Saturday, December 31, 2016

So Long, 2016!

A collection of the studios that employ our members; we now have contracts with more than two dozen studios. In 2016 we have seen record employment - that's definitely something to celebrate.

Here's some of the other things that happened this year...

Click here to read entire post

Monday, December 26, 2016

It was the best of times...

2016 is predicted to be another record-setting year for movie-going. Animation Domination is part of the lingua franca ( even if it's a thing of the past. ) One of the top three cable channels from last year has 'cartoon' in its name. So things are good, right?

Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Warming up for the Oscars

With the recent news that the Visual Effect contenders for Academy Award nominations have been trimmed from 20 films down to ten, it makes sense to look at the Animation category...

Click here to read entire post

Friday, December 16, 2016

The IAP: the ( kind of ) 401(k) match you didn't think you had...

Have you heard about the Individual Account Plan (IAP)? Know what it is? A bunch of artists I saw at Nickelodeon today didn't know - so I write this post about a pretty cool benefit for Animation Guild members...

Click here to read entire post

Monday, December 12, 2016

Weekend Box Office

Based on estimates, two animated films hold spots in the top ten - and Moana clings to #1 for the third weekend in a row.

The weekend box office for the period of Dec. 9-11 based on industry estimates as of Sunday AM (still waiting on Disney):

1). Moana (DIS), 3,875 Theaters (0) / $4.1M Fri /$8.6M Sat/$6.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $18.8M (-33%)/Total: $145M/Wk 3

2.) Office Christmas Party (PAR/DW), 3,210 theaters (-156) /$6.7M Fri. /$6.8M Sat/$4M Sun/ 3-day cume: $17.5M /Wk 1

3). Fantastic Beasts… (WB), 3,626 theaters (-362) /$2.8M Fri./$4.8M Sat/$3.1M Sun/3-day cume: $10.8M (-40%)/Total: $199.3m/Wk 4

4). Arrival (PAR), 3,115 theaters (+200)/$1.55M Fri/$2.5M Sat/$1.55M Sun/3-day cume: $5.6M (-23%)/Total:$81.45M/ Wk 5

5).Doctor Strange (DIS), 2,763 theaters (-172) /$1.2M Fri /$2.1M Sat/$1.3M Sun/3-day cume: $4.6M (-31%) /Total cume: $222.4M/Wk 6

6). Allied (PAR), 3,018 Theaters (-142) /$1.19M Fri/$1.76M Sat/$1.05M/3-day cume: $4M (-43%) /Total: $35.6M/Wk 3

7). Nocturnal Animals (Focus), 1,262 theaters (+1.135) /$1.1M Fri /$1.3M Sat/$773K Sun/3-day:$3.19M (+356%)/Total: $6.2M/ Wk 4

8.) Manchester by the Sea (RSA/AMZ) 368 theaters (+212)/$913K Fri/$1.4M Sat/$850K Sun/3-day: $3.155M (+37%)/Total: $8.3M/Wk 4

9) Trolls (DWA/20th Century Fox), 2,786 theaters (-370) /$625K Fri/$1.5M Sat/$975K Sun/3-day cume: $3.11M (-34%) /Total Cume: $145.5M/Wk 6

10). Hacksaw Ridge (Lionsgate), 2,277 theaters (-217) / $672K Fri /$1M Sat/$604K/3-day:$2.3M (-31%)/Total: $60.9M/ Wk 6

Comparisons of Moana to Frozen are out there, but it seems too early to tell which way the graph will bend.

Trolls continues to attract theater-goers, both domestically and internationally. Click here to read entire post

Friday, December 09, 2016

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Swearing In...

"I do hereby pledge my word of honor to perform the duties of my office as set forth in the Constitution and By-Laws of the Animation Guild
Click here to read entire post

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

She's A Wonder

President emeritus Tom Sito recalls:

Dec 6, 1941- WONDER WOMAN, Psychologist William Moulton Marston was an educational consultant for Detective Comics, Inc. (DC Comics).

Marston saw that the DC line was filled with images of super men like Green Lantern, Batman, Superman. He wondered why there was not a female hero?

DC head Max Gaines, was intrigued by the concept and told Marston that he should create a female hero - a "Wonder Woman." Marston's 'good and beautiful woman' made her debut in All Star Comics #8. ...

And now a digression from super heroes:

A few hours ago, I stopped being Business Representative of the Animation Guild and commenced being a retired person. So this will be the last in a string of posts going back to '06, when TAG President Kevin Koch and I added our voices to the internet conversation about the animation business.

The single most talked about post would have to be this one. The series of posts that attracted the most eyeballs would be these.

