Saturday, June 30, 2018

IA/AMPTP Negotiations

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have been tussling:

As the health of the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan nears “critical” status, negotiations for a new IATSE film and TV contract are also approaching a critical stage. ... The main sticking point appears to be a rescue plan for the underfunded pension plan, which as of January 1, 2017, was only 67.4% funded. ... The plan has assets of more than $3.8 billion, but its liabilities exceed $5.6 billion, which accounts for the 67.4% funding level.

Sources say that IATSE is trying to persuade management’s AMPTP to come up with a new residuals formula that better reflects today’s marketplace for the films and TV shows that their workers help create and, in so doing, save its struggling pension plan. And because the plan is governed by a board of directors with an equal number of union and employer representatives, it’s both sides’ fiduciary duty to ensure that the plan remains solvent and able to meet its current and future obligations. ...

The union has also said that wage “parity” for members working in new media are among the union’s other goals, and a grass roots movement has been launched to urge management to address the pay gap between members of historically female crafts and historically male crafts who do comparable work.

The Animation Guild draws Motion Picture Industry pension and health benefits from the Plan, so how this negotiation shakes out is important for animation employees in Los Angeles. And New Media (aka "streaming video") is more and more how cartoons are delivered to viewers, so many workers in the business receive lower wages. The issue of wage parity over different viewing platforms has become a HUGE issue since the last contract in 2015.

As of now, IA/AMPTP contract talks are slated to conclude the end of July, with Animation Guild negotiations to begin soon after. The IATSE hasn't struck over a major contract in ... well ... in forever, but 2018 appears to be a year of firsts, so who knows what will happen?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Adios To Disney Toons

The Mouse has shuttered an animation studio ... one that was a shadow of its former self.

... Disney has decided to close down DisneyToon Studios. This shuttering is said to be unrelated to Docter and Lee's promotions, but as a result, 75 staff members, including animators, will be laid off, and it's unclear if any of them will be transferred to Pixar or the main Disney animation branch. ...

Disney Toon Studios specialized in making animated features for the home video market (VHS cassettes and later DVDs ... remember those?) The impetus for the division came when Disney Television Animation took multiple episodes of its new TV series Aladdin and cut them into a "sequel" feature entitled The Return of Jafar.

The opus cost a few million to cobble together, sold fifteen million units (VHS cassettes in those long-ago days) and grossed $300 million. And Disney knew instantly that it had stumbled into a gold mine with lots of thick veins of shiny metal.

Dozens of direct-to-video "sequels" followed: Cinderella II, Lady and the Tramp II, Bambi II, Lion King 1 1/2, etcetera and etcetera. The company turned the production of lower-cost spinoff features into its own division called (ultimately) Disney Toon Studios. Sharon Morrill, a Disney TVA executive in the right spot at the right time, became head of the new subsidiary. And big money continued to be made, even though story development on the sequels was often chaotic. (The first director on a new project was invariably fired by management. A standing joke: "You're more likely to survive Omaha Beach than being Director #1 on a direct-to-video Disney feature.")

The division prospered during the era of tape cassettes and DVDs, although budgets escalated and profits steadily declined. The head of the division was disliked by the artistic staff, but upper management nevertheless rewarded her with lucrative employment contracts. (Said one disgruntled film editor: "Michael Eisner is a micro-manager who pays no attention to what's actually going on.")

Eventually, however, upper management changed. John Lasseter and Ed Catmull took over most of the company's animation portfolio, and made it clear they were less than totally enthusiastic about the low-budget product Disney Toon Studios was turning out. The market for little silver disks was already in a tailspin when Ms. Morrill was at last given her walking papers, but the division limped along for another decade, surviving on the Tinkerbell franchise Mr. Lasseter set up.

A second series of features built around the Cars spin-off Planes failed to take flight, Mr. Lasseter departed, and the studio, which had suffered major layoffs a couple of years ago, was shut down this week, the victim of market changes and shifting audience tastes.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Victory of Free Riders

To the surprise of nobody who pays attention, the Supreme Court today struck down -- by five votes to four ("Janus v. AFSCME") -- the unanimous Supreme Court precedent from 1977 ("Abood Vs. Detroit Board of Education"), where the court ruled public sector unions could collect fees from non-members for the costs of contract negotiations and other services rendered (things like protection from illegal firings, collection of back salaries, boring items like that).

