Monday, September 01, 2014

Widening the Global Marketplace

Cartoons. Japan does them. India, China nd Korea do them. And now ...

There are already animation studios in Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, but only a very limited number of good schools teach such techniques on the African continent.

Now a project launched by a Senegalese media mogul and funded by the European Union is trying to change that.

It offers 10 emerging African talents a grant for training in 2D and 3D animation and concept design. ...

It makes perfect sense that, as wider swaths of the globe become modernized/industrialized, that more animation studios would spring up.

Every country has its own history and culture, and a growing movie industry inside various nations would (naturally enough) capitalize on that. The U.S. of A. has sort of been the Alpha culture where global entertainment is concerned; a large part of that, I think, is due to to the U.S. of A.'s "crossroads of the world" makeup. We're Latin, northern European, Asian, and African. We're pretty much populated by homo sapiens from every corner of the globe. It's one of the reasons, I think, that America's home-grown entertainment goes down so easily around the world.

How will Africa do in the cartoon business? I think it's going to take at least a decade to find out.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Buying Internet Real Estate


As always, bigger players are gobbling smaller players.

... Amazon believes it’s a $1.1 billion thing. Last Monday, the company announced it would buy Twitch, which surprised most industry observers because they thought Google had wrapped up a purchase. ...

Twitch has built a platform that hosts live events akin to the N.F.L., the United States Open or the X Games — and it has the audience to show for it. Part of the magic is that on Twitch, you are not just watching other gamers, but hyper-talented digital warriors, the Peyton Mannings and Roger Federers of Counter-Strike and Minecraft.

From a standing start in 2011, Twitch garnered 55 million unique users in July who watched 155 billion minutes of gaming and has become the country’s fourth-largest user of Internet bandwidth. ... The economics of Twitch are compelling partly because it supplies its own content and audience, comparable to an oven that produces its own food. ...

Amazon desires Twitch TV because it encompasses a demographic Amazon doesn't have. To date, Amazon has had minimal luck breaking into the internet TV show business because it hasn't clicked with the content it's so far developed and Netflix (apparently) has mastered the infrastructure better than Amazon. All that could change, of course, but Amazon is now going in a new direction -- purchasing a website that features interactive animated product.

Maybe the buy will end up being a genius move for the Big Retailer, leading to more eyeballs, more customers, and more kinds of content. Or maybe it will be an economic bust. In the fullness of time, we'll likely know which it is.

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Your World Box Office


... As tracked by the ever-reliable Rentrak.

International Weekend Bo Office -- (Total Accumulations)

Dawn of Apes -- $51,200,000 -- ($613,344,991)

Galaxy Guardians -- $19,7000,000 -- ($547,700,000)

Teenage Mutant Turtles -- $13,000,000 -- ($274,505,980)

How To Train Dragon 2 -- $10,500,000 -- ($593,670,227)

Entertainment Weekly wonders why How to Train Your Dragon 2 didn't do better than its soon-to-be $600+ billion.

... How to Train Your Dragon 2, written off in July for its underwhelming box-office in the U.S., is now an enormous international blockbuster, with upwards of $413 million and counting. By the time its international run is complete, Dragons 2 might double the foreign take of the franchise’s original film ($277 million). ...

But when the [domestic] weekend numbers were totaled, Dragons 2 failed to hit expectations, taking home $49.5 million. It was a surprising blow, especially since the original 2010 film had opened to nearly the same amount ($43.7 million) despite its chilly March release date and without a built-in brand. ...

“American family audiences may very well be conditioned to like their animated films to be light-hearted and easily accessible and cute (Minions, anyone?) and epic stories may play better in the international marketplace,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for Rentrak. “Needless to say it’s still a very impressive performance, at close to $600 million globally.” ...

As of today, the domestic gross of How To Train Your Dragon 2 is $173,470,000. This is 3 1/2 times its opening weekend take, which is about where the picture was always going to wind up. (Early, on, I predicted a multiple of 4 ... or a $200 million domestic accumulation. I was a little over the mark, but not by much.)

Not every picture connects with every audience with the same success. Dragon 2, despite the hand-wringing by the financial press in the first month of its release, looked destined to be a major global hit, and it is. The fact that Americans didn't buy another fifty or ninety million dollars worth of tickets during the movie's run shouldn't detract from that.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Crowd-Funded TV Animation


They're doing it for live-action, so why not cartoons?

Veteran producer James Manos Jr., creator of "Dexter," and fellow Emmy-winning producer Bill Schultz of "The Simpsons," are joining forces to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support the creation and production of the proposed "Jimmy Stones," animated series. ...

With a goal of raising $100,000, Manos and Schultz plan use the money to produce 10 three-minute fully animated episodes using voice actors, artists, and animators - as well as music and post production. Once produced, the episodes will go online to create support for the proposed half hour and grow a fan base. "If we reach our goal, we will be able to put greenlight the first animated series of its kind! Adult, dark, clever, sophisticated and extremely funny with self-effacing, sarcastic humor. ...

There have been variations of this over the years, of course.

Cartoon Network was launched in a similar manner, with animated shorts pitched by Hanna-Barbera's staff, and Ted Turner's company underwriting the production of six to eight-minute cartoons from favored pitches. If television audiences took to the resulting product, more and longer episodes would be made.

Johnny Bravo, Power-Puff Girls and Dexter's Lab began life this way; the result was successful animated series and the launch of CN. Naturally enough, funding sources were different than the Jimmy Stones model, but the approach was (is) the same: Make animated shorts, throw the resulting handiwork out to the general public, then build on the cartoons to which the public cottons.

