Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dan Thompson show opens TOMORROW at Gallery 839

Click the above for a full-size image

Gallery 839 1105 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank

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Fifty years ...

Everybody and his brother (including Google) has acknowledged the half-century mark for Fred, Wilma and their cohorts.

So maybe it's time for a Mad Men Meets The Flintstones episode.

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Yet more fun with Stereoscopic ..

Lucasfilm, in their unquestionable wisdom, has decided we need more stereoscopic theater:

The Star Wars saga is about to get a lot more dimensional. Lucasfilm announced Tuesday that all six Star Wars movies will return to theaters in 3-D

The movies’ 3-D conversion is being handled by outside vendors and will be overseen by Industrial Light & Magic visual effects supervisor John Knoll. “It’s not going to look like [conversions] we’ve seen in the past,” Knoll told Variety. Stereoscopic conversion has been a sticky subject of late, especially after the much-criticized last-minute conversions of movies like Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender.

I had the immense pleasure of working with Aristomenis Tsirbas on the stereoscopic render of his movie, Battle for Terra. Meni took great pains to set up a pipeline and testing environment for purpose of exploring stereoscopic viewing. He and the artists involved spent a lot of time testing the stereoscopic limits and going scene by scene to determine what the correct stereo presentation should be. It really gave me some perspective on this type of movie watching.

I've decided, I'm not a fan. Now, I *do* enjoy the addition of the extra dimension and being able to be immersed in the scenes. However, from what I've been able to find, few directors take the time and effort that Meni did in those months. One of my biggest criticisms of Avatar, was the feeble use of the stereoscopic "third dimension" considering the technology that was created to make it that way.

What I really find even more difficult to watch are the 2D to 3D conversion films. The process involved is horrendously time consuming and expensive. The resulting products are remarkably darker and the extra dimension is generally from the screen back to infinity. Meaning, the resulting picture is more like a diorama than a 3D experience with very little of the picture breaking the convergence plane.

While I am sure that the Star Wars movies in 3D will bring more money back to The Ranch, I'll continue to hope that someone starts to get adventurous and break the plane a bit more frequently and boldly. I'll risk a little eye-strain to justify the extra money I spent to see the film.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

“Nine Nation Animation”

The New York Times highlights quality animation from around the globe.

“Nine Nation Animation” is the third installment in the series The World According to Shorts, anthologies of award-winning short films made outside the United States. It’s the first to consist entirely of animation, and it’s a winner ...

Perhaps this is the ultimate animated-live action hybrid:

Newsarama tells of character actors, villains and animated super-heroes:

Ed Asner reprises his Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League television series roles as the tough-as-nails Granny Goodness in the film.

“It was just one of those bizarre casting choices. The other night with Bruce Timm when we did this same screening at the Paley Center in Los Angeles I turned to him and said, ‘What possessed us to make that choice?’ We knew that Granny was hideous looking and we knew Granny was going to be bizarre on this weird world, this Apokolips and so we knew we wanted it to be odd,” she said. “And then Bruce out of the blue just said, ‘What about Ed Asner?’ ..."

Broadway actress Donna Murphy* reveals plot points for Tangled:

DM: There's a prologue in the movie, and in the prologue it sets up how my character knows that Rapunzel's hair has this quality. Gothel was aware that there was a flower in this village that had this magical element to it that kept her young. The nectar from this flower kept her young. So then, the queen was pregnant with a child and she became very ill and the people in the town found this flower and became aware, too, of it possessing a healing quality and they picked the flower. So, that deprived my character, Gothel, of what... probably what really kept her alive...

Time for more genuine fake 3-D:

... Lucasfilm has decided to reprocess the series into that format and release the films in theaters again, starting in 2012 with the 1999 prequelThe Phantom Menace. It's only one-sixth of the news that Star Wars fans have been waiting to hear, but it's the first step toward converting the other prequels and original trilogy. ..

* Corrected.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Upcoming TAG Elections

As you can see from the previous post, the Animation Guild had nominations for officers at its General Membership Meeting tonight. Because the office I now hold is being contested (me vs. another person), I won't be posting here for the duration of the campaign ...

It's been a pleasure blogging at this site the past four and a half years. Whatever happens, please know that I've enjoyed all of it. Thanks for reading.

-- Steve Hulett

UPDATE: Please see this post.

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TAG Election 2010: The Slate

Below the fold is the list of nominees for this year's officer election ...


  • Bob Foster (incumbent Executive Board member; unopposed)


  • Earl Kress (incumbent; unopposed)
  • Steve Hulett (incumbent)
  • Karen Nugent (incumbent Executive Board member)


  • Jeff Massie (incumbent; unopposed)


  • Jan Browning (incumbent; unopposed)

EXECUTIVE BOARD (11 positions)

  • Bronwen Barry (incumbent)
  • John Cataldi (incumbent)
  • Nicole Dubuc (incumbent)
  • Janette Hulett (incumbent)
  • Karen Carnegie Johnson (incumbent)
  • Cathy Jones (incumbent)
  • Gordon Kent
  • Nathan Loofbourrow
  • Kevin Moore
  • Mike Roth
  • Chris Simmons
  • Eugene Son
  • Jack Thomas

Ballots will be mailed to all active members on October 8. You must have all dues and fees (including fourth quarter 2010) paid by noon on November 12, 2010 for your ballot to be counted. Ballots will be counted on November 13.

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Organizer Kaplan Walks Local 700's Line

Walking the Technicolor Line

In front of Technicolor-Universal at noon today ...

For those who aren't in the know, Local 700 IATSE is the Editors Guild. The editors have been managing an organizing campaign with the employees of Technicolor Glendale that started well before my hire with our Guild.

Almost as soon as I was hired, I was asked to attend an AFL-CIO organizing class which a few of the Technicolor Glendale employees also attended. I had the pleasure of standing with those employees, as well as brothers and sisters from other locals, today on Lankershim Boulevard in front of the Technicolor facility next to Universal Studios in support of unionization.

Local 700 posted about this rally on their website at this link. So far, the organizing effort has endured strong resistance from Technicolor management. The company has employed the traditional methods of closed-door meetings with anti-union propaganda and lies, threats and interrogations of union supporters and have threatened closing the facility if the employees vote for union representation. The workers at the Glendale facility have been working for lower pay rates than at union facilities, with no regular raises and costly health insurance.

Despite Technicolor holding two contracts with the IA covering over four hundred employees at the Technicolor Lab (film processing) and Sound Services (sound editorial and re-recording) with Locals 683, 695, and 700, they've egaged a union-busting law firm to stop this attempt to bring the strengths and benefits of organization to the Glendale employees. You can read about that on a site maintained for the Technicolor Glendale employees at this link.

We wish the Technicolor Glendale employees the best of luck and look forward to assisting them and their organization efforts in any way possible in the near future.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

$200 Million, Domestic

... without breathing hard.

I mean, it's only competition will be the Tron reboot from Disney. And who's going to go see the sequel to an underperformer from the early 1980s?

Especially when they can see an animated bear from the 1950s?

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Directors on the Animation Highway

As long-time animation director Brad Bird travels to the land of Mission Impossible, live-action director Guillermo del Toro is going in the opposite direction.

Guillermo del Toro has fallen under the spell of animation and is setting up "Trollhunters," a feature project he will write and direct at DreamWorks Animation. ...

Del Toro said he was especially struck by what the studio accomplished with "Dragon." "They took risks with that movie with pathos and imagination and structure. It made me pay attention ..." he said.

There is, of course, a long history of cartoon top-kicks leaving animation and traveling to the verdant uplands of live-action film-making. (Tashlin, Minkoff, Reed, Burton, etc.)

It's nice to see that the passage isn't just one way. But I think that has a lot to do with animation becoming increasingly potent at the box office over the past twenty years.

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Animation Domination

... dominates somewhat less due to sporting events.

... NBC and Sunday Night Football dominated the ratings, but all the Fox and ABC season premieres except Brothers & Sisters (which was even) fell vs. last year’s premieres. ... The Simpson’s 3.7 adults 18-49 rating was down 14% from last season’s premiere (9/27/09). The Cleveland Show’s 3.1 rating was down 37% from its series premiere last season. Family Guy’s 4.5 rating lead the night, but was down 15% vs. last season’s premiere. ...

