Saturday, November 30, 2019

Beyond Obvious

Business Insider has been reading entertainment data ...

[The Walt Disney Company], which has two animation studios, has vastly outperformed its competitors, luring audiences to theaters in droves to see new stories and sequels to franchise titles. Disney’s brand reputation, stellar storytelling and emotional resonance has kept it at the top of the box office.

The debut of “Frozen II” last weekend combined with the billion-dollar “Toy Story 4″ means Disney has now garnered more than $1.4 billion in ticket sales from its animated movies so far in 2019. And “Frozen II” still has plenty of room to grow ...

... but sadly, it doesn't read very well. Disney owns a lot more than two animation studios.

It owns Pixar (purchased from Steve Jobs). It owns Blue Sky Studios (purchased from Rupert Murdoch). It owns the Walt Disney Animation studios*.

Those are the studios that make theatrical animation, which focus on long-form features shown in multiplexes.

Then there are the TV animation studios: Walt Disney Television Animation and Fox Animation. These do pre-production on smaller screen fare slated for Disney+, the Disney Channel, broadcast television (remember that ancient distribution system?)

Disney dominates because Disney has put big money into animation, and also owns ... ahem ... some pretty potent brands.

Paramount-Viacom has never gotten much traction in theatrical animation, and its television outpost Nickeloden is a shadow of its former self. Warner Bros. had misfires in animation for years until its new division W.A.G. (warner Animation Group) struck gold with its Lego features. (Its television animation studio Warner Bros. Animation has been a force since the early nineties.) Sony makes has made some competitive cartoon features, and Universal-Comcast has found success with Illumination Entertainment and DreamWorks Animation.

But let's face it. Disney has been building synergy between its various divisions and production facilities forever. Uncle Walt was a master at having one part of his company boost and reinforce another, pretty much inventing the practice in the 1950s. And with Robert Iger, the practice has been super-charged to the point of near total dominance of the marketplace.

* Let's not forget DisneyToon Studios, which created direct-to-video and theatrical features for a quarter century, finally closing its doors the summer of 2018 when the dvd market was deader than a school of beached mackerel.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

A Brief History of Color Movies -- Live Action and Animated

This week in 1922, the Technicolor feature The Toll of the Sea premieres. The story of a Chinese girl in love with an American cad who deserts her, it goes into general release in February 1923, and stars the young Anna May Wong.

(Anna was a second-tier movie star in the '20s and '30s. She played Tiger Lily in the '23 version of "Peter Pan", the Mongol villainess in Douglas Fairbanks' "The Thief of Baghdad." She died in 1961.)

Toll was the first commercial live-action color feature that went into wide release. (There had been experiments previous to it, but nothing distributed nationwide that could run through a regular projector.) Two-Strip Technicolor didn't show the entire color spectrum, but was used in Hollywood through the 1920s and early 1930s, until full color/three-strip Technicolor replaced it.

Fairbanks's "The Black Pirate" was a sizable hit in 1926. At the time, Technicolor'scolor system used two strips of 35mm film fused together, which caused the twin problems of 1) keeping the image in focus and 2) jamming the projector with double-thick film. Technicolor soon figured out how to use one strip of film.

Surprisingly, there were a LOT of Technicolor features made in the decade after "Toll of the Sea". Douglas Fairbanks produced the big-budget "Black Pirate" in Technicolor, and Warners filmed many of its early sound musicals in color. Cecil B. DeMille used Technicolor for parts of 1923's "Ten Commandments" and the silent "King of Kings" (below). The '25 version of "Ben Hur" had a Technicolor sequence.

Sadly, a lot of two-strip Technicolor features have been lost. Most of Toll of the Sea survives due to the efforts of the UCLA Film Archive.


Walter Lantz created an animated color sequence for the Paul Whiteman two-strip Technicolor feature The King of Jazz in 1930. Universal was playing catch-up with Warners and M-G-M in the color feature department, and TKOJ was their big-budget attempt to catch up. Their Whiteman offering featured Bing Crosby before his movie career soared into the firmament.

