Sunday, July 31, 2005

Studio Power Rankings: First Tier!

I'm a big baseball fan. I go to ESPN and Fox Sports all the time to see how my team sits in their Power Rankings. I thought, why not have a studio Power Rankings? Let’s swing through the list of first tier studios and put them in order. This is of course my opinion and if yours differs. That's cool. Start a blog and bitch and moan there.

Sometime in the next week or so, I will continue the Power Rankings with the second tier studios. Don't touch that dial! ...continued...

#1 : Pixar

With Cars coming to a close in the not-so-distant-future, the production crew will begin to shift to the next movie. Will they come to some compromise with Disney for distribution? I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine. Whatever the case, Pixar has several projects in development and pre-production to keep them busy. Expect some announcements very soon. I enjoy their movies the best. Let’s face it; they are the cream of the crop. If there were any negative things I could say about this studio, it would be their 1) their ego and 2) their assumption that the distribution world should be handed to them on a silver platter. They want Lucas terms, evidentially not everyone thinks they are worth such a price. A deal would have been struck a long time ago if they did. The longer they wait to strike something with Disney or anyone else, the more momentum Disney will have in negotiations. Pixar will have to, and needs to lower its expectations.

#2 : Disney

This probably comes as a shock to everyone reading this blog. Why in the world would I list Disney ahead of DreamWorks? After all, what CG films have they released (Uhh, Dinosaur. I’ll give them a mulligan on that!)? I’m basing this decision on Disney’s potential, not what they have done. Chicken Little looks pretty durn good, and some of their projects down the line look even better. These guys are about to make a huge splash. With Eisner on his way out, I think we have even better chances of this studio making a stunning leap forward. Their worst days are over, they are on the uptrend, while I feel DreamWorks is on the downtrend. Although I feel that Rapunzel is a project to keep Keane busy, American Dog and Wilbur Robinson look promising. They have lots more films in development and I expect a lot. However, if Chicken Little does poorly in the box office, things could get interesting at the mouse. Toy Story 3 is still moving along. There is a lot of controversy surrounding this movie. Some believe it is just a ploy to get Pixar back to the negotiating table and that it will be dropped in a second. What are my feelings? I’m not so sure. Although I give Pixar and Disney getting married again a 50/50 chance, I don’t think TS3 is being used a bargaining chip. Disney just wants to get the ball rolling if the negotiations are a bust.

#3 : DreamWorks

Here we are with DreamWorks in third place on my list. Although some of their projects look promising, Disney nudged them out for second place because of Shrek 3 and Madagascar- that I thought was a step down in story from SharkTale. Flushed Away, Over The Hedge, and the Seinfeld Bee Movie are a few other movies on tap. However, I’m not excited about any of these. With the stock problems, SEC investigations, and general rumors surrounding management, I just don’t know where this studio is going to end up. I don’t think they are going to close or anything that extreme, just that it may affect future productions because so much more is riding on each and every release. This could potentially be a disaster.

#4 : Blue Sky

This was another tough one. I almost put SPA at #4 and dropped Blue Sky down to an insulting fifth. I decided to keep them here and see what happens next. While they have a lot going for them, I’m just not excited about what’s coming down the pipe. Ice Age 2? Did Ice Age really deserve a sequel? Crap. Don’t fall into that Disney sequel trap. Horton Hears a Who. I don’t even know what to think here. I can only hope for the best. Financially, they are doing fine and since they have lots of things going on, maybe they will stop firing people during down time.

#5 : Sony Pictures Animation

These guys have yet to release a CG film. Let’s not count Polar Express. This was not their project and was absolutely hideous. Like Dinosaur/Disney, I’m going to extend a mulligan to these guys. Every studio deserves one mulligan. It is just a shame when they have to use them up so soon. I have high hopes for these guys. They have some talent and definitely have the experience as a studio. On the down side, the rumor is that the management/executive system is even more of a mess than Disney. Creatively speaking, the Open Season teaser looked decent enough. The colors felt a little muddy to me, and the animation was pretty good. The quality is certainly above the second tier studios, but not yet on level with Pixar or Disney. I’m really looking forward to Surf’s Up. This film is still a long ways off, but if the final product is anywhere near the descriptions I’ve heard from the people working on it, then it will be a fun movie.

