Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Memorial Day Mix

After a long day of inhaling gas grill fumes, I decided to post an entry before passing out. A few things come to mind at the end of this Holiday weekend. ...continued...

First off. Congrats to DreamWorks for their successful opening weekend of Madagascar. Although I didn't think the story was all that great, and some of the frantic animation gave me a migraine, it was a fun time and an enjoyable movie. I believe the estimate was around $60 million for the 4 days. Pretty good! :)

I went to see Madagascar a second time on Saturday. One of the trailers was for "Open Season" from Sony Pictures Animation. I can't say that I loved the character design, nor can I say that the animation was very appealing (it was decent, but not impressive) to me. I'm still looking forward to this release, even if it is more than a year away.

Vanguard Animation has been issuing a few press releases the past few days. I guess they aren't dead afterall. With "Ribbit" coming down the line and "Space Chimps" still in the mix, they seem to have a lot to do. Will they farm out the production work to 3rd parties, or will they ramp up a studio again? Only time will tell.

There are a few pictures of Omation's "Barnyard" around the net. I've been told that these are older and not really representative of their latest work. My only comment is, I sure hope so. If you ask me (and since this blog is mostly my personal opinion anyway) the character design is boring and unappealing. For the life of me, I cannot understand why they would even publicly show these images if they are not the final designs/models. It only casts a negative light on the project.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Grab Bag

Sorry about another delay. With my schedule lately, it has been impossible to keep this blog filled with new information. I'm sorry. I'll just start talking and see where this goes. ...continued...

Madagascar opens this weekend. It is a fun movie, therefore I recommend everyone go see it. It has some really nice/snappy animation that will keep any geeks salivating. The story is pretty good too. Go see it. If for any other reason, support our industry.

A week or two ago I spoke about an animation studio trying to open up in LA. Nothing new to report on that front. However, I've just heard of a deal that is about to potentially happen that would result in ANOTHER studio opening in LA. This time they are selling it as a 2 picture deal, with some very low budgets (under $25 million each). Some of the work will be outsourced to other countries, but most of the work will take place in LA. You know how I feel about outsourcing, so I won't even bother to get worked up over it. I know very little about the projects other than the name of the first movie and a synopsis. I won't divulge that information until after a public announcement has been made. It is simply enough to say that I'm not overly impressed. We'll see what happens.

Is Vanguard back in business?! An announcement from Cannes made it sound like John Williams is doing a CG movie called "Ribbit". It is about... you guess it... frogs. I don't quite know if they are going to outsource it or start another facility in the UK. It isn't exactly efficient to break down and build up studios for each movie, but John seems okay with it.

Speaking of building up a studio for each production. This is something that live action does all the time, and you wouldn't believe the number of producers I talk to that want to pattern CG productions in the same way. A LLC is created each time a movie is made, the crew/equipment/etc/etc are brought together to make the film, then it all disbands and nothing is left. This is asking for trouble when you do it for CG films. The infrastructure is enormous and the time lost to putting all of those computers together is frightening. Whether it will save any money or not, remains to be seen.

How is this for an idea for a new company?

Someone buys and configures a ton of computers. They are all hooked up and ready to go, complete with a CG pipeline (software) in place to make it run. They simply rent/lease the hardware/pipeline to producers who insist on building a team and dumping them for every project. You could even make it transportable so that the equipment can be sent to whatever country/state needs it. I'm only half kidding. If anyone takes this idea and runs with it. At least credit me for giving you the inspiration and provide a link to this website. :)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Another LA Based Animation Studio?!

I originally heard about this a couple of months ago. However, I decided not to post anything to this blog for a couple of reasons. First off, I did not want to immediately out myself in case the source of this information is a reader. Second, I wanted to get another confirmation to see if it was real. I tend to hear a lot of rumors as I jump around. Some of these are completely false, but most of these turn out to be real even if they never see the light of day for one reason or another. ...continued...