But the first color short (mit sound!) was this Flip the Frog offering from Ub Iwerks in 1930. (Iwerks had turned in his 20% share of Walt Disney Productions and toddled off to form his own studio a bit earlier. Definitely a bad career move in retrospect. How much would 20% of the Walt Disney Company be worth now?):

Walter Elias Disney never did any two-strip color cartoons. When Technicolor developed its full color (three-strip) system a couple of years later, Walt gobbled up the exclusive rights to make full-color cartoons for three years. (No fool, he.) Disney's first offering was Flower and Trees.

Since everyone else was shut out of the full color Technicolor ball game, they all had to do the best they could. The Fleischers on the east coast made color cartoons with two-strip Technicolor. Their "Color Classics" weren't Disney "Silly Symphonies", but they were giving it the old college try.

Ub Iwerks in the years after his color "Flip the Frog", did a pretty fair Disney imitation with Balloon Land in glorious Cinecolor (which, as you can see, is another partial color system, much like Technicolor's two-strip system):

Disney had a five-year contract with Technicolor, but after three years his exclusivity ran out. Starting in 1936, any animation studio could use three-strip Technicolor, and many did. The Fleischers produced a Popeye featurette in three-strip technicolor, then another. By the late 1930s and early 1940s, most everybody's cartoons were in color.

A Popeye Color Special (1936) -- in the full and complete thrcee-strip color spectrum.

As for Walt Disney's former right-hand man Ub Iwerks, his series of ComiColor shorts ended in 1936. Thereafter, he subcontracted work from other cartoon studios before returning to Disney in 1940. (Minus, unfortunately, that 20% stake.) Iwerks died in 1971.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Reconsideration of An Action-Adventure Epic?

The Brew runs across video Ladyknightthebrave's analysis of the hand-drawn Disney feature Atlantis and gives her a shout-out:

... Atlantis: The Lost Empire, the curious 2001 flop from the tail end of Disney’s 1990s renaissance, is “the raddest gem in the Disney canon.” Or so argues Ladynightthebrave, a Youtube critic whose half-hour essay on the film, part of Filmjoy’s reliably absorbing Lessons Animation Taught Us series, is our video of the week.

Her fun, well-researched deep dive explains what sets Atlantis apart from other Disney features. She touches on the absence of cute sidekicks, lack of music, eccentric storyline — which draws on the writings of Plato and madcap philosopher Edgar Cayce — and hugely ambitious production. ...

Some of the reasons for Atlantis's under-performance almost twenty years ago?

It was a hand-drawn feature fighting against an incoming tide of computer generated animated cartoons that audiences loved.

It was darker than other Disney animated features of the time; Rourke, its central villain (played by usual Good Guy James Garner) is villainous without comedic redemption.

Atlantis was devoid of show-tunes.

In short, it went against the viewing public's expectations of wht a cartoon feature should be, and suffered accordingly. But there were reasons for this. Directors/creators Kirk Wise and Gary Trouysdale were flat out tired of doing animated musicals, as Gary Trousdale explains:

We kicked ideas around. ... [And] we want[ed] .. to do, like, an adventure thing. ... We wanted to get away from the musical. We were tired of musicals. That's one of the dirty secrets: I don't really like musicals, having directed two of them, they're not my favorite thing. I thought it would be really fun to do an action-adventure with monsters. ...

(Gary's comments about "Atlantis" start around the 21 minute mark.)

So maybe Atlantis is due for a fresh look and critical reconsideration. And we'll know those things have happened when the Walt Disney Company cues the picture up for a live-action/CGI reboot. (Stand by)

Monday, November 25, 2019

Frozen and More Frozen

A shocker.

Frozen 2, after massive marketing, social networking, and stratospheric global anticipation, comes in at #1. Who would have thought? ...

