Tuesday, October 27, 2009

News - 10/27/09...

Astro Boy’s Abysmal Opening, and Imagi’s Sinking Ship

Imagi, an animation studio that thought it could compete with the big boys, has suffered a major blow after the abysmal opening of Astro Boy which debuted in 6th place with barely over $7 million.

Hong Kong-based Imagi entered the animation industry with grand ideas, but little production know-how and the uninspiring idea of applying TV production models to CG animated features by preparing the pre-production in the US and animating the films in Asia where labor is cheap (well, cheaper, since Astro Boy still cost a ridiculous $65 million). The company’s first film, TMNT, debuted modestly with $54 million in 2007. Astro Boy will have difficulty matching even half of that figure.

Even more embarrassing, Astro Boy is a big flop in its home country of Japan, where it barely made it into the top ten on its opening weekend, and dropped out of the top 10 in its second week. Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that when you attempt to Westernize a distinctly foreign product, you end up alienating everybody. The more important lesson is that just because you’re basing a film around an existing property doesn’t guarantee a hit. The other part of the equation is that you also have to make a good film that people actually want to see. Then again, it also helps if the property you’re remaking isn’t an obscure mid-century relic that no normal human being under the age of 35 (and definitely no teenager) has heard of.

As readers may recall, Imagi was experiencing major financial difficulties late last year, which resulted in the loss of many of their top talents in the LA studio. They were given a temporary reprieve after Chinese investors stepped in at the last minute. The tradeoff, according to The Hollywood Reporter, was that the company had to revamp its production slate (Tusker was dropped), and begin searching for a “hero concept of Chinese origin” to produce as an upcoming feature. (Their next feature, Gatchaman, was already well into production, and is still slated to follow Astro Boy.) The Chinese are keeping Imagi on financial life support for the time being, but it’s becoming obvious that they lack the vision and passion for animation that results in films that audiences will pay to watch.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Meet the President of Fox Animation Studios

Since 1997, Vanessa Morrison has been President of Fox Animation Studios. Morrison started as an intern at 20th Century Fox fifteen years ago and climbed the ranks, eventually overseeing the live action Fat Albert and Garfield movies and the live-action-computer animated hybrid Alvin and the Chipmunks. Today she works with Blue Sky Studios and filmmakers like Wes Anderson to bring their animated features to the screen.

Each week, the L.A. Times profiles a different Southern California executive in their Weekend Business section. Yesterday, the Sunday Times ran this piece about who she is.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Skhizein by Jérémy Clapin

Jérémy Clapin’s Skhizein, a poignant short that grows on me every time I see it, is now available for online viewing. It’s also available for purchase in a limited edition of 500 dvds.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Animate More for Less – New Venue

Animate “More for Less” Event in New York

Please note that the venue has changed to Animazing Gallery. Which has a Where the Wild Things Are Exhibit going on!!

Stop flashing around.

Host: Toon Boom
Type: MeetingsClub/Group Meeting
Network: Global
Date: Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Time: 7:00pm – 10:00pm
Location: The Animazing Gallery
Street: 54 Greene Street (Corner of Greene and Broome)
City/Town: New York, NY
Phone: (514) 909-8142
Email: joseph@toonboom.com


Toon Boom CEO Joan Vogelesang and CTO Francisco Del Cueto will be presenting “More for Less”. As the animation software global leader, Toon Boom is well placed within the animation network.Come and learn about the current state of the worldwide animation industry and find out directly how you can access our global corporate network. The best animation talent lies right here in North America! Let us examine together how we can maximise your potential through Animate.

Francisco will demonstrate why Animate is quickly being recognized as the tool of choice by animators and studios around the world. A preview of Toon Boom Storyboard Pro will be shown.

Exclusive $399.99 Animate vouchers for attendees. Appetizers and drinks will be served. This event is FREE.

Attendance prize: one copy of Toon Boom Animate.

