Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Disney Shares

The House of Mouse has seen its stock price decline over the last 11 months; even so, the Diz Co. today made some happy announcements:

Disney recorded revenue this fiscal year that rose to $55.6 billion, in large measure due to 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.'

Walt Disney, buoyed by record financial results, boosted its semi-annual dividend by 10 percent, saying Wednesday it will pay stockholders 78 cents for each share they own on Dec. 12, up from 71 cents previously.

In the fiscal year, which ended Oct. 1, Disney recorded revenue that rose 6 percent to $55.6 billion and net income that rose 12 percent to $9.4 billion, in large measure due to a record $7.5 billion in box-office results led by Star Wars: The Force Awakens. ...

Whether you like how Robert Iger has turned the Walt Disney Company into the Berkshire Hathaway of entertainment conglomerates or you hate it, it's hard to argue with Disney's success under his leadership.

Perfectly true that Mr. Iger has made Disney less like the company it used to be, but Diz Co. has changed and evolved continually over the past ninety years. Frankly, it ceased being genuine Disney when Walt and Roy exited the corporate offices half a century ago.

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Meanwhile ... At Warner Bros.

In the nineties, Warner bros. had a tough time making a go of long-form theatrical animation, even as its television product, particularly the cartoons produced in conjunction with Steven Spielberg, did exceedingly well.

In the oughts, its TV output became choppy, and Warner Bros. Animation cycled through a number of top-kicks. Today, Warners is aggressively expanding its animation footprint, with animation facilities in several parts of Burbank and Hollywood.

In addition to Warner Bros. Animation, the conglomerate has launched the Warner Animation Group (WAG) to develop a new generation of theatrical cartoons. (The company had two in the mid-nineties: Warner Bros. Feature Animation and Turner Feature Animation, both in Glendale and both long-since shuttered).

A couple of days ago, Warner Bros. head honcho laid out what the company planned to do going forward: ...

Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara said the studio is doubling down on its major franchises in a Tuesday Q&A session at an investor conference, undoubtedly good news for fans of DC Comics, Harry Potter and the Lego movies. And some of that content may be delivered direct to consumer. ...

“What is becoming more and more important is really these big franchises,” Tsujihara said.

The studio chief pointed out that three years ago, the top 10 films made up about 25 percent of the box office. This year, the top 10 will comprise about 30 percent, which makes nailing tentpoles that much more important. Tsujihara also said that the proliferation of prestige TV has favored big spectacle movies.

“If you look at what’s happening with the quality of the television product, the movies that are breaking through are the big franchises,” he said, adding that only Disney has a comparable selection of big franchises as Warner Bros. ...

Warner Bros. plans to produce plenty of new content from familiar — and reliable — intellectual property.

“Do we have an opportunity to rejuvenate ‘Looney Tunes?'” he asked.

Warners has yet to create blockbuster animated franchises, though the first Lego movie was perhaps a start. The company has long-since figured out how to do quality super hero cartoons for television. It's still striving the crack the animated feature market in the way that Disney/Pixar learned to do long ago.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

TAG General Membership Meeting

The last membership meeting of the year, and the last meeting before new Guild officers take over, happened at 1105 N. Hollywood Way tonight.

The new officers -- incoming Business Representative Jason Macleod, new President Laura Hohman, and soon-to-be board members Steve Kaplan, Candice Stephenson, and David Woo were introduced. President Jack Thomas noted that the outgoing business representative had been in office for twenty-seven years and that he couldn't think of very many things he's done for that long.

The outgoing rep said, "A lot of members and officers have made the Guild work over the years. President emeritus Tom Sito spearheaded a petition drive to get a 401(k) Plan, something that the Guild had failed to achieve in negotiations. President emeritus Kevin Koch championed the new building the Guild occupies. And President Thomas pushed to a dues increase that the Animation Guild badly needed." ...

In his report the biz rep noted:

* The television segment of the Los Angeles animation industry continues to thrive, but Walt Disney Animation Studios and DreamWorks Animation's feature division have had crew layoffs over the previous few months.

* The length of storyboard tests continues to be an issue, but the Testing Abuse Committee will be meeting with one o the major studios about problems this week.

* The Animation Guild's 401(k) Plan now has $258 million in assets, with 84% of those assets in Vanguard Target Date Funds.

* The Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan has $8.3 billion in assets, 100,000 active participants, and 21,000 retirees. Assets are spread across bonds, stocks, real estate and alternative investments.

The meeting adjourned at 7:30.

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Early Awards

And the winner is ...

The National Board of Review has named ... Kubo and the Two Strings as the Best Animated Feature. ...

The National Board of Review was set up in 1909 to champion movies at a time when the Mayor of New York, George B. McClellan Jr.* was dumping on them. Young George B. thought moving pictures were a pox on the community, the brand new NBOR thought otherwise.

The Board of Review has been a censor in its time, but has also extolled movies. It's been doing its "Ten Best" lists since 1930. Hopefully this award will aid Jubo in getting a bit more commercial oomph

* Junior was the son of a Civil War General who, for a short time, commanded all the union armies. Sadly, George B. McClellan didn't win many battles, and Lincoln ultimately replaced him. Junior was born in 1865, served in Congress and as Mayor of New York, and died in 1940 at the age of 75.

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Yuletide Cards!

Time again for the 839 Gallery exhibit of Ralph Hulett Christmas cards ...

A big splashy showing representing decades of work. On continual exhibit from now through the end of December at

1105 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank California. Gallery open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Digital World

Robert Zemeckis might be done making digital features (Christmas Carol, Polar Express, etc.) But the lessons learned impact the movies he's now making.

With 776 of the Allied's 954 total shots involving effects, it's the latest example of a film that relies on VFX more heavily than most audiences might realize.

For discussions about Robert Zemeckis' World War II thriller ..., visual effects might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But with 776 of the film's 954 total shots involving effects, it's the latest example of a film that relies on VFX more heavily than most audiences might realize.

To stay within the Paramount film's $85 million budget — while enlisting Brad Pitt as intelligence officer Max Vatan, who in 1942 North Africa meets French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour, played by Marion Cotillard — the VFX-savvy director made the call not to send his cast and crew to film in remote locations such as a vast Sahara Desert and Morocco's largest city, Casablanca.

Rather the majority of the film was shot by cinematographer Don Burgess on sets in London — some quite minimal — with bluescreen and then completed with CG environments and set extensions. ...

Most of the effects in Robert Zemeckis's new picture are seamless. They resemble nothing so much as various locales in North Africa and Britain, and audiences wouldn't know otherwise.

Allied is one more step in the digital evolution of movie-making. No distant planets or jungles from Kipling's India here, but World War II airfields, British streets, and North African squares.

... To create the CG Sahara Desert, Casablanca and various small villages in France, Baillie and a small team visited the actual locations to take photographs, digital scans and surveys that were later used to accurately create fully digital versions of the locations. ...

An overall challenge was the schedule, and to finish on time, Atomic Fiction — which maintains facilities in Oakland, Calif. and Montreal — relied on its cloud-based rendering service Conductor that allows the company to ramp up or down on rendering power as needed by the production. Says Baillie: "From the moment we wrapped to the time we had to be done with the VFX, it was only four and a half months. The final month alone, I think we did 4 million processor hours of rendering in Conductor."

Shrinking production schedules aren't just part of effects heavy live action pics. Animated CG productions have also seen progressively shorter time-frames. Extra staff is hired in front of release deadlines, then laid off when the crunch is over.

The brave new world of movie-making.

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The Annies

ASIFA has announcements:

BURBANK, CA (November 28, 2016) – The International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood, announced nominations today for its 44th Annual Annie Awards™ recognizing the year’s best in the field of animation.

(Find a complete list of nominations here).

This year’s Best Animated Feature nominations include: Finding Dory (Pixar Animation Studios), Kubo and the Two Strings (Laika), Kung Fu Panda 3 (DreamWorks Animation), Moana (Walt Disney Animation Studios) and Zootopia (Walt Disney Animation Studios).

Nominees in the Annies™ newest category, Best Feature-Independent, spotlighting features with a much smaller distribution footprint than major studio releases, include: Long Way North (Sacrebleu Productions, Maybe Movies, Norlum Studios, France 3 Cinéma and 2 Minutes), Miss Hokusai (Production I.G.), My Life As A Zucchini (Rita Productions, Blue Spirit Productions, Gebeka Films, KNM), The Red Turtle (Studio Ghibli, Wild Bunch, Why Not Productions) and Your Name (CoMix Wave Films).

“Once again, this year has seen another increase in Annie submissions, and a continuing and broadening interest from not only the animation community, but also the film industry in general, “ said ASIFA's executive director, Frank Gladstone. “We are ever mindful that the Annie Awards have become an early and welcomed addition into the 'Award Season' mainstream.” ...

