Sunday, September 21, 2014

Foreign Box Office


Animation's performance around the globe:

Foreign Weekend Box Office -- (World Totals)

Guardians of Galaxy -- $5,200,000 -- ($632,269,000)

Teenage Ninja Turtles -- $7,300,000 -- ($333,317,989)

Dawn of Planet Apes -- $8,150,000 -- ($683,661,593)

The Boxtrolls -- $4,000,000 -- ($11,000,000)

As the trades tell us:

... 20th Century Fox’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” picked up $8.1 million after opening to $3.7 million in Japan. That marks the last international market for the simian sequel, which has nabbed $681.5 million globally, easily trumping its predecessor 20th Century Fox’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” picked up $8.1 million after opening to $3.7 million in Japan. That marks the last international market for the simian sequel, which has nabbed $681.5 million globally, easily trumping its predecessor. ...

Paramount Pictures’ “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” grabbed $7.3 million from 50 markets, driving its worldwide haul to $333.3 million. ...


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Sixty-nine Years Ago Today ...

... Disney released Hockey Homicide.



Milt Kahl and John Sibley were two of four animators; Bill Berg was one of the story artists.

Bill was a good friend of my father's, and was up at the house all the time. He and my dad collaborated on a live-action piece for the Mickey Mouse Club, "How to Draw Donald Duck" which feature Bill and a lot of small kids trying to draw the duck. (One of the small kids was moi).

In the fifties, Bill had a thick thatch of blonde hair, thick bushy eyebrows, and furry forearms. But all the hair went away when he contracted a virus in the late sixties that turned him into a twin brother of Mr. Clean/Yul Brynner. (No hair on arms, head or above the eyes). Bill drew the "Scamp" strip for many years. He passed away in 2002 at the age of 84.

Hockey Homicide's background artist was Art Riley, who had a reputation for living frugally (he lived with his mother for many years), investing in the stock market way before it was fashionable, and driving an ancient Cadillac that he babied along. Vance Gerry told me that Art didn't get out much. Vance once gave him a lift home from the studio (the Cadillac must have been in the shop) and stopped at a supermarket on the way. Art accompanied Vance into the market and stared at the rows of food, polished floors and fluorescent lights and said:

"Wow, this is something. What do you call this kind of store?"

Art left the studio after thirty years employment. He died in Monterey California, still living on his stock holdings, in the late 1990s. He was 87.

H/t Tom Sito.


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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Your Domestic Box Office

Per Deadline's early numbers.

U.S./Canadian Box Office

1). The Maze Runner (FOX), 3,064 theaters / $11.3M Fri. (includes $1.1M late nights) / 3-day est. cume: $30M to $32M / Wk 1

2). A Walk Among the Tombstones (UNI), 2,712 theaters / $4.75M Fri. (includes $428K in late nights) / 3-day cume: $14M+ / Wk 1

3). This is Where I Leave You (WB), 2,868 theaters / $3.85M Fri. (includes est. $100K in late nights) / 3-day cume: $11.7M to $11.9M / Wk 1

4). No Good Deed (SONY), 2,175 theaters (0) / $2.95M Fri. / 3-day cume: $9.6M to $10M+ (-60%) / Total cume: $39M to $40M / Wk 2

5). Dolphin Tale 2 (WB), 3,656 theaters (0) / $2.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $8.7M (-48%) / Total cume: $26.3M / Wk 2

6). Guardians of the Galaxy (DIS), 2,846 theaters (-258) / $1.37M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5.3M / Total cume: $313.7M / Wk 8

7/8). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PAR), 2,348 theaters (-609) / $627K Friday / 3-day cume: $2.55M / Total cume: $185M / Wk 7


Let’s Be Cops (FOX), 2,312 theaters (-443) / $760K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.5M / Total cume: $77.1M / Wk 6

9). The Drop (FSL), 1,192 theaters (+383) / $645K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2M (-49%) / Per screen average: $1,677 / Total cume: $7.7M / Wk 2

10). If I Stay (WB), 2,371 theaters (-669) / $538K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.8M / Total cume: $47.6M / Wk 5

And then there are the animated and semi-animated titles still in the marketplace, the ones that are almost gone but not quite.

Animated/Semi-Animated Features -- Total Cumes

24) How To Train Dragon 2 -- $175,338,647

26) Maleficent -- $239,799,600

27) Tranformers: Extinction -- $245,151,963

36) Planes: Fire and Rescue: -- $58,474,387




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Another Production House


... dives into the animation pool.

“Shrek” producer John H. Williams and Henry Skelsey, managing partner of Fulton Capital Management LLC, have formed 3QU Media as a specialist in CG-animated feature films for the international marketplace.

3QU Media has completed funding from a group of investors for its initial slate of four films with budgets under $20 million, starting with animated comedy “Charming.”

Ross Venokur will direct from his script, which re-imagines the tales of Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty after they discover they are all engaged to the same Prince Charming.

“Our purpose is to produce mainstream and commercially successful CG-animated family films with elements of comedy, adventure, romance and personal inspiration for the global market,” Williams said.

3QU Media is producing in association with WV Enterprises. Williams is producing and SC Films International is handling foreign sales.

Production has started at Cinesite’s new animation studio in Montreal. ...

Mr. Williams has a record of producing successful animated features, but also features that didn't set the box office afire. Happily N'Ever After cost close to $50,000,000 and didn't earn back its production cost in theatrical grosses. Critics were not kind.

If 3QU Media can make credible animated features at the $20 million price point (an iffy proposition) then it can likely generate profits.

But if wit and production values are low, then creating blockbuster movies will be a steep mountain to climb. With the budgets 3QU Media will be working with, they're not going to have a lot of room for do-overs, so the story and production crews are going to have to get it right the first time.

Good luck with that.

Add On: And of course there is a new Texas production house which the Brew details here.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Collaboration


What Mark Kennedy said.

... Because of the way that the media writes about films, only a very small number of people ever get any credit or acknowledgement of their role in the making of the film. That's totally understandable…the public has little interest in reading too much about any one movie, usually, and we just want one or two faces so that we can say, "oh, that's the author of the movie", and then we move on to the next thing. But don't let that fool you into thinking that one or two people are responsible for making a movie great. In my experience, it takes a great creative team to generate a successful movie, and an atmosphere where everyone can challenge each other is a safe supportive way. It's easy to say and hard to do, but when you can get that kind of environment to work, it seems like you can accomplish anything.

