Friday, February 28, 2014

Industry Soothsayers

Stock analysts as movie predictors.

... Cowen and Co.'s Doug Creutz predicts around a $35M opening weekend for Mr. Peabody and Sherman. That would “likely put the film on a Guardians/Turbo type trajectory.” Although “early reviews have been fairly strong,” he warns that the prospects remain “murky” since “demand for animated fare may be a bit sated right now with the recent outsized performances of Frozen and Lego Movie.” ...

Stifel’s Benjamin Mogil's ... projection that P&S will generate $150M domestically and $450M abroad is “likely too optimistic given the early tracking commentary” and will be revised later this week. ...

And blah and blah ...

Early reviews for Mr. Peabody and Sherman have been a bit more than "fairly strong." Which doesn't mean the movie will be breaking records, but it probably will gain some traction, don't you think?

(A DWA staffer said to me: "The Rocky and Bullwinkle" short plain with "P & S" is a gut-buster. That's got to count for something.")

Anybody who blats out predictions regarding how a cartoon feature will perform better prepare themselves for being wrong. The last two years, doomsayers have moaned how the box office for animated fare was about to fall off a cliff. But so far Lego-Frozen-Despicable Me-Croods-Monster University have refused to tumble.

So what gives?

Only the William Goldman axiom on steroids: If nobody in Hollywood knows anything, stock analysts making predictions about Hollywood features know less.
Click here to read entire post

Near the Arctic Circle

From the trades:

... “Scandinavian animated films mostly target children and family audiences, and they tend to boast a more traditional, standardized graphic style that’s easier to market,” says Marc Vandeweyer, head of animation co-production forum Cartoon Movie. In that regard they compare more closely with U.S. toons than, for instance, Gallic efforts like “Persepolis” or “Waltz With Bashir.” ...

The Scandi animation biz traditionally has been focused on TV series, but in recent years, producers have increasingly started to look into feature-length films. ...

The success of 2008 Finnish pic “The Flight Before Christmas,” a €6.1 million ($8.2 million) CGI feature that grossed nearly $22 million worldwide, launched the Nordic feature animation boom. The pic, which follows the adventures of a young reindeer, was picked it up by the Weinstein Co. for the U.S. Its sequel, the $9.6 million “Little Brother, Big Trouble: A Christmas Adventure,” grossed another $22 million worldwide, including $3.3 million in China. ...

You will note that Scandinavian features, much like other European features, have lower budgets and lower grosses. But made for the right price, they can still become tidy little profit centers.

$22 million in global grosses is not a lot of money, but if costs are around $6 million, by the time the pictures have circulated through all distribution channels, the long-form cartoons will be comfortably in the black.

Scandinavian animation isn't much different than Spanish or French animation. Quality can be produced for less money, then distributed with okay results. No, the pictures won't make $500 million, but the take will be high enough so that more animated features get pushed into the production pipeline. (These cartoonss might not show up on our radar, but they're part of second-tier movie markets that are wide and deep.)
Click here to read entire post

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Craft Meeting #2 - Writers

TAG Vice-President Jack Thomas shared this report about the Writers Craft Meeting held in the evening of the 25th:

The Writers Craft meeting was an interesting cross section of newer and more experienced writers.

These are some of the highlights of the discussion:

I was surprised how much talk there was about benefits. The more experienced writers were in favor of trying to find a way to cross apply hours with the WGA and/or self pay for pension and health on non- union jobs and the younger writers were wondering why it took so long for the union to find out about their hiring (and get their benefits.)

There seemed to be a general consensus that rates were too low and should be brought in line with what WGA writers receive, including the receipt of script fees along with weekly pay. There were also suggestions that we need to set minimums for bibles, treatments and other development materials.

People also seemed to agree that we needed to force timely payment of fees, especially to freelancers by establishing some sort of penalty system.

There was also a suggestion that board artists who work from outlines and write their own dialogue should be compensated at a higher rate. And the need for a rate for web content under four minutes was also identified. Also, the need for a specific “Story Editor” rate was disccussed

There was discussion of whether we should have a rule against accepting non-union work. No consensus was reached but it did seem that the majority abhorred the idea of split productions – productions that are part union and non-union.

Finally, there was a significant discussion of whether the union should become a national to better protect members outside LA County. Again this was not everything we discussed. If you have any questions or other topics you want to discuss feel free to email me at

Find a summary of all other craft meetings here.

Jack Thomas
Vice President
Click here to read entire post

Documentary of The End

I was at DreamWorks Animation this morning, walking through the first floor. One of the artists asked me to put this up.

It's already been up and around a couple of days, but I said I would. ...

The problem for any visual effects/ animation studio who performs work for movie conglomerates is, they aren't (in most cases) content creators. What hey are is job shops. A conglomerate gives them a fee to make a product, and if they're are big overruns or production hiccups along the way, they're on the hook for a budget that no longer works (if it ever worked at all.)

And so they're screwed.

That's the Rhythm and Hues story in a nutshell, but also the story of a number of small studios that have risen to prominence, then seen the marketplace change, and crash in flames.

Studios that don't (can't?) control their own destines, usually meet sad ends. Rhythm and Hues is simply one of the latest victims of the current skewed marketplace.
Click here to read entire post

Jobs Depart, Stage Right

There's been considerable angst and hand-wringing about the steady erosion of entertainment jobs from the Golden State. Today, the Milken Institute weighed in.

California's Loss of Entertainment Jobs Will Be Harder to Reverse as New Production Hubs Emerge, According to New Milken Institute Report

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - Feb 27, 2014) - California's stronghold on the entertainment industry is loosening as production jobs are lured to other locations due to production credits and other tax breaks. Between 2004 and 2012, the state lost more than 16,000 jobs in filmed production employment -- a more than 10 percent drop. Meanwhile, New York, California's main rival, added more than 10,000 such jobs. These jobs contribute to state revenues and provide sustainable incomes that result in significant local spending. In California, they are high-paying middle-class positions that pay more than $95,000 on average.

A report from the Milken Institute's California Center determines what can be done to make California more competitive. "A Hollywood Exit: What California Must Do to Remain Competitive in Entertainment -- and Keep Jobs" examines the incentives of New York and other states as well as Canada and other countries. One conclusion: the areas not covered under California's current incentive program, namely, big-budget movies, hour-long network dramas and visual effects, have been the fastest to flee the state.

The report's authors make recommendations for improving California's incentive program, based on what's working elsewhere. Suggestions include raising the total amount of funds available to a level that allows for eliminating the current lottery system. The state should also award credits on a rolling basis throughout the year, instead of only at one point tied to the state's fiscal calendar.

"With film production showing itself to be increasingly mobile, California should not attempt to capture or keep productions that are looking for the highest possible incentives," said Kevin Klowden, director of the Milken Institute's California Center. "Instead we suggest ways for California to leverage its strategic advantages, namely serving as the headquarters of most studios, distributors and producers, its role as home to the largest concentration of entertainment talent in North America, and its strong existing infrastructure."

Other suggested improvements to the incentive program include ensuring a smooth evaluation process, supported by an application fee charged to larger productions to cover the cost of new employees at the California Film Commission who handle the evaluation of submissions. The state could also restructure the credit to align with television production schedules and dedicate a portion to hour-long TV dramas, which create the most jobs.

"We saw repeatedly that technological advances have not only changed the entertainment revenue stream as studios reach viewers in more ways than ever," said Klowden, "but technology also allows more jobs to be portable -- which lets key functions be handled nearly anywhere."

Another way to support California's entertainment employment base would be to capture blockbusters, allowing movie with budgets over $75 million to become eligible for incentives. Total credits for larger productions could be capped to ensure that no single film takes a disproportionate share. Further, because in-state productions outside of the LA area have dropped off nearly completely, report authors recommend extending an additional 5 percent credit to productions taking place outside the union-designated 30 Mile Zone around LA. This would help make up for the additional transportation and lodging cost stemming from working in other locations.

One of the biggest changes the authors propose would be the inclusion of digital visual effects and animation at the usual 20 percent rate available to filmed productions. This would offset a cost disadvantage faced by visual effects companies, including those in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The authors also recommend that the state establish a digital infrastructure investment credit as part of its research and development tax credit, rather than the filmed production incentive. According to the report, as California works to encourage investment in the filmed production infrastructure, it can also provide a research and development credit to production companies, one intended to create in-state research to keep California at the cutting edge of digital entertainment.

"A Hollywood Exit: What California Must Do to Remain Competitive in Entertainment -- and Keep Jobs," by Kevin Klowden, Priscilla Hamilton and Kristen Keough is available for download at no charge at ...

Animation is one of California's strong suits, so it makes complete sense to build on that strength before it's eroded. Building animation and visual effects infrastructure in non-Californian locations is neither simple nor easier, but with enough incentives ... and time ... the Golden State's current advantages can erode just as surely as other parts of the television and motion picture business have eroded.

You'll find other takes on the Milken Institute's report here and here.

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Nick ... Nick ... Nick ...