See why more and more people are migrating to Animate…

(Thanks asifa east)

Supernews Dresses Up For First Halloween

The 2nd season of Supernews premieres in two weeks, but in honor of Halloween they’ve squeezed out this appropriately-themed short, titled The First Halloween. Supernews has moved to Thursdays too, and it premieres on November 12th at 11/10c on Current TV.

HandMade Films Buys Animation Collective

British company HandMade Films has cut a deal to acquire American content provider Animation Collective for $12 million.

HandMade also has partnered with National Geographic, with both companies agreeing to combine their assets and create a new production company called HandMade Kids.

Larry Schwarz, founder of Animation Collective, and his creative team will oversee the new HandMade Kids venture, which is getting an investment of more than $5 million in working capital from HandMade.

The new company also has secured from Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, the rights to adapt her Tea With Ruby books for a TV series.

As part of the move, former MTV Networks International sales chief Debbie Back has been named president of sales for HandMade Kids, while VP of sales will be Jennifer Liang, who also comes from MTV Networks. Simon Flamank, former CEO of TV-Loonland, is chief operating officer/chief financial officer. The move follows the departure in July of National Geographic Kids president Donna Friedman Meir.

“The proposed launch of HandMade Kids creates one of the leading independent producers of children’s content for TV," said Patrick Meehan, executive chairman of HandMade. "Together with the Duchess of York’s children’s properties and our iconic U.S. children’s character Eloise, HandMade Kids will create the perfect environment for NGKE and Animation Collective to generate the best in quality programming.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Method Brings Back Little Prince

The Little Prince is coming back to TV, with Method Animation announcing plans for CG-animated series based on the popular children’s books with a budget of $27.5 million, according to Variety.

Based on the popular French children’s book series by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the series is currently in production with delivery scheduled for December 2010.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, La Fabrique d'Images, India's DQ Entertainment, German pubcaster ARD and Italy's RAI Fiction are co-producing the series.

The property was the basis for the anime series The Adventures of the Little Prince, made in the 1970s by the Knack animation studio. A dubbed version aired in the United States in the early 1980s.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Hathaway, Harris, Santoro Headed to Rio

Actors Anne Hathaway, Neil Patrick Harris and Rodrigo Santoro are all in talks to lend their voices to Rio, an animated feature directed by Carlos Saldanha at Blue Sky Studios and Fox, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The film, about a misfit macaw who leaves Minnesota for Rio de Janeiro, is set for release April 8, 2011, and will be CG animated in stereoscopic 3-D.

Saldanha most recently directed Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which has grossed an impressive $882 million around the world

Fox would not confirm casting, the trade reported.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Kenyan Co-Production Lands Cbeebies Slot

Kenyan company Homeboyz has made a breakthrough for African animation as Tinga Tinga Tales, the TV series it co-produced with U.K.’s Tiger Aspect, is set to debut on Cbeebies this spring, according to Variety.

The series’ 52 segments are based on the folk tales of Kenya and Tanzania, and its producers are hoping the series’ success will help spark to life an animation industry in east Africa.

Claudia Lloyd, Tiger Aspect's BAFTA-winning head of animation, told the trade her inspiration for the show came from her travels in east Africa, where she learned Swahili by reading children's books. She envisioned a skein that would transfer those tales to the screen.

The animation is inspired by the distinctive Tinga Tinga paintings of Tanzania. The show's images are hand-painted by local artists, then computer animated in Homeboyz's Nairobi studio before being shipped to the U.K. for conversion to HD.

The series will make its American debut in 2011 on Playhouse Disney. Entertainment Rights has been tapped for global distribution.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Warners Flexes Animation Muscles

Over the past five months, Warner Bros. has ramped up its teevee animation division, going from a couple of series and a handful of artists, to a facility on the Warner Ranch that is filled to capacity with five series and multiple dvd features.

And now, apparently, the theatrical side is stirring to life:

Warner Bros. is strutting back into animation.

The studio is in final negotiations to acquire a pitch centering on a peacock from writers Austin Winsberg and Heath Corson.