Three Days of Grosses

1) Frozen 2 -- 4,440 -- $130M -- $130M (1st weekend)

2) Ford V Ferrari -- 3,528 -- $16M (-50%) -- $57.9M

3) Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood -- 3,325 -- $13.5M -- $13.5M (1st weekend)

4) 21 Bridges -- 2,665 -- $9.3M -- $9.3M (1st weekend)

5) Midway -- 2,627 (-615) -- $4.7M (-45%) -- $43.1M

6) Playing With Fire -- 2,760 (-425) -- $4.6M (-45%) -- $31.6M

7) Good Liar -- 2,454 (+15) -- $3.37M (-40%) -- $11.8M

8) Charlie’s Angels -- 3,452 -- $3.175M (-62%) -- $13.9M

9) Last Christmas -- 2,411 (-1,043) -- $3M (-53%) -- $27.8M

10) Joker -- 1,410 (-927) -- $2.8M (-47%) -- $326.9M

Frozen 2 has earned $223.2M in its overseas debut and $353M globally. Meantime, Universal/Dreamworks Animation's Abominable has now collected a worldwide gross of $174.1M.

The trade press and others are nattering on about the "record breaking" opening of this Disney cartoon sequel, but it's only record-breaking -- as some note -- for the month of November. "Lion King 2019" opened with $191,770,759 (U.S. and Canada) in July. So that's the actual record-breaker. Of course, there's the ongoing fiction that "Lion King" isn't animated because the House of Mouse says it isn't, but we can ignore fiction, can't we?

Sunday, November 24, 2019


This day in film history ... 86 years ago.

At the bottom of the Depression, Warner Bros., Inc. was making a mint with its musicals, particularly "42nd Street". And M-G-M ... the Tiffany's of movie studios ... knew it had to get into the genre in a bigger way.

On this day in 1933, "Dancing Lady" is released, produced by David O. Seznick, a man with minimal expertise in making musicals but Louis B. Mayer's son-in-law, which counted for something.

"Dancing Lady" ended up a sizable hit, but "Lady" is notable for a bunch of reasons besides its profitable box office.

Reason the First: it introduced Fred Astaire to the motion picture screen. (Okay, SOUND motion pictures; Fred had appeared in one silent.)

Selznick, having just left RKO, knew that Astaire had signed a contract with that studio, and contrived to hire him away for a few weeks. Astaire had relatively little to do in "DL", but he danced with star Joan Crawford and got introduced on-camera by Clark Gable (which Fred considered a fine way to launch his movie career).

Astaire dances with Joan ... but then vanishes./p>

Sadly, since Crawford wasn't the most accomplished of hoofers (putting it mildly), Fred toned himself way down, and Crawford wore a long dress to cover her feet. (Smart move.) But Astaire made Crawford look as good as she was able to look. And at least Fred got seen by a LOT of moviegoers.

Reason the Second: it was the movie Clark Gable was making when he came close to dying.

Gable was a clean freak, showering a couple of times per day. But what Clark WASN'T meticulous about was taking care of his teeth. While "Lady" was in production, he developed a major case of pyorrhea and his entire mouth was infected, which meant his bloodstream and body were infected.

By mid-June, 1933, Gable was in a private hospital, tucked away from prying eyes, fighting for his life. The studio tried to keep the hospitalization secret, but the press found out. M-G-M publicity chief Howard Strickling announced that Gable was there for gall bladder surgery, an appendectomy, and tonsillitis (no mention of bad teeth).

When his infection finally receded, a studio dentist yanked out most of Clark's choppers, and a long period of convalescence, ending with a set of dentures, began. Gable finally returned to the studio on August 29, poorer by $25,000 since Louis Mayer suspended his salary while he was out. (That's Hollywood!)

Reason the Third: "Dancing Lady" featured Ted Healy and his Stooges.