The Annie Awards cover 36 categories and include Best Animated Feature, Best Animated Feature-Independent, Special Productions, Commercials, Short Subjects, Student Films and Outstanding Individual Achievements, as well as the honorary Juried Awards. The winners will be announced at a black tie ceremony on Saturday, February 4, 2017 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. A pre-reception and press line begins at 5:00 pm with the awards ceremony following at 7:00 pm. A post-show celebration immediately follows the ceremony. All events will be held at Royce Hall.

"It has turned out to be an especially successful year for animation on movie screens, on broadcast and cable TV, for new streaming networks, in games and VR," said ASIFA-Hollywood President, Jerry Beck. "I really believe we are in a new 'golden age', as outstanding examples of the art form - whether hand drawn, CG, stop motion or mo-cap – are represented by this years Annie nominees."

The Juried Awards honoring career achievement and exceptional contributions to animation will also be presented. Three Winsor McCay recipients have been selected by the ASIFA-Hollywood Board of Directors – legendary animator Dale Baer; independent animation champion Caroline Leaf; and influential anime director Mamoru Oshii, for their career contributions to the art form; The Ub Iwerks Award will go to Google Spotlight’s Virtual Reality Platform for technical advancement; Life, Animated, a documentary about animation's effect on one young autistic man's journey will receive this year's Special Achievement Award; and the June Foray Award will be given to Bill & Sue Kroyer for their career-long benevolent, public-spirited influence within the animation community. Certificate of Merit awards will be presented to Leslie Ezeh, ASIFA-Hollywood volunteer coordinator and Gary Perkovac, ASIFA-Hollywood's office manager. ...

The Nominees (Partial List)

Best Animated Feature

Finding Dory - Pixar Animation Studios

Kubo and the Two Strings - LAIKA

Kung Fu Panda 3 - DreamWorks Animation

Moana - Walt Disney Animation Studios

Zootopia - Walt Disney Animation Studios

Best Animated Feature - Independent

Long Way North - Produced by Sacrebleu Productions, Maybe Movies, Norlum Studios, France 3 Cinéma and 2 Minutes

Miss Hokusai - Production I.G

My Life As A Zucchini - Rita Productions, Blue Spirit Productions, Gebeka Films, KNM

The Red Turtle - Studio Ghibli – Wild Bunch – Why Not Productions

Your Name. - CoMix Wave Films

Best Animated Special Production

Audrie & Daisy - A production of AfterImage Public Media in association with Actual Films for Netflix

Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Scroll - DreamWorks Animation

Little Big Awesome - Titmouse, Inc. / Amazon Studios

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life - CBS Films/J.P. Entertainment/Participant Media

Pear Cider and Cigarettes - Massive Swerve Studios and Passion Pictures Animation

Best Animated Short Subject

Blind Vaysha - National Film Board of Canada

Deer Flower - Studio ZAZAC

Path Title Sequence - Acme Filmworks

Pearl - Google Spotlight Stories/Evil Eye Pictures

Piper - Pixar Animation Studios ...


Winsor McCay Award – for their career contributions to the art of animation

Dale Baer
Caroline Leaf
Mamoru Oshii
Ub Iwerks Award – for technical advancement in the art of animation

Google Spotlight’s Virtual Reality Platform

Special Achievement Award

Life, Animated

June Foray Award – for their significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation

Bill & Sue Kroyer

Certificate of Merit

Leslie Ezeh
Gary Perkovac

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Striving to Lift Up An Industry

From the Hindustan Times:

India’s first gaming and visual effects centre gets green light

... As the appetite for visual effects, animation and comics in films increases, India’s first National Centre of Excellence in animation, visual effects, gaming and comics (AVGC) is all set to come up in Mumbai.

The National Centre of Excellence in AVGC is aimed at creating a platform for formal education in this sector and address the shortage of skilled professionals through undergraduate, postgraduate, PhD and short-term programmes.

The project, a PPP between the ministry of information and broadcasting and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), will be set up and run by the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC).

“The centre will impart world class education in AVGC to cater to the needs of Indian industry and global players. Initially, the executive council of IIMC will be the managing committee,” KG Suresh, director general of IIMC, said. ...

According to the I and B ministry, the AVGC industry constitutes over 7% of the overall media and entertainment industry in India and is expected to reach a size of Rs 14,747 crore by 2019.

“Indian animation companies are now moving up the value chain and are creating more original content. Many studios have developed intellectual property (IP) and entered into co-production agreements with international studios. This has led to an increase in demand for talent required to produce high-quality content.” ...

India certainly has a growing animation and visual effects industry, and certainly does a share of the majors's subcontracting work. But to hear industry pros describe it, the subcontinent continues to have quality and delivery issues.

It's not that India doesn't have talent in abundance, because there are any number of excellent CG artists in its studios.

It's that, given the reported structures and dynamics of many Indian studios, top Indian artists hit glass ceilings as they gain skill and expertise, and so move off to Europe or the States where they will

A) Make more money,

B) Find fewer creative roadblocks to their high-flying ambitions.

Too many studios (apparently) emphasize speed and quantity of product, rather than quality. This proves frustrating to many Indian artists who want something better. so they ultimately move on to greener pastures, and the studio they leave behind remain in a creative rut.

But it's good that India is beginning (maybe) to address these problems with a Centre of Excellence. We'll soon see if the reality lives up to the billing.

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Your Worldwide Box Office

As is the TAG blog habit, the foreign box office receipts for animated features and selected others.


Fantastic Beasts -- $132,000,000 -- ($473,700,000)

Moana -- $16,300,000 -- ($97,400,000)

Doctor Strange -- $9,800,000 -- ($616,000,000)

Allied -- $9,400,000 -- ($27,400,000)

Trolls -- $7,200,000 -- ($291,023,620

Arrival -- $6,700,000 -- ($92,600,000)

Jack Reacher -- $6,100,000 -- ($145,825,613) ...

And the trade press informs us:

... Moana sailed to a $16.3M start in China and 11 smaller offshore territories. That’s 23% of the international footprint as rollout continues through December and January, and wraps in March in Japan. ... The current global cume is $97.4M.

In China, Moana bowed at No. 2, coming in behind Fantastic Beasts and with a significant Friday-Saturday bump. Releasing on Friday, the weekend cume is $12.3M for the 2nd biggest Disney Animation Studios three-day opening there ever, after only Zootopia. ...

Trolls went to a futher $7.2M happy place in 59 markets this session to bring the international cume to $155.9M. ...

With another $132M offshore in its 2nd frame, the David Yates-directed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them now has an offshore gross of $317.5M. Coupled with domestic, the total is $474M worldwide. ...

Trolls has made 54% of its world grosses overseas, and will move past the $300 million marker in the next few days. Domestically, the DreamWorks Animation feature will take in $14,300,000 over the Thanksgiving holidays, #6 for the weekend.

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Eighty Years Ago This Day

President Emeritus Tom Sito reminds us:

... Nov 27, 1936- Max Fleischer had heard about Walt Disney developing a feature length cartoon. So he rushed two Popeye featurettes into production to hopefully get the jump on his West Coast rival. Today the first one premiered "Popeye meets Sinbad the Sailor".

"...WHO is the most remarkable and extra-ordinary fell-low..?" ...

The brothers Max and Dave Fleischer brought out Popeye Meets Sinbad the Sailor thirteen months before Walt Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

At the time, Fleischer and Disney were the nation's two heavyweight cartoon studios, Disney in Los Angeles, Fleischer in New York. Popeye was the most popular cartoon character in the U.S. of A., so doing a longer animated piece with him made sense. Paramount, the Fleischers distributor, wasn't willing to finance a feature, but a third of a feature was better than nothing at all.

The year Sinbad was released --- 1936 -- marked the high point of the Fleischers' fame and influence as cartoon creators. Two more Popeye featurettes followed, also a pair of feature films and the Superman series, but losses and discord piled up and by 1942 the Fleischer Studios were swallowed whole by Paramount Pictures and Max and Dave Fleischer shown the door. A twenty-year run as independent studio operators had come to an end.

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Handicapping VFX Candidates For The Little Gold Man

... as regards "Best Visual Effects".

... Members of the Academy’s visual effects branch will have their work cut out for them in narrowing this year’s wide-ranging field of big-screen spectacles down to 10 semi-finalists for the bakeoff stage in a few weeks, let alone settling on five nominees. ...

Two films are all but locked for recognition, one of them “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” Also strong in the category is another Disney film, Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book" and might as well be considered the front-runner in the category. ...

A notable latter-year entry is Marvel’s “Doctor Strange,” which dazzled audiences with “Inception”-like mind-bending effects. Speaking of which, “Captain America: Civil War” deserves a mention. ...

Duncan Jones’ “Warcraft” could be a favored son in ILM’s ranks. It may have met disastrous reviews but it was a grueling undertaking. A great effects reel at the bakeoff could easily sell it. ...

“Passengers” could be top of mind. The work was diverse and included a huge spaceship build, various environments within the ship, outer space, and, of course, the zero-gravity swimming pool sequence seen in trailers. ...

