Sunday, November 17, 2019

Nick Nick

The long-running hit "Adventure Time". Developed by Nickelodeon, but this IP was allowed to slip away to rival Cartoon Network. So are we surprised Nick's reach and standing have ... uh ... slipped?

The Los Angeles Times asks the question: "Can Nickelodeon [Viacom's Kid Cable Network] make a comeback?"

... Back in the 1990s, Nickelodeon’s competition was Cartoon Network, PBS and Disney Channel. Now, the network is struggling to fend off incursions from Netflix,, Hulu and Disney+, the just-launched streaming service that secured 10 million customers in its first day. ...

It's really easy to answer the Times' query: "No." And the reason the answer is effortless? Count the ways ...

1) Viacom has become a weak sister among entertainment conglomerates called the Walt Disney Company, Universal-NBC-Comcast, and Warner-A.T. & T.

2) The company sat on its corporate hands while Disney gobbled up IP makers Pixar, Marvel, and Lucas Film.

3) Bad decisions inside the division At one point Nick was eating Disney's lunch on the home cartoon front, prevailing in the contest to attract kids' eyeballs. But then Nick made a series of dubious choices, everything from letting Adventure Time slip away to Cartoon Network [see above], to deciding that CG cartoons were the future of TV animation (they weren't), to leasing its IP to Netflix (a mistake that helped drive its ratingsz down).

So now Nick struggles against Disney and Cartoon Network on the shrinking platforms known as cable networks, and has no presence at all in the streaming department. So will Nick do some kind of miracle rebound?

Don't think so.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Weekend Ford

A car race movie starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon sits atop the box office, with the big war movie Midway (studded with visual effects) slides to #2. The latest iteration of Charlie's Angels land with a sickening thud and is D.O.A. ...

Three Days of Grosses

1) Ford V Ferrari -- 3,528 -- $30M -- $30M (1st weekend)

2) Midway -- 3,242 -- $8.8M (-51%) -- $35.1M

3) Charlie’s Angels -- 3,452 -- $8.2M -- $8.2M (1st weekend)

4) Playing With Fire -- 3,185 (+60) -- $7.5M (-41%) -- $24.4M

5) Last Christmas -- 3,454 (+6) -- $6.6M (-42%) -- $22.4M

6) Doctor Sleep -- 3,855 -- $5.7M (-59%) -- $24.6M

7) Joker -- 2,337 (-469) -- $1.475M (-42%) -- $5.2M (-44%) -- $322.1M

8) The Good Liar -- 2,439 -- $5M --$5M (1st weekend)

9) Maleficent 2 -- 2,549 (-652) -- $4.8M (-42%) -- $105.6M

10) Harriet -- 2,011 (-175) -- $4.5M (-38%) -- $31.7M

There are no animated features embedded in the Box Office Top Ten, but that should change next week when Frozen II materializes on a gazillion multiplex screens. As for other long-form cartoons now in the marketplace?

The Addams Family has now collected $93 million domestically and $157,050,241 worldwide.

Abominable has earned $59,477,090 in the U.S. and Canada and now stands at $167,577,090 on a global basis.

And Arctic Dogs has collected $5,520,628 from around the globe, 97% of that $5 million coming from the United States.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Gravitational Pull

Netflix and Nick forge a new partnership...

... Nickelodeon and Netflix have entered a multiple-year output deal that will see the Viacom-owned cable network create and produce original animated feature films and TV series based on both new and existing IP.

The deal announced Wednesday expands Nickelodeon's relationship with Netflix, which was revived a few years ago with deals for a live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series and deals for Rocko's Modern Life, Invader Zim, The Loud House and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, among others. ...

There's a theme here: Netflix is losing many of its old animation providers and building its own cartoon studio turns out not to be enough. Nickelodeon doesn't have its own streaming service, and the power and reach of cable networks ... where it once dominated ... has declined. So supplying product to a distributor who needs it? And will pay well for it? That's a match made in corporate heaven.

This deal will no doubt increase L.A.-based animation production, which has been on a roll for years now. Why is Los Angeles getting so much of the work? The answer is straight-forward. As large universities act as magnets for brain-based industries like medical research and high tech (think Boston and its many colleges; the bay area with Stanford and Berkeley), so do large pools of animation talent attract companies setting up cartoon studios.

It's not for nothing that the east San Fernando Valley ... home of Disney, DreamWorks, and Universal Cartoon Studios ... and the beach towns of Culver City and Santa Monica ... where visual effects shops, video game studios, and cartoon houses are headquartered ... continue to attract new animation facilities. These are the areas where pencil-and-paper animation took root eighty and ninety years ago, where artist employees started families and raised kids. Today, generations of talent live and work in Southern California, making it a desirable place for newer cartoon studios (Netflix Animation and the like) to set up shop.

Stanford and Berkeley (and Hewlett-Packard?) helped incubate the Apples and Googles in Silicon Valley a half-century ago. The same kind of process has taken place in Los Angeles since the early days of talking pictures.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Explaining the Obvious

The Hollywood Reporter tells us:

Why the Animation [Oscar] Race Is the Most Competitive in Years ....

Why? Because a lot of product gets made. There were a record 32 submissions for the category, which the Reporter notes doesn't include the high-grossing animated feature The Lion King (2019), since the Walt Disney Company clings to the deranged fantasy that the picture isn't really animated but ... ah ... somehow a live-action vehicle, even though there's not a live-action character in it.

The reason there's thirty-two candidates for Best Animated Feature should be clear from the numbers: the commercial trajectory of theatrical, long-form animation these past few decades has been steadily up, so more and more cartoons get made. With the exception of super hero movies, theatrical animation performs better than any other kind of film shown in big-screen multiplexes. Sony makes them, Warner Bros. makes them, Universal anf Disney and Paramount mke them. And these movies are profitable at any number of budgetary tiers. The high priced product, entertainment such as "How To Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 4, Frozen 2 and budgeted at $120-$200 million, makes buckets of money because the grosses are in the billions of dollars.

And movies like The Addams Family and Sausage Party, produced on the other end of the scale for $20 to $40 million (when Canadian subsidies are factored in), earn nice cash due to worldwide grosses of $150 million or $250 million dollars. Clearly not Toy Story 4 territory, but with smaller budgets*, profit margins are still comfortable.

Both lower and higher budget* animated features designed for the U.S. and Canadian release have a shot at the "Best Animated Feature" Oscar. Technically, they also are eligible for the "Best Picture" trophy, classical cynics know that's as likely to happen as snow drifts in Palm Springs. Actors, who comprise the largest branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will never vote for a movie that features their voices but not their bodies.

So. It's good that there are 32 submissions in the long cartoon category, but there's no mystery to it. A lot of long-form cartoons get made because they earn their creators big dollars.

* Let's add one more wrinkle to the budget levels of animated features: besides those movies designed for the American market, there are really small budget productions coming out of Spain, South America and a few other geographical locations that cost a tiny fraction of the features released stateside. They play in markets like Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, and Thailand. Many of these productions also make money, due to their micro budgets.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Animation Guild Elections

There has been lots of labor activity in the past year - the U.A.W. struck General Motors in a lengthy strike, teachers in various states went on job actions in quest of higher wages, among others. But there has also been lots of internal changes inside the House of Labor. Entertainment unions have seen some hard-fought elections, and there has been dissent among the rank-and-file.

The Animation Guild, a sizable guild that's part of the I.A.T.S.E., has seen lots of changes in its officer ranks. In the span of thirty-six months, it has had three business representatives, and three presidents. This past weekend, the Guild completed elections that saw a large number of new officers elected to its board:


President - Jeanette Moreno King

Vice-President - Jack Thomas

Recording Secretary - Paula Spence

Animation Guild Executive Board

Karen Carnegie "KC" Johnson

Carrie Liao

Stephen Silver

Emily Walus

Jack Cusamano

Elisa Phillips

Brandon Jarrat

Laura Hohman

Danny Ducker

Crystal Kan

Mike Milo

Past Guild Presidents Karen Carnegie Johnson and Laura Hohman have won places on the new board, while several incumbents have departed.

President-elect King served as Vice-President during the 2016-2019 term; incoming Vice-President Thomas previously held the offices of executive board member, Vice-President and President. (Ms. King works as a board artist and director, while Mr. Thomas is a writer, show-runner, and executive producer.)

World War II/ Veterans Day Box Office

Midway gets re-booted for the second time and tops this week's box office list. (There was, of course, the 1976 version with Charlton Heston ... and the original in 1942, which most people think is superior because it had real effects, plus John Ford as director and cameraman.) One animated feature clings to the bottom rung of the Top Ten, slowly edging closer to $100 million in domestic grosses.

Three Days of Grosses

1) Midway -- 3,242 -- $17.5M -- $17.5M (1st weekend)

2) Doctor Sleep -- 3,855 -- $14.1M -- $14.1M (1st weekend

3) Playing With Fire -- 3,125 -- $12.8M -- $12.8M (1st weekend)

4) Last Christmas -- 3,448 -- $11.6M -- $11.6M (1st weekend)

5) Terminator: Dark Fate -- 4,086 -- $10.8M (-63%) -- $48.4M

6) Joker -- 2,806 (-713) -- $9.2M (-32%) -- $313.4M

7) Maleficent 2 -- 3,201 (-619 -- $8M (-38%) -- $97.3M

8) Harriet -- 2,186 (+127) -- $7.2M (-38%) -- $23.4M

9) Zombieland 2 -- 2,427 (-910) -- $4.3M (-42%) -- $66.6M

10) Addams Family -- 2,674 (-933) -- $4.18M (-50%) -- $91.4M

Arctic Dogs sits at #16 with a $4,837,728 domestic gross. Globally, The Addams Family has now grossed $155,527,967. On other animated fronts, The Lion King 2019 (second animated version masquerading as a "live action" feature) has grossed $1,655,125,301 worldwide. It now makes its money in other distribution channels.

* Multi-Academy Award winner J. Ford did, in fact, film the actual battle of Midway, and got wounded for his efforts. He later won an Academy Award for the resulting documentary made from his footage.

Monday, November 4, 2019

"Rocketeer" Re-Imagined

The Rocketeer launches in a new incarnation in a few days, this time in animated form. The person overseeing the production from start to finish is the multi-talented Nicole Dubuc, who on top of running one of the Mouse's newer shows, climbs mountains, horseback rides, teams up with her dog Crosby in various canine competitions, and (also, too) throws terrific parties.

And ... as far as I can tell ... she sleeps but little.

Ms. Dubuc offers this about the new show:

Disney ... approached me to develop the property and they kinda had an idea of what they wanted being in the Junior space and giving a new generation a chance to meet these characters in an entry-point level. And since I was a huge fan of The Rocketeer movie when it came out and [had] gone to discover the comic books as well, Disney thought I might be a good fit for that property. When they asked, I couldn't say no. ...

We have a lot of recurring antagonists, we've actually gone along the lines of the 60s Batman villains so they're very comical and they have over-the-top pieces they're trying to pull off. We've developed our own rogues' gallery for the show so that's been a lot of fun! ...

Nicole has worked in the entertainment industry for a long time, starting as a child actor, then (after college), moving into writing for both animation and live-action.

Oh, and one last thing. In addition to the pursuits listed above, she's found the time to climb mountains such as Whitney, Everest and other tall piles of rocks. (Her schedule exhausts me just thinking about it.)