Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Opus Dead (Again?)

The rumor is that planned "Opus" has died once again. The comic strip based CG film has seen its share of ups and downs, and if you believe the rumor, it is down once again.

As far as I can recall, the project originated at Wild Brain studios in San Francisco. There was some sort of falling out and the project was taken away from them and thought to be dead. The Weinsteins brought it back to LA for another life in the recent months. Development had restarted and animation tests were in swing. For unknown reasons, the W's decided to pull it again. This is ofcourse a rumor and should be treated as such until something confirms or denies it.

There was an interesting story posted several years ago that outlined some of the problems that Wild Brain went through trying to get their CG feature studio started. Within this story was some interesting information about the Opus project. I'll try to dig it up, as it sheds some light on what this penguin project has gone through.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Animation Is NOT a Democracy

I'm sure most of you that read this blog are familiar with "Miracle Mouse" and this chap from Wisonsin that wanted to follow in Disney's footsteps. His dream was to create a traditional feature studio when almost everyone else (at the time) had given up on it.

I won't bore you with another recap of the saga. However, there was an article from a low-rent-newspaper regarding the whole debacle. You can find the migraine inducing scanned text over on The yet to be published story started another emotional thread on that very same website. Previously quiet, some artists that claim to have worked at Miracle are now speaking up and telling their tales.

Update: Link to good copy of story.

That is all great and everything... However, as I read the replies, I can't help but get a little agitated by these people.

[disclaimer]I will say that I really don't know much about the story other than what has been said on Animation Nation and a couple of other websites. [/disclaimer] Attention anonymous Miracle posters. Studios aren't and shouldn't be a democracy. They are not setup so everyone that works there can drive the direction of the company. Sure, a competent boss/manager/investor can ask for opinions or advice, but it is not his responsibilty to consult with the people that he is paying.

After reading these comments, I became a little sick of hearing something like "if Tom would have listened to us, Miracle Mouse would of been a success". That drives me bonkers. Since when is a company (as misguided as it may be) required to check in and get direction from its employees that are paid to make art? Granted, I haven't read any contracts or didn't sit on any interviews. But, I doubt that Tom Hignite hired them for their studio management skills. I've got news for ya, not many companies are going to ask for a vote on how the business side of things should be done. Tom sounds as if he was the director and the producer. Maybe he did not deserve those titles because of his lack of industry experience, but considering he is also the investor/owner, he is the guy in charge and he doesn't need to listen to the crew. Gotta love backseat management.

I know I'm over reacting. I just got a little ruffled when some of these guys assumed that if they were able to steer the ship, they wouldn't have run aground.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Here and There

I really do have a hard time keeping this blog updated. It was so easy in the beginning. My, how things change. There is plenty to talk about, I just can't find time to type it out. Luckily, there are probably only 5 or 6 of you reading this garbage, but for you few people, here is something (albeit, not much!).

A few films have come out since my last additions. Most of them didn't do all that well, Happy Feet being the exception. Although I haven't seen this movie yet and I only have an eventual interest renting it, I’ll still send out my congratulations to those that worked on it (even though parts of it were made with motion capture).

Speaking of recent releases, Flushed Away has been declared a failure by DreamWorks. Okay, they didn’t use those words. But, they might as well of. My often wrong gut instincts are telling me that this was said only as an excuse for the Aardman/DreamWorks split that recently took place. These two forces seemed to be at creative odds and after the expensive experiment, it was just too much to handle for both sides. Aardman didn’t care for the story decisions from DWA, and Katzenberg didn’t care for the unShrek-like BO numbers. After talking with a couple of people over in the UK, it sounds like Jeffrey put his dirty paws all over everything and ruffled a few feathers in the process. So much so, that at least a couple of people left the project in protest. I wish Aardman the best. Although I don't think their humor always works in the US, they do have talent. Maybe they will get some distribution deals over here to allow them to make movies (not settling for DreamWorks visions of their films) their way. I bet the Weinstein's would love a crack at them.

Disney is set to start dropping more people as Wilbur wraps and the other CG films in development or pre-production are getting negative feedback from the Pixar boys. Plenty are upset about the layoffs, but unfortunately, this is the way it goes in animation these days. That doesn’t stop some staffers from having a few choices words about the Pixar guys coming in and shaking things up. My personal take is that they are going to strip WDFA to its core and make sure that Pixar remains king of CG, while Disney goes back to a hand drawn film every 4 or more years and a CG film at about the same pace (i.e. some of these CG films in development are going to get the axe). It sounds like the honeymoon is over for some of the people down here.

Small studios with big dreams…

I’ve heard rumblings of the CG “Opus” feature gearing up here in LA. I don’t quite know what studio is doing the production yet, but it is safe to say it probably isn’t Wild Brain in San Francisco. Although they were going to do it at one time, I heard there was a falling out. I wonder who is directing the film or if it is even greenlit. Whatever the case, it is in development with animation tests being done.

