Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Our Interconnected World

And (sometimes) not in a good way. From yesterday's Deadline:

Things have come to a standstill at Sony after the computers in New York and around the world were infiltrated by a hacker.

As a precaution, computers in Los Angeles were shut down while the corporation deals with the breach. It has basically brought the whole global corporation to an electronic standstill. I’d heard that this began with a skull appearing on screens, and then a strangely ominous message telling users they’d been hacked by something called #GOP.

It gets more bizarre as the message claims this is just the beginning and then threatens to release documents by 11 PM this evening. There is no reason given why this is happening, and no specific demands. Mentioned are websites in places around the world, some of which don’t even function. While Sony works this through, there are no corporate emails going in and out and you can’t use your computer and it’s hit or miss on whether calls are going to email. ...

I imagine this is making things difficult at Sony Pictures Animation, since I believe there are a whole lot of computers in there. And today:

... This Sony computer hacking episode isn’t over. The corporation’s computers are still down, in New York, overseas and on the Culver City lot of Sony Pictures, for the second day. IT experts are still working to figure out how the breach happened, and to stop a repeat. It is never opportune for something like this to interrupt a corporation’s hard work, but Thanksgiving week is probably not the worst time for it. Here’s the official line: “Sony Pictures Entertainment experienced a system disruption, which are working diligently to resolve.” ...

Well. If the boys and girls over there are working diligently, I can go off and eat my turkey and cranberry sauce with a clear and peaceful mind.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Saved By the Guvmint

President Emeritus Tom Sito notes:

Nov 24, 1941 -- After suffering a strike and declining revenue because of the war in Europe, Walt Disney’s studio was in trouble.

Animator Ward Kimball noted in his diary for this day: “100 layoffs announced. Studio personnel from 1600 down to a Hyperion level of 300. Geez, It this the writing on the wall?” ...

Walt Disney saved itself by doing Defense films for the Army. After limping through the 1940s, with the release of Cinderella in 1950 they were back on top...

Walt Disney Productions was on the brink of insolvency when World War II broke out.

Dumbo, the studio's experimental low-budget feature, was a money spinner. But the high-budget Bambi, started right after Snow White but released in 1942, was not. "Who wants to see the life story of a deer?" was the lament inside 500 S. Buena Vista Street in Burbank.

Not enough people, it turned out, to push the company's fifth cartoon feature into the black.

Happily, the Federal government rode to the rescue by turning the Disney Studio into Training Film Central and paying for all the instructional and intelligence films (many of which provided work for my conservative father) on a "cost-plus" basis.

At the time of the Disney job action in mid '41, U.S. unemployment stood at 10.5%. Three years later, when the war effort was fully ramped up, the national jobless rte was 1.2%. (Anybody who wanted a job could get a job, and everyone else got drafted).

During that span of time WDP produced over 400,000 feet of educational war films, and more than 90% of studio workers worked on training and propaganda films for the government.

Want to know why Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Robert Iger, (not to mention John Lasseter and Ed Catmull) are rich men today? It's because World War II and the national government kept a struggling cartoon studio afloat.

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University of the Seven Golden Camels

Disney Story Director Mark Kennedy takes us through a nuanced tutorial of how to stage and block a scene.

... Every board artist, layout person and animator should be aware of how blocking out a scene can enhance and deepen the meaning and emotion of the scene as well as heighten the story telling. If you watch the scene below, I think you'll get a sense of what I mean. ...



Mr. Kubrick keeps things fluid and dynamic, and likes his moving camera. But good directors layer scenes, pulling an audience in ... without viewers being totally aware of why their engaged and on the edge of their seats.


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Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Futility of Forecasting the Future

This truism hit me (yet again) when I read the following:

... Back in 2004, I spoke with former Disney animator and director Tony Bancroft, whose company Toonacious sought to be one of those plucky little indies. “You don’t have to have these large, big-budget kind of blockbusters,” he told me, adding:

“I really feel like the days of the large studio overhead, like Disney and DreamWorks and Warner Bros. have had in the past with their animated features, is pretty much past, and I don’t foresee that coming back in a large way. I foresee that large studios will go to smaller companies like my own and hire or rent out the facilities, or sub-contract the work out to those smaller studios, so they don’t have the overhead. I really foresee that that’s a more workable model in the near, and probably the long future of animation. What people have been doing in Europe and Asia and has been really interesting, that have a little bit lower budget and are driven by the production company that makes it, and have a very unique vision. While the U.S. market might seem a little behind on that, I think we’re quickly catching up.” ...

Okay, we're ten years further along the Great Highway of Life, so how is that "small studios shall rise and do feature work" prediction working out?

The current animated movie that's near the top of the Big Ten is Big Hero 6, created by Walt Disney Animation Studios on a high budget with high studio overhead.

Not an indie. Not sending out work to a low-cost provider.

And the next high-profile cartoon (now rolling out in selected overseas markets) is The Penguins of Madagascar from DreamWorks Animation.

Is DWA an indie? You bet. But not a sub-contractor, not by a long shot.

And not exactly small. Also not trying to remain an indie, what with all the attempts to merge/get bought by some larger company. Some weeks, it seems, any larger company.

(Interesting factoid about the oncoming Penguins: DreamWorkers tell me that most of it was slated to be produced at DreamWorks Animation's Indian studio ... an overseas sub-contract job? But the bulk of the picture was ultimately created at PDI-DreamWorks in Redwood City.)

Then there's Illumination Entertainment, producer of the Despicable Me franchise, attached to NBC-Universal, and Illumination actually implemented the sub-contracting strategy quoted above.

