Wednesday, September 30, 2015


The Disney TVA hit is kind of an anomaly ...

The series is a CG animated half-hour, a format that's blockbuster on theater screens but often underperforms on television.

The fact that it contains musical numbers and an adorable princess likely helps boost it with small fry, but kids don't care if their television cartoons are computer generated or not, and CG is a lot more expensive to produce than the traditional product. (Disney is making a hand-drawn TV version of the computer-generated Tangled, and DreamWorks has made a hand-drawn version of Turbo.)

The show, now in its fourth season and going strong, set records with its premiere, becoming the all-time champ with kids 2-5 and girls 2-5. Having a seasoned crew of artists, many who have worked in animation since the '70s and 80s, is another large plus.

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Genndy Bails

... from doing a third Hotel Transylvania.

... Fresh off of “Hotel Transylvania 2’s” $48 million debut this past weekend, director Genndy Tartakovsky is thrilled that the animated film broke the record for biggest September opening.

But while the Sony sequel’s lucrative opening almost guarantees an as-yet unannounced third installment, Tartakovsky told TheWrap that he won’t be returning to direct it.

“‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ is going to happen without me,” he said. “Two is enough. I have a lot of other ideas, and I kind of have to express them and have them come out.” ...

And why should he (or would he) continue plowing the same old furrow? Two hits with the same franchise, and he's ready to move on. Spielberg only directed two Jurassics. Mr. Tartakovsky should drop the Hotel for Ghouls franchise for the same reason. There are other subjects that hold more interest.

So let Genndy go and direct a passion project, he can produce the third one. He's earned it.

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Collateral Damage

The evacuation of Disney buildings on Flower Street (Glendale), looking east from the Marvel Animation parking lot.

This just in:

The Glendale headquarters of KABC-TV has been evacuated after a man called police and said there are “several bombs” in the building at 500 Circle Seven Drive. Glendale Police police information officer Tawny Lightfoot said they received a call at 1:52 PM that said ABC7 received a bomb threat. “Police are in the process of searching the building right now,” she said. “The building was evacuated and there were approximately two to four buildings were voluntarily evacuated. We have dogs on scene; at this point, we have not located any suspicious devices.” ...

Marvel Animation is a few hundred yards from the bomb threat site (KABC) and all MA employees were instructed to "go home." Which they did.

DreamWorks Animation, a block away, was told by Glendale Police (so we're told) that employees there were in the clear, and that an e-mail was sent out to that effect. So.... No evacuations at DWA.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Minions Keeps Trucking

The Illumination Entertainment picture prospers in the Middle Kingdom.

... “Minions” came in third for the week, with $9 million, bringing the total mainland China gross for the Universal Pictures film to $59 million.

Both “Mission” and “Minions” were saddled with release dates many weeks after their stateside debuts as China imposed a long summer blackout period on foreign films to boost the earnings of local productions. ...

The feature's world total now comes to $1,143,732,071. Not shabby for a spin off.

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TIghtening the Belt

In these trying times, we all need to make sacrifices, and Rupert M. is making his.

Rupert Murdoch Made $27.9M In 2015, Down 4.6%

Rupert Murdoch was Fox’s CEO in the fiscal year that ended in June, and the decline in his compensation is close to the 6.7% drop in the company’s dividend adjusted stock price for the period. He made $27.9 million, according to Fox’s proxy filed this evening at the SEC.

RelatedFox Gives Activist Investor Jeffrey Ubben A Seat On Its Board
The package includes: $7.1 million in salary, $5.1 million in stock awards, $9.8 million in non-equity incentives, $5.7 million change in pension value, and $182,636 in other compensation. The last category includes $110,235 for personal use of the corporate aircraft, a $14,922 car allowance and $48,204 in life insurance premiums. ...

Happily, when President Trump, Rubio or Bush (choose one) is sworn into office on January 20, 2017, he will set to work making sure that Mr. Murdoch, sterling job creator, will pay less in onerous taxes on his reduced salary.

So that's good!

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Best VFX

Sweet Mother of Danny Devito. It's freaking September and they're already handicapping the race for a Little Gold Man.

The VFX Oscar Goes To ...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – ILM, sight unseen, probably has this sewn up for a variety of reasons, the least of which is the history of Star Wars and the Oscars. ...

The Revenant – ILM Best Picture heat COULD drive this film into this category and bring in a win. But as of yet, no one really knows how much of it will depend on visual effects and how much on real scenery. ...

Mad Max: Fury Road – Andrew Jackson (practical) Iloura (digital). Jackson crafted more than 2000 visual effects shots with help from Iloura. It just isn’t done this way these days. ...

The Walk – Rodeo FX – Robert Zemeckis likes to play with toys, that’s for sure, and one can count on his movies to have at least one major effects sequence, even Flight with Denzel Washington (totally underrated). ...

Jurassic World – also ILM, with other companies contributing. The dinosaurs. It’s all about the dinosaurs. ...

The Martian – the effects are great, though not quite on the level of Gravity. ...

Crimson Peak – Though it has yet to be released/reviewed, Guillermo Del Toro is always a force to be reckoned with in this category.

Ex Machina – it isn’t on the level of visual effects that most films in the race are because it’s “small.” But the film itself is so good that could give it a boost in this category.

Everest – the one thing everyone keeps talking about is how real the effects are, how they put you right at the top of Everest, similar to The Walk.

Ant-Man – general likability plus groovy visual effects make it seem like a potential nominee in this category. ...

Too often, the Academy goes for the splashy and eyeball grabbing rather than the best. But now I think about it, doesn't that also happen in other categories?

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Thirty and Out ... Maybe

Al Jean of The Simpsons says thirty seasons for the yellow family is good.