Whatever happened to “Ollie the Otter” in San Francisco? I haven’t heard a squeak in a very long time. It should be in production by now, right? They made an awful lot of claims a long time ago. I also wonder about this project and if it is even still alive.

A story came out a few months ago about some new motion capture technology, and there were some quotes from the director/producer of “Food Fight”. I can’t remember exactly what was said. It had something to do with releasing the film in February, yet it hasn’t even gone into production yet. Yes folks, a feature film animated, lit, and rendered in just a few months time! That mocap technology must be fantastic!!

Lastly, a friend in the Bay area said that rumors were stirring that Sony was to open an animation studio in Novato (N. of San Fran). Now that I've heard the rumor from two different sources, I wonder what this is all about. Sounds like a goofy idea.

Steaming Piles of BS

With all the press articles sounding off about talking animal movies and the glut of CG animated films, Happy Feet comes along and makes $42 million this opening weekend. Will this change anything in these so called reporter's eyes? Will a retraction come? Will they come to their senses and realize it is the stories that have been sucking and not the number of films? Yeah, right!

My guess is that they had a horrible childhood. Their parents probably did something really terrible to them, so they strike out at everything that may remind them of those younger years. Or maybe, they are one of the many failed film students that took up a career as a film critic and are looking for every chance to lash out at animation - the bastard child of Hollywood.

The first two articles to start all of this nonsense and got the ball rolling were from a pair of gay lovers living in West Hollywood. They each wrote VERY similar stories and sent them off to two separate publications. It is obvious that they sat down and wrote them together, or else they both had the exact same horrific childhood. Whatever the case, don't confuse this hatred for these inept writers as some kind of stance on their sexual orientation. I could care less and to each their own. This is purely a jab at them as writers. After all, they are the ones that started this craziness, and the other lemmings, I mean writers, latched onto and rehashed the same garbage over and over again.

I really think that the ambiguous gay writing duo were responsible for these unneeded steaming pile of articles that have come out recently. Have to hand it to them though. They both sat down and wrote the same article together, but sold it to multiple publications under their two different names. Genious!

And that brings me back to Happy Feet. Another talking animal CG film that did well over the weekend. Thank you Happy Feet. Maybe these guys should focus on the real problem. Storytelling. Not who or what is in the story or how many we may see a year.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Time Off

Once again I had disappeared and left this blog alone. Sorry, but I rushed off on vacation with my family. We started in New York and then traveled world-right to Great Britain, Spain, France, Moscow, and finally to Australia.

Neither my wife nor myself have ever done anything like this. We enjoyed it immensely. It was nice to get away and see different parts of the world.

It doesn't appear that a lot has happened while I was away. I mean, nothing huge. More piss ass films were released and did poorly at the box office, more stupid comments from reporters that don't understand the business or refuse to actually do any research.

On the features front, Flushed Away is right around the corner and looks to be a decent film. In a future blog entry, maybe I'll talk about what a train wreck that production was. Obviously everyone knows by now the parting of Aardman and DreamWorks. Maybe this will shed some light on the situation.

I got a chance to see Open Season when I returned from vacation. Just as I had hoped, the visuals were incredible and the animation was wonderful. I tip my hat to SPA and the love they put into this picture. It shows. Sure the story seemed to borrow from here and there, but it was still enjoyable and the eye candy was worth every penny. Too bad it didn't do better in the box office. Sony says it was inline with what they had expected. Give me a break. You expected more. A $90 million film with a $23 Million opening = not good.

I'm all for plenty of animation jobs. But animated film after animated film is diluting the market. Either come up with a cheaper way to make films or expect to make less money. On the good side, this will thin out those trying to get rich quick.

Speaking of thinning out. DNA, the producers of Ant Bull and Jimmy Neutron is off the map. What was once a thriving studio is now a shell. I can't say that I thought Ant Bully or JN was a great movie, but I did have hope that these guys would survive. Maybe someday they will come back. But, I won't count on it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Animation Mentor

Since I seem to be pissing a couple of people off with my hatred for motion capture in feature cartoon animation, I figured I should go one step further and piss off some animators that do it by hand.

Animation Mentor. That online "school" that helps newbies and experienced animators alike get better at their craft has recently released a School Demo Reel.

They are basically showing off the work from the students. Quite a bit of this stuff is top notch. Dare I say, it is even better than some of the mentors own professional and personal work. Not to slam the guys helping the students, but I think some of them are getting embarrassingly lapped by their students. Good for them!

This of course could be a result of the student getting more time to hone their shots than the pro animators get on whatever show they are working on. And of course we know that working on some other directors vision can sometimes be stiffling. Whatever the case, it gives me hope that some of the new guys are going to be half way decent. Unfortunately, most of the other schools are turning out terrible animators/artists/TD's.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Disney Loves Motion Capture

Disney decided to get Robert Zemeckis and his love for motion capture over to the mouse. Now, Imagemovers (Zemeckis' company) will be under the Disney banner and ultimately be John Lasseters responsibility.

