Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Ongoing Negotiations

Remember the IA Basic Agreement? How negotiations for a new three-year deal just wrapped up? So here's another one.

A tentative three-year area standards agreement has been reached between The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE), and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), IATSE announced May 5. The agreement will last from August 1, 2015, through July 31, 2018. ...

The area standards agreement is the IA's national contract. It covers the parts of the U.S. of A. outside the reach of the Basic Agreement.

The thing to remember about these negotiations is, they look smooth and uneventful from the outside, but there's a different perspective from the inside. There's lots of tme spent in caucus rooms. And nobody gets to bed early.

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Deep in the Balance Sheet

It's good to remember that for Team Mouse, it all started with cartoons. And continues that way.

“Frozen” continues to keep Walt Disney Co. smoking hot more than a year after its release.

With a much stronger supply chain in place than a year ago, sales of “Frozen” merchandise so far in 2015 are more than 10 times as high as during the same period in 2014, Chief Operating Officer Tom Staggs said on a call with Wall Street analysts Tuesday. ...

There was $2.1 million of net income, 10% better tha the first quarter last year. Revenues were $12.5 billion, ahead of analysts' projections.

For stock owners, now that the company is trading above $110 per share, they probably wonder how high it can go. And when it will split.

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New Media Cartoons

A fresh, on-line series of classic characters:

... The company [Machinima] announced that it has teamed up with Warner Bros. Animation and DC Comics to create new online series for comics fans, starting with two seasons of a new Justice League animated series.

Next month will see the debut of Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles, created by beloved DC Animated Universe mastermind Bruce Timm. The series, which was first announced last fall, will focus on darker, alternate versions of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman with whole new origin stories. (Superman is the son of General Zod, for instance.) The show will pave the way to a feature length film, which will be released next month, and a second season due out next year. ...

The trend in distribution is pretty obvious: More and more, the lines between cable, broadcast and internet are dissolving. Companies make their product, then put it on platforms that make them money.

This is pretty much the way it's always been, except that the platforms half a century ago consisted of 1) movie theaters, and 2) broadcast television. That was pretty much it.

Now the pipelines are far more numerous, and there are more opportunities for piracy and theft, but the principles are the same: Companies create content and then monetize same. Technologies keep evolving and pushing the entertainment industry where it's destined to be pushed.

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Monday, May 04, 2015

CGI Uber Alles

Too much of a good thing gives people headaches.

... The ability to mount enormous battles featuring multiple super-powered characters ... has become its own trap. And while the results can be visually ­astounding, the movies regularly feel as lifeless and mechanized as the technology responsible for bringing those visions to fruition.

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy and enjoyed it. But the blaring sound, and whirling CG effects near the climax of the film made my head want to explode. (Luckily I was able to talk my head out of it.)

CG effects, used sparingly (strategically?), enhance the movie-going experience. But effects that explode, stampede and whirl at you non-stop are enervating. And the fact that they're not real (and often look it) undercuts he tension. There's a visceral thrill to watching an event that's anchored to the real world. For instance Ben Hur racing in an actual arena with flesh-and-blood horses and charioteers. Or a full-size train jack-knifing off a real track (The Fugitive).

Palms sweat and nick-skin prickles because we know what we're watching is real.

Funny how flamboyant computer-generated effects don't trigger the same responses. But then, audiences often know the difference between people, things and places that exist in time and space, and CG fakery. Amd they react accordingly.

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The Yellow Family Re-Ups

This will trigger a big, collective sigh of relief at Film Roman.

“The Simpsons” is coming back for two more seasons.

The pickup for seasons 27 and 28, announced by Fox on Monday, will bring the series to 625 episodes total. The animated show already holds the title as the longest-running scripted series in TV history.

Expressing his excitement, Homer Simpson quipped, “I’ve outlasted Letterman, Jon Stewart and ‘McDreamy,’ because I have something they don’t: a costly 200-donut-a-day addiction.” ...

Earlier today I was talking to a Simpsons director, who told me the crew still wasn't sure if the show would continue beyond a short, seven-episode 27th season.

Why a short season? Because, as Simpson artists have told me, there were seven "hold-over" episodes from the 26th season. It so happens that every year there are additional episodes in work before a full order for the subsequent season has happened. This occurs because Fox management likes to keep its powder dry and options open.

For the past couple of months, Simpson employees have been sweating out a negotiation between Fo and the voice actors on the show. Was the cast going to reach agreement on a new contract? Was it going to walk? Nobody knew.

But many were (understandably) uptight about it.

So now the clouds of confusion and worry have been lifted, and a full 27th season will get made, also a 28th. And all we have to say to the hard-working artists up on Hollywood Way is

CONGRATULATIONS!!