Steven Spielberg’s “The BFG” was a box office bust, [but] it still featured expert visual effects that transported the viewer to a world of giants. ... “Allied.” Robert Zemeckis’ World War II spy craft drama, feels like it was shot on location in 1940s London, and that’s thanks to the digital trickery Zemeckis loves so much. ...

Peter Berg’s “Deepwater Horizon” is an impressive entry this year, capturing the horrific disaster on the eponymous oil rig with aplomb. ... But some surprises could nose into the bakeoff list, like “Deadpool,” “A Monster Calls,” “Pete’s Dragon” or “Sully.” And movies like “Arrival,” “Star Trek Beyond” and “X-Men: Apocalypse” have obvious strengths as well. ...

An obvious question looms up here: if The Jungle Book is going to be considered for a Visual Effects Oscar, then why the hell aren't' Zootopia, Finding Dory and especially Moana (with all those dazzling ocean and wave effects) contenders?

There really isn't a compelling argument for excluding CG animated features from the category, since they're using the same hardware, software and often the same personnel to achieve identical images on-screen. Live-action and animated features compete together in other Academy categories. There's no reason that the Little Gold Man for VFX shouldn't encompass both kinds of movie-making. Seems only right.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Robert Iger Answers Questions

And talks about growing the company ... and guiding things along:

... Q: The Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm acquisitions have been big. You’ve received a lot of praise from the heads of those companies, now subsidiaries, for allowing them to preserve their creative cultures. Was there any key to those acquisitions that has been overlooked?

A: If anything, it’s, “Why did we buy those things and no one else did?” I don’t get described as necessarily being aggressive. I don’t know if “laid-back” is the word. I think, if anything, what I would want people to say about me is, “I think he had guts.” You know? ...

Q: The Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm acquisitions have been big. You’ve received a lot of praise from the heads of those companies, now subsidiaries, for allowing them to preserve their creative cultures. Was there any key to those acquisitions that has been overlooked?

A: If anything, it’s, “Why did we buy those things and no one else did?” I don’t get described as necessarily being aggressive. I don’t know if “laid-back” is the word. I think, if anything, what I would want people to say about me is, “I think he had guts.” You know? ...

Q: You spent most of the past two decades helping build Shanghai Disney, which opened in June. You even tasted more than 200-plus items on restaurant menus there. Can you give a specific instance of how you applied your critical eye?

A: There was stonework on the side of the castle. It was just pure stone. I said, “It’s supposed to look old. It’s an old castle. There’s no moss growing on it. It would look at lot better if there was some green moss on it. It would look more real.”

Q: I am guessing there is moss on that stone.

A: There is moss on there now…. That’s not a criticism. They’re looking at a thousand things. I’m looking at as much as I can. Now, that sounds like micromanagement. I don’t mean it to sound that way. What it is — it’s just perspective. ...

Robert Iger had some heavy lifting to do after he took over from Michael Eisner.

Profits and growth had stalled out. Disney Feature Animation was floundering. Roy Disney, shoved out of the corporate boardroom by Eisner, was ticked off. Steve Jobs, head of Apple and Pixar, was even more ticked off when Disney exercised its right to make sequels to Pixar features and hired staff to create them.

Mr. Iger soothed Roy's damaged feelings by welcoming him back to the company, and made Steve Jobs a happy man by 1) canceling the sequels and 2) buying Pixar for a princely $7.2 billion.

At the time, some analysts criticized Robert Iger for "paying too much" for the Emeryville studio, but the purchase has panned out nicely. Ditto for the subsequent Marvel and Lucasfilms purchases. But Disney's absorption of Pixar, the one that kicked the cycle off, was kind of a forced circumstance. Pixar was on the cusp of finding a new distributor and partner, and the Diz Co. badly needed to keep the smaller company in the fold.

It's a testament to Robert Iger's skills as a CEO that he pulled it off.

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Thanksgiving Box Office

Theaters have four days of no competition from school or work. The results?


1). Moana (DIS), 3,875 Theaters / $15.7M Wed. (includes $2.6M previews)/Thurs. $9.9M (-37%)/ 3-day cume: $60.9M /5-day: $86.7/Wk 1

2). Fantastic Beasts… (WB), 4,144 theaters / $11.1M Wed./Thurs. $9.6M (-12%)/ 3-day cume: $44M (-41%)/5-day: $64.8M/Total: $155.3/Wk 2

3).Doctor Strange (DIS), 3,008 theaters (-686) / $3M Wed. / $2.5M (-17%) Thurs./3-day cume: $13.8M (-18%) /5-day:$19.3M/Total cume: $205.5m/Wk 4

4). Arrival (PAR), 2,442 theaters (+107)/ $2.1M Wed./ $2.2M (+5%) Thurs./3-day cume: $10.7M (-12%)/5-day: $15.1M/Total:$61.8M/ Wk 3

5). Allied (PAR), 3,160 Theaters / $2.7M Wed. (includes $600k previews)/ $2.3M (-14%) Thur. $2.3m (-14%)/3-day cume: $10.5M /5-day: $16.8M/Wk 1

6.) Trolls (DWA/20th Century Fox), 3,378 theaters (-567) / $2.66M Wed. / $1.25M Thurs (-54%)/3-day cume: $8.7M (-50%) /5-day: $12.6M/Total Cume: $133.5M/Wk 4

7). Almost Christmas (UNI), 1,868 theaters (-511) / $811K Wed. /$1.2M (+36%) Thurs/ 3-day cume: $6.5M (-11%)/5-day: $8.4M/Total: $35.5M/ Wk 3

8). Hacksaw Ridge (Lionsgate), 2,418 theaters (-465) / $1.1M Wed. /$1.15M (+5%) Thurs/$5.9M (-11%) 3-day (-55%)/5-day:$8.1M/Total: $52.7M/ Wk 4

9). Bad Santa 2 (BG/MX), 2,900 Theaters / $1.58M Wed. (includes $330k previews)/$1.3M Thurs (-16%)/ 3-day cume: $6.8M /5-day: $9.7M/Wk 1

10.) The Edge of Seventeen (STX) 1,945 theaters/ $733K Wed../$528K (-28%) Thurs./3-day: $3.5M (-26%)/5-day $4.7M/Total: $10.8M/wk 2 ...

Trolls, which had been holding well through the first part of the week, took a 54% hit when Moana entered the marketplace, and will end up at the $133,000,000 marker when the holiday weekend is done. Globally, the picture's approaching $300 million, with 54% of it total take coming from overseas.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Mining the Vault XXIII

Always good to follow the original classic. Like, as closely as possible.

That way you can't mess up. Because the first one is tried, true, and a box office winner.

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To nobody's surprise:

Perennial family favorite A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving once again delivered for ABC, ranking as the top-rated program on Thanksgiving eve among adults 18-49 with a 1.9 Live+same day rating. ...

There are not many forty-three-year-old prime-time half hours that land at the top of the ratings heap decades later (like close to zero?), but ACBT is one of them.

Years ago, there used to be re-runs of It's A Wonderful Life, reprises of The Wizard of Oz, and that was pretty much it. But now, of course, we've got the annual airing of long-ago Shulz/Melendez animated specials. The continuing popularity of ancient television shows is an indicator about why animation is today re-hot in the blobal marketplace.

And, of course, like many well-loved classics, this one has to deal with accusations over the internet:

But like lots of items on the web, this one is ... uhm ... questionable.

The above-displayed image showing various Peanuts characters gathered around a table tends to circulate online during the holiday season, along with the accusation that it shows comic strip creator Charles M. Schulz was himself a racist for sitting Franklin, the show's only black character, by himself on the opposite side of the table from all the other characters.

This is a screenshot taken from the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving television special, which first aired on the CBS network on 20 November 1973. ...

Per Nat Gertler in the Snopes article:

... While Schulz definitely kept a hand in the animated work, by 1973 when the Thanksgiving special aired, the Peanuts characters were starring in not only a steady stream of TV specials, but also a series of animated feature films. Schulz certainly wasn't laying out every shot himself - he had a day job to take care of, writing and drawing the most popular comic strip going, as well as creating original books, handling licensing materials, and so on. A talented team of animation folks were doing their job on this.

Besides, if you look, Franklin may not have had a table mate, but he did get more desserts than anyone! ...

The conjecture/accusations are really much ado about not very much.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Box Office Prognostications

Now with Add On:

... fresh from the Reporter.

Animated family film Moana is prospering in its Wednesday box-office launch for a likely first-place Thanksgiving holiday finish ahead of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. ...

Moana is projected to earn roughly $13 million to $14 million on Wednesday from 3,875 theaters, including a record $2.6 million from Tuesday-night previews. Fantastic Beasts — which already has amassed $252 million at the global box office — is tipped to earn an estimated $10 million to $12 million from 4,144 locations, according to early returns.

At this pace, Moana, the latest offering from Disney Animation Studios, could score a five-day opening of $75 million or more, and possibly north of $80 million. ...

With a sky-high "Fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes and a stellar Cinemascore, Moana will likely sail along through the holidays and into the new year.