Now, of course, "Abood" flies out the window and the dues-paying members of labor unions will pay for protections extended to non-payers.

(Full-disclosure here. I ran a private-sector union for a bunch of years, so obviously I have a pro-union position. But here's what I'm (semi)-okay with:)

If somebody working under a labor contract REALLY wants to opt out, then he or she should be allowed to opt out.

But they should be required to opt out ALL the way.

All the damn freaking way.

You're not paying dues? Fine, then you're NOT under the labor contract. The document doesn't apply to you. In any shape or manner.

You're completely free to work out your own payment arrangements with the government entity or company for which you work. If you've got the leverage to get more money, then congratulations. If you can get yourself a better health benefits package, and a fancier pension, bully for you.

The labor union (and its collective bargaining agreement) is out of the picture. It is NOT obligated to pay for any arbitrations on your behalf if you think you've been shafted, not required to provide a lawyer when there's a legal issue. And NOTHING that the union has negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement applies to you. Not the health package, not the retirement package. The wage minimums or wage schedules in their stupid contract? Not relevant because you've chosen another route.

Because, fair's fair, right? You've bailed from the program, and you're doing your own thing. (Hooray for freedom!)

So go do it completely. You start with a nice, clean sheet of paper with your employer. Pay for legal representation out of your own pocket. Do your own negotiating for salary and separate benefits. Don't call the union rep and ask her for help. She ain't your gal Friday.

If that was the reality and outcome of the Supremes' ruling today, I would have less objection to how the five men in black robes came down. But of course, that's not the way the ruling works. Because whether you're paying dues/fees or not, the union is still required to represent you under the collective bargaining agreement. Still required to spend time, money, and staff-time on whatever problem you bring to its attention.

And THAT'S what makes this ruling so sucky.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Battling Animation -- Box Office for June 22-24

A lot of animation in the Domestic Top Ten, some of it called "animated feature" and some called "animated visual effects". But they're very similar animals.


1) JW: Fallen Kingdom -- 4,475 -- $145.6M -- $145.6M (1st week)

2) Incredibles 2 -- 4,410 -- $79.4M (-56%) -- $348.8M

3) Ocean’s 8 -- 3,656 (-489) -- $11.3M (-41%) -- $99.9M

4) Tag -- 3,382 -- $7.9M (-47%) -- $30M

5) Deadpool 2 -- 2,420 (-792) -- $5.1M (-41%)) -- $304M

6) Solo -- 2,338 (-844) -- $4.3M (-57%) -- $202.4M

7) Hereditary -- 2,002 (-996) -- $3.4M (-51%) -- $34.6M

8) Superfly -- 2,220 -- $3.1M (-54%) -- $15.1M

9) Infinity War -- 1,456 (-708) -- $2.4M (-56%) -- $669.3M

10) Won’t You…Neighbor -- 348 -- $1.8M (+80%) -- $4.1M

To date, the dino movie JW: Fallen Kingdom has collected $466 million abroad, giving it $602 million worldwide. Incredibles 2 has earned $424 million on a global basis.

The mice! The mice! Inside stories of Disney Animation in two exciting volumes ... Mouse in Transition and Mouse in Orbit. Available now! ... and into the future (we think)!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Disney-Comcast Wars

... over Darryl Zanuck's old company.

The arm-wrestling match for most of the body parts of 20th Century Fox is, apparently, near an end:

Walt Disney Co. is close to winning U.S. antitrust approval for its $71 billion deal for 21st Century Fox Inc.’s entertainment assets, according to a person familiar with the matter, creating a potentially insurmountable hurdle for a rival bid from Comcast Corp.

The Justice Department is set to approve the deal in as soon as two weeks, said the person, who declined to be named because the investigation is confidential. Disney has agreed to sell some assets to address competition problems stemming from the tie-up, according to the person. ...

If Bloomberg is right, it's all over but the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth by Comcast-NBC-Universal. (That's assuming there are no further bids.) Rupert M. & Company must be giddy over the prospect of amassing an even LARGER fortune.

As previously stated, the Walt Disney will end up with a lot more animation assets when this deal is finally, at last, put to bed. There's Blue Sky Studios and its backlog of features; then there's the hundreds of hours of Fox's prime-time cartoons.