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Sunday, May 03, 2015

Your International Box Office

The small alien from DreamWorks hangs in.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (World Totals)

Avengers 2 -- $168,000,000 -- ($626,656,000)

Furious 7 -- $52,800,000 -- ($1,428,538,605)

Home -- $17,000,000 -- ($328,232,277)

Cinderella -- $7,000,000 -- ($494,251,000)

The trade press says:

... DreamWorks Animation’s Home cozied up to a further $17M on 8,204 screens in 34 markets. That takes the international cume to $170.1M. China increased this frame by 44% for a 2nd session haul of $11.1M, impressive given an influx of local titles. ...

Cinderella kicked up another $7M overseas to take the international total to $300.6M with a $500M worldwide total in sight. ...

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113 Seconds of Zen

America isn't the only continent producing CG features.

South America, India, Russia, China and Europe are chasing the same holy grail of boffo box office as our fine entertainment conglomerates in the U.S. of A. But while the big U.S. corporations spend hundreds of millions going after elusive movie goers, Europe appears to be attempting the same feat on the cheap:



I can think of nothing artful to say here, so I'll let Mark Kermode of the Guardian speak his mind.

Two By Two review – plodding Euro animation

Two evolutionary outcasts, a Nestrian and a Grymp, are forced to fend for themselves – and each other – when Noah’s ark departs without them. Teaming up with what appears to be a giant slug (looking like an escapee from some misbegotten Manga), the pair must make their hazardous way to higher ground, encountering various slippy/slidey adventures en route, all the while escaping the attentions of a pair of ravenous griffins.

Co-produced by Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and Ireland, this bland animated Euro-pudding has little to offend and even less to excite as it follows its formulaic journey toward a communal group-hug. There are a couple of giggles along the way, but nothing you haven’t seen or heard before in the wholly superior Madagascar and Ice Age series. Local hero Chris Evans provides the voice of sticky parasite StayPut, a role that requires him to shout “woo-hoo” once too often.

And I begin to see why so many animated features are created in California.

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Stockholders Rejoice

When a company is on a roll, momentum is a good thing.

With Avengers: Age Of Ultron now at $439M overseas, Disney is sitting comfortably above the $1B international box office mark for 2015. The milestone was actually achieved on Thursday when the studio quiety passed $1B in the second shortest amount of time in its history. With weekend estimates tallied, the studio’s offshore cume is $1.171B as of today. Last year, the Mouse cruised over the $1B threshold on April 20 — a record for speed.

Of course, it took them a week longer to hit a billion this year. But stuff happens.

Add On: Happily, they have a commercial lineup of movies over the next three years, including ...

"Frozen 2" already has an ending but Buck said that their team still has "a lot of things to figure out." Recently, the director visited Australia and may use some aspects of his visit to help him writing the movie's plot line. This sparked the speculation that "Frozen 2" may have a touch of Oz since L. Frank Baum's "Ozma of Oz" is set in Australia where Dorothy and her Uncle Henry live. This might result to the possible allusion of Oz in "Frozen 2." ...

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Saturday, May 02, 2015

Giving Up

Mr. Kennedy tells us:

... I can't help but think of all the people I know who've decided to make a personal project and then abandoned it after a while. It's a real shame, because there are so many talented people in animation, and I know the world would love seeing their work. But pursuing a personal project is, in many ways, much harder than showing up to work every day and getting paid to be an artist and contribute to a film that has the backing and support of a large company. ...

One of the reasons that I'm still plugging away on my own project after five years is that I choose to do something that I really enjoy doing. It gives me a chance to do things I've never done before (like try and understand how layout works for comic books, and the chance to work with color). ...

[A]s an artist creates something, I think it's only human for that artist to daydream about how big and successful their project will become. The problem is that, after that initial rush of passion for the project and daydream of how awesome and successful it's going to be, the hard reality sets in about how much work it's going to be as well as the sobering realization that it may not, in the end, be successful. In fact, it may fail miserably. So why bother putting a lot of work into it? In the end, it could all be wasted effort.

So one of my best pieces of advice is to create without focusing on the final outcome. You can't control how your project will be received, you can only control how it turns out and how much you enjoy the process of creating. ...

I know what Mark Kennedy is talking about here. Completely.

For years I had the dream of being a novelist. It was a passion. An obsession. And I wrote several, some of which had semi-arresting characters and moments, but none of which sold.

Occasionally a New York agent would agree to represent the work, and push this manuscript or that; once in a long while a publisher would get semi-interested. But in the end, each manuscript flamed out, didn't have that particular something that would catapult it to the next level, and was tossed into the dusty trunk labeled Rejects.

So ... ultimately ... I looked cold reality square in its ugly face and gave up. Fiction was a hard nut to crack, and I wasn't cracking it.

But I still had a yen to write. And to scratch that ongoing itch I turned to a memory exercise, composing chapters about my ten years at Disney Feature Animation, writing about the personalities, the politics, and the creative frustrations. I wrote the chapters (nineteen in all) at odd moments, and planned to do nothing with the results except put them up on a blog where, if I was lucky, a couple hundred people would read them. Maybe.