Earning four times its opening weekend grosses (doing the turnstile math on the Koch Box Office Calculator -- patent pending), Moana could end up in the $250,000,000-$300,000,000 domestic gross range.

Add On: Also from the Reporter:

Disney's homegrown animated family film Moana feasted at the Wednesday box office, opening to $15.7 million from 3,875 theaters as it sails toward a historic Thanksgiving holiday debut of $87 million to $91 million, according to early estimates. ...

Add On: Regarding Moana, Lin-Manuel Miranda talks about the joys and challenges writing songs for Disney's latest blockbuster.

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Fred Moore

Tom Sito remembers:

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

Fred also animated The Three Little Pigs and the seven dwarfs of Snow White And fame. ...

Ward Kimball, one of Disney's Nine Old Men, knew Fred Moore well and (years ago) recalled:

... Fred was the first [animator] to escape from the rubber hose school. He began getting counter movements, counter thrusts, in the way he drew. More drawing. He decided to make Mickey’s cheeks move with his mouth, which had never been done before when you drew everything inside that circle. He squashed and stretched him more.

And this was right at the time, but Fred was a high school-trained animator. He never went to art school, and he more or less emerged drawing that way. Nobody seems to remember any development. It just came there and started, but the interesting thing is he never went beyond that part. The rest of us came into that place. It was a strange place, we adapted to it and we kept trying to improve and change, and we became students of it. Milt Kahl, myself, Frank and Ollie. We knew it was a tough art, and there were many nuances of techniques and conceptions regarding the way you drew, and the thing we saw was that there were millions of things of things to be learned yet and to try.

Fred never thought of that. He wasn’t a student of animation, he was just a naturally gifted animator whose style and development was perfect, timing-wise, for that point of time of where the studio wanted to go. And when the studio kept going in that direction it became the students, the guys I named, who carried it on. And Fred, being the type of character he was, almost juvenile in a way, was not able to cope with this. He took to drinking instead of saying “Gee, this is interesting. I’ll sit down and explore it too, and improve and rise above what I’ve done.”

The idea was to try to do better than you did the year before, because it was such an open thing. We were pioneering techniques in animation styles that had never been done before. But Fred was content to stay at this one level, and he got all his adulation for The Three Pigs. Pigs isn’t bad. It’s wonderful for the time. It made everything that came before look very crude, and it gave the studio the shot in the arm that Walt thought was wonderful.

So Fred was the man of the hour and couldn’t handle it, really, if you want to know. He just expected to be the man of the hour forever, and then we began to notice that as we got more into the subtleties of animation, slowing in and out, and the little nuances which were not banging and jumping around all the time, Fred’s work began to look crude.

Now that’s a hell of a thing to say, but I’m talking relatively speaking. I noticed it on The Reluctant Dragon. Fred was given the knight with the little boy, and what had been the acceptable way on The Three Little Pigs and in some cases Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, there were parts, even though they were drawn well, that were crude, timing-wise.

Fred would hit a pose and just freeze there and while we were already loosening those things up and putting in the subtle things that would keep [the animation] alive a long time. That’s what I meant, that at that time Fred was drinking heavily, and I was secretly going in with his exposure sheets and adding these other little drawings that would make them work with the rest of the animation that was being done on the picture.

And more and more, Fred became defensive, and hitting the bottle and feeling sorry for himself. He’d come back from lunch and would want to talk about it, and of course we didn’t want to talk about it. And he wanted to talk about it every afternoon, how the place was giving him a bad deal, and all that, and Walt wasn’t good to him any more.

We just felt sorry for him. We didn’t know what to do and all of a sudden ... you know his brother and father, they had the same drinking problem. We didn’t know that. We’d all go out and have a martini, and with Fred it would become an obsession. And it became an escape when he couldn’t handle the situation in the studio. ...

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On Layoffs

Members and TAG officers have asked, "What does an Animation Guild member do if he finds himself laid off?"

The first order of business is to thumb through this booklet. ...

Inside you will find information about:

How long Motion Picture Industry health benefits will last.

Generally six to fifteen months beyond layoff, but you'll need to check with the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan -- 855-275-4674.

Dismissal Pay from your studio.

Employees who work on cable or network shows*, or theatrical motion pictures are entitled to 1 to 2 weeks of additional pay 110 days after layoff. Employees who work 6-12 months receive one week's pay, employees who work more than twelve months receive two weeks' pay. They must be laid off and not recalled for 110 days before they're eligible for payment. (If they turn down work from the studio before the 110 days run out, they waive the right to Dismissal Pay).

Tapping into 401(k) accounts if things get tight.

This is doable, but understand that if you're under 59 1/2 years of age, the withdrawn cash will be subject to both income tax and a 12 1/2% excise tax. (If you're over 59 1/2, you can withdraw as much money as you like without any excise tax penalty). Members can also take a personal loan out from their account for up to 50% of assets.

Non-payment of dues when not working. Members who are current in their dues and aren't working under a TAG contract can request going on Honorable Withdrawal by letter or e-mail to the Guild office. No further dues will need to be paid until a member resumes working at a Guild studio.

(If a member is not current in their dues or hasn't paid off initiaion fees, they can ask to go on suspension. This will entail an additional $25 reinstatement fee down the road, but will stop any further dues obligation until they return to work). Dues are NOT connected to the receipt of health coverage. The two are separate.

When members are laid off, one of the first things on their minds is: "How do I find my next gig??" The first order of business is networking with friends and professional acquaintances. They're generally the best source for employment info.

Members should also be plugged into the Guild's private Facebook page available to Guild members. There they can contact other members and/or share job information.

Almost everyone hits rough patches in her/his career. The main way Guild members stay employed long-term is:

1) Keeping their skills sharp and current. (Refresher courses and continuous training work wonders).

2) Being professional on the job. (Showing up on time, putting in a full day's work, playing well with co-workers).

3) Having more than one or two arrows in your quiver. (The more jobs you can do, the more employable you are).

4) Always having a "Plan A", "Plan B", and a "Plan C". Because often more than a single plan is necessary.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Film Roman South

Film Roman, which was located on Hollywood Way near the Bob Hope-Hollywood-Burbank Airport for some years, has moved to the West Valley. But there are also some newer digs, as a press release tells us:

Film Roman has entered into a joint venture with Baja California-based animation facility Boxel Studios to create Film Roman Baja J.V.

Boxel co-founder and creative director Uriel Reyes Botello and co-founder and director Andres Reyes Botello are overseeing day-to-day operations, with Film Roman founder Phil Roman and Film Roman CEO Steve Waterman providing senior management and oversight of the Baja studio.

“The venture’s driving purpose is to execute high-quality, cost-effective animated properties across a broad spectrum of platforms including features, television and new media productions,” Waterman commented in a statement. ...

A lot of animation studios today use Canadian studios. But a Mexican studio? It isn't new. Gamma Studios of Mexico City was used by Jay Ward Productions five-plus decades ago. At the time, most television animation was done in Los Angeles, soup to nuts. Outsourcing to Asia hadn't started yet.

But Jay Ward pioneered the outsourcing of animation to foreign locales. All those Rocky and Bullwinkle shorts, all those Fractured Fairy Tales pieces, they were produced in Mexico City.

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Ron Thornton, RIP

From the Reporter.

Ron Thornton, an Emmy-winning visual effects designer, supervisor and producer who worked on such shows as Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Voyager, has died. He was 59.

Thornton, often credited with bringing the power of CGI to television visual effects, died Monday at his home in Albuquerque, N.M., after a short battle with liver disease, his friend, veteran VFX supervisor Emile Smith, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Thornton received his Emmy for the 1993 telefilm Babylon 5: The Gathering (the pilot for the series) and also was nominated for his work on episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and on the 2002 telefilm Superfire. ...

Mr. Thornton was working as a visual effects specialist all the way back to the 1970s. Star Trek, the Movie, Babylonf 5, Star Trek, Voyager and the immortal Space Balls.

Fifty-nine is far too early to depart, but stuff happens. Condolences to Mr. Thornton's family and friends.
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Thirty Years On

Three decades ago, An American Tail was released to positive reviews and solid box office. It was Don Bluth's second animated feature away from Disney, and Steven Spielberg's start as a producer of full-length, theatrical cartoons.

[No animated feature] presented the whole lost child scenario as effectively as An American Tail. Released in 1986, it was the apex of unique family-friendly films created by director-animator Don Bluth–a diverse batch which also includes beloved classics like The Secret of NIMH (1982), The Land Before Time (1988), All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), Rock-a-Doodle (1991), A Troll in Central Park (1994), and Anastasia (1997).

Disney–specifically Pixar’s Finding Nemo (2003)–owes a lot to little Fievel Mousekewitz. This film–with Steven Spielberg as the executive producer and presenter–was ahead of its time for establishing serious issues under a G rating, and 30 years later, with the current immigration crisis at hand, An American Tail is an especially relevant animated film for children and adults today. ...

