Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Go Canada

This is almost a week old ....

The effort to unionize Canada’s animation industry has received a boost, through a new strategic alliance between two groups central to the movement: the Art Babbitt Appreciation Society (ABAS) and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). ABAS is a nationwide collective of hundreds of animation workers agitating for better rights, while IATSE is the largest union representing the industry on the continent. ...

... but still worth commenting on.

Two decades ago (more or less), the Animation Guild in Los Angeles went to Toronto and Vancouver to help Canadin unions organize Canadian artists into their own union.

At the time, Disney had a sizable studio in Toronto and a somewhat smaller studio in Vancouver. And the Canadian IA came pretty close to getting enough representation cards and interest to get a Canadian animation guild going.

But in the end, the effort fell a wee bit short. As a Canadian animator explained at the big meeting of yet-to-be-organized Disney empooyees (Canadian division):

"We really like the idea of being in a union, really. But ... we don't think Disney would like it. And we're, you know, afraid they'd close the studios if we unionize.

So, we're not gonna do it."

Which is what happened. The artists in Vancouver and Toronto didn't sign quite enough cards (which is what you had to do in Canada in those days to "go union". Easier and less complicated than in the States), and Disney Animation Ltd, Canada, remained non-union.

And fourteen months later, Disney in Burbank closed Disney Toronto and Disney Vancouver. (Some exec decided they could do the work elsewhere (Disney had various overseas facilities at the time), so elsewhere went the work.

There's a moral there somewhere, but the one I've always drawn is: "Union or non-union is seldom the primary reason entertainment companies ship production work off to London, Paris, Mumbai, Toronto, or Timbuktu. Mostly its Free Money (government subsidies) or the talents and quality of the work force, or the whims of a highly-placed executive.

Hopefully, Canadian artists will plunge forward with organizing their own labor organization this time.

Monday, July 29, 2019

It's Good To Be Top Giant

As recently as '84, Disney was the weak sister among movie studios. There was Splash, but there was also The Black Hole and (soon to be) The Black Cauldron, also various other gems. But now? ...

The [Walt Disney] Company has brought in an industry record $7.67 billion to date at the worldwide box office, it announced on Sunday. That passed the previous record, which was also set by Disney, when it made $7.61 billion at the global box office in 2016. ...

There was a bit of a turnaround near the end of the Ron Miller days, and then Jeffrey Katzenberg, Frank Wells and Michael Eisner jump-started the place, and Robert Iger sent the company into hyper-drive (commercially speaking).

Diz Co. will probably be appointing Mr. Iger "Chairman For Life". Wouldn't at all surprise me.

H/t Director Mike Milo ...

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Lion Still Ultimate Monarch

The Lion King remains at the top of the Big List, while Leo and Brad come in #2.


1) Lion King -- 4,725 -- $76.7M (-60%) -- $351.9M

2) Once Upon A Time In Hollywood -- 3,659 -- $41M -- $41M (1st weekend)

3) Spiderman: Far From Home -- 3,851 (-564) -- $11.8M (-44%) -- $344M

4) Toy Story 4 -- 3,610 (-140) -- $9.7M (-37%) -- $395.5M

5) Crawl -- 2,720 (-450) -- $3.9M (-36%) -- $31.3M

6) Yesterday -- 2,550 (-112) -- $3M (-40%) -- $63.3M

7) Aladdin -- 1,798 (-307) -- $2.6M (-38%) -- $345.7M

8) Stuber =- 2,150 (-900) -- $1.7M (-58%) -- $20.1M

9) Annabelle 3 -- 1,287 (-694) -- $1.5M (-41%) -- $69.7M

10) The Farewell -- $1.4M (+26%) -- $3.6M

As mentioned previously, the new iteration of Aladdin has now passed the billion dollar mark in gross revenues. Toy Story 4 has now made $917,928,506 on a global basis, and Lion King 2019* has pulled in $962,675,534 and looks to be ... I donno ... a money-maker?

So taken altogether, the Walt Disney Company has two animated features in the marketplace poised to smash past a billion dollars, and an animation-dervied feature that's already done so.