It's been a fast and frenetic decade, and there have been BIG changes in the world of animation. Jason Macleod, the new Guild rep, plans to continue this blog and will no doubt take it in new directions. I hope to drop in from time to time, but for now I'm taking several long steps back and wrapping my had around other things.

Hulett out.

Click here to read entire post

Monday, December 05, 2016

So Long, Farewell

In 24 hours, I won't be the Animation Guild's Business Representative anymore. I've done the job for twenty-seven years, but there comes a time to hang the biz rep thing up. To go off fishing. To take a breather.

Now is that time. ...

I became Business Representative of the Animation Guild on November 13, 1989.

It wasn't called the Animation Guild then. It was known as the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, and it was at a low ebb, with 740 active members. Filmation, a large union employer, had closed its door several months before. Disney was ramping up a bit but wasn't a huge employer. Hanna-Barbera was chugging along with its normal output. Warner Bros. was developing a show with Steven Spielberg called Tiny Toons, but nobody knew how that would pan out.

One of the first things I did after taking the union job? I went to the crew screening and wrap party for The Little Mermaid because my wife worked on the picture and I went along as her faithful spouse. I was all prepared to not like TLM, but fifteen minutes into the picture I was thinking "Damn. This is GREAT!" and went along for the ride.

Soon after, the animation business changed in major ways. It stopped being the small, sleepy, side-water village of film-making, one that no self-respecting, big-time movie exec cared about and into which few of the big entertainment conglomerates ventured. The features rolling out of Disney feature animation all seemed to be blockbusters: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King, Pocahontas, the good times seemed to roll on forever. And television animation, whether it was created by Disney or Warner Bros. or the upstart Nickelodeon, seemed to rake in piles of cash.

Four decades on, animation is the most profitable corner of movieland, with every big movie company developing animated projects

And it all happened because cartoon features and animated television shows became audience magnets. Large corporations noticed, built themselves sizable studios, and the Animation Guild, formerly known as the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, rode the slow-building wave. The 740 members at the tail end of the 1980s grew to 3300 members by 2016, making TAG one of the larger production locals in the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees.

Along the way there have been growing pains: Disney's string of animated blockbusters faded at the turn of the century as hand-drawn features were supplanted by their CG cousins, and employees who couldn't make the switch were let go. Television animation expanded, then shrank, then expanded again. Growing a production staff is pleasurable; laying one off is painful.

It's been an eventful roller coaster ride these past twenty-seven years. I would be lying if I said every day of the run was wonderful. There were mornings I hated getting out of bed. There were evenings I was grateful I could lock the office doors and go home and veg out in front of the TV screen.

But I can honestly say that there was far more good times in the job than bad. Helping people find work; fighting for a better deal in contract talks; helping artists get the wages or dismissal pay they deserved, all these things made the job meaningful.

And I hope that Jason Macleod, my talented successor, finds as much pleasure in the job as I have these last three decades. I wish him all the best, as I wish every TAG member a long and prosperous career in the years ahead.

Click here to read entire post

Dragon Moves Its Schedule

The third installment of How To Train Your Dragon shifts back a year.

‘How To Train Your Dragon 3’ Flies To 2019; Uni’s DWA To Scale ‘Everest’

Universal Pictures said that DreamWorks Animation’s How To Train Your Dragon 3 will now nest on Friday, March 1, 2019 instead of its previously announced May 18, 2018 date. Dean DeBlois, the film series’ director, is on deck.

Recent logline for HTTYD3 reads “As Hiccup fulfills his dream of creating a peaceful dragon utopia, Toothless’ discovery of an untamed, elusive mate draws the Night Fury away. When danger mounts at home and Hiccup’s reign as village chief is tested, both dragon and rider must make impossible decisions to save their kind.”

In addition, Oriental DreamWorks’ Everest will hit theaters on Friday, September 27, 2019. Pic will take moviegoers on 3000-mile journey from Shanghai to the breathtaking Himalayan snowscapes. A group of misfits encounter a young Yeti named Everest, and they set off to reunite the magical creature with his family on the mountain of his namesake. ...

Comcast-Universal told DWA staffers about the changes above at a staff meeting on the Glendale campus a few weeks ago, and now they announce the the alterations to previous schedules to the public.

As DreamWorkers have said to me, it's all about getting the pictures right. No point in releasing a picture early if a delay and a rework will raise its quality ... and theatrical grosses.

Click here to read entire post

Sunday, December 04, 2016

The Bugster

A song-filled, action-packed clip, but the feature failed to set hearts aflutter.