Ted Healy, now mostly forgotten (he died in 1937), developed the Three Stooges -- Moe, Larry, Curly -- as part of his vaudeville act. They were popular stage performers, and were in the first months of a contract with M-G-M doing shorts and features. "Dancing Lady" was the highest-grossing feature in which Healy and the boys appeared. The four parted company the following year, and the Stooges began a looong career making two-reelers for Columbia.

"Dancing Lady" is today considered a lacklustre imitation of Warner musicals of the period, yet it made a profit of $744,000. (Production cost: $923k/theatrical gross: $2.4 million)

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Up Is Really Down ... Red Is Really Green

The Walt Disney Company keeps saying; "Uh ... The Lion King (2019) isn't animation but live-action".

This is like saying that Germany won World War II. Both statements are false on their lying faces. Sad that a lot of the media isn't pointing this out.

... In an earlier piece on Deadline, D’Alessandro and Nancy Tartaglione, wrote that Frozen 2 would likely “rep a new global opening record for an animated film.” It’s a bizarre claim to make since there hasn’t been a single projection that Frozen 2 will come within even $100 million of The Lion King remake’s $467 million opening weekend. In the sentence that immediately follows, D’Alessandro and Tartaglione admit that the only way their reporting could be true is if they don’t count The Lion King as animated: “I understand that Disney considers Jon Favreau’s CGI reboot of The Lion King to be in the live-action category.” ...

I know damn well we live in a corporatist age, and that corporations often call the tune. But why the media knuckles under to the fiction that Favereau's feature-length, animated remake of the original The Lion King is a mystery known only to various weak-kneed publishers, editors, reporters.

One thing for a conglomerate to blow smoke up people's backsides. Conglomerates do that all the time. Quite another when news entities help them do it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Closing the Circle

The brief, unproductive life of the Circle 7 Studio ...

... [I]n early 2004 ... Steve Jobs announced to the staff at Pixar that they would not be renewing their deal with Disney. Jobs and Eisner couldn’t see eye to eye, and it didn’t appear that they ever would. So for about a year and a half, during which time the studio completed production on The Incredibles and went into overdrive on Cars, Pixar was an animation studio in search of a new home. And Circle 7 Animation was beginning to ramp up production of its own on sequels to Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo. ...

Let's remember what was going on way back when.

Disney topkick Mike Eisner was in a spitting match with Steve Jobs. And Mr. Jobs was far from happy. He announced his intention to pick up his fancy and very profitable marbles and go to an entertainment conglomerate not named Disney. Eisner then invoked Disney's right to make sequels of earlier Piar features. Michael E. commenced putting together a Disney-controlled sequel studio -- a sprawling, one and two-story building that sat across the street from Disney's ABC broadcast studio in Glendale, on Circle 7 Drive.

Steve Jobs, also John Lasseter, were enraged.

But Mr. Eisner, unbeknownst to everybody, was near the end of his Disney career. As Michael went about building a new animation division, he was fighting with Roy Disney (Walt's nephew, if you're keeping tabs on the players at home). Roy, pushed off the Diz Co. board by Eisner in the early oughts, was running a guerrilla campaign that aimed to make Michael E. the EX-Disney C.E.O., and as rapidly as possible.

Which was, ultimately, what happened. Roy Disney orchestrated a shareholder revolt against the Chairman, and within eighteen months Eisner was sliding down a greased corporate exit chute (wheee!).

Meanwhile, the Pixar "sequel studio" was still in ramp-up phase, with Pixar sequels -- one of them a new Toy Story feature -- in development. In fact, scads of new animation employees were hired, some from the states, some from Canada and overseas, and Disney executives were assuring the newbies that the work on which they were embarked would be long-term.

But such was not the case. Michael Eisner stepped down as chief exec, and new topkick Bob Iger soon brokered a $7.2 billion merger with Pixar. The Circle 7 studio was shuttered.