...Q: You're renewed through season 28, with the cast signed on with options through season 30. Do you want to do more after 30?

AJ: It's quite possible that we don't have to go through the whole negotiation for 30. I wouldn't be stunned if we stopped at 28, but my bet is on at least 30. But then you'd have to resign them again. If you made me pick one, I'd say the likeliest is ending after 30, but I've been wrong before. I thought five seasons was good when I got there. (laughs) ...

The thing of this is, if the ratings are there and the money is there, The Simpsons will go on past thirty.

Who knows? They might even do another full-length theatrical motion picture.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Geena D. Speaks

Some time back, the Animation Guild co-hosted a seminar on gender bias in the animation business. It continues to be an issue for Ms. Davis.

... When Davis’s daughter Alizeh was born in 2002 she started noticing something else: when she watched animated or children’s films, Davis was struck by the lack of female characters on show.

It's an image we have that women only need to take up a certain amount of space and then we've done right by them.

“It was really shocking,” she says. “I first just mentioned it to my friends and said, ‘Did you notice in that movie that just came out there was only one female creature in the whole movie? Besides the mother who dies in the first five minutes?’ And none of them had noticed. Feminist friends, mothers of daughters, none of them noticed until I pointed it out.”

She started talking to studio bosses and industry figures. Across the board, she was told gender representation was not a problem. It had been fixed: “And very often they would name a movie with one female character as proof.”

So Davis sponsored the largest ever study on gender depictions in family-rated films and children’s television (“I take everything too far,” she admits). The research spanned a 20-year period. It found that for every female speaking character there were three males, while female characters made up just 17% of crowd scenes.

“I told somebody that just the other day and they said, ‘Well it seems like you’d have to work at making it that few,’” Davis says with a chuckle.

Her point is that even in a fictional setting, created from our collective 21st-century imagination, we seem – subconsciously or otherwise – to believe a 17% female representation is the natural state of affairs.

“That ratio is everywhere,” Davis says. “US congress? 17% women. Fortune 500 boards are 17%. Law partners and tenured professors and military are 17% female. Cardiac surgeons are 17%. That’s the percentage of women in the Animation Guild. Journalists, print journalists, are 19% women. So why, across all these major sectors of society, does this percentage of women in leadership positions stall at about the same range? ...

Happily (but only a little) the ratio of women to men in TAG has crept up a bit from 17%. But it's still remarkably low. If it climbs to 35% in the next few years, I'd say we're getting somewhere.

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Worldwide Box Office Takings

There are now three animated features on the Big List.


Hotel Transylvania 2 -- $29,200,000 -- ($76,700,000)

Inside Out -- $8,000,000 -- ($774,512,093)

Minions -- $6,800,000 -- ($1,134,226,830)

Pixels -- $6,000,000 -- ($234,441,805) ...

No over-saturated cartoon markets over here, Ma! For as the trades tell us:

... The total foreign cume for Hotel Transylvania 2 is $29.2M in 6,500 runs in 42 markets, including Latin America where it grossed an estimated $20.3M — more than 2.5 times the original for the same group of markets, Sony said.

It’s about 150% higher than the original, which Sony noted, at current rates for the same group of markets, puts Hotel T2 ahead of top sequels Monsters University (+3%), Rio 2 (+8%), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (+29%), and Ice Age: The Meltdown (+76%). This weekend’s markets represent 32% of the total international release for Hotel T2. ...

MINIONS crossed $800M at the international box office after a weekend estimate of $6.8M in 49 territories. The animated film had its final theatrical release in Greece this weekend to No. 1 (and 35% bigger than Despicable Me 2) and now has a total of $800.7M. ...

Jurassic World continues its billion-dollar climb, grossing an estimated $640k in the 14 territories where it’s still playing for a new international total of about $1.012 billion. ...

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High Wire Vertigo

Now with Add On.

Robert Zemeckis discusses his latest feature.

Q: Dick Cook [at Disney] was ousted and your ImageMovers Digital animation factory [also at Disney] was shuttered. What happened to The Walk?

ZEMECKIS: Well, the next thing I knew I was trying, and trying, and trying to get somebody else to make it. And then finally, gratefully, Tom Rothman had the courage to step up.

Q: A technologically groundbreaking movie, made for a price I’m told was $34.7 million. What’s not to like?

ZEMECKIS: Well, I think I can safely say that every single producer who produces a movie, and every single independent financier who finances a movie, and every single studio, they all passed on this. ...

Q: Is there a parallel in your own career, where you just had to do something people told you was impossible?

ZEMECKIS: Mike, every movie I’ve ever made has been a high-wire act, always flying without a net. Always flying without a net. I mean, I know exactly what Philippe [the wire walker] was going through. Obviously, I don’t put my physical body in jeopardy, but I understand the feeling of walking a tightrope. ...

Mr. Zemeckis has always made interesting movies, all the way back to Used Cars with Kurt Russell.

I think the problem with his motion capture features, and he made a number of them, is that audiences are a little creeped out by the Uncanny Valley, by characters that are almost ... but not quite ... human. Because it's difficult to stay in the story when the "almost full realism" dynamic pulls your head away from the events unspooling onscreen.

Spielberg had the same problem with Tin-tin (the movie) that Zemeckis had with A Christmas Carol: It ain't live-action and it ain't animation. It's some strange hybrid. .

Add On: The Walk gets a big reaction in New York City premiere.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Siren Call of Free Money

... seduces once again.

Australian visual effects and animation studio Animal Logic announced that it has officially opened its new 45,000 square foot studio in Yaletown, Vancouver.

The new studio will be led by its current group head of production Sharon Taylor, who will now take up the role of executive vice president and general manager in Vancouver. ...

The company has had a 15-year relationship with Warner Bros. (Happy Feet, Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and The LEGO Movie). ...