No doubt the wily Mouse will find new and innovative ways to exploit all the new intellectual property. (CG reboots, anyone?)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Disney Promotions

It's been hinted at for months, but now the new creative heads of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar are (at last) made "official":

Pete Docter and Jennifer Lee have been named a chief creative officers of Disney’s animation divisions, with Docter stepping up at Pixar Animation Studios, where he has directed such films as Up and Inside Out, and Lee heading up Walt Disney Animation Studios, where she helmed Frozen. ...

Jennifer Lee, one of screenwriters for Wreck-It Ralph and writer-director on Frozen, has worked at the House of Mouse since 2011. She's the first woman to cratively head Disney's feature animation division.

Pete Docter, who worked at Disney Feature Animation in the 1980s and began his Pixar career in 1990, has been involved with most of the Emeryvile studio's feature films. Two that he directed (Up and Inside Out) have won Academy Awards for "Best Animated Feature".

Other executives at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar will remain in place.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Work Around Town #3

Rick and Morty - end of second season.

And now, another overview of production going on in Southern California's animation industry. You will note that there are additions and subtractions from the last installment, but many series titles remain. As before, this list will be amended and corrected over the next few days/weeks. (Sadly, there are always errors.)

(You will find the Animation Guild's studio list -- showing which Los Angeles studios are union -- here.)


Danger and Egg -- ongoing

Too Loud -- ongoing

Bureau of Magic

Lost in Oz -- *ENDED (Amazon Prime)

Cartoon Network

Powerpuff Girls -- ending

Ben 10 -- ongoing

Mighty Magiswords -- ending

Steven Universe (shorts) -- ongoing (and building on momentum)

We Bare Bears (shorts) -- ongoing

Ok-Ko Let's Be Heroes -- ongoing

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

Summer Camp Island -- ongoing

Thundercats Roar -- ongoing

Apple and Onion -- ongoing

Per report's, Cartoon Network's "Bite Size" online network has closed down.

Victor & Valentino -- ongoing

Infinity Train -- ongoing

Craig of the Creek -- ongoing

Adult Swim (a Cartoon Network subset)

Close Enough -- ongoing (aka "Splittin' Rent")

Tiggle Winks -- ongoing (shorts)

Primal (Genddy Tartokovsky)

Skydance Media Animation

This new cartoon unit, barely more than a year old, has just hired two DreamWorks Animation Television veterans -- Ian Sheppard and Lawrence Jonas -- to SMA's senior executive staff. The pair will be running Skydance's television slate and reporting to division topkick Bill Damaschke.

Split -- ongoing feature

Luck -- ongoing feature

Television projects -- to be announced

Warner Bros. Animation

Unikitty -- ongoing

Scooby Doo and the Red Ghost -- (long form Scoob)

Guess Who, Scooby Doo -- ongoing

* As always, there are various Scoobs.

Lego Justice League -- ongoing

Wabbit/New Looney Tunes -- ongoing

The Looney Tunes shorts program was announced this month. ... From the hyper-ventilating press release:

"Looney Tunes Cartoons echoes the high production value and process of the original Looney Tunes theatrical shorts with a cartoonist-driven approach to storytelling. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and other marquee Looney Tunes characters will be featured in their classic pairings in simple, gag-driven and visually vibrant stories. Each cartoon will vary from one to six minutes in length. ..."

Animaniacs -- upcoming reboot (co-production of Amblin' TV and WBA)

"Animaniacs" will be an update of the original 99 episodes from the early nineties.

Mike Tyson Mysteries -- ongoing

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz -- ongoing

Teen Titans Go! -- ongoing

DC Superhero Girls -- ongoing

Green Eggs and Ham -- ongoing

Wacky Racers -- ongoing

Young Justice -- ongoing

Flintstones -- ongoing (African-American cast)

Warner Animation Group

The Lego Movie Sequel -- ongoing

Smallfoot -- ongoing

Space Jam 2 -- ongoing

The Billion Brick Race -- ongoing

Scooby -- ongoing

Warner Animation Group has pre-production facilities at multiple locations in Burbank and Hollywood; most production work (a la Illumination Entertainment) is done in foreign lands ... often at Animation Logic in Sydney.