Most of Circle 7's employees were given their walking papers. Some of them found work in other divisions of the Walt Disney Company, and others returned to their home countries (losing a chunk of money in the process). The media theme at the time was "the House of Mouse has swallowed Pixar, and all's well that ends well." But one of the smaller realities were a goodly number of people lost their jobs and got burned. And were more than a teensy bit ticked off.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Nick Nick

The long-running hit "Adventure Time". Developed by Nickelodeon, but this IP was allowed to slip away to rival Cartoon Network. So are we surprised Nick's reach and standing have ... uh ... slipped?

The Los Angeles Times asks the question: "Can Nickelodeon [Viacom's Kid Cable Network] make a comeback?"

... Back in the 1990s, Nickelodeon’s competition was Cartoon Network, PBS and Disney Channel. Now, the network is struggling to fend off incursions from Netflix,, Hulu and Disney+, the just-launched streaming service that secured 10 million customers in its first day. ...

It's really easy to answer the Times' query: "No." And the reason the answer is effortless? Count the ways ...

1) Viacom has become a weak sister among entertainment conglomerates called the Walt Disney Company, Universal-NBC-Comcast, and Warner-A.T. & T.

2) The company sat on its corporate hands while Disney gobbled up IP makers Pixar, Marvel, and Lucas Film.

3) Bad decisions inside the division At one point Nick was eating Disney's lunch on the home cartoon front, prevailing in the contest to attract kids' eyeballs. But then Nick made a series of dubious choices, everything from letting Adventure Time slip away to Cartoon Network [see above], to deciding that CG cartoons were the future of TV animation (they weren't), to leasing its IP to Netflix (a mistake that helped drive its ratingsz down).

So now Nick struggles against Disney and Cartoon Network on the shrinking platforms known as cable networks, and has no presence at all in the streaming department. So will Nick do some kind of miracle rebound?

Don't think so.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Weekend Ford

A car race movie starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon sits atop the box office, with the big war movie Midway (studded with visual effects) slides to #2. The latest iteration of Charlie's Angels land with a sickening thud and is D.O.A. ...

Three Days of Grosses

1) Ford V Ferrari -- 3,528 -- $30M -- $30M (1st weekend)

2) Midway -- 3,242 -- $8.8M (-51%) -- $35.1M

3) Charlie’s Angels -- 3,452 -- $8.2M -- $8.2M (1st weekend)

4) Playing With Fire -- 3,185 (+60) -- $7.5M (-41%) -- $24.4M

5) Last Christmas -- 3,454 (+6) -- $6.6M (-42%) -- $22.4M

6) Doctor Sleep -- 3,855 -- $5.7M (-59%) -- $24.6M

7) Joker -- 2,337 (-469) -- $1.475M (-42%) -- $5.2M (-44%) -- $322.1M

8) The Good Liar -- 2,439 -- $5M --$5M (1st weekend)

9) Maleficent 2 -- 2,549 (-652) -- $4.8M (-42%) -- $105.6M

10) Harriet -- 2,011 (-175) -- $4.5M (-38%) -- $31.7M

There are no animated features embedded in the Box Office Top Ten, but that should change next week when Frozen II materializes on a gazillion multiplex screens. As for other long-form cartoons now in the marketplace?

The Addams Family has now collected $93 million domestically and $157,050,241 worldwide.

Abominable has earned $59,477,090 in the U.S. and Canada and now stands at $167,577,090 on a global basis.

And Arctic Dogs has collected $5,520,628 from around the globe, 97% of that $5 million coming from the United States.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Gravitational Pull

Netflix and Nick forge a new partnership...

... Nickelodeon and Netflix have entered a multiple-year output deal that will see the Viacom-owned cable network create and produce original animated feature films and TV series based on both new and existing IP.

The deal announced Wednesday expands Nickelodeon's relationship with Netflix, which was revived a few years ago with deals for a live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series and deals for Rocko's Modern Life, Invader Zim, The Loud House and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, among others. ...

There's a theme here: Netflix is losing many of its old animation providers and building its own cartoon studio turns out not to be enough. Nickelodeon doesn't have its own streaming service, and the power and reach of cable networks ... where it once dominated ... has declined. So supplying product to a distributor who needs it? And will pay well for it? That's a match made in corporate heaven.

This deal will no doubt increase L.A.-based animation production, which has been on a roll for years now. Why is Los Angeles getting so much of the work? The answer is straight-forward. As large universities act as magnets for brain-based industries like medical research and high tech (think Boston and its many colleges; the bay area with Stanford and Berkeley), so do large pools of animation talent attract companies setting up cartoon studios.

It's not for nothing that the east San Fernando Valley ... home of Disney, DreamWorks, and Universal Cartoon Studios ... and the beach towns of Culver City and Santa Monica ... where visual effects shops, video game studios, and cartoon houses are headquartered ... continue to attract new animation facilities. These are the areas where pencil-and-paper animation took root eighty and ninety years ago, where artist employees started families and raised kids. Today, generations of talent live and work in Southern California, making it a desirable place for newer cartoon studios (Netflix Animation and the like) to set up shop.

Stanford and Berkeley (and Hewlett-Packard?) helped incubate the Apples and Googles in Silicon Valley a half-century ago. The same kind of process has taken place in Los Angeles since the early days of talking pictures.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Explaining the Obvious

The Hollywood Reporter tells us:

Why the Animation [Oscar] Race Is the Most Competitive in Years ....

Why? Because a lot of product gets made. There were a record 32 submissions for the category, which the Reporter notes doesn't include the high-grossing animated feature The Lion King (2019), since the Walt Disney Company clings to the deranged fantasy that the picture isn't really animated but ... ah ... somehow a live-action vehicle, even though there's not a live-action character in it.

The reason there's thirty-two candidates for Best Animated Feature should be clear from the numbers: the commercial trajectory of theatrical, long-form animation these past few decades has been steadily up, so more and more cartoons get made. With the exception of super hero movies, theatrical animation performs better than any other kind of film shown in big-screen multiplexes. Sony makes them, Warner Bros. makes them, Universal anf Disney and Paramount mke them. And these movies are profitable at any number of budgetary tiers. The high priced product, entertainment such as "How To Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 4, Frozen 2 and budgeted at $120-$200 million, makes buckets of money because the grosses are in the billions of dollars.

And movies like The Addams Family and Sausage Party, produced on the other end of the scale for $20 to $40 million (when Canadian subsidies are factored in), earn nice cash due to worldwide grosses of $150 million or $250 million dollars. Clearly not Toy Story 4 territory, but with smaller budgets*, profit margins are still comfortable.

Both lower and higher budget* animated features designed for the U.S. and Canadian release have a shot at the "Best Animated Feature" Oscar. Technically, they also are eligible for the "Best Picture" trophy, classical cynics know that's as likely to happen as snow drifts in Palm Springs. Actors, who comprise the largest branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will never vote for a movie that features their voices but not their bodies.

So. It's good that there are 32 submissions in the long cartoon category, but there's no mystery to it. A lot of long-form cartoons get made because they earn their creators big dollars.

* Let's add one more wrinkle to the budget levels of animated features: besides those movies designed for the American market, there are really small budget productions coming out of Spain, South America and a few other geographical locations that cost a tiny fraction of the features released stateside. They play in markets like Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, and Thailand. Many of these productions also make money, due to their micro budgets.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Animation Guild Elections

There has been lots of labor activity in the past year - the U.A.W. struck General Motors in a lengthy strike, teachers in various states went on job actions in quest of higher wages, among others. But there has also been lots of internal changes inside the House of Labor. Entertainment unions have seen some hard-fought elections, and there has been dissent among the rank-and-file.