Part 2 will be coming soon.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Lions Gate Gets Into Animation

Lions Gate is really on the animation kick. For those not familiar with them, they are a movie company that has their hands in all sorts of film related businesses. Probably most known for their distribution arm, they are responsible for putting out mid to low budget films. ...continued...

Take for instance "Food Fight". This is an animated film being put together by Threshold. I'm sure you've heard of this movie, it is the one that takes place in a grocery store and uses an unbelievable amount of product placement. So much in fact, that I'm not sure I will even be able to watch the thing. After all, I often grit my teeth when watching a movie and the main character drinks a can of Coke, or the camera discreetly focuses on the Mercedes logo before the hero jumps in and speeds off. Think of an animated film with hundreds of product placements as the main characters! bleh.

Speaking of Food Fight, this film has been in production for what seems like forever. I'm not sure what is going on over there. Between them and Delgo, the two movies have been in production for what seems longer than most of us have been alive.

Back to Lions Gate. Looks like they are getting ready for another CG film. The information is confusing. I'm not sure if Threshold is going to do this film, or Lions Gate is doing it (if anyone knows, please chime in). The script is from the 1969 children's book "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble". Is anyone keeping track of all of these movies?! Time to add another one. It will be called "Sylvester".

Paramount Wakes Up

Paramount released a normal trailer for Barnyard. If you recall, they put out this dinky postage stamp sized trailer that was practically useless. Now you can find a normal sized trailer at ...continued...

First things first, that opening scene going through the dark forest was created by Blur Studios, not Omation. I realize the plan all along was to have the opening contrast the rest of the trailer to give bigger impact to the "joke". But, for some reason I can't help to think that it makes Omations stuff look even cheesier.

I said this last time, and I will say it again. I think the trailer is funny. The cow tipping thing makes for some good laughs. However, now that I've seen the higher resolution trailer, I see how Jimmy Neutron'ish this film is. Maybe Paramount wanted to keep "their" style going, since they were part of that movie too. Or maybe the few people that helped start Omation that came from DNA had a huge impact on the style of this film. I'm not sure. All that I'm sure of, it just doesn't do it for me. The character design is okay, but it just looks plastic-like and weird. Quite a few rungs below DreamWorks, Blue Sky, and Pixar projects.

The outdoor environments are nice. I think they did a good job in this area. The animation in the trailer is decent. Although some of the mouth movements looked pretty stiff. I'm not sure if that is an animation or rigging problem. It looks like some of the animation was rushed and they just tried to do too much. Sometimes less is more. You can chalk that up to budget constraints and inexperience of the animation team. Those mocapped characters in the background. I hope they don't stand out too much in the film.

I try not to make too many judgements on trailers. However, what the hell. If I were to go by this thing, I'd say that this movie will be pretty funny. Steve O is capable of some good stuff. Thumbs up on the environments, thumbs down on the character design and general look of those characters. The animation, is what it is. Serviceable, but anything but impressive.

How will this film do? That is a hard one. Jimmy Neutron was a surprise to me in its success. However, Barnyard ended up coming in over budget and won't have the luxury of Neutrons low negative cost. My prediction it will do okay. Probably around Neutrons numbers, if not a little better.

What will happen to Omation after this over? Well, they will have to hire everyone over again if they get a new project. The company has fallen into the all too familiar pattern of hiring then firing. Most of those on this crew will absorb into other productions and they will have to start over with another inexperienced group.

Somehow I don't think the management really cares.

Art Meets Technology

Last night Brad Bird, Bill Kroyer, Eric Goldberg and a few others got together for an event called "Art Meets Technology". Unfortunately I'm out of Los Angeles at the moment and was unable to attend. So, the only thing I can comment about is what others are saying. ...continued...

Judging by what I've heard so far, at least a few things must of been said regarding the so-called death of 2D features. If 2D features are not dead they are definitely on life support. Sure, the art form still lives, but until it is picked up again by a few more studios and is mildly successful in the box office, they will continue to kling to life.

2D will always live on in the hearts of artists. Or at least some of them. Last I heard the artists aren't the ones really flipping the bill when it comes to funding these projects. And until they bring in some coin, they (2D features) will never make a big comeback. So 2D features are alive, just on life support. At least here in the United States and more specifically with the bigger studios.