Animal Logic’s Sydney studio will continue in production on the recently announced animated features LEGO Batman and Ninjago (due for release in 2017), with another as yet unnamed animated feature to follow.

Animation production has (long since) become a global enterprise. Offshoots of Chinese studios in Southern California. Satellite studios from California in British Columbia. The conglomerates our in search of ban for the buck, and if a provincial government on the American continent is willing to cough up serious money to aid an entertainment conglomerate in its pursuit of box office riches, the conglomerate is down with that.

Hard to fault them. Free cash is free cash.

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Your Blood-Sucking Box Office

It's a Hotel kind of a weekend.


1). Hotel Transylvania 2 (SONY), 3,754 theaters / $13.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $48.2M /Wk 1

2). The Intern (WB), 3,305 theaters / $6.5M Fri. / 3-day cume: $18.6M /Wk 1

3). Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (FOX), 3,792 theaters (+1)/ $4.08M Fri. (-63%) / 3-day cume: $14M(-54%)/ Total cume: $51.5M/Wk 2

4). Everest (UNI), 3,006 theaters (+2,461) / $4M Fri. (+76%) / 3-day cume: $12.4M (+72%) /Total cume: $22.4M/Wk 2

5). Black Mass (WB), 3,188 theaters (0)/ $3.5M Fri. (-60%)/ 3-day cume: $11.5M (-49%)/Total cume: $42.5M /Wk 2

6). The Visit (UNI), 2,967 theaters (-181)/ $2M Fri. (-45%)/ 3-day cume: $6.53M (-44%) / Total cume: $52M / Wk 3

7). The Perfect Guy (SONY), 1,889 theaters (-341) / $1.43M Fri. (-54%)/ 3-day cume: $4.6M (-52%)/ Total cume: $48.7M /Wk 3

8). War Room (SONY), 1,920 theaters (-25) / $1.2M Fri. (-34%)/ 3-day cume: $4.2M (-32%)/ Total cume: $55.9M/ Wk 5

9). The Green Inferno (HTR), 1,540 theaters / $1.47M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.5M /Wk 1

10). Sicario (LGF), 59 theaters (+53) / $551K Fri. (+312%)/3-day cume: $1.7M (+325%) /Wk 1

As we've said, the projected $30 million total for HT2 always seemed low to us. ...

As the trades tell us:

Hotel Transylvania 2 which Sandler voiced, co-wrote with Robert “Triumph the Insult Comic Dog” Smigel and executive produced, is giving Sony it’s highest opening to date this calendar year, and, with an estimated $48.2M $46.8M at 3,754, its biggest FSS since that computer hack.

The records don’t stop there: HT2 is so overbooked, it’s going to beat the September opening record it set two years ago with the first chapter, which took in $42.5M, and even more – it’s on the precipice of being the best second highest FSS opening of Sandler’s career after the $47.6M FSS Memorial Day 2005 opener The Longest Yard. ...

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Animation in Great Britain

The BBC's short history of British animated cartoons.

In the first half of the 20th Century, British animation's chief avenue of exposure was as part of the Allied war effort.

Animation played a key role in British propaganda during both World War One and World War Two, raising morale by lampooning the Kaiser and Hitler as well as communicating government messages. ...

As television sets made their way into many more UK homes in the 1960s, there was a growing new audience for animation to entertain.

French import The Magic Roundabout (although we're claiming it as British due to Eric Thompson's brilliant re-working of the scripts) was one of many animated shows to achieve cult status and provoked a storm when it was moved from its pre-evening news slot to an earlier children's viewing time. ...

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The LATEST Prediction

You might remember that Hotel Transylvania 2, per the trades, was looking to scare up $30 million mere days ago. At the time, I scoffed, thinking it would end up higher. So now it looks more like this:

Animated sequel “Hotel Transylvania 2” is tracking for an opening weekend haul in the $45 million range, according to early studio estimates.

The Sony pic, with characters voiced by Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James and Keegan-Michael Key, bows in 3,754 locations. “Hotel” skipped Thursday previews, but early Friday matinee numbers are looking promising. The original “Hotel Transylvania” opened to $42 million in 2012. ...

$45 million. Whattayaknow?

There hasn't been a new animated offering in months, so I never presumed HT2 would open weakly. It's a well-loved title, and parents and kids will be lining up to see the newer incarnation. The original grossed $148,313,048 domestically, and I would expect this edition to do as well or better. HT2 has a better Rotten Tomatoes score (46% to 44%, a higher "want to see" score (87% to 72%), and sequels usually hang right in there.

Worldwide grosses should be north of $400 million.

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Fifty Years Ago Today

As Tom Sito informs us:

John, Paul, George and Ringo go to Cartoonland on this day in 1965 when a Saturday morning cartoon series starring the four of them premieres on ABC and is a ratings smash. ...

All told, there were thirty nine episodes spread over three years. The iconic Paul Frees voiced John and George. Lance Persival stood in for Paul and Ringo. Happily, the songs embedded in all of the half hours were performed by the originals.

H/t Tom Sito.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015


The tv cartoon version of The Guardians of the Galaxy premieres day after tomorrow.

... [The television show] respects the success of the movie, but also has its own personality and storyline,” Eric Radmomski, Senior VP of Animation and Development at Marvel, told me about the show. “I think [fans] are going to be pretty pleased with what we’ve done. We’re confident this deep into the production that the show holds up and the storytelling is pretty solid and especially the ensemble cast, they just really brought the characters into the animated world without doing a direct lift or interpretation of the voices. They really capture the personality in all of their performances.” ...

Pre-production on TGOTG (boards, designs, animation direction, etc.) is done at Disney's Prospect Avenue studios in historic east Hollywood. Grey's Anatomy used to be a neighbor on the lot (with the writers' room in a hundred-year-old bungalow), along with the daytime soap General Hospital.

