 85.2% of its take comes from abroad. This pretty well explains why Fox-Blue sky does one Ice Age picture after another.

And as a fine entertainment journal tells us:

... The fish that just won’t quit [Finding Dory] swam to another $8.3M in her 13th weekend of overseas play. ...

Grossing $5.8M this weekend, Warner Bros’ DC superhero adaption Suicide Squad climbed past the $400M mark with a $405.1M overseas cume. The biggest play of the frame was Japan with a sophomore hold of $2.3M on 682 screens. The total there is now $9.4M. All markets are open with play currently in 62. The worldwide cume is now $718.9M. ...

Disney’s Dragon had a solid $5.2M 6th weekend, hitting No. 2 in Mexico with a $2.1M start behind local pic No Manches Frida. Elsewhere in Latin America, the live-action/CGI mix bowed to No. 1 in Ecuador, Bolivia and Central America; and held the top spot in Chile for Week 2. Pete picked up $700K in Australia, just ahead of school vacations. The international cume is now $40.2M for a global total of $113M ...

Putting $2.1M in the grocery basket, Sony and Seth Rogen’s [Sausage Party] has rung up $24.2M so far overseas. The weekend was in 27 markets with Portugal the highlight at $125K from 50 screens. The UK is the top offshore play with $8.6M after three frames. ...

Click here to read entire post

Jeffrey K.'s Future

Mr. Katzenberg departed DreamWorks Animation just shy of a month ago. Why did he agree to exit after 22 years? Could it be the price was right?

... The day after selling his company to Comcast for $3.8 billion, Jeffrey Katzenberg is doing what he’s always done — presiding over back-to-back breakfast meetings. ... It’s clear Katzenberg isn’t planning on spending the rest of his life bobbing around on a yacht in the Bahamas. In fact, he’s champing at the bit to start his next chapter: running his own investment firm. Over a bowl of seeded pecan granola and a Diet Coke, he is simultaneously taking calls on his cell phone and answering questions. ...

Sources close to Katzenberg say he’s intrigued by the model his longtime mentor, Barry Diller, has built. IAC, Diller’s conglomerate, owns everything from dating services like and Tinder to video sites like College Humor and Vimeo. How Katzenberg will put his own spin on that model remains to be seen.

What’s absolutely clear is that he has zero plans of retiring. Ever. “No, not possible,” he says incredulously when asked. “My work is my happiness.” ...

To J.K's credit, a decade ago he saw that smaller, stand-alone companies were spiraling down to extinction. He was interested in selling DWA not long after Pixar was snapped up by Diz Co. but the financial meltdown in 2009-2009 put an end to the possibility of a Pixar-sized sale.

Years passed and the economy recovered, even as DreamWorks Animation hit a rough patch with a string of animated features that failed to turn a profit. (It's tough to survive on a business model that dictates creating nothing but theatrical blockbusters. The odds are high that this particular biz model will, sooner or later, fail).

To the company's credit, it reacted to its movie under-performers by diversifying in multiple directions, by getting into television, amusement parks, and merchandise, and building a Chinese partnership. All of these strategies were steps in the right directions, but DreamWorks Animation was, at the end of the diversification, still a smallish company.

And DreamWorks was likely to remain smallish. Given all that, Katzenberg's decision to cash in with a sale makes perfect sense. Better to take a bundle of cash and strike out in new directions than plow the same old fields in the hopes gold will sprout under your feet.

Here's hoping Comcast-Universal does right by its new acquisition.

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Your American Box Office

The miracle on the Hudson continues to reside at the top of the heap.


1). Sully (WB), 3,525 theaters / $6.6M Fri. / $9.6M Sat./ $5.8M Sun. / 3-day cume: $22M (-37%)/Total: $70.5M / Wk 2

2). Blair Witch (LG), 3,121 theaters / $4M Fri. / $3.6M Sat. / $1.9M Sun. / 3-day cume: $9.65M / Wk 1

3). Bridget Jones’s Baby (UNI), 2,927 theaters / $3M Fri. / $3.25M Sat. / $1.95M Sun. / 3-day cume: $8.24M / Wk 1

4). Snowden (OR), 2,443 theaters / $3M Fri. / $3M Sat. / $1.97M Sun. / 3-day cume: $8M / Wk 1

5). Don’t Breathe (SONY), 3,208 theaters (-176) / $1.6M Fri. / $2.5M Sat. / $1.3M Sun. / 3-day cume: $5.6M (-32%)/ Total cume: $75.3M / Wk 4

6). When the Bough Breaks (SONY), 2,246 theaters /$1.6M Fri. / $2.6M Sat. / $1.2M Sun. / 3-day cume: $5.5M (-61%)/Total: $22.7M Wk 2

