Monday, December 29, 2008

Top Ten Grossers of 2008

Variety had a list of the Top Ten world wide money makers in 2008. At #3 is Kung Fu Panda with $632 million. Wall-E is at #8 with $507. Madagascar and Horton are slightly down on the list at #11 and $14 respectively. I find the world wide grosses to be the best barometer of what the public wants to see.

As usual, it is a good year for animation. Most of the other Top 10 are heavy effects driven. More good news for those in the industry.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I just finished watching Horton Hears a Who on DVD. This was the second time I've seen this movie. While it probably isn't my favorite animated film of all time, it was very enjoyable.

A few things stood out. First off, the lighting and textures are absolutely beautiful. Blue Sky really outdid themselves. I honestly think that some of the shots are better lit in this movie than any other CG film I've seen. Very dimensional. The furry soft textures covering everything also gave me a warm fuzzy feeling.

The next important point to make is that the animation is excellent. I felt that Blue Sky's other films are pretty well animated, but Horton is far and away better in this department. Those rigs must of been a blast to play with. They seem to be capable of most anything. Speaking of technical behind the scenes goodness...

The special features for this DVD just plain sucked. Were there any? I certainly didn't see any. What happened to the good old fashioned bonus features? Both Kung Fu Panda and Wall-E sucked in this department too. Has everyone given up? I did notice the Ice Age short, which was terrible btw, but beyond that. Nothing. (Please note that I got this movie from Netflix, perhaps there is a second disc I am unaware of).

If you ignore my criticism of the lack of extra features. This is a good film. Not a great film. But a solid good film. The ending was a little silly for me (especially with the singing), however, the great animation and great lighting/texturing more than made up for it.

Delgo takes a Dump

How could I not comment about the Delgo disaster? The film took 10 years to finish and a reported $40 million or so. The opening weekend was a complete failure and one of, if not the most poorly performing films in that many theaters.

So what happened? I haven't seen the movie. And honestly, I have no interest in it. However, I have a feeling the number one problem was story. It just did not fit the typical American animation form. Secondly, the film looks like ass. However, you cannot expect anything less. It was started so long ago, that at the time, it looked only slightly worse compared to the CG films prior to '98. However, by 2008 standards, it looks outdated.

With all that is wrong with this film, I'm sad to see it fail. This was a true story of a guy who tried to make a go at an independent CG film. I respect Adler and his team. Props.

Next time, if there is a next time. You need to spend more money on marketing. No one really knew about this film. The ball was dropped. Very unfortunate.

I hope that some of the money can be made back in home video.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pissing off the troops

No, I'm not talking about our military. I'm talking about the visitors to this blog. There is nothing that seems to tick off the general animation industry more than saying something bad about a Pixar film.

My dislike for Wall-E has possibly created the most comments of any of my posts. Congratulations. This is what I love, causing people to get pissy and say what's on their mind. Good for you!

We all have our opinions. And no matter how much you try to convince me otherwise, Wall-E was weak. Any number of nominations or even awards will never change my view.

I still think highly of Pixar. All you industry wannabe kool-aid drinkers can relax. Presto was genious, Up looks promising and most of their films were good. It just so happens that Wall-E wasn't one of them!

Laika Lays Off

I knew it would happen sooner or later. Today, it was announced that Laika is laying off 65 (or 75 depending on your source). It seems that Jack and Ben has been shelved and those working on it are getting the axe.

When Coraline completely wraps, we may see more pink slips. This is par for the course in the animation industry. The difference is, since this company is on its own little island up there in the Pacific Northwest, they'll have a harder time bringing in new people next time around.

So much for Laika being one of the very few places that gives job security. Their location only hurts in these situations.

I don't have very high hopes for Laika. After Coraline tanks, this may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I wasted another 2 hours of my life watching the Wall-E DVD release this weekend. In my mind, this film is Pixar's worst.

To think that Disney is trying to push this into the Oscar's best film category blows my mind. What did I miss? This shouldn't even be nominated for best animated feature.

On the bright side, the Presto short that was featured before the film and is now on the DVD is one of the better ones I've seen in a while.

Bolt Opens to a Disappointing $27 million

The title says it all. Sad results for over 3,600 theaters.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mass Scam.. err, I mean Animation

This Facebook short animation project went live today. I browsed around the interface and found that technically, it was put together rather well. And yes, I signed up for Facebook just to check it out.

You can view the animatic and download assets quite easily. Not shabby for a glitzy site such as this.

Unfortunately, the story itself sucks. This is what happens when an executive one day wakes up and decides he is a director. Go watch the reel and let me know if you can stay awake for the entire thing. It reeks of crappiness. (On a non-story note, considering the talent that is behind the music, you'd expect a little more. It was uninspiring and felt flat as a pancake.)