Warners has a long, successful history with animated super heroes. Disney has now plunged into the game with cartoon action adventures of its own, but its got a ways to go to match the WB track record.

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VFX Supe

As part of the tub-thumping for Hotel Transylvania 2 (in a theater near YOU this weekend), Effects Supervisor Karl Herbst tells us what a supervisor of a modern-day animated feature actually does:

... A Video Effects supervisor for an animated movie is responsible for the total look of the Picture. I work with a Production team to see what kind of artwork we are generating, how many characters we’re trying to create, what kind of environment we are trying to create, and then behind me I build a team of technical people and artistic people that can execute that work.

I teamed up with a Animation Supervisor Alan Hawkins. Alan becomes responsible for the performances of these characters working with the animators. We then do cloth simulation, hair simulation, and any sort of effects we need like dust smoke, things breaking apart, and lighting. This all falls under my supervision all the way until the final Picture that goes out into theaters. ...

For us on our side it’s starting to figure out how many assets we need to create, how many characters, environments, props, and then figuring how to build those in a way that is efficient and useful for the shots we have in the movie. This film actually went very quickly because we started with a lot of things we knew from the first film. ...

Karl Herbst's responsibilities aren't really that different from Disney effects supervisor Josh Meador, who was catapulted to the top rung of Walt Disney Productions' effects department in 1939, while still in his twenties. As veteran animator Eric Larsen noted:

You know this guy Josh Meador was a nut. He was absolutely dedicated. And the kinds of people with his talent, you don't very often find. He was so dedicated and observing and analytical, and his sense of timing for [effects animation] was terrific. He shot stuff in slow motion so people could study just exactly how water or milk or any substance of varied density would break up if something was tossed into it. So that the rest of the crew would know exactly how it would break up. All you have to do is look at that underwater stuff (on Pinocchio), and you realize that he really passed that information on to a lot of people. By the time we got to Fantasia, we had sixty four people in the effects department alone. We had about twelve hundred people in animation.

There's a direct line from Meador to Herbst. Josh M. might have created animated effects with pencil and air brush (while today they're done with pixels), but the process is the same: analyze the needs of the picture, then create the elements needed to support story, characters, and settings therein.

Simple? Not really. But very similar, whether the effects happen in 1940 or 2015.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Women in Another IATSE Guild

Dave Robb tells us:

... IATSE Cinematographers Guild Local 600's national officers are all men. ... Both the American Society of Cinematogrpahers and the Cinematographers Guild, however, have been trying to bring more women into the business, and have been promoting those already here. The guild recently took out a trade add touting its 1,100 female members – about 15% of its membership – and has a Diversity Committee dedicated to raising diversity issues and encouraging producers to hire more women and minorities. ...

In today's L.A. animation industry, 21% of employees in guild shops are women. This is 4% higher than the employment rate in 2012. So we're in the same ballpark, though a smidge higher, than the cinematographers.

In 2015, with the cartoon business booming, these figures are a little bit discouraging, even though they're moving in a good direction.

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Aardman Beachhead in Big Apple

Per the trades.

UK animation studio Aardman has acquired a majority share in New York-based company Nathan Love in a move that represents the Chicken Run producer’s first production facility outside the UK. The new company will be re-branded Aardman Nathan Love and further establishes Aardman’s commitment to its lucrative advertising business.

“This venture is not about sending work back to the UK. It’s about building a new business in New York for American agencies and we feel we can do this more effectively by being there,” commented Aardman co-founder and exec chairman David Sproxton. “Aardman’s vision is to be the most inspirational animation company in the World, in the eyes of its talent, partners and audiences, for generations to come.” ...

Another indicator that animation stretches around the globe.

Aardman, of course, has collaborated with DreamWorks Animation and Sony on feature animation projects. Chicken Run did well, collecting $224,834,564 against a budget of $45 million. (No Aardman feature since has been that successful.)

But creativity never dies, and now the British company is coming stateside again, this time in the area of commercials. We wish them the best.

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Hitting the Bricks?

Some SAG-AFTRA members might be doing just that.

Negotiators for SAG-AFTRA are seeking a strike authorization from video game voice actors after failed negotiations for a successor deal.

The performers union sent out postcards for the strike vote on Sept. 16 to “affected members” — meaning those who have worked on the Interactive Media Agreement — with a deadline of Oct. 5. The SAG-AFTRA constitution mandates that a strike authorization goes into effect only if backed by at least 75% of those voting.

“After a successful strike authorization vote, we will reach out to the employers and ask them to return to negotiations,” the union said.

The contract covers work performed for Activision, Electronic Arts, Disney, Warner Bros. and other employers of video game voice actors. Reps for Warner Bros. and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers declined to comment on the strike vote. ...

SAG-AFTRA has somewhat less leverage in the video game area than it does elsewhere, so we will see how this goes.

And of course, they have to get a 75% strike vote. We assume they're confident they can get to the three-quarters mark. Good luck to everybody.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bilingual Dinosaurs

The reptiles speak English ...

The subtitles don't. ...

And the entire mix is an interesting blend of cartoons nudging against uber realism.

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Yoram Gross, RIP

A pioneer of Australian animation passes.

The filmmaker behind 'Blinky Bill' was on Oskar Schindler's famous list as his family tried to escape the Nazis.

Yoram Gross, the Polish-born pioneer of animated films in Australia, passed away in Sydney on Monday, reportedly of natural causes. He was 88.

Through the Yoram Gross Film Studios, the animation business he ran in Sydney alongside his wife, Sandra, Gross made 16 animated features and 12 TV series, bringing to life characters such as Dot and the Kangaroo and the lovable Koala, Blinky Bill. The latest iteration of Blinky Bill, a new CGI feature made by Flying Bark Productions, was released in Australia just last week. ...

