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.