7). Suicide Squad (WB), 2,740 theaters (-363) / $1.1M Fri. / $2.2M Sat./ $1.25M Sun. (-45%) / 3-day cume: $4.7M (-18%) / Total cume: $313.8M / Wk 7

8). The Wild Life (LG), 2,493 theaters / $530K Fri. / $1.3M Sat. / $797k Sun. / 3-day cume: $2.65M (-21%)/Total:$6.7M/ Wk 1

9). Kubo and the Two Strings (FOC), 1,757 theaters (-578) / $521K Fri. / $1.2M Sat. / $783M Sun. / 3-day cume: $2.5M (-24%) / Total cume: $44.2M / Wk 5

10). Pete’s Dragon (DIS), 1,948 theaters (-737) / $459K Fri. / $1M Sat. / $520K Sun. / 3-day cume: $2M (-34%) / Total cume: $72.8M / Wk 6 ...

As happens from time to time, animation can under-perform at the box office. Kubo and the Two Strings has yet to break $50 million after five weeks of release, and The Wild Life, dead on arrival last weekend, looks to pick up $2.5 million at #8 in its second weekend of release.

Click here to read entire post

Trailer ... Late To The Game

This has been out a few days so TAG blog is slow out of the blocks (especially since millions of people have SEEN it already). But TAG blog would be remiss in ignoring it since .... you know ... we represent the artists and technicians and writers who are making Moana. ...

And as the interwebs say:

... Over the last five years, [Walt Disney Animation Studios'] output has consisted of Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia, each of them creative triumphs that are at the head of the class for family films over that time. Hot streaks like that are hard to sustain, but if Disney falters, it doesn't look like it's going to happen with Moana. ...

Every department is pretty much done except for lighting, which will be done with the last of its shots in a few weeks (the picture comes out at Thanksgiving). Crew members have been moving out of the big building at the end of the Burbank/Bob Hope runway was their jobs wrap up, returning to the Hat Building on Riverside Drive.

Moana, from the looks of it, will be doing well.

Click here to read entire post

Friday, September 16, 2016

One More Feature In Release

Because you can never have too much toonage.

CGI Australian toon Blinky Bill: The Movie will get a platform release starting October 7 in Los Angeles. The character is widely popular Down Under — with credits including a 1992 film and a local TV series the following year — and the distributor is hoping to ride that wave to American shores. The pic originally was set to arrive here this month. ...

The new Blinky pic was directed by Deane Taylor and co-directed by Alexs Stadermann. The screenplay was written by Fin Edquist.

BBTM currently tracks at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, twenty points lower for audiences' "want to see". Come October, audiences will determine how the picture opens.

Click here to read entire post

... And One More Feature Into Early Prep?

20th Century Fox Animation buys material for a long-form animated movie:

The Littlest Bigfoot, author Jennifer Weiner’s latest book for kids, will be made into an animated feature by Chris Bender (We’re the Millers) and Jennifer’s brother Jake Weiner (Leap Year), courtesy of 20th Century Fox Animation in a deal that was negotiated by another in the Weiner family, brother Joe. The IP seems set for a sequel as the author is writing the next installment called Little Bigfoot, Big City. ...

Bender and Jake Weiner will produce via the newly launched Good Fear Film production company, and Jennifer Weiner will serve as executive producer. Andrea Miloro will oversee the project at Fox Animation. ...

So many animate features have done so well over the past few years (though some have flamed out) that our fine entertainment conglomerates are eager to step up and create more.

This is a long way from the 1970s and 1980s, when long-form animation was shunned by big studios and left to Disney. Success at the box office turned earlier avoidance into passionate embraces. But some of these new features will fail, because failure is the lot of many movies, no matter how successful the segment in which they exist happens to be.

So will see if all the hugs the majors now give animation turn less ardent as some movies come out and bomb.

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Batman In All Directions

Netflix is so ... yesterday.

Batman: The Animated Series is coming to a Mattel’s View-Master VR Viewer, the toy company announced today. Batman will be brought to View-Master VR Viewer through a partnership with Warner Bros. and the use of OTOY Inc cinematic rendering technology. ...

Batman: The Animated Series producer/director Bruce Timm and writer/producer Paul Dini collaborated with OTOY’s artists and engineers on the VR project. The original voice cast of Kevin Conroy (Batman), Mark Hamill (The Joker) Loren Lester (Robin) and Tara Strong (Batgirl) also reprised their roles, with the guidance of Batman: The Animated Series voice director Andrea Romano.

Sam Register, President, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Digital Series, said: “We are extremely excited for our fans to be able to experience Batman: The Animated Series in a new and immersive way. ...

I've been told by more than one industry guru that virtual reality is the latest big Thing.

Third Floor is working on a VR project; various animation studios are toying with it. So maybe the guru is right. Virtual Reality is what all the thirteen-year-olds will be doing (the hell with binge-watching on the computer flat screen!) in the next thirty-six months.