President emeritus Tom Sito remembers a movie release from just before Pearl Harbor:

75 Years Ago - Dec 4, 1941- The animated film "Mr. Bug Goes to Town" opened.

Max Fleischer's last gamble to keep up with Walt Disney and keep his studio alive. Songs written by top pop song writer Hoagy Carmichael. However, the events of Pearl Harbor three days later not only sink the American Navy, but also Hoppity's box office and puts The Fleischers out of business. ...

Two years previously, the Fleischers' Gullvers' Travels had done relatively well at the box office. Gullver was released during Christmas of '39, coming out several weeks before Pinocchio.

This time around, Mr. Bug had no such luck. Paramount released MBGTT around the same time RKO launched Walt Disney's Dumbo into the marketplace. Dumbo flew. Mr. Bug Goes To Town did not.

The picture will be issued on Blu-ray in June '17.

Click here to read entire post

International Box Office

Animation continues to ride the global wave.


1. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them - $60,400,000 -- ($607,907,403)

2. Moana - $32,000,000 -- ($177,388,330)

3. Your Name -- $40,900,000 -- (243,100,000)

4. Allied - $12,100,000 -- ($53,727,432)

5. Underworld: Blood Wars - $16,300,000 -- ($18,900,000)

6. Arrival - $12,100,000 -- ($112,178,514)

7. Trolls -- $11,700,000 -- ($306,271,445)

8. Sully -- $11,200,000 -- ($200,408,177)

9. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children -- $10,500,000 -- ($271,713,419)

10. Doctor Strange -- $10,200,000 -- ($634,909,177)

11. Sword Master -- $7,300,000 -- ($7,300,000)

12. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back -- $6,100,000 -- ($155,159,104)

So there are two animated epics in the Global Top Ten, and as the trade papers tell us:

JK Rowling’s wizarding world expansion [Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) continued its international voyage this weekend with another $60.4M on approximately 23,000 screens in 67 markets for a 54% drop from the sophomore session. The overseas cume is now $424.4M. ...

Riding a $32M weekend wave in 30 markets, Disney’s Polynesian princess Moana has tallied $57.5M overseas to date after two frames. The global take is $177.4M. International saw strong launches in France, Russia, Belgium and the Netherlands. Moana opened at No. 2 in the UK. ...

Paramount’s World War II drama Allied added $12.1M in 36 markets this weekend, taking the international cume to $24.8M. The Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard film debuted in China on November 30 and landed $3.6M in a crowded frame. ...

Click here to read entire post

Box Office Record

The House of Mouse has achieved tall turnstile totals in the U.S. of A.

With $2,491.4M at the domestic box office through today, The Walt Disney Studios has set a new industry record. The Mouse tops the previous record of $2.45B which Universal revved up in 2015. Overseas, Disney has crossed the $4B threshold for the first time in the studio’s history with $4,079.5M. Universal last year was the first studio ever to tilt past $4B, ending the year at $4.44B.

Worldwide, Disney’s stable of super and animated heroes has accumulated $6,570.9M to date. Walt Disney Animation’s Moana has just begun her global voyage ($177.4M to date). ...

Between Marvel Studios (run by Marvel brass that Disney trusts to rake in large amounts of cash) and Pixar/Walt Disney Animation Studios (run by John Lasseter/Ed Catmull), Diz Co. is firing on all cylinders.

And of course the Star Wars franchises will be adding significantly to the bottom line.

Click here to read entire post

Saturday, December 03, 2016


Coming to a movie screen hopefully near you.

Spirited Away, the Oscar-winning animated film from acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, will return to theaters on Sunday to celebrate its 15th anniversary. Fathom Events, which in the past has coordinated limited theatrical runs for other beloved, nostalgia-drenched movies like The Iron Giant and Space Jam, originally teamed up with distributor GKIDS to bring the Studio Ghibli movie to theaters this Sunday and Monday only.

But ticket sales for the event were so promising, they decided to add an additional date, with an extra screening coming on Thursday. ...

The demand is there, the playdates are there. So go see it.

Click here to read entire post

Disney's Animated Feature For Next May

With a trailer dropped today.

And sure, it's got some live-action sprinkled through it, but huge chunks of the epic are animated. With animated characters.

(They shot the live-action in Atlanta, Georgia on the same stages -- and almost immediately after -- Passengers was photographed. So Mr. Pratt will have back-to-back sci fi movies.)

Click here to read entire post

Your American Box Office

It's another robust weekend for animation.