I think it will take several weeks, and the end of the gridiron season, to see where Fox's Sunday lineup ends in the ratings race.

I was up visiting The Simpsons crew this morning, and several artists and one of the directors mentioned how happy they've been working on a long-running show, even though the work hasn't always been easy.

"Sometimes it's been like pushing through mud, you know? There were problems to solve, and it went on 52 weeks a year. But that's a nice problem to have, working year-round. Nobody had any idea it would go on this long when we started. I know none of the executives did. But here we are. ..."

I opined that the show would go on for years yet. (Fox isn't going to toss away one of its cash cows until the animal stops giving milk.)

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A challenge to the membership, by Tom Sito

Artist: Hans Bacher

Dear Members:

Long before I was involved in union politics, I was as bad as anyone else about attending regular union meetings. But the one meeting I did made sure to attend was the one every three years that nominates candidates for office. These people are the ones who will spearhead policy for our Guild for the next three years. They will be heading up our negotiations with the studios, they are the ones who vote on many important issues. So even if you don't give a damn about anything else the Guild does, it's pretty important for you and your family's well being to attend this meeting.

President Kevin Koch, Business Rep Steve Hulett and the current Executive Board have done a terrific job these last years. But as the Roman writer Ovid said, "Omnias mutantor" - all things change. Some officers may step down, new officers will step up. Many of the Executive Board have been serving for many years, and they are to be commended for it. It's a non-salaried job that yields little benefit for one's own career, it doesn't help them get work or get paid more. They do it because they care.

But now, as our triennial elections are upon us, we could always use some new blood. A majority of our Executive Board are baby boomer generation. How about folks representing Generation X and Y running for office? How about some of you from games and CG efx? The more parts of our industry and demographic are represented, the more relevant our guild, and the more likely your issues will be addressed.

President Koch and I are living examples of how an individual who cares can effect change. I gave it nine years, and it didn't hurt my career. I'm as proud of my time as your president as I am of any of the movies I animated on, or any of the TV shows I directed.

Your 401K, the IAP accounts, our beautiful Guild headquarters and Gallery 839, more CG artists represented than any other group in the world, same-sex medical benefits, CG re-education for traditional artists. All these good things came about because people took the time from their careers to care. For Executive Board members, it only requires one Tuesday night from you a month.

In all our news, we hear of workers' rights under attack. Overtime cut, compensation cut, healthcare safety nets under assault. Employers getting away with it all and laughing at the law. Instead of just bitching on blogs that nobody is doing anything, why not step up and be part of the solution? You wouldn't give your wallet to a stranger, why leave such important issues to people you don't know? Corporations are not democracies, but our Guild is. Leo Tolstoy wrote: "If evil people can work together to get what they want, why can't good people work together to get what they want?"

On Tuesday night, please do us all a favor and join in the discussion. Run for office, nominate good people, be part of the vote. Join in for your family's sake. Join in for your friends' sake. 839 is not "that union". It is YOU and ME. It is OUR GUILD.

Take hold of it, and make of it what you want.

--Tom Sito President Emeritus, The Animation Guild

GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2010 6:30 pm, pizza & refreshments 7 pm, meeting 1105 N. HOLLYWOOD WAY, BURBANK (between Magnolia and Chandler)


  • Nominations for election of Animation Guild officers
    • President
    • Vice-President
    • Business Representative
    • Recording Secretary
    • Sergeant-At-Arms
    • Executive Board (11 positions)
  • Discussion and vote on the budget for the next TAG party
  • Panel discussion and demonstration on earthquake preparedness, hosted by KAREN NUGENT and JOHN CATALDI and featuring JEFF EDELSTEIN of SOS Survival Products and DONNA NUZZI, Emergency Services supervisor of the city of Santa Clarita
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    Sunday, September 26, 2010

    $100 Million?

    ... before the state-financed sweeteners?

    "Legend of the Guardians" ... cost $100 million to make before Australian subsidies brought the tab down to $80 million.

    The problem with studios and their budgets? The numbers in the account books are often semi-fake. There's a long history of budget-shifting and multiple sets of books and all the other smoke-screens that our multi-national conglomerates use to hide actual costs. ...

    But $100 million could be on the nose. Who, other than studio accountants, can actually tell?

    Still in all, Warners was clearly hoping for a more robust first weekend.

    ... Warner Bros. had been hoping for an opening in the $18 million to $20 million range, said Dan Fellman, the president of domestic distribution at the Time Warner Inc unit. ...

    So there will now be a stretch of nail-biting for the folks at Time-Warner as they wait to see what happens with The Guardians' foreign rollout, the second weekend of grosses, the word-of-mouth, etc.

    Click here to read entire post

    Animation In Foreign Lands

    The overseas tallies are in, and the Owls are flapping.

    ... "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" ... opened at 377 foreign screens in an undisclosed number of markets for $1.2 million. A No. 1 bow in the Philippines generated $479,000 from 148 locations or about 42% of the market's total weekend gross ...

    In the meantime, Shrek Forever After continues its march overseas, with a foreign gross that now totals $492,700,000. (It completed its stateside theatrical run on September 9th.) Worldwide gross to date: $731,095,990.

    (The ogre isn't the billion-dollar baby that Woody and his friends turned out to be, but his performance has been pretty good.)

    Despicable Me shows a worldwide gross just shy of $344 million as it collects $98.5 million from foreign venues.

    Lastly, Alpha and Omega has taken in $15,130,000 domestically and $1,750,000 overseas for a $16,880,000 total in the global marketplace.

    Click here to read entire post

    How our election will work

    At the membership meeting on Tuesday September 28, nominations will be taken for the following offices of the Animation Guild: PRESIDENT, BUSINESS REPRESENTATIVE, VICE-PRESIDENT, RECORDING SECRETARY, SERGEANT-AT-ARMS and eleven EXECUTIVE BOARD members. (Read this post for a breakdown of their job duties and prerequisites.)

    In October, active members in good standing will have the opportunity to vote by secret mail ballot for their choices. Elected officers will serve a three-year term, expiring in 2013.

    The nominations

    Tuesday, September 28, 7 pm: Nominations for the above positions will be taken at the General Membership meeting at the TAG auditorium in Burbank. Only those persons eligible to run for office may be nominated.

    Candidates may only be nominated for one position. To be nominated, candidates must be present at the meeting, or if they cannot be present, they must have indicated in writing to the Recording Secretary their intent to accept nomination. Many candidates submit intent letters in advance as insurance in case something comes up and they cannot attend; but you do not have to submit an intent letter to be nominated if you are present at the meeting. Send your intent letter to arrive by 5 pm on September 28, to:

    Jeffrey Massie, Recording Secretary
    Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE
    1105 N. Hollywood Way
    Burbank, CA 91505


    IMPORTANT: intent letters cannot be retroactive; they must be received by the Recording Secretary by the call to order of the September 28 meeting. No exceptions!

    Regardless of whether a candidate is present, he or she must be nominated and seconded by active members in good standing present at the meeting. (Candidates present at the meeting may nominate or second themselves, but not both.)

    Nominations cannot be withdrawn after the adjournment of the September 28 nomination meeting. You may announce that you are withdrawing your candidacy, but your name will still appear on the ballot; your votes cannot be transferred to any other candidate.

    The campaign

    WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 5 pm: This is the deadline for nominees to submit one-hundred-word statements to be published in a special election edition of The Peg-Board. The word limit will be strictly enforced! Nominees for contested positions who do not submit statements by the deadline will be listed in The Peg-Board with a notation “No statement submitted”. (The special Peg-Board will be published only if there is a contested election.)

    Candidates may submit their Peg-Board statements before or after the nomination meeting. Depending on the number of candidates and the positions being contested, the membership may vote to ask candidates for some positions to submit longer statements. Hopefully we will be mailing the special Peg-Board within a few days of the ballot mailing.

    FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8: The American Arbitration Association (AAA), which is the judge of the election, will mail the ballots.

    The AAA is responsible for printing and mailing the ballots and certifying the election results. The ballots will list all nominees, with instructions to vote for no more than one nominee for each contested officer position, and no more than sixteen nominees for the Executive Board if contested. Write-in votes will not be allowed, and any write-in attempt will invalidate that portion of the ballot. Any other writing will invalidate the entire ballot.