Click here to read entire post

The Power of Free Money -- Part 52

Apparently France hears the siren call of Canadian cash ... like many others

Paris-based On Entertainment, the company behind recent feature-film release The Little Prince, says it plans to hire a staff of 300 over the next three years to run a new studio in Montréal, Québec.

"Our new Montréal studio gives us a foothold in North America and provides us with the resources we need to ramp up production and extend our reach with films intended for international release," said On Entertainment co-founder Thierry Pasquet in a prepared statement. The company expects to ramp up production and release one animated feature every two years.

On Animation Studio will receive about $3.7 million (U.S.) in government loans, split between the governments of Canada and Québec (the latter granted through financing corporation Investissement Québec) to help fund the studio's opening, the company said. ...

Generous subsidies won't be going away anytime soon. They are now embedded into the fabric of Canada, the great state of Georgia, Britain, France, and to a somewhat more limited degree, California.

As an IATSE Vice President who studies tax subsidy cultures said to me a week ago:

"Tax subsidies are pretty well established in a lot of countries now, and a bunch of states. Georgia has a big subsidy program and they've done studies so they know the subsidy doesn't pay for itself, but they're all in. They've got studios and sound stages and they're going to keep on giving the money away. Because they want the industry to be there."

And there you have it, our free enterprise system at its finest. "Pay us, and we will come. Otherwise we go to Montreal or Vancouver."

Click here to read entire post

DWA Downsizing

From a fine entertainment trade paper:

About 200 positions are being eliminated from the DreamWorks Animation unit in Glendale, CA following Comcast and NBCUniversal’s $3.8 billion acquisition of the company this year. The news came as a memo to the staff from Jeff Shell, Chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, who wrote: “We have begun sharing organizational decisions that will result in the elimination of approximately 200 positions at our Glendale campus. These changes are focused in the corporate overhead groups as well as distribution and consumer products, areas where we can fully integrate operations with NBCUniversal.” ...

Employees in marketing, distribution, consumer products and financial areas in Glendale will start receiving termination notices as early as this week. ...

TAG members at DreamWorks Animation tell us that no Guild jobs are impacted.

These layoffs aren't a surprise. Restructuring is a fact of life in Tinsel Town. Disney (as was reported yesterday) is doing it, but the reality is that studio tweek, trim and reconfigure on an ongoing basis. No animation employee has to be reminded that her/his job is only viable until "end of project". After that it's off down the side walk in search of the next gig.

That's simply reality in 21st century Hollywood. For live action and animation alike.

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Downsizing at the House of Mouse

A fine entertainment journal tells us:

Disney has trimmed approximately 5% of its consumer products and digital media staff in job cuts affecting 250 people, the company confirmed today through a spokesman.

50% of the cuts came from the company’s remaining video games-related workforce. Disney largely exited the video game publishing business in May in favor of a licensed games model, announcing the cancellation of its Disney Infinity line of interactive games and toys at that time. Several of the affected employees came from a team working on Marvel: Avengers Alliance in Bellevue, Washington. That series was cancelled last week.

The other 50% of affected employees were casualties of Disney’s recent merger of its Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media divisions. ...

Layoffs at Diz Co. aren't limited to consumer products and digital work.

Walt Disney Animation Studios is laying off dozens of staffers as Moana nears the end of production. Disney Television Animation is undergoing significant restructuring as more shows get outsourced to smaller Los Angeles animation studios and DTVA employees are shifted to various shows that remain in house.

Disney is always shifting, tweaking, working to squeeze more profits out of its far-flung enterprises. Diz Do. isn't a Renaissance Art Studio, after all. It's a huge conglomerate trying to get huger.

Click here to read entire post

Craft Meeting #4 -- CG Animator/Modelers, Technical Directors, and Compositors

On Tuesday night, the fourth Animation Guild Craft Meeting took place in the Guild's meeting hall at 1105 N. Hollywood Way. Notes of the proceedings:

Review of First Year of 839 Contract: There was a discussion of collective bargaining agreement, how Tech Directors and CG animators are being impacted. At the feature studios (Disney and DreamWorks) overtime is being paid and there have been no major complaints. Production schedules are compressed, but opinions are divided on the negative impacts. Some people like the extra overtime pay; others would prefer more weekends and evenings spent with family. At tv animation studios – principally DreamWorks Animation TV -- more work is being piled onto leads and supervisors, with more job stress.

For CG Classifications, there are no job descriptions and no clear parameters about what the jobs entail. This is a problem. Companies can reconfigure and redefine what a CG lead is, what a supervisor is, at a moment’s notice. There needs to be some controlling language in the CBA. Business Representative described the history of CG classifications getting into the contract in the mid-90s, when non-Guild tech directors working on “Dinosaur” at Disney agitated to be covered by the contract and to have pay rates track contract rates. At that time, numbered classifications were introduced.