Micronauts -- ongoing

My Little Pony* -- ongoing

Equestrian Girls* -- ongoing

Hasbro now does much of its work at Boulder Media in Ireland. Writing for Boulder shows* continues to be done in Southern California.


Cyma Zarghami, longtime President of Nickelodeon, stepped down in early June. Allegedly, Viacom's upper management was displeased that Nick lagged competitors in the internet streaming department. Also, too, new Viacom Prez Bob Bakish has been sweeping with a big broom.

Invader Zim (tv movie) -- ongoing

Sponge Bob Square Pants -- ongoing

The Loud House -- ongoing; ratings continue strong.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- reboot is ongoing

Welcome to the Wayne -- ongoing

Shimmer and Shine -- ongoing

Glitch Tech -- ongoing

Rocko's Modern Life -- ongoing

Henry Danger -- wrapping up

Disney TV Animation

Amphibia -- ongoing

Mickey's Roadster Racers -- ongoing

Star vs The Forces of Evil -- ongoing

Puppy Capers -- ongoing

Sofia the First -- ongoing

Tangled -- ongoing

Mickey Mouse shorts -- ongoing

Duck Tales -- ongoing

Fancy Nancy -- ongoing. (As of February 15, 2018 there is no announced air date, but the show is scheduled for launch this summer. Actors Allyson Hannigan and Rob Riggle have just been cast as Nancy's parents. This is a Disney Jr. show.)

The Rocketeer -- ongoing (Season #1; Disney Jr. via Wild Canary)

Wicked World -- ongoing

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

The Owl House -- ongoing

The Three Caballeros -- ongoing

Muppet Babies -- ongoing (produced at Oddbot, Inc.)

Country Club/ aka Big City Greens -- ongoing

Big Hero Six -- ongoing

Elena of Avalor -- ongoing

Vampirina* -- ongoing (*the show was paicked up for a second season in late January by Disney Jr. It's produced by Brown Bag Films, which has studios in Dublin, Toronto and Manchester.)

T.O.T.S. -- ongoing

UPDATE -- July 19: The Walt Disney Company (via LucasFilm) is producing 12 new episodes of Clone Wars, which was seen on Cartoon Network from 2009 through 2013. This new iteration will be streamed on Disney's yet-to-be-launched SVOD service in 2019.

Disney Toons Studios

Planes sequel -- kaput

Update: The Walt Disney Company announced on June 28th that they are closing DTS and laying off and/or transferring remaining staff. Disney has been in the direct-to-video animated feature business sine the release of "Return of Jafar" in 1994. It was a long, lucrative run for the Mouse, but markets change (who buys DVDs anymore?) and audiences' passions shift.

The company made big profits with items like "Lion King 1 1/2", but the "Planes" franchise gendered little excitement. Producing low-budget features for the big screen didn't work either, because the movies -- particularly "Planes 2" -- made no money. Disney Toons Studios, RIP.

Walt Disney Animation Studios

The big news here: creative chief John Lasseter departs the end of the year. (Some media outlets have wondered aloud why he's being retained as a consultant through December; our info is that Lasseter's employment contract runs through December, so since he's being paid anyway, the House of Mouse wants to get a wee bit of bang for its buck.

One other significant Walt Disney Animation Studios departure this year: longtime director John Musker decided to hang up his director's hat and leave for other pursuits, throwing a goodbye party at Burbank's Pickwick Center as he walked out the door.

Update: And now replacements for Mr. Lasseter at Pixar and Walt Disney Animatin Studios (per a trade paper): "Pete Docter and Jennifer Lee have been named a chief creative officers of Disney’s animation divisions, with Docter stepping up at Pixar Animation Studios, where he has directed such films as Up and Inside Out, and Lee heading up Walt Disney Animation Studios, where she helmed Frozen." ...

Wreck-It Ralph 2 -- ongoing

Frozen 2 -- ongoing

(Various other projects at various stages of development, "Dragon Empire" allegedly being one of them. But not -- so far as I know -- officially announced by the studio.)

DreamWorks Animation

How to Train Your Dragon 3 -- ongoing

Trolls 2 -- ongoing

The Croods 2 -- ongoing (back on the schedule)

The Boss Baby 2 -- ongoing

Shrek 5 -- ongoing

Madagascar 4 -- ongoing

Puss in Boots 2 -- ongoing

Madagascar 4 -- ongoing

The majority of DreamWorks Animation theatrical projects are sequels, but there are also a number of originals

Dreamworks Animation TV

Veggie Tales -- ongoing

Rocky and Bullwinkle -- ongoing

Dinotrux -- ongoing

Home: Adventures of Tip and Oh -- ongoing

Kung Fu Panda -- ongoing

Wizards -- ongoing

3 Below -- ongoing

Troll Hunters -- wrapping up

Voltron -- ongoing

Dragons Jr -- ongoing

Harvey Street Kids (AKA "Harvey Girls) -- ongoing

Captain Underpants -- ongoing

Spirit Riding Free -- ongoing

Trolls -- ongoing

Boss Baby -- ongoing

She-Ra: Princess of Power -- ongoing

Cleopatra In Space -- ongoing

Minions -- ongoing

Noddy, Toyland Detective -- ongoing

DWA tv employees are now pitching original IPs to the company and multiple ideas have been greenlit for development.

Starz - Film Roman

Sold to Lions Gate -- no announced projects.

Rough Draft

Disenchantment -- ongoing (New Matt Groening show, long in development.)

Mega Man -- ongoing

Clash of Clans -- ongoing (YouTube series)


Costume Quest -- ongoing (for Amazon)

Paramount Animation

Paramount Animation, under the leadership of former DWA exec Mireille Soria, has green lit multiple new projects. Paramount uses the Warner Animation Group and Illumination Entertainment production model of developing feature projects in Southern California and doing the productions with an overseas studio.

Wonder Park -- wrapping

It's A Wonderful Sponge -- ongoing ("SpongeBob" project which has been stopped and restarted multiple times)

Monster on the Hill -- ongoing

Luck -- ongoing

Bento Box

Bob's Burgers -- ongoing

Paradise PD -- ongoing (Netflix)

Fox Animation

Fox Animation Studios has two locations in Southern California. The facility housing "Family Guy" and "American Da" is on Wilshire Boulevard in L.A.; the facility doing "The Simpsons" is On Alameda Boulevard in Burbank.

Family Guy -- ongoing

Seth M. no longer does day-to-day oversight of "FG"; he delegates, does a variety of voices, and concentrates on his live-action activities from headquarters in Beverly Hills

American Dad -- ongoing

The Simpsons -- ongoing

Genius Brand (Andy Heyward Company. Andy ran DIC decades ago. The company was bought by ABC before ABC was part of Disney.)

Lama Lama -- ongoing (for Netflix)

Marvel Animation

Avengers Assemble -- wrapping up

Guardians of the Galaxy -- wrapping up

Spider-man -- wrapping up

We're informed that Marvel Animation will be going into hibernation.

Titmouse/Robin Red Breast

Moon Beam -- ongoing

Megalopolis -- ongoing

Super Jail -- ongoing

The Venture Brothers -- ongoing

Niko and the Sword of Light -- ongoing

Big Mouth -- ongoing

Tigtone -- ongoing

Scavengers -- ongoing


Skylanders Academy -- ongoing

Renegade -- ongoing

ABC Mouse (flash show) -- ongoing

Star Burns Industries

Rick and Morty (Rick and Morty LLC) -- ongoing

Animals -- ongoing

Shadow Machine

Bo Jack Horsemen -- ongoing

Dad Boner -- ongoing

Six Point/Six Point 2

Apollo Gauntlet (Adult Swim) -- ongoing

Star Chaser pilot --

Wild Canary

Puppy Dog Pals (Disney Jr.) -- ongoing

The Rocketeer -- ongoing (Season #1 -- 11-minute episodes -- for Disney Jr.)

Stupid Buddies Stoodio

Robot Chicken -- ongoing

Buddy Thunderstruck -- ongoing

SuperMansion -- ongoing

Hot Streets -- ongoing

Leodoro Productions

F is for Family -- ongoing


Alvin and the Chipmunks -- ongoing

Curious George -- ongoing (newer flash version)

Illumination Entertainment Studios

Secret Life of Pets 2 -- ongoing

Minions 2 -- ongoing

Sing 2 -- ongoing

Johnny Express -- ongoing

Despicable Me 4 -- ongoing

Untitled Mario feature -- ongoing

Illumination Entertainment's next release is "The Grinch", out November 9th. IE is heavy on sequels, but why not? The various franchises have enabled Illumination to open its own mint.