... Nick had the top four series among Kids 2-11, led by SpongeBob SquarePants, which earned a 5.3/1.7M with Kids 2-11 and 3.3M total viewers. Sanjay and Craig came in second with Kids 2-11 (4.7/1.5M) and drew 2.8M total viewers. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the third leading animated series with Kids 2-11 (4.7/1.5M) and scored 3M total viewers. Rabbids Invasion rounded out the top four spots with Kids 2-11 (4.6/1.5M), while drawing 2.6M total viewers. ...

Wallykazam!, the net’s brand-new curriculum-driven series teaching literacy, topped the month as TV’s number-one preschool show among Kids 2-5 (6.9/853K, +50%). At number two, was Paw Patrol which averaged a 6.8/845K with preschoolers and posted ratings increases of +45% over a year ago. ...

Additionally, Nick launched a brand-new animated series this month, Breadwinners, the story of two booty-shaking ducks who deliver bread in a jet-fueled rocket van, which scored the number two spot for the week (behind only SpongeBob SquarePants) with Kids 2-11 ...

Nick, revived from earlier doldrums, has been hiring artists for newer shows going into production (TAG recently hosted 20+ new employees at a "New Member Lunch.")

But funny thing. A lot of the new productions are hand-drawn shows. It wasn't long ago that Nick was going all-in with CG animation. Traditional-looking animation was so o-ver. Programming was going to be CG all or most of the time.)

Yet oddly enough ...

Computer Graphic images haven't quite worked out as originally planned. The channel certainly has its share, but like other television cartoon studios, Nick has come to find that CG, though boffo on theater screens, doesn't necessarily pull big ratings at home. Less expensive hand-drawn cartoons often do as well: Spongebob continues to prosper. Breadwinners, defiantly old school, has done fine in the ratings. Wallykazam and TMNT are pulling nice numbers, but the question hovers: In television, is more expensive CG worth the trouble?

A Nick staffer related:

The CG department on Third Street [in Burbank] is smaller than it was eight months ago. Wallykazam artists are being put on hiatus. Turtles is downsizing, since it's in season three. Problem with that is the show is still introducing new characters and locations. And staff has been hired away by DreamWorks Animation TV. ...

Maybe the population of the Nick Third Street studio is down, but Nickelodeon still pursues CG shows. There's the recently renewed Rabbids Invasion from Ubisoft in France, and now this:

PGS Entertainment has announced the sale of the new CGI-animated series Alvinnn!!! and the Chipmunks to Nickelodeon.

Produced by Bagdasarian Productions and Ouido! Productions, the series will debut on the network's international channels in early 2015 on more than 70 networks excluding those in North America and Brazil.

Created by Janice Karman, the series has been picked up for two seasons. ...

So maybe Nick doesn't want to do oodles of CG shows itself, but it still desires CG product.
Click here to read entire post

Mini Disney

Seeking Alpha confirms (like we needed more confirmation?) where the good ship DreamWorks Animation is sailing.

... Segments other than animated films continue to lead the growth at Dreamworks Animation. In the fourth quarter, television made up $47.1 million of the total $204.3 million reported in revenue. Consumer products brought in $12.4 million in the fourth quarter. Both television and consumer products were led by strong results from the brands acquired from Classic Media. The acquisition of Classic Media, which I highlighted at the initial bidding process, has paid off for Dreamworks Animation and continues to help the company see new revenue sources in both television and licensing.

In the third quarter, television revenue was $18.2 million and was led by Classic Media and "Dragons: Riders of Berk". Consumer revenue was $12.0 million in the third quarter, led by "Turbo" and Classic Media. As you can see, both of these segments had improvements in the fourth quarter, particularly the sharp increase in television revenue, which more than doubled quarter over quarter.

Back in August, I highlighted Dreamworks Animation's push away from film into television and consumer products. This includes an upcoming toy deal with Hasbro (HAS), which could lead to a big partnership going forward if successful.

Another area that is set to boost Dreamworks Animation is theme parks. Similar to Disney, Dreamworks will see its characters as part of theme parks. However, unlike Disney, Dreamworks will license out its popular characters and take in less revenue for less risk of attendance and ticket sales. ...

A couple of years ago, I was handwringing over DWA putting all its eggs in the animated feature basket. When your business model is "make every movie a HIT!" the high wire is tight and humming, you know? back then, DWA had (pretty much) abandoned television ainimation. It hadn't yet acquired other companies or gone into amusement parks in a serious way or branched out into other fields.

High wire act. Under the big top. Clamped to full-length theatrical movies.

But now DreamWorks has branched out, and is following the path of Walt Disney Productions circa 1954. The next step will be to start making live-action television and movies, but I don't anticipate that happening until they've solidified and expanded their latest corporate moves.
Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rally Again

There will be a second demonstration.

A year ago yesterday, an estimated 400-plus supporters of the visual effects industry gathered at Hollywood and Vine as the glitterati walked the Oscar red carpet just blocks away. Get ready for Round 2. The Association of Digital Arts and Technicians has announced a VFX rally for the same corner from 1-3 PM Sunday. ...

Earlier today the LAPD phoned us to find out about the rally taking place near the Kodak theater. We explained that we weren't the organizers of the even, and in fact didn't have any official involvement in it. (although members will be there on Sunday marching.)

However, we did have knowledge of and contact with the folks who were putting the march together, and passed along pertinent information. (It was a friendly call from the cops, so why not?)
Click here to read entire post

Tonight's Craft Meeting

The Animation Guild's second craft meeting took place tonight, this edition covering animation writers. TAG Vice-President Jack Thomas chaired the meeting; among the topics discussed:

* Storyboard artists-writers who work on premise shows. Should writer/artists be earning script fees? (Yes.)

* Residuals and foreign levies. The Business Representative gave a short history of contract residuals, how above-the-line guilds get them in their mailboxes, and the IATSE (Editors, Cinematographers, and TAG members among others) get residuals flowing in the health and pension plan. Regarding foreign levies, it was suggested that writers go to the WGA website and check shows and credits to see where they're listed. Also, to keep the WGA updated on shows written during the year.

* Story editors having supervisor status in the contract.

* Sharing pension/health benefits between guilds.

* Ulcer-inducing contract negotiations.

* TAG becoming a national union. TAG organizing studios in northern California and on the east coast.

* The benefits offered by the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan. How those benefits accrue to participants. ...

A lot of topics were covered in the two-hour session, and Vice-President Thomas kept the discussion moving.
Click here to read entire post

In the Red After All

Who would have guessed? Turbo (the feature) wasn't a money-spinner.

DreamWorks Animation took a $13.5-million charge on its animated movie "Turbo," which misfired at the box office this summer.

The Glendale-based studio on Tuesday said the charge represented a loss of $0.12 cents of earnings per share in the fourth quarter. The company said it also recorded a charge of $6.7 million, or $.06 cents a share, related to other unspecified content.

Nonetheless, DreamWorks Animation swung to profit in the quarter, posting net income of $17.2 million on revenues of $204.3 million in the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $82.7 million on revenues of $264.6 million during the same quarter in 2012.

For the year, DreamWorks Animation recorded a profit of $55.1 million, compared with a loss of $36.4 million in 2012. Revenues for the year dropped to $706.9 million from $749.8 million in 2012. ...

Early on, Jeffrey K. made buoyant talk about how Turbo would ultimately make money, but that was never really in the cards. It was clear that the picture was under-performing.

There weren't, after all the receipts were in, enough people who wanted to see a movie about a snail.
Click here to read entire post

Monday, February 24, 2014

Craft Meeting #1 -- Board Artists

Six days ago, the Animation Guild held its first craft meeting, attended (mostly) by storyboard artists and revisionists. The discussion was energetic, and covered a wide range of work issues, among them:

1) Cramped work schedules.

2) The general corporate/department rule (with exceptions) that: "There's NO money in the budget for overtime, so DON'T ASK."

3) The issue of multi-tasking. Board artists today often have to A) Design, B) Be layout artists, C) Work as animatics editors, D) Pose out animation. ...

There was a filled union meeting hall last Tuesday, and almost everyone in it filled out a survey form which asked for salaries and specific complaints about different studios' work environments. In case you're wondering there were attendees from just about every union studio, including Cartoon Network, Bento Box, Nickelodeon, Disney and even a couple of non-guild studios.

For the salaries of board artists at the meeting, the median wage (excluding revisionists) was:

$2,116.65/ week

(By comparison, the 2013 wage survey listed a median salary of $1,962/week for television board artists and $2,200/week for feature storyboard artists. So there might have been an overall shift upward -- there are a lot more television board artists than feature artists -- in the past eight months, but nothing major.)

Here are highlights from comments from the surveys:

Studios should keep a consistent production schedule. Recently on our show they've made people do double length boards with only one extra week then taking away a week from the next board because "they took an extra week" on the prvious board. Also, my partner and I were offered only two weeks of hiatus if we completed our board in one less week than usual. Every other board team got two weeks without condition. ..."

Wish my show would accept rougher work. Not paid o.t. I work 48 hours per week, and work unpaid o.t. about every 3 weeks.

It would be good to have audio, designs and b.g.'s BEFORE we start a board. Need to have more allotted time for "non-storyboard work (animatics, designing, etc.)

I work 40 hours per week except for special circumstances." Our production schedule (prime time show) is realistic.