I can't help but wonder what Lasseter thinks of Imagemovers and motion capture in general. I'm sure his official line is "it is the story that is important". But, deep down... Does he have a hatred for motion capture that some of us do? I want to think so. If he is into that whole motion capture thing, I can only think less of him.

Monday, July 31, 2006

You Are A Menace To Animation Society!

I stopped working as an animator many years ago. Therefore, the following rant has absolutely nothing to do with fear of losing my job. It comes from what I see as a menace to animated films.

If you are an “animator” working on a motion capture film and you are tweaking graphs, cleaning up data, etc, etc. Shame on you. Quit your job and get a real animation job because you are doing nothing but hurting or even blowing your chances of getting real employment as an animator where hand-keyed work is valued.

Your colleagues look at you as second-rate data manipulators and will never give you props if you go seek a job at a studio that relies on hand animation. You are only contributing to the nonsense that drives these producers to use motion capture in the first place.

You are a menace to animation society.

Do these words piss you off? Good! I hope so. I hope they piss you off so much that you prove to me and everyone else that you are an animator worth a piss and will get on a project where you animate everything, not just relegated to cleaning up a computer's mess and leave motion capture behind -forever-.

Stand up! Prove that you are a real animator and turn down these jobs. Are you so desperate for work? Do you really think that motion capture is animation? Do you really think that you are respected in our industry?

Maybe you are in such a financial position where you have to take on these jobs. Maybe you even like the whole motion capture idea or look. That’s fine. Just don’t call yourself an animator or expect props from those the real animators that laugh behind your back.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Year of the Toon

I wrote an article called "Year of the Toon" for CGCHAR. Nothing special, but give it a read. Something must be wrong when I'm writing for another website while my blog goes almost un-updated. (End of post)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pixar Running on Fumes

Cars was an incredible bit of lighting, textures, shading, and animation. Too bad the story was boring and putting people asleep. For the first time in a Pixar film, I heard kids paying attention to everything but the movie. Standing up, walking around, talking, totally not into the film. My wife was shuffling as well with her head propped up against her hand in boredom. I even caught myself daydreaming.

The lighting and realism was pretty breathtaking. But I ask myself, "Is this really what I want out of an animated movie?" It was different and technically impressive. Everything else left me uninspired.

Watching animated cars for two hours was too much. Maybe I needed to be a car fanatic to watch this thing. But, I couldn't care about about any of the characters.

Everything felt forced. This was Pixar's first crapper, if you were to ask me.

Pixar Running on Fumes

Cars was an incredible bit of lighting, textures, shading, and animation. Too bad the story was boring and putting people asleep. For the first time in a Pixar film, I heard kids paying attention to everything but the movie. Standing up, walking around, talking, totally not into the film. My wife was shuffling as well with her head propped up against her hand in boredom. I even caught myself daydreaming.

The lighting and realism was pretty breathtaking. But I ask myself, "Is this really what I want out of an animated movie?" It was different and technically impressive. Everything else left me uninspired.

Watching animated cars for two hours was too much. Maybe I needed to be a car fanatic to watch this thing. But, I couldn't care about about any of the characters.

Everything felt forced. This was Pixar's first crapper, if you were to ask me.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Rumor Central - Disney Toon

I've been busy on a few projects and haven't had time to write. However, that hasn't stopped me from hearing rumors and now passing them on here. The latest? Another Disney Toons slashing.

The rumor is that Disney Toons let go of several department heads. Either 4 or 5 have been let go along with a development executive. Sharon still holds tight and continues to dodge bullets as everyone else gets peppered. I'm sure she is a little more than nervous that she may be next.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

DreamWorks Delivers Mediocre Film

I had an opportunity to see "Over The Hedge" from DWA earlier this week. I enjoyed myself and even laughed outloud a few times. Overall, I had a good time. However, as a whole, I'd rate this movie 2 1/2 stars out of 5.

(very mild spoilers)

Some of the lighting and textures were very nice, and the animation was well done. The story just felt like a big, "ehh, so what?" I just didn't care about RJ the raccoon. Whether he ends up getting eaten by the bear or captured by the animal control guy, it really didn't matter. Bruce Willis is a horrible voice for a cartoon character and that only made it harder to care about his character.

(/very mild spoilers)

I was more interested in paying attention to the animation, lighting, textures than caring about the story itself. That isn't a good sign at all. On the plus side, DW didn't throw in a bunch of songs to try and make it sound hip and cool or splatter it with timely references. At the same time, I really didn't like Ben Folds music in there (and I am a fan of BF5).

I don't imagine this film will have very long legs.

Prior to Hedge, they screened "First Flight" a short film produced at DreamWorks. It was pretty good. I'm not sure if it was the projector or the render itself, but there was some flickering and out of focus moments that started to give me a headache. Maybe they rendered it low and bumped up the res. However, I can't imagine they would do that. Put the visual glitches aside and it was a nice film. Almost in complete contrast to Over The Hedge; the texturing and lighting fell a little flat, however, the story was interesting and kept me wrapped up.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

John Lasseter’s Directing Days Are Over

No, there wasn’t a press release nor did I hear anything at the water cooler. This is just my gut instinct. John is now overseeing Pixar and Disney, if this guy can direct a film while doing all of this, I’d be blown away.