I hate, with a passion when objects like a guitar or violin are deformed like that. It just comes off as rubbery crap. This project is filled to the gills with it. Approached correctly, it could look decent. However, judging by the renders on the Facebook page, the director is interested in stretchy and gooey nonsense.

The good news is, if you are one of the lucky 107 or so animators that are selected to have your shot included in the finished piece, you will receive $500 for your time. That probably works out to around $5 or $10 an hour. Not bad!! (sarcasm)

The bad news is, there will probably be thousands of entries competiting for the 107 selected shots. You'll probably be doing a whole lot of something for a whole lot of nothing. Think about this. You could be the world's best animator and your shot will be rejected, because the majority of shots may be horrible. In order to keep continuity, your masterpiece will be discarded in order to maintain suckiness.

Initially I thought this was a rather cool idea. Upon further self examination. This was a selfish thought coming from the business side of my brain. Sure, this is great! For everyone except the artist. Dell, Aniboom, Autodesk, Reel FX, and other companies walk away with some publicity, and the director and judges get their egos stroked.

But for the "Mass" that will put the real work into this. You'll get very little. This is yet another trick that a producer came up with to get you to work for peanuts. I urge you to resist any temptation to work on Mass Animation. If you are an established artist, instead spend time with your kids, your spouse, your girlfriend/boyfriend, or your pets. If you are a newbie trying to get reel material, instead, spend that time animating a more dialogue driven piece. If you're trying to break into the business, get your head examined, this is not going to do it for you. You'll be forgotten along with the 106 other knuckleheads that had their shots accepted.

I strongly recommend that you avoid this project like the scam that it is.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What's Going On

Variety had a mention of Illumination Entertainment's upcoming CG film "Despicable Me". This studio is the animation arm of Universal. From what I understand, they'll be doing pre-production work in LA and outsourcing the animation work elsewhere. Something similar to what Imagi is doing with their films. I'm not sure who will do the production work, but they do have a relationship with Framestore and perhaps they are involved in some manner.

A friend told me that at one time they wanted to build a complete studio in LA. That fell apart somewhere along the line. Too bad. I have a feeling we'll see much more of these type of setups for future CG films. Narrowing the number of jobs will hurt.

Sony Imageworks is hiring for a crop of live action films that need a CG character or two. And of course for their next CG film, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" will need bodies. Many of the released Bolt animators are over at Imageworks now.

A friend of a friend told me that Imageworks was trying to find lesser experienced animators. Which to me means, they don't want to pay the going rate for a senior feature animator. Either that or the supervisors are nervous about hiring people with too many skills to retain their job security. Some of the emails I've received in the past regarding Imageworks indicates that egos of some of the staff are fragile. Who knows.

Along with everyone else, I've noticed that animator salaries have dropped even more in the last year. It's a shame producers are looking for show hires and paying them less to boot. In the good old days if you were freelance you were paid more for your time. Reason being, you were usually a gunslinger that could come in and save a project and you weren't employed every week/month of the year. Nowadays, I guess there are so many animators available, that isn't the case. Less work for less pay. Sadly, everyone will have to get used to it.

Companies and producers are looking to stretch their dollars at your expense.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rough Economy

Over the weeks, I've been talking with a lot of people who've suggested that we are in a pretty slow animation period. Maybe it has something to do with the economy, or something to do with the time of the year, or even perhaps how many new youngsters have come into the field and overloaded the few positions that seem to be available. My take is that it is a little bit of everything.

Now that Bolt has been finished over at Disney, they have let go of a few people. Many of those are still looking for work. Of course others have successfully moved to another project somewhere else, but the pickings are sure leaner than previous years.

Unfortunately this can lead to studios taking advantage of artists. The more desperate people get for work, the less pay they'll take or the more they'll bend over for employers. A friend and previous co-worker from years ago asked me to look at a contract he was asked to sign from the folks at Reel FX. He thought it seemed weird and after checking it out, I agreed. Most of it seemed boilerplate, but some of it was a little curious and over the top. Certainly asking for more than your typical LA contract. In these times, I'm assuming they're getting away with it. And considering how a lot of people are really needing the work, companies can get away with some really oddball things.

Although the commercial work may slow, the film world shouldn't be too impacted for too long. After all, movies are a little more resistant to rough economic times. Sure, they'll get hit too. However, the worse it gets, the more people like to slip away from reality for a couple of hours.

Before long, Disney will ramp up for their next films and Imageworks will eventually get back into the game. DreamWorks continues to be steady and things will only get better as new studios come into play.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Around the Horn - October 08

So much for writing something in "the next few days". Better late than never, I suppose.