To emigrate to a new country and continent in your forties takes fortitude.
But considering the kind of childhood Mr. Gross endured, moving from Israel to Australia in middle age must have seemed like a stroll in the park.

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Box Office Prediction

The trades tell us:

After three up weekends in a row, September moviegoing continues to clickety-clack with Sony Animation’s Hotel Transylvania 2 set to take No. 1 with a FSS in the low $30Ms, maybe $40M. If the Adam Sandler vehicle hits that high mark, attribute it to the fact that there hasn’t been a full-bloodied studio family toon in the market since Universal’s Minions. ...

There hasn't been a new animated entry in months, so the market place can't be saturated* with cartoons. I'm expecting Transylvania to open higher than a paltry thiry million. We'll see.

* Satirated = one long-form cartoon stifling another in the movie marketplace. This actually happens less often than when one live-action movie hurts another live-action movie. But the media goes for the simple, brain-damaged explanation, so what do you do?
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Monday, September 21, 2015

TAG's 401(k) Plan

We are wrapping up the latest round of 401(k) enrollment meetings, also Vanguard's first mail campaign which has been a solid success. The current stats of the Guild's 401(k) Plan:

Total Plan Balance -- $229,742,426.16

Number of Participants -- 3,111

Average Participant Balance -- $87,227.40

Anybody investing in a 401(k) Plan should strive to be diversified across different asset classes (small stocks, large stocks, bonds, etc.) Beyond that, participants should consider ...

1. Control costs

All 401(k) plans cost money. Happily the TAG 401(k) Plan is less expensive than many. Vanguard funds are among the most cost-effective in the industry, and the Target Date Funds, which most TAG participants are using, cost a mere 16-18 basis points. Beyond the Target Date funds, the plan has an array of low-cost index funds.

2. Roth 401(k)

Starting in January, the guild will offer a Roth option for most participants.

3. Minimize 401(k) Plan loans

The TAG 401(k) Plan offers a loan option for participants, which from time to time comes in handy, but we don't recommend that participants use it if they can tap money from someplace else. Interest on loans is not high, but it is tied to prime interest rates and participants pay back pre-tax dollars with after-tax dollars. This means that when they pull the repaid money out to use in retirement, they'll be paying taxes on the cash twice.

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WGA Election Results

The Writers Guild holds a new officer election.

... Howard Rodman has been elected President of the WGA West, handily defeating former board member Joan Meyerson by a 2-1 margin (1,557 votes to 749 votes). Rodman, who had been the guild’s Vice President, succeeds Chris Keyser, who was precluded by guild rules from seeking a third term. ...

Getting tough with the companies in 2017 was a major part of his campaign, telling members in his candidate statement that all the guilds need to work together in future contract talks. “In our last negotiation we worked more closely with our sister guilds, in particular the DGA, than at any time in recent memory. Yet the companies negotiate as one, bargaining with each of us in turn – and the first deal reached is often imposed as ‘the pattern.’ ...

From what I can tell, Mr. Rodman holds a harder line than the last couple of WGA(w) Presidents, and looks more willing to take in the AMPTP.

In my experience, Writers Guild militancy comes in waves. There was a lot of militancy in the Reagan era, with a strike every three years (which makes sense; the contracts are up every three years). Then there was a 19 year stretch where no strikes happened The last job action was in 2007, so maybe the WGA has reached a point in the cycle when a labor strike is a distinct possibility.

We'll find out in 2017.

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Nancy Bernstein, RIP

A long-time DWA executive passes.

Nancy Bernstein, a visual effects producer on X-Men and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring who headed production at DreamWorks Animation and produced the company’s Rise of the Guardians, has died. She was 55.

Bernstein, who also spent several years leading effects production at Digital Domain, died Friday, DreamWorks Animation confirmed. In December 2011, she was diagnosed with stage 4 metastasized colorectal cancer.

"One of our most beloved and respected producers and executives, Nancy spent 10 years at DWA, where she excelled as head of production, feature film producer and, most recently, overseeing all new business productions for DWA's global initiatives," the company said in a statement. ...

Colon cancer that's metastasized (which is what she had) is difficult to beat, but Nancy gave it a go. Our condolences to her family.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Another Record Falls

With an able assist from Cartoonland.

Universal smashed another record on Saturday as it became the first to cross the milestone.

Universal’s $4bn international box office success is powered by the accomplishments of Jurassic World, which remains active on $1.009bn internationally, and Fast & Furious 7, which reached $1.161bn.

Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s Minions remains a potent force and added $22.8m over the weekend to settle on $785.3m. ...

Both Universal and Diz Co. have had banner years, and their animated product has made big contributions to their bottom lines.

And of course, that doesn't take into account all the merchandise, games, and the secondary markets that contribute heavy coin to both conflomerates' bank accounts.

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International Grosses

Where two animated features never seem to fade.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (World Totals)

Minions -- $22,800,000 -- ($1,118,053,895)

Pixels -- $14,900,000 -- ($221,375,020)

Inside Out -- $9,800,000 -- ($761,683,000)

Ant-Man -- $2,318,886 -- ($401,386,846) ...

The trades tell us:

... Minions has an estimated $22.8M in 57 territories this frame. The international total is now $785.3M. Combined with the U.S. total of $332.8M, the worldwide box office is $1.118B. In continued play in China, Minions is the No. 1 film with $19.4M in the frame. ...

Inside Out grossed an estimated $6M in Italy this frame. In total, the weekend brought $9.8M to Riley’s islands with 87% of the offshore marketplace having opened. The global cume is now $761.7M with $352.9M domestic and $408.8M international. ...

Suiting up in Japan and Greece, the Disney/Marvel pic Ant-Man crossed $400M at the global box office this frame. Japan was a solid start at No. 1 amongst Western movies with $1.7M, besting both Captain America 2 and Thor 2. ...

Currently in 18 markets, Fantastic Four continues to see strong returns in Venezuela where it dropped just 25% and is No. 2 in the session. The cume there is $14.38M. In total, Fan 4 collected $1.6M on 950 screens this frame to bring the international cume to $108.3M. ...

In the 4th week [of release in Japan], Ted 2 placed No. 3 with $785K at 345 dates and has a 23-day total of $16.7M. In all, the weekend was worth $1.3M in 30 territories for a total of $129.5M. ...

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

How Others View the L.A. Animation Industry

A New Zealander looks at Cartoon Network:

Taking a trip into toon town central

Forget Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth is Cartoon Network studios in Burbank, California.

From the moment the Herald on Sunday enters the front doors for a day-long visit, it's clear that every corner of the multi-building complex is specifically geared towards promoting a serenely idyllic work environment where creativity can flourish.

This isn't your ordinary office.

Just beyond the foyer adorned with painted renderings of Cartoon Network's most iconic characters lies an art gallery that hosts a new show every month. Next to that is a wall covered in Etch a Sketches. Etching a sketch is encouraged. ...

Cartoon Network has one of the coolest environments in Cartoon Studio Land. Nick used to be up at the top with its outdoor miniature glof course and whimsical shrubbery, but Cartoon Network has outdone itself.

They've been in the converted phone company building forever, but they refreshed the outside of the building (a Frisbee throw from the Burbank Police Department) and tricked up the interior so that the first floor looks like Brady Bunch's living room ... and the other floors resemble the photographs featured in the link above.)

CN also occupies a number of floors of the skyscraper next door. And those spaces are even more employee-friendly, spacious and welcoming than the original building's. But the Time-Warner division, for which the headquarters is Atlanta, has been on a roll for a number of years. So why NOT have an alluring workplace?

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Your American Box Office

Not an animated feature in sight.


1). Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (FOX), 3,791 theaters / $10.9M Fri.* / 3-day cume: $30.3M /Wk 1
*includes $1.7M Thursday previews

2). Black Mass (WB), 3,188 theaters / $8.78M Fri. **/ 3-day cume: $24.8M/Wk 1
**includes $1.4M Thursday previews

3). The Visit (UNI), 3,148 theaters (+79)/ $3.6M Fri. (-61%)/ 3-day cume: $10.96M (-57%) / Total cume: $41.96M / Wk 2

4). The Perfect Guy (SONY), 2,230 theaters (+9) / $3M Fri. (-70%)/ 3-day cume: $9.89M (-62%)/ Total cume: $41.6M /Wk 2

5). Everest (UNI), 545 theaters / $2.3M Fri.+ / 3-day cume: $6.96M /Wk
+includes $325K Thursday previews

6). War Room (SONY), 1,945 theaters (+298) / $1.83M Fri. (-18%)/ 3-day cume: $6.57M (-15%)/ Total cume: $49.4M/ Wk 4

7). A Walk in the Woods (BGP), 2,158 theaters (+19) / $874K Fri. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $2.86M (-40%) / Total cume: $24.9M / Wk 3

8). Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation (PAR), 2,202 theaters (-447) / $633K Fri. (-42%)/ 3-day cume: $2.36M(-42%)/ Total cume: $191.8M / Wk 8

9). Straight Outta Compton (UNI), 1,938 theaters (-874) / $588K Fri. (-51%)/ 3-day cume: $1.93M (-51%)/ Total cume: $158.8M / Wk 6

10). Captive (PAR), 806 theaters / $646K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.9M /Wk 1 ...

Inside Out which remains in 1200 theaters, has reached $352,104,169 after 92 days or release.

Minions, in circulation for a mere 71 days, has collected $332,033,705 and remains on 1,134 movie screens.

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Meanwhile In the Bottom Half of the Hemisphere ...

Animation studios are combining.

... Sao Paulo-based TV and film production shingle Glaz has merged with Rio-based animation facility, Copa Studio.

The new holding, dubbed Glaz, is fueled by a seven-figure investment from Investimage 1, a fund that operates under Brazil’s tax incentive system, Funcine, created in November 2003.

The two companies’ combined expertise and robust financing is projected to drive their growth by 150% by 2017.

According to Glaz CEO Mayra Lucas, two feature toons are underway: “Haunted Tales for Wicked Kids,” a spinoff of Glaz’s hit series “Haunted Tales” for Cartoon Network Latin America, and “Trunk Train,” a spinoff of the eponymously titled series. ...

Though it's easy to forget, thee are viable animation studios girdling the globe, many turning out regional hits that Americans never hear about.

Down below the Pixars, Disneys and Blue Sky Studios on the "worldwide grosses" ladder, any number of foreign companies do quite well making cartoons. They don't earn the money that our fine, North American conglomerates do, but they serve their local markets and make their owners a tidy sum of cash.

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This Month In Animation ...

Also a few other things, as related by Mr. Tom Sito.


Sept. 1, 1919 - Pat Sullivan's 'Feline Follies" cartoon starring Felix the Cat premieres. Felix is the first true animated star, not depended on a previous newspaper comic strip. His body prototype, a black peanut shape with four fingers, will be the standard for years to come. By 1926 he is the most popular star in Hollywood after Chaplin and Valentino. Lindbergh had a Felix doll in his plane, and it has been speculated that Groucho Marx copied his famous strut. The first television image broadcast by scientists in 1926 was of a Felix doll.