We wish the best of luck to Manos and Schultz with their new endeavor, and urge them to sign a TAG contract just as soon as Jimmy Stones catches fire.

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Your American Box Office

The halfway animated pics remain on top.

The Weekend Top Ten

1). Guardians of the Galaxy (DIS), 3,462 theaters (+91) / $3.8M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $15.6M to $16M / 4-day est. cume: $20.6M to $21M+ / Total est. cume: $278.5M to $279M / Wk 5

2). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PAR), 3,543 theaters (-321) / $2.65M Friday / 3-day cume: $11.2M To $11.4M / 4-day cume: $14.9M / Total cume: $165.55M / Wk 4


3). If I Stay (WB), 3,003 theaters (+96) / $2.59M Fri. / 3-day cume: $9M+ (-42%) / 4-day cume: $11M to $11.7M / Total cume: $31.6M to $32M+ / Wk 2

4). As Above/So Below (UNI), 2,640 theaters / $3.2M Friday / 3-day cume: $8.7M to $9.2M / 4-day cume: $10.3M to $11.1M / Wk 1

5). Let’s Be Cops (FOX), 3,010 theaters (-130) / $2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $7.9M / 4-day cume: $10M+ / Total cume: $59M+ / Wk 3

6). The November Man (REL), 2,776 theaters / $2.15M Friday / 3-day cume: $7.5M to $7.7M / 4-day cume: $9.45M to $9.8M / Total cume: $11M+ (over 5 days) / Wk 1

7). When the Game Stands Tall (SONY), 2,673 theaters (0) / $1.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5.2M to $5.5M (-36%) / 4-day cume: $6.8M to $7.5M / Total cume: $17.25M to $17.7M / Wk 2

8). The Giver (TWC), 2,805 theaters (-198) / $1.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5M / 4-day cume: $6.5M / Total cume: $32.8M / Wk 3

9). The Hundred-Foot Journey (DIS), 1,918 theaters (-26) / $1.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.4M / 4-day cume: $5.7M / Total cume: $40.5M / Wk 4

10). The Expendables 3 (LGF), 2,564 theaters (-657) / $851K Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.5M / 4-day cume: $4.5M / Total cume: $34.2M / Wk 3

Guardians Of The Galaxy hangs on to the No. 1 rung of the ladder after five weeks in release. Mjarvel can clearly do no wrong. (If this space opera does $278 million in business, what will the next Star Wars picture do?)


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Friday, August 29, 2014

Passage

AB 1839 moves closer to Governor Brown's signature.

... Two days after a deal was struck between the governor and the legislative leadership to increase California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program to $330 million, the state Senate today passed the Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act. The bi-partisan vote on the amended legislation was 32 to 2 with 6 Senators not voting. The bill is a response to years of seeing the film and TV industry “cannibalized by states and other countries poaching tens of thousands of good California jobs,” said Senator Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) today introducing the Act on the Senate floor today. “This is a strategic investment.” The incoming state Senate President Pro Tem estimated that the expansion would increase production in the Golden State by five times once it fully kicks in. ...

Once the guv gave the bill his blessing (and final numbers were worked out) the outcome for 1839 was a foregone conclusion.

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TAG Wage Survey -- Complete

Now with trade paper Add On.

Every year, we drill down into wages paid in the animation industry by polling Animation Guild membership. We ask 1) what folks have been paid, 2) they answer, and 3) we compile results publically so that interested parties can get a feel for what the "going rate" in various job categories might be.

(No wage suppression going on here, boss! Just wage knowledge!)

This year, we got a survey form return rate of 33%, considerably higher than last year's total (26%) or the percentage from the year before that (24%). The highest response rates were

Story Art -- 36%

Layout Background -- 34%

Design/Color -- 35%


Some of the highlights: ...

Selected Wage Categories

Staff Story Editors (weekly): Low - $1640; High - $4,000; median - $2,531

Staff feature writers (weekly): low -- $1499.60; high - $7,558.82; median - $2,800

Staff TV writers (weekly): low - $1100; high - $3000; median - $2000

Feature Directors (home video, theatrical; weekly): low - $1973.19; high - $9,615.39; median - $3,800

TV directors (weekly): low - $1,406.25; high - $4,600; median - $2,475

Timing Directors (weekly): low - $1,375; high - $3,100; median - $1,824.43

Retake Directors (weekly): low - $1,707.38; high - $3,100; median - $2,593.75

Feature Storyboard artists (weekly): low - $1,400; high - $3,789; median - $2100

TV Production Board artists (weekly): low - $1,238.16; high - $3,307.50; median - $2000

Character layout (weekly): low - $1,312.50; high - $2,526.32; median - $1,886.40

Background layout (weekly): low - $1,175; high- $4,200; median - $1,909.40

Art Directors (weekly): low - $1,187.50; high - $2,909.09; median - $2,363.64

Production Designers (weekly): low - $2,125; high - $5,250; median - $2,330.47

3D Animators (weekly): low - $1,200; high - $3,100; median - $1968

Effects animators (weekly): low - $1,346.15; high - $2,850; median - $2,018.10

You can find the complete Animation Guild wage survey here.

Please note: The survey encompassed members working both union and non-union animation jobs in Los Angeles. Also note: It includes new media production, where rates are sometimes lower than traditional media.

The weekly wages shown above and at the link are based on 40 hours. Smaller samples have larger variances year to year, and larger samples have smaller differences.