Hired as revisionist but did full-time storyboard work. Paid at scale. Actionws require more time: 5-6 weeks. No authorized overtime, work unpaid o.t.

I work on a premise show. First season 4 weeks to complete boards, expanded to 5 weeks second season. Before schedule was challenging.

Somebody who's never done the work has created the schedule. S.B. artists never have input on the time that's realistic. Writers should use a stop watch shen writing their scripts. They write (overlong) 16 page scripts for 11 minute segment.

With all the extra (non-storyboard) work, time not adequate. Two rounds ochanges only. I went through three times as many rounds of changes per episode.

Four weeks is simply not enough time to allow for late designs or other scheduling hiccups, not to mention script problems. Unless studio wants super rough drawing, it's very difficult without overtime.

If they want a show with mistakes and weaker stories, then the scheduling is realistic. If they want a good quality show, there needs to be more time.

We are not allowed to work rough. We are responsible for anitaatic. Show runner/writers plus executive give multiple and contradictory rounds of revisions, which artists much accommodate without any leeway in schedule. ... Shows getting more complicated. Many board artists have voluntarily stepped down toe revisionist due to stress of the jobs, and a starting to have to breakdown poses for timers.

We used to pitch 4 times per cycle. It's down to 2-3, which helps. Time is better spent boarding instead of preparing for intermediate pitches.

I'm able to take shortcuts; studio knows what is possible in alloted time, but they aren't flexible when we have holiday, delays and a complex script.

Schedules need to be adjusted for holidays. I don't understand how one is supposed to take a "holiday" with a board and still turn it in on time.

Storyboarders working off of scripts are not the same as boarders working off of premises. Most of us are premise based and therefore write jokes and dialogue for our episodes. We should be given credit as writers ...

Scripts are too long.

There's not enough time, especially for an action show. We need more time for action pages that call for more poses/drawing (which in turn are expected to be clean. Just more time: 8 week schedule.

I'm a revisionist on a prime-time show who regularly work overtime and isn't paid for it.

We need at least 2 revisionists per story team. Right now we are starting to hire a few. We have been asked multiple times if we can work weekends with overtime payments because execs give tons of notes on animatics, and the team never has time to do the work during the week!

There needs to be REMEDIAL TRAINING (myself included) on How-To-Be-A-Member of this union. Perhaps there is video tutoring available that demonstrates “what if” scenarios that production artists commonly face. The members I am in contact with are Re-active, and not PRO-active in problem-solving. ...

Find a summary of all other craft meetings here.
Click here to read entire post

As Went Walt, So Goes Jeffrey

As we've noted before, DreamWorks Animation is pivoting from its original business a bit.

... Fans of “Shrek” will now be able to visit the green ogre’s swamp and fairy tale kingdom as part of a U.K. based attraction.

The upcoming London theme world is the first of six attractions based on the animated film series that will be constructed over the next nine years as part of a deal between producer DreamWorks Animation and Merlin Entertainments, the British operator of visitor attractions such as Madame Tussauds and Legoland.

The attraction will be called Shrek’s Far Far Away Adventure and will open in summer 2015, the partners said. Its debut comes just ahead of the film’s 15th anniversary and is another example of DreamWorks Animation’s push to diversify away from purely releasing feature films and into television, consumer products and other businesses. ...

This was something that had to happen for DreamWork's Animation long-term viability. If Disney hadn't branched out from animation all those years ago, Diz Co. wouldn't exist today.

Studios have to adapt, morph and grow, or they perish.
Click here to read entire post

And Diz Co. Pulls Away From Where Walt Was ...

The amusement park prices go up and up.

Prices at Disney's Magic Kingdom Park rose 4.2% to $99 starting yesterday. A one-day ticket to Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios also saw a hike, moving up 4.4% to $94.

In recent quarters, Disney has seen average guest spending at its theme parks show solid growth.

Inflation, may we say, is way lower. ...

In the sixties and seventies, Disneyland admissions were not exorbitant. There were the admission tickets, there were the A-E ticket books. And you went in through the amusement park gates and did your thing.

One of the first things the Eisner management team did when it got to Burbank was review Disney's various divisions. The boys and girls from Paramount and Warners quickly discovered that the amusement park admissions were priced relatively low.

So they raised them.

And lo. People kept coming, paying the higher admission prices, and corporate profits rose at a brisk clip. A major reason that the Eisner-Wells team was so successful during it's early tenure at Disney was they did logical and obvious things. Yes, they juiced up the live-action movie pipeline, but they also

1) Started a television animation division

2) Ramped up ticket prices at Disneyland and Disney World.

Pre-Eisner, the thought was to raise park prices a little, but don't make them exorbitant. For the past 28 years, the operating philosophy has been to Charge What The Traffic Will Bear. I'm not saying that's wrong, but it is different.
Click here to read entire post

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Here We Go ...

Gobble up the competition, and pretty quickly money changes hands:

Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast to ensure the subscription service's movies and TV shows stream seamlessly in a deal that underscores the power of distribution in the digital era — and could mean higher rates for consumers.

The nation's leading online video service and the largest U.S. provider of home Internet access said the agreement is designed to ensure that Netflix subscribers can watch the new season of "House of Cards" and other content free of the pauses and hiccups subscribers have reported in recent months. The agreement may pave the way for similar arrangements between Netflix and other Internet service providers, including Verizon and AT&T. ...

Netflix and Comcast declined to reveal terms of their pact, which was announced Sunday.

You bet the companies declined to reveal. No details for the unwashed. Having to pay the new rates will be hard enough. No need to upset the peasants with a breakdown/explanation of why.

Now that "net neutrality" has gone bye-bye, expect to see declining internet service and rising rates. As the Washington Post tells us:

... For the past two decades, the Internet has operated as an unregulated, competitive free market. Given the tendency of networked industries to lapse into monopoly—think of AT&T's 70-year hold over telephone service, for example—that's a minor miracle. But recent developments are putting the Internet's decentralized architecture in danger.

In recent months, the nation's largest residential Internet service providers have been demanding payment to deliver Netflix traffic to their own customers. On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Netflix has agreed to the demands of the nation's largest broadband provider, Comcast. The change represents a fundamental shift in power in the Internet economy that threatens to undermine the competitive market structure that have served Internet users so well for the past two decades. ...

Like it or not, we live in the land of, by and for conglomerates.
Click here to read entire post

Worldwide Animated Weekend Box Office

The cartoons, they are doing good.

Foreign Weekend Box Office -- (Global Total)

The Lego Movie -- $23,100,000 -- ($275,660,096)

Frozen -- $9,000,000 -- ($980,361,335)

Mr. Peabody and Sherman -- $5,300,000 -- ($22,500,000)

There are billion-dollar road markers in Disney's box office future:

Frozen has yet to open in Japan, which it will do on March 15, but it should break the $1B barrier just ahead of that bow. The animated juggernaut is now the No. 19 grosser of all time, and has passed Despicable Me 2 to become the No. 2 animated release ever. Internationally, it’s also the highest-grossing original IP animated release of all time. ...

The Lego Movie benefited from school holidays in the UK where the movie was again No. 1 in its 2nd weekend. It earned $9.4M on 1,262 screens for a small 5% drop. Its cume in the UK is now $35.4M and its international cume is an estimated $92.5M. ...
Click here to read entire post

The Big Rally

Click on the image for a bigger, clearer, less narrow view.

There was a large labor turnout in Burbank yesterday.

More than 1,000 entertainment industry workers gathered in Burbank on Saturday, launching a campaign to support an expansion of California's film and TV tax credit program.

The rally, organized by a coalition of entertainment industry unions, drew an unusually large swath of set decorators, prop makers, grips, camera operators and other technicians who filled two conference rooms at the Pickwick Gardens on Riverside Drive.

They were urged by union leaders to volunteer their services and write emails and letters to state lawmakers in support of legislation recently introduced by Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra (D-Los Angeles) and Mike Gatto (D-Pacoima), who were among a parade of state and local politicians who spoke at the meeting.

"This is our time to take up arms," said Thom Davis, president of the Entertainment Union Coalition. "We have the numbers, we have the people, we have the will, and we have the ability to see this through."

Steve Dayan, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers, drivers and casting directors, said his members were even prepared to drive a caravan of trucks to Sacramento to get their message across to state lawmakers.

"We are not going to stand by and let other states poach our jobs," Dayan said. "It's wrong and we are going to put a stop to it."

The big room at Pickwick was packed with an overflow crowd Saturday afternoon. (And showing up at that venue takes dedication, because parking is shitty lousy.)

But there was a reason for the turnout. Movie-making in California has taken it in the shorts the past several years as Canada, New York, Georgia and other venues have put generous tax subsidies in place and sucked jobs out of the state at an accelerating rate. Movie veterans are hurting, and the size of the crowd at the legislative kickoff yeterday was a good barometer of how concerned people are.
Click here to read entire post

Saturday, February 22, 2014

TV Look Back

The grand old days.

... The most popular cartoons of the 1980s all essentially existed to create new customers for their respective toy lines. Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, My Little Pony; when you break it down, each episode is essentially a glorified toy commercial.

I'm sorry to pop the nostalgia bubble, but go and watch the intro to He-Man and tell me if it holds up to today's artistic and creative standards. ...