Don’t get me wrong; his hands will be all over every project that comes from either of these studios. He will have a huge influence over everything. However, his directing career just has to be over. If he ends up in that role again, he will either be stretched so thin that some other aspect will suffer, or he will have to relinquish his duties as creative at the two facilities. As golden as John may be, he is still human. I’ve already heard rumors that John has been dozing off in meetings. Maybe things will settle down, but really, does anyone see that happening?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

That New LA Studio

Intergalactic asked about that would-be animation studio in LA. You know, the one I have mentioned here and there over the (how long has it been now? A year?) months. I don't have a lot of new information that I can share on the blog, however, I will say a few things.

I've spoken with a friend about this in the last few weeks. The latest information that I can mention openly is that they are still in negotiations with the people supplying the first major monies in. Word is, the papers could be signed anyday now. Unfortunately, when those papers go through, that will only signal the beginning of operations for a very small core group of people. Any development on an animated film will be quite a ways in the future.

These things can move incredibly slow. However, I honestly expected something to happen already, but it has not. When you are talking hundreds of millions of dollars, everyone has to be on the same page. The business guys have a lot of juggling to keep track of.

I'm hoping it does come to pass. The people behind it are smart and talented. It could make things very interesting.


My apologies on the last post. I started writing this really long entry, and then decided three quarters of the way through to bail. Unfortunately, I forgot to delete one of the paragraphs.

So, if anyone read the entire "Cars" post, it probably didn't make much sense at the end. You were actually reading part of a larger post that I somehow forgot to get rid of. :o

I guess that is what happens when you try to write something when you are in a hurry.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Pixar - Cars

A friend of mine had the chance to see Cars. He said it was a good movie. But, in his opinion it is definately his least favorite Pixar film. He just couldn't get connected with the characters. However, he did say that the worst Pixar film is still better than most other animated films out there. He praised the animation, the environments, the art direction, the everything - EXCEPT the story. In his opinion, it was just average.

None of this really matters. The film will be big and draw a nice BO here in the States. I'm not so sure about overseas, but Pixar/Disney has nothing to worry about (unless they are expecting Nemo numbers).




IDT - Everyone's Hero - Throw Enough Shit

I was looking at a poster for IDT's coming film: Everyone's Hero. In big bold letters at the top it says "From The Producers of Shark Tale and Robots". This kind of misleading boasting has become so rampant lately...

I guess all of these studios putting out films have nothing else to rest on but advertising what some lacky worked on previously. I mean, who really cares if one of 100 producers that were involved with Shrek ended up going to Valiant to Exec Produce. Do you really need to advertise it? I guess the answer is obviously "Yes". Cause the story certainly isn't enough. They have to be banking that 99% of the world doesn't understand, and will automatically believe that Valiant is being made by the same studio that made Shrek. That is so wrong - on so many levels.

"Everyone's Hero" is doing it too. As we all know, DreamWorks (Shark Tale) and Blue Sky (Robots) have nothing to do with this movie. Yet, they throw those headlines around. Come on. Give us all a break. Either rely on your own merits or leave it out of the advertising (and wait till you have something legit to advertise) you scum.

While we are on the topic of Everyone's Hero. This is another one of those movies that are being pushed out in record time. Judging by the distro deal with Fox, I guess they prefer the shotgun method of doing animated films instead of the sniper-like-precision of Pixar, DreamWorks, and Blue Sky. It didn't work for Valiant, it didn't work for that expensive mess known as The Wild, it just doesn't work. If you aren't going to spend the time to fine tune these stories, then why bother? I guess the idea is to diversify and spread the risk. Maybe it is because Fox has Blue Sky and this other deal is their multi-million gamble that if you throw enough shit against a fan, something will stick.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Saved By The Bell

With the marketing machine beginning to churn, we are starting to see more and more from “The Wild”. A story that started at Disney and then production ended up at CORE, what has been said to be the lowest bidder for the CG work.

The original budget for this film was rumored to be under $50 million. As production problems persisted and people clearly must of got in over their wallet (err, umm, I mean "head"), the costs quickly rocketed quite a bit north of that figure. I’ve heard everything from $70-$100 million. Somehow, I bet it is in the lower end of that scale. Despite the difficulties, they were able to work through it and they will finish the thing. That in itself is a big accomplishment. So congratulations are in order.

Unfortunately, (here it comes) the visuals look horrible. Awkward poses and animation, bad character design, uninspiring and plain environments, and dirty lighting. I’ve heard everyone and their mother up in Canada crowing about this film. My question is… What film are you talking about? They must not be showing us the good parts. Yeah. That’s it.

Additionally. I don't care if The Wild actually began development prior to Madagascar. The simple fact that Madagascar was released first and this film has similar characters doing similar things - it is going to look like a copy-cat production.