    The ballots will be mailed from the American Arbitration Association. The mailing will contain return envelopes; ballots must be returned to the AAA in those envelopes and not to the Guild office.

    The mailing will contain the ballot and two envelopes — a ballot envelope, and a return envelope with the voter’s name and address on the back. Before the ballots are counted, the ballot envelopes will be separated from the return envelopes and shuffled, to ensure a secret ballot count. The label on the return envelope is part of the validation process; any attempt to remove or deface the name and address will invalidate the entire ballot.

    Labor Dept. regulations require the Guild to give nominees the right to inspect (but not to copy) a list of the names and addresses of all members employed at Guild shops. This list can be inspected at the Guild office during office hours.

    During the election period, nominees have the right to do a mailing at their own expense to the active membership. Nominees may apply to use the Guild’s mailing list, and the Guild office will handle the labeling and the delivery of the mailing pieces to the Post Office. In addition to printing costs, we approximate the cost of postage to the entire active membership at $1,200.00, plus $100.00 for the labeling and mailing. Nominees may pool their resources to share the expense of a mailing.

    Other than the special issue of the Peg-Board and the right to do mailings, the Guild will not offer other means of communication to any candidate. For example, the Guild’s website, blog and e-mail list may not be used for any form of electioneering.

    Questions about the election procedures, and requests for duplicate ballots, should be addressed to the Election Judge:

    Robi Rivera

    American Arbitration Association
    725 S. Figueroa St., Suite 2400
    Los Angeles, CA 90017-5424
    Phone: (213) 362-1900
    Fax: (213) 623-9134

    The counting

    FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12, noon: Although ballots will be mailed to all active members, only those members whose fourth quarter 2010 dues have been received at the Guild office by noon on November 12 will have their ballots counted. Once you have received your ballot, you may vote even if you are not yet in good standing, so long as your full balance is received at the Guild by the November 12 deadline. Members who take withdrawals or suspensions before November 12 will not have their ballots counted.

    SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 13: Ballots will be counted at the offices of the American Arbitration Association. Nominees have the right to observe the election themselves, or to appoint no more than one observer who must be an active member. No other observers will be allowed. Observers must make advance arrangements with the Election Judge.

    Sometime on the afternoon of the 13th, the results will be posted on the TAG Blog, on the [tag839] e-mail list and in the November Peg-Board. Elected officers will be sworn in on December 7.

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    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Actors' Unions Push Back

    With pint-sized Add On.

    Director Peter Jackson's non-union movie is not causing joy for SAG, AFTRA and other labor organizations:

    Actors guilds including SAG, AFTRA and several international unions have issued an alert against the big-budget adaptation of "The Hobbit," stating that their members "are advised not to accept work on this non-union production." ...

    The labor discord in Jackson's home country of New Zealand, where "Hobbit" will be shot, has simmered for several weeks. Letters to producers have been written by the International Federation of Actors (FIA), Australia’s MEAA, and others complaining that the producers have refused to sign a union contract.

    The dispute ratcheted up on Friday with a strongly-worded member alert from actors unions in the U.S., Canada, the UK and Australia. ...

    As the Nikkster relates:

    ... [N]ews reports say Three Foot Seven [the production company] has been trying to resolve the situation behind closed doors and is pissed it's now being played out internationally. ...

    So producers are ticked off this sad story is hitting the media megaphone and getting news coverage and attention. What a shame.

    I'm a long-time believer in using whatever leverage you've got to move things along. When the charm offensive doesn't work, then you use something else. If this story getting traction around the world helps a labor union to get a contract, then bully for the labor union.

    Reports of management being upset because a non-union movie is getting negative publicity moves me not at all. I've sat in meetings where players professed to being "angry" at labors' demands or attitudes, and it's usually posturing. I know this because the scowls and doses of stink eye go away the minute the dust clears and the deal gets done. Smart operators -- labor or management -- know there isn't much profit in carrying grudges.

    My own credo is: "Forgive everything, forget nothing." That will probably end up being the theme song here.

    Add On: It's referenced in comments, but Peter Jackson jumps in with a lengthy response:

    ... [I]t sure feels like we are being attacked simply because we are a big fat juicy target - not for any wrong doing. We haven't even been greenlit yet! It feels as if we have a large Aussie cousin kicking sand in our eyes ... or to put it another way, opportunists exploiting our film for their own political gain.

    Brawl on.

    Click here to read entire post

    The Late September Steeple Chase

    In the last weekend of September, Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps sits atop the big cash pile.

    As the Nikkster informs us:

    1. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Fox) NEW [3,565 Runs] -- Friday $8M, Estimated Weekend $22.5M

    2. The Town (Warner Bros) Week 2 [2,885 Runs] -- Friday $5.1M (-38%), Estimated Weekend $16M, Estimated Cume $49M

    3. Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls (Warner Bros) NEW [3,575 Runs] -- Friday $5M, Estimated Weekend $19M

    4. Easy A (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 2 [2,856 Runs] -- Friday $3.8M (-44%), Estimated Weekend $11.5M, Estimated Cume $44M

    5. You Again (Disney) NEW [2,548 Runs] -- Friday $3.2M, Estimated Weekend $9.5M

    6. Devil (Universal) Week 2 [2,811 Runs] -- Friday $2.3M (-52%), Estimated weekend $6.7M, Estimated Cume $22M

    7. Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 3 [2,642 Runs] -- Friday $1.8M, Estimated Weekend $6M, Estimated Cume $53M

    8. Alpha & Omega (Lionsgate) Week 2 [2,625 Runs] -- Friday $1.1M (-50%), Estimated Weekend $4.9M, Estimated Cume $15.2M ...

    You will note that there are two animated features in the Top Eight, but neither appears to be setting the turnstiles afire ...

    Add On: The Owls land at #2 for the weekend.

    Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps made its weekend box office debut [at #1] with $19 million. ... Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole opened in second place with $16.3 million, followed by The Town, ...

    Click here to read entire post

    Dan Thompson -- In Person At Gallery 839 -- October 1!!!

    Gallery 839
    1105 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank

    Click here to read entire post

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    The Weekend Linkage

    Your weekend reading (and viewing.) We start with an update on "Collusion?"

    Several leading technology companies have agreed to settle civil charges that they violated antitrust law by agreeing not to poach each other's skilled employees, the Justice Department announced Friday.

    The settlement prevents Google Inc., Apple Inc., Intel Corp., Adobe Systems Inc., Intuit Inc. and Walt Disney Co. unit Pixar Animation from agreeing not to solicit, recruit or compete for each other's talent. The companies did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement, according to court documents. ...

    While on the subject of Pixar, somebody tell me why this is written like it's news?

    Pixar’s upcoming animated feature Brave is officially set to be directed by Brenda Chapman, who is also slated to pen the script. Chapman will act as the first woman to direct a Pixar feature. ...

    (Brenda C. has been attached to the feature awhile, yes? Or is this just the "official" announcement?)

    Techland interviews Guardians scribe John Orloff.

    [John Orloff:] ... I really just think about writing a good story. I think everything else will take care of itself. I think we were hoping to write a movie to appeal to young and old – I know it sounds cheesy. I've been to a couple moves with my kids where I wanted to slit my throat after 10 minutes, but my kids enjoyed it. We wanted something everyone could enjoy. ...

    Somehow this had floated right past me:

    Meet the Muslim Super Heroes Who Are Ready to Indoctrinate American Kids

    ... on the Hub Network!

    Forbes Magazine tells us about a Glendale Company:

    Dreamworks Animation is down over 2% in afternoon trading on news that an analyst at Lazard Capital downgraded the stock from Buy to Hold ...

    Across Flower Street and over in Burbank, the Mouse continues to sweep with a Big Broom:

    Walt Disney Co. said Steve Wadsworth will step down as president of the company’s Interactive Media Group. ...

    Wadsworth, a 17-year veteran, becomes the sixth Disney division head to leave his job this year. ... Disney’s interactive group lost $65 million last quarter ...

    But as there are losses, there are also possible gains:

    BOB HOSKINS has signed up to star in a sequel to his hit 1988 movie WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT - but he's sceptical over plans to make the follow-up film fully animated. ...