Sept. 1, 1928 - Paul Terry premieres his sound cartoon RCA Photophone system for a short called "Dinner Time". Young studio head Walt Disney came by train out from Los Angeles to see it. He telephoned his studio back in L.A. "My Gosh, Terrible! A Lot of Racket and Nothing Else!" He said they could continue to complete their first sound cartoon "Steamboat Willie".

Sept. 2, 1973 - J.R.R. Tolkein dies at age 81. He once said of his trilogy The Lord of the Rings - “I should have written more”.

Sept. 3, 1930 - The first issue of the Hollywood Reporter debuts.

Sept 3, 1939 - British Prime Minister Chamberlain's announcement of war with Germany interrupts the Disney cartoon Mickey's Gala Premiere showing on BBC television. Television shuts down for the duration of the war.
In 1946, the BBC television service resumes with an announcer stating: "Well now, where were we?" and then the Mickey cartoon from the point where it was stopped. ...

Sept 3, 1950 - Mort Walker's Beetle Bailey comic strip first appeares.

Sept 3, 1960 - The Hanna-Barbera show Lippy the Lion and Hardy-Harr-Harr premieres.

Sept 6, 1968 - Sid and Marty Krofft’s H,R. Pufnstuf premieres. Witchipoo, Orson and the Vroom Broom.

Sept 6, 1969 - DePatie-Freleng's The Pink Panther TV Show premieres.

Sept. 7, 1963 - Mushi productions cartoon series Tetsuan Atomo debuts in the U.S as AstroBoy.

Sept. 7, 1984 -The Walt Disney Company Executive Board formally replaces CEO Ron Miller with Michael Eisner.

Sept. 8, 1966 - Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek debuts. That season it ranks 52nd in the Neilsen ratings, behind #1 "Iron Horse" starring Rory Calhoun. It is canceled after two seasons but a letter writing campaign won it a third season. Star Trek then finds a new life in syndication. The cult fan base (called Trekkies) keeps the memory of the show alive for ten years until Paramount feels compelled to revive it to cash in. First as an animated series, then a series of feature films, and then spin-offs.

Sept. 9, 1908 - Thomas Edison, Charles Pathe and Leon Gaumont form the Motion Picture Patents Group called the "Trust". Their attempt to monopolize movie production and strangle off their independent competitors has a lot to do with the early filmmakers exodus to Los Angeles.

The only positive result of the trust is a regular industry standard for film stock of 35 mm running at 24 frames per second. The Mitchell Camera Company, developing a motorized motion picture camera to replace the hand crank variety, needed an official speed to set the film past the film gate. In a contentious meeting of the Trust, the compromise was made to make it the number of delegates in the room - 24.

Sept. 9, 1926 – The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is created by Radio Corporation of
America (RCA). Under the direction of David Sarnoff it becomes the powerhouse network of broadcasting, recording and then television.

Sept. 9, 1967 - Jay Ward’s show George of the Jungle premieres which included Super Chicken and Tom Slick sequences.

Sept. 10, 1966 - Hanna Barbera's Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles debuts.

Sept. 10, 1968 - Hanna Barbera's Space Ghost and Dino Boy debuts.

Sept. 11, 1914- W.C. Handy's “Saint Louis Blues” premieres, the first true Jazz song to gain national popularity. Myron “Grim” Natwick, the cartoonist who would one day create Betty Boop, creates the artwork for the music coversheet.

Sept 11,1960 - Terrytoon's Deputy Dawg TV show premieres.

Sept 11, 1966 - Kimba the White Lion, the first color animated TV series in Japan, debuts in the U.S.

Sept. 11, 1971 - The Jackson Five Saturday cartoon series premieres.

Sept, 12, 1941 - The Animators Strike at Walt Disney Studio, which had been going on since May 30th, finally ends. The NLRB, with a lot of behind the scenes arm-twisting from the Bank of America, settles the dispute. Walt Disney has to recognize the cartoonists union, give screen credits, double the salaries of low paid workers retroactive to May 29th and re-hire animator Art Babbitt. Walt immediately gets on a train to Washington to try and convince the feds to reverse the decision or get an injunction in court. He fails. Ironically, within a few months, World War II breaks out and artists who had been bitter foes over the strike would be compelled to work side by side in the U.S. Army Picture Unit.

Sept. 13, 1969 - Hanna Barbera's Scooby-Doo, Where are You? and Dastardly & Mutley and their Flying Machines premieres.

Sept 14, 1968 - Filmation's The Archie Show premieres.

Sept. 14, 1985 - Disney's TV show Adventures of the Gummi Bears, a show suggested by new CEO Michael Eisner, debuts.

Sept 15, 1973 – Filmation’s animated Star Trek series premiers. This was the first time Kirk, Spock, Sulu and Uhura were untied again with a Roddenberry script since the original series was canceled.

Sept. 16, 1949 - Chuck Jones’ Fast and Furry-ous, the first Road Runner-Coyote cartoon, premieres.

Sept 17, 1972 - Filmation’s The Groovy Ghoulies show premieres.

Sept. 18, 1895 - In Davenport Iowa, Daniel David Palmer performed the first chiropractic adjustment session. Animation artists rejoice.

Sept. 18, 1987 - Walt Disney’s TV show Ducktales premieres.

Sept. 19, 1942 - The Merrie Melodies cartoon The Dover Boys, directed by Chuck Jones, debuts.

Sept. 20, 1947 - Tex Avery’s MGM cartoon Slap Happy Lion premieres.

Sept. 20, 2001 - Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away opens in the US.

Sept. 21, 1985 - “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straights hits #1 in the Billboard charts. Writer Mark Knopfler was inspired by a workman in an electronics store making fun of celebrities on MTV and wrote the conversation down. The CG animation done by London company Mainframe.

