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.