I came onto the Animation Guild's executive board during those glorious days of yesteryear (1983). I can still remember business representative Bud Hester rattling off employment stats at different studios, telling us what shows were in production, and what shows were getting cancelled.

And I was impressed with how steady employment was at a mid-valley studio named Filmation. It had been the CBS network's "go to" Saturday morning cartoon shop a few years before, but by '83 Lou Scheimer and upper management had discovered the joys of syndication and resulting big episode orders. He Man, as under-nourished as it might have been, provided a lot of work for artists in the middle '80s.

The shows might not be on the top shelf of the nostalgia trophy case today, but dozens of animators, board artists and designers got their start in the business because of He-Man and She Ra, Princess of Power.

It's hard to believe now, but Filmation was the largest animation studio in Los Angeles in 1985. Disney's expansion was still four years away, as was Warner Bros. (Spielberg was still busy making epic live-action films; he hadn't yet turned his attention to Tiny Toons and Animaniacs.)
Click here to read entire post

March of the Clones

From Businessweek:

... When a live-action movie becomes a big hit, it’s not long before imitators—both real and imagined—show up on the horizon. Doing the same in the animation world isn’t quite so simple.

“A lot of people who aren’t in the industry don’t realize how long it takes to get an animated film made,” says David A. Price, author of The Pixar Touch. “The development process is quite long, and then production itself takes a couple of years. An animator turns out about three seconds of finished animation a week.” ...

A veteran cartoon exec (now retired, the man I call "The Wise Old Cartoon Producer," told me over lunch:

"When I was working on features for the conglomerates, a lot of movie executives had trouble wrapping their heads around the long development times needed for animated features.

"They were used to developing a script, hiring a director, then getting a cast and crew together and shooting a picture. The idea that they would have to spend years of development time on an animated project, dump millions into a strange pipeline, put a lot of them off.

"But it's the way animated features get made. There has to be a big commitment in time and money, and lots of movie executives didn't want to deal with that. ...

Except now, with huge grosses bubbling up from Despicable Me 2, Frozen, Monster University,, and now The Lego Movie, previous reluctance to plunge into animated projects has withered away. There's too much money on the table to not be a player.

Click here to read entire post

Your American Box Office

The story (still) is about the mighty Lego Monster.

“The Lego Movie” continues to own the February box office, posting a $7.3 million Friday that puts it on course for a third weekend in the $33 million range.

Warner Bros.’ 3D animated comedy remains in a market-high 3,890 theaters and was crushing two wide openers and dominating as it headed for its third consecutive weekend triumph.

The studio and producing partner Village Roadshow on Friday set May 26, 2017, for a follow-up to their Hasbro toy-based blockbuster, which has rolled up $159 million domestically since opening on Feb. 7 and more than $215 million worldwide.

The Lego Movie is the most recent foreign-created animated feature that's turned into a huge global hit. Warners, for obvious reasons, will be continuing its Animal Logic partnership. It's got a development crew on Warners' Burbank lot under an IA contract, and that crew works hand in glove (so I'm told) with Animal Logic, based at the Fox Studio in Sydney, Australia.


1) THE LEGO MOVIE -- $7,340,000 -- ($159,050,000)

2) 3 DAYS TO KILL -- $4,010,000 -- ($4,010,000)

3) POMPEII -- $3,400,000 -- ($3,400,000)

4) ROBOCOP (2014) -- $2,600,000 -- ($36,800,000)

5) ABOUT LAST NIGHT (2014) -- $2,280,000 -- ($33,026,000)

6) THE MONUMENTS MEN -- $2,250,000 -- ($52,195,000)

7) ENDLESS LOVE (2014) -- $1,500,000 -- ($17,341,000)

8) RIDE ALONG -- $1,300,000 -- ($119,806,000)

9) FROZEN -- $1,023,000 -- ($380,727,000)

10) WINTER'S TALE -- $670,000 -- ($9,764,000 )

Funny. Not a lot of talk about how animated features are cannibalizing other animated features. But it will probably bubble up again when the next animated feature fails.

Add On: But hey. Animated features aren't failing now.

Weekend Grosses

1). The Lego Movie (WB), 3,890 theaters (+115) / $7.3M Fri. (-43%) / $14.6M Sat. (+99%) / $9.4M (-35%) / Est. 3-day cume: $31.4M (-37%) / Total cume: $183.1M / Wk 3

2). 3 Days to Kill (REL), 2,872 theaters / $4M Fri. / $5.1M (+28%) / $3.1M (-39%) / 3-day cume: $12.3M / Wk 1

3). Pompeii (SONY) 2,658 theaters / $3.3M Fri. / $4.2M (+26%) / $2.7M Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $10.3M/ Wk 1

4). RoboCop (SONY/MGM) 3,372 theaters (0) / $2.6M Fri. (-62%) / $4.3M (+69%) / $2.6M (-40%) / 3-day cume: $9.6M (-56%) / Total cume: $43.8M / Wk 2

5). Monuments Men (SONY) 3,064 theaters (-19) / $2.2M Fri. (-55%) / $3.6M Sat. (+64%) / $2.1M Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $7.9M (-49%) / Total cume: $58M / Wk 3

6). About Last Night (SONY), 2,253 theaters (0) / $2.2M Fri. (-82%) / $3.3M Sat. (+48%) / $1.6M Sun. (-50%) / 3-day cume: $7.3M (-71%) / Total cume: $38M / Wk 2

7). Ride Along (UNI), 2,186 theaters (-331) / $1.3M Fri. (-61%) / $2.2M Sat. (+65%) / $1.1M Sun. (-50%) / 3-day cume: $4.6M (-47%) / Total cume: $123.1M / Wk 6

8). Frozen (DIS), 1,891 theaters (-210) / $1M Fri. (-40%) / $2M Sat. (+100%) / $1.3M Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $4.4M (-29%) / Total cume: $384.1M / Wk 14

9). Endless Love (UNI), 2,896 theaters (+3) / $1.4M Fri. (-80%) / $1.7M Sat. (+19%) / $934K Sun. (-45%) / 3-day cume: $4.1M (-69%) / Total cume: $19.9M to $20.1M / Wk 2

10). Winter’s Tale (WB) 2,965 theaters (0) / $670K Fri. (-82%) / $970K Sat. (+44%) / $533K Sun. (-45%) / 3-day cume: $2.1M (-71%) / Total cume: $11.2M / Wk 2

Click here to read entire post

Why Miyazaki Now Hangs It Up

As he said target="_blank" after The Wind Rises:

... “I really felt that this was the maximum that I could give to produce an animated film. ... The work of animation is building up bricks and mortar, bricks and mortar. I felt I wouldn’t be able to put [up] another brick.” ...

His newest animated film TWR has just opened in limited release, so you can judge for yourself where it lands in the pantheon of this year's animated features. Click here to read entire post

Friday, February 21, 2014


And it's unfortunate.

California Senator Ronald Calderon has been indicted and will surrender to federal authorities Monday, on charges of taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in relation to the state’s film and TV tax incentive program, the U.S. Attorney said Friday.

Agents posing as both businessmen and Hollywood film studio associates approached the 56-year-old Calderon of Montebello, and he allegedly accepted approximately $100,000 in cash bribes and other goods and services in exchange for, among other things, supporting legislation that would expand California’s tax-credit program to independent films.

I don't know what Senator Calderon was thinking. (Well, I do know what he had in his head, actually. Visions of greenbacks.)

Regardless, tomorrow there will be a kickoff by labor for the new movie tax credit bill at Pickwick Gardens in Burbank.

The legislation, which has 61 co-sponsors, is designed to make California more competitive with New York, Georgia and other states with aggressive film programs.
Click here to read entire post

Good News Among (Prospective) Bad News

DreamWorks, it does well even with under-performers.

DreamWorks Animation now has what every movie studio wants: it can get away with releasing movies that are not huge hits.

Studios can even make money off of their weaker-performing titles. At least that’s the message from a recent report by Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Tony Wible.

Advanced research indicates the animation studio’s next movie, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” featuring the voices of Ty Burrell, Leslie Mann and Stephen Colbert, will be its second film in a row to underperform at the box office — “Turbo” being the first. The upcoming movie based on characters from a 1960s TV show should gross between $25 and $30 million during its opening weekend for Fox, which is releasing the film, according to Wible.

Tracking based on Google search and social media indicates the movie will do better than previously expected, but even the revised numbers suggest a domestic total of $98 million. That is a low figure when compared to most of the company’s other movies, like the original “Shrek” ($267.7 million) and “How to Train Your Dragon” ($217.6 million), and even its more recent successes such as ‘The Croods.” ...

Netflix has acknowledged – the “Turbo” series with Netflix has been a huge success. The streaming service, which never discloses ratings, said it was “one of the most popular kids series ever on Netflix.” That helped make “Turbo” a success even though it wasn’t at the box office. ...

Until eighteen to twenty-four months ago, DreamWorks Animation had an interesting business model.

Make an animated movie, release said movie, have it be a huge hit. Rinse, repeat. (And, at the same time, work on an array of other animated movies.)

This is, as financial analysts might say, Un. Su. Stainable.