1). Moana (DIS), 3,875 Theaters (0) / $6.5M Fri (-70%) / 3-day cume: $30.3M (-47%)/Total: $121.8M/Wk 2

2). Fantastic Beasts… (WB), 3,988 theaters (-156) /$5.3M Fri. (-71%) / 3-day cume: $17.2M (-62%)/Total: $182.2M/Wk 3

3). Allied (PAR), 3,160 Theaters (0) /$2.2M Fri (-55%)/3-day cume: $7.7M (-39%) /Total: $29.6/Wk 2

4).Doctor Strange (DIS), 2,935 theaters (-73) /$1.8M Fri (-67%) /3-day cume: $6.7M (-51%) /Total cume: $215.5M/Wk 5

5). Arrival (PAR), 2,915 theaters (+473)/$2M Fri (-55%)/3-day cume: $6.6M (-43%)/Total:$72.4M/ Wk 4

6.) Trolls (DWA/20th Century Fox), 3,156 theaters (-166) /$1.09m Fri (-73%)/3-day cume: $4.9M (-54%) /Total Cume: $141.7M/Wk 5

7). Hacksaw Ridge (Lionsgate), 2,494 theaters (+162) / $958K Fri (-56%)/3-day:$3.1M (-42%)/Total: $57.1M/ Wk 5

8.) Bad Santa 2 (BG/MX), 2,945 Theaters (+25) /$901K Fri (-61%) / 3-day cume: $2.8M (-55%)/Total: $13.8M/Wk 2

9). Almost Christmas (UNI), 1,556 theaters (-213) /$692K Fri (-70%)/ 3-day cume: $2.4M (-58%)/Total: $38.1M/ Wk 4

10.) Manchester by the Sea (RSA/AMZ) 156 theaters (+108)/$653K Fri/3-day: $2.2M (+85%)/Total: $4.3M/Wk 3 ...

Moana and Trolls cling firmly to their places on the list, #1 and #6 respectively. Moana has a strong second weekend, declining 47% which is close to Frozen's second weekend numbers.

Trolls closes in on a $150 million gross, which it should be able to reach in the next week-plus.

Click here to read entire post

Friday, December 02, 2016

Women Rising

Variety tells us:

... Statistics from the animation guild, IATSE 839, paint the picture for animators. Right now about 3,800 artists, writers and technicians work under the guild’s jurisdiction in and around Los Angeles and slightly more than 23% of this number are women. Roughly 18 months ago, around 21% were female, so the number is climbing a bit.

That’s still not fast enough for Women in Animation co-chair Marge Dean, who is working with the organization on a 50-50 by 2025 initiative that aims to see an equal split of jobs for men and women on animation productions by the year 2025. Though such animation schools as CalArts report that more than 70% of their program is made up of female students, women are still underrepresented in hiring at most studios.

“Women are pushed into producer positions or into production assistant jobs and they aren’t encouraged to become creators or storytellers,” says Dean. “We want to encourage women to become creators and animators, to do their own projects and have their own creative voice.” ...

I've seen a steady uptick in the numbers of women who are making careers in the animation industry. Ms. Dean could well be right that progress is too slow, but I've seen more women art directors, more women show runners in the last few years than I ever did in the go-go nineties.

Twenty years back, you could have counted the number of women in high creative positions on the pitching hand of Three Finger Brown. It's considerably different today. Now, there are female directors, female story supervisors, female show-runners, and a lot more women down in the trenches doing production boards and design work for most of the major studios. Just yesterday, I was in a meeting with a Disney TVA showrunner who was a woman.

So yeah. Progress might not be as rapid as Marge Dean would like, but progress is being made. And that's damn important.

Click here to read entire post

The French Way

France has long since come into its own in the world of animation.

... Animation in France is considered a crown jewel of local culture and as such is nurtured not only by schools but also by film festivals, such as Annecy Animation Film Festival or even Cannes Film Festival, including Directors’ Fortnight. ...

France’s track record in animation features also stems from its large pool of top-notch producers such as Les Armateurs, Sacrebleu Prods., as well as distribution house Gebeka Films, and its leadership in TV animation — a heavily subsidized industry that requires TV channels to pre-buy and program homegrown toon shows. ...

“I think our international crew component helps us in a huge way to appeal globally. We rely on the good ideas of the artists at every step of the way as part of our process, and we benefit always from the expansive talents and unique perspectives that our diversity provides,” says Illumination MacGuff’s Paris-based producer Janet Healy. She also acknowledged the major role played by French production designer Eric Guillon, on both “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Sing.”

In terms of international sales and foreign box office prospects, French animation is a huge driving force.

As much as 90% of all French animated features travel abroad and most, if not all, of French animated films find U.S. distributors, says Renouard. He notes that a trio of French toons — “The Little Prince,” “Asterix and the Domain of the Gods,” and “Mune” — repped 20% of Gallic films’ ticket sales outside the country in 2015. ...