... The move marks a bolstering of animation efforts for Warners., which was once very active in the sector but had since scaled back its theatrical efforts ....

I think that theatrical animation's broad-based success -- despite this weekend's unhappy results -- has a lot to do with Warners continuing involvement in theatrical toonage, though I'm sure their mid-90s train wreck in Glendale left a sour taste in their mouths.

But nothing seduces a studio like the prospect of Big Bucks. The 1990s was then ... and this is now.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)


On December 29, 1973, my father fell down in the driveway of his La Crescenta house and knocked himself out. A few minutes later, I discovered him on the asphalt, groggy but conscious, and hauled him to the emergency room of Verdgugo Hills hospital.

Dad was drunk. Also uncooperative and belligerent. The ER staff and doctors patched him up, gave him a sheet with a box marked "possible head injuries," and sent him on his way.

I was fresh off active duty with the U.S. Navy and utterly clueless about head trauma and things like "subdural hematoma." If I had known then what I learned a little while later about blood vessels bleeding inside cranial cavities, I would have gotten him admitted to the hospital, or observed him more closely after I took him home. But I didn't, and two weeks later he went into a coma because of a massive blood clot that depressed his brain activity, and died.

I don't bring this up to instigate a Pity Party (it's all long ago and far away), but to illustrate how knowledge and the lack thereof can impact our lives.

The more stuff you know, the better you'll be able to deal with life's curve balls when they come zinging your way. And the more stuff you don't know, the more you'll get blindsided on the broad, sunlit highway of existence ...

We started this blog for a number of reasons, but high on the list was the desire to dispense information to TAG members, also people who work ... or aspire to work ... in the animation industry. Because our core belief is that the more useful factoids you have at your disposal, the higher the odds are that you'll be successful in building a career in the animation industry. (Or any other industry ... or life ... for that matter. ) Witness the following comment:

Steve, story artists can't deal with or bring up an issue [storyboard artist, production board artist] they have no idea exists! I've been working almost 20 years in this classification and while the difference in the title has been noted in passing by me, I've never-til now-had it explained as you've done. If I ( & I'll hazard also my fellow story guys) haven't "pushed" for changes in the wording etc., it's not because I'm lazy or don't care or can't be bothered, but because I have been lucky-so far-to have my rate be over scale as I understood it and because I didn't freaking know about it. Really, these "pain in the butt" issues are ones I believe it's the duty of the professionals in our union to point out to us. As you have done here.

So while I've heartily agreed with all the times you've said
"I can't do anything about [insert specific union violation here] unless a member complains/reports/brings it to my attention" in all those other cases, that reasoning doesn't apply here. In any case yeah, let's get it fixed..

To answer the specific point above, I will put into the Rolodex a proposal to get Production Board elevated from footnote status during the next round of contract talks. In the meantime, artists reading this need to remember the difference: Production Board scale rates apply to television boarding, Storyboard scale rates apply to features, and Story Sketch applies to board artists working as assistants to storyboard artists.

And as long as we're on the subject of professional (and general) knowledge, remember these things:

* WAGES: They are all over the map in Animationland. But benefits and wages are mostly higher in union shops. Benefits amount to $350-$375 above base-line wages.

(Here's some useful nuggets. 1) If you work
hourly, you can be docked for time missed during the workweek, but if you are salaried, you get your weekly rate whether you're in the office for five hours Monday through Friday, or one hundred hours. And employers can't shift you back and forth from "salaried" to "hourly" so they can pay you less. It's got to be one or the other. If you are working a unionized animation job, you are likely some form of hourly employee. 2) You have the right under California law to share wage information with your peers, so go do it.)

* WORK ETHIC AND ATTITUDE: You can never be too upbeat or too hardworking. As for instance ...
[Fox Animation Studio's Vanessa Morrison's] positive attitude and hard work eventually won the attention of Tom Rothman, who took over Jacobson's production chief job in the mid-1990s. Under Rothman, now co-chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, Morrison rose through the creative executive ranks.