Maybe those rumors are true that John Lasseter looked at this film and hated it. I was told he would of shut it down if it weren’t so far along. Saved by the bell.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

March Madness

No, I'm not talking about college basketball. I simply couldn't come up with a more clever title for this post. Speaking of basketball, did you ever play "around the world" as a kid? That's what we are doing here, going "around the animation world". Wow, was that a pathetic transition or what?! I'll send my apologies up front. My coffee adiction has gotten out of hand and I am trying to quit. Unfortunately, it is playing havoc on my usual mental prowess.

How about Brad Bird taking over for Jan Pinkava on Pixar's next movie "Ratatouille"? Does anyone know the skinny on what happened over there? I haven't gotten a straight answer, which means no one wants to be honest. Eventually it will slip out. Maybe someone can shed some light on the situation. I would imagine Jan is now a co-director on the project, as opposed to just completely removed from it. These things tend to cause rifts and we all know what happened to Ash Brannon (one of the original directors of TS2. Ash ended up leaving Pixar and is now directing a movie for Sony Imageworks after brief stops at some other studios.) I wonder if the same will happen with Jan? Probably not, but you never know. My gut instinct is that Ratatouille had some story problems and it was just moving too slowly getting them fixed. Insert new director.

Rapunzel is still moving forward. Sounds as if Glen is really interested in seeing how far he can push CG animation. Good for him. Last I heard, American Dog is on the ropes and is a possibly going down for the count. I'm speculating here, but I think there are far too many "Pixar" projects that will be realized at Disney. Somehow they have to start making room on the calendar for them. Wilbur is moving along just fine and I think this could be a really nice movie. And now that the development execs and layers of management are on their way out, it won't get destroyed at the last minute. This will probably be the first movie coming out of Disney in a while that no one will be able to blame management.

Sony Pictures Animation continues to work on Open Season. This film (imo) has the nicest look of all the CG films coming out in the near future. Cars looks nice, but it just doesn't grab me in the art direction department. Maybe it is just too glossy for my tastes. Over The Hedge looks okay, but parts just plain look sub(DreamWorks)standard. The story appears to be boring and the voice casting is insane. Back to SPA... I've recently seen some artwork and development work for Surf's Up, and like Open Season, it equally looks great. I think SPA is really onto something here.

Framestore (UK) recently announced they are starting their own feature animation division led by... David Lipman! ... trying.. to restrain myself.... umm. No comment here. :o

The Weinstein's continue to scour the universe for lower budget productions created in other countries. The latest distribution deal is with the CG Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie that is being produced by Imagi in Hong Kong. This is good news for anyone making cheaper films. Maybe you can get distribution through these guys too. They seem to be hungry for projects.

The latest "Happy Feet" teaser features a penguin dancing and singing (voiced by Robin Williams). It is much better than their previous clips, however it still has that odd motion capture feel. I'm sure the general movie going audience could care less. And really, most producers just don't care what you or I think about mocap.

That's it. I realize that my posts lately haven't been the most interesting. I just haven't had a lot of time to sit down and come up with something really enlightening (as if that has ever happened). Hopefully things will change. I appreciate the three people that continue to read this blog anyway!! :)

Credit Where Credit is Due

It is frustrating when you give out some new information and another website steals it and doesn't even mention where it came from to begin with. This has happened several times now, and now that the same website has done it multiple times, it really starting to make me crabby.

Animated News at least pointed out that it came from here. And then someone posted on Animation Nation a link to the post. All cool with me. But, then another website takes that information and makes it sound like his breaking information and it is sooo clear where he got it from. I wish this fanboy would grow some.

If this only happened once or maybe twice, I'd probably just smile and keep my trap shut. At least make it less obvious next time. "L"

Monday, March 13, 2006

Development Execs Canned?

Word is, last week, many of the development execs at Disney were shown the door. In an attempt to clean house and make Disney the Disney of old, this was the first necessary step.

The layer of uncreative development execs that micromanaged projects to death over at the mouse are reportedly gone. I haven't seen any official word on this, however I was told by a friend that was told by his friend that is close to the situation. I'm waiting to hear it for myself from someone more direct. However, this wouldn't surprise me in the least. Good riddance to rubbish.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Around The Horn

There haven't been many posts lately, and for that, I apologize. Work has gotten busy and I just have not found the time to write anything. In fact, this will be pretty brief itself.

This is going to be a big year for CG films. It will be interesting to see how things pan out. The recent flop of Doogal was no surprise, however the relative success of Hoodwinked was. Congratulations to the team that put it together. I hope that the next round will have a high enough budget to keep the work in the States. As any reader of my blog, you probably have gathered that I don't have a problem with low budget productions, just the outsourcing of those projects to other countries. Just a note or two... I've had some conversations with people regarding Hoodwinked and although the budget for the CG was pretty small, the other tangibles were not. This film will be lucky to break even after it leaves theaters when it is all said and done. However, that is not too unusual for a film. Just wanted to note that it is not a runaway low budget (relative dollar wise) block buster. I think we will continue to see more Hoodwinked films with super low budgets. However, I think the majority will fit in the 25-40 Million area. This seems to be the sweet spot right now for these entry level studios or those not trying to immitate Pixar/Disney/DreamWorks/SPA/Blue Sky.