Mark has had a long career in animation, and knows whereof he speaks.

Many people who plus the movies that become blockbusters, who make our fine, entertainment conglomerates and the execs who run them even richer than they already are often go unnoticed, often get laid off from the job when it's completed, and may or may not jump onto another project and continue their careers.

In Cartoonland, it's not just writers and directors who make the features successful. It's board artists. And designers. And animators. And modelers, riggers, surfacers and lighters who make the eighty-seven minutes of bright illusion into a satisfying whole.

Lots of times that gets overlooked; fortunately, creators like Mr. Kennedy know who's responsible for the magic. And are happy to tell us what's what.

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Collector Alert

You'll want to get your wallet out.

Ray Bradbury’s science fiction and animation art collection is going up for auction on Sept. 25.

Bradbury, ... who died in 2012, was a prolific collector. Among the highlights of the collection are a 1946 Charles Addams painting of ghoulish creatures flying at twilight. ...

Bradbury also owned 43 original Disney animation cels and original cels from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The animation art is also being sold.

The auction takes place on Sept. 25 at Sanders' Los Angeles office and online.

I doubt that Ray outstripped the beloved Mega Collector, but taking a peek at what Mr. Bradbury has to offer might not be a bad idea. Click here to read entire post

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Coulda Been a Contender

... Instead of, you know, a visual effects house in receivership.

Visual effects veteran Scott Ross reflected on the heated disagreements he had with James Cameron. ... "Second to my mother dying, [making Titanic] was the worst experience of my life,” Ross admitted, saying he was under very public, “unbelievable pressure” when the budget was rising while the need to complete more work for the director nearly bankrupt the company. “I felt like I had no support,” Ross said. "The studio sided with Jim, I could never ask Fox for a change order. We were the fall guys."

“I went head to head with Jim Cameron over and over again,” he recalled, adding that it's more important to win the war than the battle. “I could have handled my relationship with Jim in a much better way ... more strategically. ... Digital Domain I think would be a very different company today had Jim and I got along. … I think Digital Domain would be as successful as Pixar,”

Yeah, hm hm.

I'm always skeptical of "If it hadn't been for X, everything would have turned out Y instead of Z." Because there is only what happened, not what would have happened if reality had been different. (As in, "If there wasn't any Christmas, we'd all be Buddhist." Oh really?)

And Mr. Ross weighs in about the wage suppression thingie:

“To me, Ed Catmull was always a shining light. ... When I found out [about the alleged anti-poaching agreements], my initial reaction was to defend him. But I knew people around him are very smart. … and no matter how you look at it, it’s illegal." ...

I doubt that Dr. Catmull (and others) were thinking about possible illegalities. I think they were focused on keeping wages under control "for the greater good of the business".

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Genndy's Popeye

The sailor man in CGI.



This arrived in the mailbox hours ago, so we put it up a wee bit late ...

And we notice that it's up in a lot of places now. (Deservedly so.)

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Gov. Brown Signs AB-1839


In the foyer of the TCL Chinese Theater this morning, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1839 effectively amending the tax code to increase California's entertainment tax incentive starting next year.

“California is on the move and Hollywood is a very important part of that,” said Gov. Jerry Brown just before signing the legislation into law today outside of Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre — and behind a sign that read “Keep Cameras Rolling In California.”

“It’s not only a golden state but home of the silver screen,”added the governor, promising thousands of new jobs would emerge from the new law, the widely supported and multi-sponsored Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act.

[T]he signing ceremony today was a who’s who of state and local politicians as well as industry execs and Hollywood heavyweights. State Assembly members Mike Gatto and Raul Bocanegra, who introduced the bill without a price tag in late February were in attendance, as was big tax industry incentives advocate LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and incoming state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon. “You can’t assign a value on having a strong middle class,” Gatto told a cheering crowd of industry workers about the goal to preserve jobs in the state and gain back ones lost. “Today, with the stroke of s pen, California is doing something.” Added De Leon: “Come back home where you belong,”

I was lucky enough to be asked my Steve Hulett to attend today's event as a representative for The Animation Guild. Mr. Patton was not exaggerating when he describes the attendees as a 'whos who of state and local politicians'. Most of the State legislature was in attendance as well as representatives from most of the local entertainment labor unions, the California Labor Federation, the California Film Commission among others. Everyone who had the opportunity to speak mentioned the return of middle-class entertainment jobs to the applause and cheers from the attendees.

It would be nice to see the incentive bring some feature and lots of TV production back to town. It would also be nice if the visual effects language the bill includes sees local vfx shops flourish with the effects work on those films and TV shows. We'll all be watching next year to see how much of an impact this will have. Methinks it will be .. a lot.




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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Around the Hat


I was on Riverside Drive at the Hat Building today. Big Hero 6 is in its last week or work. (At least that's what staff told me.) Animation is done, surfacing and lighting are all but complete.

Just some retakes and repairs are all that's left. There's a few minor rewordings for foreign releases. Outside of that, we're done. ...

The picture launches in weeks, and the Mouse is starting the rollout.

I’ve just left The Soho Hotel in London where Disney were showing clips of Big Hero 6, Disney’s new animated movie. ...

It begins with a night shot of San Fransokyo. Immediately the topography is recognisable as San Francisco, from the lights on the bridge in the bay, a clanging tram running down the steep hills, but everywhere is alive in moving flashing neon, Tokyo advertising, branding and building styles mapped out across the architecture. It is impressive, but it will become more so.

We are shown shots from the real-life Carnegie Mellon school of robotics, where Chris Atkinson has been working on soft robotics that inspired the look, and indeed the very nature, of Baymax in the film, robotics intended not to hurt people who come into contact with them in a medical context. This is real, folks. ...

Staffers seem upbeat about BH6's box office prospects. I told a couple of guys in layout that I thought the picture would do robust business, but probably not quite as robust as Frozen.

But what do I know? Maybe the world is waiting for a kid and his robot. Maybe Big Hero 6 smashes records everywhere.

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Mining the Faults


Fred Flintstone has been done and redone, so why not the less successful prime time series?

