Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Rocketeer

Disney Jr. launches a new show:

... Production on The Rocketeer, a new animated adventure series aimed at kids 2-7 and inspired by Dave Stevens’ comic book series. It’s set to premiere in 2019. ...

As stated elsewhere, Disney TVA requires show developers to jump through multiple hoops before a show is greenlit for production: there's the testing of elaborate animatics (almost shows in themselves). There are also focus groups of young kids. There is more testing.

All these things mean shows are in work a looong time. So congratulations to the development team for jumping all the hurdles and getting the new series on the air.

* This show isn't to be confused with the live-action Disney film also titled "The Rocketerr" that came and went a quarter-cntury ago during the J. Katzenberg era. The current "Rocketeer" is a totally different animal.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Silver Bear

So Bill Murray picks up a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival on behalf of Wes Anderson for Isle of Dogs. Mr. Anderson won for "Best Director", and the award seems appropriate, since Wes Anderson delivers viewing experiences that are often memorable*.

“I never thought I’d go to work as a dog and come home with a bear. I’m glad I was deputized to watch the house here in case anything like this broke out… I’d like to be one more person from America to say ‘Ich bin ein Berliner Hund‘” ...

So congratulations to Mr. Anderson. May his animated feature live long and break box office records.

* I haven't seen the movie, so I will assume it's as memorable as the other Anerson films I have seen.

Late February Domestic Box Office

"Game Night's" collected good reviews but only sold enough tickets to come in second to the gargantuan "Black Panther".

Two animated features are in the Top Ten, but Early Man falls to the bottom of the list:

Three Days of Ticket Sales

1) Black Panther (DIS), 4,020 theaters (0) / $28.8M Fri (-62%) /3-day: $104.1M (-48%)/Total: $396M/Wk 2

2) Game Night (NL/WB), 3,488 theaters / $5.6m Fri (includes $1M previews)/3-day: $15.1M /Wk 1

3) Peter Rabbit (SONY), 3,707 theaters (-18) / $2.8M Fri (-30%) /3-day: $12.1M (-31%) /Total: $70.8M/Wk 3

4) Annihilation (PAR), 2,012 theaters / $3.85m Fri (includes $900k previews)/3-day: $10.7M /Wk 1

5) Fifty Shades Freed (UNI), 3,265 theaters (-503) / $2.3M Fri (-59%)/3-day: $6.9M(-60%)/Total: $89.5M/Wk 3

6) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (SONY), 2,519 theaters (-281) / $1.3M Fri (-28%)/3-day: $5.6M (-29%)/Total: $387.2M/ Wk 10

7) The 15:17 to Paris (WB), 2,752 theaters (-290) / $995K Fri (-52%)/3-day: $3.54M(-53%)/Total: $32.1M/ Wk 3

8) The Greatest Showman (FOX), 1,601 theaters (-335) / $910K Fri (-31%) / 3-day: $3.4M (-32%)/Total: $160.7M/Wk 10

9) Every Day (OR), 1,667 theaters / $1M Fri (includes $115k previews)/3-day: $3M /Wk 1

10) Early Man (LG), 2,494 theaters / $353K Fri (-58%)/3-day: $1.4M (-55%)/Total: $6.5M/Wk 2

Coco, more or less gone from U.S. theaters but still pulling in money globally, has reached $732,302,948 in world box office.

Meantime, Ferdinand has earned $282,942,218, though only $82,569,409 comes from the U.S. and Canada. (When all the money has funneled into Fox/Disney, the picture should make a small profit.)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Director Exits Disney

This kind of musical chairs deal happens from time to time ...

Skydance Media has entered into a multiyear deal with Nathan Greno (Tangled) to direct the company’s upcoming animated feature film Powerless (working title). Under the agreement, Greno, an animation veteran, will also consult on projects currently in development. ...

There are, I think, a couple of things at work here.

1) Mr. Greno's feature project Gigantic, which was in development a long time, was put on the Mouse of Mouse's shelf several months ago. The studio only makes a few projects in a given year or three, and if your movie gets pushed off the runway, you will likely go to the back of the line with the next project. And do you really want to wait around for years waiting for another slot? Likely not.

2) Today, upper-tier animation talent has options. It isn't just Disney or Hanna-Barbera's low-budget feature department anymore. Lots of studios are now in the theatrical animation game. Some make product in north America, some make projects in Europe and Asia. Skydance Media has a production deal with Ilion Studios in Spain, but the development on Powerless will probably be done in Southern California. And Mr. Greno will (unless I miss my guess) put together a story and design team in Southern California, then take airplane trips to Spain as the project moves along.

Animation isn't a small, sleepy industry anymore. It's not exactly live-action, but it's closer to being "mainstream Hollywood" than it was when Disney Feature Animation was the only big-screen game going. Congratulations to Mr. Greno on signing on to a new field of dreams.

Misconduct? Oh My...

This longtime Disney kingpin is now, apparently, getting called out:

Tom Schumacher, the Disney theatrical executive who has spearheaded the Broadway musical The Lion King and the about-to-open Frozen production, allegedly has a history of crossing “boundaries of appropriate workplace behavior,” including sexual harassment, according to The Wall Street Journal. The report, citing two witnesses to each allegation, claims Schumacher, previously a top animation executive on hits like Pocahontas and film The Lion King, allegedly routinely commented on the sexual attractiveness of colleagues in the workplace, talked about pornography, and walked around the office in a bathrobe with supposedly nothing underneath, between the 1990s and early 2000s. ...

Lemme tell you, the tales have been spinning about Mr. Schumacher for years and years.

During the 1990s and early oughts, Disney staffers told me (in other words, "alleged") that Mr. Schumacher harassed employees and made inappropriate remarks to different artists and administrators. I had no reason to doubt the reports then (they were too numerous over too lengthy a time). And I have no reason to doubt them now.

Do I have any hard proof or first-hand experience? Nope. I've laid eyes on Tom Schumacher once, maybe twice. But ooh boy, has there been hearsay. Lots and lots of hearsay.

I'm sure the the Walt Disney Co. will get to the bottom of these allegations*.

* Yeah, hm hm.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Mid-February Box Office

The latest super hero movie from Marvel inhales much of the box office oxygen as it eyes a $185 million over three days and $213 million including President's Day holiday. (A fuzzy animated rabbit hops along in second place, a troupe of cavemen in seventh spot.)


1..) Black Panther (DIS), 4,020 theaters / $76.4M Fri (includes $25.2M in previews) /3-day: $185.8M /4-day: $213M/Wk 1

2) Peter Rabbit (SONY), 3,725 theaters / $4.1M Fri (-27%) /3-day: $17.8M (-28%) /4-day: $23M /Total: $54M/Wk 2

3) Fifty Shades Freed (UNI), 3,768 theaters / $5.7M Fri (-69%)/3-day: $17.4M (-55%)/4-day: $19.6M/Total: $78.8M Wk 2

4) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (SONY), 2,800 theaters (-336) / $1.87M Fri /3-day: $8.1M (-19%)/4-day: $10.6M /Total:$380.3M/ Wk 9

5) The 15:17 to Paris (WB), 3042 theaters / $2M Fri (-44%)/3-day: $8M (-36%)/4-day: $9.5M/Total: $27.2M/ Wk 2

6) The Greatest Showman (FOX), 1,936 theaters (-437) / $1.3m Fri / 3-day: $5.7M (-11%)/4-day: $7M /Total: $156.4M/Wk 9

7) Early Man (LG), 2,494 theaters / $850K Fri /3-day: $3.5M /4-day: $4.7M/Wk 1

8) Maze Runner: Death Cure (FOX), 1,892 theaters (-1,031) / $645K Fri /3-day: $2.7M (-56%) /4-day: $3.3M/ Total: $54.8M/Wk 4

9) Winchester (CBS/LG) 1479 theaters (-1001)/$570K Fri/ 3-day: $2.2M (-58%)/4-day: $2.6M/ Total: $22.3M/Wk 3

10) The Post (FOX/DW), 1,050 theaters (-815) / $465K Fri /3-day:$2M (-44%)/4-day: $2.45M/Total: $77M/Wk 9

Early Man, the latest feature from Aardman, is on its way to a $5 million opening weekend. Although the picture has received positive reviews, like many stop-motion features, EM is something of an under-performer, debuting in the bottom half of the Box Office Ten. (Chicken Run is Aardman's most successful animated feature, earning $224,834,564 at the global box office in 2000.)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sixty-Eight Years Ago Today

... the animated fairy tale Cinderella*, produced by Walt Disney, went into theatrical release.

The 1940s were not kind to Walt Disney Productions. In the early years of the decade, its survival was a close thing. First there was a lengthy strike, then World War II closed a boatload of lucrative overseas markets, and all of a sudden long-form cartoons were a good way to lose money. (Among Walt's pre-war features, only Dumbo went into profits, and that because it was a lower budget production.)

Just as Dumbo hit theaters, Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, and the Disney studio, almost overnight, became a busy part of the war effort. WDP turned out training films, intelligence films, and propaganda shorts for the federal government. (Imagine! The Walt Disney Company, saved by socialism!)

After V-J day, the studio went back full-time to animation, but it struggled. Larry Clemmons, a veteran of the studio from the early Hyperion days, was a writer for Bing Crosby, the hottest star in show biz, and returned to the studio for the first time in five years. He found morale on the lot at a low ebb:

"It was a sad place. People I'd known for years came up to me and said, 'Gee, you're working for Crosby?! That must be great. There's not much going on around here. We're back to doing shorts and featurettes. We don't even know how long we'll have jobs.'"...

The studio was deep in debt, and the "package ilms" (Fun and Fancy Free, So Dear To My Heart, Song of the South, Ichabod and Mr. Toad, among others) were not making enough to hoist the studio from its sea of red ink. Disney decided that the company should return to single-narrative features, and started development on Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan.

Cinderella, being the farthest along in story, was the first to be released. Produced for $2.9 million (less than any pre-war feature except Dumbo), the picture ended up as a box office smash, becomin the sixth highest-grossing film of 1950.

So here's to you, Cindy! Your animators might have griped about all the rotoscope they were forced to follow, various production corners might have been cut, but you were the woman who revived the studio, and started Walt Disney Productions on the road to the multi-media powerhouse it's become six decades later.

* Thanks to Professor Tom Sito for pointing out that today was the anniversary of "Cinderella's" release.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Late To The Party, But ...

It's better to be an attendee than not.

... Blue Sky Studios has hired its first female director, Karen Disher. And it’s not the only first for the studio: Disher will helm Blue Sky’s first feature-length musical, tenetatively titled Foster.

Ms. Disher certainly has the experience and resume to direct features. In the animation business over twenty years, she's storyboarded on a plethora of features, directed long-form television animation and theatrical shorts, supervised story development on Rio.

She'll be co-directing with Steve Martino, and it's high time a woman was in the pilot house at Blue Sky. Anytime the Boys' Club gets diluted a little it's a useful thing.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

More Animation In The Box Office List

A fuzzy animated rabbit shoulders past the non-fuzzy animated jungle beasts to take the #2 position among the Top Ten domestic moneymakers:

(Peter Rabbit was animated at Animal Logic in Sydney; live action for the flick was also done in and around Sydney. Free Money played a role in locating the production there.)


1) Fifty Shades Freed (UNI), 3,768 theaters / $18.5M Fri (includes $5.6m previews)/ $12.7M Sat/ $7.6M Sun/3-day: $38.8M /Wk 1

2) Peter Rabbit (SONY), 3,725 theaters / $5.7M Fri / $11.4M Sat/ $7.8M/3-day: $25M /Wk 1

3) The 15:17 to Paris (WB), 3042 theaters / $3.7M Fri /$5.4M Sat/ $3.4M Sun/3-day: $12.6M /Wk 1

4) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (SONY), 3,126 theaters (-226) / $2.2M Fri /$4.8M Sat/ $2.8M Sun/3-day: $9.8M (-10%)/Total:$365.7M/ Wk 8

5) The Greatest Showman (FOX), 2,373 theaters (-215) / $1.6m Fri / $3M Sat/$1.8M Sun/3-day: $6.4M (-17%)/Total: $146.5M/Wk 8

6) Maze Runner: Death Cure (FOX), 2,923 theaters (-870) / $1.4M Fri /$2.8M Sat/ $1.8M Sun/3-day: $6M (-43%) /Total: $49M/Wk 3

7) Winchester (CBS), 2,480 theaters / $1.3M Fri /$2.3M Sat/$1.3M Sun/3-day: $5.05M (-46%)/Total: $17.1M/Wk 2

8) The Post (FOX/DW), 1,865 theaters (-597) / $860K Fri /$1.7M Sat/$940K Sun/3-day:$3.5M (-33%)/Total: $72.8M/Wk 8

***Hostiles (EST) 2,214 theaters (-720)/$713K Fri/$1.26M Sat/ $1.22M Sun/3-day: $3.2M (-37%)/Total: $26.3M.

9) The Shape of Water (FSL), 1,780 theaters (-561) / $760K Fri /$1.4M Sat/ $840K Sun/3-day: $3M (-33%)/Total: $49.7M/Wk 11

10) Den of Thieves (STX), 1,468 theaters (-644)/ $750K Fri /$1.3M Sat/ $800K Sun/3-day: $2.8M (-37%) /total: $40.9M/Wk 4

Coco remains in 833 U.S. theaters with a domestic box-office gross of $205,429,341 ($702,121,594 worldwide). Ferdinand hangs on to 387 screens with a U.S./Canadian gross of $81,667,553. (Globally it's earned $268,786,559).

Friday, February 9, 2018

Goodbye to Oriental DreamWorks

It was once a cornerstone of Jeffrey Katzenberg's cunning plan to make DreamWorks Animation a medium-sized conglomerate, but now it's gone:

... Oriental DreamWorks, which started out five years ago as a joint venture with DreamWorks Animation, is now independent. ...

CMC Capital Partners, which invests in companies across the spectrum of content, platform, technology and services in media and entertainment, bought NBCUniversal’s 45 per cent stake and renamed it Pearl Studio.

... "Full ownership will allow us to be even closer to the China market, to leverage CMC’s industry value chain and [resources] in the media sector,” CMC's chief executive Frank Zhu said in an interview. Details of the deal were not disclosed, but the joint venture was valued at US$350 million in 2012. ...

China’s animation industry – film ticket sales and ancillary businesses such as product merchandising and spin-off productions – is forecast to grow at an annual compound rate of more than 10 per cent. ...

The thing about cartoons? They're highly profitable, but you have to make a movie that audiences want to see, and that's often tricky.

Too many times over the past quarter century, companies with dreams of big glittery profits dancing in their heads have plunged into the animation biz only to get their financial backsides handed to them. That first feature, produced with great effort (the one they're convinced will make them a mint) crashes and burns at the global box office. And the dreams blow away like powdery ash.

It's not enough to make a pretty CG feature with characters that move and talk. There also needs to be a story people get wrapped up in. That part is harder to pull off than many budding film creators imagine. But good luck to Pearl Studio; may all your animated features be blockbusters.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Rampaging Jungle Animals' Cross Box Office Goal Line

This pic should up the tourist count at the Winchester House in San Jose, California.

Audiences can't get enough of animated African wildlife, particularly during Super Bowl. (Parents watch the game, kids watch the hippos and rhinos and crocodiles.) Jumanji has now come in on top during four of its seven weekends.


1) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (SONY), 3,553 theaters (-201) / $2.8M Fri (-24%)/3-day: $11M (-32%)/Total:$352.6M/ Wk 7

2) Maze Runner: Death Cure (FOX), 3,793 theaters (+6) / $3M Fri (-%)/3-day: $10M (-38%) /Total: $39.6M/Wk 2

3) Winchester (CBS), 2,480 theaters / $3.6M Fri (includes $615K previews)/3-day: $8.6M /Wk 1

4) The Greatest Showman (FOX), 2,588 theaters (-75) / $2.3M Fri (-8%) / 3-day: $7.75M (-19%)/Total: $137.3M/Wk 7

5) Hostiles (EST), 2,934 theaters (+118) / $1.6M Fri (-51%) /3-day:$5.2M (-48%)/Total: $21M/Wk 7

6) The Post (FOX/DW), 2,462 theaters (-178) / $1.5M Fri (-35%) /3-day:$5.1M (-44%)/Total: $67M/Wk 7

7) 12 Strong (WB/ALC), 2,918 theaters (-100) / $1.45M Fri (-36%)/3-day: $4.7M (-45%) /Total: $37.3M/Wk 3

8) Den of Thieves (STX), 2,112 theaters (-320)/ $1.4M Fri (-39%)/3-day: $4.6M (-46%) /Total: $36.2M/Wk 3

9) The Shape of Water (FSL), 2,341 theaters (+487) / $1.3M Fri (-19%) /3-day: $4.1M (-31%)/Total: $44.5M/Wk 10

10) Three Billboards… (FSL), 1,726 theaters (+269) / $905K Fri (-9%) /3-day: $2.92M (-23%)/Total: $41.68M/Wk 13

Ferdinand and Coco, the animated features that have mostly disappeared from American movie screens, continue to earn coins abroad. Coco has now reached $700,920,729 globally, while the big bull Ferdinand has collected $268,414,907.

A half-dozen cartoon features are slated for release between February and next summer. Early Man, a stop-motion feature from Aardman Animations, rolls out on February 16th, then Sherlock Gnomes, a CG feature rom M-G-M and Paramount debuts on March 23rd, the same day that Wes Anderson's stop-motion Isle of Dogs premieres.

Duck Duck Goose from Open Road/Original Force (the latter of which has a satellite studio in Culver City) hits multi-plex screens on April 20th, then heavy hitters The Incredibles 2 and Transylvania 3 debut in quick succession on June 15th and July 13th.