And funny thing. I put a handful up, Cartoon Brew asked to feature chapters on its site, then a publisher wanted to put the whole aggregation out as a book. (I'm still amazed.)

Mr. Kennedy is dead on. You can't control how your work will be received. You can only satisfy your creative urges by putting in time and sweat and then watching where the novel or comic book or painting ends up. If the fates smile on you, perhaps you'll gain a career.

So follow your muse.

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Box Office Across the Fruited Plain

This weekend, it's all about Diz Co. and it's Marvelistic heroes.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE

1). Avengers: Age of Ultron (DIS), 4,276 theaters / $85M* Fri. / 3-day cume: $202.6M / Wk 1
*includes Thursday preview B.O. of $27.6M.

2). Furious 7 (UNI), 3,305 theaters (-503) / $2M Fri. (-57%) / 3-day cume: $7.7M (-57%) / Total cume: $331.9M/ Wk 5

3). The Age of Adaline (LGF), 2,991 theaters (0)/ $2.3M Fri. (-52%)/ 3-day cume: $7.2M (-46%) / Total cume: $24.3M/ Wk 2

4). Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 (SONY), 3,548 theaters (-85)/ $1.7M Fri. (-54%)/ 3-day cume: $6.8M (-54%)/ Total cume: $52.6M / Wk 3

5). Home (FOX/DW), 2,852 theaters (-459) / $945K Fri. (-49%) / 3-day cume: $4M (-49%)/ Total cume: $158.9M / Wk 6

6). Unfriended (UNI), 2,221 theaters (-554) / $770K Fri. (-62%)/ 3-day cume: $2.32M (-62%)/ Total Cume: $28.8M/Wk 3

7). Ex Machina (A24), 1,279 theaters (+24) / $735K Fri. (-57%) / 3-day cume: $2.31M (57%)/ Total cume: $10.8M / Wk 4

8). The Longest Ride (FOX), 2,115 theaters (-1,025) / $564K Fri. (-60%)/ 3-day cume: $1.74M (-59%) / Total cume: $33.2M / Wk 4

9). Woman in Gold (TWC), 1,126 theaters (-855) / $479K Fri. (-48%) / 3-day cume: $1.7M (-49%) / Total cume: $24.6M / Wk 5

10). Get Hard (WB), 1,465 theaters (-811) / $381K Fri. (-64%) / 3-day cume: $1.3M (-64%) / Total cume: $86.3M / Wk 6

As the trade press informs us:

... The first day of Disney’s Marvel superhero sequel — which included $27.6 million from Thursday shows — is bigger than the $80.8 million Friday of “The Avengers,” and behind only the $91 million first day of “Harry Potter and the Death Hallows Part II” on the all-time list. ...

Home is $18 million shy of How to Train Your Dragon 2's domestic box office total, and will likely come close to it before all the greenbacks flutter to earth.



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Friday, May 01, 2015

Entertainment Conglomerate

... not named The Walt Disney Company.

... Warner Bros. is the largest global Film and TV studio, has been in first or second place in the international box office for 9 out of the last then years and moreover, it has been the number one home entertainment for 17 straight years ...

The stats which jump out here are the ones that show how BIG today's entertainment corporations are, but how the Top Dogs change over time.

Warner Bros. came into existence in 1923, and was a shoe-string operation until a gamble with sound motion pictures pushed it to the top of the heap. Thereafter, the studio had its share of ups and downs, but managed to remain a major production house decade after decade.

But even for all that, the fact that Time-Warner is a gigantic corporation and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is little more than a nameplate on a big hotel owest as much to capricious fate as to bold, long-range strategies. Except for Disney*, every major studio has been swallowed up by other hungry corporations and is now part of multi-national conglomerates.

* Disney became huge the old-fashioned way: absorbing other companies that grew its bottom line.

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Oncoming Bonanza

Youngest child just rushed out to see a new movie. No prizes for guessing which one.

Avengers: Age of Ultron clocking toward the highest opening single day of all-time with $94M-$97M, blowing away previous champ 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II which made $91.07M. That figure includes the $27.6M from Thursday night shows. Opening FSS for Ultron still speeding toward an all-time bow. ...

All the companies that Diz Co. has purchased over the last eleven years have turned into busy little United States mints. Pixar, Marvel, and (quite soon) LucasFilm.

And this weekend?

Disney shares are up 0.83% to $109.62 in afternoon trading on Friday, the session after the company's highly anticipated 'Avengers 2: Age of Ultron' movie dominated the Thursday night box office to the tune of $27.3 million, placing it sixth all time for Thursday night preview debuts. ...

Used to be that Warner/DC made all the cool caped crusader movies. Now Disney/Marvel appears to have a wholelotta big franchises of its own. (That $4 billion Marvel purchase is paying off big time.)

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Age Old (Idiotic) Question

Which is this:

Are there too many animated films being made now? ...

The simple, direct answer? "No."

It's like asking, "Are there too many live action movies?"