Add On: Deadline does its own analysis of TAG's latest wage survey.

he Animation Guild’s 2014 wage survey is in, and it shows salaries for animators holding fairly steady this year compared with last year. But the reported median weekly pay for some jobs — most notably staff animation_guild_logoTV writers, feature storyboard artists, and staff story editors — is down from salaries reported five years ago. The median weekly pay reported by feature animation directors is up compared with 2013 and 24% higher than in 2010. Meanwhile, overall employment at the guild, IATSE Local 839, is at an all-time high. About a third of the guild’s 3,200 members took part in this year’s survey, up from 26% last year. ...

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cable Killers

A short history of the serial killers of broadcast/cable TV.

Hollywood's Big-Money YouTube Hit Factory

... Watching the ways in which his two teenage sons consumed media, [Brian] Robbins became convinced that the future of youth entertainment wasn’t in broadcast or cable TV but in short-form digital videos, particularly on YouTube. He thought big media companies had been slow to adapt, leaving a void that he could fill. ...

In June 2012, Robbins launched his YouTube channel, which he named AwesomenessTV. The channel was geared to teenagers and preteens and featured lots of two- to five-minute videos, ...

Almost overnight, Robbins had transformed AwesomenessTV from a boutique YouTube production house into a teen entertainment factory. Within a year, he had venture capitalists visiting each week looking to invest, and in May 2013, Robbins announced he was selling AwesomenessTV to DreamWorks Animation. ...

When I was a teenager, I went to an awards dinner (the Boys Scouts of America was invoked, as I remember) where the featured speaker informed us that if all of recorded history was packed into a 24-hour time span, then all the significant technological change since the dawn of many would have occurred in the previous sixty seconds.

That was in 1965. There's been one hell of a lot of technological change in the 49 years since; in television land, change is an almost duly occurrence where the status quo is getting sliced and diced with a carefree abandon. I seriously doubt that cable will exist in the (rapidly unraveling) form it now inhabits for another decade. Revenues keep shrinking as new platforms spring up, and there is little that the large entertainment conglomerates can do about it.

... DreamWorks Animation has landed on Planet YouTube with a healthy respect for the native culture. His growing investment there, Jeffrey Katzenberg says, is entirely “in service of everything that is great and unique and singular about what I believe will be the biggest, most valuable media platform in the world, which is YouTube.”

"Adapt or perish" has never been truer than right now. The big movie and t.v dinosaurs from the last century, they are still trying to figure out how to do it.

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Co-Production

DWA tv isn't sending all its TV production work to Canada.

A South Korean animation studio said Thursday it will co-produce multiple television animation series with DreamWorks Studios, a leading motion picture company in Hollywood.

Studio Mir Co. has recently signed a contract with the American studio to collaborate on a number of animation projects, including a 78-episode TV animation series by 2018, Mir said.

Details of the deal were not immediately available. But sources say it would be the largest deal that a local animation company has ever signed with a foreign studio.

"We will start with the television series," said Kim Jae-yoon, who is in charge of co-production projects at Mir. "Discussions are under way on which series to make later," he added.

Studio Mir is best known for its production of the popular American TV animation series titled "The Legend of Korra." ...

They don't name the show(s) with which they'll be partnered with DreamWorks Animation, but it's gotta be some of the gargantuan Netflix order.

The Glendale company will be working on those the next four years, at least. And it will likely need multiple studios here and abroad to get all of the work done on time.

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Cable Ratings

Cartoon Network trumpets its victories.

Across the fourth week of August 2014, Cartoon Network original programming – including new episodes of Teen Titans Go!, The Amazing World of Gumball, Steven Universe and Uncle Grandpa – claimed all top 15 telecasts of the week among boys 6-11.

Charting growth across all targeted kid demos, Cartoon Network also continued last week to rank as television’s #1 network for Total Day delivery of boys 6-11 & 9-14, and #1 for Early Prime (6p-8p) delivery among all targeted boy demos. Average Total Day delivery increased by double digits among kids 2-11 (+18%), kids 6-11 (+19%) and kids 9-14 (+15%). Early Prime also earned solid growth vs. the same time period last year—kids 2-11 improved by 29%, kids 6-11 by 18%, and kids 9-14 by 2%.

Out-performing all competition, Cartoon Network claimed the #1 television destination among kids 2-11 & 6-11 and all targeted boy demos on Thursday Night (6-8 p.m.). The Early Prime performance grew across all kids/boys demos, ranging from 2% to 51%. A new episode premiere of Teen Titans Go! (6 p.m.) scored as the #1 telecast of the day among kids 2-11 and boys 2-11 & 6-11, earning 62% to 88% delivery gains across kids/boys 2-11 & 6-11. Similarly, the new episode premieres of Steven Universe (6:30 p.m.), The Amazing World of Gumball (7 p.m.) and Uncle Grandpa (7:30 p.m.) each ranked #1 in their respective time periods among kids 2-11 & 6-11 and all targeted boys.

Despite the chest thumping in the Turner press releases, are we really believing that everything is endlessly ducky? That YouTube and all the newer delivery systems to iPads and phones don't pose a threat? Young eyeballs might be multi-tasking, but sure as hell they are watching less traditional cable than previously.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dragon Remains On Top

DWA's "disappointment" (per Forbes Magazine) romps in the Middle Kingdom.

DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon 2” remained atop China’s box office last week, and will soon become the top-grossing animated film of 2014 in the territory.

The sequel earned $24.4 million in the seven days ending Sunday, according to figures from film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway, bringing the movie’s gross to $51.5 million. “Despicable Me 2,” released in China earlier this year, took in a total of $52.3 million. ...