New Media: Studios are hiring artists and tech directors at below contract minimums (this is happening at IA locals covering live-action as well), but studios ARE paying the 6% Individual Account Plan pension percentage at the contractual minimum rate, not the actual rate of pay. The New Media Sideletter (Sideletter N – pp. 99-113 of 839 CBA) enables studios to negotiate freely below minimum rates. The budgetary tiers that would mean 85% of minimums would have to be paid reflect live-action budgets, and animation budgets are way lower so “budget tiers” in the Sideletter are never reached. This was an issue at the last negotiation, will be an issue at next IA and TAG negotiation in 2018.

Simplifying Contract classifications: There was discussion of simplifying contract categories, keeping categories broad-based and simple and having fewer classifications and categories (Senior artist; jumior artist, apprentice artists, trainee). Some CG artists wanted definitions and more specific names in classifications. The Business Representative said that studios had resisted defining classifications in the past, that it might be more doable to get descriptive names in contract than definitions.

There is also an additional concern at some jobs about the combination of different job classifications into one; some people have reported doing multiple jobs in the same deadline, whereas before they only had one. The issue there is that people are taking those jobs and not fighting against the job compressions.

Wage Suppression Lawsuit: Individuals have gotten letters regarding the Wage Suppression class-action lawsuit involving Blue Sky Studios, Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation (etc). A number of attendees had received letters. Business Representative said that the Guild is not directly involved, although it held a meeting with one of the lawsuit attorneys and referred people to his law firm early in the process. Business Representative said he was subpoenaed for a depoition and that documents were also subpoenaed. It was noted that Blue Sky Studios and Sony Pictures Animation have reached settlements on the suit, but Disney, DreamWOrks and Pixar have not settled.

Live-Streaming: Some artists thought that live-srtreaming was a viable way to involve members who could never get to General Membrship Meetings; others though meeting conversations need to stay in the meeting room. There was a worry that the streaming of meetings would keep people from speaking up.

CG Classes at Guild: There was a discussion of reconfiguring the computer lab so that in-house classes could be held. Right now, CG classes are held off-site under the Contract Servicies Administration Trust Fund.

Meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m. ...

What comes through at craft meetings to date?

A) Concern about lower wage rates of New Media work. Animation budgets for Subscription Video on Demand is far below live-action, yet the "budget tiers in Sideletter N (pp. 99-113 of the CBA)

B) Interest in sharing work and wage information. Interest in building better employee in various studio departments.

C) Desire to begin crafting possible proposals for 2018 contract negotiations.

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Joe Resurgence

Let's journey back ...

... In 1982, G.I. Joe was brought out of retirement thanks to a brilliant marketing campaign executed with military precision.

The Hasbro toyline had been defunct since the late '70s, with the American public soured on the military following the Vietnam War and the toys falling victim to rising oil prices that made 12-inch figures too expensive to manufacture. As Joe sat in retirement, Hasbro watched with envy as Star Wars toys made obscene amounts of money by trading off the emotional attachments children had to the film series' colorful characters.

Hasbro chairman and CEO Stephen D. Hassenfeld was at the helm of the company when the Joes were taken out of mothballs and reconceived for a new generation. For the first time, the Joes were given a storyline: They were good guys locked in an eternal battle with the ultimate villains, Cobra. That story transformed Joes from generic figures into an intellectual-property-driven concept. ...

It gets lost in the mists of time, but the mid-eighties saw a resurgence of TV animation because of 1) Disney getting into the TV animation game (Gummi Bears!) and 2) TOYS.

It wasn't just G.I. Joe. There was He-Man. There was She-Ra. Filmation, now a fading memory in the long history of cartoons, created hundreds of animated half-hours in support of plastic action figures that sold very well. It was noted at the time that the cartoon industry was becoming a sales tool for toy companies, but animation selling toys had been a long-term trend.

True, the cartoons usually came first, then the toys. But honestly? Whether the doll came first ... or the theatrical short, was there really that much difference?

What the tv cartoons of the eighties foretold was the total and complete marketing of product we all enjoy here in the 21st century. Today, we first get the multi-colored moments of animated entertainment on our flat screens and theater screens, then (two days later) the toys, apps, video games, lunch boxes and Christmas tree ornaments which are derived from that entertainment that we order from Amazon.

Ain't progress grand?

Click here to read entire post

Music and Cuteness

From a fine trade magazine:

Gwen Stefani and Nickelodeon are joining forces.

The singer's animated series, Kuu Kuu Harajuku, is set to make its American debut on the Viacom-owned cable network, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Inspired by the Harajuku girls that became a staple of Stefani's solo act in 2004, Kuu Kuu Harajuku is co-created and exec produced by the former No Doubt lead singer. The series first premiered in Australia in November 2015 after Stefani announced the series the year prior.