Because here's the long and short of it: Animated features come in all sizes, shapes and styles, just like live-action features do. And some of them find favor with the public, and some don't. But the number of entrees in the marketplace at any one time has nothing to do with it. The issue is, does the public like it?

If there were "too many" cartoon features being released, then the recently issued Frozen would never have made $1.2 billion, since it arrived in the middle of what some would call a "glut."

And then Big Hero 6 came out a year later, and managed to eke out $652,031,643. How did that happen? What with the crowded marketplace and all. And then Home, which didn't pick up universally sterling reviews, scooped up domestic box office receipts north of $150 million, so you can just never tell, can you?

Face it. When people want to see your movie, they go see it. Format has little to do with box office receipts.

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DreamWorks Animation Reports

(Now with red inked Add On.

And tells Wall Street how its quarter went.

DreamWorks Animation posted an adjusted net loss of $21.5M in Q1, excluding a $31.9M charge it took for restructuring, and missed on earnings for Q1 despite a revenue beat off a strong 13% gain there. CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg pointed to the success of Home, the studio's only planned release for 2015, as signs that its turnaround plan is taking effect. Home has drawn $154M domestically and is just short of $300M worldwide.

Revenues were up across all operating segments: Feature films, $128M (up from $110.1M in 2014); Television Series & Specials, $18M (roughly flat); Consumer Products, $15.1M (up from $12.1M); New Media, $4.6M (up from $4.1M).

Library titles contributed heavily to the feature film revenues ($37.9M, vs. a contribution of $41.4M from How to Train Your Dragon 2 and $31.5M from Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Net cash provided by operations was $1.6M, up from the prior year's -$12.5M. ...

DreamWorks' roller coaster ride is getting slowly better, but the company needs to get the cars to roll upwards on a more permanent basis to reach robust profitability.

Whether Jeffrey and associates can achieve that is an open question, but at least, after a steep sell-off after today's report, DWA stock bounced back.

Add On: The Times tells us:

After a brutal six months marked by creative retrenchments and two failed merger attempts, DreamWorks Animation on Thursday reported a first-quarter loss of $54.8 million.

The boutique studio, based in Glendale, Calif., reported a per-share loss of 64 cents for the quarter, which ended on March 31. In the same period a year earlier, it had a loss of $42.9 million, or 51 cents a share.

Analysts expected a loss in the most recent quarter of roughly 45 cents.

Revenue climbed to $166.5 million, a 13 percent increase.

DreamWorks Animation was hurt by a hefty restructuring charge; increased costs at AwesomenessTV, a YouTube-based entertainment business aimed at teenage girls; and continuing fallout from “The Penguins of Madagascar,” which flopped late last year. The bulk of revenue came from premium television reruns of “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” which was released last summer. ...

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... And Works to Close the Gap

DWA might be reporting a deficit, but they're out there finding new cash streams to close it.

Google Inc.'s video-sharing site YouTube has entered into a partnership with content creator, DreamWorks Animation's AwesomenessTV to roll out several feature films on the website over the coming two years. The films will be premiered worldwide on YouTube before they are available elsewhere. Google expects to release the first film this fall. ...

The company is working various corners of the market to monetize its product. That's a good thing, but DreamWorks still has to find a way to lower the costs of the movies.

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401(k) Stats

(Kind of a narrowcast):

The Animation Guild 401(k) Plan is celebrating its 20th birthday, and has reached robust adulthood. The stats:

* Total Plan assets: $235,742,099

* Average balance: $93,585

* Total contributions in 2014: $7,715,289

* Total number of Plan participants: 2,519

* 88% of assets reside in Target Date Funds.

TAG 401(k) got started during the term of President Sito, who circulated a petition at Diz Co. in the mid '90s asking for a cartoonist pension plan to aid and abet the half-century old Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan.

To many's surprise, CEO Michael Eisner said "okay," and we were launched on a journey that's taken a small, weak-kneed supplemental pension to almost a quarter billion dollars.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Blue Ribbon

Te Reporter reports:

Warner Bros. is getting its digital series production unit Blue Ribbon Content (BRC) rolling.

The studio, which was founded last year with a mandate to develop and produce new live-action shortform and animated programming for digital and virtual reality platforms, announced a number of key executive appointments that will form its creative team.

Warner Bros. Animation’s (WBA) Peter Girardi is adding responsibility for creative affairs at BRC in a new role as senior vice president of creative affairs at WBA and BRC. He will spearhead the development of all new programming for the digital studio, and will also oversee all creative matters for BRC’s existing shows and alternative projects. ...

BRC’s current series orders overseen by Girardi include ... the animated Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles for Machinima; the animated Vixen for CW Seed, the digital-only studio of The CW Network; and the Batman: The Animated Series virtual reality experience, being produced in conjunction with OTOY Inc. ...

The last couple of days I've told Warners and Disney animation staffers that I've never seen the television side of the crtoon industry as busy as it is now. There are prime time series, Video on Demand series, cable series, and old-fashioned broadcast stuff.