The Animation Guild, a sizable guild that's part of the I.A.T.S.E., has seen lots of changes in its officer ranks. In the span of thirty-six months, it has had three business representatives, and three presidents. This past weekend, the Guild completed elections that saw a large number of new officers elected to its board:


President - Jeanette Moreno King

Vice-President - Jack Thomas

Recording Secretary - Paula Spence

Animation Guild Executive Board

Karen Carnegie "KC" Johnson

Carrie Liao

Stephen Silver

Emily Walus

Jack Cusamano

Elisa Phillips

Brandon Jarrat

Laura Hohman

Danny Ducker

Crystal Kan

Mike Milo

Past Guild Presidents Karen Carnegie Johnson and Laura Hohman have won places on the new board, while several incumbents have departed.

President-elect King served as Vice-President during the 2016-2019 term; incoming Vice-President Thomas previously held the offices of executive board member, Vice-President and President. (Ms. King works as a board artist and director, while Mr. Thomas is a writer, show-runner, and executive producer.)

World War II/ Veterans Day Box Office

Midway gets re-booted for the second time and tops this week's box office list. (There was, of course, the 1976 version with Charlton Heston ... and the original in 1942, which most people think is superior because it had real effects, plus John Ford as director and cameraman.) One animated feature clings to the bottom rung of the Top Ten, slowly edging closer to $100 million in domestic grosses.

Three Days of Grosses

1) Midway -- 3,242 -- $17.5M -- $17.5M (1st weekend)

2) Doctor Sleep -- 3,855 -- $14.1M -- $14.1M (1st weekend

3) Playing With Fire -- 3,125 -- $12.8M -- $12.8M (1st weekend)

4) Last Christmas -- 3,448 -- $11.6M -- $11.6M (1st weekend)

5) Terminator: Dark Fate -- 4,086 -- $10.8M (-63%) -- $48.4M

6) Joker -- 2,806 (-713) -- $9.2M (-32%) -- $313.4M

7) Maleficent 2 -- 3,201 (-619 -- $8M (-38%) -- $97.3M

8) Harriet -- 2,186 (+127) -- $7.2M (-38%) -- $23.4M

9) Zombieland 2 -- 2,427 (-910) -- $4.3M (-42%) -- $66.6M

10) Addams Family -- 2,674 (-933) -- $4.18M (-50%) -- $91.4M

Arctic Dogs sits at #16 with a $4,837,728 domestic gross. Globally, The Addams Family has now grossed $155,527,967. On other animated fronts, The Lion King 2019 (second animated version masquerading as a "live action" feature) has grossed $1,655,125,301 worldwide. It now makes its money in other distribution channels.

* Multi-Academy Award winner J. Ford did, in fact, film the actual battle of Midway, and got wounded for his efforts. He later won an Academy Award for the resulting documentary made from his footage.

Monday, November 4, 2019

"Rocketeer" Re-Imagined

The Rocketeer launches in a new incarnation in a few days, this time in animated form. The person overseeing the production from start to finish is the multi-talented Nicole Dubuc, who on top of running one of the Mouse's newer shows, climbs mountains, horseback rides, teams up with her dog Crosby in various canine competitions, and (also, too) throws terrific parties.

And ... as far as I can tell ... she sleeps but little.

Ms. Dubuc offers this about the new show:

Disney ... approached me to develop the property and they kinda had an idea of what they wanted being in the Junior space and giving a new generation a chance to meet these characters in an entry-point level. And since I was a huge fan of The Rocketeer movie when it came out and [had] gone to discover the comic books as well, Disney thought I might be a good fit for that property. When they asked, I couldn't say no. ...

We have a lot of recurring antagonists, we've actually gone along the lines of the 60s Batman villains so they're very comical and they have over-the-top pieces they're trying to pull off. We've developed our own rogues' gallery for the show so that's been a lot of fun! ...

Nicole has worked in the entertainment industry for a long time, starting as a child actor, then (after college), moving into writing for both animation and live-action.