So around the time that The Guardians didn't perform up to expectations (and probably earlier) the company began doing what Walt Disney Productions did in the early 1950s. It started seriously diversifying.

DWA got into television and internet programming and distribution in a serious way. It partnered with China. It got into the amusement park biz. It bought up companies with exploitable assets (i.e., a plethora of cartoon characters). It wouldn't surprise me if, in the future, the company got into live-action and live-action/animation hybrids.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, in short, has learned the same lesson that Walter E. Disney learned sixty years ago. The chances of a cartoon company surviving by making only theatrical cartoons are a lot smaller than a cartoon company that diversifies into newer media and other parts of the entertainment biz.
Click here to read entire post

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sad News -- In Trouble!

We've been slammed at the office lately. I get enough e-mails as it is, and it doesn't get easier when we get an e-mail like the one below from a long-time member. (We will protect this member by re-naming him. Let's call the boy "Don Marconi.")

From: Don Marconi
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 2:01 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: Sad News - Don Marconi (long-time TAG member]

Hope you get this on time, I made a trip to (Ukraine)and had my bag stolen from me with my passport and personal effects therein. The embassy has just issued me a temporary passport but I have to pay for a ticket and settle my hotel bills with the Manager.

I have made contact with my bank but it would take me 5-7 working days to access funds in my account, the bad news is my flight will be leaving in less than 20-hrs from now but I am having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let me leave until I settle the bills, I need your help/LOAN financially ($2,300) and I promise to make the refund once I get back home, you are my last resort and hope, Please let me know if I can count on you and I need you to keep checking your email because it's the only way I can reach you.

Don Marconi ...

Naturally enough, my heart sank ... even as it beat faster. After a moment's reflection, I fired the following off the Don:

From: Steve Hulett
To: don
Sent: Thursday, February 20, 2014 11:38 AM
Subject: Re: Sad News - Don Marconi


We’re all sick about this back here. It's a wicked world, innit? On behalf of the entire staff, you have our good thoughts and prayers.

If and when you make it back to the states, don’t hesitate to call me so I can take you out for a lemonade.

We’re pulling for you, buddy!

Steve H.
Click here to read entire post

Perfect Score

If you're one of the Mouse's stockholder, rejoice.

The Walt Disney Company: The Only Mega Cap With A Perfect Piotroski F-Score

There are currently 163 stocks in our database with a market cap greater than 50 billion. Out of the 163 stocks only one has a Perfect Piotroski F-Score of 9, and that stock is the Walt Disney Company. ...

The Piotroski F-Score is a score from 0 to 9 that measures overall fundamental health of a company. It is calculated by awarding one point for each of 9 conditions that the stock passes. The conditions are as follows:

Most recent Yearly Net Income > 0​
Yearly Cash Flow from Operations > 0
ROA has increased year over year
Cash Flow from Operations > Net Income
Long-term Debt to Assets has decreased year over year
Current Ratio has increased year over year
No new shares were issued in the last year
Gross Margin has increased year over year
Asset turnover has increased year over year ...

Experts point out that it's almost impossible for a large company to score a perfect 9 for any stretch of time. Conditions change. But damn, conditions are currently real good.

...Disney has a slightly lower price to sales, a much lower PE, a higher sales growth trailing 12 months, a much lower price to book, and a much higher analyst expected 5-year growth rate than the average of companies with a market cap greater than 100 billion and not including financial stocks. ...

What they're saying is Walt's place is a "buy."
Click here to read entire post

All Things Lego

Warners at last has a monster cartoon hit on it hands.

The Lego Movie builds box-office foundations atop The Monuments Men

Animation is the one film genre that regularly supplies big hits without the benefit of character familiarity ...

No Legos were harmed making this movie.

According to Warner Bros. Pictures, there are a total of 3,863,484 unique Lego bricks seen in the movie. But if you were to recreate the entire film only using Legos, you’d need 15,080,330, ...

So maybe the movie was an entertainment pivot point?

...The LEGO Movie could be an animated film game changer if Hollywood pays close enough attention. Instead of chasing The LEGO Movie’s box office returns by creating other toy-based animated films (like, say, The Hot Wheels Movie or Bratz vs. Ugly Dolls), Hollywood — and especially feature animation houses such as Pixar Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation, and the like — would do well to learn from other storytelling risks that The LEGO Movie takes.

Then there's the writing-directing team that brought the movie together.

"We're like brothers, so we bicker and stuff," admitted Miller, ... "But we have a very similar point of view of things, a similar sense of humor. So, we have a lot in common, and we have a lot of respect for each other." ...

Yet sadly, these two comedy directors are against our free market system.

Fox Business host Charles Payne took aim at WB’s animated blockbuster The Lego Movie as it raked in the cash on its way to a sky-high #1 opening, “pushing its anti-business message to our kids.”

Anti-capitalist The Lego Movie might be, but in Hollywood, it's always about the money. So I doubt that Warner Bros. will care.

“The Lego® Movie” Assembles More Than $200 Million in Global Box Office

Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Look Ma! No Recording Stage

And no animation directors sitting behind the glass.

George Clooney seemed to enjoy it, nevertheless.

(Interesting way to record dialogue. The actors seemed to get into it. But I'm not sure how much it enhanced audiences viewing pleasure of Fantastic Mr. Fox. Judging by the box office grosses, maybe not a lot.)
Click here to read entire post

Dark Domination

Rupert's troops keep developing new cartoons.

The Fox network is eyeing a new addition in Dark Lord Of Delaware, an animated comedy from Alan Schoolcraft & Brent Simon, writers of DreamWorks Animation’s Megamind, and former Fox head of comedy-turned-producer Marcus Wiley.

The project, now in development, centers on Zarbus, a man who must deal with the conflicting emotions of being a stay at home dad after losing his job. The situation is made all the more challenging by the fact his previous position was that of a Voldemort-like evil sorcerer who once ruled over a magical kingdom. ...

And again we ask: Why is it only Fox that develops animated half-hours for primetime broadcast?

Animation is a viable way to make money. Trust us.
Click here to read entire post

Box Office Juggernauts

Two way different animated movies. They're both juggernauts. And DWA has a new offering.

Warner Bros’ numbers on The Lego Movie have come in and they are, as expected, great numbers. It opened in the UK to $13.4M at No. 1, which accounted for a substantial amount of its $27.7M weekend (see revised numbers above).

Combined with the aforementioned Presidents Day holiday, the new worldwide cume is now $196M. It will bow in France on Feb. 19, followed by Italy the following day and Russia next as it continues its international run. It’s currently on 7,270 screens. Market-by-market numbers are below. ...

Frozen, still in the Top 10 domestically after 13 weeks of play, is nearing its billion-dollar worldwide mark as it just passed Shrek 2 this week to become the 3rd-highest-grossing animated release of all time (based on original runs and not including reissues) and highest-grossing original animated release of all-time.

Recording more than 9 million admissions and $69.19 million in receipts, In Korea, Frozen has surpassed Iron Man 3 to become the second-most-successful imported film in Korean box-office history after Avatar.

It took in an estimated $18.2M this weekend to raise its international cume to $579.9M. When you add that to its domestic take, it is at $955.7M ...

Mr. Peabody & Sherman — which opened last weekend — bowed in three new markets and nabbed $4.6M which brings its estimated cume to $11.8M. It opened to No 3. in France with $1.7M and had a very strong hold in the UK for another $2.3M to raise its total cume in that market to $9.5M. ...

In France, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs II (yes, it’s still in its international run), grossed another $1.6M here, bringing in its total overseas cume up to $147.9M. ...

So we've got two box office monsters, one promising start-up, and a hold-over that continues to do respectable numbers after months of release.

Are world audiences getting tired of animation yet?
Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winners Win

Good news for conglomerates.

News Corp has received a rebate of A$882M ($796.62M) from Australia’s tax authorities after it won a legal battle over A$2B in forex losses that it suffered during a restructuring in 1989.

The Australian Tax Office had refused to allow the deduction but was defeated in the country's Federal Court in July. The payment has only just come to light, although News Corp received the money at the end of last year.

The ATO's defeat exacerbates country's budget deficit, which is forecast at A$47B for FY 2013-14.

Hmmm. Wonder why this took so long to "get out." I would think that wonderful results like this would be trumpeted from the rooftops.

Maybe Fox-News Corp. Corp is becoming shy in middle age?
Click here to read entire post

Life After Pi

It was about a year ago today ...

That R & H went awaay ...

From the Times:

Pioneering visual effects house Rhythm & Hues stunned Hollywood last year when it filed for bankruptcy protection and laid off more than 250 employees.

The announcement came as the Los Angeles company was enjoying its crowning achievement: the Ang Lee film “Life of Pi,” whose dazzling digital effects would land Rhythm & Hues its third Academy Award just a few weeks later.

For Rhythm & Hues veterans Christina Lee Storm and Scott Leberecht, the juxtaposition was both devastating and traumatic.

They coped the only way they knew how: They picked up a camera and began interviewing their colleagues to document the fallout and help explain the forces that led to the near-demise of one the industry’s most storied effects firms.

The result is “Life After Pi,” a 30-minute documentary filmed at the company’s former El Segundo headquarters during the weeks that followed the bankruptcy.