For a long time, no animated feature produced outside the U.S. of A. could get much traction at the world box office. France changed that equation with Despicable Me, The Minions Movie, The Secret Life of Pets, etc. In short, all the films Illumination Entertainment created at its Paris studio MacGuff.

But beyond the Hollywood movies, France has produced plenty of home-grown animated features that have gone into the black. They might not make a billion dollars like their California cousins, but with smaller budgets, it only takes a worldwide gross of $70 or a $100 million to turn a profit.

Not every movie needs to be Toy Story or Zootopia. And French animated features don't want to be imitation Disney.

Click here to read entire post

Thursday, December 01, 2016

DreamWorks Layoffs

DWA news from the San Fernando Valley Business Journal:

DreamWorks Animation will lay off 170 employees at its Glendale campus in January as the studio continues to be integrated into NBCUniversal following its acquisition early this year by Comcast Corp.

The staffing cuts come two months after DreamWorks eliminated 200 positions in the corporate office and in its distribution and consumer products operations.

The Glendale film and television studio in August closed on its $3.8 billion sale to Comcast and is now part of NBCUniversal’s Universal Filmed Entertainment Group.

The latest round of layoffs includes positions in the DreamWorks film animation group, according to a source familiar with the situation. Universal Filmed Entertainment is in the process of film slate planning and some staff cuts were due to cancellation of the animated film “The Croods 2,” the source said.

“This is separate from the positions eliminated earlier in the year in corporate functional areas,” the source added. ...

What's happening here is ...

Croods 2 has fallen off the DWA production schedule. So staff positions for the show have been eliminated.

Two features still on the production schedule have had their release timetables revamped. They now have no hard and fast release dates.

Because of all this, various production departments at DreamWorks' Glendale campus have been informed that some positions will be eliminated.

Some artists and tech directors have been given end dates (some of which occur tomorrow), but most everyone will be paid through January 20th.

Note: Newsmax Finance, where all discerning connoissieurs go for business news, picked up the story from the Journal and called the layoffs "firings". No, they're not firings. These are layoffs. But we get how the f-word sounds more dramatic.

Click here to read entire post

Free Money in Different Corners of the Globe

This Free Money thing is really catching on.

The Animation Council of the Philippines, Inc. (ACPI) seeks to boost the growth of the Philippine animation industry through bilateral agreements with countries that produce animated films.

The group hopes to enter into bilateral agreements with the governments of France, Canada and Spain by 2017.

Under these deals, ACPI plans to entice large foreign production houses to produce animated films in the country beginning 2017. ...

ACPI is also in talks with the Board of Investments (BOI) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on the possibility of granting fiscal incentives to production houses from these three countries that will produce their films in the Philippines.

“If we will have the same [tax incentive policy as that of Malaysia and Singapore], the Philippine animation industry will really be thriving,” Del Rosario said. ...

"Granting fiscal incentives". Now there's a surprise.


The free money give-away continues all over the world. Canada hands out cash, as does Britain, Georgia (U.S.A.), and various other countries.

Large corporations expect it. Large corporations demand it. Otherwise they pick up their productions and drag them off to a geographic location that will put them on the dole.

Isn't our robust, free enterprise system a sight to behold?

Click here to read entire post

Down Argentine Way

It's worth remembering that American animation isn't the whole deal. That projects are bubbling up in different corners of the globe. Take, for one example, Argentina, down at the south end of the hemisphere.

Historias Cinematograficas, the family production house boasting the talents of Academy Award winning Luis Puenzo (“The Official Story,” “Old Gringo”) and Lucia Puenzo (“XXY,” “The German Doctor), plus Nicolas and Esteban Puenzo, has set a 2016-17 production-development slate which must rank as one of the largest of any independent family business in Latin America.

... The line-up is bulking, heterogenous, and ambitious. It also represents the latest projects from one of the few companies in Argentina capable of making films which gross seven-figure box office outside Argentina. ...

*Written and to be directed by Luis Puenzo, animated feature “The Last Wish” adapts the New York-set comic published over 1982-91 from Argentina’s Carlos Trillo and Horacio Altuna about a world where a mass-sterilisation bomb has wiped out the whole adult population and children die at puberty, terrified of love and lust. “The Last Wish” is designed as an international co-production. “I’ve filmed most everything I wanted to, but haven’t done animation and this is an incredible story,” said Puenzo about a movie which looks set to be a live action-animation hybrid. ...

This picture sounds a wee bit different than your usual Yogi Bear of Alvin and the Chipmunks hybrid.

And it probably won't be a laugh riot. But maybe an interesting subject for a provocative film.

Click here to read entire post
Site Meter