Splash Entertainment

Kulipari: An Army of Frogs -- ongoing (Netflix)

Woody Woodpecker (10 5-minute cartoons for South America)

Bureau of magic -- ongoing

The mice! The mice! Inside stories of Disney Animation in two exciting volumes ... Mouse in Transition and Mouse in Orbit. Available now! ... and into the future (we think)!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Box Office -- June 15-17

And NOW there is (at last) a new animated feature in the Big Domestic Top Ten. (Is there ever!)


1) Incredibles 2 -- 4,410 -- $180M -- $180M (1st week)

2) Ocean’s 8 -- 4,145 -- $20.1M (-52%) -- $79.7M

3) Tag -- 3,382 -- $14.3M -- $14.3M (1st week)

4) Solo -- 3,182 (-1,153) -- $9.1M (-42%) -- $192.8M

5) Deadpool 2 -- 3,212 (-458) -- $8.8M (-38%) -- $294.7M

6) Hereditary -- 2,998 (+34) -- $6.9M (-49%) -- $27M

7) Superfly -- 2,220 -- $5.7M -- $7.9M (1st week)

8) Infinity War -- 2,164 (-718) -- $5.6M (-22%) -- $664.5M

9) Adrift -- 1,929 (-1,086) -- $2.1M (-60%) -- $26.8M

10) Book Club -- 1,656 (-1,146) -- $1.95M (-54%) -- $62M

If The Incredibles 2 does four times it's opening weekend (completely within future possibilities) the latest from Pixar will be, box office-wise, deep in Avengers territory.

Meanwhile, the partially-animated Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will earn north of $125 million for its opening weekend in China. That will run the dino flick's foreign total to $381 million by tomorrow. The feature opens domestically June 22nd. We will then see how it fares against The Incredibles 2, as the movies' demographics overlap a bit.

Friday, June 15, 2018

"Grinch" Trailer #2

So the second trailer for Illumination Entertainment's Grinch dropped yesterday, and it's got all of Illumination Entertainment usual polish: sight gags galore, strong voice characterization, high calibre production and character design.

The picture rolls out on November 9th, and will likely have a strong opening weekend and steady box office that extends well into 2019.

This will be the third screen iteration of Dr. Seuss's 1957 book. Chuck Jones' 1966 television special (co-directed by Ben Washam) was the first go-round; the Jim Carrey-Ron Howard live-action feature (2000) was the second, and the Illumination Entertainment presentation (detailed by Cartoon Brew here) will be the third. (There was also a stage production.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Vaults Are There For Mining

Nothing wrong with a good circus picture (even though circuses without "Soleil" in the title are pretty much gone).

But why remake a 62-minute feature from 1941? Because Diz Co. can. And because pretty much every remake of old animated features that Disney has produced over the last decade has made lots and lots of money. So what could go wrong?

Of course, there's the small problem of "expanding" a movie that was hard-pressed to come in at more than an hour in the first place. So let's go with new characters and push the family angle. Maybe all the new baubles and bright shiny beads are brilliant additions to the 78-year-old tale and Disney will be able to open its own mint.


Regardless, the strip mining of Disney feature animation titles will continue. No doubt around the time I reach eighty, "The Black Cauldron" will get a live-action reboot.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

American Box Office -- June 8-10

The reboot of the Ocean's franchise launches well:


1) Ocean’s 8 -- 4,145 -- $41.5M -- $41.5M (1st week)

2) Solo -- 4,335 (-46) -- $15.1M (-49%) -- $176.1M

3) Deadpool 2 -- $13.6M (-41%) -- $278.6M

4) Hereditary -- 2,964 -- $13M -- $13M (1st week)

5) Infinity War -- 2,882 (-688) -- $6.8M (-35%) -- $654.7M

6) Adrift -- 3,015 -- $5.1M (-56%) -- $21.7M

7) Book Club Par -- 2,802 (-367) -- $4.2M (-40%) -- $56.8M

8) Hotel Artemis -- 2,407 -- $3.1M -- $3.1M (1st week)

9) Upgrade -- 1,458 -- $2.2M (-53%) -- $9.2M

10) Life Of The Party -- 1,842 (-669) -- $2.1M (-40%) -- $50.2M

The hybrid animation epic Jurassic World 2 drops into the states June 22nd. But it's already rolling up sizable money overseas:

... JWFK has scored the fifth-biggest international opening weekend of 2018 behind Avengers: Infinity War, Monster Hunt 2, Deadpool 2 and Black Panther. ...

