Thursday, July 19, 2007

Knights of Laika

Cartoon Brew linked to an article on Phil Knight (Nike) and his son Travis over at Laika. What an interesting read. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

For those out of the loop. Laika used to be Will Vinton Studios. They did all of those great Claymation/stopmo projects over the years. Travis Knight, Phil's son, had been working at Vinton as an animator. At some point, the company needed additional funding and along came Daddy Warbucks. I don't know if Travis asked for his father's assistance, nor does it really matter. However, that article makes it sound as if Phil really wanted his son to follow in his shoes (ziiing). And since Cheesy Tee didn't want to be in the Nike business, there was nothing left to do but buy the company he did have interest in, fire the founder/president/owner, and groom your son to be in charge.

Maybe the plan all along was to buy the company for his son, who knows. The article sure makes it sound that way.

Look, I don't know either of these people or have any secret inside information. And, I guess you cannot fault Travis (he does seem to love animation and the article doesn't make it sound like he wanted all of this). [jealous rage] But man, this just sets me off. My life would of been so much easier with a rich father that could just buy me whatever I wanted. [/jealous rage]

Props to Phil for putting together a well orchestrated plan. I guess if your son doesn't want to be a part of the company you built, you might as well takeover the company the son does love.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Those crazy Indians

I recently received an email from an Indian animation company that made a few startling claims. Did you know that Pirates of the Caribbean, King Kong, Lord of the Rings, and a few other big productions had their CG outsourced to India?

That was news to me too. I suppose they think that they will get a few clients by making outrageous claims. I really don't have anything to say on the matter. Just wanted to share this incredible bit of information!

Stop the insanity!


I'm not one to praise a studio or a film, especially one that has so many fan-boys. However, after seeing Ratatouille last week, I have to post something.

Although I think the story is good, it is not great. It kept my interest and I was entertained. What really impressed me about this movie was everything else. The character design, the lighting, the texturing, the animation, and the effects were all amazing. Pixar pushed the bar higher again.

It was just beautiful eye candy. It was crafted so well. I give my props to Pixar. After that just-okay-Cars, you've pulled off a wonderful film.

I'm not normally a DreamWorks basher, but seeing the Bee Movie trailer prior to Ratatouille just made it look so much more crappy. What a difference.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Financing Animated Films -- Part 2

Once again, I talked about making a part 2 of an article and then ran out of steam. I’ll try to get through this and not cop-out completely.

When a studio makes a film, there are an infinite number of places they can get funding. However, a source that many don’t know about is the film fund. These things act almost like a mutual fund where many investors pool their money together to buy a lot of shares in a lot of different companies. The mutual fund is a great way to diversify and remove risk from an investment of one company. A film fund has similar methodology.

Several wealthy individuals or companies can put money into one of these funds knowing that it will go towards a slate of films. Usually the films are “pre-selected film slates”. Meaning, the studio picks what goes into the slate and what doesn’t. Low performing comedies are in, risky vanity projects are in, and traditionally profitable films … out?

Sure enough, that is what happens a lot of time. Animated films are generally excluded, as are franchise films (i.e. Harry Potter, Spider Man, Pirates OTC, etc). With these two removed from the slate, you are really limiting return on investment.

To their credit, some studios are doing Sequential Slates. Meaning that a fund is investing in any release the studio puts out over a certain time period. Disney has one called the Kingdom Fund. However, they call it Semi-Sequential because they wanted to remove Pirates of the Caribbean and all animated films! Talk about stacking the deck in their favor. Face it, the studio is smart and personally funding the pictures they know will perform well. The investors are being a little slow on the take by throwing their money in the pot hoping to make money on a surprise success like Borat.

If I had a bunch of money lying around, investing in films would be the last thing I’d do. With the creative accounting that is so rampant in Hollywood, it just doesn’t make business sense. Combine that with these lopsided funds, I’m not sure why anyone gets involved.

So, if you were wondering one way Hollywood gets a ton of easy money, film funds is an example. Although it doesn’t seem very profitable for the investor, it still manages to put billions of dollars into the film industry. Someone is doing a good sales job!

Now, if a studio came along and put together a film fund that actually includes the animated and frachise films AND had open book accounting (make sure no funny business is going on)… Then we are talking a good idea. People are trying it. Let’s see what happens.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A few things...

I wrote another article that was posted over at CgChar. You can see it here. In a nutshell, it is an easy way to see what others are making at various studios without relying on polls or sneaking a look at someone's paycheck.

Part 2 of "Financing Animated Films" is coming soon. Sorry for the delay. Been very busy.

Ratatouille had its opening weekend. Pulled in an estimated $47.2 million weekend. Good take for an animated film (lately), but since it isn't the highest Pixar opening, you can bet that the press will make a deal of out of it. I couldn't make it to a theater, so I can't really give you my opinion on the movie. Judging by everyone else loving it, I'll probably have a much too high expectation and end up hating it.