Saturday, December 30, 2017

New Year's Box Office

Sequels remain at the top of the pack while the animated features continue to lope along in the middle of the Big Ten:


1) Star Wars: The Last Jedi(DIS), 4,232 theaters (0)/ $19.1M (-23%) Fri/ 3-day: $55M (-23%)/4-day: $72.3M Total:$537M/ Wk 3

2) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (SONY), 3,765 theaters (0) / $17.8M Fri (+42%)/3-day: $51.4M (+41%)/4-day: $66.1M/Total:$185.4M/ Wk 2

3) Pitch Perfect 3 (UNI), 3,468 theaters (+21)/ $6.6M (-38%) Fri/3-day: $18.2M (-9%)/4-day: $23.4M/Total: $69.9M/ Wk 2

4) The Greatest Showman (FOX), 3,316 theaters (+310) / $5.3M (+71%) Fri /3-day: $15.4M (+75%)/4-day $20.4M/Total: $54M/Wk 2

5) Ferdinand (FOX), 3,337 theaters (-293) / $4.5M (+63%)Fri /3-day: $12.1M (+66%)/4-day: $15.9M/Total: $58M/ Wk 3

6) Coco(DIS), 2,104 theaters (-7) / $2.8M (+53) Fri/3-day: $7.6M (+41%)/4-day: $9.9M/Total: $182.3M / Wk 6

7) Darkest Hour (FOC), 943 theaters (+137)/ $1.8M Fri (+29%)/3-day: $5.5M (+41%)/ 4-day: $7.3M/ Total: $19.9M/ Wk 6

8) All The Money in the World (Sony) 2,074 theaters (+6)/ $1.76M Fri/3-day: $5.1M/4-day: $6.8M/Total: $14M/Wk 1

9) Downsizing (PAR), 2,664 theaters (-4)/ $1.6M Fri (-20%) /3-day: $4.57M (-8%)/ 4-day: $6M/Total: $18.4M/ Wk 2

10) The Shape of Water (FSL), 756 theaters (+26) / $1.1m Fri (0%) /3-day: $3.6M (+18%)/4-day: $5M/Total: $17.1M/Wk 5

Top title Star Wars: The Last Jedi is running 34% behind The Force Awakens but 35% ahead of Rogue One as it blasts past the billion dollar mark. Coco has a global total of $507,900,459, with 66% of the money coming from overseas. Blue Sky's Ferdinand own a worldwide gross of $77,322,297, with 40% coming from overseas.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Unions, Guilds and Harrassment

Unions and Guilds (both above and below the line) have had to deal with the new realities regarding harassment in the workplace. No longer are the problems being swept under rugs. And each labor organization is dealing with it in their own way.

... Unions and guilds say they’ve taken concrete steps to finally address an epidemic that has been festering in Hollywood since the days of silent movies. ...

The AMPTP and IATSE established an online sexual harassment prevention training program as part of their 2015 collective bargaining agreement, and that program began rolling out in January. And in July, the delegates to IATSE’s quadrennial convention voted unanimously to approve a resolution to “condemn sexual or other physical abuse perpetrated in the workplace” and to “work together to inform members that such actions will not be tolerated and that anyone responsible for workplace abuse will be held accountable.” ...

The culture has changed radically since 2015. Prior to Harvey Weinstein, there was a reluctance by many employees in the entertainment industry to file complaints against predators because they feared it would negatively impact their careers. The landscape has changed:

... SAG-AFTRA was the first of the Hollywood unions to publicly condemn Weinstein – four days after the story went viral squared. While calling Weinstein’s conduct “abhorrent and unacceptable,” the guild said that it’s just the tip of the iceberg, and that such behavior “is more prevalent than our industry acknowledges.”

It followed up with a town hall meeting in Los Angeles, where SAG-AFTRA president Carteris observed that “This is not just a Hollywood situation – this is systemic throughout our culture. … And this is not just in our culture, it’s global.” She also suggested that the union and its high-profile members could play a major role in changing the culture of abuse. “By working together,” she said, “we can absolutely change our culture.” More than half of the 150 performers who attended the meeting raised their hands when attorney Gloria Allred asked if they’d been sexually harassed in the workplace.

Entertainment unions have been in similar territory before. In the '40s and '50s, guild and union members were harassed for being leftists or communists. The Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild, and Writers Guild of America did not acquit themselves particularly well in protecting membership then (and neither did the IATSE. Local 839, in fact, was conceived by Walt Disney and IATSE Representative Roy Brewer because of a mutual dislike for the left-wing Screen Cartoonists Guild ... which 839 displaced.)

Maybe this time around, things will be better.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


Sequels, which occupy the top three slots of the box office list, continue to get made in droves. "Pitch Perfect 3" has received tepid reviews, but is STILL off to a relatively strong start.

No doubt holiday box office will be slowed down by Christmas Eve happening on Sunday, but Star Wars remains #1, while the two animated titles hang onto slots #5 and #6.


1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (DIS), 4,232 theaters / $24.7M Fri /$29.1M Sat/ $17.9M Sun/$31.4M Mon/3-day cume: $71.7M (-69%)/4-day: $103.1M/Total:$399.7M/ Wk 2

2. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (SONY), 3,765 theaters / $12.46M Fri / $14.8M Sat/ $9.2M Sun/$17.3M Mon/3-day cume: $36.5M/4-day: $53.8M/Total: $70.4M/ Wk 1

3. Pitch Perfect 3 (UNI), 3,447 theaters / $10.6M Fri (includes $2.1M previews)/$6.7M Sat/ $2.6M Sun/ $6.1M Mon/3-day cume: $19.9M/4-day: $26M/ Wk 1

4. The Greatest Showman (FOX), 3,006 theaters / $3.1M Fri /$3.5M Sat/$2.1M Sun/$5.2M Mon/ 3-day cume: $8.8M/4-day: $14M/Total: $18.9M/Wk 1

5. Ferdinand (FOX), 3,630 theaters (+9) / $2.7M Fri /$3M Sat/$1.56M Sun/$2.37M Mon/3-day cume: $7.3M (-46%)/4-day: $9.67M/Total: $29.1M/ Wk 2

6. Coco(DIS), 2,111 theaters (-1,044) / Fri: $1.85M /$2.2M Sat/$1.3M Sun/$2.2M Mon/ 3-day cume: $5.36M (-46%)/4-day: $7.6M/Total: $163.7M / Wk 5

7.Downsizing (PAR), 2,668 theaters / $2M Fri /$1.7M Sat/ $1.1M Sun/$2.3M Mon/3-day cume: $4.96M/4-day: $7.2M/ Wk 1

8. Darkest Hour (FOC), 806 theaters (+722)/ $1.4M Fri /$1.5M Sat/ $942K Sun/$1.7M Mon/3-day cume: $4M (+360%) /4-day: $5.7M/Total: $8.5M/ Wk 5

9. Father Figures (ALC/WB), 2,902 theaters / $1.3M Fri /$1.1M Sat/ $730K Sun/$1.6M Mon/3-day cume: $3.28M/4-day: $4.9M/ Wk 1

10. The Shape of Water (FSL), 726 theaters (+568) / $1.1m Fri /$1.1M Sat/$735k Sun/ 3-day cume: $3M (+78%) /4-day: $4.3M /Total: $8.9M/Wk 4

Ferdinand has collected $34,159,266 worldwide, of which 78% is from the United States and Canada. Coco now has a global accumulation of $486,327,128, with 33.2% of that amount coming from domestic sources.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Brief History of the Animation Guild's 401(k) Plan

The above is somewhat out-of-date. Check with the Guild and/or the Plan administrator for full details

I get a diminishing number of asks about the Guild's 401(k) plan (which happens when you are out of the loop), but here is a thumbnail of how the 401(k) Plan started and how it arrived at Vanguard Financial Group:

1995 -- The Guild (then the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists Union) proposes establishing a 401(k) Plan to supplement the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan. (The union can set up its own 401k because it's not part of the IATSE bargaining unit under the industry-wide Basic Agreement.)

Producer bargaining representatives say "No!"

After negotiations, union president Tom Sito circulates a petition asking for a 401(k) Plan. It's submitted the CEO Michael Eisner, who says, "Good idea, we'll do it." Disney reverses it's earlier "No" response and agrees to participate in a union 401(k) plan.

Other studios, seeing that the Big Mouse is doing a 401(k) with the union, scramble aboard the bandwagon and say "Yes" as well.

The union approaches multiple third-party administrators. The Principal Financial Group is one of the few companies who will set up a Plan with minimal outlays by the union. The Plan launches in the summer of 1995. There are big initial signups by members. Board of Trustees for the Plan comes into existence -- three Trustees on the employers' side, three trustees on the union side. (Union trustees are the business representative, the union president, and a union board member or member at large who volunteers to become a trustee.

2008 -- There are administrative problems with Principal Financial Group. The board of trustees, with aid of an outside plan advisor, reviews other administrators. Mass Mutual Insurance becomes the new plan administrator. (The Vanguard Group is approached, but declines to become a plan administrator, saying at the time they only do corporate plans.)

2014 -- Plan trustees become dissatisfied with Mass Mutual's service, transparency and costs, and begin search for a new plan advisor and administrator. In August, Vanguard (finally!) comes aboard as the new Plan administrator; at the same time, a new financial advisor joins the Plan. Overall costs of administration for the Plan declines, and Target Date funds become the main vehicle for most participants (over 90%).

2015-2016 -- Roth 401(k) option rolled out across participating studios. Participation in the TAG 401(k) Plan climbs as plan assets pass $250 million.

ADD ON: And the current stats for the Plan?

Total active participants -- 2763.

Total Plan assets -- $304 million.

Average participant assets -- $104,573.

Percentage total of participants in Target Date Funds -- 83.3%.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Congrats to Ron & John

Two deserving Disney veterans receive the Menzies Award.

The Art Directors Guild said today that Oscar-nominated writer-directors Ron Clements and John Musker will receive its 2018 William Cameron Menzies Award.

The award recognizes the filmmaking partners’ innovative artistic work on numerous Disney animated movies of the past 30 years including Moana, The Princess and the Frog, Treasure Island, Hercules, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and The Great Mouse Detective. They will accept their hardware January 27 during the 22nd annual ADG Excellence in Production Design Awards at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood. ...

Mr. Clements and Mr. Musker started their careers at what was Walt Disney Productions in the 1970s. They've directed seven animated features together, including The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, and Moana. Almost all of their Disney features have been money makers.

John Musker is an alumnus of Cal Arts; Ron Clements started his animation career at Hanna-Barbera. Both hail from America's heartland.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Force Obliterates (The Competition)

Now with Add On.

The latest Star Wars episode appears to have a bit of traction:


1.) Star Wars: The Last Jedi (DIS), 4,232 theaters / $104M-$105M Fri (includes $45M previews)/3-day cume: $216-220M/Wk 1

2.) Ferdinand (FOX), 3,621 theaters / $3.6M Fri (includes $350k previews)/3-day cume: $12.3M/Wk 1

3.) Coco(DIS), 3,155 theaters (-593) / Fri: $2.23M / 3-day cume: $9.2M(-50%)/Total: $150M / Wk 4

4.) Wonder (Lionsgate), 3,047 theaters (-472) /$1.48M Fri /3-day cume: $5M (-40%)/ Total: $108.8M/Wk 5

5.) Justice League (WB), 2,702 theaters (-806)/$1M Fri / 3-day cume: $3.9M (-60%)/Total: $219.2M/ Wk 5

6) Daddy’s Home 2 (PAR), 2,493 theaters (-770) /$911K Fri / 3-day cume: $3.3M (-44%)/ Total: $96.1M/Wk 6

7). Thor: Ragnarok (DIS), 1,895 theaters (-1,152) / $769K Fri/ 3-day cume: $2.82M (-55%) / Total cume: $306.1M / Wk 7

8.) The Disaster Artist (A24), 1,010 theaters (+170) / $749K Fri/3-day cume: $2.43M (-62%)/Total: $12.7M/Wk 3

9) Murder on the Orient Express (FOX), 1,923 theaters (-1,116)/ $669K Fri / 3-day cume: $2.29M (-56%)/Total: $97.1M/ Wk 6

10). Lady Bird (A24), 947 theaters (-610) /$548K Fri /3-day cume: $1.9M (-44%)/ Total cume: $25.8M / Wk 7

If you're keeping score (and why would you not?), a live-action movie with tons of animated VFX is #1, animated features sit at #2 and #3. Then you have a pair of super hero movies, also with lots of animated visual effects, occupying spots #5 an #7.

The latest Disney/Lucasfilm space opera sucking up most of the oxygen isn't too surprising. The latest SW scored high with audiences ... and I knew something was up when I traipsed past the AMC 16 in downtown Burbank at 7:30 this morning and there were double lines stretched back to San Fernando Road, one labeled "Disney 2D" and one labeled "Disney 3D" (both for Star Wars).

There's a whole of of animating going on, any way you slice it. And as an industry site notes:

... Star Wars: The Last Jedi, looking to become only the fourth domestic release to ever open over $200 million. ...

Fox, which now is part of Disney, was looking to counter-program the space epic with a cartoon about a flower-loving bull, but its first weekend won't be strong. Maybe it could push nort of $70 million at the domestic box office, but it would have to do a multiple higher than five and that's a tall order. (But who knows? Ferdinand's CinemaScore was "A", so maybe it'll have some legs. (The movie earned a 74% "Fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes.)

Add On: The trades report that Disney-Fox corralled a huge part of the weekend box office:

... Currently, total domestic ticket sales look to gross $280M this weekend per ComScore, and Disney and Fox films combined are generating 90% of that total ... or $252.1M.

Not shabby, here in our ever more corporate Corporatist State.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

"It'll All Be Good"

The Mouse has now (pending guvmint approval) swallowed 21st Century Fox and Rupert Murdoch family is now Disney's second largest shareholder. And reality collides with happy talk!

... The division of assets is posing two big questions for rank-and-file employees: how many of those in the units purchased by Disney will be laid off as part of the “at least $2 billion of cost savings” the mouse house boasted about today ...

Short-term, there will be no effect on employment, and New Fox will even need more bodies, the executives reportedly stressed, but, if the Disney-Fox transaction goes through, there will be overlaps and layoffs there, they admitted. ...

They admitted to downsizing. So give them that.

You strip away the flapdoodle, and what happen is: Rupert's surviving "New Fox" (profitable Fox News, the struggling newspapers, a couple dozen old-fashioned teevee stations, and the sports cable networks) will need some limited new staffing until Rupe figures out how to cut things closer to the bone, and ...

The Walt Disney Company will do the Comcast thing, figuring out how to eliminate duplicate staffing, deciding (for example) if Blue Sky Studios in Connecticut will continue. ("Guys? We need this facility on the east coast? What with three other feature studios on the west coast?"

As we know, big corporate mergers always work out well for everybody, particularly employees caught in the middle of the latest Owners' Enrichment Project.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

New DWA TV Product

Per one of our fine movie-town websites, DreamWorks Animation TV has orders from Netflix for a raft of new product, which should keep pre-production board artists occupied for awhile. And the newbies are...

Trolls: The Beat Goes On!


The Boss Baby: Back in Business

Harvey Street Kids

The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants

3 Below (second series of "Tales of Arcadia" threesome).

It's a mix of old, new and TV versions of DreamWorks Animation animated features. In other words, a mix similar to earlier DWAtv-Netflix lineups. It's important to keep young eyes glued to the streaming video services, for young eyes become older eyes and watching habits become ingrained. (That's the plan, anyway.)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Three "Wins" In A Row

The Pixar holiday offering lands atop the Big List for the third consecutive weekend. The Star also hangs in, thus far grossing 24% of Coco's total.


1.) Coco(DIS), 3,748 theaters (-239) / Fri: $4.2M /$8.2M Sat/ $5.7M Sun/ 3-day cume: $18.3M (-33%)/Total: $135.5M / Wk 3

2.) Justice League (WB), 3,508 theaters (-312)/$2.5M Fri/$4.4M Sat/ $2.6M Sun/ 3-day cume: $9.6M (-42%)/Total: $212M/ Wk 4

3.) Wonder (Lionsgate), 3,519 theaters (+70) /$2.5M Fri/$3.5M Sat. / $2.3M Sun/ 3-day cume: $8.45M (-30%)/ /Total: $100.3M/Wk 4

4.) The Disaster Artist (A24), 840 theaters (+821) / $2.6M Fri /$2.1M Sat/$1.6M Sun/3-day cume: $6.4M (+397%)/PTA: $7,6k /Total: $8M/Wk 2

5). Thor: Ragnarok (DIS), 3,047 theaters (-101) / $1.68M Fri /$2.8M Sat/ $1.8M Sun/3-day cume: $6.3M (-36%) / Total cume: $301.1M / Wk 6

6) Daddy’s Home 2 (PAR), 3,263 theaters (-140) /$1.59M Fri / $2.7M Sat / $1.7M Sun/3-day cume: $6M (-20%)/ Total: $91.1M/Wk 5

7) Murder on the Orient Express (FOX), 3,089 theaters (-112)/ $1.5M Fri /$2.2M Sat/$1.4M Sun 3-day cume: $5.1M (-25%)/Total: $92.7M/ Wk 5

8.) The Star (SONY), 2,976 theaters (+154) /$800K Fri /$1.7M Sat/ $1.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $3.67M (-10%)/Total:$32.2M/Wk 4

9). Lady Bird (A24), 1,557 theaters (+363) /$1M Fri /$1.4M Sat/ $1.1M Sun/3-day cume: $3.54M (-17%)/ Total cume: $22.3M / Wk 6

10.) Just Getting Started (BG), 2,161 theaters / $1.1M Fri/$1.26M Sat/ $759K Sun/3-day cume: $3.1M/Wk 1

11) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO (FSL), 1,620 theaters (+190) / $835K Fri / $1.25M Sat/$775K Sun/3-day cume: $2.86M (-35%) /Total: $18.3M /Wk 5

Of course, the blockbuster wannabes arrive soon for the holiday movie feeding frenzy. Among millenials, Star Wars 17 (or whatever number it is), remains the top choice, and the Jumanji sequel/reboot (or whatever they consider the new version) is Choice #2. As is the custom with today's tentpoles, both offerings contain large gobs of animation. Ferdinand, the next animated feature in wide release, is tracking only moderately well.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Bob Givens

Sad to report that Robert Givens, longtime designer, layout and background artist, whose career reaches back to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is seriously ill. (Bob is ninety-nine years old and just shy of 100, and at that age, sickness is a dangerous thing.)

Mr. Givens worked as an inbetweener at Walt Disney Productions, but soon departed animation work for design, storyboards, and layout at Leon Schlesinger's studio in Hollywood. After World War II interrupted his cartoon career, he returned to Warner Bros. and resumed what became more than a half-century of television and theatrical cartooning. Bob not only worked on the first animated television commercial (in 1947) but thousands more afterward.

He continued to work right into the 21st century, finishing up his career with The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries (Warner Bros. Animation) and Timber Wolf.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Strip Mining The Catalogue

Disney is still busy monetizing animated titles, because it CAN.

Disney has made Rob Marshall the top choice to direct The Little Mermaid, the live action adaptation of the animated classic musical that will have new songs by Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alan Menken, sources said. ...

I remember when Little Mermaid was pitched at the first "gong show" that Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg held for the animation department. It was the summer of '85 and we were all seated around a long table in a back room of the Disney cafeteria. Ron Clements made the pitch, and Mr. Eisner and Mr. Katzenberg said "Too much like Splash. Don't think so."

Ron, however, doesn't take rejection sitting down. He sent his treatment to Jeffrey K. and Katzenberg (wisely) changed his mind. Eisner also changed his initial opinion.

And now, TLM is being reworked to live-action specifications, but the bones and spine of Ron Clements' and John Musker's original creation will undoubtedly be there, and if there is justice in the universe, they will be well compensated for the redo.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Animation Bookends

On the Big Box Office List, animated features sit at the top ... and the bottom:


1.) Coco (DIS), 3,987 theaters / Fri: $6.3M (-67%)/ 3-day cume: $27.8M (-45%)/Total:$110.4M / Wk 2

2.) Justice League (WB), 3,820 theaters (-231)/$4.5M Fri/ 3-day cume: $15.8M (-61%)/Total: $196.5M/ Wk 3

3.) Wonder (WB), 3,449 theaters (+277) /$3.6M Fri/3-day cume: $13.2M (-42%)/ /Total: $88.7M/Wk 3

4). Thor: Ragnarok (DIS), 3,148 theaters (-133) / $2.3M Fri/ 3-day cume: $9.36M (-44%) / Total cume: $291M / Wk 5

5) Daddy’s Home 2 (PAR), 3,403 theaters (-115) /$2.1M Fri/ 3-day cume: $7.45M (-44%)/ Total: $82.8M/Wk 4

6) Murder on the Orient Express (FOX), 3,201 theaters (+49)/ $2M Fri/ 3-day cume: $7M (-47%)/Total: $85M/ Wk 4

7) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO (FSL), 1,430 theaters (+816) / $1.4M Fri/ 3-day cume: $4.5M (+2%) /Total: $13.6M /Wk 4

9). Lady Bird (A24), 1,194 theaters (+403) /$1.2M Fri/3-day cume: $4M (0%)/ Total cume: $16.6M / Wk 5

10.) The Star (SONY), 2,822 theaters (-15) /$874K Fri / 3-day cume: $3.8M (-45%)/Total:$27.1M/Wk 3

Coco has hung in there, and remains #1 in its second weekend. (There has been no new wide releases, which helps.)

Ferdinand from Blue Sky Studios is the next high profile cartoon feature on the national release schedule, rolling out to multi-plexes on December 15th. Disney used the same underlying property -- a book by Munro Leaf -- for a short cartoon in 1938, earning an Oscar for its efforts. How will the long-form Ferdinand do?

On the plus side:

The strong ensemble voice cast led by John Cena’s titular character lends itself to parental appeal, a key to success when it comes to animated breakouts — particularly around the holiday season.

As the only other major studio animated offering through the holidays besides Disney/Pixar’s Coco, family crowds will likely gravitate toward this over Christmas and New Year’s.

And the negatives?

The character — based on a little known 20th century animated property — doesn’t have the built-in awareness among kids to turn this into a huge debut out of the gate.

Likewise, opening weekend competition is stiff (to say the least) as plenty of family audiences will be turning out for Star Wars. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle will similarly be aiming for family audiences when it debuts closer to Christmas.

While healthy in general, social media activity currently lags behind that of last year’s Sing — particularly on Facebook.

So how does the new Ferdinand open? If it breaks into the fortys (of millions) against Star Wars, it can be chalked up as a success. (Coco made $50 million during its first domestic weekend. Ferdy will probably come in way lower than that.)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Investing ... and the Ultimate Retirement Strategy *

Eugene Fama is one of the major brains living in investment land. He's a gifted economist; he's written ground-breaking papers on markets and investing. Some of his words of wisdom:

Forget timing factors. That’s ridiculous. A company that I’m involved with [Dimensional Fund Advisors] does it passively. They just buy the whole value segment of the market, or the whole small segment of the market. They’re not trying to pick winners or losers. Timing is even more subject to error than picking individual securities.

There is no debate whether active management is better; it can’t be. That’s a matter of arithmetic, not a hypothesis. A simple way to think about it is: active managers can’t win at the expense of passive managers, because passive managers hold cap-weight portfolios of the entire market or of subsets of the market—which means, they don’t really respond to the actions of active managers.

Animation artists used to say to me, "I don't know f*ck all about where to put my money, but I've got to put it freaking somewhere so I can start saving for retirement. What should I do?"

I tried to give them a quick overview of markets and index funds. (You know, provide some math and history and basic investment mechanics.) But their eyes usually glazed over. I finally boiled my spiel down to a simple investment blueprint**:

If you're between 25 and 59 put everything in an age-appropriate Target Date Fund. When you hit 59 1/2 (and you are nervous about losing your stash), put 47% of your money into this, 47% of your money into this, and 6% of your money into this.

Pull money out of the third one; when you reach zero, rebalance back to 47%/47%/6%. Do not get tricky, do not overthink the strategy. Just draw down and rebalance, again and again. You'll outperform 90% of your fellow investors.

* Okay, I'm being facetious here. There is no ultimate strategy, just better plans and worse plans. This is one of the better plans. But it requires participants to stick with it.

** This plan is designed for IRAs, rollover IRAs, and 401(k) plans. You know, tax-sheltered accounts. You can do similar things with non-tax-sheltered investments, but the fund choices would be different.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Exploiting the Catalogue

The Mouse continues to sink deep shafts into their mountain of animated features to pull out more ore for their live action unit. And hey! They're closer to full extraction on one of their late nineties titles:

Chinese actress Liu Yifei, also known as Crystal Liu, is set to star as the title woman warrior in Disney's live-action adaptation of the classic Chinese tale. ...

So now that they have their lead actor, Diz Co. can get down to the business of recreating their '98 cartoon feature in live-action, and rake in more large sums of cash.

Creativity, f*ck yeah!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Animated Box Office

Pixar is back at the top of the box office heap, even as its creative leader goes on a time-out:


1.) Coco (DIS), 3,987 theaters / $13.2M Wed. (includes $2.3M previews) /$8.9M Thursday/ $18.9M Friday/ $18.4M Sat/ $11.7M Sun/3-day cume: $49M /5-day:$71.2M Wk 1

2.) Justice League (WB), 4,051 theaters / $10.45M Wed/$8.5M Thursday/$16.6M Fri/$15.8M Sat/ $8.3M Sun/ 3-day cume: $40.7M (-56%)/5-day:$59.7M/Total: $171.8M/ Wk 2

3.) Wonder (WB), 3,140 theaters (+44) /$6M Wed./$3.9M Thur/$8.8M Fri/$8.4M Sat/ $5.1M Sun/3-day cume: $22.3M (-19%)/ 5-day: $32.3M/Total: $69.4M/Wk 2

4). Thor: Ragnarok (DIS), 3,281 theaters (-779) / $4M Wed./$3.5M Thur/ $6.7M Fri/ $6.6M Sat/$3.45M Sun/ 3-day cume: $16.8M (-22%) / 5-day: $24.2M/Total cume: $277.5M / Wk 4

5.)Daddy’s Home 2 (PAR), 3,518 theaters (-57) / $2.7M Wed/ $2.67M/$5M Fri/ $5.27M Sat/$2.98M Sun/ 3-day cume: $13.25M (-8%)/ 5-day: $18.635M/ Total: $72.6M/Wk 3

6) Murder on the Orient Express (FOX), 3,214 theaters (-140)/ $2.56M Wed/$3M Thur/$5.27M Fri/$5M Sat /$2.73M Sun/3-day cume: $13M (-6%)/5-day: $18.615M/Total: $74.2M/ Wk 3

7.)The Star (SONY), 2,837 theaters / $1.64M Wed. /$1M Thur/$2.78M Fri /$2.57M Sat/$1.52M Sun/ 3-day cume: $6.9M (-30%)/ 5-day:$9.5M /Total:$22M/Wk 2

8). A Bad Moms Christmas (STX), 2,948 theaters (-639) /$950k Wed/$810K Thur/ $1.8M Fri/$2M Sat/ $1.1M Sun/3-day cume: $5M (-28%) / 5-day: $6.77M/Total cume: $59.75M / Wk 4

9.) Roman J. Israel, Esq. (SONY),1,648 theaters (+1,644)/ $752K Wed. /$930K Thur/$1.8M Fri/$1.69M Sat/ $1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $4.5M /PTA: $2,8K/5-day: $6.2M/Total: $6.4M/Wk 2

10.) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO (FSL), 590 theaters (+537) / $790K Wed. /$665k Thur/$1.64M Fri/$1.69M Sat/ $1.07M Sun 3-day cume: $4.4M (+291%) /PTA: $7,4K/ 5-day: $5.855M/Total: $7.6M /Wk 3

With strong reviews and a solid opening, Coco looks to have a long life at international multiplexes. (It's the highest grossing movie ever in Mexico. After a couple of weeks. And it's struck a chord in China -- $30.7 million over the weekend).)

Modestly budgeted The Star sees a drop of one third, week-to-week, and with luck will get close to a $50 million gross domestically. (It's grossed $712,668 overseas, so either Sony isn't giving it much of a release, or the picture has no international legs, or they're holding it for some theatrical window other than the holidays. (What?!)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Fires of Change

Back at Walt Disney Productions in the far off 1980s, I was friends with many of John Lasseter's buddies and fellow Cal Artsians. (John I knew only slightly. Working on different floors in different departments will do that.) The word on John then was that he was smart, talented ... and liked to party hearty. It was his enthusiasm for good times that was part of the reason for his exit from the Disney animation division in 1984.

Judging from media reports, Mr. Lasseter STILL likes to party ... and do many of those unfortunate things that go with partying. But cultural norms have shifted in the last twenty months, and now John finds himself taking a six-month break from his executive positions at Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and DisneyToon Studios. Under duress.

The question arises, "Will this six-month time-out be permanent?" I tend to think not. Disney paid north of $7 billion for Pixar more than a decade ago, and the high-priced gamble has paid off in spades: "Finding Dory, Zootopia, Frozen, Moana, Inside Out, etc., etc. And the media picks up on the obvious:

... Lasseter’s absence could be a significant blow to the studio if his departure becomes permanent because he has been such a key figure in its success. Lasseter is the chief creative officer of Emeryville’s Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. ...

Hundreds of millions in movie and merchandising profits have resulted from the Lasseter-Catmull acquisition (and don't kid yourself. That was what the Mouse was paying for in 2006, because the conglomerate needed an adrenaline boost for its animation departments badly, and John and Ed were certified winners.) Eleven years later, Disney is no doubt real reluctant to fire Mr. Lasseter.

And if you doubt that, then here's a question: When Ed Catmull, aided and abetted by Mr. Lasseter, was revealed to be suppressing the wages of Disney animation employees, was Ed tossed overboard?


Was John Lasseter tarred with the wage-fixing brush?

Not too much.

The Walt Disney Company stuck with them both. Parts of the animation community was ticked off about it, and Ed didn't succeed in becoming a Motion Picture Academy governor, but for Ed and John, life sailed serenely on. The wider world didn't give three hoots, and neither did the Disney Company, even though it had to cough up a few million in settlement money for a large class-action lawsuit.

But this time, the pressure might be greater to make John Lasseter's exit from the top of the Disney heap a permanent thing. But if Diz Co. has anything to say about it (and it does), John will be back in his executive offices six months from now.

I guess we'll see.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Animated Box Office

An actual cartoon feature (3D division) returns to the Top Ten:


1.) Justice League (WB), 4,051 theaters / $38.8M Fri. (includes $13M previews) /$33M Sat/$24.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $96M / Wk 1

2.) Wonder (WB), 3,096 theaters / $9.7M Fri. (includes $740K previews) /$10.3M Sat/$7.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $27M / Wk 1

3). Thor: Ragnarok (DIS), 4,080 theaters / $5.8M Fri. /$9.7M Sat/$6.3M Sun/ 3-day cume: $21.7M (-62%) / Total cume: $247.3M / Wk 3

4.) Daddy’s Home 2 (PAR), 3,575 theaters (0) / $3.9M Fri. /$6.4M Sat /$4.5M Sun/ 3-day cume: $14.8M (-50%)/ Total: $50.6M/Wk 2

5.) Murder on the Orient Express (FOX), 3,354 theaters (+13)/ $4M Fri. /$5.9M Sat/ $3.9M Sun/ 3-day cume: $13.8M (-52%)/Total: $51.7M/ Wk 2

6.) The Star (SONY), 2,837 theaters / $2.8M Fri. (studio did not report previews) / $4.1M Sat/ $3M Sun/3-day cume: $10M / Wk 1

7). A Bad Moms Christmas (STX), 2,948 theaters (-667) / $2.3M Fri./ $2.8M Sat/ $1.7M Sun/3-day cume: $6.9M (-40%) / Total cume: $50.9M / Wk 3

8). Lady Bird (A24), 238 theaters (+201) / $725K Fri. / $1.06M Sat/$743K Sun/3-day cume: $2.5M (+110%)/ Per screen: $10,6K / Total cume: $4.7M / Wk 3

9.) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO (FSL), 53 theaters (+49) / $333K Fri. / $452K Sat/ $368K Sun/3-day cume: $1.15M (+246%) / Per screen average: $21K /Total: $1.5M Wk 2

10). Jigsaw (LG), 1,201 theaters (-1,450) / $325K Fri. /$481K Sat/$264K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.07M (-69%) / Total cume: $36.4M / Wk 4 ...

The Star is a lower-budgeted animated feature (in the neighborhood of $20 million) created by Cinesite Animation in Montreal, Canada ... where the Free Money is abundant. Cinesite is partnered with Sony Picture Animation and the Jim Henson Company on the project. Look for The Star's chart position to drop when Pixar's Coco joins the holiday cavalcade the middle of next week.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Japanese Cartoon Growth ... Global Cartoon Growth

Games and 3d animation help fuel animation's expansion.

It's always good to be reminded that expanding cartoon production is a global reality:

The Japanese animation market surpassed 2 trillion yen ($17.7 billion) for the first time last year, fueled by the runaway success of “Your Name” and international sales.

In its annual survey of the industry, the Association of Japanese Animations (AJA) said the market had grown by nearly 10% from 1.82 trillion yen in 2015 to 2 trillion yen in 2016. In 2014, the market was worth 1.63 trillion yen. ...

But it's not just Japan. Global animation growth has been moving along at a brisk clip for years. The forecasts are for 14-15% growth through 2022.

And why not? The profit margins remain robust, and there are lots of applications: gaming (noted above), tv, theatrical animated features, and of course, cartoon content on the ever-expanding internet. The question is, will the people who create the content have a piece of the action, or will they just be lower-paid brains and wrists making the product?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Top Box Office Ten ... And The Remnants of Animation

Marvel super hero again tramples the competition. What else is new? (Not very much).

Three Days of Box Office Money

1). Thor: Ragnarok (DIS), 4,080 theaters / $18.3M Fri. /$23.6M Sat/ $14.7M Sun/ 3-day cume: $56.6M (-54%) / Total cume: $211.6M / Wk 2

2) Daddy’s Home 2 (PAR), 3,575 theaters / $10.9M Fri. (includes $1.5M previews) /$11.6M Sat/ $7.5M Sun/ 3-day cume: $30M / Wk 1

3.) Murder on the Orient Express (FOX), 3,331 theaters / $10.75M Fri. (includes $1.6M previews) /$10.8M Sat/ $6.6M Sun/ 3-day cume: $28.2M / Wk 1

4). A Bad Moms Christmas (STX), 3,615 theaters / $4.1M Fri. (-25%)/$4.6M Sat/ $2.3M Sun/ 3-day cume: $11.5M (-31%) / Total cume: $39.9M / Wk 2

5). Jigsaw (LG), 2,651 theaters (-290) / $1.15M Fri. / $1.46M Sat/ $807K Sun/3-day cume: $3.4M (-48%) / Total cume: $34.3M / Wk 3

6). Boo 2! A Madea Halloween (LG), 1,900 theaters (-302) / $645K Fri. /$948K Sat/ $477K Sun/ 3-day cume: $2M (-54%)/ Total cume: $45.9M / Wk 4

7). Geostorm (WB/SKY), 1,685 theaters (-981) / $480K Fri. /$710K Sat/ $355K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.545M (-52%)/ Total cume: $31.6M / Wk 4

8) Blade Runner 2049 (ALC/WB/SONY), 863 theaters (-601) / $430K Fri. / $630K Sat/ $350K Sun/3-day cume: $1.4M (-39%)/ Total cume: $88M / Wk 6

9) Happy Death Day (UNI/BLUM), 1,564 theaters (-620) / $456K Fri. /$571K Sat/$285K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.3M (-51%)/ Total cume: $54.9M / Wk 5

10) Lady Bird (A24), 37 theaters (+33) / $390K Fri. / $478K Sat/$382K Sun/3-day cume: $1.29m (+243%)/ Per screen: $33,8K / Total cume: $1.78M / Wk 2 ...

No significant amounts of animation (outside of what's in Thor) can be found in the Big Box Office List. As of Monday night, animated features are little more than wisps of smoke in the domestic marketplace.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie is in 771 theaters with a domestic total of $58.6 million. My Little Pony holds in 592 theaters, now having grossed $21.6 million. Despicable Me still resides in 195 theaters with a $264 million accumulation. Then there's Leap!, (produced by the ill-fated Weinstein Company) in 110 theaters with a $21.6 million total.

Lastly, The Emoji Movie ends its run (now being in no theaters) at $86 million.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Disney Backs Off

The Walt Disney Company was (apparently) displeased with a couple of Los Angeles Times articles. And soon after the articles ran, Diz Co. in the "big foot" tradition that it has long practiced, blocked LA Times movie reviewers from attending press screenings of various company movies (Star Wars, Thor, etc.)

This corporate dickishness did not go down well with the creative community.

Critics’ organizations quickly decided to disqualify Disney’s films from year-end awards consideration until the blackout was reversed. Movie directors spoke up, saying they would "stand with" film journalists.

All the pushback resulted in concentrating executive minds at corporate headquarters in Burbank, and whattayaknow? The Walt Disney Company decided maybe it wasn't a real swift idea to blacklist newspaper film reviewers because its feelings got hurt, and dropped its L.A. Times ban.

I get that we live in a corporatist age. And that huge, overbearing conglomerates are in the high seats. But it's always nice when a company backs off its bully boy routine because human beings band together to let the company know it's over the line, and the company rethinks its behavior.

Sometimes, individuals own enough leverage to change things.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cartoonless Box Office

In this action sequence, director Taika Waititi gives a shout-out to storyboard artist Tod Harris, who boarded the whole kit and kaboodle. (Taika W. also points out that comic book legend Jack Kirby provided a lot of inspiration. Nice to see a live-action director spread the credit around.)

...unless you count the mighty Thor.


1. Thor: Ragnarok (DIS), 4,080 theaters / $46.8M Fri. (includes $14.5M previews) /$44.4M Sat. / $29.8M Sun/ 3-day cume: $121M / Wk 1

2. A Bad Moms Christmas (STX), 3,615 theaters / $5.5M Fri. /$6.9M Sat/ $4.6M Sun/ 3-day cume: $17M /Total: $21.6M/ Wk 1

3. Jigsaw (LG), 2,941 theaters / $2M Fri. / $2.8M Sat/ $1.8M Sun/3-day cume: $6.1M to $6.7M (-60%)/Total: $28.8M/ Wk 2

4. Boo 2! A Madea Halloween (LG), 2,202 theaters (-186) / $1.2M Fri. /$2.2M Sat/$1.2M Sun/ 3-day cume: $4.65M (-54%)/Total: $43M Wk 3

5. Geostorm (WB/SKY), 2,666 theaters (-580)/ $825K Fri. /$1.4M Sat/$785K Sun/ 3-day cume: $3M (-49%)/Total: $28.8M/ Wk 3

6. Happy Death Day (UNI/BLUM), 2,184 theaters (-1,351) / $792K Fri. / $1.2M Sat/ $808K Sun/3-day cume: $2.8M (-45%)/ Total: $53M/Wk 4

7. Thank You for Your Service (DW/UNI), 2,083 theaters (+29) / $673K Fri. /$934K Sat/$653K Sun/ 3-day cume: $2.26M (-41%)/Total: $7.4M/ Wk 2

8. Blade Runner 2049 (ALC/WB/SONY), 1,464 theaters (-957)/ $605K Fri. /$1M Sat/$610K Sun/ 3-day cume: $2.24M (-46%)/Total: $85.5M/ Wk 5

9. Only the Brave (SONY), 2,073 theaters (-504)/ $562K Fri. /$825K Sat/ $523K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.91M (-45%)/Total: $15.3M/ Wk 3

10. Let There Be Light (ATLAS), 700 theaters (+327) / $523K Fri. /$718K Sat/ $467K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.7M (-1%)/Total: $4.1M/Wk 2 ...

Meanwhile, Cars 3 wrapped its domestic run on November 2nd, taking in $152,901,115 across the U.S. and Canada. (Its world gross was $382,234,535.)

Other animated features still in release?

Worldwide Grosses

Coco -- $27,963,804

Captain Underpants -- $123,434,565

The Emoji Movie -- $214,641,479

The LEGO Ninjago Movie -- $119,211,830

My Little Pony -- $47,161,496

Pixar Animation's Coco will shortly have a wide, U.S. rollout.

Add On: Pixar's Lee Unkrich (Coco) and Marvel's Waititi (Thor) talk about their movies.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cartoon Grosses, Foreign and Domestic

Sadly, animated features have fallen out of the U.S./Canada Top Ten, but many long-form cartoons are still earning money on continents beyond the seas. The running accumulations:


Captain Underpants -- $121 million / $73.9 million

Cars 3 -- $379 million / $153 million

The Emoji Movie -- $211.5 million / $85.7 million

The Lego Ninjago Movie -- $114.5 million / $56.4 million

My Little Pony, the Movie -- $43.3 million / $20 million

Coco, Pixar's latest production, opened in Mexico with $8.4 million, and has garnered mostly favorable reviews. It opens in the U.S. of A. the end of November. Three weeks later Blue Sky Studio's Ferdinand gets released domestically.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The OTHER Production Road For Animated Features

The tattered remnants of Metro-Goldwyne-Mayer announce a cartoon feature:

MGM’s animated take on The Addams Family, a CG feature film that has been in the works the past four years, is finally ramping up. A week after Sausage Party co-director Conrad Vernon was set as director, Cinesite Studios has come aboard to provide animation and digital visual effects ad has started production in Vancouver. ...

Cinesite specializes in lower-budget long-form CG cartoons with budgets in the $20-$35 million range. The Addams Family will likely be in that category, aided and abetted by a generous dollops of Free Money from Canada.

There are three production tiers for 21st Century cartoon features. The top (most expensive) tier is occupied by Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks Animation (not counting its lower-rent Canadian productions like Captain Underpants), tat create movies costing $135 million to $180 million (give or take). Then there's the second tier, dominated by Blue Sky Studios in Connecticut and Illumination Entertainment/MacGuff in Paris, France. Blue Sky and Illumination make animated features in the $80 million to $120 million range.

The third tier is filled with $15 million to $45 million animated productions, usually made in localities with high government subsidies or low employee salaries ... and sometimes both. (There are, of course, CG animated movies that fall below the three tiers; most of these come from what are known as "emerging nations".)

Look for The Addams Family (when completed) to get a theatrical rollout during one of the less-crowded release windows.

Monday, October 16, 2017

United States of Box Office

Amidst lackuster weekend ticket sales, two animated features cling to the lower rungs of the Top Ten.


1.) Happy Death Day (UNI/BLUM), 3,149 theaters / $11.65M Fri. (includes $1M previews) /$9.4M Sat/ $5.45M Sun/ 3-day cume: $26.5M / Wk 1

2.) Blade Runner 2049 (ALC/WB/SONY), 4,058 theaters (0)/ $4.3M Fri. /$6.8M Sat/$4M Sun/ 3-day cume: $15.1M (-54%) /Total: $60.6M/ Wk 2

3.) The Foreigner (STX), 2,515 theaters / $4.75M Fri. (includes $775K) /$4.9M Sat/ $3.2M Sun/ 3-day cume: $12.84M / Wk 1

4.) It (NL/WB), 3,176 theaters (-429) / $1.96M Fri./$2.6M Sat/$1.45M Sun/3-day cume: $6M (-39%) / Total: $314.9M / Wk 6

5.) The Mountain Between Us (FOX), 3,259 heaters (+171)/ $1.68M Fri. /$2.5M Sat/$1.47M Sun/3-day cume: $5.65M (-46%)/Total: $20.5M/ Wk 2

6.) American Made (UNI), 3,098 (+67) / $1.59M Fri. /$2.4M Sat/ $1.4M Sun/ 3-day cume: $5.4M (-36%)/Total: $40.1M/ Wk 3

7.) Kingsman: The Golden Circle (FOX), 2,982 theaters (-506) / $1.48M Fri./$2.4M Sat/$1.42M Sun/3-day cume: $5.3M (-39%) / Total: $89.6M / Wk 4

8.) The Lego Ninjago Movie (WB), 3,053 theaters (-558) / $1M Fri./$2M Sat/$1.3M Sun/3-day cume: $4.3M (-38%) / Total: $51.6M / Wk 4

9.)My Little Pony (LG), 2,528 theaters (0) / $956K Fri./$1.87M Sat/$1.17M Sun/3-day cume: $4M (-55%) /Total: $15.5M/ Wk 2

10.) Victoria & Abdul (FOCUS), 900 theaters (+168) / $870k Fri./$1.2M Sat/ $1M Sun/3-day cume: $3.1M (-30%)/Total: $11.3M/ Wk 4

And of course there are the overseas markets, the current animated features are collecting about the same money as they are stateside. The Lego Ninjago Movie has made north of $45 million and now owns $100 million in global box office, and My Little Pony has grossed $11 million for a $36 million total.

Other animated releases still collectig coin include The Emoji Movie ($204.4 million), Cars 3 ($376.8 million), and Woody Woodpecker ... a Universal release that has so far collected $4.6 million in South America, (which is the only geographic locale the Canadian-produced picture has been released).

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Why TV Animation Is Popular

Rotten Tomatoes (the review conglomerator) strives to explain why television animation, the long-time bastard child of TVLand, is so "red HOT right now":

1) Rick and Morty: Up 81 percent in viewership from season 2, season 3’s Rick and Morty finale had 1.5 million viewers between 18-49. Those are Modern Family numbers. ...

2) Bob's Burgers: The Movie is coming in 2020.

3) BoJack Horseman is certified fresh.

4) Big stars* are doing cartoons.

5) DuckTales is as well-reviewed as it is popular. ... (etc.)

Let's boil this down. Television animation is popular for many of the same reasons (some listed above) that theatrical animation is popular. It tells an array of stories, many less stereotypical than your typical live-action fare. And animation isn't limited to young, good-looking (interchangeable) homo sapiens as cast members. It can have starfish, horses, ducks, dogs, and gold fish as lead characters. (Hard for live-action to do THAT.)

In an entertainment universe where "different" is often what it takes to break out of the pack, animation can do "different" a hell of a lot easier than live-action can.

Another reason? Animation skews young, and always has. And Netflix, Amazon, and other content providers elbowing their way into content distribution over the internet are eager to attract young eyeballs. Thus, both cable networks and SVOD platforms want plenty of animation mixed in with other programs.

Lastly, animation is economical. Television cartoon budgets are a fraction of their live-action counterparts, so production companies get far more bang for their buck with a season of half-hour cartoons. Production work gets shipped out to where wages are microscopic or Free Money is handed out, and front-end work (the crucial, story-telling part) gets located in Southern California, where the talent pool is wide and deep.

And that's the way it shakes out, here in the second decade of the 21st century.

Personally, I don't think "big stars" have anything to do with the popularity of animation. 98.7% of the viewing audience doesn't know or care who's a "big star".

Monday, October 9, 2017

Expanding Paddington

Companies hither and yon are still looking to enlarge their animation footprint. To wit:

StudioCanal said Monday that it has commissioned Paddington, a 52 x 11-minute animated series based on Michael Bond's beloved Paddington Bear character. The series, which will be pitched to networks at the MIPCOM TV market in Cannes next week, will target preschool audiences. ...

The new series marks the latest effort by StudioCanal parent Vivendi to expand the Paddington franchise. The French media giant controls all intellectual property rights to Paddington Bear outside of classic publishing rights. ...

StudioCanal/Vivendi can read balance sheets as well as the next corporate giant. They figure they have a profit-machine and plan to use it. The question is, where will they be making these twenty-six half-hours?

Probably some place where Free Money is handed out with a carefree abandon.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Your American Box Office

With two animated features (again) up in the Big List.


1.) Blade Runner 2049 (ALC/WB/SONY), 4,058 theaters / $12.74M Fri. (includes $4M previews) /$11.4M Sat/$7.4M Sun/ 3-day cume: $31.5M / Wk 1

2.) The Mountain Between Us (FOX), 3,088 heaters / $3.5M Fri. (includes $400K previews) / $4.2M Sat/$2.4M Sun/3-day cume: $10.1M / Wk 1

3.) It (NL/WB), 3,605 theaters (-312) / $2.7M Fri. /$4.3M Sat/ $2.6M/ 3-day cume: $9.65M (-43%) / Total: $304.9M / Wk 5

4.) My Little Pony (LG), 2,528 heaters / $2.97M Fri. (includes $290K previews) / $3.45M Sat/ $2.38M Sun/3-day cume: $8.8M / Wk 1

5.) Kingsman: The Golden Circle (FOX), 3,488 theaters (-550) / $2.3M Fri. /$3.6M Sat/ $2.2M Sun/ 3-day cume: $8.1M (-52%) / Total: $79.96M / Wk 3

6.) American Made (UNI), 3,031 (+7) / $2.34M Fri. /$3.46M Sat/ $2.25M Sun/ 3-day cume: $8.07M (-52%)/Total: $30.4M/ Wk 2

7.) The Lego Ninjago Movie (WB), 3,611 theaters (-436) / $1.6M Fri. /$3M Sat/ $2.1M Sun/3-day cume: $6.75M (-42%) / Total: $43.8M / Wk 3

8.) Victoria & Abdul (FOCUS), 732 theaters (+655) / $1.2K Fri. /$1.6M Sat/ $12.9M Sun/ 3-day cume: $4.1M (+279%)/Total: $5.95M/ Wk 3

9.) Flatliners (SONY), 2,552 theaters / $1M Fri. /$1.07M Sat/ $1.05M Sun/3-day cume: $3.8M (-42%) / Total: $12.3M /Wk 2

10.) Battle of the Sexes (FSL), 1,822 theaters (+609) / $695K Fri. /$1M Sat/ $635K Sun/ 3-day cume: $2.4M (-29%) / Total: $7.7M / Wk 3

The sad news here? Neither the traditionally-animated Pony nor the computer-generated Lego Ninjago are setting the turnstiles afire. But in the wider world, Despicable Me 3 now has $1.025 billion tucked away, and the Lego epic has earned $33.6 million overseas ($77.4 million total).

Meantime, Cars 3 remains in release in various parts of the world, so far collecting $374.1 million globally. Universal is launching its Woody Woodpecker hybrid feature (shot and animated in Canada) in Brazil. No word on what other continents and hemispheres get a roll-out, or when.

Thursday, October 5, 2017


For gamers, complexity and challenge are what the art form is all about. But for cartoon buffs, the allure is that a challenging game looks like a Fleischer or Warner Bros. cartoon (okay, Leon Schlesinger, if you want to get technical), circa 1933. And pretend the gaudy three-strip technicolor wasn't Walt Disney's exclusive domain.

As one discerning critic puts it: "So this game is basically what happens if you mix a Mario game with a Touhou game and jam it together with a Betty Boop cartoon."

Like other games known for their difficulty, dying in Cuphead isn’t simply "Th..Th...That's all folks!", it’s a chance to educate yourself in the ways of the game, finding out what the angry monster you're fighting can throw at you, what its moves are.

Cuphead, it turns out, was a long time in development, as "The Verge" reports:

When work first started on Cuphead, a new game that marries side-scrolling gameplay with 1930s-style American animation, Maja Moldenhauer went ahead and ordered a whole bunch of animation paper. Since the game was to be completely hand-drawn, in an attempt to emulate the process from the time, the paper was an integral tool. Moldenhauer, who served as an artist and producer on the game, thought that her initial paper order would be big enough to get the team through the development of Cuphead, and then get started on whatever the studio’s follow-up project ended up being.

That didn’t happen. Instead, that huge stack of paper only lasted about a third of the way through Cuphead’s creation. One of the reasons was the game’s scope, which dramatically expanded midway through development, resulting in multiple delays and a lot more animation. ...

So. You like rubber hose animation? That good old squash and stretch? And killing big cartoon creatures who lurch out at you? Look no further than one of the new, hot video games, the one called Cuphead.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Bob's Longform Burger

There's another hand-drawn feature in our future ... yet another spin-off from a popular television series:

20th Century Fox said today that it is making a feature film based on the Fox animated series Bob’s Burgers and has set a July 17, 2020 release date. ...

“A Bob’s Burgers film fits perfectly with our initiative to redouble our family and animation efforts,” said Twentieth Century Fox Film chairman and CEO Stacey Snider. “We’re grateful to [Fox Television Group chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden] for trusting us with this beloved property and we’re so excited to be working with Loren and his team.” ...

As Disney mines its vaults, so 20th Century Fox mines the animation properties it has on hand. Execs over there no doubt took a look at the show's climbing ratings and Emmy visibility, and decided that a BB feature was a viable way to make money and keep the Bob's Burgers' brand robust and visible.

The question is, how big will the budget be? The Simpsons Movie came in at $75 million; I'm guessing that the money spent on this project will be less than that, tens of millions less. (Walt Disney Animation Studios delivered its Winnie the Pooh feature for $30 million. That would seem to be a realistic target for Bob's Burgers.)

And the other question: How much of the movie will be made at the Bento box studios in Burbank, North Hollywood, and Atlanta? Certainly lots of the pre-production, but maybe some of the animation as well, though it wouldn't surprise anybody if much of the animation and layouts were done overseas like the series. (The Simpsons Movie had storyboards, script, character designs, layouts and some key animation created in Southern California.)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Twenty-Five Years Ago Today*

Cartoon Network was born.

Media mogul Ted Turner (also known as "the mouth of the South"), had been accumulating Warners and M-G-M cartoons, and then went ahead and bought Hanna-Barbera, mostly for its library of TV shorts and half hours. He wanted to launch an all-cartoon cable network, but he needed animated content, and so went out and acquired LOTS of it.

But in the process, he also purchased a cartoon studio named Hanna-Barbera, and he needed an executive to run it. After asking around, Ted hired MTV's first creative director, and young go-getter named Fred Seibert. And Fred S. described to Animation World Network how he had some fresh idea about how to create new cartoon content:

“I arrive at Hanna-Barbera knowing I want to make a lot of short cartoons like the way Looney Tunes used to be done. I want to try lots and lots of talent. … I said we’ll make a short cartoon every week. … We’ll run the cartoon primetime Sunday evenings just before a cartoon movie, and every other week for two years … Lo and behold, Cartoon Network bought it.”

Siebert’s “new cartoon every week” proposal ended up being Hanna-Barbera’s “What a Cartoon!” incubator. (“Throw a lot of different short entertainments onto the TV screen, see which ones the public likes.”) Within twenty-four months, “WaC!” had created four dozen original shorts pitched by staff employees and outside artists. Pitches the studio liked were greenlit into shorts. And the shorts the viewing public liked were expanded into series: Genndy Tartakovsky’s Dexter’s Laboratory, David Feiss’ Cow and Chicken and I Am Weasel, and Craig McCracken’s The Powerpuff Girls (among others).

All this creative ferment became the nucleus for a new animation studio bearing the name of Ted Turner’s cable channel: Cartoon Network Studios, which today is a quarter century old.

* Unless my impeccable sources are wrong.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Weekend Box Office

One animated feature rides the Big List, with a couple of other cartoon movies still circulating in a handful of theaters.


1/2/3) American Made (UNI), 3,024 theaters / $6.1M Fri. (includes $960K previews) 3-day cume: $16.55M /Wk 1

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (FOX), 4,038 theaters (+35) / $4.87M Fri. (-68%) 3-day cume: $16.5M (-58%)/Total: $66.2M/Wk 2

It (NL/WB), 3,917 theaters (-90) / $4.9M Fri. 3-day cume: $16.2M (-46%)/Total: $290.1M/Wk 4

4.) The Lego Ninjago Movie (WB), 4,047 theaters / $2.6M Fri. (-56%) /3-day cume: $11.6M (-43%)/Total: $35.1M/Wk 2

5.) Flatliners (SONY), 2,552 theaters / $2.1M Fri./ 3-day cume: $5.5M /Wk 1

6.) Battle of the Sexes (FSL), 1,213 theaters (+1,192) / $1.1M Fri. (+5918%) /3-day cume: $3.5M (+600%) /Total:$4M/Wk 2

7.) American Assassin (CBS/LG), 3,020 theaters (-134) / $935K Fri./3-day cume: $3.1M (-47%) /Total: $31.7M/Wk 3

8.) Home Again (OR), 2,370 theaters (-315) / $528K Fri. /3-day cume: $1.7M (-47%)/Total: $25.1M/Wk 4

9/10) mother! (PAR), 1,840 theaters (-528) / $437K Fri. 3-day cume: $1.36M (-59%)/Total: $16.2M/Wk 3

Til Death Due Us Part (IND), 550 theaters / $455k Fri./ 3-day cume: $1.3M /Wk 1

Cars 3 ($152,435,133 in domestic receipts so far) and Despicable Me 3 ($261,978,360 to date) continue to hang on by their fingernails, but their theatrical presences are now tiny.

The next top tier animated feature slated for release is Coco in November ...

... snd then Ferdinand in December.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hollywood Salaries

If you're a working stiff in the entertainment business, then according to the Reporter you'll pull down something like this:


Feature Director -- $20,000

Storyboard Artist* -- $2600-$2800

TV Staff Writer -- $4,000

Camera Operator -- $1833

Boom Operator -- $1800

And if you're in the Southern California animation industry, these are the median rates as of last year (a new wage survey is in process):


Feature Director -- $3500

TV Director -- $2400

Timing Director -- $2000

Feature Staff Writer -- $3100

TV Staff Writer -- $2200

B.G. Painter -- $1950

TV Production Board Artist -- $2047

Storyboard artist -- $2236

Comparing live-action wages to animation wages tends to be like comparing apples to apricots. Market rates and contract rates are all over the map, and highs and lows can take wild swings. There's also "New Media" to contend with. This tend to pull down mid-level figures.

* Not listed in the linked article, but based on what I know of the live-action contract under the Art Directors Guild

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Lacklustre Legos

So we've got the second movie in the Kingsman franchise at the top of the card deck, and the third iteration of the Lego series filling the third position.


1.) Kingsman: The Golden Circle (FOX), 4,003 theaters / $15.2m Fri. (includes $3.4m previews) /3-day cume: $39M /Wk 1

2.) It (NL/WB), 4,007 theaters (-141) / $9.1M Fri. /3-day cume: $29.1M (-52%)/Total: $265.4M/Wk 3

3.) The Lego Ninjago Movie (WB), 4,047 theaters / $5.8M Fri. /3-day cume: $20.8M /Wk 1

4.) American Assassin (CBS/LG), 3,154 theaters / $1.86m Fri. (-68%) /3-day cume: $6.2M (-58%) /Total: $26.1M/Wk 2

5.) Home Again (OR), 2,685 theaters (-351) / $1M Fri. (-38%) /3-day cume: $3.4M (-33%)/Total: $22.4M/Wk 3

6.) mother! (PAR), 2,368 theaters / $1M Fri. (-67%) /3-day cume: $3.25M (-57%)/Total: $13.4M/Wk 2

7/8). Hitman’s Bodyguard (LG), 2.037 theaters (-1,235) / $513K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.83M (-49%)/Total: $73.6M /Wk 6

Friend Request(ES), 2,569 theaters / $694K Fri. /3-day cume: $1.8M / Wk 1

9.) Stronger (RSA), 574 theaters/ $520K Fri./3-day cume: $1.58M /Wk 1

10.) Wind River (TWC), 1,431 theaters (-1,118) / $367K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.2M (-53%)/Total: $31.6M/Wk 8

The Lego franchise seems to be showing diminished returns. Perhaps you can only go to the well so many times without delivering something fresh and different?

... What made The Lego Movie so delightful was how it transcended its corporate roots and felt surprising. What made that film surprising makes this feel too familiar. Herein lies the downside of pulling off a seemingly impossible trick: once you perform the same trick enough times, the surprise of its success wears off. ...

The Lego Movie excelled at being different, and more off-kilter, than other animated films. The Lego Ninjago Movie feels not just like its predecessors, but other studios’ family fare. The last thing any of these movies should feel is watered down.

Meantime, The Emojoi Movie is down in the teens of the box office list, with $84.4 million in the kitty.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Apparently new mischief has occurred in Cartoonland.

... There is no way a phallic symbol should be able to make it into a kid’s cartoon series — but then came the Netflix original series Myah the Bee.

The show is an animated series based on a children’s book and it raised eyebrows in the past few days when a number of concerned parents spotted a penis drawing in one of the episodes. Despite Netflix removing the penis-bearing episode, receipts were kept as a number of parents took to social media to share their crude findings.

Dirty pictures have a long and storied tradition in the animation arts. I've been privileged to see dirty gag drawings of Virgil Partch and Ward Kimball from the long ago thirties and forties. I was able to freeze the frame of The Rescuers video and spy the Playboy playmate in the window of a New York skyscraper. I was the proud owner of a Little Mermaid VHS box with a palace tower shaped like an engorged male member.

In my (now completed) professional life, I oversaw a grievance against a large studio that accused a guild member of drawing breasts and penises into layout designs. The Animation Guild fought the good fight, but the company brought in three artists who testified that, yup, those curves and straight lines were indeed penises and breasts, because the artist himself had told them that's what they were.

(The guild lost the grievance.)

Add On: The producer of the penis Maya the Bee issues this heart-felt (but not really) apology:

“An absolutely inappropriate image has been discovered in a four-second fly-by scene in one episode of the total of 78 episodes of the series,” producer Studio 100 said in a statement released to media this morning. “The origin of this image obviously results from a very bad joke from one of the 150 artists working on the production.”

Come on, people! It was only ONE episode. Anybody can slip here and there. Netflix shouldn't hold this against Studio 100. Appropriate disciplinary measures will be taken, I'm sure.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Animated Box Office

There are multiple animated features in the marketplace (though some just barely), and several live-action/animated movies. Their domestic and worldwide totals as of yesterday:


Leap! (#8) -- $18,705,564 -- $102,615,533

Despicable Me 3 (#13) -- $261,094,650 -- $1,015,427,005

The Nut Job 2 (#18) -- $28,093,664 -- $38,978,799

Cars 3 (#26) -- $152,279,065 -- $357,326,296

Captain Underpants (#44) -- $73,814,428 -- $104,736,260

Boss Baby (#105) -- $174,979,567 -- $498,846,458


Spider-man: Homecoming (#39) -- $330,245,988 -- $861,245,988

War For The Planet Of The Apes (#21) -- $145,861,747 -- $431,967,715

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (#50) -- $389,804,217 -- $863,405,082

A scan of the list shows why super hero flicks and animated features keep getting made, and then made some more. Spider-Man and Guardians weigh in north of $800 million; Despicable Me 3 has grossed over a billion and Boxx Baby has made half a billion.

Cartoons and semi-cartoons have high profit margins, which is what our fine, entertainment conglomerates are seeking. They're not in the business of content creation as a philanthropic exercise, after all. (And this coming weekend, Warner Bros. will blast The LEGO Ninjago Movie into the marketplace. Nobody worries about animated features cannibalizing each other anymore. (That's so 2008. ...)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

European Union Cartoonage

The European continent is getting focused on how to keep its animation industries not only humming, but growing.

... A new and long-mooted E.U. Preferential Animation Support Plan ... identifies promotion, financing and retaining talent in Europe [as] some of the priorities for E.U. action.

It comes as Europe’s animation sector, viewed from the broadest of timelines, has certainly registered growth. 76 animated features were produced in Europe over 1984-1998, 361 over 1999-2013. European toon movies sold 20 million admissions during the first period, 220 million during the second. ... Animation sells better by far than other European film products, as the territorial sales reach of recent European hits. ...

Europe needs to encourage gifted European animators to return and open their own studios while there is still a “skills gap” in storytelling. ... The Plan added that European animation needs brand recognition, including investment in promotion. ...

Europe has a long history of creating animated shorts and features. France has been a hotbed of activity, as has Britain, as have some other countries. There is production done for the global market (think the Illumination Entertainment features from France) and animated effects for live-action that gets done in the United Kingdom (think the Disney remake of The Jungle Book and visual effects for various action-adventure and sci-fi pictures.

Britain and France offer government subsidies, which is why our fine entertainment conglomerates beat a path to their doors ... as they beat a path to Georgia, British Columbia, Ontario, etc. (The lure of Free Money is difficult to resist.)

Home-grown European features are less expensive than their U.S. counterparts, and (mostly) get exported to Mexico, South America, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia where they earn steady money, but seldom gross amounts that are off the charts. Seldom do they get wide distribution in the U.S. of A., but because production costs are low, they make tidy profits. One home-grown example: Tad, the Lost Explorer (shown up top) was released in 2012. Costing 7-8 million Euros, it earned a world gross of 45 million Euros, successful enough to trigger a sequel. This would be chump change for an American animated feature, but bountiful for a lower-budget European specimen.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Domestic Box Office

There remains two animated feature in the Big Box Office Ten:


1.) It (NL/WB), 4,103 theaters / $51M Fri. (includes $13.5M previews) /3-day cume: $103M to $108M / Wk 1

2.) Home Again (OR), 2,940 theaters / $3.1m Fri. (includes $300k previews) /3-day cume: $8.6M / Wk 1

3.). Hitman’s Bodyguard (LG), 3,322 theaters (-48) / $1.37M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.86M (-54%) / Total cume: $64.9M / Wk 4

4.). Annabelle: Creation (NL/WB), 3,003 theaters (-355) / $1.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.8M (-49%) / Total cume: $96M / Wk 5

5.) Wind River (TWC), 2,890 theaters (+288) / $963K Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.3M (-47%) / Total cume: $25M / Wk 6

6.). Leap! (TWC), 2,691 theaters (-14)/ $545K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.5M (-48%) / Total cume: $15.9M / Wk 3

7.) Dunkirk (WB), 2,110 theaters (-642) / $542K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2M (-53%) / Total cume: $183.1M / Wk 8

8.) Spider-Man: Homecoming (SONY/MARVEL), 1,657 theaters (-379) / $515K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.9M (-47%) / Total cume: $327.6M / Wk 10

9.) Logan Lucky (BST), 2,167 theaters (-808) / $506K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.7M (-61%) / Total cume: $25.1M / Wk 4

10.). The Emoji Movie (SONY), 1,450 theaters (-658) / $197K Fri. / 3-day cume: $919K (-63%) / Total cume: $82.4M / Wk 7

Neither Leap nor The Emojoi Movie are setting turnstiles ablaze with their box office grosses. That honor would go to this cartoon:

Illumination/Universal’s Despicable Me 3 has made the Gru-vy leap past the $1B worldwide box office mark. With Thursday’s grosses, the Kyle Balda/Pierre Coffin-helmed pic has taken $741.4M at the international box office and $259.05M domestically. ...

There have been two other billion-dollar movies in 2017: the well-loved car epic The Fate of the Furious and a faithful remake of an animated classic, a movie entitled Beauty and the Beast (Let's hope they cut* the original crew in on some of the massive take, since animation artists created the blueprint from which the remake was constructed).

And it's good to keep in mind that the one billion-dollar summer movie from last year was the animated Finding Dory. And the billion dollar winners from the summer of '15? The partially-animated Jurassic World and fully animated Minions.

* I'm joking, of course. This is Hollywood were talking about. The boys and girls at the top share the wealth with nobody unless there is a .357 Magnum pointed to their heads.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Work Around Town

I'm out of the cartoon biz (retired and gone fishing), but not out of knowledgable contacts who know what TV projects are being made where. Also too, there is the internet. That's always helpful.

Cartoon Network

Powerpuff Girls

Ben 10

Mighty Maja-Swords

Steven Universe

Clarence (wrapping up)

We Bare Bears

Ok-Ko Lets Be Hero's

Splittin' Rent (aka "Close Enough" -- see Adult Swim)

Summer Camp Island

Apple and Onion

Craig of the Creek

Note that CN is using more freelance board artists, which has its issues.

Adult Swim

Close Enough (aka Splittin' Rent)

Victor & Valentino

Infinity Train

Tiggle Winks

Warner Bros. Animation


Be Cool Scooby Doo

Scooby Doo Wild West

Lego Scooby Doo

(There are a plethora of Scoobs.)

Lego Justice League



Justice League Action (wrapped-waiting for pick up)

Mike Tyson Mysteries

Teen Titans Go!* (working on 5th season - updated)

DC Superhero Girls

Green Eggs and Ham

Wacky Racers

New Scooby Doo series (headed up by Chris Bailey)

Young Justice

Lego Movie sequel

November 28th update: Here's the skinny on "Teen Titans Go!". WB Animation is now in production on the 5th season of the show. Fewer shows for this season, but the work should take the crew into mid-2018. WBA has hired a separate crew to work on the 70-minite "TTG!" feature now in work. (Note: This comes from a supervising director at another studio who usually knows most everything going on at various studios.)


Micronauts (produced in Ireland)

Stretch Armstrong (finishing up)


Bunsen is a Beast (Butch Hartman)

Sponge Bob

The Loud House

Harvey Beaks (ending)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (reboot)

Wally Kazam (ending)

Shimmer and Shine

Pinky Malinky

Glitch Tech

Hey Arnold Movie

Rocko's Modern Life

Henry Danger (animated series)

Disney TV Animation

Micky's Roadster Racers

Star vs The Forces of Evil

Puppy Capers

Sophia the First (wrapping up)

Future Worm


Duck Tales

Milo Murphy's Law (Dan & Swampy)

Wicked World

The Lion Guard (Disney Jr. "Baby Lion King")

The Three Caballeros

Muppet Babies

Country Club

Big Hero Six

Amphibio-land (Kim Robertson)

Elena of Avalor

Dreamworks Animation TV

Veggie Tales

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Rocky and Bullwinkle

King Julian

Dino Trucks

Puss in Boots




Dragons Jr (young viewer)

Harvey Girls (Aliki)

Capt. Underpants

Spirit Riding Free


Boss Baby


Starz - Film Roman

(Sold to Lions Gate)

Rough Draft

New Matt Groening show

Mega Man


Costume Quest (for Amazon)

Paramount Animation

Gnomeo and Juliet: Sherlock Gnomes

Amusement Park

The Spongebob Movie 3

The Loud House Movie

Paramount Animation has two movies schedule for 2019, the long gestating Amusement Park and the third installment of "Spongebob", which has seen its production schedule start and stop a couple of times. My info is that "SB 3" is now on hiatus.

Bento Box

Bob's Burgers


Fox Animation (on Alameda and Wilshire)

Family Guy

American Dad

The Simpsons


Avengers Assemble

Guardians of the Galaxy


Titmouse/Robin Red Breast

Moon Beam


Super Jail

The Venture Brothers

Nico and the Sword of Light (Amazon)

Big Mouth (Netflix)


Skylanders Academy (union freelance only)


ABC Mouse (Flash)

Star Burns Industries

Rick and Morty (for Adult Swim - Rick and Morty LLC)


Shadow Machine

Bo Jack Horsemen

Dad Boner

Six Point/Six Point 2

Apollo Gauntlet (for Adult Swim)

Star Chaser pilot

Walt Disney Animation Studios

Wreck-It Ralph 2

Frozen 2


Wild Canary

Sheriff Callie's Wild West

Puppy Capers

Bureau of Magic

Lost in Oz

Stupid Buddies Stoodio

Robot Chicken

Buddy Thunderstruck



Leodoro Productions

F is for Family

Reel FX

Various development work


Alvin and the Chipmunks

Curious George

Dream East Pictures

Magic Deer(ended)

Illumination Entertainment Studios

Secret Life of Pets 2


Rough Draft

Clash of Clans (YouTube) season 1 (ending)

Disenchantment (Matt Groening)

Animation continues to thrive in Los Angeles, but there is increasing competition for some job categories. Studios continue to corral costs where they can, and "New Media" work continues, with increases in production for "subscription video on demand" (new media) down the road. (As always, the list above is not totally comprehensive. Feel free to report mistakes and gaps. I'm not omniscient.)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Principle Photography

And the cash registers go ka-ching! as the vault gets dipped into more thoroughly.

The lamp has been rubbed and the genie is out. Will Smith, who plays the wish-granting Genie in the forthcoming live-action adaptation of Aladdin posted a picture on Facebook with fellow cast members Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, and Marwan Kenzari to announce that shooting for the Disney movie has commenced. ...

There will be two new songs written by Menken and Oscar and Tony Award-winning songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

What was good in 1992 will be better in 2018 ... or whenever it's coming out. And when I say "better", I mean higher grossing. Because that's what this is about, right?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Goings And Goings

Some people leave Cartoonland voluntarily (we assume) ...

Animation veterans Penney Finkelman Cox and Sandra Rabins are departing Original Force Animation, two years after helping the Chinese digital animation studio expand into Hollywood.

The duo announced their departure Friday, noting that they wish to return to producing after overseeing Original Force’s animated comedy “Duck Duck Goose.” ...

Penney and Sandra have been in the game for a long time. They were executives at Disney back during the Eisner-Katzenberg era, then execs and DreamWorks, and then at Sony Pictures Animation. They were instrumental in setting up Original Force's Culver City studio twenty-four months ago.

But then there are other resident of CL who don't. ...

Two-time Emmy winner Alf Clausen has been fired from “The Simpsons” after 27 years of providing music for Bart, Lisa, and company.

Clausen told Variety that he received a call from “Simpsons” producer Richard Sakai that the company was seeking “a different kind of music” and that he would no longer be scoring the longtime Fox hit.

You betchya. The show supervisors want to go in a new direction ...and that direction is "cheaper".

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Four Out Of Twelve

As of yesterday, there were four animated titles among the top twelve movies at the American box office. Sure, theatrical activity is sleepy right now, but four out of twelve tells us something, doesn't it?

Animated Box Office Performers

#6 -- Leap -- $7,967,048 -- (world total: same)

#8 -- The Emoji Movie -- $76,882,866 (world total: $144,582,866)

#9 -- The Nut Job 2 -- $22,830,259 (world total: $25,686,749)

#12 -- Despicable Me 3 -- $254,812,180 (world total: $972,856,686)

And below those four in the Dandy Dozen:

Cars 3 -- $149,083,064 (world total: $325,296,867)

Captain Underpants -- $73,495,941 (world total: $101,049,074)

The Boss Baby -- $174,943,931 (world total: $498,079,122)

Sadly, the Weinstein brothers have yet to crack the code for a successful animated feature.

Chris Meledandri, on the other hand, figured it out long ago. (Despicable Me 3 is outperforming Cars 3 by a wee bit.)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Get Rich Slowly

People would ask, back in my biz rep days, "What should I invest in? HOW should I invest?" I told them to max out available IRAs and 401(k) plans, and do those things year in and year out. Here are some basic pieces of advice:


1) "Patience is the fund investor's single most powerful ally." -- Benjamin Graham (My thought: Set up your asset allocation, fund it, and don't mess with it.)

2) Don't mistake a low price-to-earnings ratio for a value stock. (It might be a going-out-of-business stock).

3) "Adopt simple rules and stick to them." -- Benjamin Graham

4) Know your risk tolerance. Pick an asset allocation (stocks and bonds) that lets you sleep at night, so you won't panic and sell at the bottom. (Hint: A 100% stock allocation might be a bad idea).

5) Be tax-savvy. Hold taxable bonds in a 401(k) or IRA. Put stocks in taxable accounts. (That way you can sell losers -- be they funds or single stocks -- to tax loss harvest).

6) Build an emergency fund (mainly cash and equivalents) outside your IRAs and 401(k).

7) Put alternative investments (such as real estate) in your IRA.

8) Keep an eye on mutual fund fees. (If you pay more than 1%, you're paying too much).

9) All index funds are not created equal. Some have unconscionably high fees.

10) Diversify globally to boost your portfolio's risk-adjusted returns.

11) "Time is your friend. Impulse is your enemy." -- John Bogle

12) Use salary increases to boost your 401(k).

13) Beware personal finance experts pitching products.

14) Don't roll your old 401(k) into an IRA if you might face a lawsuit. (401(k)s offer more legal protection).

15) "Big opportunities come infrequently. When it's raining gold, reach for a bucket, not a thimble." -- Warren Buffett

16) "The key to making money in stocks is to not get scared out of them." -- Peter Lynch

17) Buy a retirement annuity cheap by delaying Social Security until 70.

18) Buy no more house than you can afford.

19) "Diversification is a protection against ignorance." -- Warren Buffett

20) "If you can't save enough for retirement, be really nice to your kids." -- Dan Ariety

For most people, an asset allocation fund where stocks and bonds are in one handy spot, or a collection of broadly diversified index funds (Total Stock Market Index; Total International Index; Total Bond Fund; Total International Bond Fund, etc.) is about all that's needed. The more complicated investing is made, the better the chance to muck it up.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Disney Feature in Six Minutes

So Blizzard does a bit of promotion for one of its best-selling game Hearthstone and channels Frozen, Tangled, and a generous dollop of Sword in the Stone.

But the question is, how did Merlin time-travel from SITS to this? And does Milt Kahl know about his character showing up in a six-minute short to hype a computer game?

(Probably not).

Monday, August 21, 2017

Animated Features In The Marketplace

As of Sunday, there are a total of four animated features playing on some movie screen or other in the U.S. of A.


Nut Job 2 -- $17,696,923 (10 days of release - Global take: same)

The Emoji Movie -- $71,767,352 (24 days of release - Global take: $125.5 m)

Despicable Me 3 -- $251,740,230 (52 days of release - Global take: $949.6 m )

Cars 3 -- $148,790,767 (66 days of release - Global take: $309.1 m)

Animated features are now on the same plane as live-action features. Nobody any longer says, "Well, Ditzy the Whacky Hummingbird didn't perform on its opening weekend because other animated movies are crowding it out of the marketplace."

No, Ditzy didn't perform because people didn't want to go see it. Just as in the real world, Cars 3 didn't "crowd out" Despicable Me 3. (See above). It's about the "want to see" factor, not that the marketplace has no room for multiple animated features. The media and trade press have finally figured out that animation is a format, not a genre, just like live-action movies. People go to watch the motion pictures that catch their fancy, be they animated, live-action, or a hybrid of the two.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Reminder of Geezerhood

There's nothing that reminds a person how much time has whirled buy than some e-mail asking questions about long-ago events. Like for instance:

From: christian renaut

To: Steve Hulett

Sent: Saturday, August 19, 2017 11:02 AM

Subject: questions "Fox and the Hound"

Thank you so much for your quick answer, I'm so glad. Here are my questions, feel free to take your time.

1/ It seems you had such a hard time convincing the old timers in story to be more modern and daring. However, it seems Vance Gerry and Burny Mattinson were more on your side, weren’t they?

As I recall, Vance didn't take any position on the overall shape of the story. He was in and out of the studio during that period, working part-time, devoting a chunk of each week to his small business "Weatherbird Press" where he created limited edition books (printing, illustration and typesetting were passions of his. He had a house in Fallbrook that was three-fifths print shop).

Burny could have been involved, but my memory is that Ron Clements, then an animator, and Pete Young (a story artist) were pushing for changes. Pete would usually lie back in the weeds and wait until the directors were at a dead end and more open to suggestions. "You can't tell 'em anything until they're ready to hear it" was one of his mottos. Ron would be more pushy. I know that he and I raised the idea of having Chief killed. Pete? He could have been involved, but he was fighting his own little battles at the time, getting his story ideas put into the first half of the film.

2/ I know Larry Clemmons had written the dialogues that Frank and Ollie animated to launch the film, did he quit after that, or did he have an input on the whole film before retiring?

Larry retired up to Friday Harbor in '78. He was torn about leaving, but his wife had already retired and was pressing him to wrap things up, sell their Glendale house, and join her up in the Puget Sound. After he left, he had no further connection to the movie. He wrote on a lot of sequences before he retired, but many of them were changed after he left. The dialogue he wrote for young Tod and Copper was used. He penned a bunch of dialogue and Frank Thomas cherry-picked what he wanted to build his puppy sequence near the start of the movie. There were no storyboards on that, per se.

3/ Can you remember at what stage in the production Woolie was more or less dismissed from directing by Ron Miller? Early pre-production? Story-writing? Later?

Woolie was on the film for the first few years. He supervised lots of story sessions and storyboard reviews. The overall shape of the picture was his, but details and final results should be credited to others. Woolie was pushed out because Ron Miller kept asking him to step back and let the younger guys run with the picture, but Woolie found that difficult to do. Getting him off the picture was the only way to give everybody else air, I think.

4/ Would you say his famous sequence between Charo and Phil Harris that he planned was the last straw?

Woolie was pretty much gone from "Fox and Hound" at that point, then he asked Miller if he could develop the Charo sequence, and was given permission to do so. Art Stevens was upset about the sequence, felt it didn't fit. Art worked hard to make sure it wasn't used.

On the other hand, Woolie was right about the picture sagging in the middle, and that there needed to be SOMETHING besides what we had. It's just that dumping Charo into the proceedings was the wrong solution.

5/ (main question) Which sequences did you principally contribute to? Any anecdote? Difficulties?

I worked on most all of them, one way or the other. Sometimes I contributed bits, sometimes I wrote dialogue, or rewrote dialogue. Some stuff was used, other stuff not. The most interesting challenge was re-writing dialogue for one of the lead characters (I think it was Tod when he's a young fox but it was a long time ago and the mind plays tricks...) when Big Mama's dialogue had already been recorded and was locked in stone. I ran from story room to story room with multiple options for Tod's dialogue, getting directors Ted Berman's and Art Stevens' approval.

The long story sessions for the picture (of which there are many, and which I detail in MiT, is here (and there's nothing much to add):

6/ Can you remember sequences or scenes that were abandoned and you wished they hadn’t?

There weren't many sequences (if any) jettisoned. There were plenty of sequences that were changed, altered, beaten to death. Dave Michener worked on the burrow sequence -- where the hunter and Copper are attacking -- for a year, and Woolie dragged it this way and that. After a year, it was within 11 drawings of where it started out.

Oh. Ollie Johnston did some scenes of Chief in the cabin with a broken leg that never got past the pencil test stage (it was early in the project, was test footage, and didn't fit). I'm sure there were trims, exploratory animation I don't remember/know about, but I wasn't involved in that stuff very much.

7/ Finally, how useful was the novel by Mannix since so little is left of it?

Never read the book, was never asked to. (I think Woolie and maybe Larry read it, but I'm guessing). I don't know who else in the story department read the book but I never asked. If I'd had my wits about me I would have taken it on myself to read the thing, but I was too caught up in banging sequence scripts out in my office, pleasing Larry and Woolie, going to story meetings, etc. (I did read some of the "Catfish Bend" books when I worked with Ken Anderson on that project. It should have helped, but with Ken and his towering ego and paranoia, nothing helped.)

When Katzenberg got to the studio, he wanted everybody to read source material. But that was later.

Hope this helps. ...