Anyone that has been to this blog before, knows that I am pretty skeptical about new studios coming out of no where and claiming to be the next Pixar. They obviously have good intentions but are bound for self destruction. Either the management or the producers or even the supervisors themselves don't know what they are doing. Or have so little experience that success is unlikely. If animation is difficult, an animated feature is almost impossible. And let us not forget that simply managing a business of this size is a difficult task in itself.

A quick rundown (in no particular order) tells me that the winners will be: Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, Sony Pictures Animation, Disney, Wild Brain, DNA. The losers will be CORE, ElectroAge (Exodus Film Group), Critter Pix, Gigga Pix (never mentioned this one before, more to come), Fathom Studios. I'm still on the fence about Vinton Studios, Omation, and IDT. Our first casuality seems to be Vanguard.

You may be wondering if I am schizophrenic by now. The reason I brought up the whole "animation is difficult" speech is because this new startup that I am hearing rumors on, doesn't seem to be falling into the category of "you've got to be kidding". They don't seem to be making unrealistic goals and they seem to be jumping in with people that have done it before.

So what is this rumor? It appears that a new LA based studio is in its infancy. Not too long ago, I'm told that they started the process to buy a HUGE swath of land and office space. Now, I won't give the location, however I do know where it is and have seen it in person. It will be pretty impressive to be able to get a hold of a property like this in this location. The office square footage and land acreage is immense. They say location is everything, and this seems like a really nice location to me (I only say LA as to remain vague). I've also heard how much they are spending and it won't come cheap. That can mean two things. They are foolishly spending a lot of money on space and location when they can get a cheaper deal somewhere else. Or it could mean, they have lots of financial backing and getting this space is not an issue.

Unlike the list of studios that seem to pop up every month getting ready to jump in on the CG feature feeding frenzy, this one seems to be going in with its head on straight. Even the head honcho looks to have his priorities straight (story first second and third) and is listening to the creatives. Some of the people that are involved are people that I have heard of and have been a part of some really great projects. The others that I hadn't heard of, I did a Google and IMDB search and was impressed. If this thing pans out, it could be one of the few startups jumping into CG features that I have some faith in. They have two important ingredients. Talent and financial backing.

What about another ingredient? And something that I found that was strange. Is that they do not have a story yet. There are people involved that have been on the story crew of some of the biggest blockbusters around, but a first movie has not been selected. I guess the money that is being invested is based on the crew and management rather than the story. Guess this is a good opportunity for someone out there.

Slow Days

There seems to be a lack of things for me to talk about lately. I've started a few posts only to stop them as they just didn't have enough meat in them to make it worth reading. This post does not have a whole lot of value in it. However, it has been so long since I've posted anything...I figured I would just start typing and fill up some space.

  • Madagascar
  • DreamWorks Stock
  • DreamWorks "Crood Awakening"


First off, Madagascar is about to release in a few weeks. I had an opportunity to see the film not too long ago. It was a good time. It certainly isn't my favorite animated film but it is something I'd like to see again. I'd say it is better than Shark Tale and Robots, but not quite as good as Incredibles. I'm going to imagine the box office will respect that opinion and be slightly higher than Shark Tale but not "Incredible" numbers.

Second, DreamWorks announced an upcoming film called "Crood Awakening". The premise sounds pretty funny. "It will be great comedy adventure about a pre-historic culture clash between two tribes, one comparatively evolved tribe, and one un-evolved tribe"

DreamWorks stock took a hit a couple of days ago when they announced earnings. Seems that they overestimated how much Shrek 2 would sell on DVD. Looking at how well it sold right out the gate, DWA anticipated continued unrealistic DVD selling. The result was a lot of returned and unbought merchandise that caused the earnings per share to be lower than expected. What does this mean to investors? Bad. The stock price took a tumble. It is important to note that Shrek 2 still sold fantastic numbers and did EXTREMELY well. They just overestimated. There also seems to be some question to whether this information was leaked to certain employees prior to the earnings release and therefore leaked to the press. I'm not so sure if this is illegal or not but you would think it was.