Like the name of Stefani's 2004 solo album, the series centers on four Harajuku girls named Love, Angel, Music and Baby who form the group HJ5 with their inspirational leader, G. ...

A chip off the old Powerpuff.

Or is that over-projection?

Click here to read entire post

Monday, September 12, 2016

Working At TAG Studios

Several days ago we broke down jobs by classification. Now we'll break down employment by studios, largest to smallest. Understand when we get down to the micro-studios with a handful of employees, companies like "Made in Paradise, Inc." and "Daisy, Inc." we won't bother listing them.


DreamWorks Animation -- 569

Walt Disney Animation Studios -- 561

Disney TVA -- 391

DreamWorks Animation TV -- 325

Cartoon Network -- 298

Nickelodeon -- 276

Warner Bros. Animation (tv) -- 269

Fox Animation -- 254

Robin Red Breast/Titmouse -- 121

Bento Box -- 88

Sony Pictures Animation -- 83

Marvel Animation -- 72

Paramount Animation -- 65

Hasbro -- 59

Rick and Morty -- 50

Wild Canary -- 47

Warner Animation Group -- 45

Original Force -- 22

PUNY LLC -- 19

Six Point Two -- 18

Universal Cartoon Studios -- 15 ...

The only company on the list above that has been continuously under IATSE contract is Disney. There was a period of time when Warner Bros. went away, and every other corporate entity is new since Local 839's charter six-and-a-half decades ago.

Nothing is forever.

But even with Disney, labor contracts have changed. Disney Feature Animation (aka "Walt Disney Productions" in the great long-ago) was under an 839 contract from 1952 until the turn of this century, when an IA contract titled "TSL" (The Secret Lab, after the secret lab in The Emperor's New Groove) took precedence.

Today, Local 839 (otherwise known as TAG) has a contract with Disney Television Animation, and the feature division has been rechristened Walt Disney Animation Studios and operates under the TSL contract, as does the remnants of the Disney Toon Studios.

As for the rest, studios come and studios go. Warners, as noted above, ceased existing for several years then came back with a vengeance in the late eighties. There was Warner FEATURE Animation for a brief while, but that Warners division died after six years ... and now there is Warner Animation Group which concentrates on pre-production work for theatrical animated features (The Lego Movie) produced outside California.

The take-away: Local 839 and Disney have danced together for sixty-four straight years, while every other corporate entity has come to the dress ball at a later time. (Except Warner Bros. They were there at the start, then got bored and exited, then returned to drink more party punch.)

And here we are.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, September 11, 2016


So Son of Zorn rolls out tonight, and the question ...

... does it fly or does it end up in the curbside trash like the giant bird? ...remains to be asked. . Of course it's part of Fox's Sunday lineup. ...

It might not be everyone's cup of java, but The Guardian in the U.K. give is a thumbs up:

Does it work? Yes, because Son of Zorn actually isn’t that weird. Well, it is, but aside from the fact that Zorn is a cartoon character, this is a traditional fish-out-of-water sitcom. Anyone who watched Green Acres, Perfect Strangers or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air will recognize what works about pulling someone from one very specific culture and asking him to fit into another. It just happens that Zorn’s culture is ripped out of a bad 1980s cartoon. When Zorn’s new boss asks him if he has a shirt, he responds: “Does a Griffion herdsman have nine anuses?” Now, we have no idea what this herdsman is or why he is so prodigious in the colorectal arena, but we know it’s a solid joke and it’s made even funnier by the absurdity of it. ...

Actually, I don't know why somebody didn't think of this before. (Maybe somebody did, except they didn't have the clout that Phil Lord and Chris Miller have.)

It should fit nicely with the other animated half-hours Fox offers on a Sunday night.

Click here to read entire post

Your International Box Office

Apparently animation is still a force at global turnstiles.


Star Trek Beyond -- $16,600,000 -- ($318,100,000)

The Age Of Shadows -- $16,000,000 -- ($16,000,000)

The Secret Life Of Pets -- $15,100,000 -- ($789,000,000)

Suicide Squad -- $10,100,000 -- ($699,400,000)

The Shallows -- $9,600,000 -- ($110,000,000)

Sully -- $9,500,000 -- ($45,000,000)

Don't Breathe -- $9,000,000 -- ($87,100,000)

Ben-Hur -- $8,300,000 -- ($65,756,294)

Jason Bourne -- $4,800,000 -- ($390,800,000)

Sausage Party -- $4,200,000 -- ($113,582,579)

Ice Age: Collision Course -- $3,700,000 -- ($334,100,000)

Finding Dory $3,300,000 -- ($950,600,000)

And a fine trade paper tells us:

... The Secret Life of Pets is having another great weekend, scratching in about $15.1M in 56 territories for an international total of $427.2M. ...

The DC-Comics based film [Suicide Squad] was one of the top films of all the holdovers this weekend, raking in another $10.1M from 5,800 screens in 64 markets. ...