* SKILL SETS: If you don't have the right set of chops, you are less likely to get hired by the animation studio of your dreams. Today Maya wizards, Renderman experts, and other software professionals have bigger strike zones in the hiring ball game than folks who have skills as, say, cleanup artists. The Digital Age is hard upon us; the carbonite era, not so much. Like it or not, you have to deal with this reality. But the more arrows you have in your quiver, the more employable you will be.

* ROUTES INTO THE BUSINESS:Production Assistant, intern (see Ms. Morrison, above), Trainee, Big Shot from a related business coming in on red carpet, Mom and Pop effects house into big animation studio, the roads to Animationland are almost -- but not quite -- infinite. Use your contacts and network. Timing and perseverance are often everything.

* LUCK: If you have lots of it, you'll need less of the other items listed here. If you have less than you'd like, you're gonna have to do some kind of workaround. Most people encounter good and bad fortune in the course of a career. The folks who know how to deal with bad fortune -- and bounce back from it -- win.

Lastly, don't take things too seriously. The best times I've had in this business is when I've been light-hearted about whatever situation in which I've found myself. If you recognize that you are not going to end up with the career arc you envision fresh out of Cal Arts or Ringling at the ripe age of twenty-two, then you will be a lot happier when the down drafts happen.

Remember: Nobody gets out of this space-time continuum alive, so make it part of your purpose to enjoy yourself along the way.

And now, please turn in your hymnals to Page 333, and we'll all sing ...

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Oddbot Serves Sweet Candy

Just in time for Halloween, L.A.-based animation house OddBot Studio is serving up a cool new short about a lovesick Corn Kernel which comes up with a clever way to win the affections of an out-of-his-league Candy Corn! A Candy Affair is the directorial debut of one of Oddbot’s talented animators, Crystal Stromer.

Oddbot has created top-notch animation for a variety of top TV productions, including Disney Channel’s Can You Teach My Alligator Manners and Tasty Time with Ze Fronk and American Greetings’ Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot and Maryoku Yummy.

For more info, visit www.oddbot.net

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Corky Quackenbush’s Halloween 7.5

Halloween 7.5 : The Rehabilitation of Michael Myers

(via Atom Films)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

There Is Life After Disney!

From the time I was a little boy, I've heard tales of Disney employees who were banished from the Magic Kingdom and became embittered, angry human beings. (Vance Gerry once told me about a story artist who got his pink slip, got drunk and staggered out of the animation building to scream an angry tirade under Walt's window.)

So it's always nice when there's a story about an ex-Disneyite who goes on to make good ...

Bolstered by an investment from Rogers Communications, one of Canada’s largest media companies, the budding new-media mogul Michael Eisner is expanding his Web video studio.

Michael Eisner, the former chairman of Disney, controls a Web video studio called Vuguru that will become its own company.

The studio, named Vuguru, is currently held within Mr. Eisner’s media investment company, Tornante. In a deal expected to be announced on Monday, Vuguru will become its own company, and Rogers will become a minority stakeholder. The terms of the multimillion dollar investment by Rogers were not disclosed ...

In 2007, Mr. Eisner nurtured one of the medium’s first scripted successes, a murder mystery series called
“Prom Queen.” Since then, he has introduced, among others, a mockumentary about a fledgling rock band and a sports-themed comedy. A new edition of “Prom Queen” and an adaptation of the young-adult book series “Pretty Tough” are scheduled to come online later this year ...

This should be a testament to the truism: "There is life after Disney. You have only to believe." (Just ask Bill Mechanic, John Lasseter, and Kurt Russell.)

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Sumo Science Takes a Chop at Weetos

Sumo Science, who are represented by Aardman Animations, directed this recent spot for Weetabix. The ad is titled Chop, and it promotes the line of chocolate-flavored Weetos cereal. The agency overseeing the campaign was WCRS.

Whale Whores Attack South Park

On this Wednesday’s new South Park episode, titled Whale Whores, an enjoyable trip to the aquarium is shattered by a bloody attack. The episode premieres at 10:00 PM (9:00 PM Central) on October 28th.

August Delivery For RCA Student Hoegg

UK-based animator Matthias Hoegg has experience at world-class studios like Tokyoplastic and Tandem Films, and he subsequently went back to school in 2008. His first film to emerge from his studies at the Royal College of Art is August, which tells the tale of unwanted visitors disturbing a campsite. Here’s a trailer….

UN endows Disney's Tinker Bell with green power

The United Nations on Sunday named the Disney animated character Tinker Bell an "Honorary Ambassador of Green" to help promote environmental awareness among children.

The announcement came just prior to a screening at UN headquarters in New York of the world premiere of the Walt Disney animated film Tinker Bell And The Lost Treasure.

"We're delighted Tinker Bell has agreed to be our Honorary Ambassador of Green," said Kiyo Akasaka, the UN's undersecretary-general for communications and public information. "This beloved animated character can help us inspire kids and their parents to nurture nature and do what they can to take care of the environment."

Sunday's event was intended to promote environmental awareness in the lead-up to the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, where countries will aim to "seal the deal" on a new global agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Protecting the environment is an underlying theme of the Tinker Bell movies, according to the UN Department of Public Information, which adds that the Walt Disney Company uses its storytelling to inspire a love of nature and spirit of conservation in its audience.

In the latest film, Tinker Bell's greatest adventure takes place in autumn, as the fairies in Pixie Hollow are busy changing the colors of the leaves, tending to pumpkin patches and helping geese fly south for the winter. When Tinker Bell accidentally puts all of Pixie Hollow in jeopardy, she must venture out on a secret quest to set things right.

Tinker Bell director Klay Hall, producer Sean Lurie, and cast members Mae Whitman (Tinker Bell) and Raven Symoné (Iridessa) were among those attending the premiere, hosted by DPI as part of the secretary-general's Creative Community Outreach Initiative.

Most Pirated Movies

Torrent Freak tracks the most down-loaded movies ...

The top 10 most downloaded movies on BitTorrent, ‘Paranormal Activity’ tops the chart this week followed by Pixar’s ‘Up’. ‘The Tournament’ completes the top three.

And the other faves for downloaders?

4) Public Enemies
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan
Four Christmases
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

The point here is that downloading these moving pictures is ... uh ... illegal. Because it's theft.

Now you can dress this up with any philosophical trappings you like: "It's a blow for internet freedom!" "We're taking down the evil conglomerates!" "The assholes will never miss the money, they're rich anyway!! And besides, they deserve it!" ... (etc.)

The problem is, if the practice becomes widespread enough, the movie industry will drastically change ... and not for the better. Industry employees will have to find other ways to make their livings, because the structure of the motion picture business will be different in unpretty ways. The cash flows that support pensions, residuals, and health care will be reduced to anemic trickles.

I don't know what the solutions to downloading are, but solutions will emerge. One way or the other.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Is Klingon viral video teasing a new Star Trek project?

A propaganda film that just went viral calls for us to embrace our invaders as Earth joins the Klingon Empire. But is the animated video merely one fan's Trek tribute? Or could it be the promise of something greater?

Check out the video below to learn more.

The Klingon language experts over at TrekMovie noticed that the final frame of the video contained Klingon letters spelling out a Web site address—http://www.tlhingan.org/.

One of the things they discovered at that site—in addition to cool Trek-related content—was that the Flash animation was made by Bad Monkey Studios, which was involved in the 2008 immigration-related Star Trek parody "Don't Deport Me Scotty" on behalf of one of its clients, Breakthrough:

So—why the new video and site? Is it just a fun project by avowed Trekkie Mark Farinas, head of Bad Monkey Studios? Or is he laying the groundwork for a larger campaign on behalf of one of his clients?

We haven't figured that out ourselves yet. But whatever the answer, the more we watch the new video, the more we're ready to bow to our new alien overlords!

No comments: