Sunday, January 26, 2020

Last Weekend Of January Grosses

Sadly, the two animated features now in general release have fallen out of the Top Ten ... but not far out of the Top Ten. The strongest new release is low-budget thriller The Gentlemen, which managed a fourth place finish.

Three Days of Grosses

1) Bad Boys For Life -- 3,775 theaters -- $34M (-46%) -- $120.6M

2) 1917 -- 3,937 (+325) -- $15.8M (-28%) -- $103.9M

3) Dolittle -- 4,155 -- $12.5M (-43%) -- $44.6M

4) The Gentlemen -- 2,165 -- $11M -- $11M (1st weekend)

5) Jumanji: Next Level -- 3,121 (-202) -- $7.9M (-19%) -- $283.4M

6) The Turning -- 2,571 -- $7.3M -- $7.3M (1st weekend)

7) Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker -- 2,800 (-258) -- $5.1M (-38%) -- $501.5M

8) Little Women -- 2,528 (+25) -- $4.7M (-26%) -- $93.7M

9) Just Mercy -- 2,408 (-49) -- $4.1M (-30%) -- $27M

10) Knives Out -- 1,667 -- $3.65M (-15%) -- $151.9M

11) Frozen II -- 1,750 (-330) -- $2.55M (-33.1%) -- $470M ...

13) Spies in Disguise -- 1,323 (-438) --$1,790,000 (-33%) -- $62,049,741

Meantime, there is the rest of the world in play. Some worldwide totals for selected animated (and half-animated) flicks:

Global Box Office

Frozen II -- $1,419.3M

Spies In Disguise -- $147.8M

The Addams Family -- $200.2M

Jumanji: Next Level -- $738M

Dolittle -- $91.1M

Spies In Disguise and The Addams Family have (obviously?) not been record setters. Spies, with a budget of $100 million, may or may not end up in the black. The Addams Family, however, is already well into profits. Subsidized by Free Money in Canada, its reported cost is $24 million.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Animation Director To Live-Action Director

Talented people remain talented, even when their careers hit road bumps:

... Seven years after Brave won the Academy Award for animated feature and grossed $539 million at the worldwide box office, Chapman, 57, is set to unveil her follow-up at Sundance, a family fantasy called Come Away, which marks the filmmaker's live-action debut. Chapman's career turn comes as some of the same gender bias issues that cropped up at Pixar are resurfacing in an Oscar race devoid of female directors, and as Lasseter, who left Disney and Pixar in 2017 after admitting that he had committed unspecified behavioral "missteps," is ensconced in a new role at Skydance Animation. ...

Brenda Chapman has been a force in theatrical animation for decades. She broke into the business on the television side in the middle 1980s, when there were few women in the business. She moved to Disney Features soon thereafter, animating and assisting on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, then moving to the Mouse's story department where she contributed to The Little Mermaid, Rescuers Down Under, Fantasia 2000. On the blockbuster hit The Lion King, Ms. Chapman served as story supervisor.

Disney exec Jeffrey Katzenberg departed the House of Mouse in 1994 and soon co-founded DreamWorks, SKG, where he led the animation division. Brenda finished up her contract with Disney and moved to DreamWorks where she became one of the lead artists at the new animation division. She co-directed DWA's first animated feature The Prince of Egypt

In the early oughts, Ms. Chapman was invited by Joe Ranft to come to Pixar, where she worked on Cars and developed the feature Brave. She was named director of the project, but after Ranft's premature death in a car accident, there were differences with creative top-kick John Lasseter and she finally stepped down as Brave's director. Story personnel reported the picture did not change in substantial ways after she exited, and Brenda was on stage as co-recipient of the 2013 Oscar for "Best Animated Feature".

(Mr. Lasseter, of course, was riding a wave of success at the time, being the creative chief at both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Half a decade later, however, he left the Disney Company under a cloud and currently leads the animation division at Skydance Animation.)

Brenda Chapman, says she won't be returning to Pixar ... even absent Mr. Lasseter ... and now has a live-action motion picture on her resume. How well this initial effort performs in the marketplace remains to be seen, but the force of Ms. Chapman's talents have propelled her a long way over the past thirty-five years, and she has a considerable distance yet to go.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Terry Jones, RIP

Terry Jones, co-creator of the comedy troupe that operated under the name Monty Python's Flying Circus, died on January 22, 2020 of primary progressive aphasia, a form of dementia that makes it difficult and finally impossible to communicate. He had been in decline for several years.

Before illness and mortality dragged him down, Mr. Jones had been an Oxford graduate, a scholar of Chaucer, a writer of books, poetry, newspaper columns and (most importantly?), a performer and director of some of the more sublime comedy of the late twentieth century.

There were three Python features and 45 episodes of the Monty Python television series; Mr. Jones participated in all of them, and also co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail, then directed solo Monty Python and the Life of Brian and Monty Python and the Meaning of Life. His final directorial effort was Absolutely Anything, featuring Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale and all surviving members of the Python troop.

And it would be negligent not to mention that Terry Jones created with novelist Gavin Scott the Canadian animated series Blazing Dragons (seen below); Dragons ran on Toon Disney for two seasons in the mid 90s. (The Mouse cut some of the cartoon's edgier material, but what you gonna do?)

Mr. Jones leaves a wife and three children.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Animated Satire

Various streamers continue to order animated series due to the high cost-benefit ratios ...

... HBO Max has greenlighted The Prince, a satirical animated comedy series from Family Guy producer Gary Janetti, who also voices the title character, and 20th Century Fox TV. ...

Written and executive produced by Janetti, the series will follow a cartooned 6-year-old Prince George, voiced by Janetti, spilling the royal “tea” on his family, followers and the British Monarchy. ...