Oh, and one last thing. In addition to the pursuits listed above, she's found the time to climb mountains such as Whitney, Everest and other tall piles of rocks. (Her schedule exhausts me just thinking about it.)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Subdued Box Office

Not so big, this time around ...

The Cameron-produced Terminator: DF opens with middling grosses. There are now two animated features in the Box Office Ten, but the newer of the two, Arctic Dogs, is still-born, entering the steeple-chase at #10. Meantime, The Addams Family retains a strong hold on moviegoers' imaginations.

Three Days of Grosses

1) Terminator: Dark Fate -- 4,086 -- $29M -- $29M (1st weekend)

2) Joker -- 3,519 (-417) -- $13.9M (-28%) -- $299.6M

3) Maleficent 2 -- 3,820 (+30) -- $12.1M (-37%) -- $84.3M

4) Harriet -- 2,059 -- $12M -- $12M (1st weekend

5) Addams Family -- 3,607 (-600) -- $8.5M (-29%) $85.3M

6) Zombieland 2 -- 3,337 (-131) -- $7.35M (-38%) -- $59.3M

7) Countdown -- 2,675 -- $5.9M (-34%) -- $17.8M

8) Black And Blue -- 2,062 -- $4M (-52%) -- $15.4M

9) Motherless Brooklyn -- 1,342 -- $3.65M -- $3.65M (1st weekend)

10) Arctic Dogs -- 2,844 -- $3.1M -- $3.1M (1st weekend)

As the calendar year winds to a close, there will be a spate of long-form cartoons hitting the marketplace. Here's how animation's worldwide box office has performed to date:

Global Grosses

#2: Lion King 2019 -- $1,653,390,649

#5: Toy Story 4 -- $1,071,425,549

#11: How To Train Your Dragon: Hidden World -- $519,896,648

#14: Secret Life of Pets 2 -- $429,434,163

#31: The Lego Movie 2 -- $191,306,508

#34: Abominable -- $159,650,855

#39: The Angry Birds Move 2 -- $142,548,210

#42: The Addams Family -- $129,295,007

#49 Wonder Park -- $119,559,110

Friday, November 1, 2019

Brit Cartoons

The Guardian speculates that British feature animation might soon revive from its coma...

... Could British animation be on the verge of a new golden age? Warner Bros appears to think so: it has announced a multi-picture deal with Locksmith Animation, co-founded by Elisabeth Murdoch with Arthur Christmas director Sarah Smith and Shaun the Sheep Movie producer Julie Lockhart.

Locksmith is a sought-after outfit: its first film, Ron’s Gone Wrong, is in production under a previous deal with 20th Century Fox; however, the takeover of the latter by Disney appears to have prompted the switch to Warner Bros.

The reality is, though, that British feature-length animated releases are rarities. Bristol-based Aardman Animations has long been the dominant – indeed, only – creative force. Its most recent offering, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, was released two weeks ago. Otherwise, the landscape looks pretty bleak. The British Council’s animation catalogue for 2018 has 32 pages dedicated to short films, born in part out of the success of outlets such as Channel 4’s Random Acts series. Animated features run to a meagre two and a half pages. ...

With the arrival of an ambitious new studio in Locksmith, as well as new possibilities offered by streaming outlets and continued affirmation of the “British” style, we may be in for big things – if all goes to plan. ...

British animation suffers from the same malaise that British live-action has long-suffered: the United States became dominant in film production during and after two world wars, and has never surrendered its position.

Part of this was (is) cultural and part of it was (and remains) economic: the U.S. successfully exported much of its culture through mu h of the twentieth century: Elvis and rock and roll; Disney fairy tales and animation; Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Mickey-Donald-Goofy. American studios became successful, attracted talent, then grew more successful. And today American entertainment conglomerates dominate world box office with the product they create.

Which isn't to say current America dominance will last forever. Nothing does. Elvis was supplanted by the Beatles and Rolling Stones, after all.