Time-Warner now has three animation units going: Warner Animation Group (WAG), Warner Bros. Animation, and now Blue Ribbon Content. This is as big a commitment to the art form the WB has ever made.

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High End Animation

... for the Stream Video on Demand. So says a trade paper.

Netflix is taking on a Dr. Seuss classic for its biggest original children’s series bet to date, giving 13-episode order to Green Eggs and Ham from executive producers Jared Stern, Ellen DeGeneres, Jeff Kleeman, Mike Karz, David Dobkin and Warner Bros. Animation. Wreck-It-Ralph scribe Stern, who is working on The Lego Movie sequel, is writing the adaptation.

It will take three years to make the series — production is slated to begin in May for a 2018 premiere. I hear the project, netflixdistributed by Warner Bros. TV, is expected to be the highest-end, most expensive animated program ever produced for television. ...

Netflix is placing sizable wagers with a variety of L.A. animation studios. I recently talked to a Cartoon exec who knows something about Netflix interaction with Tinsel Town suppliers, who told me:

Netflix holds things pretty close to its vest. They don't share performance information about their different shows, thought they drop hints. They're not chained to ratings, but if a show isn't meeting their expectations, they stop making the show. ...

If Netflix is putting the kind of money into Green Eggs and Ham that "Deadline" says it is, the company expects it to be successful, yes?

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Renewals

And launchings. An internet magazine tells us:

FOX Predictions: 'Family Guy' Is Certain To Be Renewed, Of Course

TV By The Numbers lists Bob's Burgers and The Simpsons has having been renewed. Burgers got re-upped, but the Yellow Family, last time I checked, was still hanging fire. ...

I visited Disney Television Animation today and a director complained to me that they can't find good board artists, that everyone is working. I don't think that's completely true, but the TV side of the business is roaring.

Old shows are getting renewed. New shows are being greenlit. I came across a 26-episode order for a project that hits your home flat-screen in 2017, and until this week I didn't know it existed because it hasn't been announced (and I'm sure as hell not going to reveal it here.)

Small, non-TAG studios have projects. Independent union studios are sub-contracting from our fine entertainment conglomerates. The only thing companies don't seem willing to do is get into a bidding war for talent like they did in the 1990s. (Gee, I wonder why that is?)

It might not be the best of times for everyone, because the talent pool is larger than it was in 1995 and some folks are still unemployed. But the business ain't bad, no by a long shot.

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What Brad Said

Quite a lot, actually. At Tribeca.

Brad Bird on Learning From 'The Simpsons' and What Inspired 'Tomorrowland'

... "I worked on eight seasons of 'The Simpsons' as a consultant, I was there probably two days out of every week, sometimes three. It's kind of like that thing of 'I Love Lucy' when she has the chocolates, and she keeps shoving more chocolates down because she can't keep up with them. If you slow down in television, you will get eaten alive. I learned a hell of a lot from being on 'The Simpsons' because I saw episodes that were deeply in trouble up to two weeks before they were going to air. ... They would be almost done and things wouldn't work, and somebody would make a genius move of reediting something or re-voicing one part, and suddenly it would work beautifully. ...

"Some people don't appreciate that [computer animation] is an art form. They think that there's a button that's like 'Make Movie' and that it just gets done. ...

[Re Walt Disney:] [T]hey had to reupholster the seats in a very large movie palace in New York because little kids were peeing on the seats when the witch came on in 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' I think what I always admired that about the Walt-era Disney films is that they were not afraid to be really scary. ...

Mr. Bird brings a zest and enthusiasm to everything he does. And passion.

This is what got him in trouble at Walt Disney Productions. Management did not want passion. They wanted conformity, and every one saluting their idea of "the way Walt would have done it," except Walt had been dead for thirteen years at that point and nobody really had a clue regarding what Walt Disney would have done.

Brad refused to salute. So after awhile he was gone.

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$$$ Factoid

In other times and circumstances this would be startling:

... Advance sales for “Avengers: The Age of Ultron” are equal to those of all the other Marvel Studios movies combined, online ticket broker Fandango reported Tuesday. ...

But this is the huge sequel of a huge super hero blockbuster. ...

Which means ... let me guess ... that Disney revenues and stock will be going up. Quite a lot.

Of course, Avengers' box office performance will likely overshadow Brad Bird's Tomorrowland and Pete Docter's Inside Out, but that's the way it is in Movieland. The Super Gargantuan gets more attention than the merely successful.

But all in all, Disney looks as though it will have a lot of movies coming out that will be dandy profit and merchandise spinners.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

To the Moon

And very likely beyond.

Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) got an upgrade to buy from neutral from Guggenheim Partners, which believes the company's core operating results will continue to beat Street views and that Marvel and Lucasfilm's upcoming "Avengers" and "Star Wars" releases for Disney, respectively, among other assets, will keep the House of Mouse busy.

