Thursday, May 28, 2020

Ever Expanding

The IATSE, the mother international of the Animation Guild, has many of the entertainment unions under its wide umbrella performing little or no work because COVID-19 has shut down sets, shut down one hell of a lot of live-action movie production. But there is an area of movie work that goes right on thriving ....

IATSE Local 839, also known as the Animation Guild, represents more than 5,800 animation artists, writers, character designers, art directors, storyboard artists, visual effects supervisors and other technicians. Guild business representative Steve Kaplan says that animation has not suffered the same levels of employment losses that have hit live-action production over the past few months.

“It’s very possible that we’re one of a handful of IATSE locals that have members working, and we’re probably the only one whose entire membership has not, by my view, been affected by the pandemic,” says Kaplan. “This is because the industry itself realized that it’s not necessary to be in the studio — it’s not necessary to be next to each other — and animation production can continue under these adverse conditions for people working from home.”

The Animation Guild’s membership grew by a little less than 100 members in the first quarter of the year, and new members are being added every week. Studios continue to post job listings, and the guild has signed new productions to agreements. Local 839’s office manager is “furiously setting up members,” says Kaplan — notably, those who are new to the guild as well as those who have found work and are reactivating their membership. ...

The growth of new animation styles and adult animation projects over the past five years has meant “big strides” for the industry, says Fletcher Moules, the supervising director on Sony Pictures Animation and Netflix’s “Agent King.” Along those lines, several animation artists who spoke to Variety highlighted the relatively robust video-game job market, which relies on animation, and an uptick in interest in animated commercials during the shutdown. ...

So on top of being cost-efficient, in addition to drawing lots of audience eyeballs, it turns out animation can continue right on during pandemic lockdowns. And The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE, is larger than its ever been in its sixty-eight year existence.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Tuca & Bertie

A second season for the Adult Swim show has been greenlit:

...Adult Swim has ordered 10 episodes of the adult series [Tuca & Bertie] that revolves around two birds who are best friends and live in the same apartment building. The sophomore season is targeted to premiere next year. ...

Netflix’s decision to drop the series was a surprise last summer. The first season of Tuca & Bertie will remain on Netflix. Adult Swim has domestic rights to the second season. ...

Animation, of course, continues to be a hot commodity, especially with the pandemic shuttering live action production. Even live action shows have turned to animation to fill the gap:

[The Blacklist] showrunners John Eisendrath and Jon Bokenkamp decided that if they couldn’t make it to the season-ending Episode 22, the narrative in Episode 19, which they had already begun shooting, would work as the Season 7 finale. But they had only shot half of its scenes, and out of order. ...

“The show is sort of a graphic novel to begin with,” Eisendrath said. “It has a larger-than-life antihero and Gotham-style side villains. Why not try to animate it?

[But we found that animation] has been far more work than most of our episodes. I’m surprised at how intricate it is. Not that it’s not a reason to do it in the future, but it has been a totally different process, in terms of time and the way we use resources. ... We didn’t have a narrative reason to make [the episode] half-animated, and so we decided not to pretend that we did. And two, we took liberties that we would not have been able to do in live action. It turned out, fortuitously, that the large action sequences had yet to be filmed, and we were able to make those considerably larger." ...

As I write, L.A. animation continues to buzz along at full tilt. More and more, cable networks and streaming companies see that the costs-benefits of animation remain high, so why decelerate, particularly when productions in Los Angeles can continue from remote locations. And artists? They work at home in their robes and slippers, and learn to adapt.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Work Around Town 2020 - #5

Nickelodeon Animation Studios

Nick Animation began life in rented space in Studio City, way back in the early '90s. It's been headquartered in Burbank, California on Olive Avenue for decades now, and houses much of its staff in a refurbished one-story facility and glass-sheathed skyscraper that surround rectangle of open space that used to hold a miniature golf course (but that was years ago).

Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- ongoing (two seasons to date)

Pinky Malinky -- wrapped (or close to ...) -- 60 episodes on Netflix

The Casagrandes -- ongoing -- second season

Glitch Techs -- ongoing (with hiccups) -- streaming Netflix

Kamp Koral -- ongoing Sponge Bob prequel

Adventures in Wonder Park -- ongoing -- Spinoff from the Paramount animated feature; season one premieres in June

Garfield -- ongoing development of the 2019 Jim Davis acquisition

Man of the House -- Norman Lear project announced in '18. Informants say it's ongoing, but?? ...