Meanwhile, down at a lower elevation, The Secret Life of Pets Deux is out of the American Top Ten and now clings to rung #11. It's worldwide gross is $331,986,255.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Aladdin Too = MooLah

This tells you all you need to know about the Big Mouse doing more live-action remakes of Diz Co.'s animated feature catalogue:

... The Guy Ritchie-directed [Aladdin] live-action remake of the 1992 animated classic grossed $999.3M globally through Thursday, with $343.1M domestically and $656.2M at the international box office. This makes Aladdin the fifth Disney-branded live-action release to ever cross the $1B threshold, alongside Beauty and the Beast, Alice In Wonderland and the second and fourth Pirates of the Caribbean films. ...

Hell yes they'll be doing more! All the way down to The Black Caudlron.

People in the animation business (i.e., the artists) complain all the time about Disney's crass commercialism and non-creative chops rebooting its heritage and library. But it won't be stopping anytime soon when a billion or more dollars is accumulated in one fell swoop.

For the diminishing few who might be upset that "Disney" could even think of doing the remake thing, understand that it's not Disney anymore. It's the movie-amusement park/distribution platform version of Berkshire-Hathaway.

Jean Harlow and Jiminy Cricket

Clark Gable, Jean Harlow (and Jean's double), also Cliff "J. Cricket/Ukulele Ike" Edwards, singing with a familiar voice.

Eighty-two years ago, M-G-M released Saratoga, a racetrack movie starring Clark Gable (America's heartthrob) and Jean Harlow (America's reigning sex goddess).

Sadly, Ms. Harlow had gone out of the movie star/sex goddess business a month and a half prior to the film's release, when she had gone home sick and soon died, taken at age 26 due to uremic poisoning from damaged kidneys. (No penicillin in those days, also no dialysis machines, so Ms Harlow ended up a goner.)

Production on "Saratoga" had begun on April 22, 1937. Gable, Ms. Harlow, and Walter Pidgeon top-lined. A few rungs down the cast list, singer and character actor Cliff Edwards portrayed Gable's sidekick "Tip". Ninety percent of the movie had been shot when, on May 29th, Harlow collapsed on set, never to return.

At the time, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow were two of the biggest stars on the planet. Cliff Edwards, a Metro contract player (he had originally been hired by Irving Thalberg in 1929) was a 1920s singing star on the downslope of his career. Cliff had starred on Broadway and created a boxload of hit records, but he went through record royalties, stage and movie salaries as quickly as he got his hands on the cash. Also, his third (and final) marriage had recently broken up and alimony payments weren't cheap. Edwards would do more character parts, and the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, but his big-money days were behind him. He would die broke and alone in the early 1970s.

As for the near-completed Saratoga, Metro considered reshooting the film with another actress, but a torrent of letters from anguished fans convinced the studio to finish the picture with voice and body doubles. (In the clips above, Mr. Gable and Mr. Edwards are mostly playing to Mary Dees, the late Ms. Harlow's double, thoughn the final scene, Cliff and Clark sing and laugh with the actual Jean Harlow.)

Saratoga, despite the unevenness of the final result, went on to be one of M-G-M's big hits of 1937. Audiences, apparently, were happy to put up with voice and body doubles to see Jean Harlow one last time.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Streaming Horse Race

It appears that Netflix is losing some of its mojo ...

... Shares of Netflix have now fallen each of the last nine trading days, as the stock began its downfall even before it released its quarterly financial report, which indicated it lost subscribers in the U.S. for the first time since launching its streaming service nearly a decade ago. Netflix also disclosed last Wednesday that it added just 2.7 million subscribers worldwide, while it had previously anticipated adding about 5 million in the quarter. ...

This couldn't have anything to do with Diz Col coming into the streaming space in a few months with its $7 per month fee, could it?

Or that some of Netflix's big suppliers will be picking up their metaphorical marbles and moving to different platforms?

Naaah. Must be something else that we're not picking up on. (When I figure out what that might be, I'll get back to you.)