"We expect these assets will drive near-term earnings beats, but, more important, we are confident they should fuel incremental future media, parks and product opportunities," wrote Guggenheim Partners analyst Michael Morris, who gives the stock a 127 price target. ...

You don't suppose this has anything to do with Avengers raking in $200 million overseas this weekend, do you?

Or that a lot of civilians will be bugging out of work this Friday to go see the picture in the Land of the Free?

And that Star Wars: the New Entry is drumming of a tsunami of global enthusiasm?

Nah. Gotta be something else. Like maybe some technical chart on somebody's website.

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Disgusting

... and beyond the pale.



It will also very likely make a great deal of money. ...

But actually, as you watch this, you think, "Yeah, this is where the country is."

Because you can walk past any number of high schools and hear fifteen-year-old girls dropping f-bombs, using the word as a verb, as an adjective, or noun.

It's the present reality, and I neither condemn nor praise it. But simply note it. Mr. MacFarlane has gotten rich by paying attention. And being in a position to capitalize on The Way Things Are.

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Time-Warner Strikes Back

Diz Co. has had a lot of the girl market to itself, cashing in with Frozen in theaters and Sofia the First on TV. Our other fine, entertainment conglomerates have been slow to respond, but Warner Bros. is not, apparently, taking the Mouse's cornering of the young female market in a recumbent position any longer.

... Time Warner-owned companies announced they would launch a new slate of animated features, books, apparel and toys for girls 6 to 12.

Dubbed DC Super Hero Girls, the brand will feature the publisher's female characters—including Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Batgirl—portrayed as teenagers who are still learning to master their superpowers and crime-fighting skills.

Our question is: What took the WB so long? ...

The conglom has had a plethora of women in capes and Spandex in their "copyrighted material" folder for a long time, but Warners also has a long record of letting others blaze new commercial trails.

As I write, Disney is gearing up to release Avengers: the Age of Ultron across the fruited plain. This weekend, Ultron pulled down over $200 million overseas, and all signs point to a boffo opening domestically.

All the commercial Whoop Dee Doo on the other side of Burbank has (at last) caused Warners to stir out of its self-induced coma. Somebody in the executives suites has noted that Time-Warner owns this conglomeration of super heroes called "The Justice League" so hey! If the Walt Disney Company can open its own mint with a comic book franchise, T-W can do the same, right?

You bet they can. But Diz Co. has a long head start out of the blocks. And it's not enough that Warners' movies with caped crusaders get made, they must also be good.

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The World B.O.

Internationally, Avengers, Age of Ultron comes out with guns blazing.

Foreign Weekend Box Office -- (World Totals)

Avengers 2 -- $201,200,000 -- ($201,200,000)

Furious 7 -- $69,700,000 -- ($1,321,536,125)

Home -- $13,700,000 -- ($300,884,071)

Cinderella -- $8,500,000 -- ($474,646,000)

Spongebob Squarepants -- $860,000 -- ($310,704,000)

The trades tell us:

... At $201.2M, Disney/Marvel’s Ultron notably debuted 44% bigger than 2012’s Avengers in comparable markets. ...

[Home] earned $7.7M on 3,842 Chinese screens. Combined with the Fox territories this session, the alien-out-of-water pic took in $13.68M to bring the international cume to $147.18M. Holds were strong in France ($3.37M cume), the UK ($31.47M cume) and Brazil ($5.8M cume).

In more good news for Disney, Cinderella twirled into Japan with a No. 1 opening and the biggest first-day and weekend for a Western release of 2015. The $4.8M bow was 112% above the opening of Oz: The Great And Powerful and 19% behind the start of Maleficent.

Paramount’s The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water squeezed $860K at the weekend from 1,640 locations in 33 territories. ... The international cume is now $148.6M. ...

It's evident that animated features and their cousins are doing quite well. Clearly this is not a short-eterm trend.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

So Simple

... and so why are they even paying you?

10 things no animator wants to hear

“I don’t have any concept art or storyboards yet, but a story outline will do, right?” ...

“It must be so much fun to play around with computers all day. I bet it doesn’t even feel like a job.”

“The way you’ve rigged and animated that character is cool, but wouldn’t it be better with motion capture?” ...

“I do like the way you’ve animated it, but I’m still not quite sure what would work best. Could we try it a couple of different ways, just to see which I like better?” ...

No creative person likes wishy-washiness. Once long ago, I asked a Disney supervisor what he thought of a premise/outline I had written, and he responded with "I'd rather not say one way or the other."

(Which is INCREDIBLY useful. Better to have the Woolie Reitherman answer: "This sure leaves ME cold." At least you know where you stand.)

For most mortals, doing a job well takes work. And creating something from nothing involves skill, thought, and at least a touch of inspiration.

Outsiders are often oblivious to that. They don't understand that perspiration and planning is integral to the magic they see on the screen. For creators, that ignorance is maddening. And frustrating. The end product looks effortless, so of course it is, right?

No. Not by a long shot.

H/t, President Emeritus Tom Sito.

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Our American Box Office

... and plot exposition, good and bad. (See below.)

The big car chase movie remains on top. DreamWorks Animation's Home stays in the Top Five.

U.S./ Canada Top Ten

1). Furious 7 (UNI), 3,808 theaters (-156%) / $4.8M Fri. (-42%) / 3-day cume: $16-M17M (-42 to 45%) / Total cume: $318M-319M/ Wk 4

2). Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 (SONY), 3,633 theaters (0)/ $3.75M Fri. (-49%)/ 3-day cume: $13.7M (-42%)/ Total Cume: $42.16M / Wk 2

3). The Age of Adaline (LGF), 2,991 theaters / $4.96M Fri. / 3-day cume: $12.4M / Wk 1

4). Home (FOX/DW), 3,311 theaters (-177) / $1.825M Fri. (-26%) / 3-day cume: $7.9M (-25%)/ Total cume: $153.4M / Wk 5

5). Unfriended (UNI), 2,775 theaters (+36) / $2M Fri. (-70%)/ 3-day cume: $5.9M (-63%)/ Total Cume: $24.8M/Wk 2

6). Ex Machina (A24), 1,255 theaters (+1,216) / $1.7M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.88M (+5,115%)/ Total cume: $6.19M / Wk 3

7). The Longest Ride (FOX), 3,140 theaters (-231) / $1.365M Fri. (-43%)/ 3-day cume: $4M (-43%) / Total cume: $30M / Wk 3

8). Get Hard (WB), 2,276theaters (-379) / $1.05M Fri. (-27%) / 3-day cume: $3.56M (-28%) / Total cume: $83.7M / Wk 5

9). Monkey Kingdom (DIS), 2,012 theaters (0)/ $1.065M Fri. (-32%)/ 3-day cume: $3.33M (-27%) /Total Cume: $10M / Wk 2

10). Woman in Gold (TWC), 1,981 theaters (-30) / $903K Fri. (-33%) / 3-day cume: $3.1M (-33%) / Total cume: $21.2M / Wk 4

Deadline says (up there at the top) that Furious 7 has lost 156% of its theaters. Yet it remains #1. Truly outstanding! ...

This is particularly good because I'm told that Furious 7 is ... kind of clunky. As my friend the Wise Old Producer said:

I went to see that car picture last week. It's like a lot of movies today: boring exposition with two characters talking and explaining, followed by an action sequence, followed by more exposition in two-shots. ...

My son had much the same complaint about Big Hero 6.

But here's the way to do exposition. Have Norman Reilly Raine and Seton Miller write it. Have Michael Curtiz direct it.



Lots gets done here. Chief villain and most of his henchmen are introduced. Love interest is introduced (and the relationship started). The problem, theme and basic conflict for the movie are laid out. And all in 4 minutes and 57 seconds.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

The IA-AMPTP Agreement

... on a new Industry Basic Agreement. The Joint Press Release:

AMPTP and IATSE Reach Agreement on New Three-Year Contract

SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. - The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE) have reached a tentative agreement on terms of a new three-year Hollywood Basic Agreement.

In response to the tentative agreement, IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb stated, “I am pleased we were able to reach an agreement that provides industry stability and meaningful terms and benefits to the membership.”

AMPTP President Carol Lombardini commented, “The industry is pleased we have reached a new agreement with IATSE months before the contract expires. With the tentative agreement in place, our member companies can immediately begin planning production for the future with certainty.” The new agreement will become effective on August 1, 2015 and expires on July 31, 2018. Terms of the agreement are not being released at this time.

The IATSE is an International Union representing members employed in the stagecraft, motion picture and television production, and tradeshow industries throughout the United States, its Territories, and Canada.

The AMPTP, the entertainment industry's official collective bargaining representative, negotiates 80 industry-wide collective bargaining agreements on behalf of over 350 motion picture and television producers (member companies include the production entities of the studios, broadcast networks, certain cable networks and independent producers).

Trade Press reporters will doubtless root out details of the agreement and put them up on various websites. When they do, we'll post from Deadline, Variety, The Wrap, etc. But we won't be putting up any details ourselves.

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Kimballesque Animation

Jerry Beck at Animation Scoop was kind enough to send this along:



Jerry writes:

... This sequence was in the earliest edits of the [the upcoming Tomorrowland], inter-cut with live action actors responding to it. However, I was told, for timing sake the piece was cut out of the picture and is being used for promotional purposes.

It was designed and animated by Teddy Newton, Dan Jeup and Andrew Jimenez; done in the manner of 1940s-50s Walt Disney educational films and in the spirit of Ward Kimball's Tomorrowland TV segments (Man In Space, Mars and Beyond, etc). ...



The Paul Frees/Orson Welles style narration is delivered by (allegedly) Maurice LaMarche.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Meanwhile at Cinemacon

Universal, last in the Cinemacon studio lineup, unveiled its upcoming product. And in the animation sector ...