If your hanging on to some hope that 2D will come back the way it was in the 90's. You can pretty much forget about it. Those days are over. However, I hope that at least one 2D feature is produced each year in this country. It may give a home to those that really don't want to be in 3D and are only there because "they have to be" (see my cry-babies post).

Friday, July 22, 2005

Shane Acker to Direct Feature

Remember a few months ago when I said that someone with little CG or animation experience made a short film and it was picked by Tim Burton to be turned into a CG Feature? Well, it has finally hit the wires. ...continued...

The director is Shane Acker, and his short film was "9". For some unknown reason, this short has gotten a lot of attention. I'll admit it, I just don't see it. I thought the short was boring and was extremely uninteresting. The animation was okay, but didn't grab me as impressive. The best part of it were the environments and textures. However, I wasn't that blown away by them either. It does fit Burton's style (which he will act as Executive Producer) though. A deal was made with "Focus Features" to produce the low budget film.

Even though I thought the story was boring and the visuals were okay. I'll wish Shane some luck. As a newbie to the industry and with no directing experience beyond the short, he is in store for some difficult times. Hey, everyone else is getting money to make a CG film, why not this guy?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Paramount Releases "Barnyard" Trailer

Paramount decided to release a trailer for "Barnyard". The trailer plays in front of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, however, there is no way I'm going to spend money to see that hideous film. ...continued...

Shame on Paramount for putting a trailer up so small that you can't even tell what you are looking at. Great move! Ignoring the eye strain, the trailer is funny - typical Steve O writing. I like it, although I don't have many thoughts on the animation, lighting, or texturing. It is just too hard to tell at that flea sized resolution. I can say that the character design is just-okay-for-me, looks pretty similar to Jimmy Neutron (which I didn't care for either). I'm not sure why the male cows have utters. Maybe Steve finds that funny.

The trailer centers around cow tipping. That is pretty funny and makes for a nice introduction to this film. Let's hope that the rest of it lives up to the precedent set here.

I'll be back with more scathing comments when they post a decent sized trailer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Vinton -- Metamorphosis' into -- Laika?

What a dumb name for a company. Laika? Phil Knight (CEO of Laika) says "I just thought that 'LAIKA' sounded right. It seemed to fit who we are." Umm. So you feel like a dog that has been catapulted into outer space? (Laika is the dog that was tethered to Sputnik 2 by the Russians).

Okay, I'll stop harping on the name. Lets get on to their new CG feature dreams. ...continued...

If you point your browsers to you can actually see the first part of their short-film "Moongirl". First off, is that a girl? Man, I hope there is a second character that lives on the moon, cause that dude is a dude, not a girl. I guess we won't know until the whole short is finished.

Apart from the case of possible mistaken sex, I can't help but think that this short just doesn't look very good. No disrespect meant for Henry Selick or Vinton, or err, I mean LAIKA! Henry is great, and Laika (I have a hard time using that name) has done some good work in the past. However, this just looks bad to me. The character design is weak at best and the animation is just okay.

It seems that Laika will be doing CG features in the "$50 to $70 Million" budget area. Wow! That was a surprise. I just figured we were in for another round of "Pixar quality animation for $20 million per film". I hope that their film takes a step upwards on the looks scale, cause this short just ain't cutting it for me.

I wish the best of luck to Henry and the gang in the North West. You can do it! Spend those big bucks wisely. We are all expecting a lot for $50-$70!!!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Cry Babies & This Blog

When I started this blog, my intentions where to provide a place for me to vent, bitch, and moan about all the things that bother me in the industry that I was too afraid to say while using my real name. It started out good enough, but then I didn't keep that up and started posting boring harmless crap about Siggraph and movie trailers.

I woke up this morning and realized I am not staying true to why I started this thing in the first place ...continued...

I started out in traditional animation and as CG animation started happening, I absolutely fell in love with the look and feel of 3D. Even if traditional animation comes back in a big way, I will stay in the CG game. My heart is here now. Some would probably call me a traitor.