Mexican animation shingle Anima Estudios is taking the “Top Cat” franchise back to the bigscreen with “Top Cat Begins.” In 2011, Anima produced “Top Cat: The Movie,” which became the highest grossing Mexican film that year, clocking 2.5 million admissions and its $3.2 million on its opening weekend broke box office records. Toon was theatrically released in more than 25 countries. Warner Bros will distribute “Top Cat Begins” in Mexico.

“ ‘Top Cat Begins’ is the most ambitious project in our studio’s history and the one with the most international potential,” said Fernando De Fuentes, chairman of Anima Estudios.

“It’s not a sequel but rather a companion piece to the first ‘Top Cat,’ and will be in CGI, not 2D like the original,” ...

Top Cat, launched with fanfare in '61, landed with a dull ker-splat and was broadcast history by the end of the television season. It was always a poor relation to The Flintstones, but it's nice that it's a gargantuan box office hit south of the border.

It's nice that T.C. is a hit anywhere.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Class Action Action

From Deadline:

Animation Studios Lawsuit Wants Judge Who Scuttled Apple Settlement To Preside

If DreamWorks Animation, Disney, Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks and Lucasfilm thought they could bog down the class-action lawsuit that a former DWA effects artist has brought against the toon studios, they’d better think again. ... “Plaintiff Robert A. Nitsch, Jr. submits this administrative motion requesting that the Court consider whether Nitsch v. DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. and … High-Tech Employee Litigation are related and direct the Clerk of Court to reassign Nitsch to the Honorable Judge Lucy H. Koh,” said lawyers for Nitsch in a federal filing this week." ...

For the past several years, [Koh] has presided over a class-action case by 64,000 tech workers against Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe in which the tech giants contrived for years not to snag engineers and other qualified employees from one another. As in the animation studios suit, which was birthed out of evidence presented in the tech suit, the companies were accused of also suppressing employees’ wages to double digits below market value as a way to keep people in-house and save on costs to boost profits. ...

I've listened to animation employees' stories of job offers rescinded and low-ball wage proposals, of talks broken off with potential employees when a studio discovered they worked for a competitor.

Whether there was a conspiracy to keep wages suppressed is a question for the courts. But I know what I think.
Click here to read entire post

Cable Ratings


The reason there's more TV animation than ever? It makes much money.

Adult Swim ranked #1 among basic cable networks for Total Day Delivery of adults 18-24 & 18-34 and men 18-24 for the second week of September. ... [A] new episode of the acquired series Bobs Burgers (Sunday, 9:30 p.m.) ranked #1 in its time period among adults 18-24 & 18-34, and grew average delivery of adults 18-34 by 2% and adults 18-34 by 20% vs. the same time period last year. ...

Adult Swim programming – including Family Guy, American Dad, Robot Chicken and Black Jesus – accounted for 21 of the top 50 telecasts of the week on basic cable among adults 18-34, and 23 of the top 50 among men 18-34, both more than any other network. ...

Across the second week of September 2014, Cartoon Network ranked as television’s #1 network for Total Day Delivery of boys 6-11 & 9-14, and #1 for Early Prime (6-8 p.m.) Delivery among kids 2-11 & 6-11 and all targeted boys. Total Day delivery grew year-over-year among kids 2-11 by +17% and kids 6-11 also by +17%. ...

And so on and so forth.

We've reached the point where broadcast television (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox) is little different than cable television. On any given night, Cable networks outgun their broadcast cousins. Which makes sense, because everything is on cable, and fewer and fewer people derive their viewing pleasures through a rooftop antenna.

But even cable as we've known it is changing. The day approaches when everyone will be sucking their preferred content off the internet, and then cable will be side issue. It's going to be "whatever you want to see, whenever you want to see it." Content and branded content will be the deal. The delivery system will be irrelevant.

Which explains, come to think of it, why we've had this expansion of television animation. It's potent content. Cartoons are relatively inexpensive to create, have a long shelf life, and people watch them in droves. (And there's the added bonus of big sales of ancillary merchandise -- dolls, games, video knick knacks and phone apps. What's for a fine, entertainment conglomerate not to like?)

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Speaking of Corporate Anti-Unionism ...

There is this:

The National Labor Relations Board has reaffirmed its 2008 decision that CNN violated the rights of hundreds of unionized contract staffers in 2003 when it axed them in favor of non-unionized workers. The case stems from the cable net’s use of Team Video Services, a contractor that provided camera and tech services to CNN’s Washington and New York bureaus. The NLRB has ordered the network to offer jobs or ”substantially equivalent positions” to 100-plus of those affected workers. It also must repay all of the 300-plus staffers for loss of earnings and benefits and cease and desist from any anti-union doings. ...

The wheels of justice turn slowly, but every once in a while they turn in a good way. Click here to read entire post

Rick and Morty II


Apparently, though there is now a contract in place for "Rick and Morty" , one of the show creators is not happy.

[Justin Roiland]: Just want to comment on this. I care about the [Rick and Morty] crew. I would bend over backwards to make sure they are happy. The problem here is that the union went after the OLD studio (Starburns) and the new studio (Rick and Morty LLC) had no idea. By the time we found out about this the union was strong arming the crew to walk out. We had almost no time to put together a deal with the union. It was incredibly stressful and absolutely unnecessary. To put a deal together over a weekend is just nuts. We would have landed on just as good a deal regardless of this gross time limit put upon us by the union. It left a really bad taste in my mouth. I am happy the crew has benefits and all the other perks that come with unionization, I just don't like how the whole thing went down. It was unprofessional and not needed. I love my crew and want them happy and am constantly in awe of their talent, dedication, and hard work BUT FUCK THE UNION. Get some better business ethics. You came off desperate and indecent. Not every production needs to be treated like monsters. Especially one that is RUN by the two creators and our line producer. ...

(Add On: It seems the Reddit thread linked above has been taken down. Whatever. Let us continue anyway.)

To be clear here, the Animation Guild had no idea there was an "old" or "new" studio. After the crew approached us several months ago, we believed we were organizing Rick and Morty the Adult Swim Show and (by extension) Starburns Industries. We found out when we filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board that the company had changed between Season #1 and Season #2 to "Rick and Morty, LLC". Until that moment, we were in the dark about the newest corporate wrinkle.