Speaking of entry level studios. Over the months, I have mentioned little blurbs here and there about a new CG feature animation studio opening in LA. I've had talks with those in the know about this endeavor and things are still on track. In fact, I've heard that funding is almost complete. Their financial needs are much more than just a film or two. I'm really biting my lip here and want to blab about it. But, I'll restrain myself. This studio will ramp up very quickly once the funding comes in and their CG feature budgets will be north of $90 million per film. They are currently evaluating several potential stories. At least one of them is very well known in the animation community and, in my opinion, is a very hot property. I think it will be one of those stories that a lot of people will really want to work on and have wanted to see happen for a long time. It will be interesting to watch this company sprout up and see how fast (or not) it can get into gear. If you are in LA and aren't happy with your current situation, or maybe you want to jump up the ladder (or looking for an excuse to get out here). Get your reels revved up. I have a feeling hiring could start around June.

There is not a whole lot to say regarding the Pixar/Disney thing. It still has not officially happened. And until it does, I don't think a lot will be happening. Lasseter immediately removed TS3 from Disney's clutches, and really, that was probably his number one agenda. Things will cool off until the deal is completed. Then watch for more cuts.

That is it for today. Hopefully I will have more time to write in the next week.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Thoughts On Disney

This morning, I woke up and decided to re-write the "about me" section of this blog. It really made me reflect on my professional life, where things were and where they are now. It made me nostalgic and hopeful and just a feel good situation.

While I was working at Disney in the 80's, it was a truly a magical time. Every day it was a blessing to go into work and team up with such a creative group. That lasted for many years, I never thought anything would or could change. Then came the 90's and things started to shift. What happened has been well documented and there is no need to go over it again. It just was not a pleasant place to be creative.

With all of the torture that the job seemed to morph into, it was a blessing in disguise. It helped me to refocus and change direction in my career. All for the best. And now that the Disney started making some progress with Chicken Little, Wilbur, and American Dog, things really started to look good again for my friends that rode it out.

Then, the whole Disney/Pixar thing happened. I am going to be totally out of character and say that I'm even more happy for Disney now, or actually, I'm more happy for those that stuck it out. Those with more patience and hope than I did. That company is at a crossroads, where it has the ability to make a swift change and go back to where it was in the past. This is a great opportunity and I am really happy for the company and the people.


Here's to Iger, someone I had some hesitation in supporting. I hope that whatever changes are about to happen will be for the best and that Disney can return to its glory.

I will counter this post with something extremely bitter and jaded in the next couple of days. Equal time - you know!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Where's Waldo?

Life has been a little busier than usual. Despite all the news going on in the animation world, I just have not been able to find the time to write about it.

It is late at night on a Tuesday, and I am exhausted. So let’s run through the world of animation before I fall asleep.

Pixar and Disney, a match made in heaven -- or hell -- depending on your angle. I don’t even know where to begin with this whole thing. Disney shelled out a lot of cash, probably more than they needed to, but they walked away with a goldmine in John Lasseter and the rest of the Pixar muckety mucks.

Not long after the news broke several other developments took place that has been well documented elsewhere. Including Disney’s version of Toy Story 3 getting canned. Iger has since told anyone who would listen that it has moved up to Pixar and will be put on Emeryville's plate. Of course the downer is, 200+ employees over at Circle 7 are not exactly sure where their future paychecks will come from. Some will move over to Disney Feature, a couple may even go up to Pixar, but the majority that aren’t found to be worthy by the new Pixney management will have to find work elsewhere. Good thing DreamWorks is hiring.

Not long after dumping Toy Story 3, Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton toured the Circle 7 studios and were floored by what they saw. If you haven't been to this facility, it is pretty impressive. So impressive that Pete and Andrew said that they wouldn't mind setting up shop there. Whatever that means.

What shoe is going to drop next? My money is on Disney Toon Studios. I also think a production or two that have been in development and pre-production over at WDFA are going to get shit canned. Now that Lasseter has morphed into ruler of the magic kingdom, I have a feeling he will go on a Pixar power play and suck the life out of a few promising Disney features so that he can slowly transition the facility into Pixar south.

Here is where I have issues. Don’t get me wrong. John Lasseter is talented and can get things moving in the right direction at Disney. However, I sure hope he doesn’t get on such a trip that he pushes aside some of those interesting Disney Animated Features that have been in development. There are some top notch creative guys at Disney. Now that they are out of the clutches of bad Disney management, they could go wild with great stories. Unfortunately it looks like Lasseter and company will put the kabosh on that in order to realize their ideas. I liked the diversity of the new Disney. If it becomes one big Pixar, I think we are going to lose a lot. Let’s hope that does not happen.