For twenty-five minutes.

It sub-contracted MacGuff studios to create the first Despicable movie, liked the results, and then bought MacGuff, making it a subsidiary of Universal-I.E.

Same thing applies to Blue Sky Studios, proud owner of the Ice Age money machine. Blue Sky is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fox-News Corp., and has been since before the first Ice Age. The place hasn't been independent since it was struggling along by itself some years ago, making shorts and commercials. It doesn't struggle anymore, and it doesn't send work out.

In Feature Animation Land, there are few independent studios sub-contracting feature work from the majors. And those that start out independent? They soon get gobbled up (witness Pixar, Blue Sky, MacGuff, etc.) by one of our fine entertainment conglomerates.

So what studios fulfill the "Rise of the Independents" part of the prophecy (if not the sub-contracting part)? Well, there's Laika studios in Portland, Oregon that's owned by a billionaire sports shoe maker, and Laika is indisputably independent. And making features. It's current release is Boxtrolls, which to date has taken in $105,568,767 around the globe. It's not yet in Coraline territory ($124,596,398 in worldwide grosses), but it's close.

One problem though. Both Coraline and Boxtrolls clocked in with budgets of $60 million, and in today's movie world, filmmakers have to make significantly more than double their budgets to edge into profits, since there are advertising costs, distributors costs, and theater owners' percentages to account for.

Basic math: plan to earn triple your production cost before you roll into the black. Merchandise sales aren't a guaranteed profit stream (though they might be) and the little silver disks that Mom and Dad used to gobble up for the kids don't move nearly as briskly as they once did.

So how long will Laika stay in business, given that its products (to date) haven't made much money? Maybe a long time, since the studio is underwritten by a bajillionaire.

But Laika is a corporate outlier. How about companies that need to make money to remain viable? Reel FX Creative Studios' (of Dallas and Santa Monica) recently released The Book of Life. The picture received strong reviews from critics, but that (unfortunately) didn't translate into strong box office from the general public. On a budget of $50 million, the movie has collected $86.3 million to date, so we're not close to break-even here.

How long can Reel FX continue to do this? Certainly not forever.

While it's true that some niche, low-budget animated features produced in Europe, South America and other continents not containing the U.S. and Canada have made tidy profits, few independent, long-form cartoons earn significant coin. Over the past twenty-five years, not one independent (other than DreamWorks Animation and Film Roman/Rough Draft with The Simpsons Movie) has cracked feature animation's Top Earner List.

There's a reason that high-grossing animated features are produced by entertainment conglomerates or their wholly-owned subsidiaries, and not by sub-contractors. The majors have never experienced much commercial success farming feature work to independent studios so, by and large, they don't do it*.

I've been watching a majority of independent cartoon makers fail to sustain themselves in the feature animation business for over thirty years; I don't anticipate that reality to change any time soon. It takes deep pockets to build a viable, competitive animation studio without the support of a bigger company, and almost no independent (save perhaps the well-funded Laika) has the dollars to do it.

Basic math.

* On the other hand, entertainment conglomerates farm out piles of television animation work to sub-contractors, and have for decades. Production work is shipped to Canada, Asia, South America and Europe. Pre-production work is shipped to a wide variety of sub-contractors in Los Angeles and Canada.

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Your World Box Office

Our friends at Rentrak tell us how the animation is doing around the globe.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (World Cumes)

Hunger Games -- $152,000,000 -- ($275,000,000)

Interstella -- $70,000,000 -- ($449,692,067)

Big Hero 6 -- $7,000,000 -- ($185,208,069)

Penguins of Madagascar -- $8,700,000 -- ($23,300,000)

Dracula Untold -- $2,100,000 -- ($212,636,020) ...

The trade press details international grosses:

... Playing on about 17,560 screens in 64 territories, Christopher Nolan’s space epic Interstellar is tracking 13% ahead of the studio’s Gravity and 10% ahead of the director’s own 2010 Inception at the same point in release. ....

Mockingjay will be the weekend winner internationally after spreading its wings to take in $152M in 85 markets. ... In its 2nd China frame, Penguins Of Madagascar played on 3,474 screens and came in 3rd, behind Interstellar and local title Rise Of The Legend. It earned an estimated $8.7M for a $23.3M cume; just a 20% drop off the first frame. ...

Disney’s Big Hero 6 had no new openings this weekend, but earned $7M in its 5th session for an offshore cume that is now $49.5M. Playing in 23 markets, 19% of its international footprint, the inflatable giant is the bigget Disney/Pixar release of all-time in the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam. Russia leads the pack of overseas territories with $19.5M, followed by Mexico at $9.9M. ...

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

13 Disney Parks

A New York Times writer visits every Diz Co. amusement park.

... Some people love Disney theme parks so much that routine visits to Disneyland in California or the Magic Kingdom in Florida are simply not enough. Some people also make it a mission to visit Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland. And Epcot and Typhoon Lagoon and California Adventure. There are 13 Disney parks worldwide and the hardest of the hard-core Disneyphiles have visited them all. ...

In 2012, two Disneyland annual pass holders made news by going to the Happiest Place on Earth every day in a row for 366 days. ...

Long ago, I was employed as a Disneyland ride operator for five months. I worked afternoons and nights, and often went back into the park after my shift. I watched the fireworks display five days a week.

After I got laid off and returned to college, I didn't set foot in Disneyland or its sister parks for years. It was only when most of a decade had passed and I (through Diz Co. employment) got free park visits that I made the occasional trip to Anaheim.

You have glazed donuts ... or strawberry shortcake ... every day for months on end, you get tired of those things, too. But for a chosen few, Disneyland's allure never wears off.