But no matter what it turns out to be, a year from now the universe of entertainment delivery system will be a tiny bit different ...

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Lion Doesn't Sleep ...

... this weekend.


1) Lion King -- 4,725 -- $192M -- $192M (1st weekend)

2) Spider-Man Far From Home -- 4,415 (-219) -- $21M (-52%) -- $319.7M

3) Toy Story 4 -- 3,750 (-460) -- $14.6M (-30%) -- $375.5M

4) Crawl -- 3,170 -- $5.7M (-53%) -- $23.5M

5) Yesterday -- 2,662 (-93) -- $4.7M (-29%) -- $57.2M

6) Stuber -- 3,050 -- $3.8M (-53%) -- $15.9M

7) Aladdin -- 2,105 (-452) -- $3.6M (-41%) -- $339.9M

8) Annabelle 3 -- 1,981 (1,228) -- $2.5M (-56%) -- $66.4M

9) Midsommar -- 1,105 (-1,602) -- $1.57M (-57%) -- $22.4M

10) Secret Life of Pets 2 -- 1,380 (-940) -- $1.4M (-56%) -- $151.4M

Disney dominates worldwide box office (big surprise), what with Lion King raking in $533m, Toy Story 4 at $854.4m, and Aladdin (the live action redo) nudging against an even billion with $988.8m.

With the stampede of Disney product, The Secret Life of Pets 2 has been half-trampled, taking in a relatively modest $318.6m, which is what DreamWorks Animation features were taking in during the later Katzenberg period. Pets, of course, was produced in France with an $80m budget.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Meanwhile ... the D.C. Universe!

Mostly you hear about Marvel this and Marvel that. But Warner - A.T. & T., they've got them some super heroes too. ...

DC Universe has unveiled a new trailer for its upcoming adult animated comedy series Harley Quinn starring The Big Bang Theory alumna Kaley Cuoco in the title role as Gotham city’s favorite Queenpin. Cuoco also executive produces. ...

For years, Warners had, by far, the best animated product when it came caped crusaders and nasty villains. (The live-action division? Eeeh. Something else again.)

The Disney steamroller rumbles on, but Warners animation is putting points on the board, branching out into comedic takes on spandexed crime fighters.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Marching Backwards For Dollars

What becomes evident when you look at the new animated version of the old animated version of Lion King, is ... the punch and vividness are gone. The hand-drawn characters made the original sing. They did cartoony things in a bright, hand-crafted environment. What you've got with the new iteration is a weird kind of Disney True-life Adventure, except these are photo-realistic animal creations instead of actual creatures. They do photo-realistic type things, but also talk ... and here and their burst into Elton John tunes.

But "True-Life Adventure" isn't quite right either.

Because what flashed through my mind as I watched the song up above is how the African beasts of the new opus resemble animals from a Disney flick from 1957 entitled Perri, a saga about a flying squirrel that Walt & Co. labelled a True-Life "fantasy" sixty-two years ago. Unlike earlier Disney True-Life Adventure documentaries, Perri was pretty much made up, with animals doing things the filmmakers wanted them to do for a scripted plot, not things hidden camera operators photographed them doing in their random, day-to day existences. There were, in fact, over a dozen different flying squirrels portraying the title character.

So, my opinion? You'll be better off thinking of Perri as a close cousin to The Lion King 2019. And the hand-drawn Lion King as a more distant relation.

Tragedy And Horror

Hard to fathom how human beings can do things like this:

The attacker was heard screaming “Die!” as he ignited the liquid he had splashed around an anime studio in Japan.

Within minutes the studio, Kyoto Animation, was a scene of horror: a man hanging from a ledge as flames licked the walls; a pile of bodies on a staircase leading to the roof; a barefoot woman so badly burned that all a bystander could do was spray her with water and wait for help.

By the time the fire was doused, 33 people had died and three dozen had been injured, shocking a nation considered one of the world’s safest. The blaze appeared to be its worst mass killing in decades, and prompted a global outpouring of grief, especially among fans of anime. ...

Was this a disgruntled employee? A maniac? A combination of the two?