The film debuts Feb. 25 on YouTube ...

And what's happening a year later? The industry still licks it bleeding wounds, and entertainment union are pushing for a tax subsidy on par with New York's. (California has a much smaller subsidy now.)

There's debate about whether this is a good long-term fix, but the thought of Hollywood guilds and unions is: "We're in drowning NOW. We need a life vest NOW!"

And, honest to God, there was real damage done to people's lives last year. And it's worthwhile to remember that.
Click here to read entire post

Playing Well WIth Others

Mark Evanier has one of those blogs that I read at least once a day because there's always something good to read in it.
Here's a piece he wrote that resonated with me on several levels, especially when it comes to "auditioning" for storyboard work.

My point of view has moved slightly toward the other side of the table, at least enough so I can understand the alternative point
of view.

-- Bob Foster (TAG e-board member and Prez Emeritus)

The last paragraph of Mark's piece (but please read the whole thing):

... The world keeps turning and you have two choices: You can turn with it or you can spend your time trying to shove it back in the other direction. Since no one has ever succeeded at that yet, I don't know why people — especially people who could be as brilliant as Sid Caesar — keep trying. Besides, it's so much fun to hop on and go along for the ride, especially when the alternative is being left behind.

Mark has an interesting point-of-view on Ageism in the article above.

I get a lot of phone calls from veterans who tell me (unhappily) that they have trouble getting work. I think there's a bit of gray-listing that goes on. But I also think, as Mr. Evanier does, that sometimes it's attitude. I mean, over the years I've helped seasoned artists secure jobs; sometimes they land the gig and perform their new tasks with enthusaism and vigor. And stay for years. Other times, they get the job but are soon let go. Sometime it's because their skill sets don't meet the requirements of the job, but other times it's bad attitude.
Click here to read entire post

Investment-Killing Fees

Since we're going into the final week of 401(k) enrollment meetings, here's a tip about maximizing your 401(k) investments.

The Crushingly Expensive Mistake Killing Your Retirement
401(k) fees are costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime.

... Returns aren't certain, but fees are. Now, maybe everything will go according to plan, and your 401(k) will be partying like it's 1999. Maybe the 1 percent—or more—that you're paying in fees will actually buy you market-beating returns. But probably not. ...

1.25 percent difference in annual fees adds up to a six-figure difference in lifetime earnings. That's because you don't just lose the money you pay in fees. You lose the returns you could have had on the money you pay in fees, too. As you can see in the chart below, this compounding effect doesn't matter much for the first 20 years or so, but really accelerates after that. If you chose the lowest-cost index fund, you'd have $15,000 more at age 45, $55,000 more at 55, and $159,000 more at 65. That would balloon to $257,000 more if you waited to retire at 70. ...

Studies confirm it, and years of data underscore it. The only reliable predictor of your investment returns over time is a) your asset allocation, and b) the cost of those assets in you investment portfolio.

"Hot managers" don't do it. ("The next Warrner Buffett!" More likely they'll be the next Jimmy Buffett, for all the oomph the hotshots will put into those expensive, actively-managed funds.)

So, what to do? Be diversified across asset classes, and keep your costs low.

TAG 401k Enrollment Meetings

Tues. - Feb. 18th -- DreamWorks Animation TV -- "Dragons"/Ventura Blvd -- 10 a.m. main conference room.

Wed. - Feb. 19th -- DreamWorks Animation Glendale -- 10 a.m. -- Dining Rm B

Thurs. - Feb. 20th -- DreamWorks Animation TV - Central -- 10 a.m. -- Conf. Rm. 2441

Click here to read entire post

Monday, February 17, 2014

Synergy Too!

The Mouse works to leverage all the moving parts of the empire.

“Revenge: The Secret Origin of Emily Thorne” will be released in September

Marvel Comics and ABC Studios, both owned by The Walt Disney Company, are partnering to deliver a hardcover graphic novel which would serve as a prequel to ABC drama “Revenge.”

“Revenge: The Secret Origin of Emily Thorne” will be released on Sept. 3 and takes place when the orphaned girl is 19-years-old.

“The parts of the history we’re bursting to tell is the origin of the woman you see that shows up in the pilot, as differentiated from the girl who was thrown into [juvenile detention] when her dad was taken from her,” “Revenge” showrunner Sunil Nayar told USA Today.

Comic books. Cartoons. Live-action tv and movies. (And of course all the other pieces, like amusement parks and merchandise and web portals.) Diz Co. strives to have them all work in concert, as moving gears that complement other gears.

You don't get to be the biggest entertainment conglomerate by happenstance. You figure out that each acquisition needs to not only pull its weight, but add value to other acquisitions.
Click here to read entire post

Marvel vs. DC

Silly, uninformed me. I thought Marvel had the upper-hand in the Super Hero franchises. But not in Cartoonland. And not according to the People Who Count*.

... While Marvel Animation seems content to cater mainly to younger fans with programs such as Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man and The Super Hero Squad Show, the DC animated universe offers everything from Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s highly influential Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League to stunning feature-length adaptations of Frank Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns and Geoff Johns’ acclaimed Flashpoint storyline. ...

Producer James Tucker recently announced that DC intends to release three straight-to-DVD animated features every year. Two of them will take place within the same continuity and the third will either be an original story with DC characters or an adaptation of a pre-existing work. ...

DC is also making significant inroads with other mediums, including live-action TV. The CW’s Arrow has proven itself a surprise hit with an increasingly rabid fanbase — giving the series a distinct advantage over Marvel’s disappointing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC. ...

I know college-age comic book fans that were outraged over how Iron Man 3 toyed with one of hteseries' major villains. (This outrage didn't seem to reduce the box office.) But here we are again with young twenty-somethings saying the DC super hero universe, at least in animation, is superior to the Marvel version.

Could bode well, at least in animation, for DC. And less well for Marvel. (Although there's no sign of damage on the live-action side.)

* The key demographic.
Click here to read entire post


It's animated! It's Star Wars!.

It's Diz Co.! Exploiting all parts of the empire to the max!

Click here to read entire post

Best Edited Cartoons

Oh my. Here in the midst of awards season, we neglected to note:

Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards


Directed by: Randy Myers, Michelle Bryan
Produced by: Butch Hartman, George Goodchild

Supervising Sound Editor: Heather Olsen, MPSE
Sound Designer: Heather Olsen, MPSE
Supervising Foley Editor: Roy Braverman
Supervising Dialogue Editor: Robbi Smith, MPSE
Foley Artist: John Lampinen

& & & & & & & &


Directed by: Chris Wedge
Produced by: Lori Forte, Jerry Davis

Supervising Sound Editors: Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, MPSE, Randy Thom
Sound Designers: Randy Thom, Jeremy Bowker
Supervising Foley Editor: Luke Dunn Gielmuda
Supervising Dialogue Editor: Brad Semenoff
Foley Artists: Denise Thorpe, Jana Vance
Foley Editors: Benny Burtt, Jim Likowski
Dialogue Editor: Michael Silvers
Sound Effects Editors: Leff Lefferts, Andre Fenley, Kyrsten Mate, Kent Sparling
Music Editors: Lisa Jaime, Bill Abbott

& & & & & & & & &


Directed by: Jay Oliva
Produced by: Bruce Timm, Sam Register

Supervising Sound Editor: Robert Hargreaves, MPSE
Sound Designer: Robert Hargreaves, MPSE
Supervising Dialogue Editor: Mark Keatts
Foley Artist: Gary Marullo
Sound Effects Editor: George Brooks
Dialogue Editors: Kelly Foley-Downs, Mike Garcia
Foley Editor: John Hegedes

& & & & & & & & &


Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Produced by: Peter Del Vecho

Music Editors: Earl Ghaffari, Fernand Bos, MPSE

Our congratulations to the winners, condolences for the losers.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, February 16, 2014

One More Award

... on the way to the Oscar.

Frozen has won the Bafta for animated film, following its ascendency to becoming one of the most successful Disney films of all time, taking nearly a billion dollars at the global box office. It beat Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University to the award. ...

The surprise will be if some other feature wins. Click here to read entire post

Boarding the BandWagon

Nice of Fox News-Corp. to help Time-Warner in their time of triumph.

“The Simpsons” Lego episode has gotten its air date from Fox.

“Brick Like Me,” the 550th episode of the long-running Fox animated series, will air on Sunday, May 4 at 8/7c. In the special show, Homer wakes up in a world where his family and everyone in Springfield are made of Legos. ...

“The Lego Movie” is currently the No. 1 movie in America, earning a domestic total to $77.9 million as of Friday. It’s projected to rake in as much as $55 million over the four day President’s Day weekend. ...

Who says big entertainment conglomerates don't look out for each other and scratch each other's backs? It's a beautiful thing. Click here to read entire post

Foreign B.O.

It's fragrant with the smell of money.

Weekend International Box Office -- (World Totals)

The Lego Movie -- $27,700,000 -- ($180,312,930 )

Frozen -- $18,200,000 -- ($955,746,000)

Mr. Peabody and Sherman -- $5,000,000 -- ($9,700,000) ...

The Disney musical is closing in on a billion dollars. (There's undoubtedly dancing on Dopey Drive.)

The latest DreamWorks cartoon is only out in very limited release, but seems to be performing well.

And the other big animated movie in the world marketplace?

Warner Bros.’ numbers on The Lego Movie have come in and they are, as expected, great numbers. It opened in the UK to $13.4M at No. 1 which accounted for a substantial amount of its $27.7M weekend. The cume for Lego is now $51.2M. Combined with domestic estimates for the four-day holiday weekend, the new worldwide cume estimate is $111M+. It will bow in France on Feb. 19, followed by Italy the following day and Russia next as it continues its international run. It’s currently in 42 markets on 7,100 screens. ...

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, February 15, 2014


From the ongoing talks in Sherman Oaks.

“Today the Writers Guilds of America, West and East concluded two weeks of bargaining with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) toward a new Minimum Basic Agreement. The parties have agreed to a temporary recess for scheduling reasons. Negotiations will resume on March 4th. Neither the Guilds nor the AMPTP will be commenting further at this time.” ...

Are the parties closer to a deal than they were two weeks ago? Farther apart? I have no idea. Click here to read entire post

Phineas and Ferb Hoo Hah

Over on Cartoon Brew, there is a pithy and loving comment from Swampy Marsh (via a tweet) about moi:

Well, Steve H is an idiot. But, we are taking our first hiatus since 2006 and making plans for what is to follow... Stay tuned!

This refers (I think) to the news/rumor/something that Phineas and Ferb might be ending. So allow the "idiot" to expand on this a little bit. ...

Swampy and his partner have had issues regarding me before.

Several months ago, I made passing reference to the Phineas and Ferb Star Wars shows in a blog post. Apparently, the crew had been sworn to secrecy over the development of the shows, but the crew members (away from the studio) who told me about the oncoming Star Wars specials didn't mention they were Top Secret.

Even so, before I posted anything, I went online and noted other references to P & F Star Wars episodes on the Google (turned out the references were on fan sites, which don't count.) So I went and put up my horrid sentence about the Star Wars thing, carefree as a thirteen-year-old.

A couple of days later, I got angry phone calls from Swampy and Mr. Povenmire about how the offending sentence was causing big problems inside Disney because the shows hadn't been officially announced, and I was an idiot (that word again) and worse. And that the sites I'd seen talking about Phineas and Ferb Star Wars were amateurish fan things and I should have known better. ("And you're an idiot!")

I apologized for my indiscretion in an e-mail, (also on the phone) and took down the Star Wars reference because I'm a cooperative guy and the last thing I want to do is damage the brand. (Full disclosure: I also spoke to a Disney lawyer -- who wasn't yelling -- and offered to take down the post. She thanked me, and that was that.)

Fade Out.

Fade In:

Over the past few months, the Phineas and Ferb crew has told me the show is wrapping up and they've gotten their end dates, that the series doesn't have a pickup or green light for more episodes. And every time I've been over to Disney Sonora, there are more and more of the P & F artists gone from their spaces. And the few left say to me (again) that the show is wrapping.

So earlier this week, I quoted one of them.

Kindly note: I didn't say the show was wrapping. Disney employees did. I really wouldn't know if the show has wrapped permanently, or will come back in some other form, or a spin-off will happen (I've heard about that possibility from employees as well, but I really don't have any great insights. I don't follow the doings at Disney TVA all that closely.)

But here's what I do know. The fact that Disney TVA has laid off artists from one of its shows is not proprietary information. The fact that I've been told by staff that the series is wrapping up is also not proprietary. In any event, Disney TVA can always green light additional episodes and/or launch a spin off and/or produce more Phineas and Ferb specials next month or next year, and what crew members told me last week becomes inoperative. But former P & F artists are at other studios working on other shows and none of them have said they know about additional episodes being green lit.

For the record, I want there to be more episodes. More shows means more work and employment, and I'm all about more employment. And I hope Dan and Swampy have years of future success.

Lastly. Swampy Marsh sent me an e-mail of complaint about the Disney TVA post. I replied that he should have a Disney lawyer call me. In a separate e-mail he thanked me. And I e-mailed back "You're welcome."

Sweetness and light.
Click here to read entire post

Your Weekend Box Office

The new animated entry, it holds good.

The Lego Movie ended Valentine's Day in a tie with new entry About Last Night, but is expected to zoom ahead on Saturday for a possible $59 million-plus finish over the long President's Day weekend.

From Warner Bros and Village Roadshow Pictures, Lego Movie took in $13 million on Friday, pushing its domestic total to $93.3 million. The 3D animated movie, enjoying an amazing hold, will cross the $100 million mark sometime on Saturday. ...

The Nut Job appears to have dropped out of the Top Ten, more's the pity. So we're down to two animated features in the higher echelons of moviedom.


1). The Lego Movie (WB), 3,775 theaters (0) / $12.8M Fri. / $20.2M Sat. (+58%) / $16.8M to $17M Sun. (-17%) / 3-day cume: $50M to $50.2M / $14.3M Mon. (-15%) / 4-day cume: $62M to $64.3M / Total Cume: $143M to $143.8M / Wk 2

2). About Last Night (Sony), 2,253 theaters / $12.9M Fri. / $7.9M Sat. (-38%) / $4.8M Sun. (-39%) / 3-day cume: $25.7M / $2.6M Mon. (-45%) / 4-day cume: $28.3M to $29.5M / Wk 1

3). RoboCop (Sony) 3,372 theaters / $6.8M Fri. / $8.2M Sat. (+20%) / $6.5M Sun. (-20%) / 3-day cume: $21.7M / $3.9M (-40%) / 4-day cume: $24.8M to $25.6M / Wk 1

4). Monuments Men (Sony) 3,083 theaters (0) / $4.9M Fri. / $5.9M Sat. (+20%) / $4.5M Sun. (-23%) / 3-day cume: $15.4M / $2.7M Mon. (-40%) / 4-day cume: $17.9M to $18.1M / Total Cume: $46.6M to $46.9M / Wk 2< 5). Endless Love (Uni) 2,893 theaters / $7.3M Fri. / $3.5M Sat. (-52%) / $2.3M Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $13.2M / $1.3M Mon. (-40%) / 4-day cume: $14.5M to $15M / Wk 1 6). Ride Along (Uni) 2,511 theaters (-174) / $3.4M Fri. / $3.1M Sat. (-7%) / $2.2M Sun. (-32%) / 3-day cume: $8.7M / $1.1M Mon. (-45%) / 4-day cume: $9.8M to $10M / Total Cume: $117.3M / Wk 5 7). Winter’s Tale (WB) 2,965 theaters / $3.6M Fri. / $2.2M Sat. (-39%) / $1.3 M Sun. (-38%) / 3-day cume: $7.2M / $831K Mon. (-40%) / 4-day cume: $8M to $8.1M / Wk 1 8). Frozen (DIS) 2,101 theaters (-359) / $1.7M Fri. / $2.4M Sat. (+41%) / $2M Sun. (-13%) / 3-day cume: $6.2M / $1.8M Mon. (-10%) / 4-day cume: $7.8M to $8M / Total Cume: $378M+ / Wk 13

9). Lone Survivor (UNI), 2013 theaters (-856) / $1.2M Fri. / $1.6M Sat. (+34%) / $1.1M Sun. (-21%) / 3-day cume: $4M / $698K Mon. (-40%) / 4-day cume: $4.7M to $4.9M / Total Cume: $119M+ / Wk 8

10). That Awkard Moment (FOC) 1,922 theaters (-887) / $1.5M Fri. / $1.1M Sat. (-26%) / $805K Sun. (-29%) / $403K Mon. (-50%) / 3-day cume: $3.5M / 4-day cume: $3.9M / Total Cume: $21.9M / Wk 3 ...
Click here to read entire post

Friday, February 14, 2014

Don Vanderbeek, RIP

We found out Don passed on a few days ago.

Donald Vanderbeek, a former art director for the Dayton Daily News, died at his home in Malibu, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 31, from esophageal cancer. He was 64.

In 1995, after 15 years at the newspaper, Vanderbeek moved to California, where he worked with animation studios such as MGM, Hannah Barbara, Nickelodeon, Disney and The Simpsons. His illustrations ranged from children’s books and conceptual storyboards for movies to national magazines.

“He was Beek to everyone who knew him,” said Randy Palmer, who worked with Vanderbeek at the newspaper and said his friend’s work defined newspaper illustration in the 1970s and ’80s. “His work was recognized nationally and he received the industry’s top awards. Don’s artistic talents were only surpassed by his sense of humor and his devotion to his family and friends.” ...

His family related:

Donald William Vanderbeek passed away peacefully at his home in the mountains of Malibu, California on Friday, January 31st, 2014. He suffered from esophageal cancer and its complications discovered one year ago. His positive attitude throughout the year was beyond description, always making friends with everyone new he encountered.

Don was born in Dearfield, IL on August 9th, 1949. He was the son of Presbyterian minister, Dr. Bernard and Genevieve Vanderbeek. His childhood was spent in Holland, MI, Knoxville, TN, and in Charleston, WV where he graduated from George Washington H.S. in 1967. Don received a Bachelor's degree from The School of the Dayton Art Institute in 1972.