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Shameless Plug

I've generally shied away from plugging stuff I've written that pop up on other sites, but Cartoon Bres has again started running "Mouse in Transition". ...

So I plug it here.

(I'm craven that way. And yeah, the chapters ran here a long time ago, but republishing is always a good thing, yes? Brew throws out a better net than this blog does.)

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Your American Box Office

Early turnstile figures, (and no prizes for guessing the weekend's top grosser) ...

Early Friday projections show Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1″ heading for an opening weekend of about $125 million in the U.S. — significantly lower than recent forecasts and over 20% below the first two “Hunger Games” movies.

However, international box office for the first part of the “Hunger Games” finale is up 5% to 10% above last year’s “Catching Fire” with more than $33 million in two days. ...

Big Hero 6 is projected to drop around 40%, and come in at #2. ...

Disney’s third weekend of “Big Hero 6″ is expected to lead the rest of the pack this weekend with about $24 million, followed by Paramount’s third weekend of “Interstellar” at around $16 million. ...

Add On: The Saturday stats:

1). The Hunger Games (LGF), 4,151 theaters / $55.5M Fri. / 3-day cume: $128M/ Wk 1

2). Big Hero 6 (DIS), 3,650 theaters (-123) / $4.5M Fri. / 3-day cume: $20.5M (-41%)/ Total Cume: $136.1M /Wk 3

3). Interstellar (PAR), 3,415 theaters (-146) / $4.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $14.7M (-48%) / Total cume: $120.4M / Wk 3

4). Dumb and Dumber To (UNI), 3,188 theaters (+34) / $4.1M Fri./3-day cume: $13.8M (-62%)/ Total Cume: $57.1M /Wk 2

5). Gone Girl (FOX), 1,609 theaters (-350) / $803K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.7M (-41%)/ Total cume: $157M / Wk 8

6). Beyond the Lights (REL), 1766 theaters (-23)/ $803K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.5M (-60%) / Total Cume: $10M /Wk 2

7). St. Vincent (TWC), 1,707 theaters (-625) / $672K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.25M (-40%)/ Total cume: $36.7M / Wk 7

8). Fury (SONY), 1,720 theaters (-662) / $550K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.8M (-52%) / Total cume: $79.1M / Wk 6

Micheal Keaton in Birdman9). Birdman (FSL), 862 theaters (+5) / 502K Fri. /3-day cume: $1.7M (-31%) / Total cume: $14.3M /Wk 6

10). The Theory Of Everything (FOC), 140 theaters (+99) / $402K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.4M (+90%)/ Total cume: $2.7M / Wk 3

Ade On Too: The Rentrak Sunday stats:

WEEKEND TOTALS -- U.S./CANADA

Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, The - Lionsgate - $123.0M

Big Hero 6 - Disney - $20.1M

Interstellar - Paramount - $15.1M

Dumb And Dumber To - Universal - $13.8M

Gone Girl - 20th Century Fox - $2.8M

Beyond The Lights - Relativity Media - $2.6M

St. Vincent - The Weinstein Company - $2.4M

Fury - Sony - $1.9M

Birdman - Fox Searchlight - $1.9M

Theory Of Everything, The - Focus Features - $1.5M

Nightcrawler - Open Road - $1.2M

Ouija - Universal - $1.0M

As you can see, Big Hero 6 came in a distant second to the JenLaw movie.

Add On: The last ... and the actual ... box office.

1). The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (LG), 4,151 theaters / 3-day cume: $121.897M/$29,366 average /Total cume: $121.897M/ Wk 1 Includes Thursday night previews.

2). Big Hero 6 (DIS), 3,650 theaters (-123) /3-day cume: $20.1M (-42%)/$5,513 average/ Total cume: $135.7M /Wk 3

3). Interstellar (PAR), 3,415 theaters (-146) / 3-day cume: $15.3M (-46%) /$4,492 average/ Total cume: $120.9M / Wk 3

4). Dumb and Dumber To (UNI), 3,188 theaters (+34)/ 3-day cume: $14.076M (-61%)/$4,415 average /Total cume: $57.7M/ Wk 2

5). Gone Girl (FOX), 1,609 theaters (-350) 3-day cume: $2.8M (-38)/$1,763 average/ Total cume: $156.8M / Wk 8

6). Beyond the Lights (REL), 1,766 theaters (-23) / 3-day cume: $2.6M (-58%)/$1,492 average /Total cume:$10.1M/Wk 2

7). St. Vincent (TWC), 1,707 theaters (-625) /3-day cume: $2.2M (-40%)/ $1,318 average/Total cume: $36.5M / Wk 7

8). Fury (SONY), 1,720 theaters (-662) / 3-day cume: $1.9M (-48%) /$1,130 average/ Total cume: $79.19M / Wk 6

9). Birdman (FSL), 862 theaters (+5) /3-day cume: $1.85M (-25%) /$2,150 average/ Total cume: $14.4M /Wk 6

10). The Theory of Everything (Focus), 140 theaters (+99) /3-day cume: $1.5M (+106%) /$10,798 average/ Total cume: $2.8M/Wk 3

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Diz Co. and China

The Mouse gets more intertwined with the Middle Kingdom.

Walt Disney Co. plans to expand a partnership with state-owned Shanghai Media Group to include co-production of movies along with development, distribution and marketing of television shows.

The alliance will boost local content creation for international markets and create new business models in digital and conventional media, Li Ruigang, Shanghai Media chairman, said today in a joint statement with Disney. ...