And just so everyone knows ... From the beginning, we were about organizing Rick and Morty, the show. ...

We've gotten questions about this from others. Here's what I wrote (now slightly amended) in answer:

My two cents:

Regarding Starburns being blind-sided by the Animation Guild, it’s twaddle. The crew (which is top notch, by the way) was being paid sub-par wages and no health or pension benefits. (And I don’t mean they were offered a skim milk HMO and weak 401(k). I mean they were getting NOTHING. ZIP. NADA.)

The crew, unhappy about their treatment (they were on 60-hour weeks which made their 40-hour weekly wages still well below TAG minimums) approached us early in the summer and we held multiple meetings prior to a vote for any job action. We collected NLRB representation cards and prepared to file a petition for a vote for union representation.

Prior to TAG filing the petition, I called the studio multiple times to let them know what the Guild was doing. I left messages each time and got no response. We then filed the Labor Petition and the NLRB notified Starburns about the filing. It took them over a week to answer, but there was then communication, during which we learned that Starburns Industries –- the company listed on our petition -- was not the entity under which the “Rick and Morty” crew now worked. (Starburns Industries had been the company during Season #1. At the start of Season #2 – which is still in progress – the show was switched to Rick and Morty LLC which happens to have -- surprise! -- many of the same principals as Starburns. Until the interaction with the NLRB, the Animation Guild didn’t know this.)

So. “Rick and Morty” topkicks were well aware that the Animation Guild was busy organizing the crew. We were informed by staff that the company met with the artists while we had the petition at the NLRB to tell them how unionization wasn’t a real swift idea, and the Motion Picture Industry and Health Plan had crap benefits anyway. (You know, as opposed to ZIP, NOTHING, NADA.) Why would it do that if it had “no idea” about what was going on?

But back to the main story: The Labor Board informed the Guild that since the petition was incorrect, the ultimate outcome was that it would be dismissed by the board. So we were faced with going back to square one with rep cards and filing a new petition, and knowing we didn’t have a lot of time to do this, or going to the crew and explaining the situation and seeing what they wanted to do.

We held a lengthy meeting with most of the “Rick and Morty” artistic staff on the evening of Thursday, September 4th detailing the above and asking them what they wanted to do. Doing a strike to leverage the company to a contract was one of the discussion topics. After much back and forth, almost everyone in the meeting voted to walk off the job the following Monday (September 8th). No arm twisting by the Animation Guild was involved.

We were told that word of the vote reached Rick and Morty LLC soon after, which is likely true because the company then moved with alacrity to sit down and negotiate with the Guild. Their lawyer called on Friday afternoon and agreed to begin negotiating toward a deal “in good faith”. She also asked that we agree to NOT pull the crew on Monday.

To which we said no. (We never set any deadline to reach a deal, but we never agreed to call off any alleged strike.)

We then negotiated with the company through the weekend. Bright and early Monday morning, the company’s representative again asked us to not pull the crew. Again we said no, saying if we had reached a proposal by noon-time we would take it to the staff and see if they wanted to hit the bricks or not.

Happily, the company and guild reached a tentative agreement at 11:00, and Steve Kaplan and I drove it to the “Rick and Morty” crew around 11:20. They were out on the sidewalk waiting for us, and we went through the deal points. When we finished, the staff voted to ratify the deal. There was no strike.

Lastly. This tale isn’t about Rick and Morty LLC being blind-sided. They weren’t, and we can demonstrate that.

It’s also not about some poor little independent company getting “strong armed” by the big mean union. Rick and Morty LLC has little to do with this. The story is actually about a large international conglomerate named Time-Warner low-balling a skilled artistic staff on wages, health and pension. Time-Warner/Turner owns the property and pays the bills, not R & M LLC.

It is, finally, a story about leverage, as most things in life are. Unions don’t have leverage often, but in this case The Animation Guild did. The fact that the Guild representative couldn’t get his calls returned until after the Labor Board petition was filed, the fact that the company didn’t get serious about engaging a lawyer and talking about a contract until after they found out about a strike vote should be evidence of that. Obviously we can’t prove a negative, can’t prove that Rick and Morty LLC wouldn’t have greeted us warmly and sat down and done a deal if we had come hat in hand and said “pretty please”, but that’s not how things work in 21st century Hollywood, and we doubt it would have worked that way here.

Last point: I'm truly sorry that Justin feels that we're the assholes here. It's not our purpose to tick off creative talent, though it seems in this case, we did. Back several months ago, we responded to outreach from the Rick and Morty crew, and events took their course.

I've been doing this job a while now, and more often than not artists choose not to walk off a show. The R & M staff chose a different path, and I respect that. Others should, as well.


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Going Disney

The financial press (in this case Seeking Alpha) is catching on to the fact that DreamWorks Animation is changing its stripes.

... Being a studio that is reliant on releasing two successful films a year has made it difficult for the company to grow. It also makes it hard for investors to analyse, as a hit or a miss film can have a major impact on the company. It is not a great long-term business model when you only make money twice a year when a film is released resulting in a stock that is down 34% year to date.

Transforming from a studio into a global branded family entertainment company

However, like all good animated films DWA is planning on having a happy ending. DWA feels it finally has enough characters to move aggressively just from film into television, consumer products, digital content and location based entertainment. A similar model to Disney (NYSE:DIS) that relies on multiple revenue streams. Instead of watching DWA twice a year at the movies, fans can watch 365 days a year on Netflix and TV, keeping their characters front of mind. ...

This might be what Jeffrey Katzenberg was aiming for right along. Frankly, I've been nervous the last few years, thinking that the company was doing a high-wire act. It's hard to make a long-term business model out of "Do two blockbuster movies every year." Because if you have a flop or three, the business model gets blown all to hell.

So branching out, partnering with Netflix to build a library of television content, building a merchandising division, getting into the amusement park business, are all extremely smart moves. Long term, DreamWorks Animation can end up being its own conglomerate, but right now, it's still in the "mini-conglomerate" category.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Newer Platforms

TV morphs before our eyes.

Google is making a bold play to nab at least $300 million in TV advertising ­revenues from broadcasters and do what James Packer and Lachlan ­Murdoch couldn’t after buying into Network Ten four years ago: recreate a youth-orientated TV network via YouTube.

According to Nielsen, YouTube’s ­Australian audience topped 9.5 million people in August and Google’s latest ­figures say Australians have signed up to more than 40 million YouTube channel subscriptions this year.

Some media buyers who are in ­negotiations with the online giant for its new YouTube “Preferred” project – the first initiative outside the US in which top-spending brand advertisers are guaranteed access to the online video juggernaut’s top 5 per cent of channels – say Google wants 10 to 20 per cent of the $3.5 billion TV ad market. ...

Teenagers and twenty-somethings don't consume entertainment the way their ruddy-duddy parents do?

It's cable networks occasionally, and the internet a lot. And tablets, smart phones, tablets and once in a while the desktop computer. The newer generation is a country mile from the kids who watched Leave It To Beaver on the black-and-white set in the living room, or the portable sitting on a desk in big brother's bedroom.

The days of three national networks and a handful of local stations seems as remote as Victorian England. In the 21st century, everybody's viewing habits will be customized to his/her mood and desire. Before the '20s arrive, most of the viewing public will be plucking their preferred entertainment off the internet cloud as the urge strikes them. Waiting for television content will be for saps.

Click here to read entire post

Making Inroads

As the Mouse expands its operations.

... Mickey Mouse and Goofy Dog – two of the most-loved characters from Walt Disney’s cartoons – are in Ho Chi Minh City now ready to entrance kids and adults alike with their 12 magic performances later this month.

“Disney Live! Mickey’s Magic Show” will be staged in 12 shows at Hoa Binh Theater (240-242 3/2 Street, District 10) from September 24 to 28. ...

Today a stage/magic show. Tomorrow an amusement park. Click here to read entire post

Your International Box Office


Early autumn animated features are doing well.

... The Boxtrolls was No. 1 in the UK in its debut frame, taking $3.4M at 510 dates including last weekend’s paid previews. This was Universal’s 5th No. 1 opening of the year in the market. Overall, the animated picture earned an estimated $5.7M at 1,449 dates in eight territories.

Mexico is expected to finish up the weekend at No. 2 with $1.8M at 605 dates. Denmark opened No. 6 with $83K at 55 dates and Sweden opened at No. 4 with $168K at 111 dates. This is the biggest opening for Laika Entertainment in both of these markets. Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi’s Here Be Monsters adaptation has 49 territories to open over the next few months. ...

How To Train Your Dragon 2 sparked up an additional $1.6M from 2,063 screens in 15 markets, lifting the international cume to $435.5M. Germany saw a 2% jump this frame with $520K at 791 locations. The cume there is $25.4M.

Transformers: Age Of Extinction added $1M from 21 territories at 612 locations. Total international box office stands at $835.5M. ... Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes has climbed back to the No. 1 spot in China where it now has an outstanding $95.3M cume that puts it in the 2014 Top 10. This frame, its 3rd in the Middle Kingdom, was worth $7.6M from 4,000. ...

But where we would be without the comprehensive and ever-reliable Rentrak?

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (World Totals)

Guardians of Galaxy -- $9,300,000 -- ($611,526,000)

Teenage Ninja Turtles -- $10,500,000 -- ($319,941,491)

Dawn of Apes -- $9,500,000 -- ($670,825,479)

The Boxtrolls -- $5,700,000 -- ($5,700,000)

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Marvel and Animation

Marvel has a lot of animation going on in its big-screen live action movies, but it's also active with animation on smaller screens:

... Let's end with Marvel Animation -- it's been a few months now that Steve Wacker came in from the print side of Marvel to take on the position of VP, Current Animation. From your perspective, what has having someone like him, with his experience, meant to Marvel Animation thus far?

Marvel TV Chief Jeph Loeb: Marvel's "Ultimate Spider-Man" cartoon is also under the umbrella of Marvel Televison.
Loeb: Wacker has, first and foremost, always been a terrific storyteller. I think that's why he was as good an editor as he was. He was somebody that I worked with, and it was one of the best experiences I had as a comic book writer. When it became apparent that more and more of my time was going to need to be focused on the live-action side of the division, we had to make sure that the stories we were telling on our three shows -- "Ultimate Spider-Man," "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H." and "Marvel's Avengers Assemble" -- continued with the kind of quality and fun that we've been having.

Stephen had come out for several summits, and had been a voice that we were listening to long before we knew that we could extricate him from New York. It very much felt like, this is the right shoe to fit the Marvel Animation foot. He, along with Cort Lane -- who's been there longer than I have -- continue to tell remarkable stories with a staff and writers that love those characters. ...

What I've learned about Marvel Animation is, although Disney owns it, the company pretty much operates on its own. It's got minimal (as in zero) connection with Disney Television Animation. The Mouse lets its Marvel units operate independently, and independent they are. When TAG negotiates contract points with Marvel Animation, it doesn't consult Disney labor relations but plows its own path.

Pretty much a separate entity.

Marvel Animation has a small studio in Glendale. They have experienced staffers who turn out episodes for a limited number of series, Guardians of the Galaxy being the newest addition to the MA family. Because space is limited, in the last few weeks they've expanded to an additional building further down the 5 freeway, but they still keep costs ... and square footage, down to a minimum.

Because Marvel and its animated subsidiary are nothing if not cost-conscious.

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A Brief History of Stop Motion Animation

This is hardly comprehensive (where's Gumby? The George Pal Puppetoons?) but informative, nevertheless.



My younger brother and I used to watch an 8 mm print of the 1925 feature The Lost World, the Jurassic Park of the silent era, over and over. When you're eight years old, dinosaurs are it.



Funny how cell animation is now digital, and analog filmmaking has gone away (along with film itself) but stop motion animation goes on and on.

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All American Box Office


Theatrical grosses slow down as they move into the Fall.