DreamWorks Animation released a sneak peak of Flushed Away a few days ago. This project looks nice. The character design, the lighting, the textures, the animation, all of it scores high on my card. It is interesting that DreamWorks finally came up with something beautiful by trying to imitate the Aardman stop motion look. Why couldn’t they come up with this on their own? I’m not too interested in seeing Over The Hedge, but Flushed Away, that is something I’m excited about.

Speaking of beautifully animated films with gorgeous textures, Hoodwinked continues to do well in the box office. This film has been ripped left and right and there is no reason to do it here too. I hate the fact that they outsourced the production, I hate the fact that the director cried about it on an animation forum, but I admire that it was actually produced for such a wee budget. This could benefit more small time producers and give studios a way into the game if they play their cards right. I’m a little fearful that it could dilute the market. However, I’ll keep an open mind that something better can be done for a similar budget.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Some Stories Posted on CGCHAR

Since I am posting some of my commentary on CGCHAR, not all of it is ending up here on a timely manner (usually a week after the fact). Unfortunately that is a bad thing when I am reporting time sensitive information. For instance, yesterday, I posted the rumor that Toy Story 3 was getting the axe over at Circle 7. That rumor ended up being true and was picked up by everyone else shortly thereafter. I just posted the latest rumor on about Disney Toon studios and future WDFA projects.

The direct links to each story:

Circle 7 Gets Nervous

Disney Toon and WDFA Info

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Pixar Gets New Distribution Agreement

The long awaited promises of a new distribution deal have finally come to fruition. Pixar has struck a new deal with Disney to distribute their movies. The distribution fee is said to be low with the profits split 0% to Pixar and 100% to Disney. Okay, so that was a bad joke. The reality is of course; Disney purchased Pixar earlier today and walked away with a lot. What did Pixar get out of this? Not much.

For the mere price of $7.2 billion in a stock transaction, Disney now has John Lasseter as the new creative head of both Pixar and Disney Feature Animation. Ed Catmull becomes the president of the same, while the loser in all of this was David Stainton, who has left Disney. The house of mouse suddenly gets pumped full of creative and technical goodness along with a promise from Iger that the Disney corporate culture will change. Pixar on the other hand gets… Umm? Well? Distribution?

What Pixar gets out of all of this is unclear. What was clear is that Steve Jobs was fumbling all over himself during a Disney conference call this afternoon. When asked by a caller what made the Disney offer attractive as opposed to just getting a distribution agreement with them or someone else. Steve suddenly sounded like a confused man. I wish I could of seen his face, he must of looked like a deer on a dark highway as a semi trailer is approaching at full speed.

Face the facts. Steve Jobs sold out. Every promise he has made over the past few years has pretty much ended up as hot air. The shock must be hard for Pixar shareholders who have no choice but go along with it and roll with the punches. It really feels like Steve did this more for Apple than Pixar. Now that he sits on the board of Disney, if he can avoid a conflict of interest probe, he can try to steer more Disney content to iTunes.

Those that I know at Pixar are more than a little pissed off. They were this little company that rose up and slayed dragons to become ruler of the animation universe. Now they have been gobbled up and a lot of their ‘independent studio conquers world’ dreams are squashed. I don’t blame them. They are now part of the machine. Let’s just hope that Steve and Bob follow through with their promises that the Pixar cult (I mean culture. Or do I?) will continue untouched.

I believe Mr. Lasseter and pals head to Burbank today to rally the troops in a big giant group hug. Hopefully, it will go better than the attempted love fest today at Pixar as they announced to the studio that they have been swallowed whole.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Director of Hoodwinked Sticks Foot in Mouth

Obviously tired of all the negative backlash on what seems to be every animation forum in existence, Cory Edwards, the director of Hoodwinked comes out with a post on Animation Nation the other day. While trying to clear the air and explain his side of things, he clearly put his foot in his mouth and only made himself look worse.

First things first. Cory blames the look of the film on the film’s budget and his crew’s inexperience. Budgets can be very limiting. But, that hasn’t stopped other productions that simply look wonderful and were produced for under $15 million. What is the sad part of his post, Cory is quick to pass the buck and blame his crew for the visuals. After claiming in his message that this film was created by artists, not executives, he makes that comment in true executive fashion.

Cory should have just kept his mouth shut. He did exactly what any director should not do. He insults his crew by saying that the quality was not just a function of budget, but by the people carrying out the work. Sure, budget plays a role. But, you as a director should be more responsible than to sell out your crew. You want the praise for getting the money, making it happen, writing the story, directing the movie, yet want to pass the buck when it comes to the criticisms.

Alienating your crew is not a good way to begin your directing career. Shame.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Disney Buying Pixar --REVISED--

I have been saying for months that Pixar and Disney will not get back in bed together. Not unless Steve sucks it up and lowers his demands. Nothing has changed with that gut feeling. However, I do feel [which has been speculated by many news outlets] that there is a decent chance that Disney will buy Pixar very soon.