And HTTYD2 is closing in on the $600 million mark: $585,398,939.

Not bad for a picture that drove DreamWorks Animation's stock price down.

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At the Hat

I was at the Hat Building on Riverside Drive during the afternoon, and it seems that the company was promoting a new picture.

... Disney-Pixar chief John Lasseter, [Big Hero 6's] producer Roy Conli and co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams teased the movie Wednesday by revealing 25 minutes of footage at a gathering of Oscar bloggers at the Disney Animation building in Burbank. ...

Hero is the first film made on Disney's new high-powered, patented rendering system, which produces images of a greater photo-realistic quality than has been possible before. It is also the first time ... that Disney animators have dipped into Marvel's comic-book library, where they discovered the new movie's eponymous six superheroes — or "supernerds," as Lasseter called them. ...

Lasseter summed up the movie as "a simple story" with real "emotional heart." Hall said of adapting the comic-book series, "We kept the title and we kept the character names, but we basically remade the story." (I'll just say that one should prepare for a lot of "How to Train Your Robot" references, since Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon both deal with humans bonding with nonhumans in moving ways.) ...

Meantime, I wandered around the first and second floors. The lighting department is still working full-bore to get its part of the movie finished. I was informed there's three weeks left on the schedule, then it will be tweaks and color corrections and getting the Moving View Master version readied. (The wrap party is slated for the month of October. Release is in early November.)

Animators told me there work is done, and it appears to be true. Several of them were happy to chat for a long stretch of time. Usually they're too busy to give me much more than the time of day. A couple of staffers echoed the news story above: The storyline is emotional, the robot comes across winningly, and one lighter told me: I tear up every time I see it. The story works."

Which is good. Because I know they were wrestling to get the story right late last year.

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And We Have ... Touch Down

So we won't have to go to Sacramento and wave signs and sit in hearing rooms next week:

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed off on a deal that would more than triple funding for California's film and TV tax-credit program.

The compromise would increase funding to $330 million a year over the next five years. While that falls short of the $400 million annually sought by backers, the amount would more than triple the current level of funding.

AB 1839 also would allow more projects to qualify, including new network television dramas and big-budget studio movies. It would also scrap a controversial lottery system used to divvy up funds. Instead, tax credits would be allocated based on how many jobs projects would create. ...

It's not the $400+ million that some AB 1839 backers were hoping for, but it's higher than some of the crustier cynics among us believed we would end up with.

This bill will favorably impact visual effects and will likely bring work back in those areas to Los Angeles and the bay area. (It's doubtful the legislation will bring back all the work. Canada is still handing out more free money than California is.)

The next eighteen months should tell us how effective the new tax incentives will be.

Add On: From the California Film & Television Production Alliance (which includes a whole bunch of entertainment guilds and labor unions):

“On behalf of hundreds of thousands of middle class California workers, creative talent, small businesses, vendors, local governments and film commissioners across the state, theatre owners, tourism, hotel and lodging associations, we are elated at the statement today by Governor Brown, Speaker Atkins, Senate President Pro Tem-elect de León, Senate President Steinberg, Assembly Leader Conway and Republican Leader Huff that California’s film and television production incentive program will be expanded, extended, and improved through the passage of AB 1839 and with funding of $330 million a year for five years. This is a win both for the State of California and the working men and women across this state who will no longer have only one choice— to leave their families to feed their families. Behind the glitter that most people associate with Hollywood is the glue that holds it together—the many talented and often unheralded men and women whose names fly by in the credits. Their voices are rarely heard but they are today: AB 1839 is for them.

We are grateful for the leadership of Governor Brown, Speaker Atkins, Senate President Pro Tem-elect de León, and Senate President Steinberg, along with Assembly Republican leader Conway and Republican Leader Huff who gave this legislation their support so it could move forward to a vote. We also wholeheartedly thank the two authors, Assemblymembers Gatto and Bocanegra for their leadership and commitment throughout the past year, as well AB 1839’s 70 co-authors. We look forward to working with all of them on passage in the Senate and Assembly and to the Governor’s desk for his signature."

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MacFarlane and Music


Seth MacFarlane is plugging his oncoming Christmas album with interviews.

...Q: Do you have any favorite holiday albums that inspired the sound [of yours?]

I’m not frankly a huge conossieur of holiday music, but I love orchestral jazz. I love that era of high orchestral musicality that bears a lot of similarities to holiday music in a lot of ways. As far as holiday records, gosh I don’t know -- the Home Alone soundtrack? ...

What interested me most about the interview with "Billboard" was this:

Q: How do you rationalize your faction of fans who may continue to expect comedy from your musical projects?

Surprisingly, a good chunk of Family Guy fans recognizes why we do this -- they see that against all the comedy is a legitimate regard tor the importance of music. It's virtually the only show left on TV that uses a live orchestra for every episode. We use anywhere from 50 to 90 people, depending on how many players are available.

Big, live orchestras? I had no idea.

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Battling Books


A comparison of two new versions of The Jungle Book.



The Wrap's Jeff Sneider details upcoming movies based on the same underlying material from Warner Bros. and Disney. Disney's will be animated; Warners' will use mo-cap, animation and live-action.

I'm not sure the world is waiting for another Jungle Book, but a lot of money has been made from previous incarnations, so why stop now? Using Rudyard Kipling's handiwork costs nothing.

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So ... Smaller Tax Incentive?


California's movie/tv tax credit. Not the $400 million originally envisioned.

Last-minute negotiations between legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown likely to lead to an amount above the current $100 million in tax credits ...