Disney is also developing cartoon content for the Chinese market with Tencent Holdings Ltd. and state-run China Animation Group. ...

You can't really ignore a large and growing market with 1.4 billion people in it. (And what large, self-respecting entertainment conglomerate would even want to?)

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CTN Animation Expo this weekend!


Today marks the first day of this year's CTN Animation Expo. The CTN Animation Expo is the the only dedicated Expo for animation talent in the USA. The three-day event includes highly focused conference programming, workshops, recruiting, presentations and networking opportunities designed to connect animation artists, studio executives and industry leaders both locally and internationally.

The Animation Guild is excited to participate in this year's CTN Animation Expo as an exhibitor in the main exhibit hall. The three days of the conference are filled with animation veterans, students and enthusiasts sharing their love and appreciation for the art and skills of the craft. We never fail to meet new people and have a great experience over the length of the weekend.

To learn more about the event and purchase tickets to attend, visit the Expo website at: http://www.ctnanimationexpo.com/index.php. When you get there, come visit us at Table T105 located on the right side of the room in the middle grouping of tables (Map View of our location).

We hope to see you there!

Add On: Mr. Kaplan and I manned the Animation Guild booth on the main hall today (although it was mainly Mr. Kaplan -- I was a late arrival). There were lots of exhibits, lectures, and seminars. There were a couple of tents in the parking lot sheltering presentations.

Various animation companies have set up larger booths, and the crowds were robust. We got to catch up with old friends nd make a few new ones. Good fun!

--Steve Hulett


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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Render Stress

A topic often discussed.

... The 4K revolution is proving to be a stumbling block for the animated market, as it not only puts a strain on the limitations of the machines that are currently used in the production, but they also could cause the production teams to run into delays with the time it takes to actually make the movie.

To be more specific, animated films are currently running at 2k resolution and 24 frames per second, and the higher end that filmmakers like Peter Jackson are pushing for run at 4K resolution, and at least 48 frames per second. ...

[T]he resolution of current animation projects would have to be bumped up by at least 2.5 times. Increased resolution means increased memory needs, which means that the render farms ... need to grow accordingly. ...

One thing to bump up resolution and the number of frames with CG animation. But consider hand-drawn features done the old-fashioned way. They go to 48 frames per second, that's one hell of a lot of additional drawings.

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Lawsuit City

When you live in the House of Mouse, it doesn't just rain ... it comes down in barrels.

Fourteen new individual lawsuits were filed this week against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“The systems, policies and procedures associated with the Disability Access Service which Disney rolled out in October of 2013 were certain to create discrimination against Plaintiffs, and it was obvious that the community of persons with cognitive impairments would be harmed by the DAS,” said the filings in federal court in Florida. ... Representing 26 families with children with autism and other developmental disorders who visited Disney World, these latest complaints come out of an order late last month by a judge breaking up the group discrimination case against the House of Mouse first filed in April. ...

This is only distantly related to animation, but demonstrates how lawsuits often come in clusters.

Or ... I donno. Maybe the media just creates the illusion of clusters.

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Jeffrey's Woes

And speaking of the media being tough on this or that corporate entity, the LA Times has this:

It has been a rough month for Jeffrey Katzenberg.

In the space of a few weeks, the mogul and co-founder of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. has been rebuffed by three high-profile potential buyers: Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank Corp., Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox and Hasbro Inc.

Katzenberg, known for driving a hard bargain, may have overplayed his hand. The studio executive was said to be pursuing a deal worth about $3 billion — about $1 billion above the company's current market value. In the case of Hasbro, investors also balked at the idea of getting into the volatile movie business and the company risked alienating its main licensing partner, Walt Disney Co.

The collapse of deal talks left some Wall Street analysts wondering what Katzenberg's strategy is. ...

The strategy is what it's been for years.

Cash out at a big profit.

I'm told that back in the ought sixes and sevens, Mr. Katzenberg was after a buyout along the lines of the Disney-Pixar deal, but that didn't happen. And then along came the crash of '08-'09, and any potential DreamWorks Animation suitors were in short supply. (Because the suitors were focused on surviving, not purchasing a cartoon studio.)

So now here we are, a whole lot further down the Log Flume of Life, and Jeffrey Katzenberg is again pushing to sell DWA. If I were to hazard a guess as to why things aren't currently going well (and I'm about to), I would say that Jeffrey is

A) Overly optimistic about the price he can command;

B) Pushing a wee bit too hard for a bigger price-per-share in negotiations;

C) Getting undone by competitors who have more leverage than he does. (Can we spell D-I-S-N-E-Y? I knew we could.)

I still think DreamWorks Animation will find a bigger fish willing to swallow it, I just don't know when that might be. So I'll hold fast to my "within 36 months" prediction.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Conspiracy?

As Bloomberg relates:

Pixar President Edwin Catmull acknowledged the use of such agreements when he was questioned by lawyers for thousands of employees who sued his company, along with Apple, Google and four others, in 2011. An unapologetic Catmull said he was trying to help the industry survive by stopping hiring raids, remarks that triggered a trio of complaints in the last three months against animation studios in California. ...

People sent me the Brew's take on this, and I keep getting asked about the wage fixing. My response:

"Sure, wage fixing goes on. The problem is proving it." ...

My opinion? The only time there hasn't been some sort of collusion reining in wages in L.A. was during the mid-90s, when Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner went to war with one another and began bidding up the price of talent.

That was a grudge match, and lasted for years. TV salaries went up at the same time, topping out at the end of the decade. In the twenty-first century, studio have become increasingly aggressive about holding down salaries, so the fact that they're forging agreements with one another isn't a surprise.