Don Bluth had a long, notable career in animation.

He started at Disney in the 1950s, working on Sleeping Beauty, then departed to pursue other goals. A decade later, after a stint at Filmation, he returned to the House of Mouse and quickly rose through the ranks. In the mid-seventies he was a directing animator, then the animation supervisor for (the first) Pete's Dragon, then the director of the holiday featurette The Small One.

Management was grooming Don to take over the department, but Don put together a deal to direct and produce The Secret of NIMH as an independent feature, and left in the middle of The Fox and the Hound.

NIMH was the first feature in a string of long-form animated productions that ended with Titan A.E. in 2000. Nobody has made more independent hand-drawn features than Mr. Bluth; American Tail was the second that he directed ... and (after Land Before Time) the most successful. American Tail was made by Don and his staff after NIMH and the production of some pioneering, hand-drawn video games. The budget for the feature was not large, but Don, always good at getting a lot of production value up on the screen, made the feature look more expensive than it was.

Hard to believe it's been thirty years since its release.

H/t President Emeritus Tom Sito.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Two Animated Features -- Year Over Year

Alrighty then. A year ago, Blue Sky Studios (of Fox-News Corp.) released The Peanuts Movie. It's domestic opening weekend went like this:

$44,213,073 in 3,897 theaters.

Twelve months later, DreamWorks Animation's Trolls rolled out. And its opening numbers went this way:

$46,581,142 in 4,060 theaters

The two cartoons had pretty similar three-day windows. But then the roads diverged. ...

The second weekend drop for Trolls was a mere 25%, while The Peanuts Movie declined an alarming 46%.

TPM's final global box office was $246,233,113, with a domestic gross of $116,054,702. This total came at the end of twenty-one weeks of theatrical release.

Now consider Trolls.

The DreamWorks picture's been out since early November, and has already grossed $262,371,439 worldwide. (This, after 17 days of release). It's domestic tally stands at $116,163,206, 44.3% of its world gross, and will obviously climb higher.

In retrospect, The Peanuts Movie had the disadvantage of being a well-worn American property that didn't play as well overseas as Fox might have hoped. (The recent Ice Age: Collision Course performed only half as well as Peanuts domestically, but has beaten the Charlie Brown movie hollow overseas. To date it's worldwide cume is $407,168,056. These days, foreign markets are real important).

The lesson here: American companies need their animated movies to play in foreign markets, since they contribute 60%-80% of the total take, and too often American-centric features don't cut it in the rest of the world. It also helps to have lots of comical non-humans populating your productions.

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SAG-AFTRA Strike Continues

Per Deadline:

SAG-AFTRA will launch a virtual picket line on social media tomorrow to “show that our greatest strength is our unity.” ...

“Beginning at noon,” the union is telling its members, “show your support on social media by sharing the tweets below and these images; retweet and share SAG-AFTRA’s Facebook and Twitter posts; take a solidarity selfie or group photo, use the hashtag #PerformanceMatters and post it to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.” ...

SAG-AFTRA has been picketing video game companies in southern California (with other unions -- including TAG -- assisting) but now they've moving to the virtual world.

We'll see what kind of leverage is brought to bear.

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Cars Forever

It's a good thing Pixar is unenthusiastic about sequels ...

Because otherwise, we might already be seeing a teaser trailer for Cars V.

From the hyper-ventilating press release:

Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez, with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn’t through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing’s biggest stage!

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El Smurfos

Sony renews the short blue people franchise with an April 2017 release: Smurfs: The Lost Village

From the breathless press release:

In this fully animated, all-new take on the Smurfs, a mysterious map sets Smurfette and her best friends Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty on an exciting and thrilling race through the Forbidden Forest filled with magical creatures to find a mysterious lost village before the evil wizard Gargamel does. Embarking on a rollercoaster journey full of action and danger, the Smurfs are on a course that leads to the discovery of the biggest secret in Smurf history!

Animation veteran Kelly Asbury is directing The Lost Village. Mr. Asbury has a long and successful track record in the land of cartoons: story artist on The Little Mermaid and Toy Story; the directors on Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Shrek 2, Gnomeo and Juliet. He had this to say about his upcoming feature:

How different is SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE from the previous two Smurfs features?

KA: Sony Pictures Animation’s previous two SMURFS movies were live action films in which real humans interacted with more realistically designed and animated Smurfs, and the stories centered as much around the human characters’ issues. SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE has nothing to do with those other films. It is a radically different take on the Smurfs and their imaginary world, fully computer animated, and much closer to the tone and style that creator Peyo initially envisioned.

What was the inspiration for this film?

KA: Many things inspired the type of movie we wanted to make. Everyone involved agreed that the story should be a high-adventure journey, so classic movies like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and GOONIES came to mind. The richness in color was influenced by the great French Impressionists painters. The Forbidden Forest where the Smurfs venture was envisioned as equal parts Oz, Pandora and Wonderland, filled with dangerous and magical creatures like Smurf-eating Flowers or Boxing and Kissing Plants, to name a few. ...

The feature rolls out across the fruited plain on April 7th. It will likely do brisk business at the box office.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Asset Allocation Plans (Or ... Putting Enough Away For When You Decide To Hang It Up)

The end of another year is fast upon us, so it's time for another look at investing for retirement.

TAG members have two automatic pension plans -- the Defined Benefit Plan that gives you a monthly payout at retirement, and an Individual Account Plan. Think of the IAP as a big basket of money earning interest and stock income that the Motion Picture Pension Plan will pay to you when you are ready to ride off into the setting sun and leave the 9-to-5 deal behind.

And if you know little about where to stash part of each paycheck, not a problem. You can use Vanguard Retirement Date Funds, and let the giganto mutual fund company do the heavy investment lifting (and deep choices) for you, or you can do some reconnoitering and decide on your own where you want to put your investment dollars to work.

Here's a place to start. ...

150 Portfolios Better Than Yours

... No one knows which [investment] portfolio is going to outperform in the future. You can change all the factors you want- more or less diversification, additional risks/factors, lower costs vs additional risk or diversification, more of this and less of that. Does it matter? Absolutely. Take a look at Madsinger’s Monthly Report some time. But it doesn’t matter that much. No diversified portfolio in that report has done better than 1-2% per year more than a similarly risky portfolio over the last 15 years. Now 1-2% does matter, especially over long periods of time, but keep in mind the edge that a very complex portfolio might provide over a very simple one can easily be eaten up by advisory fees, behavioral errors, and poor tax management.

I suggest you pick a portfolio you like and think you can stick with for a few decades, and then do so. Eventually, any given portfolio will have its day in the sun. Just don’t continually change your portfolio in response to changes in the investment winds. This is the equivalent of driving while looking through the rear view mirror, or, as Dr. Bernstein likes to phrase it, skating to where the puck was. ...

Portfolio 1: The S&P 500 Portfolio

100% Vanguard S&P 500 Index Fund

Don’t laugh. I know a very successful two-physician couple who invest in nothing but this, are 7 years out of residency, have a net worth in the $1-2 Million range. Their investment plan is working fine. Every investment dollar, whether in a retirement account or a taxable account, goes into this single fund. It is simple, very low cost, diversified among 500 different companies, and has a long track record of exceptional returns.

Portfolio 2: Total Stock Market Portfolio

100% Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund

Perhaps one step up on the S&P 500 portfolio, for about the same cost you get another 5000+ stocks in the portfolio.

Portfolio 3: Total World Stock Market Portfolio

100% Vanguard Total World Index Fund

This 100% stock portfolio has the advantage of not only holding all the US Stocks like the Total Stock Market Portfolio, but also holding all of the stocks in pretty much all the other countries in the world that matter. It is a little more expensive (and in fact it is actually cheaper to build this fund yourself from its components), but it still weighs in at less than 20 basis points if you buy the ETF.

Portfolios 4 and 5: Balanced Index Fund

100% Vanguard Balanced Index Fund

Prefer to diversify out of stocks? Actually want some bonds in the portfolio? How about this one? For less than 10 basis points you get all the stocks in the US and all the bonds in the US in a 60/40 balance. Still just one fund. If you’re in a high tax bracket, you may prefer the Tax-Managed Balanced Fund, a 48/52 blend of US Stocks and Municipal bonds, all for just 12 basis points.

Portfolios 6-9: Life Strategy Moderate Growth Portfolio

100% Vanguard Life Strategy Moderate Growth Fund

For just 16 basis points, you get all the US (32%) and international (18%) stocks and all the US (42%) and international (8%) bonds wrapped up in a handy, fixed asset allocation. Want to be a little more (or a little less) aggressive? Then check out the “aggressive growth” (80/20), “conservative growth” (41/59) or “income” (30/70)version with a slightly different allocation of the same asset classes. ...

And so on and so forth. Here's the rub: You can use any number of the portfolios shown above (and many more), stick with them, and you will have a sizable nest egg by the time you become a seasoned citizen.

There are really only a few simple rules:

1) Keep costs low.

2) Keep your portfolio diversified.

3) Stick with the program.

And understand that there will ALWAYS be a portfolio better than yours, but that it doesn't matter. What matters is saving and investing for the day when you'll need the money to live comfortably without a regular paycheck.

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International Box Office

Trolls runs up a nice tally, but nothing compared to the continuing Dr. Strange or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them or the Chinese release I Am Not Madame Bovary.


Fantastic Beasts -- $143,300,000 -- ($218,300,000)

I Am Not Madame Bovary -- $27,900,000 -- ($28,400,000)

Doctor Strange -- $26,000,000 -- ($571,500,000)

Trolls -- $11,400,000 -- ($261,300,000)

Arrival -- $6,500,000 -- ($54,215,853)

Inferno -- $3,800,000 -- ($211,873,473)

Jack Reacher -- $3,800,000 -- ($136,869,185)

The Girl On The Train -- $1,600,000 -- ($161,100,000)

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children -- $758,000 -- ($259,862,899)

The Secret Life of Pets -- $400,000 -- ($873,372,980) ...

And a trade paper tells us:

With an $11.4M weekend in 66 markets, DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls has grossed $145.1M overseas. The overall session was 42% down with good holds in the UK, Spain, Germany and Mexico. The UK leads overseas at $26M, followed by France with $17.3M and Russia at $12M. ...

The Denis Villeneuve sci-fi drama [Arrival] added $6.41M in combined Sony and Film Nation markets in its 2nd outing. In five FNE hubs, it beamed up $2.91M and in 22 for Sony, it garnered $3.5M. The total offshore cume thus far is $21.8M. ...

[Dr. Strange] cast a $26M spell in offshore markets this weekend — its 4th. That takes the international cume to $390M and the worldwide tally to $571.5M as the film closes in on Iron Man’s $585M global. ...

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Woman Supervisor

Animator Amy Smeed is the first female animator at the House of Mouse to be the co-captain of animation on the latest Diz Co. cartoon.

Amy Lawson Smeed ... is a head of animation (along with her colleague Hyrum Osmond) for the action-filled story of "Moana". ...

She got her break on 2005's "Chicken Little," where she moved to the animator training program and was assigned a mentor. She has gone on to work in animation on movies like "Meet the Robinsons," "Bolt," "Tangled," "Wreck-It Ralph" and "Frozen," where she worked with Jennifer Lee, the first female director of a Disney animated movie.

While technical chops and understanding the mechanics of movement are key to good animation, she cites her time on the Rapunzel adaptation "Tangled," with directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard and animation supervisor Glen Keane, as helping her learn the importance of the acting side of animation.

"It's very easy in computer animation to just always be moving the characters and doing things. With good acting, it's not about just moving the character because you can. It's figuring out what that performance is and really getting the thought behind the character, and that was something they taught us on that film." ...

Amy Smeed estimates there are about a dozen woman animators at Disney, out of a crew of 100.

This is half the percentage of women that now hold jobs in Guild studios (23%). But the fact that a woman has now been put in one more top position is a stride in the right direction.

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Your American Box Office

Trolls, it clings to second place on the List.


1). Fantastic Beasts… (WB), 4,144 theaters / $29.8M Fri. (includes $8.75M)/ 3-day cume: $76M /Wk 1

2.) Trolls (DWA/20th Century Fox), 3,945 theaters (-121) / $3.9M Fri. (-68%) / 3-day cume: $16.9M (-52%) /Total Cume: $115.7M/Wk 3

3.) Doctor Strange (DIS), 3,694 theaters (-188) / $4.8M Fri. (-68%)/ 3-day cume: $16.7M(-61%) /Total cume: $180.6M/Wk 3

4). Arrival (PAR), 2,335 theaters (+18) / $3.4M Fri. (-63%) / 3-day cume: $11.2M (-53%)/Total:$42.8M/ Wk 2

5). Almost Christmas (UNI), 2,379 theaters (+3) / $2M Fri. (-66%) / 3-day cume: $6.6M (-53%)/Total: $25M/ Wk 2

6). Hacksaw Ridge (Lionsgate), 2,883 theaters (-88) / $1.9M Fri. (-50%) /$6.4M 3-day (-40%)/Total: $42.5M/ Wk 3

7.) The Edge of Seventeen (STX) 1,945 theaters/ $1.7M Fri./3-day: $4.8M/wk 1

8.) Bleed For This (OR) 1,549 theaters/ $882K Fri./3-day: $2.6M/wk 1

9.)The Accountant (WB), 1,423 theaters (-919) / $603K Fri. (-60%)/3-day cume: $2M (-55%) / Total cume: $81.1M / Wk 6

10.) Shut In (Euro), 2,006 theaters (-52)/ $501K (-70%) Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.6M (-66%)/Total: $6m/ Wk 2 ...

The DWA picture should be close to $150 million by the end of its run, yes?

On the other hand, Moana will take a bite out of Trolls when the Disney feature sails into the marketplace, so who knows the actual steepness of the inevitable drop? Or how solid a bet the $150 mill might actually be?

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Diretcor Out, Director In

Deadline tells us:

... David Leitch has signed on to direct Deadpool 2.

Leitch beat out a host of competitors that included the likes of Drew Goddard and Magnus Martens after Deadpool director Tim Miller departed the superhero sequel over creative differences in late-October. Leitch spent more than 20 years as a stunt coordinator and stuntman before he teamed as a director with Chad Stahelski on John Wick. The Keanu Reeves-starring neo noir action pic went on to earn $86 million on a $20 million budget but became an instant cult favorite. ...

Deadpool Uno was a huge hit with large swaths of animation stitching the movie together. :

After stepping away from Deadpool, director Tim Miller has set his sights on a new gig: developing an adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog for Sony Pictures.

Miller and his longtime Blur Studio collaborator Jeff Fowler have been tapped to work on the project, on which Fowler would make his feature directorial debut.

The duo are working with Neal H. Moritz (the Fast and Furious franchise), who is producing the adaptation. Miller will act as an executive producer on it.

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A future corporate symbol was launched into the world on this day, as TAG President Emeritus Tom Sito recounts:

Nov 18, 1928- HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICKEY MOUSE- At Universal’s Colony Theater in New York, Walt Disney’s cartoon "Steamboat Willie" debuted before a movie called Gang War.

The first major sound cartoon success and the official birth of Mickey Mouse. Two earlier silent Mickey's had been done, but when Walt saw Jolson speak in the Jazz Singer, he held those two back so the sound experiment could go ahead. ...

Steamboat Willie, of course, was an animated riff on Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill Jr., just as the previously made (though later released Gallopin' Gauchos was a spoof of Douglas Fairbanks's The Gaucho.

Hard to believe that the Diz Co. empire of today started in a small storefront on Hyperion Avenue back in the 1920s. Walt Disney had a habit of rolling the dice on commercial enterprises, whether it was the first sound cartoon, the first color cartoon, the first feature-length cartoon, or an amusement park that few through would work.

But it all paid off in spades. ...

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

CTN animation eXpo starts TOMORROW!

Now with Add On!

The last couple of days, there's been a whirl of activity in and around the Burbank Marriot Hotel (directly across the street from the renowned Bob Hope/Burbank Airport).

CTN eXpo has been setting up its monster exhibition tent (seen above) in Marriot's parking lot, directly across the way from Marriot's convention center.

What's different this year is that all the vendors and exhibits previously housed in the convention hall, are now in the big fat tent. It's not really a problem, because the BFT is generous in its square footage and air conditioned on a par with the climate and temperature of Gnome, Alaska. (No doubt the temp will rise once there are a few thousand bodies jammed inside the canvas walls).

Beyond the exhibition hall, CTN will be packed with presentations and events, including:

"Behind the Scenes of Disney's Moana" -- (Disney Panel Discussion)

"Finding Clarity In Your Storyboards" -- (Adam Cootes - Blue Sky Studios)

"Jam Packed With Story" -- (Panel Discussion)

"Create or Die: How Living the 5 Pillars of Creativity Can Change Your Life" -- (Jake Parker)

"The Art of Making Trolls" -- (DWA Panel Discussion)

"Colorful Language: Ever Palette Tells a Story" -- (Brian McEntee)

And this is only a fragment of the first day. So as you can see, it's going to be a fast-moving weekend.

Add On: CTN eXpo is expanding in a variety of ways:

... This year, it will open its doors to the public, offering speaker sessions, workshops, art demonstrations, book signings, studio recruitment, portfolio reviews, vendors and more at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel and Convention Center running Friday through Sunday Nov. 18-20.

“I was at Disney for 23 years, and when I left, I wanted to provide an arena to help promote what these particular group of artists do because I realized when you’re at a studio for that long, when you leave, it’s a challenge trying to identify yourself as not working for ‘fill in the blank,’ ” said Tina Price, founder and owner of Creative Talent Network and producer of CTN eXpo.

Price decided to change things because, as a networking event, a big part of the convention is exposing the artists to future generations and the general public. Students and youths will have the opportunity to learn more about the animation industry as a career choice, while animation fans can shop and meet some of their favorite artists. ...

When: Noon to 7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, plus CTNX After Dark gathering 8 p.m. to midnight tonight and Saturday.

Where: Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel and Convention Center, 2500 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank.

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Another Negotiatin' Season Commences

The IATSE (our mother international) goes into negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers at the end of each negotiation cycle. The IA and The Animation Guild negotiated their latest contracts last year. But you will be pleased to know that a whole new season is starting up once more.

The Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have agreed to enter into formal contract negotiations on Dec. 5.

The DGA and the AMPTP also said that they have also agreed that neither organization will comment further to the press until negotiations have concluded.

The DGA tapped secretary-treasurer Michael Apted and third VP Thomas Schlamme in February as co-chairs of its negotiating committee for the successor deal to its master contract. The guild’s current three-year deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expires on June 30, 2017. The DGA has over 16,000 members.

Jay D. Roth, longtime national executive director of the DGA, will be the lead negotiator for the guild.

SAG-AFTRA’s current master contract with the AMPTP also expires on June 30, 2017, while the Writers Guild of America’s deal will expire on May 1, 2017. The WGA usually goes into negotiations after DGA and SAG-AFTRA have completed their deals. ...

The way industry negotiating works is, one of the above-the-line guilds (usually the DGA, but not always) is the first into the arena and arm-wrestles the conglomerates and various production companies until a deal is reached.

And that deal lays down various markers: wage increases; pension contributions; New Media provisions. Naturally enough, the details of various contracts have differences but many of the broader brush strokes are the same. This is called pattern bargaining.

Guilds and unions end up achieving similar monetary gains, though pies are carved up in differing ways. (One group might take higher pension contributions and lesser wage hikes). It all depends on where each labor organization's priorities lie.

The Directors Guild usually goes into talks with a focused set of objectives, and often gets many of them. When the DGA's contract talks are over and the agreement between the parties is announced, we'll have some idea about the bargaining template from which every other union ... WGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE ... will be working.

And the Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE, will be among the last labor unions to march into the arena, sometime in the Spring of 2018.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

WAG Feature

Warner Animatin Group, which has a number of animated projects in development, appears to be moving ahead with this one:

Mark Osborne, fresh off directing The Little Prince, has come aboard to tackle Warner Bros.’ animated adaptation of Bone, the Eisner-winning comic series from Jeff Smith.

Adam Kline has been tapped to co-write the script with Osborne, who is developing the project as a directing vehicle. The moves re-energize the adaptation for the studio, which first picked up the rights around 2008.

Dan Lin’s Lin Pictures is producing with Animal Logic’s Zareh Nalbandian with the goal of making a trilogy of animated feature films. ...

Bone has been in the development hopper for a bunch of years. (These things take time -- Disney's Tangled was in the oven for a over a decade). But now it looks like the Jeff Smith project is close to ignition and lift off.

Warner Animation Group ... otherwise known as WAG ... focuses on theatrical features and has several studios in Los Angels. One is on the Warner Bros. Burbank main lot, another is in a trailer at the Warner Ranch (also located in burbank) and a third is in Hollywood.

Only pre-production development will take place in California. Production will happen in Australia.
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Animation Pool Gets Deeper (Again)

Fox won't be releasing DreamWorks Animation features much longer, but it's staying in the feature-length cartoon business in a major way.

... 20th Century Fox is making it a priority to snap up various children's books and develop more live-action hybrids.

It looks like 20th Century Fox under Stacey Snider is going to be an all-in-the-family studio.

On Nov. 10, Fox Animation bought children's book Momotaro: Xander and The Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway, which followed pickups of Kelly Barnhill's The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl, Jennifer Weiner's The Littlest Bigfoot and Garth Nix's Princess and the Frog tale Frogkisser! And on Wednesday, Fox also revealed it is developing a theatrical feature based on the 2014 Oscar-nominated animated short The Dam Keeper from two former Pixar art directors.

The new projects won't all be straight animation plays. At least two — Girl Who Drank the Moon and Littlest Bigfoot — will be CG/live-action hybrids, a priority area for the studio, which hired executive Nate Hopper in September to build the initiative. ...

Fox is like every other big entertainment conglomerate. It knows that animation is one of the high-margin corners of the movie biz, and it needs to be in that corner in order to maximize profits. Even though the latest production in its Ice Age franchise had an anemic box office return of a mere $64 million in the U.S. of A., it has collected $343,105,048, giving it a world-wide total of $407,168,056, four times its production cost.

So there is no way that Fox will be getting out of making the cartoons

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Blending Formats, Gaining Ideas

VFX super Stephane Ceretti speaks about Doc Strange, the Movie:

CS: You’ve been working with Marvel for awhile now. Does each project feel like it’s own world or does it feel like building one giant universe?

Stephane Ceretti: It’s funny. It’s one world, but it’s also many worlds. I’ve been lucky enough to explore a lot of them. I worked second unit on “Captain America,” which was setting up that character. I got to work with Joe Johnston, which was really great. ...

CS: Doctor Strange is getting a lot of notice for its innovative visuals. Where did those begin as far as realizing the look you wanted?

Stephane Ceretti: It’s been a long process. We started in September of 2014, just after I finished “Guardians.” Scott [Derrickson] was already on the project. He had started to write the script and he had a list of visual that he wanted to use in the film. Some were from other films, others were from photographs or paintings. He kind of collected together a list of things that we looked at. Charlie Wood, the production designer, came to LA and we did a kind of brainstorming bootcamp to figure out what we were going to do for the film visually. ...

CS: Do you need to make firm rules about what is and isn’t possible in the realm of sorcery?

Stephane Ceretti: That’s the big balance that we were trying to find throughout production. Even in post-production, to be honest. How much do you explain? How much do you show? You don’t want to explain everything, because then it gets tedious. You want the visuals to integrate into the story, but not to take over the story. ...

And then the quote that made me laugh:

CS: What about the Cloak of Levitation? I’m assuming that was a blend of both practical and visual effects.

Stephane Ceretti: There’s a lot of practical cloak in the film and the practical cloak is a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful piece of fabric. Originally, the Cloak of Levitation was just the Cloak of Levitation. It was helping him fly. Then we figured out as we were doing pre-vis that it would be great if it was actually a character. We looked at the magic carpet in “Aladdin.” There was some cool stuff there. It could be the story of a cowboy and his horse. He finds that horse in nature and they don’t know each other. The horse has never been with a cowboy before. But then they kind of get to learn each other. They form that relationship by the end. That’s the arc we wanted to do. ...

Good ideas don't disintegrate with age.

They just go into hibernation and reappear in another place and time ... and end up being a good idea all over again.

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Ramping Up Moana

Diz Co. now drops clips fast and furiously ....

... as the picture's release date draws close. ...

And the reviews are coming in ...

“The film front-loads [Moana's] story with two exceptional original songs: The first conveys her father’s play-it-safe mantra, ‘Where We Are,’ while the other gives voice to Moana’s own horizon-challenging desires, ‘How Far I’ll Go’ — both the result of an inspired collaboration between Hamilton composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, longtime Disney music guru Mark Mancina, and Opetaia Foa’i, the lead singer of South Pacific fusion band Te Vaka.” ...

Here in the second decade of the 21st century, Diz Co. knows how to make and market animated features.

The picture wrapped last month, and now it's time for some of the dazzling bits of the movie to be drizzled out on YouTube, to have the cast and directors fan out to drumbeat that the feature is soon to arrive, and by and large build audience desire to rush to their neighborhood multiplex and goggle at the visual splendors on opening weekend ... and beyond.

Judging from the reviews and "want to see" quotient steadily building across the fruited plain, that shouldn't be hard to do.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Stewart Animation

Jon Stewart, formerly of The Daily Show, is plunging into a new area of show biz.

Entertainment Weekly: Has the fate of Bill Simmons’ show, or the election of Donald Trump, impacted how you much you might be relying on Jon Stewart or John Oliver in the future? Could we be getting more of either?

HBO Programming President Casey Bloys: I’ll take as much John Oliver as I can get. In terms of Jon Stewart, he really is putting together a whole animation studio. My hope is that it’s up and running and putting out content in first quarter of ‘17. Does the election change things? I think it’s more important, now more than ever, that we have voices like that who will parse the information and call out what’s going on.

So if Stewart is setting up a studio, it's likely on the East Coast. Since that is where Jon Stewart lives.

If it were here, TAG would work assiduously to secure a contract. Even being in New York City (or wherever), we can strive to get a contract. Why not?

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The Animation Guild Election

The Animation Guild's officer elections have been taking place by mail since October 11th. On Saturday, November 12th, the ballots for Business Representative, Sergeant-At-Arms, and eleven executive board seats were counted. Here are the results. ...