It's hard to believe that [Finding Dory] is still playing after being released in June, but it is and it has navigated in with another $3.3M for its distributor Disney. Its international cume is a staggering $467M for a worldwide total of $950.6M. ...

Kubo and the Two strings has garnered some good reviews overseas just as it had done stateside. The film brought in another $2.3M from its 32 territories this weekend for an early international total of $8.4M. ...

In other animated news, The Wild Life, released domestically this very weekend, has delivered a paltry $3,400,00 stateside but has taken in $20,883,953 overseas.

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Wing of Darkness

The Reporter tells us:

... [Darkwing Duck] has its roots in DuckTales ... which featured an episode in which Launchpad is a secret agent called Double-O Duck. Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg liked that concept as a potential series and asked Stones to take a stab at it. Stones turned in a pitch trading off the James Bond theme, one he says lacked heart. He didn't believe in the pitch, and when Katzenberg rejected it, he was relieved … until the exec asked him to try again.

The second time around, Stones got it right, injecting Silver Age comics nostalgia, and reconceiving its lead as a superhero instead of a secret agent (as late Bond producer Cubby Broccoli owned the rights to the Double-O name). Most importantly, he injected a healthy dose of heart thanks to the endearing relationship between Darkwing and his daughter.

The DuckTales episode from which Tad Stones built the new series came from two Disney staff writers ... who got a little miffed when Disney TVA declined to honor a studio memo that promised a $10,0000 bonus to anybody who created a script that ultimately morphed into a network series, which this particular episode ultimately did. (And let's face facts squarely: ten grand is chickenfeed for a large, international conglomerate).

The Animation Guild filed a grievance on the writers' behalf, and after several months of arbitration (some of which the division chief attended), the arbitrator awarded the scribes their ten grand. As far as anyone knows, the studio never used that particular arbitrator again, but at least the writers got the money the studio had promised.

It's always a good thing to keep giant corporations honest.

Click here to read entire post

Your American Box Office

The new animated entry lands with a dull, squishy thud, but Tom Hanks remains potent at the box office.


1). Sully (WB), 3,525 theaters / $12.2M Fri. (includes $1.35M preview) / $14.6M Sat. (+20%) / $8.7M Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $35.58M / Wk 1

2). When the Bough Breaks (SONY), 2,246 theaters / $5.4M Fri. / $6.1M Sat. (+16%) / $3.6M Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $14.8M to $15M / Wk 1

3). Don’t Breathe (SONY), 3,384 theaters (+333) / $2.3M (-42%) Fri. / $3.78M Sat. (+55%) / $2M Sun. (-48%) / 3-day cume: $7.8M to $8M+ / Total cume: $66.5M to $66.8M / Wk 3

4). Suicide Squad (WB), 3,103 theaters (-189) / $1.4M Fri. (-38%) / $2.7M Sat. (+91%) / $1.5M Sun. (-45%) / 3-day cume: $5.65M / Total cume: $307.4M / Wk 6

5). The Wild Life (LG), 2,493 theaters / $715K Fri. / $1.5M Sat. (+120%) / $1M Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $3.3M / Wk 1

6). Kubo and the Two Strings (FOC), 2,335 theaters (-650) / $677K Fri. / $1.59M Sat. (+135%) / $955M Sun. (-49%) / 3-day cume: $3.2M / Total cume: $40.8M / Wk 4

7). Pete’s Dragon (DIS), 2,685 theaters (-587) / $645K Fri. (-56%) / $1.48M Sat. (+132%) / $890K Sun. (-53%) / 3-day cume: $2.9M to $3M (-52%) / Total cume: $70M / Wk 5

8). Bad Moms (STX), 1,888 theaters (-418) / $830K Fri. (-32%) / $1.2M Sat. (+45%) / $667K to $790K Sun. (-43%) / 3-day cume: $2.6M to $2.8M / Total cume: $107.4M / Wk 7

9). Hell or High Water (CBS/Lionsgate), 1,445 theaters (+142) / $681K Fri. (-41%) / $1.1M Sat. (+55%) / $680K Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $2.5M / Total cume: $19.7M / Wk 5

10). Sausage Party (SONY/APP), 2,071 theaters (-695) / $700K Fri. (-49%) / $1M Sat. (+48%) / $570K Sun. (-45%) / 3-day cume: $2.3M / Total cume: $93.19M / Wk 5 ...

Yet even though The Wild Life perishes on impact, proving once more that Europe hasn't quite figured out how to make a global animated blockbuster, Kubo clings to #5 and Sausage Party down at the tenth spot, closes in on a $100 million domestic gross.

Other animated pics that remain in at least some theaters? Ice Age: Collision Course has grossed $62,958,040; The Jungle Book has accumulated $363,891,757, and The Secret Life of Pets owns $360,575,775.