Starting at Graphics Three in Dayton, OH he then moved to the Dayton Daily News where he became Art Director. His impact during his 15 years here was substantial as the art department became a force of change for newspapers of that day. In 1995 the lure of southern California became too great and he moved on to work with animation studios such as MGM, Hanna-Barbera, Nickelodeon, Disney and The Simpsons. ...

Don knew no stranger, friends were family and family were friends. You knew you were marked when you were called one of his many terms of endearment such as "honey-sweety", "peaches and cream pie-face" and "tootsala" to name just a few! He often spoke of his "curse of charm" which claimed many victims, but his creativity and positive outlook were infectious. Don was very generous with his art, always creating a card or a painting for someone in particular. All were welcome in his home which he described as a museum. From geodes, fossils, and civil war artifacts to his beloved library of art, film, and naturalist books he took great care in all of them.

Don is survived by his two sons, Karl (Rhonda) Vanderbeek and Jon (Sarah) Vanderbeek, and granddaughters Anna, Annika, Ella and Hannah. He is also survived by his brother, Randy (Patti) Vanderbeek and sister Nancy Elliott as well as many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his sister Sally Hutchison, and brother Larry Vanderbeek. He leaves many dear friends as well.

Condolences to Don's family and friends. A creative light has gone out.
Click here to read entire post

Clawing Back

... from horrid #3.

Nickelodeon hopes its new 'Breadwinners' will rebuild TV ratings

Nickelodeon's new cartoon was hatched not through traditional television channels but in a Studio City efficiency apartment nicknamed the “Doodle Chamber.” The 4 1⁄2-minute cartoon about two feisty, accident-prone ducks was intended to be a one-off. But in the hurly-burly world of children's television, network executives are desperate to find that next big hit. ...

In 2012, Nickelodeon's ratings plunged 30 percent, allowing archenemy Disney Channel to grab the ratings crown. It was a tectonic shift in the pecking order of children's TV: Disney Channel has been the go-to channel among older children, particularly tween girls, with its wholesome scripted shows such as “Jessie.” Time Warner's Cartoon Network — with its irreverent animation, such as “Adventure Time,” ... has been a boy magnet and a perennial third. ...

The irony here is that Adventure Time was developed at Nickelodeon by Fred Seibert. I was privileged to get invited to one of its early screenings, and it was obvious that the pilot was way different than the usual run of television animation.

Sadly, the (then) execs at the studio declined to green light AT to series, and Fred took the show elsewhere. At the time, Nick management was hitching its wagon to Computer Graphics Imaging, which (also sadly) didn't pan out as it hoped.

So here we are, with Nick back in the hand-drawn game, creating multiple episodes of a wacky new show. Something wacky like ... Adventure Time.

Click here to read entire post


If it was a hit once or twice, so it can be a hit again, right?

Ron Howard is in talks to direct and produce Warner Bros.' live-action take on The Jungle Book.

Howard is poised to take the reins a month after Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel) fell off the project due to scheduling conflicts. ...

With Howard in place, Warner Bros. is able to keep pace with Disney, which has its own live-action adaptation in the works with Jon Favreau at the helm. Disney also made the 1967 animated classic The Jungle Book. ...

The great thing about stories and books in the Public Domain? You don't have to pay any money for them!

The terrible thing about stories and books in the public domain? Any rum dumb (and his cousin) can make movies from them.
So may the best conglomerate win!
Click here to read entire post

Thursday, February 13, 2014

At Disney TVA

I was at Disney TV Animation Sonora yesterday, doing a 401k enrollment meeting and walk through. There are (at the moment) a lot of empty cubicles. As a staffer explained: ...

Most the Phineas and Ferb board artists are gone. It was a nice, five-year run but the series and the specials have wrapped and people are off to other jobs, looking for other jobs. A few artists are swinging to other Disney shows here, but others not. ...

Another employee said to me: "The place is getting more and more corporate all the time. How long you've been here doesn't mean too much. It's how you're connected that counts."

Of course, there's always angst (and a touch of bitterness) when veteran staff members are cut loose, but it's like I keep telling artists: Companies are things. Despite what politicians and the Supreme Court says, they aren't people and don't care. You make your friendships and allegiances with people you work with, not with executives who who don't know you or what it is that you do, what role you play.

On the other hand, other shows in the building continue on with new episodes (Gravity Falls, for instance) and Diz Co. the mega-conglomerate is doing great. Like for instance:

... Studio Entertainment revenues increased 23% to $1.9 billion and the segment's operating income increased a whopping 75% to $409 million! The higher operating income was due to an increase in worldwide theatrical distribution results and increases in domestic home entertainment and television/subscription video on demand (TV/SVOD) distribution. The theatrical results reflected the strength of Frozen and Marvel's Thor: The Dark World during the current quarter compared to Wreck-It Ralph and no Marvel film in wide release during the same quarter last year.

The successful running of a movie at the box office provides results only for the quarter and that has been the case for Disney; however, that's just the first part of the total return the company generates through its franchised movies. Disney has shown a promising trend towards generating a higher figure of revenue from each successive sequel of its movies.

For example, Iron Man 3 topped $1.2 billion in global box office, far exceeding the $632 million for Iron Man 2. ...

Media networks and theme parks will be using the characters from the franchises such as Thor and Frozen for years if not decades to come. The plan for Disney to outperform the market is well-established and is already working miracles for the company's long-term investors. ...

Let's hope this translates into enlightened, long-term treatment of Diz Co. employees.

Click here to read entire post

2014-2015 CSATTF Grant Approvals

We're pleased to announce that for the 2014-2015 grant year, the Contract Services Administration Training Trust Fund (CSATTF) has approved reimbursement grants for qualified members of the Animation Guild to take selected classes at nine of the best schools for animation and CG training. The grants are for classes that begin between February 1, 2014 and January 31, 2015.

The grants will reimburse two-thirds of the cost of classes taken at the following schools:
  • 3Kicks Art Studio
  • Animation Mentor
  • Computer Graphics Master Academy (CGMA
  • Concept Design Academy
  • Gnomon School of Visual Effects
  • iAnimate
  • Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art (LAAFA0
  • Silver Drawing Academy
We're also please to announce that CSATTF has approved the return of the Toon Boom Storyboard Pro class taught by TAG member Sherm Cohen.

For further details, and to download grant applications, go to the Grant Classes page on the website.

Click here to read entire post

Gee. Who's Gonna Win the VFX Oscar?

Last night.

"Gravity" wins six awards on a night that begins with Patton Oswalt’s greeting, “Welcome to the first annual ‘Gravity’ Awards!”

The force of “Gravity” was overwhelming on Wednesday night at the Visual Effects Society’s 12th annual VES Awards, as the film won six awards and dominated the feature-film categories on the way to what could be an easy visual-effects win at the Oscars in two-and-a-half weeks.

Alfonso Cuaron’s spectacle set in Earth orbit won in six out of the seven categories in which it was eligible, including Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture, the category that most closely corresponds to the Oscar’ Best Visual Effects category. ...

No nail-biting suspense in the Visual Effects category for the Oscars, is there?

I think of Gravity as an animated feature. (When the supervsiors of the flick says "It's 80% animated," what else can it be?)

SO consider: If nominee Bullock wins for "Best Actress," it will be the first time there's been a Best Actress winner performing in an animated feature.

And if the nominated feature Gravity wins for Best Picture, it will be the first time an ANIMATED movie has picked up the award.
Click here to read entire post

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Corporate addicts look for the biggest fix.

Why corporate welfare doesn’t boost employment
Politicians love giving money to companies to create jobs, but the benefits are fleeting, at best

... Desperate to create new jobs at any cost, governments across North America have been offering an array of subsidies, tax breaks, and even free land and buildings, to companies willing to invest—even companies that are already posting record profits. The competition has only become more cutthroat since the global financial crisis put job creation and economic growth top of mind among voters. Yet research suggests the benefits of corporate welfare are, at best, fleeting and rarely successful in attracting high-skilled, high-paying jobs. Politicians may score points with voters when they cut the ribbon on a new plant, but many economists argue such incentives only serve to destroy competition, distort labour markets and inflict long-term damage on the economy. ...

Governments have become so aggressive in pursuit of jobs that subsidies often amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars per worker. The Chicago think tank Good Jobs First estimates that state and local governments shell out $70 billion a year in subsidies, including the record-breaking $8.7 billion in tax breaks Washington state offered Boeing last fall to keep production of its 777x jets in the state—a bidding war so fierce that competitor Missouri promised to rebuild a highway and expropriate a golf course if the company agreed to move. ...

Today, some U.S. states offer more than what companies themselves are willing to put in. That has put pressure on Canadian provinces to up the ante, even though provinces typically shoulder more burden for the cost of health care and social programs than their American counterparts. It has led to a string of high-profile job losses in Canada, as U.S. companies have closed doors there in search of more generous offers back home. ...

In the 21st century, the really BIG welfare queens are huge corporations. They remind me of banana republics in the 1960s that used to threaten the U.S. government with "You give us more foreign id right now ... or we go COMMUNIST!"

Nothing has really changed, except it's multi-nationals now doing the threatening. They're a lot like banana republics, except their GDP is much bigger.
Click here to read entire post
Site Meter