The $400 million allocated in the bill that passed the state Senate is not going to hold, but otherwise the legislation as amended is acceptable to all sides, according to an informed source who spoke Tuesday on background. ...

Both sides hope to have the “the number” wrapped up by Friday; but the final re-votes, which will be necessary by both the state Assembly and Senate (because amendments were added), can take place as late as Aug. 31. ...

The Entertainment Union Coalition has been pushing for $400 mill (or more) for months. Far back, one of the wise old union reps said:

"When this wraps up, the bill's going to be Two hundred, maybe three hundred million dollars. No way is it going to end up at $400 million."

Governor Brown is a tight-fisted guy. And he plays his guards close to his vest. I think, in the back of my brain pan, I thought it was going to end up less than four-tenths of a billion, but I had hopes it would come close to that.

Governor Brown, apparently, was never going to let that happen.

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Google VFX

Web search is only part of it.

Google has acquired Zync, a firm that enables complex visual effects sequences to be rendered over the cloud. ...

Zync Render, which was developed with visual effects studio Zero VFX, has been used to produce over a dozen films like “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “American Hustle” and “Looper,” and hundreds of commercials, totaling over 6.5 million core hours completed.

Until now, Zync, founded in 2011, has promoted Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud hosting platform, saying on its website that EC2 “is the only public-cloud that meets or exceeds MPAA security requirements with a Best Practices rating award.” ...

Chances are Zync won't be using Amazon's cloud much longer.

It's hard to know what Google plans to do with its new purchase. Exploit the software? Get deeper into movie production and make its own content? I think Silicon Valley companies aren't keen on letting entertainment conglomerates like News Corp., Disney and Time-Warner control the playing field.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Hasbro Chief

The toy company has a new movie top-kick.

Josh Feldman, formerly of Genre Films, has joined the entertainment division of Hasbro Studios in a newly-created position of head of development. The move comes off the crazy success of Transformers: Age of Extinction and as the entertainment division of Hasbro continues to strengthen its brand as a force to be reckoned with. It’s currently in development on a number of properties based on their toy and game line (all of which it will also produce) — Transformers Universe and G.I. Joe 3 at Paramount, Candy Land at Sony, and both Ouija and Jem and the Holograms at Universal Pictures. ...

Feldman will be responsible for overseeing the film division for Hasbro Studios and work on both live-action and animated properties to be developed into film. He’ll also work closely with the TV development team. He started last week, reporting to Stephen Davis, president of Hasbro Studios and Global Entertainment and Licensing for the parent, Hasbro, Inc. ...

Interestingly, both Marvel and Hasbro have small animation studios turning out animated versions of some of their live-action hits.

Hasbro aspires to replicate the Marvel track record. Mr. Feldman looks to be the man the company intends to make those hopes and dreams reality.

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Uptick


The financial press's old meme has now changed.

... •After several flops at the box office, the company is doing well with 'How to Train Your Dragon 2'. ...

Say what? Whatever happened to "Ooh, the picture didn't open too good", and then DWA stock went down. ...

Me, I always thought that the HTTYD2 would take in something around $200 million domestically (is $172.2 million close enough to count?) and a whole lot more overseas.

And what do you know? The movie is closing in on $600 million, so I guess it's not a flop and disappointment after all
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Index Investing Advantages

From the Washington Post:

Imagine the following: You, the investor, believe you have an uncanny skill at picking stocks. You set up an online trading account and begin to buy and sell.

As it turns out, you are quite good. You pour more money into your brokerage account and up your trading. After the first year, you look at your results: You have trounced the indexes. You snicker at your friends who invest passively in low-cost, low-turnover indexes. ...

Over 24 years, you tally up gains and losses. The markets are up, on average, about 9.3 percent annually. You, the World’s Greatest Trader, do much better — 40 percent better. That’s better than most of today’s hedge funds. It is certainly better than most average mom-and-pop investors.

How did you do vs. your friends the passive indexers?

About the same.

Wait, how on Earth is that possible? ... In a word, taxes. Traders pay a healthy tax of 30 percent or more on short-term capital gains. Effectively, you lose the benefits of compounding on one-third of those gains. Over time, this has a tremendous impact on your net returns. ...

The silly little secret of investing is, simpler is better. Drop your money into a Total U.S. Stock Market fund, a Total International fund, and a broad-based bond fund.

Then, don't move anything, don't sell your holdings, just let them percolate over long stretches of time.

Eighteen years ago, the wife and I put $9,000 into Vanguard's Total Stock Market fund for the six-year-old. Eighteen years later, after burst stock bubbles and a major recession, the 9 grand is up around $33,000, give or take. The secret is, we've never touched the money, and seldom even looked at the performance of the fund. (Which helps us to not touch the money.)

There is something to be said to 1) Low costs, and 2) Letting everything ride. Most investors' biggest hurdle is panic selling.

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Your International Box Office

World totals for animation.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (Global Cumes)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 -- $18,200,000 -- ($574,516,962)

Guardians of the Galaxy -- $20,700,000 -- ($489,484,857)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- $15,500,000 -- ($238,809,806)

Dawn of Apes -- $8,500,000 -- ($556,960,970)

Transformers: Extinct -- $5,400,000 -- ($1,065,124,603)

Other animated titles still in release:

* The Lego Movie has grand total of $468,049,270 worldwide. What makes the title kind of unique is that over 55% of its earnings come from the domestic run. (Usually a majority of the cash is from overseas.)

* Mr. Peabody and Sherman ended up at $268,759,499. That made it a write-off for DreamWorks; 58% of the take came from abroad.

* The weakly-performing Planes 2 has earned a grand total of $94,378,000; like the higher-flying Lego Movie the majority of its earnings come from the domestic release.

(You will note that, for a movie labeled a "disappointment", Dragons 2 has made a poop-load of money.)

Add On: Another semi-animated title has passed a milestone:

... Maleficent, also made news as it passed up X-Men: Days of Future Past ($744.7 million) to become the No. 2 title of the year so far at the global box office. The live-action fairy tale, starring Angelina Jolie, finished the weekend with $747.6 million in total worldwide ticket sales. ...

One more Linda Woolverton blockbuster.
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Encouraging

The Yellow Family still has it.

FXX scored solid ratings in primetime Thursday with its “The Simpsons” marathon, more than tripling the network’s usual audience and contributing to the nascent channel’s most-watched day ever.

According to Nielsen estimates, the six half-hours of “The Simpsons” averaged a 0.49 rating in adults 18-49 and 1.01 million viewers overall. The demo score was good enough for a fifth-place primetime finish for FXX — ahead of parent network FX as well as cable biggies including TNT and USA. ...

On a total-day basis, Thursday crushed FXX records, soaring 618% above its prior average in adults 18-49 (402,000 vs. 56,000) and 524% higher in total viewers (624,000 vs. 100,000).

All 552 “Simpsons” episodes will be airing in chronological order on FXX, which started the marathon earlier Thursday with the pilot episode from December 1989. ...

Congratulations to the hard-working crew over at Film Roman who helped Fox/News Corp. to earn even more money from its 12 billion dollar franchise. They might be getting a slice of the layer cake for their efforts, but at least they have bragging rights.

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The Weekend of Box Office

It appears that (halfway) animated features are back at the top of the list.

Your American Box Office

1). Guardians of the Galaxy (DIS), 3,371 theaters (-326) / $4.7M to $4.9M Fri. / 3-day cume: $17.2M to $17.6M / Total cume: $252M / Wk 4

2/3). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PAR), 3,864 theaters (-116) / $4.3M to $4.5M Friday / 3-day est. cume: $15.2M to $16.2M / Total est. cume: $145M / Wk 3


If I Stay (WB), 2,907 theaters / $6.3M to $6.7M Fri. / 3-day cume: $15.5M to $16.5M / Wk 1

4/5). Let’s Be Cops (FOX), 3,140 theaters (+46) / $3.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $9.7M to $10.3M (-45%) / Total cume: $44M / Wk 2

4/5). When the Game Stands Tall (SONY), 2,673 theaters / $2.8M to $3.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $8M to $10M / Wk 1

6). Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (TWC), 2,894 theaters / $2.6M Fri. / $6M to $7M / Wk 1

7). The Giver (TWC), 3,003 theaters (0) / $2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $6M (-48%) / Total cume: $23.8M / Wk 2

8). The Expendables 3 (LGF), 3,221 theaters (0) / $1.8M to $2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5.6M to $5.9M (-66%) / Total cume: $26M to $27M / Wk 2

9). The Hundred-Foot Journey (DIS), 1,944 theaters (-99) / $1.5M to $1.7M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5.5M to $6M (-23%) / Total cume: $32.7M / Wk 3

10). Into The Storm (WB), 2,375 theaters (-1,059) / $1.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4M+ / Total cume: $38.6M / Wk 3 ...

On the fully-animated side:

Planes 2 remains in 900+ theaters and has taken in $56.5 million.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 has collected $171.6 million as it hangs on to 300+ theaters in various sections of the country.

Rio 2 flutters along in just over a hundred theaters with a total of $131,454,258.

And The Lego Movie (remember that one?) is still in fifteen theaters with an accumulation of $257,749,270.

The animation, it plays and plays and plays.

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Twenty Years Ago This Day ...

Jeffrey Katzenberg announced he was leaving Disney.

Walt Disney Co. shocked Hollywood and Wall Street on Wednesday by announcing that veteran studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg will leave the company next month after losing a highly publicized campaign to be named second in command to Chairman Michael D. Eisner.

Katzenberg--who helped engineer the company's staggering success with animated movies such as "The Lion King" and new ventures such as the Broadway adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast"--was rebuffed by both Eisner and Disney's board of directors on grounds that he was not right for the No. 2 job.

Eisner delivered the news late Wednesday morning. "The job that (Katzenberg) would have wanted does not exist in this company," Eisner said. "We're going to strengthen the company through the divisions."

Katzenberg's departure leaves Burbank-based Disney without one of its chief creative forces. In 10 years he helped build the studio into a perennial box office leader, and encouraged its growth into the lucrative TV production market and other areas. Operating income for filmed entertainment rose steadily under Katzenberg's regime, from $2.2 million in 1984 to $622.2 million in 1993. ...

This wasn't a big surprise to anybody.

It had been an open secret that Katzenberg and Eisner weren't getting along. Jeffrey wanted the late Frank Wells' old job, and Michael said "no" (with Roy Disney's concurrence). Jeffrey felt he had been stabbed in the back, but out he went, straight into the warm embrace of Steven Spielberg and David Geffen ... and the new studio named DreamWorks was born.

Jeffrey stayed on at the House of Mouse for another month after the announcement. Michael apparently wanted Jeffrey to finish out his contract; one of the lead directors on The Hunchback of Notre Dame told me at the time that Eisner insisted on coming along with Jeffrey to a storyboard pitch at the Flower Street animation studio, and that Jeffrey's body language told the sour tale that it wasn't his idea for Michael to be there. Sitting next to Eisner, Katzenberg was hunched down, as far away from the tall CEO as he could get, as the story artists went through the boards. For the first time in anyone's memory, Jeffrey had nothing to say.

(Shortly after, there were a lot of gag drawings speculating about Katzenberg's next occupation decorating the walls at Feature Animation: Jeffrey as real estate agent, Jeffrey as over-bearing car mechanic, etc. etc.)

Interesting times.

But here we are, two decades further on, with Michael Eisner retired from Disney and running his company Tornante, and Jeffrey the CEO of DreamWorks Animation, the friend of Presidents and worth almost as much (if "Celebrity Net Worth" can be believed) as the man who pushed him off the main deck of the S.S. Mouse.

Time, it does have a way of flowing on.

(H/t to TAG President Emeritus Tom Sito).

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Friday, August 22, 2014

SAG-AFTRA Ratification

A lopsided result.

The rank and file [of the the newly-combined Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA] has voted overwhelmingly to approve the new, three-year contracts covering movie, primetime and basic cable TV production. The balloting was a lopsided 92%-8%. The deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was hammered out in the wee hours of the Fourth of July after two months of tough bargaining amid a media blackout and three 24-hour extensions after the June 30 deadline. The national board approved it eight days later. ...

The new contracts — which take effect retroactive to July 1 and run through June 30, 2017 — include:

· Gains of $200 million in wages;
· An 8.5-percent wage increase compounding to 8.7 percent; 2.5 percent in the first year, 3 percent in the second year and 3 percent in the third year;
· Advances in Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) coverage, including a brand-new residual for on-demand viewing;
· Reduction of unpaid online streaming windows for most shows; and
· An increased contribution rate percentage to our benefits plans and a mechanism to facilitate the merger of the health plans.

The IATSE -- our mother international -- will negotiate its own there-year contract next Spring. TAG will plunge in soon after. Both of the deals will likely be similar to what SAG-AFTRA, WGA, and DGA have negotiated.

It's called pattern bargaining.

Click here to read entire post

The TAG Wage Survey -- Preliminary Numbers

We're most of the way done crunching data on the Animation Guild's wage survey. Here's a first look at selected stats. (Please note that these include both union and non-union rates being paid this year):

Wages -- 2014

STAFF TV WRITERS

min: $1065.74
Median: $1984.38
Max: $3000.00

2013 median: $2202.50
Change: + $88.23


TV DIRECTORS

min: $1406.25
median: $2475.00
max: $4600.00

2013 median: $2500.00
change: -$25.00

STAFF PRODUCTION BOARD (t.v.)

min: $1000.00
median: $2000.00
max: $3307.50

2013 median: $2000.00
Change: $0.00

BACKGROUND LAYOUT/DESIGN

min: $1175.00
median: $1909.40
max: $5250.00

2013 median: $1943.20
change: -$33.80


LIGHTING

min: $1166.00
median: $1769.21
max: $2600.00

2013 median: $1913.16
change: -$143.95


3D ANIMATOR

min: $1200.00
median: $1967.58
max: $3100.00

2013 median: 1911.77
change: +$55.81 ...

A few more factoids for your perusing pleasure:

We had a return rate of 33% of wage survey forms, which is way above last year's returns, and the highest since the 1990s.

5.6% of the wage surveys came from members working at non-union studios.

25% of surveys came from three Disney divisions. (We got one form back from Pixar.)

20% of survey forms came from DreamWorks Animation's two divisions.

There were a number of entry level lighters who came into employment, which drove down the median lighting wage.

We'll have a more extensive breakdown when we've finished all the data mining. In the meantime, enjoy this first pass.

(Here's last year's complete survey. Kudos to Steve Kaplan, who took over the wage survey work from retired staffer Jeff Massie.)


Click here to read entire post

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Yellow Family's Deluge of Green

From this date:

Starting Thursday, Aug. 21, you can watch every episode of The Simpsons in back-to-back order on the FXX network for 12 straight days.

If you actually need to do things like show up for work or sleep, you can see select episodes of last season on Hulu and Fox; seasons one through three, and 20 through 25 on Amazon Instant Video and iTunes; seasons two, three, 20,and 22 through 25 on Vudu; seasons one through sixteen, and 20 on DVD; and seasons 13 through 16 and 20 on Blu-Ray.

In other words, the FXX binge is the only place to see them all. In October, however, Fox will launch Simpsons World, a comprehensive on-demand portal to every Simpsons episode. ...

When I go through Film Roman, staffers on the show often speculate how many seasons of new episodes we'll actually see. I always say:

"The show has been a cash cow for Fox and Gracie Films for decades. They'll go at least thirty seasons. They'd be fools not to."

So what kind of cash has the YF raked in to date?

Advertising revenue from The Simpsons primetime airings $5.35 Billion
The Simpsons Movie Ticket Sales $527 Million
The Simpsons Movie DVD Sales $96.4 Million
The Simpsons TV-DVD Sales $894.25 Million
The Simpsons Merchandise & Toy Sales $4.6 Billion
The Simpsons TV syndication revenue $1.1 Billion

Total Simpsons Franchise Revenue $12.33 Billion

The deal with FXX, per Bloomberg, kicks in another billion worth of long, paying out a million $ per episode over eight years.

The animation crew in Burbank will get a very small slice of revenue, but this is kind of a tradition. Thirty years ago, an old Disney hand told me at a Golden Awards banquet:

"The cartoon business is the one biz where employees work fifty years. Or need to."



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New Release Dates


The never-ending jockeying for pole position.