Now we have Dr. Catmull admitting same in depositions, and stating it's the right and proper thing to do. But why not? It saves the companies for which he works significant coin, and there is minimal downside.

Until now.

There are currently a pile of lawsuits; Diz Co. and others are telling the court that the suits should be thrown out, and the judge has scuttled an earlier settlement, saying the $324 million both side had agreed on wasn't big enough because there was "evidence of an overarching conspiracy."

No kidding. But winning cases in court, convincing juries of significant damages, could still be a steep hill to climb.

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Renewal

And we should mention:

TBS has ordered a new 22-episode season of Twentieth Century Fox Television's animated hit American Dad!, which is currently in the midst of its first season as a TBS original. Created by Seth MacFarlane, Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman, American Dad! is executive-produced by MacFarlane, Weitzman and new showrunner Brian Boyle. The series airs Mondays at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) on TBS, with encores presented by sister network Adult Swim.

Since coming to TBS in mid-October, American Dad! has ranked as one of basic cable’s Top 3 entertainment programs in the Monday 9 p.m. timeslot with adults 18-34 and one of the Top 5 entertainment programs in its timeslot with adults 18-49. The current season is averaging 3.1 million viewers in combined audience for each week’s premiere on TBS and encore on Adult Swim. ...

I know the crew was a wee bit tense about getting picked up for another season. The one thing that almost always turns the trick is a robust ratings number.

Then there's always the issue of how many new episodes the very busy Mr. MacFarlane wants to record. But that's what recording studios in remote locations are all about: to make doing your multiple parts as easy and simple as possible.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Profit Margins

The Fool (not me, another fool) shines a light on Disney movie grosses and Disney profits.

... Marvel's The Avengers set new opening weekend records in May 2012, going on to earn over $1.5 billion worldwide. Among Disney pictures, only Frozen has produced more profit since the studio took full control of Pixar in May 2006.

Most Profitable Films -- Total Gross -- Gross Profit -- Profit %

Frozen -- $1,274,219,009 -- $628,559,074 -- 40.57%

The Avengers -- $1,518,594,910 -- $621,295,630 -- 35.82%

Toy Story 3 -- $1,063,171,911 -- $447,485,580 -- 34.13% ...

... From the close of the Pixar acquisition on May 9, 2006, to today, Disney has added roughly $90 billion in market cap -- from just over $62 billion to more than $155 billion as of this writing. Pixar is probably responsible for over half those gains. ...

Which isn't to say that Marvel's been a slouch, just that buying Pixar (which, let's face it, wouldn't have happened if Michael Eisner had remained in charge) has been one of Iger's better strategic moves.

One management team (Catmull and Lasseter) runs two successful cartoon studios; also, too, the less successful DisneyToon Studios. So all in all, the $7.2 billion purchase of Pixar in 2006 has paid off.

The Marvel acquisition has worked well too, just not as richly as the Emeryville pick-up.

And with the torrent of good news, there was today this announcement:

Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios promoted both Walt Disney Animation Studios' Andrew Millstein and Pixar Animation Studios’ Jim Morris to president.

“We're fortunate and proud to have an abundance of strong creative leadership at Disney, and Andrew and Jim are two incredible talents that embody the perfect blend of business and artistic focus,” said Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. ...

To give you the chronology, Mr. Millstein was a DreamQuest executive when Disney bought the visual effects house in the late '90s. (This was long before VFX studios were dying like fruit flies. Andrew was part of the Disney team that negotiated the Secret Lab contract in 1999. I was part of the union group on the other side of the table).

Andrew Millstein ran The Secret Lab -- feature animation's internal visual effects facility -- and after that Disney Animation Florida. When the Orlando facility closed in the mid oughts, Mr. Millstein returned to the California studio (now known as The Walt Disney Animation Studios, and has worked there ever since.

Congratulations to both Andrew and Jim Morris.


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"B.O.O." Push

The Times reports:

... DreamWorks has decided to push back the release date for "B.O.O.: Bureau of Other Worldly Operations," one of two original movies (rather than sequels) planned for next year, two people close to the studio said.

One person said DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg was unhappy with the progress of the film, while another said the decision had more to do with the competitive landscape the studio faces next summer. Pixar also will release its movie "Inside Out" in June. ...

The story I got from staffers during a trek through the studio last week was that the story needs work. A recent presentation of the feature to lead creatives and execs indicated weaknesses, and so the shift in release dates maybe isn't a surprise, eh?

A note to the uninitiated: In Animationland, stories almost always need "tweaking". Sometimes a whole lot of major league tweaking.

Pixar's orphan movie "The Good Dinosaur" has a new parent — and a new story..

First-time feature director Peter Sohn, an artist at the studio in Emeryville, Calif., since 2000, unofficially took over the film a few months after Pixar executives removed its first director, Bob Peterson, amid creative concerns in the summer of 2013.

Over the last year, Sohn has been quietly streamlining the story, a buddy comedy about a teenage dinosaur and a human boy, in preparation for a November 2015 release. ...

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Disney Renewal

Diz Jr. has re-upped a high-performing cartoon half-hour.

Disney Junior has ordered a second season of its breakout series Sheriff Callie’s Wild West. The series starring Mandy Moore as the voice of Sheriff Callie was the first Disney/ABC Television Group show to launch on the company’s Watch mobile platform. It amassed more than 23 million views in its launch window. The success translated on-air, with the back-to-back premiere telecasts in January ranking as Disney Junior’s Top 2 telecasts of all time in total viewers. Since its linear premiere, Sheriff Callie has been the No. 1 series across preschool-dedicated TV networks in kids 2-5. ...

Sheriff Callie is produced in Toluca Lake by Wild Canary Animation*.

(For whatever reason, Diz Co. doesn't do this one in-house, but instead sub-contracts the production. WHY does the mouse sub-contract the Sheriff? Because it's likely cheaper than building additional corporate infrastructure to get the show made. Disney Television Animation is just now bursting at the seams, but there's this ongoing market demand for more cartoons. So the Mouse improvises.

* Wikipedia says that "Callie" is produced by Wildbrain Entertainment, which is a different Wild altogether. But Guild records say that Wild Canary Animation is the production entity.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

At Prospect


Today I took a quick spin around Marvel Animation's new location on the eastern edge of old Hollywood. (Seen above ... a few years ago).

Marvel Animation's Guardians of the Galaxy (the cartoon version) moved to Disney's Prospect Studios three months back, and is now in full-bore production ...

The newly minted series is headquartered in the middle of the Propsect Street lot.

A lot that was built in 1915 as a Vitagraph Co. outpost on the Left Coast (which complimented its Brooklyn studio). The Vitagraph had been a going concern since the 1890s, but by the roaring twenties the movie company was fading, its market share beaten down by the likes of upstarts MGM, Warner Bros., and Paramount. The Prospect Street Studio was sold to Warner Bros. in 1925, then the ABC network purchased it, and years later the Walt Disney Co. swallowed up the TV network and ... here we are.

Marvel board artists and designers sit on the second floor of a building that dates to the beginning of the lot, looking out on a lumber warehouse, sharing the facility with General Hospital and Gray's Anatomy. But it's fitting that animation has returned to the old Vitagraph Studio, since Vitagraph was one of the pioneers of screen animation.



Could we say that Vitagraph/Warner Bros./ABC/Disney has come full circle? Probably not, but Prospect isn't that far from the old Hyperion Studios, right?

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On This Date (But Actually Yesterday) ...

The last Disney animated featurette painted on cels was released with the first Disney animated feature painted digitally. ...

The Prince and the Pauper, one of Mark Twain's literary nuggets, was colored in the traditional way in the ink and paint building in Burbank, while the picture was animated in Glendale at the Flower Street studio. (This was the last animated theatrical painted on the lot, wrapping up five decades of cartoon production work at 500 S. Buena Vista Street.)

Meantime, The Rescuers Down Under was done in Glendale, start to finish.

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Ground Zero of Animation's Renaissance

It happened a quarter century ago.

... The Little Mermaid, which opened 25 years ago, on Nov. 17, 1989, realized its makers’ dream: recapturing the magic of classic Disney as destination entertainment to enthrall generations of moviegoers. More than two decades after Walt Disney’s death, and following a series of less-than-fabulous cartoon features, this was the picture that launched the Disney Renaissance that soared with Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. ...

I was there are at the birth of Ron Clements' and John Musker's movie.

But nobody knew (at the time) that it was the start of animation's renewal. The scene was just a big pitch meeting in a back room of the Disney commissary. Just another Eisner/Katzenberg "gong show", the kind they had hosted numerous times before.

But the session in the summer of 1985 brought forth Oliver and Company, The Little Mermaid, and Treasure Planet. Ron Clements proposed the Hans Christian Anderson story as an animated feature, but Jeffrey and Michael shot it down. Ron, never one to be stopped by a first refusal, wrote a treatment anyway, and sent it to Jeffrey.

And Jeffrey changed his mind.

Development work started on The Little Mermaid, and four years later, the second Golden Age of Animation commenced

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

International Box Office

The animation, it rolls along well.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (World Totals)

Interstellar -- $106,000,000 -- ($321,909,855)

Big Hero 6 -- $11,900,000 -- ($148,353,891)

Penguins of Madagascar -- $11,300,000 -- ($11,300,000)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- $4,200,000 -- ($474,362,931)

Dracula Untold -- $3,100,000 -- ($208,825,500)

The Chinese opening of Penguins (the only country where it's open) garners the DreamWorks Animation feature the Place position:

The Eric Darnell-/Simon J Smith directed Penguins took $11.3M from 3,500 China locations after bowing on Friday. That was good for a No. 2 slot.

Interstellar and Penguins will now run for another three weeks and will have to face off with local competition. ...

Big Hero 6 started rolling out internationally on October 25 and now has an overall cume of $148.4M worldwide. It added a total $11.9M overseas this frame in 23 territories for an international total of $36.7M. ...

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Soaring

The Mouse climbs higher.

The Walt Disney Studios on Friday reached a new milestone, passing $4B at the global box office for the second time in its history. The first time was just last year, but that was on November 26, meaning Disney bested its speed to $4B by 12 days this year. The new tally of roughly $4.05B joins other 2014 records which include the studio getting to $2B internationally, on August 4, and $3B globally, on August 5, faster than any other year prior. ...

Maleficent and Frozen helped propel Diz Co. to new heights, along with its comic book franchises.

It's good to remember that all or most of the content, which of course provides inspiration for the attractions at the amusement parks and the toys on shelves at Wal-mart, Toys-R-Us and other venues, contains large dollops of animation, either the undiluted kind (Frozen) or the type that gets embedded in live-action movies (Maleficent, Guardians of the Galaxy).

And that won't be changing anytime soon.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Your American B.O.

The projected totals:

Weekend Box Office

1). Dumb and Dumber To (UNI), 3,154 theaters / $13.9M Fri. (includes Thursday night previews of $1.6M)/ 3-day cume: $35.6M / Wk 1

2). Big Hero 6 (DIS), 3,773 theaters (+12) / $8.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $33.7M (-40%)/ Total Cume: $109.2M /Wk 2

3). Interstellar (PAR), 3,561 theaters (0) / $8.475M Fri. / 3-day cume: $28.1M (-41%) / Total cume: $97.6M / Wk 2

4). Beyond the Lights (REL), 1,789 theaters / $2.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $6.6 M / Wk 1

5). Gone Girl (FOX), 1,959 theaters (-265) / $1.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.4M (-29%)/ Total cume: $152.6M / Wk 7

6/7). St. Vincent (TWC), 2,332 theaters (-123) / $1.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.9M (-28%)/ Total cume: $33.1M / Wk 6

Fury (SONY), 2,382 theaters (-452) / $1.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.9M (-30%) / Total cume: $76.1M / Wk 5

8/9) Ouija (UNI), 2,382 theaters (-298) / $970K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.8M (-52%) / Total cume: $47.9M / Wk 4

Nightcrawler (OPRD), 2,103 theaters (-663) / $891K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.8M (-48%) / Total cume: $24.8M / Wk 3

10). Birdman (FSL), 857 theaters (+397) / 662K Fri. /3-day cume: $2.2M (-4%) / Total cume: $11.4M /Wk 5

And the other trade paper tells us:

... “Hero” was on track to take in $8 million on Friday, then double that figure on Saturday and finish the weekend at about $34 million. That would give the Disney toon a 10-day total of about $110 million. ...

Big Hero appears to be dropping less than Interstellar, first weekend to second weekend.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Breaking Off?

One more halt in the march to merger?

DreamWorks Animation’s merger talks with Hasbro have stopped, two days after Deadline reported that Jeffrey Katzenberg’s indie studio and the toymaker were far into negotiations to combine into what would be an entertainment power. ...

There had been a flurry of meetings and talks for the past couple of weeks, but we’re hearing that those discussions have come to an end. While it seems negotiations have likely ceased, it might be a situation of never-say-never, according to sources close to the situation. ...

Jeffrey wants a big "get" in merging DWA with another company. Like money. Like a high position in any resulting corporate structure.

Would Hasbro be a good fit with DreamWorks Animation? I guess that depends on how successful the resulting combined company turns out to be. And the only way to find that out, is to combine them.

The only thing I'm convinced of is that, sooner or later, DreamWorks Animation will get itself sold.

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The Month in Animation -- Part Deux

Herewith, Mr. Sito completes his month of history.

Important History Dates of November

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

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

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

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



Gable had one after shooting, and on this day while convalescing in Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital reading a magazine, a second heart attack killed him. He wrote his own epitaph, but it was never used- "Well, Back to Silents."

[The physical stunts Gable performed on "The Misfits" probably hastened his heart attack, but the "stress" of Marilyn Monroe's absences and tardiness are overblown. Clark's contract for the picture was $750,000, 10% of the gross, plus overtime at $48,000 per week. The picture went way over schedule, and Clark Gable made piles of extra money. So, would you have been upset if Monroe delayed the picture by three weeks and you made an extra $144,000? Didn't think so.]

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


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

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

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

Nov. 18, 1985 - Bill Watterson’s comic strip “Calvin & Hobbs” debuts.Nov. 18, 1988 - Disney’s Oliver & Company releases.

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 23, 1963 - The very first episode of "Dr. Who" premiered on the BBC TV. William Hartnell played the first doctor. There have been twelve doctors since.

Nov. 24, 2010 - Disney’s "Tangled" opens.

Nov. 25, 1949 – “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” sung by Gene Autry hit number one on the musical charts.

Nov. 25, 1997 – Pixar’s "A Bugs Life" and "Geri’s Game" premieres.

Nov. 25, 2009 - Disney’s "Princess and the Frog" opens.

Nov. 26, 1939 - The first Woody Woodpecker Cartoon, "Knock-Knock” released. [Titles looked like this:]



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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 29, 1915 - In the first years of animated films, one artist like Winsor McCay drew everything. This day John Randolph Bray's "Colonel Heeza Liar in Africa" cartoon debuts. [Different Liar below, but you get the idea. --SRH]



(Bray adapted Henry Ford's assembly line system to making animation, creating the job positions of layout, background painter, inkers, cel painters, checkers and camera. After 1919 J. R. Bray shifted his studio’s focus from entertainment to technical and training films. Paul Terry, Walter Lantz, Max and Dave Fleischer, and Shamus Culhane all got their start at Bray's.

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

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

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

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

In and Around WB Animation

More Scooby on the Little Silver Disk.

After “Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania” sold well on homevideo platforms earlier this year, WWE Studios and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will reteam on a sequel that’s set to be released in the spring of 2016, Variety has learned.

The film will be produced by WWE Studios and Warner Bros. Animation. ...

I strolled through WB Animation the end of last week and there's a lot going on. Wabbit, a new Looney Tunes type offering, is in work and drawing a bit of inspiration from the Mickey shorts that Disney TVA launched successfully last year.

Teen Titans Go! is coming back for a new season (with storyboard artists coming back to get production rolling).

And of course there are the Warners' direct-to-video long forms. Even as Disney Toon Studios cancels plans for more Tinkerbells and lays artists off, Warners keeps making direct-to-video features.



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Small or Big?

The Gray Lady notes:

Walt Disney is a big studio built around smaller units: Marvel Entertainment, Pixar and the classic Disney animation shop, among others.

Now DreamWorks Animation appears on the brink of becoming Disney’s opposite: a small studio tugged in different directions by forces as varied as a giant toy company and the Chinese government. ...

I believe the game here is for Mr. Katzenberg to score a generous Pay Day as the company gets sold. The other goal? To keep running the studio and to branch out.

DreamWorks Animation won't remain a small independent studio much longer. Some bigger corporate fish will gobble DWA up.


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The Month in Animation

Time once again for President Emeritus Tom Sito's cartoon and movie history factoids.

Movie Sign Posts for November

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

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

Nov. 3, 1977 - Disney's "Pete's Dragon" starring Helen Reddy and Red Buttons opens.

Nov. 3, 1981 - WALLY WOOD was one of the most influential cartoonists of the 1950’s and 60’s. His amazing versatility enabled him to draw everything from superhero comics to very cartoony to playfully naughty comics like "Sally Forth". He drew EC Comics, the "Mars Attacks" series, Mad Magazine, Weird Science, THUNDER Agents and much more. He had done an infamous drawing of the Disney characters having sex that brought down upon him the wrath of the Disney legal dept. Hard living and deadlines took their toll, and Wally was suffering from a stroke and failing kidneys. This was the day police found his remains.

Nov. 5, 1937 - Walt Disney's silly symphony "The Old Mill" debuted. The first film featuring the multiplane camera technique.

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

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

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

Nov. 10, 1950 - Paramount's "Mice Meeting You" opens. It’s the first Herman and Katnip cartoon.

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

Nov. 10. 1969 - The children’s education show Sesame Street premiered on PBS TV. The world is introduced to Bert & Ernie, Cookie Monster, Grover, Big Bird and Mr Hooper. The show employed a lot of animators.

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



Nov 12, 1937 - Alan Turing delivered his famous paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidung’s Problem" at Kings College, Cambridge. In it he postulated on the ability to create a "universal machine"; that uses numbers to solve problems and could be reprogramable for different tasks. In his day they were called Turing Machines, but we know them now as Computers.

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

Nov. 13, 1940 - Walt Disney's "Fantasia" premieres. As Walt put it, "This'll make Beethoven!" Frank Lloyd Wright's opinion was "I love the visuals, but why did you use all that old music?"

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

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

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

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

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

Nov, 14, 1998 – Pixar’s "A Bugs Life" premieres.

Nov. 15, 1881 - The American Federation of Labor (AF of L) formed under the leadership of former cigar-maker Samuel Gompers. In 1951 they merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to make the AFL-CIO that we know today.

Nov. 15, 1907 - The comic strip “Mutt & Jeff” debuted. The strip was so popular that its creator Harry “Bud” Fisher became a celebrity and negotiated the first large backend deal. He built an animation studio, but spent all the profits on partying with showgirls.

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

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

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

The second half of "The Month in Animation" on the morrow.


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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bixar

Said by a smart-ass commenter. Regarding this piece from Blizzard (the game company):



Out less than a week and 2,000,000 (and counting) sets of eyeballs have looked at it.

Overwatch is Blizzard's first completely new game unattached to a previous title in 17 years. Overwatch seems to follow the same template as Team Fortress 2's multiplayer fun fest. Character types follow into categories like fighters, defenders, tanks, and support, each balanced against each other in a kind rock-paper-scissors dynamic. ...

I have the feeling that Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and game cinematics are merging into one seamless entertainment experience. Guardians of the Galaxy, Big Hero 6 and Overwatch seem to be cribbing from each other.

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On How to Train Your Dragon 2

Director Dean Deblois and Producer Bonnie Arnold discuss the making of one of the better animated features of this year.



I'm still amazed that entertainment media dubbed HTTYD2 a "disappointment" within weeks of its release. The movie ended up making more money around the world than its predecessor, but less in the U.S. and Canada.

So, disappointment.


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DWA's Merger Mania

The trade papers tell us.

DreamWorks Animation is deeply engaged in two potentially game changing negotiations that could transform the company — including one with Hasbro to forge a family entertainment powerhouse to be called DreamWorks-Hasbro. The other talks are with Hearst to turn DWA’s AwesomenessTV into a joint venture.

We’re told that a DWA and Hasbro deal is at least 60 days off, if it happens. But the two companies are said to have agreed that Jeffrey Katzenberg would chair the combined operation. ...

Meanwhile, DWA is moving quickly on another potential deal with Hearst Publishing to form a joint venture involving AwesomenessTV. Hearst would pay $81.25 million for a 25% stake in the Internet video power with $56.25 million going directly to DreamWorks and $25 million used as an investment in ATV. The terms would value ATV at $300 million, double what DreamWorks paid for it in May 2013. ...

Last week I was at DreamWorks Animation, doing a 401(k) meeting and walking around the Lakeside Building, which sits between the Los Angeles River and Lake Katzenberg (actually a big pond with fish in it). One of the artists in the building said:

You know, I see people from other companies coming through here. And I've got this feeling that DreamWorks is going to be sold. ...

I answered that I calculated that DreamWorks Animation would be sold in the next two or three years.

Tops.

But I didn't think much about DWA doing lots of mergers, selling off chunks of its businesses to other entertainment companies, bit by bit. So maybe Jeffrey's corporation will be selling itself in slow motion.

Seems that's what might be happening.

Add On: The New York Times has its take:

In a deal that would be an unusual union of toy maker and an animation studio, Hasbro is in talks to buy DreamWorks Animation, a person briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.

Under the current terms of the proposed deal, Hasbro would pay a mix of cash and stock, though an exact price has not been determined yet, this person said. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, is seeking more than $30 a share, a significant premium over his company's current stock price. ...

We'll see if this deal goes through ... or falls apart like the last one.

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