Jason MacLeod


Robert St. Pierre


Bronwen Barry
Jeanette Moreno King
David Chlystek
Dave Thomas
Steve Kaplan
Bill Flores
Jason Mayer
Cathy Jones
Lisa Anderson
Candice Stephenson
David Woo

From Dave Robb at Deadline:

Jason MacLeod has been elected business rep of the Animation Guild, IATSE Local 839, succeeding Steve Hulett, who is retiring December 6 after 27 years at the helm of the union.

Hulett, currently the longest serving union leader in Hollywood, spent a decade as an animation writer at Walt Disney Animation Studios in the 1970s and 1980s before taking the leadership role at the guild in 1989. This election marks only the second turnover in the office since 1978.

“I’m very honored to be elected to represent the membership,” said MacLeod, whose credits as an animation lighting artist include Frozen and Zootopia. “Animation in all forms is doing spectacularly well in the marketplace, but this hasn’t translated to a work-life balance our members are happy with. I look forward to partnering with the executive board, listening to our members’ concerns, and working in union to achieve our goals in the next contract cycle.”

“Jason has a big job ahead of him,” Hulett said. “The guild has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, and animation continues to be a red hot sector of the entertainment industry. There will be plenty of challenges ahead, but I know Jason is up to them.”

Laura Hohman, a surfacing artist at DreamWorks Television, was elected president of the guild. ...

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Christmas Stop Motion

The Brits are going in for big-budget stop motion holiday ads, vocals provided by British TV host James Corden, currently working stateside for CBS on The Late Late Show.

... Sainsbury's [the British supermarket chain] will launch its three-minute ad, which took seven weeks to animate using hitech 3D-printing techniques never previously used in the UK, on Monday, making it the last of the major retailers to kick off its festive campaign. ...

Directed by Sam Fell, an alumni of Wallace and Gromit maker Aardman Animations who went on to make comedy zombie animation ParaNorman, the film does not feature any Sainsbury’s products directly. ... however, Sainsbury’s has found a way to link this year’s ad to its stores.

Animators created tiny versions of Sainsbury’s prosecco, Christmas cards and homewares to fill the houses of the multi-racial mix of families who are in Dave’s world.

Fell said work on creating and planning the film began in March and was only completed last week. It took 16 weeks to build the sets and create the 26 puppets used in the film. ...

You don't have a catchy ad on the teevee, you don't end up with audience eyeballs to watch it, as these days everybody fast-forwards through the commercials. So you have to up the ante by packing in razzle-dazzle entertainment.

Doing this in good old stop motion gives the piece a certain holiday charm, don't you think?

The Daily Mail features the Christmas ad here.

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Global Box Office

Marvel and DreamWorks Animation post nice three-day grosses in lands overseas.

Foreign Weekend Box Office -- (World Totals)

Doctor Strange -- $60,200,000 -- ($492,600,000)

Trolls -- $18,300,000 -- ($222,284,367)

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk -- $$13,200,000 -- ($13,200,000)

One Piece Film: Gold -- $10,450,000 -- ($58,450,000)

Storks -- $2,100,000 -- ($172,375,734)

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children -- $2,000,000 -- ($258,137,224)

The Secret Life of Pets -- $700,000 -- ($871,999,625) ...

Deadline noted:

Disney/Marvel’s Doctor Strange remained atop the international box office for the third frame in a row as it nears $500M in worldwide returns. The offshore total is $339.6M. ...

Ang Lee’s latest, [Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk], opened in nine offshore markets across Asia this weekend. ... The first frame was worth $13.2M. The majority of that came from China ($11.7M).

Tim Burton's [Peregrine] pic added $2M in 27 markets this weekend for a $173M international cume. This is ahead of openings in China, Italy and Japan. ...

[Trolls] went to an $18.3M happy place in 68 markets this frame. It held No. 1s in Spain, Mexico and Argentina kept dancing with soft drops in the UK, France, Germany and Italy. The top play is the UK at $24.7M after four sessions. ...

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Big Box Office Ten

The animation is strong here on Veterans Day Weekend.


1). Doctor Strange (DIS), 3,882 theaters / $14.9M Fri. (-54%)/ 3-day cume: $43M (-49%) /Total cume: $153M/Wk 1

2). Trolls (DWA/20th Century Fox), 4.066 theaters (+6) / $12.3M Fri. (0%) / 3-day cume: $34.8M (-25%) /Total Cume: $93.7M/Wk 1

3). Arrival (PAR), 2,317 theaters / $9.3M Fri. (includes $1.45m previews) / 3-day cume: $23.4M/ Wk 1

4). Almost Christmas (UNI), 2,376 theaters / $5.9M Fri. (includes $500K previews) / 3-day cume: $15.3M/ Wk 1

5). Hacksaw Ridge (Lionsgate), 2,971 theaters / $3.8M Fri. (-28%) /$5.9M Sat./$3.5M Sun/ 3-day cume: $11.5M (-24%)/Total: $32.9M/ Wk 2

6). The Accountant (WB), 2,342 theaters (-346) / $1.5M Fri. (-14%)/3-day cume: $4.4M (-25%) / Total cume: $77.6M / Wk 5

7). Shut In (Euro), 2,886 theaters / $1.4M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.8M/ Wk 1

8.) Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween (LG), 2,104 theaters (-130) / $1.2M Fri. (-43%) / 3-day cume: $3.5M (-55%) / Total cume: $70.4M / Wk 3

9.) Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (PAR), 3,079 theaters (-701) / $1.1M Fri. (-30%) / 3-day cume: $3.3M (-39%) / Total cume: $54.6M / Wk 4

10.) Inferno (SONY), 2,656 theaters (-920) / $1.1M Fri. (-41%) / 3-day cume: $3.25M (-48%) / Total cume: $31.6M / Wk 3 ...

Trolls looks to gross $34.8M from 4,066 screens this weekend. If it makes $300k more than that, the picture will beat DreamWorks Animation's Megamind for the best second weekend hold during November.

The way the feature is playing, it will likely run up a healthy domestic gross before Moana shows up near the end of the month and sucks much of the wind out of the little creatures' sails.

Add On: Regarding the strength of box office this weekend, the Mojo tells us:

Disney and Marvel's Doctor Strange, topped the weekend box office for the second week in a row as 2016 became Disney's largest year ever at the domestic box office. In addition to that story, strong holdovers from the likes of Strange, Trolls and Hacksaw Ridge, along with the performance of newcomers such as Arrival and Almost Christmas, contributed to a weekend top twelve that combined for over $150 million, up 56% compared to last year. ...

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Deep Pool of Competitors

Old news; still worth noting:

A record 27 animated features have been submitted for consideration for the animated feature film Oscar, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Friday.

The crowded lists reflects the fact that most of the major studios are now all-in when it comes to animation, with Disney represented by Pixar's Finding Dory and Disney Animation's Zootopia and Moana; Universal/Illumination's The Secret Life of Pets and Sing; Dreamworks Animation/Fox's Kung Fu Panda 3 and Trolls and Fox/Blue Sky's Ice Age: Collision Course; Sony's The Angry Birds Movie as well as the R-rated Sausage Party; and Warner Bros.' Storks. ...

There was a time when animated features were few and far between. Disney rolled out a picture every few years. There was the occasional theatrical adaptation of a TV cartoon. And you had the infrequent independent feature.

But nobody got excited about long-form cartoons. Large studios pretty much ignored them. The smart money believed that Walt Disney Productions could make some money with the occasional offering; for every other studio on the planet animated features were minimal-profit endeavors.

Then The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King happened in rapid succession, transforming animation from a small Hollywood sideshow to a business of blockbusters. Because Hollywood is a town full of sedulous apes, it wasn't long before every movie conglomerate non-named Disney was making its own version of a Disney hand-drawn feature.

Sadly, most of the specimens made weren't particularly riveting; almost all crashed and burned shortly after launch.
And a half-dozen years after the animation boom started, it was limping to a close. Even the Disney Company wasn't turning out super hits any more.

But in the middle of this downturn, a wondrous thing happened. Pixar made a Computer Graphics animated feature named Toy Story, then another named A Bug's Life, and yet another titled Monster's Inc..

Each one made Pixar and Disney (Pixar's partner) millions upon millions of dollars, and lo! Competitors were seduced into giving animated features of the CG variety yet another try.

And this time, rival studios produced long-form cartoons that enabled them to open their own mints. Shrek was a blockbuster for indy studio DreamWorks Animation. Ice Age put Fox Animation on the map. Soon other studios jumped into the cartoon bonanza, until today, in 2016, the Motion Picture Academy will onsider a list of cartoon features longer than an orangutan's arm:

“The Angry Birds Movie”
“April and the Extraordinary World”
“Finding Dory”
“Ice Age: Collision Course”
“Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Kung Fu Panda 3”
“The Little Prince”
“Long Way North”
“Miss Hokusai”
“Monkey King: Hero Is Back”
“Mustafa & the Magician”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“Phantom Boy”
“The Red Turtle”
“Sausage Party”
“The Secret Life of Pets”
“25 April”
“Your Name.”

The business of animation has traveled a long way, don't you think?

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