    We'll end on an upnote: the new Superman trailer.

    Have a blessed and joyous weekend.

    Click here to read entire post

    Running for office

    A Union Voice - It's YOUR choice Over the next two months the Animation Guild is holding its triennial officer elections, starting with nominations at the General Membership Meeting this coming Tuesday, September 28. Ballots will be mailed to active members in early October, and the results tallied and announced on November 13.

    Anyone who has been a member in good standing for at least two years, and who has been active for at least one year (that is, not on withdrawal), may run for any office. This is an opportunity for interested members to get involved in shaping the policies and practices of their Guild. Many years of Guild membership aren’t required to be a union officer, but new ideas and energy are always welcome.

    If you are eligible for office under these rules, the mailing label on the back page of the September Peg-Board (mailed yesterday) should have a letter E next to your name. If it doesn’t, and if you believe you should qualify, contact Jeff Massie immediately.

    The Guild elects its officers every three years. The next term of office will be from December 7, 2010 to December 3, 2013. Sixteen positions will be up for grabs, including Business Representative, President, Vice-President, Recording Secretary, Sergeant-At-Arms and eleven Executive Board positions.

    What do the officers do?

    The PRESIDENT presides at all membership and Executive Board meetings. He or she is a member of the Executive Board, but votes only to break a tie.

    He or she is a member of all committees, and is a delegate to all IATSE and IATSE District Two conventions. The President is not a paid officer, but his or her expenses are covered when performing the duties of office (for example, the aforementioned conventions.)

    The current President is Kevin Koch.

    The BUSINESS REPRESENTATIVE is a salaried, full-time employee of the Guild. He or she cannot be otherwise employed (either salaried or freelance, Guild or non-Guild). He or she is a voting member of the Executive Board.

    The Business Representative is in charge of the Guild’s business office, supervises the business affairs of the Guild, and is responsible for keeping the Guild’s financial records up-to-date. The Business Representative is responsible for collecting all dues and initiation fees.

    He or she represents the Guild and its members in any and all relations with employers, and is chairman of all contract bargaining committees. He or she makes the final determination on all grievances to be filed with employers.

    The Business Representative reports to the Executive Board at each monthly meeting, on every matter that has come to his or her attention. He or she is a delegate to all IATSE and IA District Two conventions, and their expenses for conventions and any other official duties are paid by the Guild.

    The current Business Representative is Steven Hulett.

    The VICE-PRESIDENT is a voting member of the Executive Board. In the absence of the President, the Vice-President assumes the President’s duties. The current Vice-President is Earl Kress.

    The RECORDING SECRETARY is a voting member of the Executive Board. The Recording Secretary keeps minutes of all meetings. The current Recording Secretary is Jeff Massie.

    The SERGEANT-AT-ARMS is a voting member of the Executive Board. At the President’s direction, the Sergeant-At-Arms is in charge of maintaining order at meetings. The current Sergeant-At-Arms is Jan Browning.

    The three Board members who received the highest vote totals in the election, serve as TRUSTEES in addition to their Executive Board duties. The Trustees review the books of the Guild, and make reports to the membership. The current Trustees are Bronwen Barry, Nicole Dubuc and Bob Foster.

    The EXECUTIVE BOARD has general supervision of all the Guild’s affairs, subject to the Constitution and By-Laws. They decide upon all matters referred to them by the Business Representative or the members, and their decisions are binding on the membership unless reversed by a majority of the members present at a membership meeting.

    The Executive Board meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 6:30 pm; membership meetings are held on the last Tuesday of the months of January, March, May, July, September and November, starting at 7 pm. (In short, if you aren’t free on Tuesday evenings, you probably shouldn’t consider running for the Board.) Special meetings may also be called.

    In addition to all of the officers listed above, the current Executive Board members are Russ Calabrese, John Cataldi, Janette Hulett, Karen Carnegie Johnson, Cathy Jones, Karen Nugent, Matt Wayne and Stephan Zupkas.

    Click here to read entire post

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    The Diz Co.

    Yesterday was another Hat Building day for me; wandering around I saw short snippets of Tangled playing on various computer screens ...

    The art direction continues to knock me out. And I saw some new cuts from the end climax of the picture that I found stunning.

    Except for a few odds and ends, the pictures is pretty close to done. A lot of the lighting and finaling crew are rolling off into unemployment. There were a lot of empty desks in the offices lining the halls. As one of the survivors related about his departed roommate:

    "He went through the Kubler Ross thing, mad about it, gradually accepting it. He'd been here a bunch of years, so it was hard. But what do you do?"

    Probably cyle through the Kubler Ross thing, and move on with your life.

    Meanwhile, animation is slated to wrap on Winnie the Pooh on or about October 4th. Management told the animation crew that there was some extra money for animation on the end credits, so character animation in and around the end-credits is being done.

    The time-frame for Pooh's animation was expanded a bit, from September to early October, so I'm speculating that the original budget (reputed to be $35 million) was also expanded. (By how much, I donno. Production budgets often have fictional elements in them, so it's difficult for a civilian to say.)

    Click here to read entire post

    "Collusion" Question ... and Answer

    Down below in comments under the Collusion post, the question [September 20; 2:53 p.m.] is asked:

    The corporations under investigation [for collusion to keep wages down] are negotiating to avoid court. In Canada, this would mean copping a plea, but somehow this is a civil case! How does DOJ have standing in a civil suit? Does that mean the Pixar workers don't?

    And after a few phone calls and e-mails, we obtain a lawyer's answer ...

    I looked at whether individual employees could sue for antitrust violations. The short answer appears to be (1) yes they can and (2) that is still the case even if the DOJ enters into a consent decree with these studios.

    It took me a while to get an answer ... when I couldn't find the answer myself I called Max Blecher, the best antitrust attorney in Southern California ...

    We'll add here: If anyone feels they have a case and wants to pursue this, feel free to get in touch with us and we'll connect them with Mr. Blecher.

    Click here to read entire post

    Dave's parting request

    Dave Brain cartoon In 2007, DAVE BRAIN retired from the animation business after forty-one years, and also stepped down after five terms on the Guild’s Executive Board. His parting words, published in the September 2007 Peg-Board, were so popular that at least one candidate for that year’s Executive Board election said she was persuaded to run by his words. With Dave’s permission, here’s a reprint of what he had to say at the conclusion of his years of service ...

    A month ago, I handed in my animation direction slug notes on a Nickelodeon show, thanked my director for the opportunity to work with him and drove home to start my retirement.

    It was a great forty-one year career run that started at Disney Studios as an inbetweener on The World of Disney and the Jungle Book feature. It doesn’t seem that long ago really. Walt was still alive and I got to shake hands with him once.

    Along the way I got to work with Ward Kimball and John Lounsbery, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, Fred Wolf and Jimmy Murakami, Frank Terry, Corny Cole, Herb Klynn, Steve Bosustow and long stays with Phil Roman and Fred Crippen.

    There are so many more people to mention but I need to get on to other matters. I want to say how impressed I am with the younger people I’ve worked with in recent years.

    The level of talent, skill and dedication is every bit as superior as when I came into the industry. We are, in this town, an incredible group of creative animation artists.

    I have watched the nature of the studios we work for change as they became divisions of conglomerate corporations. We used to be considered ongoing assets and family. Now the corporations consider its management corps as its family. We are “talent” hired or contracted to fill a present need. The corporation’s assets are its copyrighted material and entities.

    If the animation people who started this union felt it was important and worked to establish it, how much more important it must be now. This is why I have served on the Executive Board for five terms.

    Our union’s constitution and by-laws specify that only active members may serve on the Board and so I cannot run for office again. But you can.

    Service on the Executive Board isn’t for everyone. You must believe in the rights of labor and collective bargaining as strongly as the corporations believe in their license to hold copyright. Copyright isn’t a natural law. It’s a legal construct and it makes imperative the right of employees to bargain collectively. Additionally, you must be in a situation to be absent from your family a few evenings a month. You must care enough about your workplace situation to listen patiently to others information and opinions about it and speak your own mind clearly and effectively.

    So I’m probably addressing just a few when I ask you to attend the general membership meeting and have yourself placed in nomination.

    You probably know whether this request addresses you or not. If it does, don’t shy away.

    I’m among the latest in a long line who have served you. Now you must step up and serve.

    It has been a great honor to work with my fellow board members and the Union staff, past and present. I highly recommend the job as worthy of your time and effort.

    Respectfully and in solidarity,

    — Dave Brain

    Dave Brain’s illustrations for the September 1991 Peg-Board (see top) won him an award from the International Labor Communications Association.
    Click here to read entire post

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    An Overtime Tale

    You'll love this.

    Recently at one of our fine conglomerates, one of the employees was asked to "stay late" and get some extra work done.

    She said that was fine, but she would need authorization to do overtime. Whereupon the authorization was given ...

    So the employee set to work doing the job. But 40 minutes into it, a manager came to her cubicle and said:

    "There's been some miscommunication. We don't want you to do the overtime after all."

    Whereupon the employee stopped.

    Some time later, a manager came to her again. And asked (again) for her to "work late." And again she asked for overtime authorization.

    This time the response was: "Uh. On second thought, don't stay late."

    (When this story was related to me last week, I said "Sure they don't want you to do the overtime. Because you keep asking for overtime. You're supposed to just knuckle under and do it for free."

    She's still there working, by the way.)

    Cute tale, no?


    Click here to read entire post

    Oh My ...

    Apparently there is some discord in the House of Labor.

    The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has put off the continuation of talks with Teamsters Local 399. The Teamsters cover 11 AFTRA-employed business representatives who have been working without a contract since Sept. 5. ...

    "This is a management tactic I wouldn't expect a union to do," Steve Dayan, [spokesperson for Local 399], said. "I'm disappointed that they didn't find it necessary to present a counter-offer."

    (Steve must not get around much.)

    Click here to read entire post

    Your Mid-Week Link Festival

    There might be a global slowdown, but there is always a market for small, gold statues.

    " The Illusionist," Sylvain Chomet's Jacques Tati-inspired tale of aging stage performer and a young girl; the Spanish sci-fi spoof " Planet 51" and "Sammy's Adventures: The Secret Passage," a Belgian cartoon shot in 3D, are the official nominees for in the animated feature film category of the 2010 European Film Awards ...

    For some reason, Hollywood movie honchos are nervous about the commercial prospects for an animated feature about owls.

    "Halfway through the production of "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole," director Zack Snyder began feeling pressure to lighten the tone of his 3-D animated feature.

    Executives at Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures, the movie's backers, were worried that the story was too dark for younger audiences ...

    Andrew Witkin, RIP.

    Andrew Witkin, an Oscar-winning senior scientist at Pixar Animation Studios, died Sept. 12 while scuba diving off the coast of Monterey, Calif. He was 58. ...

    Stand-up comedians are mating their comedy routines with animation.

    Comedian Steve Hofstetter recently debuted ... a series called Animated Revolution, backed by Fremantle (the online arm of the company that produces American Idol). " ... [A]nimation is a natural way to spread stand-up – and if done well, can be more interesting than watching someone stand in front of a brick wall ...."

    (Now that I look at it, the piece is crude animation. Of the Clutch Cargo variety. But hopefully somebody got paid to create it ...)

    Collider rolls out the second part of its Tangled tour in Burbank:

    ... [John Lasseter] never lets a scene go into production until it is fantastic in story reel. This means that a lot of deleted scenes, well, they just don’t exist outside of story boards. This also means that they know the exact gag works well before they add money to really flesh it out, which helps make the scene that much better before it ever gets animated. ...

    (At the same junket, actress Mandy Moore held forth on recording Rapunzel:

    "I was depending on a lot of information from the directors. And, you're by yourself recording. So, there is something freeing about that; not having to be tied down to someone's delivery of a line. You could go into the depths of your imagination.")

    Add On: Ordinarily we try to avoid duplicating Cartoon Brew, but since we've discussed Gnomeo and Juliet here and here, we post the trailer as well.

    Plunge into your Wednesday with gusto.

    Click here to read entire post

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Aardman and Arthur Christmas

    A little artwork for Arthur Christmas has popped up on the internets.

    Sarah Smith and Barry Cook (Mulan) are directing from a script by Borat screenwriter Peter Baynham. ...

    In July and August, I went through Sony Pictures Animation and chatted with some of the Arthur Christmas players. They told me the voice actors were cast, recording sessions were moving along, and a lot of the picture was up on boards and story reels.

    In fact, they were a little nervous because story development was gliding along so well.

    AC is a joint production of Sony and Aardman, and it hasn't gotten a lot of notice. But that should change next year when the release date looms up and the tub-thumping starts.

    Click here to read entire post

    Be a part of OUR future

    Tomorrow, the Peg-Board goes into the mail with the final announcement of next Tuesday’s membership meeting at which nominations will be accepted for the upcoming three-year term of TAG officers.

    In order to run for office, you have to meet the following criteria:

    1. You must be an active member of the Animation Guild as of September 28, 2010, paid up through the third quarter 2010.
    2. You must have joined the Animation Guild on or before September 28, 2008.
    3. You must not have been suspended from membership at any point since September 28, 2008.
    4. You must not have been on honorable withdrawal at any point since September 28, 2009.
    5. Board and membership meetings occur on Tuesdays and your attendance is required, so please don’t run for office if you have irreconcilable obligations on Tuesday nights.

    If you meet these criteria, there will be a letter E on the Peg-Board mailing label next to your name. If you think you should be eligible but there is no E on your label, contact me by e-mail before the meeting.

    In the next few days we’ll be talking on the blog about the election process, and about the rewards of serving your Guild as an elected officer. I hope to see you next Tuesday, September 28, to join us in being a part of our future.

    Click here to read entire post

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    DreamWorks Animation, the Walk Through

    What's simpler (and nicer) about going to DWA's Glendale campus these days is, most of the artists and TDs are tucked into the ginormous Lakeside building, so I just have to go in through the double doors and hope I don't get hopelessly lost in the hallways and dark, cavernous rooms where cubicled animators, layout artists and tech directors go about their work ....

    Megamind is pretty much done, most of it completed at PDI in northern California, some of it done in Glendale. Kung Fu Panda is the feature that is chugging full-bore at the moment, and two supervisors told me:

    "We've got a lot of projects going on. We're interviewing three Disney artists this afternoon who just got laid off from Walt Disney Animation Studios. ..."

    "Disney's loss, our gain ..."

    I told one supe that I run across a lot of old Disney employees everytime I wander through the building. But then, Jeffrey Katzenberg is an old Disney employee himself, so maybe it all fits together.

    Tomorrow I go back to DWA for a 401(k) enrollment meeting. It's happening in a commissary dining room at one o'clock PDT, for any DreamWorkers who are interested.

    Click here to read entire post

    Alpha and Omega, the Budget

    Beyond informing us of the $9,106,906 AO made this weekend (coming in at #5), Box Office Mojo tells us nothing about the animated feature's budget. Howsoever, the Business Standard of India gives us this:

    ... Toy Story 3 was produced at a cost of $200 million and released in over 4,000 screens in the US. It had collected $110 million in its opening weekend.

    Considering that Alpha and Omega has managed to recover around 25 per cent of its production cost through theatrical collections, the film is expected to generate cash profits for its makers. ...

    Doing the math, and assuming that Business Standard is correct*, Alpha and Omega cost approximately $36 to $40 million, roughly half of the production cost of Despicable Me, the other foreign-made CGI feature of recent vintage.

    I'll stay with my earlier prediction that it will collect $20-$35 million in domestic theatrical grosses and be set up for healthy DVD sales. A commenter noted that there wasn't much merchandise out with the picture, but the holiday season is still to come.

    The feature won't be a big hit, but should end up a money-maker.

    Add On: * I managed to overlook the "45 million" budget quote in another paragraph. The Standard managed to misstate (I think) the percentage that had been recovered. Assuming that BS is talking about theatrical grosses as a percentage of production costs, AO's weekend gross would have been $11.3 million and not $9.1 million.

    (H/t to VFX Soldier for bringing the Business Standard article to our attention.)

    Click here to read entire post

    Frankenweenie, the Animated

    The Nikkster details Tim Burton's casting for his new stop motion feature:

    Tim Burton is going to familiar people to voice cast Frankenweenie, Burton's stop motion animated Disney feature based on his 1984 short ....

    The actors for his remake include Catherine O'Hara, Martins Landau and Short, and Winona Ryder.

    I'm so old I can remember when Tim was boarding the original version across the hall. He was an animator then, escaping into live action. Now he's a live-action director returning to his roots.

    Click here to read entire post

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Bill Littlejohn, RIP

    Bill Littlejohn, one of the sturdy oaks of the animation business, passes away at 96 ....

    Cartoon Brew has a long and excellent recap of Mr. Littlejohn's long career. We'll only add that Bill Littlejohn was a long-time union man, serving as the Screen Cartoonists Guild's President when Walt Disney Productions was organized.

    As Tom Sito notes in his book Drawing the Line:

    ... Littlejohn worked to get Walt Disney artists to abandon the company union and sign cards in the independent Screen Cartoonists Guild ... {During the strike that followed] Bill .. flew his small plane overhead and did victory rolls to the cheers of the picketeers ...

    And Tom has just written:

    "Bill Littlejohn was a friend, and a great animator. More than that, he was a helluva union president. As a Guild activist, He probably tweaked more than one nose of the powerful to make conditions better for all us artists. He was an inspiration. God Bless you Bill, and give your craft a nice tailwind as you begin your final ascent. ".

    Click here to read entire post

    The Overseas Steeple Chase

    Some notable rollouts and holdovers:

    "Resident Evil: Afterlife" took the No. 1 box office slot on the foreign theatrical circuit for the second consecutive weekend, grossing $38.7 ...

    Sony opened "Eat Pray Love," the saga of a divorced woman finding herself via a world journey, in five markets for a weekend tally of $3.6 million drawn from 693 screens. ...

    DreamWorks Animation/Paramount's "Shrek Forever After" in 3D boosted its overseas cume to $491 million ($20.7 million of which stems from a continuing Italy engagement) thanks to a $2.1 million weekend ...

    And the other animated features in the global marketplace? Despicable Me has collected $88.5 million of its global $333,201,000 gross in foreign lands.

    Then there's Diz Co.'s billion dollar baby Toy Story 3, which has collected $635.7 million at venues beyond America's shores.

    Click here to read entire post

    Avast Mateys!

    Remember the piracy presentation I reported on last month? Turns out the pirates are real mad at the movie studios and their reps, and things are getting serious.

    The Motion Picture Association of America's website was temporarily brought down Saturday by pirates enraged by an escalation in anti-piracy efforts. and the website of AiPlex Software, a company the MPAA hired to target websites where piracy was rampant, were incapacitated for much of the day ...

    Why do I have the feeling that this trouble with internet pirates won't be going away anytime soon?

    Click here to read entire post

    Stashing It Away


    A new study ... says Americans are $6.6 trillion short of what they need to retire. The study, conducted by Boston College's Center for Retirement Research, says savings have been squeezed by declines in stock and housing values. ...

    The $6.6 trillion figure is based on projections of retirement and income for American workers ages 32-64 ... including a 3 percent rate of return on assets and no further cuts in pension coverage or increases in the Social Security retirement age. ...

    I think workers in the 32 to 50 age bracket can rely on Social Security and Medicare changing before they reach their sunset years. Which means that saving, funding Roth IRAs, and 401(k)s are more important than ever.

    It's always a good idea to live smaller than your income and put the excess into investment instruments and CDs. One of the things that I've learned tramping down the great highway of life is that you can never have too much retirement or emergency money, and it's way too easy to spend every dime of every paycheck.

    The sooner you start funding your retirement, the better off you'll be. And if you've got thirty or more years in which to do it, the task will be way easier than playing "catch up" when you hit, say, forty-five.

    (Here's a video report of Boston College's retirement study.)

    Click here to read entire post

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    Money Out, Money In

    A.K. Madhavan, Chief Executive of Crest Animation, explains funding for Alpha and Omega:

    ... [W]e had a distributor with a studio called Lionsgate where we did a three-picture deal. They have put in half of the money in the production, which is unheard of in the Indian production space. We also have a large technology fund called DE Shaw, which is a $30 billion fund who have also put in money ...

    Let me give you a guideline in terms of how the animation genre performs in the industry. Animation as a movie feature revenues not only at the box office, it is also at the merchandise toys. ... [I]f box office is $100 million, I am just giving you a number, then almost 1:1 comes from merchandise toys, licensing DVDs and so on and so forth. So typically 40% of the revenues are box office and 60% comes in from other streams ...

    It's doubtful that A O will hit the century mark domestically, but the feature will probably climb to $20-$35 million. I don't know what the production and marketing budgets are, but the movie should have enough of a theatrical platform to help the DVD rollout. Then, of course, there are the plush toys and the tie-ins and the rest of the world market.

    The picture should make Crest a bit of money.

    Click here to read entire post


    I'm shocked. Shocked.

    Several of the U.S.'s largest technology companies are in advanced talks with the Justice Department to avoid a court battle over whether they colluded to hold down wages by agreeing not to poach each other's employees.

    The companies, which include Google Inc., Apple Inc., Intel Corp., Adobe Systems Inc., Intuit Inc. and Walt Disney Co. unit Pixar Animation, are in the final stages of negotiations with the government ...

    As I read the article, the long and short of it seems to be that various companies have agreements with other companies that they won't hire key personnel away from direct or indirect competitors.

    There's no way this wouldn't have the effect of keeping the salaries of key personnel lower than they otherwise would be. If you don't have the ability to leverage your rate of pay by offering your services to another company across town, you're kind of stuck.

    This is the same behavior that leads companies to prohibit employees (or "discourage" employees) from sharing wage information. If they can move the fulcrum so that workers have less ability to get more money, they will, laws and regulations be damned.

    It's all about the greenbacks, friends and neighbors. It's what leads corporate execs to backdate options on company stock, nudges city managers to obscure their salaries, encourages bankers to take huge, leveraged risks safe in the knowledge the government will cover their backs.

    Because there can never be enough.

    Let me add that VFX Soldier and Professor Mark Farquhar brought the above to our attention.

    Click here to read entire post

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Early Fall Derby

    Now with Add On

    The Indian animated feature Alpha and Omega lands at #5. And Ben Affleck appears to have himself a hit.

    1. The Town (Warner Bros) NEW [2,861 Theaters] -- Friday $8.5M, Estimated Weekend $25M

    2. Easy A (Screen Gems/Sony) NEW [2,856 Theaters] -- Friday $6.7M, Estimated Weekend $18.5M

    3. Devil (Universal) NEW [2,809 Theaters] -- Friday $5.3M, Estimated Weekend $13.5M)

    4. Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 2 [3,209 Theaters] -- Friday $2.9M (-73%), Estimated Weekend $9.8M

    5. Alpha & Omega (Lionsgate) NEW [2,625 Theaters] -- Friday $2.3M, Estimated Weekend $8.7M

    As the L.A. Times relates:

    "Alpha and Omega" is the first film of a 5-year-old partnership between Lionsgate and Indian animation studio Crest Entertainment. Even though it's playing in 3-D and will benefit from ticket price surcharges, the story of two wolves on a journey together is expected to generate only about $10 million on its first weekend

    Though animated on the sub-continent, A & O was story-boarded in Burbank.

    Add On: A and O ends up at #5 with $9.2 million, the only animated feature in the Top Ten.

    Despicable Me and Toy Story 3 drop by 40+%, landing at #13 and #18 respectively.

    (DM has made $244.7 million, while the third Toy Story's collected 410.6 million domestic dollars.)

    Click here to read entire post

    Your Weekend Linkorama

    Nick's Dog of Resilience.

    Now with lightly salted Add On. And new Sunday Nite Add On!

    As another week of labor draws to a close, a new gathering of links looms on TAG blog.

    We start with a state government assault on our freedoms:

    Comic book creators say California game law could clobber all media

    Can a California video game law banning the sale of violent games to minors potentially spill over to other media? ... In a brief filed Friday with the Supreme Court, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund urged the high court to reject the law, saying it "would undermine more First Amendment principles in a single case that any decision in living memory." ...

    Who gets to decide what's too violent? ... Sexy? ... Gory? ...