The collective openings have run up $145.9M on their first weekend, slightly off the totals of the 2015 World.

Added to which, Incredibles 2 (which arrives the week before Jurassic World 2) looks to open big during its stateside debut weekend:

... Incredibles 2 is currently pacing to become Fandango’s biggest animated pre-seller of all-time, beating the pre-sales records of Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory at the same point in its sales cycle, as well as a number of live-action superhero titles. ...

The theatrical animation, she continues to gallop along.

The inside story of Disney Animation, in two exciting volumes ... Mouse in Transition and Mouse in Orbit. Available now!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Adios to John

Bad behavior apparently (allegedly) cause the Mouse to part ways with Mr. Lasseter:

John Lasseter, the creative force behind Pixar Animation and Walt Disney Animation, is officially exiting his post as chief creative officer of both animation studios at the end of this year, the Walt Disney Co. said today. His departure follows his admission last year that he had committed unspecified "missteps" that left some employees feeling "disrespected or uncomfortable." ...

Bob Iger, Disney chairman and CEO said, "John had a remarkable tenure at Pixar and Disney Animation, reinventing the animation business, taking breathtaking risks, and telling original, high quality stories that will last forever. ... One of John's greatest achievements is assembling a team of great storytellers and innovators. ..."

Studio sources said that John's current three-year employment contract is up at the end of the year. So from now until December, Mr. Lasseter will act as a consultant for the two animation divisions he lead for a number of years. After that? Some other studio will make use of his talents, or he perhaps he'll pursue independent projects.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

One More Animation Unit ...

... and more jobs(?):

... “Building Skydance [Media]’s animation feature film and television slate is a top priority, so we’re very excited Ian Sheppard and Larry Jonas, [both from DreamWorks Television Animation] will be joining our team at this pivotal time,” said Bill Damaschke, President of Animation and Family Entertainment, to whom both [new] execs will report. ...

It appears that one more Los Angeles animation studio is ramping up.

Skydance Media Animation is a year old .. and Skydance Media [The Live Action Copmany] goes back almost a decade. The company's cartoon division is headed by former DreamWorks Animation exec Bill Damaschke, who came aboard last October. (Bill D. began his animation career as a production assistant at Disney Animation on Pocahontas.)

As for Mr. Sheppard and Mr. Jonas, both have been in the animation industry for decades, working at Nickelodeon, Sony and the Walt Disney Company before DWA TV and now, Skydance.

Skydance Media has a production deal in place with Ilion Animation of Madrid Spain, where work on two slated features will be done. My educated guess: animation will be created in foreign lands where Free Money* is abundant, while pre-production work (scripts, storyboards, design work, etc.) remains in Southern California where the pool of talent is wide and deep.

One more studio in Los Angeles will mean more employment. Which is a good thing.

* Otherwise known as Government Subsidies.

The inside story of Disney Animation, in two exciting volumes ... Mouse in Transition and Mouse in Orbit. Available now!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Eighty Years Ago TODAY ...

The Norconian Club (and Walt) then, and the Narconian Club now (okay, actually 2006).

... Walt Disney Productions threw a "Our Movie Is A HIT!" party out in Corona, California and riotous things happened::

... The most infamous—party ever hosted by Walt Disney was the 1938 Snow White Wrap Party at the Norconian Resort in the California Desert, a party thick with booze and brassy music, also weighted down by tense politics. ...

The day of frivolity at the Norconian Club started in a sedate and orderly manner, with golf, horseback riding, and high dives off the tall board at the resort's giant pool. Everybody was well-behaved. Everybody was having (pretty much) a good time.

But the partying got wild after the evening dance contest. Walt took the stage, made some perfunctory remarks about the features and hard work that lay ahead, but failed to mention bonuses from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Apparently some kind of profit participation for Disney employees had been bandied about when artists were working seven-day weeks to meet Snow White's production deadlines, and the expectation on June 4th was that Walt would say something about additional checks. (Disney's first animated feature was on its way to being the highest grossing feature ever*.) But no speech regarding extra money was forthcoming.