Here is my feeling on the whole situation. Steve may be ready to give up Pixar in order to devote more time to his real love. Apple. Not that he will be able to let Pixar go completely, he still wants to be able to make some of the calls. This leads me to believe that perhaps he is ready to let Disney buy Pixar if a favorable deal for Steve can be made. It would be a win-win situation for him. He becomes the largest shareholder of Disney and theoretically retains a good deal of control of Pixar AND now some control of Disney.

With the feet dragging that is going on with a distribution agreement and the whispers coming from Disney, something seems to be going on beyond a distribution only agreement. I know Steve there are a lot of i's to dot and t's to cross, but these things don't need to take this long. Something else be may looming. Much larger.

Of course I could be wrong. Just a gut feeling based on talk that I've had and things I've heard.

The next few weeks will be interesting.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Kung Fu ... Gecko?

Here comes the next Antz vs Bugs Life, Shark Tale vs Finding Nemo, The Wild vs Madagascar... Kung Fu Panda vs Kung Fu Gecko. Thanks to for the alert. I wasn't even aware of this film until I slinked over to that site this morning.

I know very little about this production. Upon first look, the quality is probably higher then any other CG production I've seen from that part of the world. The animation is far beyond Hoodwinked and the visuals seem better than Valiant. However, there is something off. It has a certain feel to it that seems too glossy and comes across slightly amateurish. Still, this is surprisingly well done.

Picking "Kung Fu Gecko" as a title was a complete mistake considering the film releases in 2008, the same year as DreamWorks karate-kicking-flick, "Kung Fu Panda".

I will have to do some investigating to see what the history is for this film. Who financed it and whether it has distribution (doesn't appear so). If anyone has any information, please share in the comment section.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Valiant Part Deux

Good news! As far as I know, there is no sequel to Valiant on the way. Bad news is, if you've seen the recently released trailer for "The Wild", you may of guessed that we are in for another Valiant-like CG film.

Like Valiant, The Wild is being financed and distributed by Disney --although Valiant was not entirely financed by Mickey--. The film originally began life under the hat (not to be confused with another CG development called "Wild Life") and long story short, the film was given to a director/producer team based out of San Francisco. Steve Williams and Clint Goldman shopped the script around to several studios in the US and Canada. They had a small budget considering what they were looking for and CORE ended up winning the project with its lowball bid. Rumors started floating around that CORE was having a lot of problems. Although some of them were said to be typical newbie production problems, word has it that a lot of the problems were software based. They fought and pressed ahead and ended up overcoming whatever issues held them up in the beginning.

Unfortunately, the outcome looks weak. Even if The Wild began its life before Madagascar, it will surely be thought of as a bad carbon copy. Dark, murky environments and less than terrific character designs (or simply bad execution of those designs), and a familiar storyline adds up to stink. It just doesn't look that inspiring.

With all of that said. My prediction is that The Wild will suffer the same fate as Valiant. A half-assed Disney marketing campaign followed by a weak box office and slow home video sales. It will make more money than Valiant, but Disney has since put all of their cookies in their own CG jar and they no longer care much about these outsourced projects.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Can Anyone Take the Crown Away?

Disney lost the animation crown and handed it over to Pixar several years ago. Now that Emeryville has turned into the new Magic Kingdom, will anyone ever challenge them for the throne? The easy answer to that is yes. However, it could be quite a while before anyone is capable.

DreamWorks Animation, although turning out promising animated films, isn’t in a position to overtake Pixar. The company as a whole is too focused on quantity over quality, or at least it is perceived that way. While it is conceivable that DWA will occasionally turn out another Shrek-like-moneymaker, I seriously doubt they will be able to string together enough hits to do much damage.

The next logical contender is Disney. After all, they ruled the roost for such a long time, but thanks to a number of bad decisions, have found themselves behind the eight ball. Can they recover? "Signs point to yes." Chicken Little was a decent start, and although it wasn’t a masterpiece, it is a step in the right direction. Their line up of movies look very promising, but unless Iger proves to be a magician, I think they have too many clowns in management to turn things around quickly. They need several more years and a few bonafide hits to be much of a threat.

Blue Sky lacks Pixar’s attention-to-story-detail and DreamWorks ability to push out quantity. Like DWA, I can see them making the occasional hit, but not stringing more than 1 of those together in a row. Don’t get me wrong. They will have good movies, but nothing that blows anyone away time after time.

Sony Pictures Animation is an unproven quantity. I think they have a lot of going for them and could be the dark horse. However, they need to get that first movie out of the gate before we can say too much.

I think the biggest threat to Pixar is Pixar. What if Steve Jobs decides to sell Pixar to someone who doesn’t allow the creatives to be creative? Maybe that is a remote possibility. What isn’t very remote is that sooner or later they are going to have a mediocre film or even a dud. It may not be for several more releases, but it will happen. As soon as it does, Pixar will have lost its mojo. That special indescribable something that makes them what they are. They will probably bounce back quickly, but they will be perceived as vulnerable. In a world of several quality animation producers, a single trip up could be just enough to make that crown fall right off their head.