    Wildbrain Entertainment is a longtime San Francisco animation company that is now a Los Angeles animation company. WBE might be headquartered in L.A., but it's now Canadian:

    Canadian kids TV producer DHX Media has acquired Los Angeles-based animation studio Wildbrain Entertainment for $8 million in cash.

    Wildbrain president Michael Polis will remain at the company, which is best known for producing "The Ricky Gervais Show" for HBO and the Nick Jr. series "Yo Gabba Gabba!" ...

    Here's one feature I'm thinking won't get a wide, stateside release.

    Hollywood studio Warner Bros has picked up distribution rights of animated feature film ’Ramayana — The Epic’, slated for a Dussehra release on October 15. ... [It's] one of the most ambitious and expensive full length animation feature film to be made in India, ... [and] will be released in three languages simultaneously across India — Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

    The Bruce Timm unit at WB Animation keeps rolling:

    James Denton, Christina Hendricks and Anthony LaPaglia are lending their pipes to Warner Bros.' "All-Star Superman," the animated adaptation of one of the most acclaimed comics of the past decade.

    "All-Star" is the 10th DC Comics story line to be turned into an original PG-13 movie by Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Home Video. ...

    The tub-thumping never ends:

    Actor Will Ferrell is setting up a new publicity stunt for his newest movie “MegaMind” ... hoping to snag the Guinness World Records title for the Largest Gathering of Superheroes by bringing together over 1,500 costumed superheroes. ...

    As for Ferrell's MM co-star:

    Megamind director Tom McGrath told Pitt he wanted him to channel Presley while voicing Metro Man and Pitt enthusiastically took up the challenge. ...

    'For us, it was always Elvis Presley versus Alice Cooper.'

    Hand-drawn animation isn't dead, it's just residing in Europe.

    Spicy Spanish alternative to Disney animated fare. ... Spain joins the derby with "Chico & Rita," the new film from Oscar-winning director Fernando Trueba ("Belle Epoque") ... In composing this visually hypnotic, musically electric film, Trueba worked with two co-directors: designer Javier Mariscal and animator Tono Errando. ...

    Let us end with the L.A. Times preview of television toonage:

    This fall's impressive slate of new kid-oriented shows has a lot to please children as well as their parents — from an adorable claymation sheep to a hyperactive animated antihero battling a villain named Dorkus to a trio of intergalactic escapees bonding together "sym-bionically" to save the Earth.

    Add On: Down Argentine way, a different Indian-made animated feature has had a successful rollout:

    "Gaturro", an animated feature film produced in Kerala has topped box office collections in Argentina, where it is creating ripples for the second consequent week of its release, according to reports ...

    Add On Too: The Reporter reviews Legend of the Guardians.

    ... Zack Snyder, director of "300" and "Watchmen," has made his first 3D animated feature, "Legend of the Guardians." This picture sometimes rivals "Avatar" in its spectacular landscapes and thrilling flying sequences ...

    Sunday Nite Add On: Collider dot com reports on the Tangled press junket, and this caught my eye:

    Mertens and our tour guide also talked about the long hours they put in and how Disney takes great strides to break up the time with activities, workouts, meals, and an effort to make sure everything they do is ergonomically correct. While it may look fairly corporate and plain on the inside, they certainly treat their employees well. ...

    At the same time, Collider loved the movie, said the art direction was wonderfully good, with which I would agree.

    Have a productive Friday and joyous weekend.

    Click here to read entire post

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    What the Biz Rep Has Learned #10

    Sometimes studios are concerned about breaking rules, labor regulations and laws. And sometimes not.

    Two quick stories.

    Story the first: Several years back, at a large animation studio making theatrical features, a production manager was exploiting young animators by working them extra hours for no additional pay. (You're shocked, I know.) An employee tipped me off, I went through the facility late one night, asking the animators if they were being paid for their work. To my surprise, several said "No." (Usually I get tight smiles and "Yes, of course.")

    I immediately called Labor Relations, and filed a Step One grievance. The lawyer there immediately checked into the problem, found the allegations to be true, and the company paid all the animators' overtime in full.

    Story the second: At a different animation house, the studio had lots of personal service contracts that forbade employees "from sharing any information in this agreement." All the contracts were pretty much the same except for wages. I went to a Vice-President in Labor Relations and asked if the prohibition against "sharing information" included the sharing of wage info. He said it did. I told him that employees had the right under law to share salary information with anyone, and that the clause was illegal. He replied:

    "Well, as long as nobody takes us to court over it, we're okay. We're keeping it in."

    I kept complaining about the clause. Eventually a corporate lawyer agreed to take the language out of the contracts. But for years afterward, human resource people informed employees in contract meetings that the company didn't want them sharing wage information.

    In the years I've been doing this, a recurring corporate strategy is "plausible deniability." Employees might be in their cubes working at ten at night, but managers mostly claim to have no idea that uncompensated o.t. is going on. (My problem: I can go through a facility late at night and find artists at their desks -- as happened two weeks ago -- but if everyone tells me they're receiving o.t., I have to assume I'm being told the truth ... even if I suspect otherwise.)

    Unenforced laws and regulations are like no laws and regulations. Strange how that works.

    Click here to read entire post

    The Toons of Loon

    Back in July, I reported on seeing the new Coyote and Roadrunner shorts that Warner Bros. is creating and rolling out with various family-type features over the next several months. All were directed by Matt O'Callaghan, a talented animation veteran who I first met when he worked as Glen Keane's right-hand man at Disney Feature Animation.

    I think Matt and his team at WBA captured the spirit of the characters at the same time they brought them into the 21st century (CGI! Three Dee!) But you can judge for yourself:

    These shorts were boarded at Warners' Burbank studio, animated at Reel Fx in Texas. Shorter than your average Golden Age Warner cartoons, I think they fulfill C's and RR's missions quite well.

    Click here to read entire post

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010


    Jeffrey K. spoke at the 3-D Entertainment Summit today. And the press was not fawning.

    ... [W]hen Katzenberg spoke at the third annual 3-D Entertainment Summit Wednesday, the DreamWorks Animation chief was sounding awfully defensive, trying to compare 3-D skeptics to the Luddites who opposed sound and color movies. ...

    This triggered a memory of a quote from a well-known Hollywood Luddite:

    "[Color] is a cinch to work in, if you've any eye at all ... but black and white is pretty tough. You've got to know your job and be very careful to lay your shadows properly and get the perspective right. In color -- there it is, but it can go awfully wrong and throw a picture off. There are certain pictures that call for color ... For a good, dramatic story, though, I much prefer to work in black and white. You'll probably say I'm old-fashioned, but black and white is real photography*. ...

    -- Director John Ford to Peter Bogdanovich.

    Count me as a 3-D Luddite. After sitting through a half-dozen dimensional extravaganzas, I cheerfully admit that the DreamWorks Animation offerings have the best stereo viewing.

    But the technology still leaves me saying "Henh." However, Moving View Master doesn't look as though it's going away anytime soon.

    Depending on the reports you read, 3D box office predicts either the slow death of the format or the eventual triumph of the 3D revolution. ...

    But a close look of the existing data suggests the noise around 3D isn't a death rattle but the sound of an infant format growing up. ...

    I suppose in the fullness of time we'll know if Three Dee is gasping on a hospital bed ... or fussing inside its crib.

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    Alameda and Riverside Cartoon Studios

    One of the new, longer "Tangled" trailers, out today*.

    This week my studio walk throughs have been heavy on Disney facilities. ...

    And I had occasion to spend the hour previous to this one at the hat building, where a story artist on the third floor had some upbeat news.

    "A year ago there wasn't much going on around here, and I had one foot out the door.

    "But then around January development started kicking up, and now they have some really good stuff in work, twice what they had last year, and it's stuff I'd really like to see, that can compete with other animated features and live action. So it's good to be working up here again."

    To which I say: Terrific. And overdue, but better late than not at all.

    Another story artist thanked me for my kind words about Tangled, and I told her the kind words were heartfelt: I meant what I wrote. I think the movie (based on what I've seen) looks good, clicks right along, and will do well at the box office. I also mentioned that my complaints about the Mouse House (feature division) have centered on the lousy morale I continually encounter because -- surprise, surprise -- people get downhearted when they're let go due to lack of product in the production pipeline.

