Friday, October 22, 2004

The CG Features Come Marching In... Part 2

Part 1 of this blog entry focused on the more widely known CG feature projects. For part 2, we will be getting into more and more obscure productions from companies you may never of heard of before. Surely, a good percentage of these will never make it to the theaters.

Steve Oderkerk formed Omation Studios in San Clemente California. Steve has written several live action scripts and was involved with Jimmy Neutron from DNA and distributed by Paramount. Oderkerk was smart and kept ties with Paramount so that he could create this low budget film called "The Barnyard". In addition, it appears that they got in bed with Softimage to use XSI software as the production tool of choice. Softimage gains some potential fame as they are finally used on a CG film. Moreover, Omation gets extra attention/support and most likely receives a deal on licenses. Because of Omation’s low budget, they were not able to lure experienced production folks from other studios and in many cases are relying on first timers in the industry to work on this project. (As a side note, these young employees are working very long hours without what I’m told is proper compensation. This helps the company make their budget, but it doesn’t bode well for future projects when these people leave for better conditions.) Budget is in the $28 million ballpark. Distribution guaranteed. Release Likelihood = 8. Studio Longevity = 5.

Exodus Film in Los Angeles is developing a CG film called “Igor”. Using their own animation studio called “ElectroAge” to carry out the production, they plan to release the film in 2007. I smell lots of trouble with this super low budget production. They will mostly likely fall into the same trap as Omation, but amplified because of the even lower budget. This may be worth a future blog entry. Budget $20 million. Distribution unknown. Release Likelihood = 5. Studios Longevity = 2.

CritterPix in Northern California has inked a deal with Regency Enterprises to produce a CG film based on a children's book called "Ollie the Otter". This production has an even lower budget than anything else mentioned so far. Again, another Omation type scenario. More details coming in a future blog. Budget expected to be in the $20 million area. Release Likelihood = 3. Studio Longevity = 1.

Playtone is a production company setup by Tom Hanks to develop feature projects. One of those projects is “The Ant Bully” that will have the animation produced by DNA in Texas. DNA is the same company that made “Jimmy Neutron” a few years back. Like Neutron, this movie will have a lower budget by Pixar standards but higher than some of the more recent announced productions. This should have been mentioned in Part 1, because it is much more likely to succeed than the others listed in Part 2. Budget $30 million range. Distribution guaranteed. Release Likelihood = 10. Studios Longevity = 8.

Down in Atlanta, there has been a CG feature project that has been going on for what seems like 10 years. I don’t know the official length of time they have been working on it, but it has been a long while. Last I heard, they are still quite a ways away from finishing. Sometimes people that jump into CG feature production realize too late that it is much harder than they first expected. I’m not sure what the budget is, but you can rest assured that it has gone over. Release Likelihood = 6. Studios Longevity = 4.

This concludes part 2. I may write a part 3 some time in the future. There are just so many CG films being put together by companies most people have never heard of. A good portion of these will never be finished or won’t get distribution. Moreover, an even larger percentage will not be very successful.

The problem these smaller studios are facing is that the talent to create them is hard to find. Not many seasoned veterans want to take a chance on an unknown, and because their budgets are so low, they will have a hard time raiding talent from other studios. Because of this catch-22, they will resort to hiring students or relatively young professionals that aren’t quite prepared. Omation is a good example of this.

Creating a CG feature is a daunting task. The companies that are doomed are the ones that don’t accept this and plan for it prior to beginning production. Even studios that should be successful fail because they don’t properly plan. They exit the development stage and enter production before they are fully prepared. Even a studio as seasoned as Disney falls into this trap all the time. Just imagine what will happen to these new studios run by inexperienced managers and supervisors.


Anonymous said...

Just like every live action film doesn't need a budget like Titanic, I would hope to see animated features that could be made for lesser sums.

I was surprised to see that so many of the features you talk about in this section have budgets higher than $20 million. Jonah, the Veggie Tales movie, had a budget of $14 million. I've seen Pinocchio 3000 at the Ottawa Animation Festival and the budget for that film is $8 million U.S. ($12 million Canadian). That film has big story problems and I'm not crazy about the designs, but the visuals are very respectable given the budget. It was made with Softimage XSI by the way.

So long as animated films cost a fortune, there is great pressure on them to be like past successes in order to cut the risk. I would hope that somebody is going to succeed with a lower budget film, as it will increase the chance that we'll see films that are different and encourage producers to take some chances.

Except for someone like Bill Plympton, there really isn't an independent film movement for animated features. I wish there was. Even if animated films continue to focus on family films, there are more ways to go and different kinds of stories to tell than we're currently seeing.

-Mark Mayerson

Anonymous said...

Anybody remember "Robots of Mars" ? What about "PC and The Web" ? And "Delgo" has been in production for some time, as you stated. The point is, the landscape is littered with people and projects who were ill informed, ill prepared and kidded themselves about what it REALLY takes to produce a CG feature. Low cost doesn't necessarily mean low quality. But if cost is the overriding concern, the project is in for a bumpy ride.

Anonymous said...

Cartoon animation had a boom in the Nineties, and most of it was junk. Some of the films were designed to lose money and be written off in their entirety. It's the only conceivable reason for producing stories that no one seriously believed would 'fly', or for not hiring experienced professionals to do a good job so that the film would do well.

Since CGI is much sexier now, it's only logical that the cowboy productions shift to this medium. There will be failures, just as there were in cartoon animation.

I wish someone would remember that Pixar, PDI, Disney and Dreamworks manage to make films that do well despite having hired well paid and experienced people.

I can only wish that the exploiters fail as quickly as possible.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the info in this article is fairly accurate! Even the show status are pretty dead on!
I think the major problem these days is that too many facilities with little or no production experience are trying to do big league productions without first going through the proper growing pains. Also many studios seem to have caught some sort of irrationality flu because a trend these days is to dump the software that they know and have been using for years and to suddenly adopt a new pipeline that they've never used themselves.

I suspect Delgo will make it since they are backed by a large company.

Pc and the Web is ancient history for the person who was wondering.

Anonymous said...

Delgo backed by a large company? What are you smokin?? Its not backed by anyone. Have you even seen it by the time it comes out it will look like a bad video game. Youll need to be smokin something to even watch it.

Anonymous said...

There is a "production" company in Venezuela run by a guy who says is the best paid in the animation industry pluss he is one of the best animators in hollywood.

This guy is making a "movie" with less than a half a million dollars in budget with little/no trained people (the best ones resigned), oddly enuff he has the support of a couple of veterans who worked in films like the matrix.

That is another example on how bad producers think they are creatives :P

Heres the site if anyone wants to see it. It would be great if anyone knows about these guys and can tell a bit more about them.

jhl0048 said...

If anybody else knows anything about CritterPix or "Ollie the Otter", I'd love to read it.

jhl0048 said...

If anybody knows anything else about CritterPix or "Ollie the Otter", I'd love to hear about it.