By now, everyone has heard that Glen Keane is off Rapunzel. I'm not sure I believe the email statement from Catmull that was on AICN. Rumors say that Lasseter just didn't think Keane was cutting it as a director. To save face, or to be nice, however you want to look at it. A health issue excuse was pulled out of the air. Whether the rumor is true or not, I hope that Mr. Keane's health is improving if that is indeed a factor.

A sequel for Kung Fu Panda has been announced. No shocker here. If there is one thing that DWA is good for, is to run a franchise into the ground. Hopefully they won't be going a third and fourth.

Bolt comes out very soon. It looks mildly entertaining. I bet it does well in the box office. For those of you hoping that Disney Feature goes entirely 2D, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Looks like Happy Feet 2 is on the horizon. That first one was horrible, I can't believe a second one is justified. Sad. Speaking of Happy Feet. George Miller and Doug Mitchell have partnered to open a new studio called "Dr. D Studios" in Sydney Australia. Does this mean that Animal Logic is now out of the picture? Seems so.

Warner Brothers is busy creating some CG shorts. It will be interesting to see how these turn out. Will they hold true to the WB style?

Lame post, I know. I'll try to find some time for more.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Blog Posts

New posts have been few and far between. Now that I'm back from a short needed vacation, I'm hoping to find some time in the next few days for some posts. There are no shortage of topics to be covered. Hopefully I can pull something out of my ass that is worth reading. Stay Tuned.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

New Studios

I've had a couple of emails asking the same question, so I may as well answer it here, just in case more are thinking the same thing...

It was just recently announced that Steven Spielberg and another have started a new studio that will allow him to leave the control of Paramount. The deal is a reported $1.6 billion company that will produce 6 features a year. Spielberg is interested in making at least one "animated" film - Tin Tin -, so there is relevance.

However, this is not the studio I've been talking about for so long. As stated in my last post, I've decided to no longer talk about this would-be-studio. Even though I've heard some pretty promising things in just the last week. If it happens, I'll report it here. Until then. Mum's the word.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Time to call it quits?

Regarding "the studio" I've mentioned on this blog... If you recall, on 7/8 I said that if nothing happens within a month, I am giving up and accepting that this thing will never happen. Well, here we are more than a month later. Have I given up?

Pretty much. I know the guys are still working on it and I've heard they are closer than ever. However, my skepticism has risen so high that I'm ready to throw in a towel.

This is actually good for them. Murphy's Law says that as soon as I have given up on something, it pulls through. Just ask my stock trading portfolio. Whenever I have a stock that isn't looking very good, I sell for a huge loss and like magic... It goes up, without me.

So for you, the guys behind the plan, this is a good omen. I hearby call it quits. I no longer have any hope that this studio will ever get started.

Despite that the noise has ratcheted up a notch, I am selling my pseudo shares.

P.S. I know some of you read this title and got very excited thinking that I was giving up on this blog! Sorry. Not yet. I'll probably stick around for a while longer. I don't think I've pissed off enough people yet.

Mass Animation

I was browsing websites recently and came across a mention of "Mass Animation" over at cg-Char. And, since someone mentioned it in the comment section of another of my useless posts, I decided to write something about it.

Frankly, I think this is a brilliant idea. Tapping into the vast amount of animators around the world to animate a short for free? Picking and choosing which shots get accepted from possibly hundreds of entries? Getting Reel FX to make it look pretty? Nice idea. I wish I could of thought of it and pulled together Intel to back me up on it.

As for the animators that will submit shots. It could be nice experience and demo reel fodder. If you're looking to improve or show off, this may be a good opportunity. I have no idea what the story is, hopefully it is a good one. Or else this is a massive waste of a nice idea.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Space Chimps, Failure during liftoff

Let's all give a big congrats to Space Chimps for that $7 million opening. I hate to kick something when it's down. But, given all the flak I've received via private email for my knocks on this movie, I think it is well deserved. Those in charge at this studio just don't get it.
On every movie they release, they can't resist the urge to advertise "from the makers of Shrek". How long are you going to ride those coat tails? Shrek is as old as dirt in the movie world. With all the flops, people are going to come to the conclusion that either you had nothing to do with Shrek's success or you got lucky. Time to re-evaluate what you're doing. Something is wrong with your formula!

Maybe they're trying to create a new niche. Lower budget movies that require less box office to be considered a success? That ain't happening either. These guys need to strip everything down and start fresh or just give it up entirely. Since they'll probably do neither, we can only expect more of the same.