Many employees were irritated at this.

Whether it was resentment over not receiving more moolah, or oceans of alcohol, or simply the high animal spirits of a lot of twenty-three-year-olds, restraints were thrown off late on the evening of June 4th, with at least one drunken animator (Fred Moore) tumbling out an upper story window, a horse getting ridden through the inside of the club, and ink-and-paint girls being thrown into the huge pool.

Walt was not pleased.

The all-day, all-night wing-ding that happened in Corona never happened again. Nobody got paid bonuses for Snow White, and three years later a long strike of Disney employees changed the character of the Disney company.

Looked at through the right prism, you could say that the merriment of June 4th, 1938 had repercussions for Disney and American animation for decades.

Find more on the Disney party at the Norconian Club here, here, and here (scroll down for the "Walt's Field Day" program).

* A record Snow White held until Gone With the Windw in 1940.

Sunday, June 3, 2018


Say it ain't so!

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders revisited one of the core themes of his 2016 presidential run during a rally for workers, excoriating the Walt Disney Co. for showering money on CEO Bob Iger while short-changing Disneyland workers...

"I want to hear the moral defense of a company that makes $9 billion in profits, $400 million for their CEO and have a 30-year working going hungry. Tell me how that is right." ...

Maybe not right. But for sure not new.

When Ralph Hulett (my old man) started at Disney in 1938, he was making $15 per week.

When he worked in the background department after WWII, he made $60 per week.

Animation veteran Don Lusk made a higher weekly wage clerking in a liquor store up in Big Bear than he did as an animator at Walt Disney Productions.

NOBODY working at WDP in the forties, fifties or sixties was under the illusion that he or she was making top money. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two of Walt's "Nine Old Men", were making $850/week when they retired. Director Woolie Reitherman, who ran Disney's animation department for fifteen years, said to me:

Hell, we didn't get rich because of the salaries this place paid. We ended up rich because the stock options turned out to be worth something. ...

For years, the rationale of the company's artists was: "We're working for Disney, the acknowledged 'country club' of animation studios, with ball fields and ping pong tables and tasty, inexpensive lunches at the studio commissary. So what if we could make more money working for Hanna-Barbera or Snowball Productions?"

In many ways, the Disney corporate mindset hasn't changed much. If it can pay lower salaries to people, it will. But Disney employees are pushing back harder than they used to, fighting for better pay. And cheering United States Senator who tell them they're getting hosed.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Theatrical Grosses -- June 1-3, 2018

The foul-mouthed Deadpool is having a better time of it at the box office than the cheeky young Han Solo.


1) Solo: A Star Wars Story -- 4,381 -- $28.8M (-66%) -- $148.3M

2) Deadpool 2 -- 4,161 (-188) -- $23.5M (-46%) -- $254.8M

3) Adrift -- 3,015 -- $11M -- $11M (1st weekend)

4) Avengers: Infinity War -- $10.6M (-39%) -- $643M

5) Book Club -- 3,169 (+359) -- $6.9M (-32%) -- $47.4M

6) Upgrade -- 1,457 -- $4.3M -- $4.3M (1st weekend)

7) Life Of The Party -- 2,511 (-426) -- $3.6M (-34%) -- $46.4M

8) Breaking In -- 1,682 (-303) -- $2.7M (-38%) -- $41.3M

9) Action Point -- 2,032 -- $2.2M -- $2.2M (1st weekend ... yikes!)

10) Overboard -- 1,228 (+32) -- $2M (-35%) -- $45.5M

I'm guessing that the President of Marvel Studios is having a happier time right now than the President of Lucasfilm.

Animation veterans and original Solo directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were kicked off the picture because execs didn't like the pace of filming or the way the scenes played. But now Solo, 80% remade, isn't performing at the box office, and if Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller aren't having a bit of schadenfreude, they are stronger men than I am.

Meantime, Isle of Dogs remains in a handful of theaters (domestic gross: $31,300,447) and Incredibles 2 is projected to pull down $140 million domestically during its first weekend.

No animation in the Top Ten, but the drought will end on June 15 when I2 drops (see above). One week later, the partially animated Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom roars out of the gate.