Friday, March 31, 2017

The Ten-Hour Day

Professor Tom Sito reminds us:

March 31, 1840 - Congress lowered the minimum workday for federal workers from 11.4 hours a day to 10 hours a day. At this time in mines and factories people worked an average 12-16 hour day. The 8 hour day wasn’t achieved until 1913, not until 1941 in Hollywood and it’s still a dream in most digital studios today.

It never ends. Movie editors work extra hours for free. Animation artists work extra hours without additional compensation, often a total of ten or twelve in a given day. Often there's a low-key, ever-present pressure to hit delivery dates and refrain from pestering the production manager about extra compensation for the extra hours. The song-and-dance is often: "We need the work by next Thursday and there's no money in the budget for overtime! Do what you need to do."

The no-money-in-the-budget threat is a non-sequitor, because the company, assuming it's under a collective bargaining agreement, has already promised to pay overtime whether they've allocated cash for it or not. Somebody should production send the memo.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Adult Swim Additions

So Adult Swim adds two new series, one Canadian and one from a Burbank facility that creates show without benefit of a union contract.

Apollo Gauntlet, set to debut in the summer, hails from Canadian animator Myles Langlois. The quarter-hour animated comedy series centers on Paul Cassidy, an ordinary cop who gets transported to a futuristic medieval society by the evil Dr. Benign. ...

Science fiction adventure series Hot Streets, from animation newcomer Brian Wysol, is set for premiere on Adult Swim this fall. The quarter-hour animated series revolves around FBI Agent Mark Branski, his partner, his niece, and her dog, who investigate supernatural phenomena. ... Hot Streets is produced by Stoopid Buddy Stoodios.

The market for talent is tight right now, as it has been for a while. It would be interesting and informative to know what kind of rates Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, not known for being generous in the weekly wage department, is paying for various positions.

Adult Swim, a subset of Cartoon Network, has a love for edgy, non-union shows that pay lower wages/lower benefits. Or pay no benefits at all.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Animation Guild Meeting

... and the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan.

At last night's TAG General Membership Meeting, there was a brisk and businesslike presentation put on by MPIPPHP representatives. In a nutshell, it went like this:

1) When most participants retire: (age 65); how and when people can retire early: (from ages 55 to 64 if they have at least 20 Qualified Years and 20,000 hours).

2) There was a review of the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan: 48,000 active participants and their dependents qualified for health insurance. Participants paid monthly premiums of $0 (no dependents); $25 (1 dependent); $50 (2 or more dependents).

3) The Plan representatives supplied answers to a plethora of questions.

There was a record 94 million hours contributed to the plan last year, which translates to $856 million. Another $434 million came from residuals and secondary markets. (There was a 6% growth of assets from investment returns; there were 7,370,252 contribution hours from TAG members -- an 11.6% increase from 2015 to 2016).


MPI Pension Plan -- $3.3 billion

MPI Individual Account Plan -- $4 billion

MPI Active Health Plan -- $971 million

Retiree Health Plan -- $94 million

TOTAL -- $8.42 billion

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Animated Box Office

The good times, they continue to roll ... for both the live-action/animated hybrid, and the new baby on the block:

... Disney’s Beauty And The Beast [led] with a $120.6M sophomore session – up $1.4M from Sunday’s estimate and down less than 35% from opening last weekend. The global cume is $693.5M through Sunday. ... Another film that saw increases from Sunday’s projection, and which took some by surprise, was DreamWorks Animation/Fox’s Boss Baby which adopted $17.6M in the actuals, versus $16.3M in Sunday’s estimate. That’s from only five markets which were led by Russia and a better-than-projected $11.2M. It looks well set up for the bigger rollout this week. ...

The Mouse's animated feature library continues to be a gold mine of gargantuan proportions. Sometimes the remakes are loose adaptations, and sometimes the remakes, like BATB are shot-for-shot recreations. They haven't remade Pinocchio yet ... or Sword in the Stone, Peter Pan, Aristocats, The Rescuers and Tarzan. But I'm sure they'll get around to it.

Just a matter of time.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Looming Job Action?

Deadline reported yesterday:

... The labor tension in Hollywood is at a 10-year high. As the scribes now confirm Deadline’s exclusive of earlier today that a strike-authorization vote has been called, the producers shot back this evening with claims of bad faith from the other side of the table. ...

However, Deadline has learned that the AMPTP believed earlier that week that further talks would not be productive. The producers’ reps did not respond to requests for comment on this matter.

Earlier tonight, the WGA’s negotiators sent a letter to membership calling for a strike-authorization vote. It would not be a vote to strike but to authorize the guild’s board of directors to call a strike if further talks fail to produce a deal.

A strike vote had been looking like a real possibility this afternoon, according to Deadline’s Dominic Patten and David Robb, with one source with intimate knowledge of the ongoing talks saying, “That’s the way the wind is blowing.” A strike-authorization vote among senior WGA officials takes the situation to a precipice Hollywood has not really been at since 2007. ...

The WGA has initiated multiple strikes, but they've all happened at oddly specific times:

There weren’t any WGA strikes during the presidencies of Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson or John F. Kennedy. But there was one during the presidency of George W. Bush (the 100 day strike of 2007-08, pictured above); three during Ronald Reagan’s presidency (the 22-week strike of 1988, the two-week strike of 1985 and the 13-week strike of 1981); one during Richard Nixon’s (the 16-week strike of 1973); and one during Dwight Eisenhower’s (the 21-week strike of 1960).

Is there something in the air or water when Republican Presidents occupy the White House? Difficult to say, but the Guild has had lengthy work stoppages over the last fifty-eight years, and they all happened while Dwight, Dick, Ron or George were in office. If writers go out in the first six months of Donald Trump, the record will be intact.

Friday, March 24, 2017


Deadline is adding up some totals on the recent Ron Clements-John Musker feature.

Moana... with the second-biggest five-day weekend performance after Frozen, at $82 million. The film grossed $247 million domestic, with $319 million foreign and $32 million in China for a $600 million total. After a total of $30 million in Participations and Off-the-Tops, Moana turned in a $121 million in net profit, and a Cash on Cash Return of 1.32. That’s a respectable score for a live-action or animated film for most studios, but it was only the eighth-best performer of the year for Disney.

The picture was a solid box-office performer. Maybe not in Finding Dory or Zootopia territory, but certainly within hailing distance of Tangled's numbers (in fact better, since the South Seas adventure had a higher gross ... and Tangled cost way more money).

The upshot? Moana did well by most any measure you care to use.


A century of Japanese animation, in one convenient place:

... Long before it became known as anime, early Japanese animators honed their craft, producing cartoons that were both fascinating and fun. And you can watch them for yourself, reports the BBC, thanks to a new website celebrating 100 years of Japanese animation.

The site is the brainchild of Japan’s National Film Center, which celebrates the country’s long and rich film history as part of Japan’s National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. And it contains plenty of eye candy, even for those who mistakenly believe that Japanese animation begins and ends with "Sailor Moon," Astro Boy or Spirited Away.

It's a good thing that there is now an accessible location to tiptoe through some of the history that goes back 100 years. The more cartoons people can watch, the better.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Beauty of a Weekend Box Office

To nobody's surprise, the faithful redo of a well-loved animated feature came in #1:


1.) Beauty And The Beast (Disney), 4,210 theaters / $63.79M Fri. (includes $16.3M in previews) /$62.7M Sat/$43.5M Sun/ 3-day: $170M /Wk 1 [Disney estimate]

(Industry estimated for Beauty and the Beast:$64.1M Fri. (includes $16.3M in previews) /$62.8M Sat/$47.1M Sun/ 3-day: $174M /Wk 1 [industry estimate]

2.) Kong: Skull Island (20th/Leg), 3,846 theaters (0) / $7.3M Fri. /$12.3M Sat/$9.2M Sun/ 3-day: $28.9M (-53%)/Total: $110.1M/Wk 2

3.) Logan (Fox), 3,687 theaters (-384)/ $4.7M Fri. /$7.8M Sat/$5M Sun/ 3-day: $17.5M (-54%)/Total: $184M/Wk 3

4.) Get Out (UNI), 2,979 theaters (-164) / $3.78M Fri. /$5.9M Sat/$3.52M Sun/ 3-day: $13.2M (-36%)/Total: $133.1M/Wk 4

5.) The Shack (LG), 2,825 theaters (-63) / $1.6M Fri. /$2.6M Sat/$1.9M Sun/ 3-day: $6.1M (-39%) /Total: $42.6M/Wk 3

6). The LEGO Batman Movie (WB), 2,735 theaters (-568) / $1.2M Fri./$2.06M Sat/$1.4M Sun/ 3-day: $4.7M (-38%) / Total: $167.4M/Wk 6

7.) The Belko Experiment (BHT/ORN), 1,341 theaters / $1.5M Fri. (includes $306K in previews) /$1.57M Sat/$981K Sun/ 3-day: $4.07M /Wk 1

8.) Hidden Figures (FOX), 1,162 theaters (-259)/ $390K Fri. /$715k Sat/$395K Sun 3-day: $1.5M (-46%) / Total: $165.6M / Wk 13

9.) John Wick: Chapter 2(LGF), 1,065 theaters (-966) / $304K Fri. / $546K Sat/$350K Sun/3-day: $1.2M (-60%) / Total:$89.8M / Wk 6

10.) Before I Fall (OR), 1,551 theaters (-795) / $313K Fri. /$436K Sat/$284K Sun/ 3-day: $1M (-67%)/Total: $11.2M/Wk 3

11.) Lion (TWC) 621 theaters (-339)/$180K /$355K Sat/$249K Sun/3-day: $784K (-36%)/Total: $50M/Wk 17

Overseas, Beauty and the Beast opened in 43 foreign markets and came in #1 in most of them, with a grand total of $350 million in its first weekend of release. No doubt there will be much back-slapping among execs in Burbank tonight, the Diz Co. finds more gold in them thar vaults.

As stated elsewhere, a hard-working animation crew performed most of the heavy lifting for this picture more than a quarter century ago, and now it's on to the next live-action redo ... though at some point the vault will be bare ... and the boys and girls at Disney will have to figure out a new strategy for filling up their movie slate.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Memories of "Beauty & The Beast"

This being Opening Day for the live-action re-do of the now-iconic 1991 classic, herewith some tales from the artists who worked on the original (from a book* on which I'm working in fits and starts):

In the late 1980s, with "The Little Mermaid" well into production, Disney Feature Animation dispatched producer Don Hahn to Great Britain to oversee work on a new animated feature based on the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast”.

Richard and Jill Purdum, associates of Richard Williams, were helming “Beast”, but early on there were issues. Disney board artist and animator Tom Sito, in England with the Mouse’s development group, remembered:

“The boarding [on the project] was fun, but there were a lot of script issues, and the director wasn't clicking with the management team."

Sito, along with animators Glen Keane, Andreas Deja, and Disney veteran Mel Shaw, were working at the Purdums' studio putting “Beauty and the Beast” story reels together. Studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg was less than thrilled when he saw the results of their labors. Board artist Gary Trousdale, later a director on the picture, observed: “[The reels were] non-musical and kind of straight. Very beautiful, but dull.”

Katzenberg reached out to “Mermaid” composers Howard Ashman and Alan Menken to restructure “Beauty and the Beast” as a big, Broadway musical. At the time, the team was working on story and songs for another feature project, a brainchild of Ashman’s titled “Aladdin”. But the two were game to step up and renovate “Beauty”.

Brian McEntee, “Beauty and the Beast’s” art director, recalled:

“They showed the original story reels to Jeffrey, and he said ‘What are you doing? I want to make a musical and it needs to be a Disney picture.” The Purdums were not at all happy with that.

“So right at that point they asked me, the bottom-of-the-list art director, if I wanted to be art director on it. And I immediately said yes because if it’s a musical and a Disney picture, I can do that.

“The Purdums left, and I was on a picture without a director. So I took that as an opportunity to go in and start redesigning … The first thing that struck me was, there’s that classic sidekick trio [in the movie]. The clock was a grandfather clock so he was very tall, and there was the teapot and the candelabra. And if we had a mantel clock then at least all three would be in the same size range, so you can stage them better.”

With the original directors gone, finding new directors became a priority. Studio management approached Ron Clements and John Musker, fresh off “The Little Mermaid”, about taking the assignment, but they wanted to take a break and passed. So Disney brass turned to a pair of board artists who had recently worked as replacement directors on a Disney World short called “Cranium Command”.

"Kirk Wise and I had gone back into development,” recalled Gary Trousdale, “and one Monday Morning Charlie Fink, the director of development, came running in. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ had been in production in London. The directors had left the project, and Jeffrey wanted to bring in Alan Menken and Howard Ashman because ‘The Little Mermaid’ had worked so well. Charlie said ‘There’s been a shakeup in London. Can you guys be on a plane Wednesday to New York?’

“Kirk and I looked at each other as if we were on ‘Candid Camera’. I had been screamed at [as a director] on ‘Cranium Command’, and I didn’t like it. So that wasn’t fun, and not what I saw my career as being. I saw myself as an artist and animator and storyboard artist. Doing a leadership thing wasn't something I had trained for. My first reaction was, ‘Can I say no?’ And Charlie said, ‘NO you can’t say NO!’

"So we were on a plane on Wednesday.”

Trousdale and Wise were dubbed “acting directors” by Disney management, and dispatched to the East Coast with a story crew that included Chris Sanders, Roger Allers, and Brenda Chapman Lima. They stayed in New York over a week, cobbling together a new story outline. Ashman and Menken already had songs written.

“It was a really tight schedule,” Trousdale said. “They’d had a tight schedule to begin with, and when they threw everything out, they didn’t redo the deadline. They just said “Still the same release date, you just gotta make it work’.”

Art director McEntee continued to design the movie’s exteriors, interiors and sprawling cast. “I pushed the characters in a certain direction, and then we lucked out and Kevin Lima came on the picture and just plussed them to death. At that point he was designing characters and just totally made them sing. And then the key animators put in their two cents, so by the time we came out of it we had really strong characters.”

“Since it was so crazy schedule-wise, there were always meetings, and we had to recast,” Trousdale said. “The floating objects [from the first version] became characters, and we had to write for them, we had to design them, we had to cast them. A lot of the casting we had to fly back to New York for, because we used a lot of Broadway talent. Jerry Orbach had that Maurice Chevalier vibe and that real rich voice. We did end up speeding up his voice by 3% to him him sound just a little smaller.

“The beast was the hardest. We were looking for somebody with the gravity in his voice, and the gruffness, but also have some kind of charm. We listened to hundreds of people in L.A. and New York And finally, we’re on our studio rounds and our casting director comes running up the hallway: ‘Guys! We just heard Robbie Benson!’

“Kirk goes, ‘Robbie BENSON? “Ice Castle’s” Robbie Benson?’ And our casting guy goes ‘Yeah!” and runs off. And we say to each other, ‘Well, I guess we’ve heard everybody else.’ And then we hear [Benson] and say, “Damn, he’s good.’ Because he’s got the deep stuff, but he’s also funny. When he would really go ballistic, we would mis in a lion and a bear, maybe a Dodge Charger.”

From “Snow White” to “Princess and the Frog”, animated feature development always rolled down multiple tracks; as the story took shape, voices would be cast, and the looks of characters and the world they inhabited would get tied down. Supervising animators would take early storyboards and do test animation to explore how characters moved and reacted. Matching the right animator with the most appropriate character was as important as casting a live-action actor in a key screen role.

“They needed supervisors,” said animator Nik Ranieri. “Don Hahn knew me from ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, and Kirk and Gary knew me from ‘Cranium Command’, so they asked me if I would do Lumiere [the candelabra]. I actually wanted Cogsworth because of all the fidgeting. Lumiere is very suave, very slow, but for an animator there’s so much more to Cogsworth. But what I found out was that people really responded to Lumiere. So I’m glad they cast me for him because he was one of the more successful characters. … People hated Cogsworth because of his personality. The animation was brilliant, but audiences responded to the character. …”

“Jerry Orbach [as Lumiere] was great. There was only one time he couldn’t get a line. It was where Maurice picks him up and Lumiere goes, ‘Allo.’ Kirk had done a scratch track delivered like Señor Wences, low and guttural. But Jerry couldn't do it that way, and Kirk finally says ‘Fine, Jerry, let’s move on.’

“We get back to the studio and I say, “Kirk, that isn’t going to work. Why don’t you do it, nobody’s going to know.’ So that’s actually Kirk Wise in the movie. He did the final take on that [one line].”

For Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, the work of directing a large movie on a cramped schedule was unrelenting and non-stop. But the studio finally decided it liked the way they were leading Disney’s thirtieth animated feature.

“We became the official directors about six months in,” Trousdale said. “Jeffrey called us to a conference room and said, ‘All right guys, you’re it. We’ve watched your progress, we like what you’re doing, we have confidence in you. You’re real boys now.’

“Kirk and I left and went ‘Great! What does that mean? It means we better get back to work!’

“For me, the biggest problem was I had to watch what I would say, because it was my habit to throw off funny jokes: ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if Gaston did this?’ And the story guy would write it down and I’d say, ‘No, no, no! Don’t do that, I was just kidding!’

“The most frustrating part was that I didn’t have time to draw at all. I did like one tiny section of boards where LeFou is waiting for Belle to come back home and he’s dressed as a snow man with his arms holding the sticks. That was the only drawing I did for the show.”

Disney Feature Animation had vacated the Burbank studio lot in 1985, moving to a nondescript office building in the Grand Central industrial area of Glendale. The neighborhood was not high-rent. Asphalt parking lots and low-slung brick and cinderblock structures predominated, along with a couple of ancient buildings that had survived the demolition of the municipal airport, back during the Eisenhower Administration.

Most of “Beauty and the Beast’s” production unit was housed in an office building on Air Way, a couple of blocks from the original location on Flower Street. “During the years we all worked in Glendale, recalled lead key assistant Stephan Zupkas, “work on animated features went on in seven different buildings. There was the first place at 1420 Flower Street, there was the Air Way building near the old Grand Central airport terminal, and then the Hart Dannon building just off of Flower. On ‘Beauty and the Beast’, the work was long and stressful. There was one month of production I worked without one day off.”

Overtime was extensive. Food was brought in for the animators and assistants bent over their desks, working to meet weekly drawing quotas. A female assistant complained to me: “I make lots of overtime money, but my wrist hurts all the time, and I never get home to see the kids, or clean the house, or do the laundry. I have to hire people to do all those things.”

When animation footage counts were met, boxes of donuts would be brought in as rewards. Some of the staff, led by supervising animator Glen Keane, would use a giant sling shot to catapult old donuts against the stucco tower of the airpot terminal building. Once in a while windows were broken.

“‘Beauty and the Beast’ was a tough picture because it went through a lot of changes,” Tom Sito said. [At one point] Belle had a cat and kid sister Clarice, and there was a foot stool and music box. On every picture, there always seems to be a confusion or problem, then somebody runs out and grabs the flag and yells ‘Follow me!’ And on ‘Beauty’, I think it was Howard Ashman and Glen Keane. … Glen started turning out this beautiful beast animation, and it was just ‘wow!’ And Glen was specific of wanting the beast to look like an animal so he gave him the back legs of a quadriped, and the back of a buffalo. He was experimenting with all these different shapes to that [the beast] could be sympathetic but not credibly human.”

“Before our first test screening,” Brian McEntee said,” the studio brass were like ‘Get the picture done, get the picture done!” There weren’t a lot of people thinking it was special. It was ‘We’ve spent a lot of money on this, we went down a bad path.’

“We had a very tight budget. They told me, ‘No tones, no highlights, no special this or that.’ I had to do a lot of art director’s tricks to elevate the look of the movie, because I was very limited in what I could do. An interesting, easy trick was we could cross dissolve between dark and light color models [on the characters]. There’s a scene where Belle is walking through the castle, light into dark. So I have her light against dark, then dark against light so it feels like she’s walking through shadows and pools of light. It gave a lot of depth, and a lot of production value, and it didn’t cost any more to do it that way.”

“While we were doing it,” director Trousdale recalled, “nobody knew what we had. Except for Brian McEntee. He said, ‘This thing is going to make a hundred million.’ And honestly? We laughed at him, because nothing had made a hundred million before that. The closest had been ‘The Little Mermaid’ that made eighty-six million. Before that, if you made fifty million you were doing good.

“But Brian saw it coming, and we were like ‘come on.’ We were just trying to get the picture done on time. And Brian kept going, ‘No, you guys have got something good here.’”

“As with “Mermaid”, it took a test screening for the studio to understand the blockbuster it held in its hands. “We had out first screening,” McEntee said, “and a lot of the picture was in pencil test but the audience was just eating it up. The cards were 98% high approval, something like that.”

“Beauty and the Beast”, despite the false start and struggle to “just get it done” was released on schedule in November 1991. Made for $25 million, it was greeted with rapturous reviews and went on to a worldwide gross of almost $352 million. (With reissues, that total has climbed to $425 million). Considered one of the Mouse’s major artistic achievements, it has spawned games and merchandise and a plethora of sequels and remakes, (the last of which appears to be earning north of $160 million during its opening weekend in 2017).

Disney Feature Animation, after years of climbing the mountain, had reached a new artistic pinnacle. ...

* The title of said book is "Mouse in Orbit", a sequel to "Mouse in Transition".

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Box Office Crystal Ball

So the Smart Money thinks that Beauty and the Beast (live action edition) will rake in around $120 million this coming weekend.

And the ever-cagey House of Mouse is copping to a $100 million take for its opening three days.

Then there are the Very Devout/Very Intolerant who are urging the minions to boycott, thereby throwin a wrench into distribution plans. But the campaign by Faith Driven Consumers (c) will likely be about as effective as the last effort of the Very Devout, when they wanted everybody to boycott all things Disney (but especially the parks) because The Gays and Their Partners were getting health insurance.

That campaign didn't work because most people, including most church goers, don't care if a minority group is getting benefits from a corporation. (Funny how that works).

Reviewers have noted that the latest Disney flick is pretty much a shot-for-shot redo of the one made by Disney's feature animation department back in the Second Golden Age. Because advance sales are strong, I'm going to guesstimate a $125-$140 million weekend take. Of course I could be wrong, as I am excellent at being wrong. But that's my guess.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Duck Tales, the Reboot

It's been thirty years since the last iteration of this series, so maybe a new take is in order. (The Mouse, after all, only waited twenty six years to remake Beauty and the Beast).

Community's Danny Pudi, Ben Schwartz of Parks and Recreation, and Saturday Night Live cast member Bobby Moynihan lend their vocal talents to Huey, Dewey and Louie; comedian Kate Micucci voices Webby Vanderquack and Moynihan's SNL castmate Beck Bennet, plays Launchpad McQuack.

And since Alan Young (the original Scrooge McDuck) is no longer alive, and would be near the century mark if he were, Doctor Who stalwart Dave Tennant has taken over the role. Longtime Donald Duck specialist Tony Anselmo (who, besides being a voice talent, is a veteran animator who's work appears in Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and numerous other features) returns in the role of nephew Donald. (Voice actor Daniel Ross can be heard as Donald on another DTVA series, Mickey's Road Racers).

(And the longer "Duck Tales" trailer ... that dropped at the start of the month and millions have now watched):

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Your American Box Office

An animated ape (the large, economy size) rules the box office kingdom, as the WB's late-inning publicity campaign gets some traction.


1.) Kong: Skull Island (20th/Leg), 3,846 theaters / $20.2M Fri. (includes $3.7M in previews) / 3-day: $54M /Wk 1

2.) Logan (Fox), 4,071 theaters (0)/ $10.4M Fri. (-68%) / 3-day: $36M (-59%)/Total: $150.8M/Wk 2

3.) Get Out (UNI), 3,143 theaters (+205) / $6M Fri. (-25%) / 3-day: $21.3M (-24%)/Total: $111.3M/Wk 3

4.) The Shack (LG), 2,888 theaters (0) / $2.7M Fri. (-51%) / 3-day: $9.6M (-40%) /Total: $31.6M/Wk 2

5). The LEGO Batman Movie (WB), 3,303 theaters (-353) / $1.7M Fri. (-30%) / 3-day: $7.8M (-33%) / Total: $159M/Wk 5

6.) Before I Fall (OR), 2,346 theaters / $920K Fri. (-45%) / 3-day: $3M (-35%)/Total: $9M/Wk 2

7.) Hidden Figures (FOX), 1,421 theaters (-161) / $711K Fri. (-29%) / 3-day: $2.7M (-29%) / Total: $162.8M / Wk 12

8.) John Wick: Chapter 2 (LGF), 2,031 theaters (-444) / $699K Fri. (-44%) / 3-day: $2.66M (-45%) / Total:$87.3M / Wk 5

9.) La La Land (LGF), 1,578 theaters (+167) / $477K Fri (-37%) / 3-day: $1.7M (-43%) / Total: $148.4M / Wk 14

10.) Fifty Shades Darker(UNI), 1,498 theaters (-707) / $539K Fri. (-54%) / 3-day: $1.6M (-53%) / Total: $112.9M/ Wk 5

There is an animated character beating its large chest at the top of the box office heap, and an animated feature riding along at #5. Next week, a live-action remake of an animated blockbuster dances into neighborhood theaters. (Because its roots are in Cartoonland, there will be generous dollops of animation alongside the flesh-and-blood actors).

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Job Action On The Horizon?

From the pessimistic Dave Robb at Deadline:

Negotiations for a new WGA film and TV contract get underway Monday, and if the two sides fail to reach an agreement in a couple of weeks, expect a rush to get film scripts completed in anticipation of a strike come May 1, when the union’s current contract expires.

That’s what happened 10 years ago before the WGA launched a strike over new media that lasted 100 days. ...

How time flies.

I remember that Writers Guild strike from a decade back. Vividly. The Writers Guld battled not just the majors in the live-action realm, but the prime time animation shows Family Guy, The Simpsons and American Dad. Those series, all of which employed lots of TAG members, were also shuttered.

It was a tense three-plus months. Not only were board artists, designers, animation directors and checkers on the network nighttime shows forced out of work, but the WGA briefly demanded that no WGA writer work on Animation Guild shows the WGA didn't represent. When I found out, I screamed and yelled; the IATSE and Animation Guild threatened lawsuits.

Happily, the WGA recognized the error of its ways (or maybe its untenable legal position, since one labor organization can't prohibit members from working under another labor organization's jurisdiction) and rewrote its strike rules. And that issue went away.

However, the strike was a long one, and nobody knows what might happen this time. If the Writers Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers can work things out, that would be a good thing. If there is a strike, Animation Guild members working on WGA prime time shows should prepare for that possibility now.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Same Title ...

... but different producer than you might expect.

Conglomerate Media and Kingsway Productions produce their own take on the H.C. Anderson fairy tale, which is (of course) public domain. Which means that anybody can gin up their own version of the story.

No doubt one of the factors that went into the making of this picture is that the title is well-known. And Disney is busy re-making its back-log of animated fairy tales as live-action movies, so why the hell not? A little public confusion about what company is producing what re-do of which cartoon extravaganza could work in Conglomerate Media/Kingsways' favor. (Of course they have to steer well away from elements exclusive to the Disney blockbuster; this they appear to do).

I assume CM/KP are banking on some serious "ka-CHING" down the road because of those three words in the title.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Nick Content

Last week, the Prez of Viacom's Nickelodeon Group previewed the upcoming jams and jellies from the network:

Cyma Zarghami, President, Nickelodeon Group,previewed the network’s content pipeline, offering a close look at a selection of upcoming projects that underscore Nick’s overall programming strategy, including: an animated series based on the top-ranked live-action hit Henry Danger; a brand-new, reimagined animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, titled Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Lip Sync Battle Shorties, a spinoff of Spike’s global phenomenon Lip Sync Battle; more Kuu Kuu Harajuku from music and TV superstar Gwen Stefani; a TV special and consumer products line based on performer, actress and social media influencer, JoJo Siwa; and the first look at Amusement Park, Paramount Pictures’ animated feature set for release in 2018, which will be followed by a Nickelodeon-produced TV series the next year. ...

Nick knows it has an ongoing hit with the Turtles, but the division has figured out that doing the franchise in a more-expensive CG format doesn't buy it bigger ratings. So the next iteration of the franchise? Ninja Turtles gets "re-imagined" as a hand-drawn show*.

Old and new animated series moving through Nick's pipeline:

Butterbean’s Café -- (40 episodes)

Sunny Day -- (40 episodes)

Top Wing (26 episodes -- CG show from an outside contractor)

The Adventures of Kid Danger and Captain Man -- (working title, 10 episodes)

Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- (working title, 26 episodes)

Bunsen Is a Beast -- (20 episodes)

Pinky Malinky -- (20 episodes)

Welcome to the Wayne -- (20 episodes -- digital series, short episodes)

Kuu Kuu Harajuku -- (26 episodes)

The take-away here is that Nick continues to be heavily invested in the cartoon business, just not so much on the CG side. In this, it follows the trajectory of the other majors: As it sinks in that CG doesn't work in the same magical way on television that it does on movie screens, companies move away from the format.

* A few years ago, Nickelodeon had an ambitious slate of CGI TV series. But little kids sitting at home don't care whether the cartoons they watch are 2-D or 3-D, and if ratings are no better with CG, why spend the extra money to make them? (DreamWorks Television Animation makes hand-drawn series from DWA's CG features; Disney makes the television version of Tangled in a hand-drawn format).

Monday, March 6, 2017

Jeffrey Marches On

This is old news, but nevertheless ...

Jeffrey Katzenberg says he feels like he’s in his 20s again — starting a brand-new venture, WndrCo, built around media and technology.

The co-founder and former CEO of DreamWorks Animation, speaking at an event Thursday in New York hosted by Hearst, said it’s actually the sixth time he’s started over in his career, citing his CV at Paramount, Walt Disney Studios, DreamWorks SKG and DWA. “One of the things that has happened for me is that whatever came next was better than what I had before,” Katzenberg said. “You shouldn’t be fearful of starting over.” ...

Katzenberg noted that he had no intentions of selling DreamWorks Animation. He’d been planning to take the company private and sign on as CEO for another 10 years. “I felt passing the baton to Comcast, particularly them in this moment in time, was going to be better for [DWA’s employees], better for the company. ...

Truth out: Different industry execs told me a while ago that Mr. Katzenberg actually wanted to sell DWA for a lengthy period of time. But the economy swooned in '08, and there were no conglomerates who would meet his asking price, so it never happened.

My take? For Jeffrey, the journey was never about an undying love for animation. (Not that there's anything wrong with that).

J.K. likes animation well enough, but animation is (and was) beside the point. It's all about climbing, achieving, reaching the next level. Jeffrey pushed to be the new Frank Wells after Disney's #2 died in a copter crash, and Eisner (stupidly) said no. So Jeffrey partnered with some other big entertainment titans and made a success building a feature animation studio that later added a TV animation subsidy as well, and Comcast swooped in to buy the whole kit and kaboodle.

And whattayaknow? Mr. Katzenberg, who didn't want to sell the company, sold the company.

So now it's on to the next endeavor. Like Walt, Jeffrey has moved on from Cartoonland. Unlike Walt, he won't be keeping one foot in the biz, because animation isn't at the center of his being. Building the next company and scaling the next edifice is what drives him.