It seems that most of the start ups trying to get on the CG feature bandwagon are rushing in and not really grasping what it takes to make a good movie. It all starts with story. Yeah, it's cliche. But true. I have a feeling there is just too much input by the monkeys (how fitting) that should be running the business, not the story department. The priority should be hiring very good writers and board artists and someone with a good track record to oversee them. Not some producer that should be sticking to gathering financing, making schedules, and working deals, but an honest to goodness creative.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Hello everyone, welcome to Tuesday. Prepare yourself for another of my posts that hits on several topics with little structure. Let's get to it!

From out of no where, comes a short blurb over at about CritterPix studios! I was sure that these guys died and fell off the face of the planet. They are showing remarkable tenacity as they continue to keep us entertained. Check my previous posts for more information about these guys. In a nutshell... Northern California studio sets up shop to create a CG movie called "Ollie the Otter". The hub bub was at an astronomical level with articles coming out left and right how they were the next Pixar. The publicist was working overtime on this one! Months go by and they seem to lose all momentum. People left or got laid off, not sure which, then you never heard anything from them. Now, from out of the bowels of bad movie ideas, they re-emerge announcing they received $1.2 million to create a teaser trailer. The idea is that it will be so fantastic that investors will jump in to fund the entire feature.

The Otter and his zany new friend, The Baked Halibut, warm up the big screen for the animated feature about the misadventures of a sea otter who makes courageous choices in the face of adversity, yet swims an overall humorous journey.

Either these investors are completely nuts, or they have too much money lying around. Just my opinion of course, but there are so many better ideas out there. A baked halibut character? That sounds sooo wrong. These investors have balls! I'm still convinced that this film will never get made. If it does, it will turn out something like this.

Seems that Blur is FINALLY getting a CG feature film. A long time coming. This company is one of my dark horse picks to do a film. It is only fitting that they are teaming up with Dark Horse Entertainment. How appropriate! The movie is called "The Goon" and is a comic that was created in 99. It has to do with ghosts, zombies, and various paranormal craziness. Is America ready for an animated movie like this? Not so sure myself, but who knows.

The former Christmas tree manufacturer (Imagi) has secured $40 million for future CG features. These guys are currently working on Astro Boy and Gatchaman. The new money will help develop 4 CG flicks between 2009 and 2011. Despite my hatred for outsourcing, I'm become pretty okay with Imagi because they are creating their own content and not simply an outsourcing whipping boy.

Wall-E released a little while ago and edged out KFP for the opening weekends. I'm now thinking that KFP will do better world wide when everything is said and done. Too bad DWA will run these characters into the ground with 15 sequels.

You know that studio I keep going on and on about that is supposed to be forming in LA? Well actually, I've purposefully kept my mouth shut about it because it seems to be more temperamental than my wife during her special time of the month. (Boy, I hope she doesn't read this blog!) I get an update every few weeks and although the guys running the show are really optimistic, I've become more and more skeptical about it. They've been through the wringer and even though they are so close they just want to scream, it doesn't seem to be making that last step. I guess raising just under a billion dollars is a little more difficult than opening a checking account at Well Fargo. I will say that all the puzzle pieces except the very last seem to be in place. If nothing happens in another month, I'm going to give up on it.

And Lastly...

Hallelujah! Space Chimps opens very soon. Everyone get ready for the best animated experience of your life!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Laika has been mentioned in an article or two the last few days. They're advertising their slate and announcing a new studio is being built even further away from civilization.

I love talking about Laika. More so, I love trash talking Laika. The reason being, many of the guys that work there are sure to lash out. I think that many of them and maybe the whole studio have underdog syndrome. This puts them on the attack when anything is said that may have the slightest hint of negativity.

Look, I haven't worked at the place. However, I have and do know a few that do. I've heard some BS, not sure it is anymore or any less BS than other studios out there. However, I like to stoke the fire and say things to rile up the troups. Everytime I mention anything, I get an earful via email. And I love it. The passion these guys show is almost cool, while at the same time being a little brainwash esque scary

Let's start out by saying that Coraline will be a complete flop. Sorry. But that is my prediction. However, I wouldn't be too worried, my box office track record has sucked lately. Just the same, I don't think the film has the "it" factor. Then again, I'm not excited to see Wall-E either, and all the fan boys are telling me it is going to be the best animated film ever.

I admire that these guys are in the middle of no where putting up a studio. Getting quality artists may be difficult in the long run. And after the first round of layoffs, look out. Finding people after that will be really hard in a one horse town.