Why people shoot military-style weapons from Vegas hotel windows or shoot up elementary schools are set fire to animation studios might be known to God, but it's way beyond me. The Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times" has applied to every day that I've been alive. At some point in the future I hope the days will be less interesting. But that time has not yet arrived.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Super Heroes Rule

... so what's new?


1) Spider-Man: Far From Home -- 4,634 -- $45.3M (-51%) -- $274.5M

2) Toy Story 4 -- 4,210 (-330) -- $20.7M (-39%) -- $346.3M

3) Crawl -- 3,170 -- $12M -- $12M (1st weekend)

4) Stuber -- 3,050 -- $8M -- $8M (1st weekend)

5) Yesterday -- 2,755 (+141) -- $6.75M (-33%) -- $48.3M

6) Aladdin -- 2,557 (-201) -- $5.8M (-21%) -- $331.4M

7) Annabelle 3 -- 3,209 (-404) -- $5.55M (-41%) -- $60.7M

8) Midsommar -- 2,707 -- $3.55M -- (-46%) -- $18.4M

9) Secret Life of Pets 2 -- 2,320 (-526) -- $3.1M (-34%) -- $147.1M

10) Men In Black 4 -- 1,612 (-1,104) -- $2.2M (-41%) -- $76.4M

The three strongest holds weekend to weekend belong to Aladdin (the remake of an animated feature), Secret Life of Pets 2 (animated feature), and Toy Story 4 (also too an animated feature).

Global totals for feature cartoons? Toy Story 4 has now earned $771,069,574; Secret Life of Pets 2 is now at $298,837,185 in total grosses; and Aladdin is closing in on a cool billion with $960,189,720

And the new animated version of The Lion King is off to a robust start in China: $54.7 million on its first weekend.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Cartoons and Streaming

The name of the game for Subscription Video On Demand ? ...

... More dramas, more comedies, more thrillers, more fantasy-adventure series, more dating shows, more game shows, more cooking shows, more travel shows, more talk shows, more raunchy comedies, more experimental comedies, more family comedies, more comedy specials, more children’s cartoons, more adult cartoons, more limited series, ... etc. ... etc. ... etc.

Animation figures bigly in SVOD because a) kids watch it (and stick around as they morph into teenagers), b) cartoons encompass any number of genres, including dramas, comedies, science fiction (etcetera) and c) cartoons are cost efficient and ever-green.

Right now, streaming is in a growth mode and different entertainment are jumping into it. But as the New York Times points, out, the costs for setting up your own steaming gold mine is rising rapidly and is now in the billions of dollars.

If the business of streaming entertainment onto smart phones, lap tops and home flat screens the size of small billboards is like almost every business that's come before it, then there will be consolidation. And soon after that, ossification.

Happily for animation, it will be a major part of streamed content even after a more sterile and unimaginative environment has kicked in.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Flintstone! Again!

The Flintstones was ground-breaking in many ways. It was the first prime-time animated series, the first "adult" television cartoon (Barnie and Fred plugged ciggies), Hanna-Barbera's first prime-time hit.

(It was also a rip-off of The Honeymooners ... and Jackie Gleason later regretted that he didn't sue Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera for their back teeth, but I digress.)

NOW, however, The Flintstone looks as if it will add new episodes to the 166 originals already done.

Warner Bros. Animation and Elizabeth Banks’ Brownstone Productions are teaming up for a new “Flintstones” series, Variety has learned exclusively.

The project, which is in early development, is described as a primetime animated adult comedy series based on an original idea featuring characters from “The Flintstones.” The series will be produced by Warner Bros. Animation. ...

Every frew years, a bright young animation talent makes a pitch for a new Flintstone series. beyond the 166 produced for night-time viewing. And of course, there have been new Flintstone episodes in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. There have been live-action Flintstone features and made-for-television animated Flintstone features.

So new Flintstones in the second decade of the new millenium? Sure, why not?

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


Now that the Mouse is doing its own thing with streaming on the World Wide Web, Netflix will have to get their animated entertainment from other providers ...

Netflix and King Features Syndicate, a part of Hearst Entertainment and Syndication, are bringing the massively popular indie platforming game Cuphead to the streaming platform with the new animated series The Cuphead Show!

Cuphead, developed and published by indie game maker Studio MDHR, launched in 2017 to mass critical acclaim. The game features hand-drawn animations inspired by the classic Fleischer cartoons of the 1930s (and also offers up a hefty challenge for players). The game has sold over 4 million copies and won the best independent game award at the 2017 Game Awards and a BAFTA Games award for its music. ...

That a retro cartoon is getting a sizable order from Netflix something positive about the power of hand-drawn animation. (SOMEbody is watching all those old Mickeys and Silly Symphonies on the internet ...)

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Box Office Fireworks

Over the holiday weekend, ticket sales are ka-BOOMing. ...


1) Spidey Far From Home -- 4,634 -- $87M-$93M -- $177M-$184M (1st weekend)

2) Toy Story 4 -- 4,540 (-35) -- $34M (-43%) -- $306.3M

3) Yesterday -- 2,614 (+11) -- $10.5M (-38%) -- $36.6M

4) Annabelle 3 -- 3,613 -- $9.4M (-54%) -- $49.8M

5) Aladdin -- 2,758 (-477) -- $7.5M (-26%) -- $320.7M

6) Midsommar -- 2,707 -- $6M -- $10.4M (1st weekend)

7) Secret Life of Pets -- 2,846 (-507) -- $4.5M (-38%) -- $140.5M

8) Men In Black 4 -- 2,716 (-947) -- $3.7M (-44%) -- $72.1M

9) Avengers: Endgame -- 1,985 (-40) -- $3.1M (-49%) -- $847.9M

10) Rocketman -- 1,409 (-594) -- $2.6M (-32%) -- $89M

Aladdin has now taken in $905m worldwide, and Toy Story 4 has collected $570m in total box office receipts. Sadly, the weak sibling is Pets, which has managed to acquaire a relatively piddling $237.5m on a global basis. (Yikes!)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Last Of The Golden Age Artists

Year by year, the participants in animation's formative era drop overboard ...

Milton Quon, an animator who worked on such Disney classics as Fantasia and Dumbo, has died. He was 105.

Quon died June 18 of natural causes at his home in Torrance, California, his son, artist Mike Quon, told The Hollywood Reporter. One of the last living artists who worked at Disney during its Golden Age of Animation, he was "drawing right up until his last days." ...

Mr. Quon was a graduate of Chouinard Art Institute, and like a lot of Chouinard alumni, he went to Disney's in thelate 1930s because the Depression was on and the studio was hiring. He worked as an animation assistant befoe World War II, then headed up WDP's publicity department after the war.

Milton Quon left the House of Mouse in the early fifties to become art director of a nation advertising agency. (I would guess that one of the reasons for his departure was that advertising agencies paid considerably more than Disney did in the early fifties, when the studio had a reputation for paying low wages to most of its employees.)

As far as I know, there are no animators left from the ear of Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Fantasia. Don lusk was the last of the animators. Milton Quon is, I think among the last of the assistants.

H/t Jenny Lerew.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Gremlins Morphs Into a Cartoon

Amblin' TV is going the OPPOSITE direction that the Walt Disney Company is currently headed. It's taking a live-action feature, and turning it into an animated TV show.

Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, a half-hour animated prequel to the original 1984 Gremlins live-action movie [is getting ten-episode order]. The project, from Amblin Television and Warner Bros Animation, had been in the works for months. ...

Libraries, of course, can be exploited in many different ways. Just now Disney is on a roll repurposing animated properties into live-action features. (Or at least, remaking hand-drawn cartoons into CG cartoons and calling them NOT animated. Weird, but it's important for some filmmakers to avoid the taint of animation.

What this proves more than anything else is that "live-action" and "animation" are interchangeable these days. The audience just wants to be involved and entertained. I mean, since super hero movies and related intellectual property have large helpings of animated effects in them anyway, most differences have been erased.