Middle School Moguls -- ongoing -- Season one wrapped

Big Nate -- ongoing (26 episodes)

Untitled CG Star Trek series -- in continuing development.

Star Trek: Lower Decks -- Seasons 1 & 2 -- Nick and CBS Eye Animation -- The adventures of junior Starfleet officers on the starship USS Cerritos.

Blue's Clues and You! -- ongoing -- Nickelodeon is adding "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" and "Blue’s Clues & You!: Bedtime Stories" to its growing podcast playlist.

My usual spies and stoolies, currently hamstrung by the ongoing COVID lockdown, have done the best they cAN. But since everyone works at home, this list is what it is.

The trades have released a long roster of shows that have been cancelled and renewed on various networks and streaming sites; you will find various animated shows on it.

(Note: The list above should be for Nick shows with pre-production in Burbank, so product created elsewhere ("Butterbean's Cafe, etc.) should be found there. No doubt I've made mistakes along the way. As with the other lists, corrected as we go along.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Can't Keep a Good Cartoon Character Down

Popeye, the Feature was always a passion project for Genndy Tartakovsky: he wanted badly to do it, and Sony Pictures Animation was all in to have Genndy do it ... until SPA wasn't. But now it seems, Popeye might end up on the big screen anyway:

... Genndy Tartakovsky is teaming up with King Features to go back to the drawing board on his long-awaited Popeye animated feature, close sources have revealed to Animation Magazine. The Annie and Emmy award-winning, Golden Globe-nominated animation visionary directed Sony Pictures Animation’s hit Hotel Transylvania trilogy and created celebrated series Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack (both Cartoon Network), Primal (Adult Swim) and, in collaboration with Lucasfilm, Star Wars: Clone Wars (CN). ...

“I just wanted him to be Popeye," [Tartakosky said]. "It’s a very deep, dark, and long story, but it was obvious they didn’t want it and it was obvious they didn’t have a lot of respect for me and I was handling their number one franchise [Hotel Transylvania],” Tartakovsky told Newsarama in 2017. “It wasn’t going to work because they didn’t really believe in it. It was a tough loss for me. We had a proof of concept, we had an amazing story reel all done that everybody loved. The whole studio was excited and the marketing was gearing up, but then the [North Korea-Sony] hack happened” ...

Yet now, perhaps, that loss can be turned around with rights-holder King Features and made into box office gold.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Eighty-Three Years Ago -- JOB ACTION!

The last feature the Fleischer Studio completed at their Miami studio ... where the Fleischers moved after their New York studio was unionized.

Professor (and animation veteran) Tom Sito writes:

May 6th, 1937- THE FLEISCHER STRIKE - Cartoonists vote to strike Max Fleischers Studio after Max fires 13 animators for union activity and complaining about their 6 day work week.

The strike was settled several weeks later when parent company Paramount forced Max to concede. Strikers sang "We're Popeye the Union Man! We're Popeye the Union Man! We'll Fight to the Finish, Cause We Can't Live on Spinach! We're Popeye...etc." The Strike began with fistfights on Broadway in front of the studio, but it didn't get that much press because of the Hindenberg Disaster happening at the same time.

Animation Checker Ellen Jensen told me she was arrested for biting a cop. " One officer pinned my arms back, and another knocked my hat off when he hit me with his billy club, so I sank my teeth into his arm."

Ultimately, the cartoonists secured a contract with the Fleischer brothers, but it was a short-lived victory. The Fleischers relocated to Miami, Florida and set up a non-union studio. There they produced the features Gulliver's Travels, Mr. Bug Goes to Town and a sloew of iconic Superman shorts before being shut down by their owner Paramount Pictures and shoved into retirement.

The Fleischers deserved better. One of the ironies of the failure of their Miami studio was, when they moved South, they had to offer artists larger salaries to lure them to the smallish city on the Florida coast.

Disney survived World War II, aided by government contracts for hundreds of training films. A decade later, Max Fleischer's son Richard directed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, one of Walt Disney Production's biggest live-action hits. Unfortunately for the Fleischer brothers themselves there were no third acts. The flight from the union that struck the Fleischers' Manhattan studio on a May morning in 1937 turned out to be a bad move, and the cartoon studio that had started during the teenaged years of the 20th century ceased to exist.