... [Seth] MacFarland, who said he is not used to public speaking (yeah , right) promoted June 26th’s Ted 2 as “a movie to take the whole family to , if your whole family is over 18 and addicted to drugs.” As it did the first time he came to CinemaCon with Ted, this new trailer got the most audible and clearly delighted reaction of the afternoon. ...

Illumination Entertainment head Chris Meledandri was next up introducing genuinely knock-out funny scenes from the screwball toon The Minions. and based on the reaction U might as well start miMinions Hydrantnionting money right now. I was particularly impressed as well with July 8 2016’s Illumination entry, The Secret Life Of Pets, a movie about what happens when you leave your pets alone during the day. Although still in rough form, the beginning sequence shown was terrific. ...

There was a time, back when I was a tot, that it took an act of Congress for an animation person to make the jump into live-action. There was Frank Tashlin, and that was about it. But now it happens with regularity. Bird, Minkoff, MacFarland, the list steadily grows larger.

I doubt, however,t that any of them will be able to get a Western greenlit.

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Berkshire-Hathaway

So says the trade press:

... “Disney is the new high-water mark with brands,” says Tony Wible, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott. “It puts them through their various distribution networks — from TV to merchandising to licensing — and the studio is the birthplace for all of that.” ...

Warner Bros. is borrowing liberally from the Disney/Marvel model by launching a series of interlocking superhero films based on its DC Comics properties. ... Sony has announced that it views its upcoming “Ghostbusters” reboot as the first step toward crafting a “shared universe” encompassing TV shows and merchandising that’s pegged to the proton-pack-wielding ectoplasm-fighters. At the same time, Hollywood players are in a mad rush to snap up anything with a whiff of franchise to it, ranging from anime series to Stephen King novels. ...

Everybody cribs from everybody, particularly when a movie is wildly successful. Star Wars brought Star Trek, the Movies to life. Profitable low-brow comedies beget more comedies. For twenty years, animated features have been a growth industry due to Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King and Toy Story.

Robert Iger raised the concept of interlocking movie companies to a high art. Now other entertainment conglomerates are trying the same thing. And Jeffrey Katzenberg is pushing to remold DreamWorks Animation into a smaller version of the multi-brand corporate octopus.

Everybody imitates winning strategies.

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And Speaking of Imitating Success

Rupert's minions have been studying Disney's Broadway triumphs.

A new stage musical version of “Anastasia” ... will premiere next year at Hartford Stage with a team of Broadway talent attached. ... “Anastasia” is “inspired” by the 1956 film starring Ingrid Bergman, Helen Hayes and Yul Brynner as well as the animated film, both by 20th Century Fox. Six songs from the 1997 [animated] version, including Oscar-nominated “Journey to the Past,” will be used in the stage musical

When a conglomerate rakes in kajillions from Lion King, the Stage Musical, other companies get ideas.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Global Reach

... of cartoons.

It isn't all about what's made domestically. Or in California. Other parts of the world are also in the animation game.

Production gets under way this month on “Beast of Burden,” the first China-New Zealand co-production of an animated feature. William Morris Endeavor and Canada’s Strategem Entertainment are set to handle international sales.

The film is written and directed by Kirby Atkins (Nickelodeon’s “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron”). The story sees a species of now-extinct creatures called Thoriphants rebel against their life of servitude to mankind and embark on a treacherous journey.

“Burden” is a production involving China Film Animation, part of state-owned China Film Group, and New Zealand’s Huhu Studios. Financial backing comes from Qi Tai Culture Development Group, a company that spans film investment, production and marketing. ...

When you nose around the internet, you realize that there are "niche" animated features that A) get no or minimal release in the U.S. of A., yet make good money (and comfortable profits) in the rest of the world.

If a foreign animation studio can make CG features with budgets in the $8 million to $25 million range, they can very likely make a comfortable profit. Like for instance:

“Tad, the Lost Explorer,” the third Spanish film in a row to open Cartoon Movie. Studiocanal-sold, “Tad” snagged $40 million worldwide through Feb. 17 [2013], becoming Spain’s highest-grossing Spanish toon ever ($24.6 million), distribbed by Paramount.

There are various and sundry European animated features that make tidy sums in the world marketplace. Just because they get minimal exposure in the United States doesn't mean that profits aren't being raked in. Not every long-form cartoon has to make $500 million to be considered a success.

Just being in the black, even if it means a mere $1.5 million above costs and advertising was made, is considered a triumph.

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Spidey at the SPA

From the trades:

Tom Rothman, [formerly of Fox, currently of Sony] came out swinging at Cinemacon. He announced in Vegas that Lego Movie helmers Phil Lord & Christopher Miller will make an animated feature of Spider-Man. They’ll conceive with an eye to direct it. We knew that the animated film was in the works. ...

So Lord and Miller will return to the scene of their former triumph (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) and reignite a franchise that, let's face it, is getting tired and long in the tooth.

If anybody can resuscitate Spidey, they can.

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