Today, DreamWorks Animation announced that their sequels The Croods 2 and Puss in Boots 2: Nine Lives & 40 Thieves, which were scheduled for early November in 2017 and 2018 respectively will now be released the weekend before Christmas.

The Croods 2 will now arrive December 22, 2017 while Puss in Boots 2 will come out a year later on December 21, 2018.

The idea seems to be to get further away from the DC and Marvel Super Hero movies and rival Illumination Entertainment's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. No doubt there will be other shifts between now and 2018. Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Rally

This occupied most of the day.

... The below-the-line community joined with Ron Perlman, Carl Weathers and Daniel Stern in Sacramento at the state capitol Wednesday in support of a sweetened incentive program for movies and TV shot in California. ...

The legislation [AB 1839] is heading to the Senate floor after clearing the Appropriations Committee last week. The bill will quadruple the size of the tax credit program, to $400 million per year from the current $100 million annual allocation. ...

The bill has to be voted on by the Senate no later than a week from Friday. Then the Assembly concurs with any tweaks from the Senate, and the bill rolls on to Governor Brown, who either signs the legislation or doesn't.

There are some folks in high positions urging the governor to sign it.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and 34 other members of California’s congressional delegation are urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign legislation that would expand the state’s film and TV incentive program to $400 million in tax credits per year.

The lawmakers who signed the letter to Brown include 34 Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.), whose district covers the desert regions in the eastern part of the state. ...

For those not up to full speed on this, the legislation quadruples California's current $100 million tax incentive program for feature films and hour-long television dramas, and includes rebates for visual effects.



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Not Sucky


Retired TAG staffer Jeff Massie recently came across this.

[The Animation Guild's] old logo simply cannot be true! LOL, man, LOL. New logo has nice, old-school concept to it. ...

You put stuff out on the intertubes, you wonder if anybody notices. Apparently a select few DO.

(Sitting in an airport makes for sparse blogging.)

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Liz Holzman, RIP


A top-flight artist passes.

Liz Holzman, an animation veteran and three-time Daytime Emmy Award winner for her work on the 1990s series Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, has died. She was 61.

Holzman, an animator, character designer, storyboard artist, writer, director and producer, died Monday, her family announced in a paid obituary in the Los Angeles Times. She had battled cancer for years.

A nine-time Daytime Emmy nominee, Holzman also worked on such series as Alvin & the Chipmunks, The Glo Friends, Smurfs, DuckTales, Muppet Babies, Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Darkwing Duck, Garfield and Friends, Baby Blues and The Zeta Project during her 30-year career. ...

Our condolences to Liz's family and many friends.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Outsourcing


... from China to ... Australia?

Australia’s Vue Group is completing the VFX work for the Chinese and international versions of two 3D animated features in a co-venture with production company Shanghai Hippo Animation Design. ...

Among the sequences handled by Vue’s VFX team in Bunbury WA were the last 18 minutes of the film, replete with lots of shattering effects and lightning, as an alien with angel wings flies towards the moon.

Lindsay says both projects have already recouped their budgets, helped by worldwide distribution deals, excluding Australia/New Zealand, with a US company which will be unveiled next month. ...

Chinese partners will fund 80% of the projects with the balance from Australia. The total production budget for the three films to be co-produced by the Vue Group and Hippo would exceed $57 million.

Movie studios go where they need to in order to get their project done on time and on budget. If that means going to Australia, no problem. If it means the U.S. or Britain or France, they're down with that. But as technical expertise and know-how spreads to every continent, there's the looming question of:

"So how much free money can you give me?"

Which explain why the Aussies are considering new tax incentives for movie work, just as Canada, the U.K., France, New York already do. Just as California is close to doing.

Corporate welfare. You can never have too much.

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Renewals and Launches

I'm stuck in remote locations today, but there is this:

Star Wars Rebels will make its official television debut with the one-hour movie Spark of Rebellion on Friday, Oct. 3, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Disney Channel, before the series premieres Monday, Oct. 13, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on sister network Disney XD

And this ...

The hit Hulu Original The Awesomes from Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker has been renewed for a third season. The adult animated series starring Seth Meyers as “Prock” is currently in its second season with new episodes premiering every Monday and will return for a third season in 2015 ...

The Awesomes is produced in Bento Box's Atlanta Studio (which would benefit from a TAG contract like its sisters in Southern California), and of course Rebels is made by Disney/Lucas (which could also benefit from an agreement, I think).

Animation continues to expand and flourish on multiple platforms, and the wave seems a long way from cresting. The fact that cartoons have a long shelf life (The Jetsons, Flintstones, Scooby Doo) and generate ongoing cash flow long after their live-action equivalents have vanished from sight is only one reason cartoons get made.

The fact that audiences watch the shows the first time around is also helpful.

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Everybody's Mentor


The story goes that Don drew his creative sustenance from one individual.

It’s impossible to talk about Don Bluth without talking about Walt Disney. ...

But here's a news flash: It's impossible to talk about John Lasseter without talking about Walt Disney.

Just as it's difficult to talk about Jeffrey Katzenberg ... who admits to poring over Walt's sweatbox notes ... without bring Walt into the widescreen frame.

Because the reality is that anybody who's currently anybody in Cartoonland was influenced by Disney. Walt, though he's been dead forty-eight years and his daughters and wife have gone to their rewards, is still the D.W. Griffith, John Ford, and William Wyler of animation. The Alpha dog of the whole shebang.

Even Illumination Entertainment chief Chris Meledandri, who developed his animation chops at Fox Animation, spent time at Disney executive-producing Swing Kids and Cool Runnings (among others). All roads run through Disney.

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