Click here to read entire post

Friday, September 09, 2016

Feature Scoob

From Variety:

Warner Bros. is in negotiations with Dax Shepard to co-direct their latest “Scooby-Doo” animated film with “Space Jam” helmer Tony Cervone.

Charles Roven and Richard Suckle, who produced the last two “Scooby-Doo” live-action movies, will produce this as well. The studio has dated the film for Sept. 21, 2018.

Shepard will also co-write the screenplay with Matt Lieberman, while Dan Povenmire (“Family Guy”) executive produces. ...

The new “Scooby-Doo” will be a Warner Bros. Pictures presentation under the Warner Animation Group banner, which rose to prominence last year with “The Lego Movie.” ...

Since Mr. Shepard doesn't have a lot of background in cartoonland, Tony Cervone will probably act as guide through the thickets. It's not as if Mr. Shepard doesn't have directing experience. Just not with animators.

Plus, Dan Povenmire is an executive producer on the pic. Mr. Povenmire also knows his way around a cartoon studio.

Click here to read entire post

Working Under TAG Jurisdiction

From time to time we get asked "What categories of artists, writers and technicians are employed these days?" (Okay, not in those words, exactly, but this is a blog post. We gotta start somewhere.)

Below we answer the question, classification by classification. Please keep in mind that we're only listing the groups with employment numbers above 94, and that these numbers and classifications are what several dozen studios of varying sizes send us via work-status reports.

(Remember, these are working TAG members. There are another 5% to 12% of unemployed active members that are between jobs or waiting to start a gig.)


706 Storyboard Artists

313 Tech Director 1s

294 Background Artists

251 Model Designers

233 Staff Animation Writers

(77 Freelance Animation Writers)

221 Directors

175 CGI Animator/Modeler 1s

165 Storyboard Cleanup/Revisionists

151 Layout Artists

138 Animators

106 Visual Development Artists

96 Trainees (various classifications)

95 Tech Director IIIs ...

The classifications shown above represent 16.45% of all the Guild's contract categories. However, the other 83.55% of Guild positions (classifications such as "Final Checker" -- 2 individuals working, or "Color Modelist" -- 3 individuals working) have fewer than 95 people in any one of them, so ... as we say up top ... those numbers have been excluded*.

And understand that the statistics above are data points in time. They could be larger next week, then smaller by December. But employment numbers have been steadily growing over the last 4-5 years, and it looks as though numbers will stay strong over the next 24 to 48 months.

* You might be asking, "So why do 'Freelance Writers' get broken out?" Because it's the one category that has a "freelance" sub-group in the data.

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Meanwhile On the Sub-Continent

From Media in India:

Why India stopped producing quality animation films?

...While the Indian film industry, hailed as one of the largest in the world produces over 1400 films in a year, the country is peculiarly ignorant to the immense potential of animation films since its last release in 2014. Although keen interest from broadcasters and audience promise exponential revenue generation, the animation and VFX segments are yet to receive the adequate magnitude in the country. ...

According to the collaborative Indian Media and Industry Report 2015 from Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Industry and KPMG, a Netherlands based auditing company, Chaar Sahibzaade (2014), a Harry Baweja computer-animated film, made with a budget of INR 200 million, generated a box-office revenue of over INR 650 million.

It is interesting to find out that 45 pc of this collection came from the overseas market, mainly from the Indian diaspora. A lack of the creation of original intellectual property is leading to the lack of a globally merchandisable brand, an alarming situation considering the approximate of 400,000 employees in the animation industry. ...

India's track record with animated features has been decidedly spotty.

The country has done reasonably well sub-contracting live-action visual effects work. And its efforts on behalf of Disney's home video products (The Tinkerbell series in particular) have been fruitful. But when the sub-contnent has turned its hand to theatrical product, there's been a number of fizzles.

Disney partnered with Yash Raj films to present Roadside Romeo in 2008, but the picture bombed with both audiences and critics. Planes and Planes II, Disney Toon theatricals largely produced by Indian studios, did mediocre business at the global box office. Other CG theatricals have also under-performed.

DreamWorks Animation has used Indian studios on some features with varying degrees of success. DWA staffers say that work on recent features has been pulled back to Glendale due to "quality issues".

But quality, or the lack thereof, is not a new issue inside the India Computer Graphics industry:

India’s First 3D Motion-Capture Film Looks Like An Epic Trainwreck

India’s first 3-D mo-cap CGI feature, Kochadaiiyaan, will open on May 9th. By Western feature animation quality standards, it looks comically bad, but perhaps it’s impressive if you’ve never seen animation before. Predictably, the film’s animation quality has already been criticized. ...

The picture performed badly in Indian theaters, and did minimal business outside its home country. As one animation veteran with knowledge of India's CG biz explained:

India has talented CG animators and tech directors, but studios down there are structured to get shots out quickly and inexpensively, not to nurture talent.