Animated series of all types, adult satires, kids' adventure shows, straight-ahead comedies, are being produced in abundance and jobs for artists continue to multiply because these shows collect lots of eyeballs that boost streaming companies' bottom lines. Netflix discovered this truth when it partnered with DreamWorks Animation TV. It also found out that young viewers who watch cartoons on its platform stick around to become older viewers who watch Netflix live action.

In this competitive era of Disney-Plus vs. HBO Max vs. Netflix, any edge streaming companies can gain against one another counts for a lot. And streaming companies know that animation is a way to get an advantage. One Rick and Morty or Family Guy counts for a lot. And this is why streaming companies continue to underwrite the production of new animated half-hours.

"Dolittle" Does Little Box Office

So with a long holiday weekend and Oscar nominations to power some of the movies on the Big List (and in WIll Smith's case, a sequel that works) business is perky. But not, sadly, Robert Downey's live-action humans/animated animals entrant ...

MLK Weekend Grosses

1 Bad Boys For Life -- 3,775 theaters -- $73.4M -- $73.4M (1st weekend)

2) Dolittle -- 4,155 -- $29.5M -- $29.5M (1st weekend)

3) 1917 -- 3,612 (+178) -- $26.8M -- $81.4M

4) Jumanji: Next Level -- 3,323 (-581) -- $12.8M -- $273.7M

5) Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker -- 3,058 (-1,221) -- $10.5M -- $494.1M

6) Little Women -- 2,503 (-713) -- $8.2M -- $86.7M

7) Just Mercy -- 2,457 (+82) -- $7.5M -- $21.1M

8) Knives Out -- 1,667 (-393) -- $5.3M -- $147M

9) Frozen 2 -- 2,080 (-575) -- $5.3M -- $466.5M

10) Like A Boss -- 3,081 (+3) -- $4.8M -- $17.9M

Although there is only one full-on animated feature in the domestic Top Ten, Dolittle, Jumanji and Star Wars have lots of animated effects (much of it in the form of big animals). Jumanji and Star Wars are doing well around the globe, but newcomer Dolittle is, apparently, struggling:

WorldWide Box Office

Dolittle -- $56.8M

Frozen 2 -- $1.4B

Jumanji -- $709M

Star Wars -- $1.027B

Spies in Disguise -- $132.6M

Abominable -- $176.9m

For those keep track at home, Will Smith's animated feature Spies in Disguise now resides at #12 on the domestic box office list. (This is a Blue Sky/Disney project.) Meantime, Bad Boys For Life, Will's live-action outing (via Sony) sits at #1.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Apu? Or Not Apu ...

Racial stereotypes come ... racial stereotypes go.

... Hank Azaria said he will no longer provide the voice on “The Simpsons” for the convenience-store owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, whose thick accent and penny-squeezing ways have led to criticism that the character was a racist stereotype.

It was not clear what Mr. Azaria’s decision, first reported on Friday by the website Slashfilm, meant for Apu, which Mr. Azaria had voiced since the character was created in 1990. The producers of “The Simpsons” and Fox, its network, would not comment on whether Apu would get a new voice or perhaps be retired from the show. ...

The way these things generally unfold is, an amusing character is created back in the writers' room; the amusing character gets used in an ongoing series. Over time the character gains acceptance in the culture or parts thereof and becomes part of the fabric of a television show.

So it was with Amos & Andy and various black characters on theater and television screens. So it was with native Americans, Chinese Americans, and the depiction of gay men in various motion pictures in the 1930s and 1940s. All those representations of different races and character types, which seemed so knee-slappingly funny in 1938, are discomforting to watch now. Cultures and the acceptable boundaries inside them change over time, and so Apu Nahasapeemapetilon finds himself outside the chalk lines, at least so far as Hank Azaria is concerned.

The lesson to be learned here? Nothing is immutable. Asians wearing thick round eye glasses and buck teeth become cringe-inducing. Women on interstellar craft in the Star Trek universe no longer wear miniskirts as they did in James T. Kirk's time. Just seems wrong. Because, like it or not, acceptable norms change. It's the way of the world.

Monday, January 13, 2020

World War I Box Office

The "single-take" wonder that is 1917 rides at the top of the box office. Two animated features occupy the lower tiers of the list.

Three Days of Grosses

1) 1917 -- 3,434 theaters -- $36.5M (+5809%) -- $39.2M

2) Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker -- 4,279 (-127) -- $15.05M (-56%) $478.1M 4

3) Jumanji: Next Level -- 3,904 (-230) -- $14M (-47%) -- $257.1M

4) Like A Boss -- 3,078 -- $10M -- $10M (1st weekend)

5) Just Mercy -- 2,375 (+2,371) -- $10M (+12952%) -- $10.4M

6) Little Women -- 3,216 (-92) -- $7.65M (-44%) -- $74M

7) Underwater -- 2,791 -- $7M -- $7M (1st weekend)

8) Frozen 2 -- 2,655 (-520) -- $5.76M (-51%) -- $459.3M

9) Knives Out -- 2,060 (-82) -- $5.73M (-36%) -- $139.6M

10) Spies In Disguise -- 2,671 (-831) -- $5.1M (-51%) -- $54.6M

Jumanji: Next Level is another Dwayne Johnson hit, but the sequel hasn't (yet) reached the level of the original release from two years ago. Jumanji #1 finished its global run at $962,077,546. To date, the second installment has made $671,130,112. (It still has a ways to run.)

Frozen I grossed $1,280,802,282 worldwide during its 2013 run. The sequel, now in release, has so far made $1,372,782,031 around the globe.

Disney/Fox's Spies in Disguise, now at the bottom of the domestic box office list, has a world gross of $115,809,021. The pic comes out of Blue Sky Animation on the east coast.