The real traitors are the scads of traditional animators that are working in CG animation now and bitching and moaning about what they are doing. I'm not talking about all of them. Of course not. I'm talking about the ones that hate it and are only doing it because they can't find work in traditional animation. The ones that will drop it like a plague as soon as 2D comes back in vogue. The people that constantly scoff at how it isn't true animation. To all you bitchers and moaners, I ask you to go get a job doing something else. Some of us are tired of hearing your griping. None of us that truly love what we are doing want to hear you bad mouthing it. For God's sake go work in the story department or do some character designs or any other department that allows you to keep a pencil in your hand.

I see now-CG animators that came from traditional backgrounds constantly and under their breath say that CG animators aren't worth their weight in shit if they didn't start out holding a pencil. Give me a break. Animation has changed, you don't have to learn with a pencil anymore. Some of these kids can animate circles around you and they never sat at a drawing table. The insecure attitude is just so pathetic. And these comments are coming from someone who started in traditional animation.

Just imagine if 3D suddenly went away and all of those CG animators went into traditional animation and constantly bitched at how hard it is to keep things on model, or how it isn't what they want to be doing. You wouldn't want to hear it, would you? Well, I have news for you. You wouldn't hear it. Because 99% of the CG animators have respect for traditional animation and wouldn't have thoughts of that sort. Sometimes that respect isn't a too way street!!!

Before people get their undies all twisted, I know most traditional animators don't feel this way. However, there definitely are those that do.

I'm sick of all the morons that don't want to be doing what they are doing. If that is the case- then don't do it! What a bunch of cry babies.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


I will be attending Siggraph in a couple of weeks. Will you? There are quite a lot of interesting things to attend. First things first. I don't tend to geek out at the hardware and software. I honestly could care less. My interest lies in hearing of new projects, meeting people, and seeing old friends. Part of the fun is listening in on papers, panels, presentations, and going to parties. Here is my list. I'll add more in the comment section as I find them. Add yours too. ...continued...

* Tuesday Evening: Softimage User Group. Biltmore
* Outsourcing CG: Is It the Problem or the Solution? (Not sure of time yet)
* Legacy Of Disney Animation: 10:30am-12:30pm Wednesday
* CG-CHAR Presentations 12:30pm-4 Wednesday. Westin Bonaventure
* CG Centerfolds and Beyond (CG pervs?)

Berliner Puts up Happily N'ever After Trailer

I saw this posted on the CG-CHAR forums. It seems that Happily N'ever After finally has a (teaser?) trailer out now. It does not look half bad. It has a lower budget feel, however there is nothing wrong with that. Even better it looks somewhat amusing. The animation seems to be better than I expected. Not great, but pretty good. The worst thing I can say about it is; I feel like I'm seeing a preview for a TV special or series, not a movie. ...continued...

For those not familiar with this project. It is another Vanguard (Valiant) Film. It was done at a couple of different locations. One in Europe, the other in Canada. As mentioned, it has a lower budget and the quality shows it. But, I don't think that is a negative. It looks far better than any other lower budget CG films I've seen any work from.

Although shortcuts may of been taken on texturing, the animation is still very good. I think this could be a decent film!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Roy Disney Throws in the Towell

I was caught completely off guard the other day when I read the press release that Roy and Stanley dropped the lawsuit in return for a token position within Disney. ...continued...

Now, there could absolutely be more going on that we know about. And I'm sure there is. But on the outside it does seem like he just gave up. I've been skeptical about Save Disney's efforts and how they have been handling things for a long time now. Somehow I don't think this should surprise me.

I respect Roy's love for the company and the fact that he wants to make Disney Disney again. However, the last many months have left me less interested in what he was trying to do. Disney (the company, not the man) got away with a lot. They offered him an office and that token position in exchange for a dropped lawsuit and no more bitching.

What the hell happened Roy?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Pixar Takes a Dump

The last month or two have been interesting. Not too long ago, DreamWorks stock took a fall after they over estimated how many Shrek 2 DVD's would sell, then just yesterday, the same thing happens to Pixar. It seems that they overestimated sales of The Incredibles. Their stock took a nasty bite too. continued...

I'm not sure what is going on, but I find it odd that the two companies both had very similar problems. It probably isn't anything more than a current slow period of DVD buyers. Same thing is happening with theatre take. Everything seems to be in a lull. I don't think we are seeing any new trends, just a temporary slump.

Speaking of Pixar and The Incredibles. There is an event going on July 29th that Brad Bird will be participating in. You can find out more here: