Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Maniacs

The breaking story ...

Amblin Television and Warner Bros. Animation are kicking around a brand new version of the hit 1990s cartoon Animaniacs, IndieWire has learned. The potential reboot comes as Animaniacs has experienced a new surge in popularity since arriving on Netflix last year. ...

Animaniacs ran for 99 episodes – from 1993 to 1995 on Fox Kids, before moving to Kids’ WB from 1995 to 1998. It also spawned the primetime spinoff Pinky and the Brain, which aired on The WB. ...

They're a ways from having anything ready for production, from the sound of it. But a newer edition will likely make it on to Netflix ... or Amazon .... or somewhere.

It makes good commercial sense to do more episodes of Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, and/or Pinky and the Brain. The challenge will be to bring the newer versions up to the level of the originals, for they were TV halv-hours on which no expense was spared. Actual layouts. Original music. Well-crafted stories and nicely designed characters.

How long it will be before Animaniacs 2018 rolls down the assembly is maybe known to Warner Bros. and Amblin', but nobody else. My assumption is that work is being done at Warner Bros. Animation on the Ranch on Hollywood Way or the Pinnacle on Alameda, but I don't do walk-throughs anymore so who knows? These things usually take awhile to get rolling, but when there are dollars being thrown around, sometimes development is sped up.

And if it's Animaniacs next year, can the other Spielberg[Warners collaborations be far behind?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The BIG Strike

Professor Tom Sito informs us of an anniversary date:

May 28, 1941- THE WALT DISNEY STRIKE- Labor pressures had been building in the Magic Kingdom since promises made to artists over the success of Snow White were reneged on, and Walt Disney’s lawyer Gunther Lessing encouraged a hard line with his employees. On this day, in defiance of federal law, Walt Disney fired animator Art Babbitt, the creator of Goofy, and thirteen other cartoonists for demanding a union. Babbitt had emerged as the union movements’ leader. Studio security officers escorted him off the lot.

That night in an emergency meeting of the Cartoonists Guild, Art’s assistant on Fantasia, Bill Hurtz, made the motion to strike, and it was unanimously accepted. Bill Hurtz will later go on to direct award winning cartoons like UPA’s "Unicorn in the Garden". Picket lines go up next day in cartoon animation’s own version of the Civil War.

Walt Disney nearly had a nervous breakdown over the strike and a federal mediator was sent by Washington to arbitrate. Walt was packed off to South America in part so Roy and the negotiators could arrive at a settlement.

In later years, Uncle Walt blamed the studio’s labor ills on Communists. The studio unionized completely, but the hard feelings remained for their rest of their lives. ...

Joe Grant (a longtime Disney veteran and an employee during the Hyperion days) said this about Walt's grumbling over the commies on his payroll: "Well, Walt hired them. ..."

My father was an artist at Disney during the '41 strike. He was not well paid but he stayed in during the job action, crossing the line every day to get to his job. (This was not ... ahm ... popular with the picketers). He had his reasons. He felt the company had been good to him, advancing him money when he had to go back east to visit his desperately ill father.

Bad feelings between artists went on long after the strike was settled. The folks who grew up in the thirties and forties got cuffed around by events pretty hard; a major depression was followed by a major war and emotions were high. Not being in the shoes of those who lived through those times, I can't sit here and say one side was wrong and another side was right. Everyone did what they believed they had to do. Let's leave it at that.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Your American Box Office

Pirates of the Caribbean sail under partially-filled canvas; meantime Boss baby hits $170 million (or close to).


1). Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (DIS), 4,276 theaters / $23.4M Fri. (includes $5.5M previews) / 3-day cume: $62.7M to $63.7M / 4-day: $76M to $78M / Wk 1

2). The Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (DIS), 3,871 theaters (-476) / $5.3M Fri.(-39%) / 3-day cume: $20.3M to $20.6M (-41%) / 4-day: $26.5M to $26.8M / Total: $339.9M / Wk 4

3). Baywatch (PAR), 3,647 theaters / $5.7M Fri. / 3-day cume: $16.5M to $17M / 4-day: $20M to $21M / Total: $24.8M to $25.8M / Wk 1 Wednesday bow

4). Alien: Covenant (FOX), 3,772 theaters (+11) / $3M Fri. (-80%) / 3-day cume: $11M (-69%) / 4-day: $13.75M / Total: $60.5M / Wk 2

5). Everything, Everything (WB/MGM), 2,801 theaters / $2M Fri. (-57%) / 3-day cume: $6.8M to $7.5M (-34%) / 4-day: $8.5M to $9.7M / Total: $24M to $25M / Wk 2

6). Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (FOX), 3,174 theaters (+17) / $1.28M Fri. (-36%) / 3-day cume: $4.8M (-32%) / 4-day: $6.47M / Total: $15.6M / Wk 2

7). Snatched (FOX), 2,658 theaters (-853) / $1M Fri. (-54%) / 3-day cume: $3.9M (-49%) / 4-day: $4.87M to $5.2M / Total: $41M+ / Wk 3

8). King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword (WB/VR), 2,503 theaters (-1,199) / $870K (-56%) Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.29M (-54%) / 4-day: $4.18M to $4.24M / Total: $34.8M / Wk 3

9). The Boss Baby (Fox) 1,342 (-729), $425K Fri (-28%) / 3-day: $1.6M to $2M (-42%) / 4-day: $2.2M to $2.8M / Total: $169.4M to $170.1M / Wk 9

10). The Fate Of The Furious (UNI), 1,358 theaters (-929) / $470K Fri. (-55%) / 3-day cume: $1.47M (-56%) / 4-day: $1.85M / Total cume: $222.9M / Wk 7

The latest DreamWorks animated entertainment continues to prosper, and has now taken in $469,069,957 at the global box office. Before it's finished, it will be bumping agains half a billion in ticket sales to make it a solid winner for Universal-Comcast new acquisition.

The partially animated Guardians 2 rakes in major cash during its fourth weekend and now has a gross of $750,106,722. Can a billion $$$ be far behind?

(As regards Disney's other new release, the strategy seems to be: hope for the best domestically, plan for big box office overseas to bring the treasure home).

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


When you get 99.2% in a contract ratification vote, the membership is pretty much okay with the agreement.

Members of the Writers Guild of America have voted overwhelmingly to ratify the new three-year contract that was approved by the union’s leadership this month after a nail-biting round of negotiations with the major Hollywood studios.

The guild said in an announcement Wednesday that of the 3,647 votes cast, there were 3,617 “yes” votes, or 99.2%, versus 30 “no” votes, or less than 1%. There were 9,441 eligible voters. ...

In union Rep school, they teach you never to reveal raw voting numbers. But maybe that only applies to Below-The-Line unions.

William Joyce Directs

From the Reporter:

An animated adaptation of British writer Veronica Cossanteli's popular middle grade novel The Extincts is in the works at the recently launched entertainment finance, development and production company Cirrina Studios.

David Lipman (producer of Shrek 2) will adapt the project for the big screen, with Oscar-winning filmmaker and author/illustrator William “Bill” Joyce helming. ...

Mr. Joyce is nothing if not prolific. He's created over fifty children's books, award-winning shorts, and founded Moonbot Studios in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Moonbot was going great guns until last year. Then there were layoffs, and questions whether the studio would survive. In April Joyce said he intended to keep Moonbot going, but it appears there will be a detour while he directs The Extincts. It would seem Mr. Joyce will be relocating to France, at least for awhile.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Free Money WORKS!

Sadly ...

... California’s incentive program just isn’t set up to compete for big-budget blockbusters. To date, just three of the feature film recipients of the state’s new film tax credit have reported budgets more than $100 million, and only one has completed production. ...

Georgia, the world’s undisputed king of blockbuster film production, was home to 17 films that made last year’s list of 100 top-grossing films, followed closely by the UK with 16, Canada with 13, and California in fourth with 12 – only three of which received state tax credits. ...

Georgia set a record for spending on its incentive program last year – $606 million, which is the largest amount ever spent by any country in North America or Europe in a single year – and breaking the old record of $504 million, which Georgia set the previous year. ...

Only seven live-action films shot in California made the list of 100 top-grossing films last year, but four of them – including La La Land – didn’t qualify for the state’s tax incentives. Five others shot in the state that made the list last year were animated films, which don’t even qualify for California tax incentives, and those five were the only films shot in the state whose budgets exceeded $100 million....

What’s not covered by California’s incentives program is another reason big-budget blockbusters aren’t being attracted to the state. “Spending on actors, directors, writers and other above-the-line costs are not covered under California’s film incentive, as they are in other top filming locations,” the report notes. “Creative considerations aside, film projects will locate where their budgets can be maximized.” ...

Last year, an official of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers told me, "The studios are going to take the work to places that pay the most in subsidies. That's just the way it's going to be."

In other words, our fine entertainment conglomerates are people who are moochers. (You know, the kind of welfare chiselers we're all supposed to hate). But unlike their flesh-and-blood brothers and sisters, the conglomerates have plenty of leverage to collect the big welfare checks that they crave. And so they do.

California has this policy of not subsidizing productions that are already produced in the state. So sit-coms have been out of the Free-Money loop, also animation, despite the Guild's lobbying efforts to make it otherwise. (The best we could do was achieve subsidies for animated visual effects).

But the "no subsidies for work already here" rule under which the Golden State operates will soon blow up in California's face. Those big budget animated features, particularly the ones produced by DreamWorks Animation, stand a good chance of moving to localities that hand out wads of Free Money. (DWA's Captain Underpants has already scampered off to get subsidies, up there in Canada).

If California doesn't wake up and smell the hot, bubbling economic realities, feature animation could soon go the way of Marvel's live-action blockbusters, getting made in a Vancouver or Atlanta suburb.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Your American (Canada and U.S.) Box Office

Animation is in evidence on the Big Box Office List:


1.). Alien: Covenant (FOX), 3,761 theaters / $15.28M Fri. (includes $4.2M previews) / 3-day cume: $40M/ Wk 1

2.). The Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (DIS), 4,347 theaters (0) / $8.8M Fri. (-47%) / 3-day cume: $33.6M to $35M (-49%) / Total: $300M+ / Wk 3

3.). Everything, Everything (WB/MGM), 2,801 theaters / $4.7M Fri. (includes $525K previews) / 3-day cume: $11.4M to $12.6M / Wk 1

4.). Snatched (FOX), 3,511 theaters (+10) / $2.28M Fri. (-55%) / 3-day cume: $7.8M to $8.1M (-60%) / Total:$32.7M to $33.2M / Wk 2

5.). Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (FOX), 3,157 theaters / $1.97M Fri. (includes $150K previews) / 3-day cume: $7M/ Wk 1

6.). King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword (WB/VR), 3,702 theaters / $1.9M Fri. (-63%) / 3-day cume: $6.6M (-57%) / Total:$26.9M / Wk 2

7). The Fate Of The Furious (UNI), 2,287 theaters (-780) / $822K Fri. (-41%) / 3-day cume: $3.1M (-42%) / Total cume: $219.85M / Wk 6

8.) The Boss Baby (Fox) 2,071 (-840), $585K (-40%) / 3-day: $2.67M (-40%) / Total: $166M / Wk 8

9). Beauty And The Beast (DIS) 1,792 (-380), $625K (-40%) / 3-day: $2.6M (-45%) / Total: $498M / Wk 10

10). How To Be A Latin Lover (PANT/LG), 948 theaters (-175) / $499K Fri. (-39%) / 3-day cume: $2.1M (-45%) / Total: $29.35M / Wk 4

Beauty an the Beast, the shot-for-shot partially-animated remake of the '91 Best Picture nominee, closes in on half a billion in domestic grosses, and is now north of $1.2 billion in global ticket sales. (Mining the vault is a lucrative business).

The partially animated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 followup to the partially animated Guardians of the Galaxy Book 1 has now collected $300 million in domestic money and $733 million in worldwide cash, which gives us every confidence that there will be, in due course, a Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3.

Lastly. The Boss Baby, voiced by the ubiquitous Alec Baldwin, has no grosses $166 million domestically and $467,924,849 (and still counting) worldwide, which makes it one of DreamWorks Animation's strongest entries in recent years. (By comparison, Home took in $100 million less).

The upcoming question: How will Captain Underpants produced mostly in Canada while The Boss Baby was done in Glendale, California. The question that hovers over the DreamWOrks lot: how much production work will be exiting for geographical locations that pay out subsidies?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Back In Action

So this:

Hayao Miyazaki has officially come out of retirement to make a new feature film. If you want to work on it, here’s how you can apply!

Studio Ghibli has a job listing for the feature—which also means that Ghibli is going back into feature film production! The listing mentions how Miyazaki has decided to come out of retirement, writing, “Because of his age, this one is most certainly seems like the last work he will direct.” ...

Successful candidates will begin work on October 1, 2017, which, I guess, means the movie goes into full time production then. The contract is for three years, and the salary is for over 200,000 yen (US$1,794) per month with twice annual bonuses. ...

That Miyazaki is coming out of retirement should startle or surprise nobody.

Old animators ... board artists ... directors ... never retire. They're dragged out of the studio feet first and go into retirement because A) they can't draw anymore and therefore no jobs are available or B) they are dead.

Miyazaki is simply the latest, most prominent example. There are, 'round and about, some exceptions, but not many. Animation artists are in the business for the love, not the money, and they keep at the profession until they have crumbled away to dust.

Which brings us to the last part of the linked post: there are jobs available on the new Miyazaki project! And you can (maybe) work for the old legend himself for a whopping $448.50 per week! There are some bonuses along the way, but the amounts of said bonuses are anybody's guess. (So be prepared to live off your trust fund ... or to quietly starve).

What's best about the post is it encapsulates the realities of the global animation industry beautifully: nobody ever leaves; few people in it make much money.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Prime Time Animation

Presidents change, countries rise and fall, but Fox's Sunday night animation block goes on and on. Deadline tells us:


Bob's Burgers -- 7:30 to 8:00

The Simpsons -- 8:00-8:30

Family Guy -- 9:00-9:30

American Dad, of course, moved to TBS a couple of years ago. Other prime-time series that Fox has tried to launch (Sit Down, Shut Up, Bordertown) have exploded on liftoff. The Yellow Family will be with us for another two years, then who knows? And Seth MacFarlane will keep on with Family Guy until Fox doesn't want to distribute it anymore, but the number of episodes he'll want to do season-to-season is flexible. (When Seth went off to run his separate empire in Beverly Hills, word rippled through the studio that MacFarlane was going to do 19 episodes, then the total went up).

Fox, I think, would like to have more prime time animation on its schedule, but hasn't found a new and sustainable series. Other animation conglomerates seem to have little interest in prime time animation. I don't understand their reasoning, but there it is. Executive minds at work.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Warners has Legos. Disney has video game characters. And Sony? It's got texting symbols


... Back in 2015, Sony Pictures Animation won a three-studio auction for an animated movie pitch centering on the emoji, the ubiquitous social media correspondence creatures that live inside our phones. ...

Tomorrow afternoon, while much of the world’s media is prepping for Wednesday’s festival open — and looking for photo ops — The Emoji Movie will take over the Carlton pier with signage and star T.J. Miller arriving stunt-style. He will then host the event which takes place around the same time as the international trailer for the Anthony Leondis-helmed animated comedy launches.

As with Angry Birds last year — which went on to a $350 million worldwide gross — the event is looking to fill a content opportunity for the world’s media and consumers. ...

Once upon a time, animation studios all aped Disney with the princesses and dragons and dastardly villains motifs. Most fell on their corporate faces, but then CGI changed the game and suddenly non-Disney companies could play in the animation playground and reap big grosses.

For a time there was a template for CG animation features, but then Warners broke through with the Lego franchise and the range of styles and approaches has widened. Angry Birds celebrated one type of phone application; now The Emoji Movie will attempt to cash in on another. Will it succeed? As always, story and character will sell the movie ...or sink it. The final outcome will become apparent the first one or two weekends of global release.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

So Where the Hell Has Hulett Been?

I started this blog after leaving the Animation Guild (and writing for TAG blog) in December. My intention was to get "Tomb of the Cartoon Monkey Skeleton" rolling after a long trip through the southern hemisphere when I would be away from the internet for a month. But I got itchy, started it sooner, and so it went dark while I was drinking in Sydney, Auckland New Zealand, and various islands in Polynesia.

I was journeying for over a month, but now I'm back. And TOTCMS now sputters back to life. What happens going forward? Analysis of happenings in Cartoonland. Investing advice (and like what I've learned over the last three decades). Articles about union and animation industry history ... which are actually chapters of a book I'm slowly cobbling together.

If you're looking for multiple posts per day, sorry, that won't be happening here. I'll write as the spirit moves me. I'm freaking RETIRED. That means I'm off the daily post kick that I pursued at TAG blog; returning to the daily grind is just too oppressive for an elderly person looking to kick back and smell a few roses.

So. Now that I'm back and settling in, I'll get back into it. Anything important happen while I was away?