1). No Good Deed (SONY), 2,175 theaters / $8.8M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $24.5M to $25M+ / Wk 1

2). Dolphin Tale 2 (WB), 3,656 theaters / $4.2M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $15M to $16M+ / Wk 1

3). Guardians Of The Galaxy (DIS), 3,104 theaters (-117) / $2.1M / 3-day cume: $7.8M to $8.3M / Total cume: $305.5M / Wk 7

4). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PAR), 3,273 theaters (-270) / $1.1M Friday / 3-day est. cume: $4.8M to $5.1M / Total cume: $181M / Wk 6


5). Let’s Be Cops (FOX), 2,755 theaters (-177) /$1.27M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.3M to $4.5M / Total cume: $73M /Wk 5

6). The Drop (FSL), 809 theaters / $1.46M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.3M to $4.9M / Per screen average: $5,800 / Wk 1

7). If I Stay (WB), 3,040 theaters (-117) / $1.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4M / Total cume: $44.9M/ Wk 4

8). The November Man (REL), 2,702 theaters (-74) / $835K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.78M / Total cume: $22.5 / Wk 3

9/10). The Giver (TWC), 2,253 theaters (-323)/ $733K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.6M / Total cume: $41.3M / Wk 5

When The Game Stands Tall (SONY), 2,435 theaters (-331) / $715K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.5M / Total cume: $26.8M / Wk 4

The next animated feature out of the gate will be LAIKA's Box Trolls, coming in October. Until then, you'll have to have your appetite for animation sated by the older movies still hanging on in a few hundred theaters around the nation:

End-of-Release Features -- Domestic Totals

20) Dawn of Apes -- $206,435,479

21) How to Train Dragon 2 -- $174,864,272

31) Planes: Fire and Rescue -- $58,301,800

32) Transformers: Extinction -- $244,803,687

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Rick and Morty

We've been busy in Burbank. Here are the details (via press release):

The animation crew of “Rick and Morty”, one of Adult Swim’s newer blockbusters, has ratified a new labor agreement that will give them hourly wage boosts and health and pension benefits.

The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE, was contacted by show staffers in early summer and engineered an organizing drive with artists on the show -- which culminated in a union contract on Monday. Steve Kaplan, the organizer for the Animation Guild, said: “This is an incredible victory for the Rick and Morty crew. They were the drivers on this, exercising their leverage at the right time. Management knew the artists were a valuable asset to the show. And to their credit, they did the right thing by quickly agreeing to a contract.”

Steve Hulett, TAG’s long-time business representative, added: “I’ve been repping the Guild for a while now, and this was as focused and dedicated a crew as I’ve seen. After management realized the artists were serious about coming under the Animation Guild’s jurisdiction, they moved quickly to negotiate a fair and comprehensive contract. The talks were intense at times, but also cordial and professional.”

The Animation Guild represents over 3,300 animation workers in Southern California. Over the past three years, it has seen a steady increase in its membership. ...

The way this went down:

1) "Rick and Morty" crew is unhappy with working without a TAG contract. Contacts the Animation Guild.

2) Guild springs into action collecting representation cards from crew, communicating with "R & M" artists, etc.

3) Guild files with the NLRB (that's the National Labor Relations Board, for those who struggle with acronyms). In the course of e-mails and phone calls to the Board, the Animation Guild discovers that "Rick and Morty" (Season #2), is being done under a different corporate entity than "Rick and Morty" (Season #1). And we have the wrong company listed on the g.d. rep cards.

4) Guild springs into action again, and calls a meeting of the crew to explain the situation. It is noted that time is of the essence. (Season #2 will wrap in a couple of months). Crew votes to hit the bricks in order to get a contract.

5) Company finds out how crew has voted. Company becomes concerned. Company dispatches lawyer to talk to the Animation Guild about a contract.

6) Contract talks begin on Friday September 5th, going over the weekend and concluding on Monday, September 8th. Guild takes contract proposal from company to crew on Monday morning. Crew, standing on sidewalk, votes to ratify contract proposal, which includes retroactive payments for wages, also pension and health benefits.

7) The Era of Good Feeling begins.

And now you know the rest of the story. Kudos to organizer Steve Kaplan for being the point of the spear on this.


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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Macro Labor Trends in Show Biz

Employment in movies and television moves in a downward direction?

While the U.S. economy has steadily added jobs since the end of the recession, one business is seeing a sharp decline: the movie industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the motion picture and sound recording industry has dropped from as high as 368,000 in 2013 down to just 298,000 in August. That’s a 19% drop in just over two years.

Bloomberg reported last week that Warner Bros. plans to offer buyouts to some of its employees, and may ultimately fire staffers if too few accept the offers; this being part of a plan to help boost its profits. The same article reported that the studio’s domestic box office receipts dropped 15% in 2014. ...

Technological change has wreaked havoc in many parts of show business.

The music industry has been taken apart by downloading and streaming over the internet. It was happening fifteen years ago, when I sat on a panel and listened to an industry lawyer tell a roomful of high-powered attorneys that it was "over" for little silver disks sold by RCA, Capitol Warner Bros Records, Elektra, etc. etc. And that they'd better get a new business model fast, or they would be out of business.

The guy wasn't wrong. Record company after record company has since gone through bankruptcy and restructuring. Rock bands and country western singers make the bulk of their livings with concert appearances, records are no longer a big factor for most of them. (Paul McCartney makes millions filling Dodger Stadium; he doesn't sell a lot of recordings anymore.)

And now Marketwatch tells us that employment in the "movie business" is shrinking, and Marketwatch isn't wrong. But the reality is more complicated than that. Today, much of the high-end movie business has exited L.A., but contributions into industry pension plans, propped up by hourly contributions, have not plunged. Much of the slack has been taken up by low-budget reality television shows, low-budget television, and a generous sprinkling of sitcoms. While more television shows are getting made (you have to fill up the hundreds of cable channels with something), the number of mid-budget features has declined.

Animation, both television and feature, is the one part of moviedom that enjoys robust growth. Over the past three years, the Animation Guild has seen a steady rise in the number of employees working under its jurisdiction. This isn't because feature work has exploded, but because there are more television shows being produced for a lot more outlets. Netflix. Amazon. Adult Swim. Cartoon Network. Animation Domination. Fox Broadcasting. The Disney Channel. It all adds up to more jobs for more artists, and it occurs because the profit margins for animation are healthy and the ancillary markets robust.

It's been otherwise in the past. So let us give thanks that our fine entertainment conglomerates have now decided that cartoons are the entertainment business's own private gold mines, and they want to dig lots more of them.


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Forget You Own Investment Accounts ...


... and get rich.

... On Bloomberg Radio, Barry Ritholtz talked with James O'Shaughnessy of O'Shaughnessy Asset Management.

Ritholtz and O'Shaughnessy spent much of their discussion talking about the ways people screw themselves when investing, because nothing gets in the way of returns quite like someone who thinks they have a great idea.

O'Shaughnessy discussed a number of interesting analyses he had done with regard to the length of holding periods (spoiler: the shorter you hold a stock, the more likely you are to lose money) among other things.

But O'Shaughnessy relayed one anecdote from an employee who recently joined his firm that really makes one's head spin.

O'Shaughnessy: "Fidelity had done a study as to which accounts had done the best at Fidelity. And what they found was..."

Ritholtz: "They were dead."

O'Shaughnessy: "...No, that's close though! They were the accounts of people who forgot they had an account at Fidelity." ...

Think about it. If you don't remember you have money stashed in a boring index fund, you won't sell the boring fund when it goes down. (As it invariably will). So you don't end up "selling at the bottom."

Case in point: A couple of decades ago, I put little bits of money into a Total Stock Index fund for my youngest son. When he was ten, I stopped putting cash in. At that point, the total of the account was eight or nine thousand dollars. I stopped putting more money in because the family didn't have money to spare, but I didn't take anything out.

Essentially, I forgot the account existed.

So now it's fourteen years later, the ten-year-old is an adult, and the forgotten mutual fund? It's now worth $33,000. And this money total comes after a couple of market crashes, coupled with total neglect.

I'm telling you, the best way to grow your wealth is to put a chunk of money in a broad-based index fund and develop amnesia for fifteen or twenty years. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Co-Production Deals


... mean co-production risks.

Shanghai Hippo Animation Design and Australia’s Vue Group are expanding their 3D animation co-venture.

Last December the two entities unveiled plans to co-produce three films with aggregate budgets of more than $57 million.

This week Shanghai Hippo Animation Design CEO Kerr Xu and Vue Group MD Alan Lindsay told IF they will collaborate on four to five films a year. They say they are able to produce 3D animation much faster and far more cheaply than the US studios.

“We don’t need 20 executive producers. We do the character design in- house and I direct, produce and write," Kerr tells IF on a visit to Vue’s VFX facility in Bunbury WA. “We save an awful lot of money.” ...

It's not just about saving money. You must also have a movie that film-goers want to see. Without that, you're nowhere. Because you bring in a really inexpensive movie that nobody goes to see, you still lose money. And you're not just dead in the water, you're circling the drain. Witness this from early 2009:

... Trade sources confirm that Bollywood has had a bad run with animation this year. Between Hanuman Returns, Krishna, Roadside Romeo, Dashavatar, Ghatotkach and My Friend Ganesha parts 1 and 2, insiders estimate animation losses will total up to about Rs 70 crore.

"Indian animation has suffered quite a few hiccups,'' says a trade source. "What's worse is that many animation films that are complete and awaiting release have no takers.'' ...

Memo to Hippo Animation Design and Vue Group: It's not enough to make an animated feature with a lower budget, you must make a picture that people want to see.

On the other hand, despite the sad box office results for Indian animated features a half-dozen years ago, the demand for animation is growing, not shrinking. South America has produced profitable animated features, also France, also Russia. Just because many of these specimens don't get a release in the United States doesn't mean that they don't prosper in other parts of the globe.

It isn't just Pixar .... or Disney ... or DreamWorks that does well with cartoons. Wrapped up in domestic product the way we are, it's easy to lose sight of that reality.


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Disney CFO Speaks

Goldman Sachs held its Communicopia Conference today, and Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo held forth on what strategic moves the Mouse has been making lately, and why (transcript from Seeking Alpha):

... There are three key elements that make us [Disney] different. First is under Bob Iger’s leadership and incessant focus on franchises. And its really evolved over the last 5 to 8 years, five years more specifically when we made the Marvel acquisition, really anchored it. But everything we do is about brands and franchises and that wasn’t true 10 years ago. And 10 years ago we were more like other media companies, more broad based, big movie slate 20 something pictures, some franchise some not franchise. If you look at our slates strategy now, our television strategy, almost every aspect of the company we’re oriented around brands and franchises and I think we’re very unique in that regard.

Second piece, is that that’s not only on the creative side but every part of our outreach to consumers, every part of our eco-system is also focused around that same orientation. So if you look at our consumer products business Bob Chapek over the last five years has absolutely reoriented that business to be franchise focused and franchise run consistent with that overall strategy and thirdly I think the experience of the management team, their ability to work together to rally behind a core strategy for the company, the core brands and the franchises of the company is unique. Other companies have not figured out how to do that in our space and I think it really sets us apart from by the way as you said not only broad consumer discretionary companies but certainly everyone else in the media space. ...

As previously stated, Diz Co. has become the Berkshire Hathaway of entertainment conglomerates. Amusement parks, animated features, super hero and space opera franchises, monster amounts of merchandising, non-stop sports. You name it, the House of Mouse has got it.

And you can see that the company has morphed and changed multiple times, from a dinky spittle studio making cartoon shorts, to a bigger studio making cartoon features, to live-action and amusement parks.

Michael Eisner, Frank Wells and Jeffrey Katzenberg turned it into a major entertainment conglomerate, and Robert Iger has made it into a global powerhouse with multiple facets, divisions, and franchises, all contributing to the grown bottom line.

It's particularly amazing, when you consider what a weak sister the company was in the middle 1980s. And how it came close to disappearing in the early 1940s.

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Animation Contracts

This just in:

SAG-AFTRA concluded four days of talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and have reached tentative agreement on two new contracts covering animated production: the 2014 SAG-AFTRA TV Animation Agreement and SAG-AFTRA Basic Cable Animation Agreement. Terms of the deals — said to be similar to those contained in the new SAG-AFTRA TV/theatrical contract ratified by union’s members last month — will be presented to the guild’s National Board of Directors on October 12.

TAG will be having it's first planning meeting with the Guild's negotiation committee in mid-September. As best we can determine, Animation Guild-AMPTP negotiations will start sometime between May and July of next year. (This would be after the IATSE-AMPTP talks about a new Basic Agreement.)

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Hotbed of Animation

It's up -- if smiling studio representatives are believed -- above the northern border.

... “There’s great talent in America on the animation side,” says Irene Weibel, head of Nelvana Studio, which has produced such toddlerdom faves as “Bubble Guppies,” “Max & Ruby” and the recent Disney Junior co-production, “Lucky Duck.” “I think that the key difference is the environment of funding animation as an industry in Canada. The government of Canada provides support in the way of tax benefits and subsidies to animation that is produced in Canada and that doesn’t exist in the U.S., and that gives the Canadian industry that kind of leg up.”

So desired are animators at Ottawa-based Mercury Filmworks that Disney TV Animation creators frequently request to partner with them when cooking up new series. ...

I think we need to be clear about the dynamics operating here.

Canadian animators are top-notch. As President Emeritus Tom Sito has long noted, Canadian artists can be found working in Southern California and on almost every continent on the globe. They're talented, they're prolific, they get around.

But if Canada wasn't handing out Free Money by the carload, Ottawa ... or Toronto ... or Vancouver ... wouldn't be teaming centers for cartoon and visual effects work.

Because what drives all this frenzied activity are subsidies and tax incentives. The instant any geographic locality stops spooning out its corporate dole, the Welfare Kings otherwise known as Diz Co., Viacom, Fox-News Corp. (etc.) move on.

That's the way we now roll in this brave new era of free enterprise corporate welfare.

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Monopoly?


To hear Seeking Alpha (a financial website) tell it, Diz Co. is actually entertainment's Godzilla:

... The Walt Disney Company is the King and Queen of entertainment. It dominates the movie, TV, toys and theme parks business by owning 6 of the top 10 franchises in the world. Favorites such as Disney Princess, Star Wars, Winnie the Pooh, Cars, Mickey and Toy Story. Disney owns the licensing entertainment category with 80% market share. Disney also entertains sports fans around the world with its ownership of ESPN. [The Mouse] is a monopoly in entertainment helping to keep both adults and kids glued to its screens and products. ...

Disney has successfully integrated its acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel and they appear to be doing the same with Lucasfilm. Like the Marvel acquisition, Lucasfilm and Star Wars provides a literally rich universe that Disney can develop and monetize. Disney has announced that they will launch a new Star Wars film every year starting in 2015. Alternating between three new episode films with standalones based on characters rumoured to be Yoda, Boba Fett and Han Solo. Marvel's relatively unknown Guardians of the Galaxy movie has already grossed nearly $600 million. ...

Just goes to show you. When I was a tot, I would go to the Disney lot because that's where my dad worked. The place was a small, sleepy movie studio then, a very minor player in Hollywood. Profit-wise, it was hanging on by a thread.

When I went to work there a quarter-century later, Walt Disney Productions was still a sleepy movie studio connected to highly lucrative amusement parks. But it still wasn't big enough, or powerful enough to prevent attempts at hostile takeovers. Sol Steinberg came very close to breaking the company into pieces.

Enter Eisner and Katzenberg, and the place was transformed. Diz Co. went mainstream Hollywood, and began acquiring outside businesses. Today it's the Berkshire-Hathaway of entertainment conglomerates, rampaging through (and dominating) its business sector.

What a difference sixty years makes.

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Animation in the Era of Putin

Although we don't hear much about it, Russia creates a fair amount of animated product.

The russian animation sector is booming. Some 30 toon studios operate in the country, including Melnitsa Animation Studio, Riki Productions and Wizart Animation, and there are a range of high-quality animated features in the pipeline.

The government is a major source of funding, with up to 900 million rubles ($25 million) allocated to the sector a year, of which $14.5 million is assigned to features. The television channel 2×2, which is dedicated to animated shows, is another major source of funding.

Much of the output is for TV, with 15 Russian toon series on air last year. ... Some of these, like SKA St. Petersburg’s “Kikoriki,” have then been spun off as feature films. The second “Kikoriki” movie, “Kikoriki: Legend of the Golden Dragon,” is now in production, with a theatrical release set for autumn 2015. Like the first pic, it will be shot in stereoscopic 3D.

Between three and five Russian animated feature films are released in theaters a year, and there are usually one or two releases of compilations of animated shorts in theaters also. Box office for Russian animated features has doubled over the past five years. Much of this rise can be attributed to the success of Melnitsa, whose film “Three Heroes on Distant Shores” earned a record $26 million last year. ...

Some Russian cartoons get exported. I've had phone calls and visits from Russian animation artists who've worked on CG television animation that has been translated and distributed abroad. There's a global appetite for animated shorts and animated features, and Russia has a long history with animation.

They produced their own Frozen fifty-seven years ago.

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Newer Lawsuits

... of the class-action variety.

Walt Disney Company, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, Pixar and Lucasfilm were named as defendants in a class action lawsuit filed Monday in San Jose, Calif., that alleges the companies sought to suppress wages by agreeing not to poach each other's workers, according to legal documents obtained by TheWrap.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Robert Nitsch, who was a senior character effects artist at DreamWorks Animation from 2007 to 2011.

“Visual effects and animation companies have conspired to systematically suppress the wages and salaries of those who they claim to prize as their greatest assets — their own workers,” the lawsuit stated. ”The leaders and most senior executives of defendants Pixar, Lucasfilm and its division Industrial Light & Magic, DreamWorks Animation, The Walt Disney Company and its division Walt Disney Animation Studios, Digital Domain and others secretly agreed to work together to deprive thousands of their workers of better wages and opportunities to advance their careers at other companies.” ...

Because free enterprise, free labor, and blah and blah and blah.

But hey. It's for a good cause: keeping costs down and profits up.

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Potentially Lucrative Spin Off

I calculate that, long-term, this will amount to something.

La Jolla Playhouse has announced casting for its upcoming U.S. premiere of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, featuring the Disney film score by Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz. The production, which is produced by special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Productions, will run from October 26-December 7 in the Mandell Weiss Theatre. ...

Probably the deal is, launch in La Jolla, tinker with it a bit, take it to Broadway.

The Mouse has had good luck turning its animated features into Broadway (and national tour) gold. They've got a pre-built score and book, and a lot of the spade work is already done, so what's not to like? The stockholders will be pleased.

H/t Don Hahn

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