Seriously, I'm pulling for these guys. Coraline will do moderately okay. Lucky for you, daddy warbucks has deep pockets and you'll survive. I'm going to spend the weekend trying to improve my trash talking. Cause this really sucked.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

KFP & Wall-E

Congratulations to DWA for how well Kung Fu Panda is doing in the box office. The opening weekend was a good one. I was just a tad off in my guestimate. Oh well, I guess you can't win them all. Besides, if I were that accurate with box office opening weekends, I'd make my million on the Hollywood Stock Exchange and wouldn't be writing this lovely blog.

I'm not going to bother guessing what Wall-E's opening will be. I hold the right to change my mind, but as of now I'm not feeling it. And if I felt it for KFP, then I really must not know what I'm talking about on Wall-E.

However, I will take a guess that it will do a little less than KFP. Less? Are you insane? Short answer: "yes". I'm sure this film will be a good one, but I can't help to be annoyed by the constant barrage of television commercials I've seen recently. I'm starting to get turned off. Therefore I'm going to be a baby and say that it will do less money than Panda.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Here and there

I'm back! Okay, so I didn't really go anywhere. Real life has just interrupted my blogging efforts.

So, what's going on in the animation world? First off, Kung Fu Panda comes out this weekend. It's going to be a good one. Be sure to check it out. I think this is probably the best DWA film yet. Whether the average joe will feel the same way, I don't know.

I predict a $38 million KFP opening

Just around the corner is Wall-E. The next Pixar toon. Another good film that will probably do well and be a great charmer. Visually, I'm more interested in Panda. Pixar seems to really be tilting towards more and more realism. Not my cup of tea. I'm sure I'll still like it. The winner of the box office battle will end up being Wall-E. Someone told me that Wall-E will contain a trailer for Bolt. Disney's next CG talking animal movie.

Speaking of Kung Fu Panda. Be sure to read this interview with co-director John Stevenson. He has some interesting things to say. I especially like how he slips in that he wouldn't mind doing a live-action or MOTION CAPTURE film for his next project. Crap. Just what we need, another person in the animation world that would rather do anything but animation.

With all the animation directors leaving the business for live action films, it makes more room for new directors to come up (and eventually leave to live action). Speaking of which. Panda co-director Mark Osborne jumps into directing this film after directing the short stop motion film "More". I know nothing about this guy. Did he work at DWA for a while before becoming a director for Panda? Or did he jump immediately in that role from his short film work? Kudos for him.

The cast for the Simpson's will be making $400k per episode for their voice work. That show must be making some serious coin to afford those prices. Amazing!

I read an interesting article about the rising cost of gasoline. They analyzed what could potentially happen from the trickle down effect. Cost of gas raises freight/shipping costs, therefore raising the price of virtually everything. Some analysts say that it could potentially put a temporary reverse on the popularity of outsourcing so many things to other countries. Now, this really won't affect animation outsourcing. But one can dream. Maybe we will actually see American made products in Walmart in the coming months/years!

Variety put up another interesting animation article here. Even though they quoted Max Howard, I still liked the story! I'd have to agree that we are going to see much more of this type of animation pipeline in the future. Disney, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, Pixar, of course they will continue to do things the way they are. However, these lower budgeted projects are going to almost entirely go down this same path. Although, I would like to reiterate that it doesn't necessarily have to mean outsourcing the production work to another country. Some very crafty companies right here in the US of A could take advantage if they put their minds to it.

That's it! See you guys in another three or four months! Just kidding, I'll try to write again before that. Maybe next month! :)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Lowering Costs and Keeping the Work Here

Over the months I've been talking to quite a few project to project freelancers. Whether they work on features, commercials, direct to video, whatever. They seem to all have commented on the lowering of their wages.

While those with steady studio gigs may not see their rates fall all that much, those that work from job to job are getting hit hard. There are a number of factors going into this. Competing with outsourcing countries, ad agencies are getting pinched and want to see animation and effects budgets drop, the dollar doing so badly. You name it.

This not only has affected individuals, but the studios themselves. They are getting hit hard too. It isn't always a case of greed when they pay their freelancers less money, it is a case of necessity. They've got to be creative if they want to stay in business when they face competition from abroad.

Take Reel FX in Texas for example. Despite all the work going overseas, they continue to get some pretty big projects from the big studios. They're currently working on the direct to video project "Open Season 2" among others. They are constantly doing commercials that include characters from films such as Ice Age, Shrek, Open Season, Kung Fu Panda, and more. I do not know what the budget for OS2 is, however, I imagine it is pretty small if any of their previous projects are an indication.

So how do they keep the costs low enough to attract this work that would perhaps otherwise go overseas? For one, they are located in Texas. The cost of living is lower than California, and they can get away with paying their employees less. On top of that, they tap the freelance market by hiring people who work out of their homes. By only paying them for the work they do, they can control the costs and avoid the tax burden. Not to mention the avoidance of software, hardware, and facility overhead. Keep in mind that these remote artists aren't getting paid by the hour. Animators are getting paid by the approved second and others for completed task. The rates end up being bargain basement prices that don't normally work for those in the more expensive zipcodes, but could be fine for students or those in the less expensive areas. Imagine working for two or three weeks for a couple of grand. That was one figure that someone recently told me. This would of never worked in the 90's, but with today's out of work talent and boat load of students, it does.

In the past, when someone was a freelancer, they have generally been paid more per hour. After all, their rates should be higher since they are on call and have to survive those down times. Further, those that work as sub-contractors should theoretically get an even higher rate since they are working from home and burdening the hardware and software costs. So what happened? Why are freelancers and contractors getting paid so terribly by some companies? Thank the law of supply and demand. There is simply a larger supply of talent than there are jobs.

What I'm getting at, is that in order to be competitive and to have a chance against outsourced work, you need to be creative. Reel FX does pretty good work and they've built a system that allows them to get that work at discount prices. Maybe this should be a lesson to other studios.

I also know of a few studios in Los Angeles that have shuttered their expensive office space and sent everyone home to work from their individual spaces. A small office is rented for weekly meetings and to give a legit business address, but almost everyone is at home. The overhead costs are dropped and they can be more cost attractive to clients while still paying everyone good wages.

That is the key. Developing ways to be more streamlined, but still pay everyone fairly. Some are more successful than others. The ones that can do both will go farther. The ones paying bargain basement prices will have to keep targeting students or professionals looking for some after hours cash. Neither is a long term answer to retaining talent.

It is a balancing act. However, if you are shrewd, it is possible.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Space Chumps - Awesome!

The new trailer for Space Chimps is super fantastic. I take back all negative things I've said about this film previously. I don't know where my head was. Check it out! You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Disney and Pixar

The behemouth that Disney/Pixar are, they released a list of animated movies that will be coming out from now until 2012.

And what a list it is.

First thing I noticed is that now Disney owns Pixar, the almighty dollar has superceeded Pixar's stance on doing sequels. I'm speaking of Cars 2. The original movie was pretty lackluster and they are doing a sequel of it? If you claim that it is anything other than an attempt to capitalize on the enormous money that merchandising will bring in, I will quickly label you as an idiot.

Let's just go year by year through the list.

"Wall-E" from Pixar and "Bolt" from Disney. The former looks good and I'm interested in seeing what they do with it. The latter, ahh, umm, I can't say I'm looking forward to it. The character designs turn me off. Not to mention that Disney's animated films have been subpar at best. We'll see if Lasseter was able to help out with that one. No excuses.

"Up" from Pixar sounds a little strange. The synopsis left me a little cold. However, I have faith in Pixar more than anyone else. Even if they are doing a Cars sequel.

"Toy Story" will be re-released in stereoscopic 3-D. Once again, Lasseter has been trumped by the almight dollar. Not long ago, when questioned about turning his films in 3-D, he pretty much scoffed the idea. I guess his bosses put the screws to him.

"The Princess and the Frog" marks Disney's return to 2D animated features. I wish them good luck, but I'm going to bet that it doesn't do well. When/if it fails, Disney will once again pull the rug from out underneath 2D. And although Lasseter really wants to keep 2D alive, we can see how his influence is fading at the company. It won't matter what he wants. Almight dollar takes precedence at the mouse house no matter who is "in charge".

"Toy Story 2" in 3-D. Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching

Yippeeee! "Toy Story 3" comes out in Summer of this year. Starring all the original cast members. Except for the dead ones anyway.

"Rapunzel" finally has a release date. And that would be Christmas of 2010. I'm very interested in this one. Not so much in the story, but how Glen works out as a director. I'm hopeful he successfully pulls off the switch.

Where the hell did "Newt" come from? We all knew that Gary Rydstrom was directing a feature at Pixar, but I didn't know the storyline. Not until now. Sounds entertaining enough. It will be interesting to see how he transitions from audio guy to Pixar director. Speaking of that transition. For all you people working at Pixar with dreams of directing your own feature. Good luck. Sounds like you are better off leaving the company and trying somewhere else. Ever since Brad Bird, it looks like new director talent is being imported. Not groomed.

Speaking of grooming versus importing. Brenda Chapman will be directing "The Bear and the Bow" for Pixar in this same year. Ms. Chapman did work on Cars, so she does sorta fit the grooming definition. But really, she came from other studios. Having previously directed other hits as "The Prince of Egypt". I don't know this woman, but I have heard she is really talented. I'm just poking fun with the POE comment.

"Cars 2" releases in Summer of 2012. This one is being directed by Brad Lewis. Damnit! Am I going to have to eat my words on Pixar grooming its own director talent? Brad was the producer on Brad Bird's Pixar films. I guess it's still a little different than an animator clawing his way up.

Man, I'm really out of the loop. My head has been burried too far in my work. Never heard of "King of the Elves". This thing will release Christmas of 2012, and will be directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker. It comes from Disney Feature and I'm assuming that it is a CG film since it will be released in "Disney Digital 3-D".

There you have it, the feature release schedule from Pixar and Disney. I like to bag on Pixar, but really, they always do a good job and I'm sure TS3 and Cars2 will be super stupendous!

However, I do get the feeling that Lasseters power is slowing evaporating. Just a gut feeling based on a few things that are happening. Oh yeah, he will remain the king of animation at these two studios, but mark my words, if he makes a decision on anything that will potentially pull money from the Disney coffers, that decision will be overruled. No matter how defiant he was in the past about it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pitch Package

I've been getting quite a bit of emails lately from individuals or groups trying to get animated television series off the ground. More specifically, they are asking what to have ready in order to enhance their project's chance of getting traction.

I'm not an expert in television animation. However, my vague knowledge gathered over the years combined with knowing how and why investors invest leads me to the following conclusions (this advice goes for film as well).

Business Plan
If you are approaching individual investors or investor groups or any source of money other than a studio or producer, it is very likely you'll need a business plan. While I cannot say that this is always the case, it would suck to be in a situation where you meet this investor who is interested in your idea only to have to tell him that a wait is required while you put one together. Be prepared. If you don't ever need to use it, then fine. However, if you are serious about doing such an endeavor that requires so much money, the cost of a BP is a small price to pay. If you are pounding the pavement trying to find money sources, there is nothing sweeter than having a BP with you that you can just slap down in front of them. Wealthy people or companies do not waste time. If you don't have what they need, they will simply move on to the next investment. There are no shortages of people who need their money. Don't lose the opportunity.

Here are some common questions I get:

Q: Can we hire you to write a business plan?
A: The short answer is no. I'm trying to remain anonymous with this blog and if I start doing work like this, I will be spilling the beans. Besides, my wife keeps telling me I don't spend enough time with her as is.

Q: There are people on the internet that I can hire to write a business plan. Should I do that?
A: That is a possibility. Although a business plan for a film or television show is a little different from a BP that sells your average widget. With enough research, these people can educate themselves to write a good one. However, I personally wouldn't take the chance. Get someone that knows the business. If they take the time to learn what's involved, they are just going to have to charge you that much more for their education. There are also people that claim to have knowledge in the film industry and write film specific business plans. This is closer to what you want, however, again, animation is a specialized subset of film and you may want someone that has knowledge in this specific area. Maybe it could be a combination of one of these "Film Business Plan" writers and an animation business consultant that can check over their work. However, I have the feeling that these BP writers use a template and just slap new numbers in for each client.

Q: If you won't write me one, can you at least recommend someone?
A: Yes. I know of a couple of people that are capable of doing a good job.

The next important attribute to include in your pitch to investors is artwork. The more the better. You really need to spend some money in this area if you can afford to. Many investors won't consider dumping money into your project if they don't see that you have done the same. And I don't just mean man hours, I mean - they want to know that you have invested quite a bit of your own money into the idea. Artwork is a good way to do this. Employ someone to do character designs, some background artwork, etc. Eye candy goes a long way. If the final product will be CG, try to include actual finished CG character artwork. At the very least, have someone draw the characters to immitate what the CG will look like (shadows, shading, etc).

If you can afford it, animation tests would be icing. If you can burn some DVDs and include them in the package, you are going to get more attention. Investors want to get an idea of what the final product will be like. However, this is not necessary and the cost is often prohibitive.

Sell the Story
You'll need to include a script for the first show, and if it is a series, you should outline a few more. I recommend outlining a seasons worth. Further, I would go as far to list each character (with artwork if possible) and tell us who he/she is, their personality traits, and what significance they have in your story.

Finally, you need to package all of this together nicely. You should have both a CD version that can be loaded onto a computer and a hard copy for those old timers. Put the plan in a nice three ring binder at the very least. If you really want to impress, have it bound. The artwork should be printed with no scaling artifacts. I've seen some pretty ugly packages in my time, it never amazes me that people do not take the time to make sure the artwork is reproduced well. Another idea that I've seen implemented well is putting artwork into the BP. It spruces it up and breaks up the pages and pages of text. It also ensures that it will be seen by everyone who reads the plan. Finally, put all of this together in some sort of nice folder with your contact information clearly visible.

This post is only my opinion of course. I've seen projects get financed that are ugly as sin. However, I think that your chances are increased if you take the time and effort to do these things.

Horton Hits $45

Just wanted to take a second and congratulate Blue Sky for Horton's $45+ million opening. With the recent spate of lower performing animated films, this was needed.

I have not seen the movie yet, but hope to get a chance soon. The visuals look great along with the animation. I don't want to expect too much out of the story or I may go in with too many high hopes.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Good, Bad and the Ugly

Hi ho, hi ho, off to work we go... That has been my theme for the last few months. I've tried to find enough motivation to write for this damn blog, but I really couldn't muster it. Until now.

Here we are in March and the CG films are about to begin. Horton Hears a Who opens today! I have to say the film looks awfully pretty. This may call for an actual trip to the movie theater. I'm hoping for an over $50 million weekend for this latest Blue Sky offering. The animation industry needs it!

Kung Fu Panda is being polished and will be kicking its way to a theater soon. Jack Black can be really annoying or really funny. I have my fingers crossed that the latter is the case. I'm somewhat eager to see this.

The Disney folks have just released another Wall-E trailer. You have to hand it to Pixar for such gorgeous imagery. I'm especially delighted (did I just use that word?) by the camera work. Not wanting to be mistaken for a Pixar kiss-ass, I'll throw in that obligatory "I'm not so sure about the story" comment.

Hold on a second! You are probably asking why I'm so oddly positive about everything written so far. Keep reading my fellow smack talkers.

When I made my post many months ago regarding the Space Chimps trailer and how ugly it looked, you wouldn't believe all the emails I received. After about the 15th message, I got the point. It wasn't a real trailer, nor were those the final character looks. Because I'm such a nice guy in non-blog life, I thanked those that wrote me. Well, except for the rude and obnoxious ones. I gave them the business.


To those rude ones, I dedicate the rest of this paragraph to you. The what I'm assuming are the final character renders that are being parlayed out recently, look almost as crappy as the ones I saw in that trailer. The chimp in the poster over on Latino Review makes me want to vomit. He looks like one of those ugly plastic faced monkeys I had as a 4 year old. Anyone over the age of 35 probably knows what I'm talking about.

I'm fairly certain that there was a conversation at some point that started like this: "Boy, that monkey looks an awful lot like a real monkey. Can we instead make him look more like a furry boy? You know, just like that kid in the super-awesome movie Jumanji?" No doubt this comment came from the same guy that said "I've got an idea for an animated comedy! What does the world like more than World War 2? Pigeons! Everyone loves pigeons AND war. Let's combined the two together!"

Maybe the story is funny and endearing and all the good things in life. However, those monkeys look like hell.

If that doesn't stir the hornets nest again, I don't know what will. Send me those loving emails! Deep down inside, you know I'm right.

Why stop there? I'm on a roll! I might as well offend even more people while I'm at it. This time it's pointed at DreamWorks and the teaser trailer for Madagascar "The Crate Escape". I ask, does this movie really deserve a sequel? I hope that it focuses on the penguins because that was the only thing worth building on. Okay, so this wasn't really that venomous of an attack. I just wanted the Space Chimps people to feel like I wasn't just picking on them. When in reality I am.

There you have it. Some positive and some negative comments. What a well rounded post. I'm so proud of myself!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Writer's Strike, That New Studio, and more BS'in

Yes, I'm still alive. If you've come to this blog for any length of time, you'd know that I can go a really long time between posts. I'm probably not the laziest blogger, but I'm in the running.

What's going on? Well, not a whole lot. I've been trying to lay low and enjoy the Winter. Well, enjoy California's version of Winter anyway. Los Angeles is so incredibly pretty this time of year. Really! The air is clear and you can actually see more than a few miles. The Hollywood sign still exists! I saw it with my own eyes.

I don't really have anything much to say. Things have been slowing up around town thanks to the writer's strike. I've heard rumors that Warner Brothers is about to layoff a ton of people because of the work stoppage. What a shame. I'm sure many more studios will follow along. Those of us in the animation business have felt an impact as well. Maybe not as rough as the live action world, but it has put more than a few people on the street.

New whispers have emerged regarding that new rumored studio. The group is still at it after all the turmoil that took place several months ago. They appear to have new traction with an even more impressive management team ready to run the company. This thing is so much larger than just animation. If successful, it will be the biggest news to hit Hollywood in a long time. I'm told they are very close to getting the green light. But we've heard that before. Haven't we?

That's it. I promise to post again before Summer arrives.