There's a low glass ceiling. So employees with animation chops get what training they can, then move to Europe or the United States where they can stretch creatively, develop themselves and grow their careers. That doesn't happen much in India. ...

But hey, India is still releasing theatrical animated features:

Viacom18 is set to take the Indian animation industry to greater heights with the release of Motu Patlu King of Kings – the network’s maiden 3D stereoscopic animation theatrical. Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Nickelodeon have joined hands to create the movie based on the very popular Lotpot characters Motu Patlu. The movie, produced by MAYA, will create a new milestone for Indian animation by promoting India’s vision of ‘Made In India’ content. The movie is slated to release on October 14, 2016, in Hindi and Tamil in over 700 screens across India. ...

It's doubtful that a moderately budgeted feature based on a moderately budgeted kiddie show will lift the animation industry to new heights, but maybe it's a case of "tiny steps for tiny feet."

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The European Entry

So in two days, America gets a real-time experiment in how animated features from the continent might fare stateside. The L.A. Times has some doubts.

... Without much humor, and with a very straightforward story, there isn't a lot to hook you [in the Belgian animated feature The Wild Life], leaving one a bit cold toward the characters. There's a message about accepting outsiders without judgment and working together as a team, and some strange subtext about a primitive island life versus a civilized one (involving guns, weapons and economic exploitation — a pirate's life, indeed!), but it's all presented without much complication, aside from those pesky cats. ...

The pic is tracking "so so" on Rotten Tomatoes, but Lionsgate is rolling the pic out in 2200 theaters, so LG must be hoping for some action down-list from Clint Eastwood's Sully, which the smart money expects to open at #1 in the $25 million range.

So the question, "Can Europe create an animated feature the world wants to see?" might get some kind of answer by Sunday.

Click here to read entire post

TAG 401(k) Stats

Next week the Guild holds its 401(k) Board of Trustees meeting; Vanguard has supplied fresh data, to wit:.


Total Assets -- $243,956,005

Average Balance -- $91,540

Equity Allocation -- 73%

Professionally managed allocations -- 85%

Total Participants -- 2,665

Total contributions (12 months) -- $14,166,164

The Plan started on a shoestring in 1995, and Disney employees were the first to get into it. Twenty-one years later, assets and participants grow at a steady clip, and it's become an important adjunct to guild members' Motion Picture Industry pensions.

Click here to read entire post


You'd better sit down for this. It seems that white men rule Hollywood.

... [A] scathing new report [from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism] found that only 31.4% of all speaking roles in the 100 top-grossing films last year were female and that nearly half (49%) had no speaking roles for Asian or Asian-American characters. ...

Behind the cameras, the report found that females directed only 4.1% of the top-grossing 800 films evaluated between 2007-15 (excluding 2011). “Women of color were almost absent from these ranks,” the report said, noting that only three of those directors were African-American and one was Asian. ...

Women fared slightly better as writers (11.8%) and producers (22%) but far worse as composers: Only one of the 113 composers who worked on the 100 top films last year was female. From 2007-15 (excluding 2011), only 1.4% of all composers were women — a gender ratio of 72-1. ...

Animation is not much different than the live-action sector. Women have always been a small fragment of the creative part of the business, although when ink-and-paint was a studio department (instead of something shipped overseas) women dominated it ... and brought up female representation in cartoonland to 40-50%.

But that was in the far-away past. In 2016, there is no ink and paint, and women make up 22% of the creative workfroce. This is low, but the percentages are moving in the right direction. Not too many years ago women were 19% of the total animation workforce.

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Wilma Baker, RIP

Wilma Baker, a Disney veteran who went back to animation's first Golden Age, passed away on September 4 at age 99.

Above, Harvey Deneroff chats with Ms. Baker for the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists' Golden Award banquet. He writes:

... [Wilma Baker] was hired by Disney in 1937 as part of the final push to finish Snow White. As was standard procedure at the time, she entered the unpaid evening training program and was eventually judged good enough to be hired at $16.00 a week as a painter. In my interview she talks about the type of painting she was doing, including the use of transparent paint. She retired from Disney as head of Final Checking Department in 1983—she gets credit as a final checker on The Black Cauldron, which was released in 1985.

However, as the Animation Renaissance gained steam, she returned to animation, and is listed as a final checker on several major films, including FernGully: The Last Rainforest and Cool World, as well as doing paint markup on The Hunchback of Notre Dame back at Disney. ...

Ms. Baker's first husband was Louis Sammon, who was killed during World War II. She returned to the Studio after the war as a young widow and mother, where she met her second husband, Ted Baker, a studio editor.

After five decades in the animation industry (including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Bambi, and more than a half century later, Hunchback. she retired to Laguna Beach California in the 1990s.

Click here to read entire post
Site Meter