    She said she knew about those things. (Apparently word gets around inside the building.)

    I also dropped by Disney TVA at the Frank Wells Building, where Fish Hooks and Phineas and Ferb are deep in work. Work on P & F's feature-length offering is wrapping up, and the third season is getting underway with the crew hopeful of a fourth. "Maybe we'll go as long as "Sponge Bob Square Pants" one crew member speculated.

    It's something to be wished. Long-term work is not always easy to find.

    * And probably already posted hither and yon, but what the hell ....

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    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Half-Hour Animated Ads

    We had He-Man and She-ra, and now we have Skechers. But a few malcontents among us aren't happy about it:

    An advocacy group on Tuesday asked the Federal Communications Commission to block a soon-to-debut TV cartoon show starring characters first created to market Skechers footwear to children.

    Unless banned, the group said, the show could pave the way for Ronald McDonald, Tony the Tiger and other iconic cartoon pitchmen to become stars of their own series ...

    And I say: What the hell's wrong with Tony the Tiger having his own series? (The Sugar-Frosted Hour has a nice ring to it.) Swear to God, you let these Socialists start dictating what the children see on the teevee, next thing you know they''ll start demanding that porn channels be removed from the hotel rooms of Comfort Inns. Then where the hell would we be?

    Excepting the banksters, our new Socialist Health Delivery System, Medicare and Social Security, plus public libraries, interstate highways, selected police and fire departments, and military contractors, the bedrock of this great country is a free and unfettered marketplace where all parties can buy, sell and gouge until Hank Paulson bails them out.

    You let stiff-necked statists dictate what kind of long-form advertising Nickelodeon can show on its cable network, the commies will have won.

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    TeeVee Boomlet

    The continued uptick in animated television product might be related to things like this:

    ... Cartoon Network -- The Monday night juggernaut of animated comedies (7-10 p.m.) continue to generate huge ratings and delivery gains for Cartoon Network compared to the same time period last year. ...

    When TVbtn says huge ratings gains, it isn't kidding. Just about every age demographic, male and female, expanded 40% to 90%. For instance, the ever-popular Scooby Doo had jumps of 49% for boys and 323% for girls.

    Adventure Time's eyeball totals expanded from 77% to 92%, depending on the demographic.

    So it's not surprising that there's more small-screen toonage rolling through studio pipelines. While this has caused overall employment to trend up, the rising tide hasn't lifted all boats. The steady expansion of digital storyboarding, par example has meant more board artists can build animatics at their desks. And as animatics have proliferated and grown more elaborate, studios have cut back on timing directors. (There's also the long-time practice of shipping work offshore, which hasn't gone away.)

    But the good news is that cable and network animation has been enjoying increasingly robust Nielsen numbers, which appears to be translating into more people drawing paychecks from cartoon studios.

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    Phil Lewis memorial: this Sunday at 2 pm

    In honor of the late background artist who passed away on August 12. 2410 S. Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles RSVP to Janet at (805) 653-6590 or

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    Monday, September 13, 2010

    When the IATSE Made Its Move

    Today we salute the seventy-third anniversary of the above headline , which was reprinted in today's Variety to advertise their new online archive.

    The IATSE (sometimes referred to in those days as the "International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employes") was striving to rep every Tinsel Town worker who drew a paycheck, including actors, writers, and directors.

    It didn't pan out that way, but the IA gave it the old college try. As Variety said seventy-three years ago: ...

    "Conference will be held at 1 p.m. today in office of E.J. Mannix, Metro general manager, to discuss demands of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes for screen credits on films and jurisdiction over all workers in industry ... Session will be attended by William Bioff, West coast head of IATSE and personal representative of George E. Brown[e], President ...

    Bioff and Browne, of course, later gained fame as convicted felons who were sent to the Big House on racketeering charges.

    But all that was later. On this day in 1937, B. and B. were looking to pick up all the marbles in the Hollywood labor game. Three and a half years later, they would attempt to represent Disney cartoonists in a deal with Walter Elias Disney. That plan wouldn't bear fruit for another decade ...

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    The Studio Rounds

    Today I ambled through Bento Box in Burbank and Walt Disney Television Animation in sunny Glendale.

    At BB, storyboard crew is coming to the end of Bob's Burgers, set to launch on Fox in January. As one artist said to me: "I'm done in October, then we get to see if the show gets picked up. If it does, we should be back ..."

    The Mouse's Glendale property, back when it was a mere airport ...

    At Disney TVA in Glendale, Jake and the Neverland Pirates is wrapping its first episodic order with some artists swinging over the Mickey's Clubhouse later in the year.

    Kick Buttowski continues in work along with Inspector Oso. (The Disney TVA shows remaining inside the Frank Wells Building are slated to shift to Glendale next year, but that no doubt depends how fast Disney Toons -- now headquartered in the top half of the Sonora Building -- can move to the facility next door.)

    It's not surprising that Disney TVA is moving most of its units to Glendale. As it was explained to me, Diz Co. charges its divisions rent for the buildings they use, and the Glendale structures are cheaper than being on the lot. Simple.

    In the meantime, the Glendale City Fathers (and Mothers) are looking to make the east Valley burg into a newer and shinier entertainment hub:

    Glendale wants to take on Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles and lure more media and arts firms to its industrial area by cutting red tape.

    The City Council last year directed city officials to research the possibility of designating a media and design district within the San Fernando Road corridor, which already is a designated redevelopment area, to encourage economic growth. ...

    They are probably on their way to presiding over the New Hollywood, since Disney is putting up lot of big new buildings on its share of the old Central Airport property, and DreamWorks Animation has rapidly increased the square footage of structures on its campus down on the cement banks of the scenic L.A. river.

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    What the Biz Rep has Learned #9

    In negotiations for a job or contract, if you're not willing to walk away*, then you're not going to get the best deal that's out there. ...

    In other words, if you're not prepared to play a serious game of chicken, you'll end up with less than the optimum result.

    But sometimes that's okay.

    I've been doing the union rep thing for a while now, and there is no final answer in the art of negotiating. When the market winds are at your back, you can fool yourself into believing that you're a genius in getting top dollar for your services, when in fact everyone is doing well because the hiring party (usually one of our fine, friendly entertainment conglomerates) is desperate for a given skill-set and willing to wheel and deal for the one you possess.

    The best example of this was the Golden Period of 1993 to 1996, when DreamWorks Animation, Disney Feature Animation, Warner Bros. Feature Animation, Fox Feature Animation (Phoenix) and Turner Feature Animation (remember Cats Don't Dance?) were all chasing Animation Artists With Production Experience at the same time. For 36 exciting months, demand way outstripped supply and wages shot skyward like bottle rockets.

    Unsurprisingly, this didn't last. Hand-drawn animation slowly declined, many of the studios set up to compete with Disney closing their doors. What also didn't last late in the decade was the chronic under-supply of CG tech directors, modelers, and animators. Disney Feature Animation took a year-and-a-half to recruit the CG crew for Dinosaur. Now it would take a couple of months. (Sooner or later, equilibrium is reached as eager new candidates stampede into the marketplace. Google "Adam Smith" for further details.)

    In the jobs market of 2010, artists and technicians are wading against the current. Many job categories are not in the short supply of a decade or fifteen years ago. For traditional animators who are strangers to Maya, there is scarcely a market at all. The Recession and a high unemployment rate hangs over everyone like the Grim Reaper, making it more challenging to play hardball.

    But even in tough times, the basics remain the same. You'll be able to level the playing field a bit if you:

    1) Know what your bottom line is.

    2) Know what the market rates are.

    3) Have an inkling how badly they want and need you.

    4) Have other job options in hand.

    5) Know before you start what constitutes "unacceptable."

    Face it. Sometimes you can't walk away from a mediocre offer because it's the only offer in town, and you can't risk blowing the gig. But understand that reality, accept it, and work to be in a stronger position the next time. (The only constant in the world is change.)

    * Unions and guilds often have a harder time "walking away" than individuals. Strikes can be politically difficult, negotiations by other labor organizations have already set a pattern, and there is the ever-present issue of how much leverage one union has against a pack of multi-national conglomerates.

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