Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Here and there, Part 2

Near the end of June, Ratatouille opens. As usual, the look of the film is pretty impressive. Leave it to Pixar to keep pushing the visual boundaries. I'm on the fence on how I think the general populace will accept it. I think it will do okay, but nothing near Shrek numbers.

Weinstein continues to try and dominate the animated feature world by making an agreement with the [sarcasm] animation juggernaut that is Exodus[/sarcasm]. I've got to hand it to Weinstein. They are really trying to make this lower budget animation business work. The deal calls for Weinstein to finance and distribute a slate of CG films from the company that will first finish "Igor" in 2008. This is another one of those films that has been going on for so many years. We are not talking Foodfight, but you get the idea.

Speaking of juggernauts, Shrek 3 just pimp slapped a million haters out there. All of the people that despise this franchise for whatever reason have got to be unhappy about its success. Face it, the movie going audience loves Shrek. Personally, I think it is funny. Not the movie, just the fact that so many people want to see it and DreamWorks fall on its face. Get over it, Shrek is a success and will continue to be so for a while.

Anyone catch that Cannes stunt that Jerry Seinfeld did to promote Bee Movie? That is pretty funny. An even better way to get the attention of the world would of have been if that contraption failed and sent Jerry belly-flopping into the water. Sorry, but I find this guy annoying and a pure distraction when it comes to the voice of an animated character. Unlike my dream of Jerry making a painful splash, this film is going to do the flopping for him. Maybe all you Shrek/DWA haters out there feel a little better after that Shrek BO dominance.

Here and there, Part 1

Here we go again, another long pause between blog entries. There is no shortage of things happening, I've just been too lazy to post.

Meet The Robinson's came and went without much fanfare. It performed okay, but I can't imagine it was considered a success inside the walls of Disney. More people laid off afterwards. Blah blah blah. Nothing exciting.

I read an interesting couple of comments from the mouths of Luc Besson and Harvey Weinstein. Wow, what happened between these guys? Luc wasn't too fond of how the Weinsteins distributed their film:
I've worked in the movie business for 30 years now," Besson told SuicideGirls.com interviewer Robert Epstein when asked why his "Arthur and the Invisibles" did so poorly in America. The Weinstein Company, Besson said, "was the worst I have worked with in my entire life, in any country.

The French auteur said Weinstein went too far in "changing" the French fantasy for an American audience. But Weinstein, who brought on everybody from Madonna to Snoop Dogg for the English-language version, says Besson is the problem.

Harvey Weinstein couldn't let that go. At Cannes he had the following to say:

He's out of his mind." Weinstein, whose changes made "Arthur" a success in the U.K., accused the director of enriching himself by "lying about his budget," which Besson claimed was $86 million. "I'll write a $1 million check to the charity of his choice if he can prove that really was his budget. He's a has-been.

Those are quite the claims. It is always fun to read about these squables.

Sony's second film Surf's Up opens quite soon. The film looks interesting enough, but I am not looking forward to this one as I did with Open Season. I don't know if it is the documentary style or just that Happy Feet killed my interest in penguins. Whichever the case, hopefully it will do decently so that Sony can re-hire all those people they fired. However, I think it will do poorly. Even less than Open Season. By the way, I really love those "art of" books that are put out for the SPA movies. I saw the Surf's Up book this weekend. A little thin on the CG aspects, but the traditional art was good eye candy.

Speaking of Sony and firing people, they have officially announced that they are opening that New Mexico studio. I guess the tax incentives were cleared for what they wanted to do and they'll try to make it happen in the desert. It will be interesting to watch. I have a feeling it will be another disappointment - like when Fox had the Phoenix studio.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

New business models? Part 2.

It has taken me a while to get this thing out. Between work and the fact that I couldn’t decide on how to best present this… Well, you get the point. I’ve written and re-written the post at least seven times now. The sad part is, it is pretty watered down from my initial version, I’ve just decided to be extra careful. I doubt I could do any harm, but in order to be on the cautious side...

More than a year ago, I started hearing rumors about a group trying to put together a new animation studio in LA. After some digging, I found a little more here and there. Information was very hard to come by. However, as it turns out, someone I know is involved and I was able to extract just a little more from him. He is very tight lipped, but it gave me enough that I could expand my search.

First things first. As of right now, the studio is nothing more than a glimmer in a few eyes. It only consists of a small group of people, a telephone book thick business plan, a few strategic partners, and financial backing. You are probably wondering what the hold up is if they have these ingredients. I wondered the same thing, but based upon a rumor, there is one last hurdle that needs to be leapt before anything can proceed. And yes, it is still possible that it won’t happen at all.

There isn’t a whole lot more I can say. This studio has the ability to immediately jump into the $100+ million per CG feature game. The question is, can they find the talent and compelling stories to do it right? The business people have it together and I’ve been told will stay out of the creative side (we’ll see about that). There is an extremely small foundation of people together to run the animation studio, but nothing more. Of course no real hiring has begun and the hordes of individuals needed for an actual show won’t be needed for quite a long time.

What is most intriguing to me about this whole thing is the business model. It isn’t exactly following the standard studio system that has been basically unchanged over the years. It took some successful business men that aren’t rooted in the Hollywood system to develop something totally (what I think is) unique. The animation part of the company, at least what the average employee is exposed to won’t be much different than anywhere else in town. It is the behind the scenes differences that have me excited and would probably bore everyone else visiting this blog. It may translate into a more open and creative environment, it could provide more bang for the buck, it could do a lot of things. But realistically, until it gets going it is hard to know for sure and is all vapor.

There you go. A whole lot of nothing. Sorry! It all boils down to the possibility of another large animation studio in LA doing CG features very soon. Smart business people coming up with a tight plan, while still handing over the steering wheel to creatives. I usually don’t get jacked up about proposed studios, in fact, I’m normally pretty skeptical. Something is just different about this. I really hope they can pull it off. At the same time, I’m remaining realistic that it may go nowhere. If it does get traction, it will be a great opportunity for talented individuals to jump a few rungs on the ladder or simply provide a change of scenery.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

New business models? Part 1.

It appears that LA Times published an article about the Sony Imageworks relocation. Or partial relocation, whatever the case may be. It provides a little more information regarding where the studio would go and how many people would end up there initially. Anyone that comes here regularly knows that I hate outsourcing. When a US based business ships their stuff overseas to get it done on the cheap, it really ruffles my feathers. However, just for the record, I'm okay with this New Mexico move.

It doesn't thrill me that work is moving out of LA, but, I would much rather see it move somewhere else in the States than out of the country. Sorry my Canadian brothers. I'm okay with your homebrew productions, that's cool, but that is where I draw the line (not that I can't blame you for taking advantage of the situation).

So, how long until California starts offering tax incentives to keep productions here? It will probably not happen for a while, but if they wish to keep one of the biggest industries in Southern California producing income for the area, they are going to have to do something. Let's face it, the cost of doing work here is expensive. The only reason to keep it (feature animation production) locally is because of the talent pool (in numbers and experience) exceeds every other part of the world (extreme bias here) except for maybe San Francisco. And even that is going to shift if something isn't done.

Part 2 will be focused on "that new studio" that I keep barking about. I'm editing and re-editing it in order to say something without saying anything.