Sept. 22,1979 - Hanna Barbera's The Super Globetrotters cartoon, featuring Multi-Man, Sphere Man, Gizmo-Man, Spaghetti-Man and Fluid-Man, premieres.

Sept. 23, 1889 - The Nintendo Company is formed in Kyoto, Japan. They began by making hand-painted playing cards. In 1956 they transitioned to electronics, and in the 1980s invented Donkey-Kong and Legend of Zelda.

Sept 23, 1962 - H& B's show The Jetsons premieres in prime time. It is the first ABC show to be presented in color. "Jane! Stop this Crazy Thing!"

Sept. 24, 1938 - Bob Clampett's cartoon Porky in Wackyland premieres. (Foo!)

Sept. 25, 1984 - THE RUBBERHEADS STRIKE- Disneyland workers including the actors who stroll the park in big Mickey and Goofy heads go on strike.

Sept. 26, 1941 - Max Fleischer's Superman cartoon debuts. Max warns the studio that animating human movement would be much more expensive that the usual short cartoons ($90,000 to the usual $34,000) but Paramount wanted them. 
After a dozen shorts, Paramount accused the Fleischers of spending too much money.

Sept. 26, 1983 - Filmation’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe opens in syndication.

Sept. 27, 1937 – J.R.R. Tolkiens’ The Hobbit first appears in bookshops.

Sept 27, 1961 - Hanna & Barbera’s show Top Cat premiers.

Sept. 27, 1977 - Warner Bros animator/director Bob McKimson, dies of heart failure in front of Friz Freleng and Yosemite Sam animator Gerry Chiniquy while having lunch. Fellow artist Art Leonardi asks Bob for a souvenir drawing that morning, and Bob draws a Bugs Bunny. As he was leaving Art reminded him that he neglected to sign it. "Oh, I'll get to it after lunch..."

Sept 28, 1928 - William Paley, son of a cigar manufacturer, becomes president of CBS broadcasting. He turns it into a corporate broadcasting giant, and threw his support behind developing television and long playing records.

Sept. 28, 1967 - Speed Racer premieres in the U.S.

Sept. 29, 1959 - Hanna Barbera's Quick Draw McGraw TV show premieres. Baba Looey and El Kabong!

Sept 29, 1996 - The first Nintendo 64-bit game system, the Nintento64, debuts in the US. It sold 500,000 the first day.

Sept 30, 1919 - The Fleischer Brother's first Out of the Inkwell series cartoon featuring Koko the Clown premieres. Koko was “rotoscoped”- meaning traced from live action (much like Motion Capture does today). Dave Fleischer put on the clown suit and was filmed by his brother Max.
Dave had originally bought the clown suit, in case their business went under, and he needed to work.

Sept 30, 1928 - Walt Disney and his crew record the soundtrack and music for the first Mickey Mouse short, Steamboat Willie.

Sept 30, 1952 - This Is Cinerama, showcasing the widescreen film process, opened in theaters.

Sept. 30, 1960-Hanna Barbera's The Flintstones debuts. For six seasons in prime time the inhabitants of 301 Cobblestone Lane, Bedrock, became one of the most iconic TV series ever. Originally going to be named the Flagstones, then Gladstones, before Flintstones. It was the first TV show to dare show a visibly pregnant Wilma Flintstone.

Birthdays: Thomas Nast, Mike Lah, Norm Ferguson, Marge Champion, Eric Larson, Sergio Aragones, Fred Moore, Raymond Scott, Pinto Colvig, Don Bluth, Roald Dahl, Yuri Norshteyn, June Foray, Frank Tashlin, Nancy Beiman, Chuck Jones, Brad Bird, Billy Bletcher (the voice of Pegleg Pete), Jim Henson, Arnold Stang, Cervantes, Russ Heath

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Yet Another Animated Feature

Nestled among news regarding developments on a famous live-action franchise, there was something else.

‘Transformers’ Writers Room Wraps: Akiva Goldsman Scripting ‘T5,’ Animated Film By ‘Ant-Man’ Scribes Barrer & Ferrari

It’s pencils down for the Transformers Writers Room; the experiment has concluded and the early results are in. Akiva Goldsman has walked away with a concrete blueprint to write a Transformers sequel for Mark Wahlberg to star in for Michael Bay to direct, with production starting in June.

Ant-Man scribes Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari will head off and write an animated feature, an origin story that focuses on Cybertron, the planet from which the good and bad Transformer robots hail.

Michael Bay communicates that a T5 story hasn't yet been agreed on, but forget Transformers the Fifth for a second. Let's focus on the animated feature-length origin story. When is that going to happen?

And where is it going to happen? ILM has done the extensive effects work for previous features, but will it do an animated installment/ And will an animated version get made? Transformers, after all, began life as a hand-drawn TV series decades ago. So a fully animated feature (CGI, we presume) would be returning the franchise to its roots.

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China's Culver City Animation Outpost

There is now a new animation studio in town. it's out near the beach.

In a converted warehouse in Culver City, dozens of painters, designers and storyboard artists were quietly huddled at their desks, sketching characters or plotting 3-D images on their computer screens..

The walls of the 8,000-square-foot office were lined with colorful drawings of monsters, race car drivers and ducklings named Chi and Chao — rough scenes and characters for upcoming animated movies. ...

It's the new motion picture division of China's Original Force, a digital animation studio backed by Chinese social networking company Tencent Holdings. ...

Original Force's expansion into the U.S. signals a new phase in the expanding China-Hollywood relationship. No longer content to simply do outsourcing work for American studios, Chinese studios are eager to establish beachheads in Hollywood to compete for talent — and a piece of the lucrative global marketplace for animated family movies. ...

So you ask, "Why do these foreign companies keep setting up shop in Southern California?

I'm glad you asked.

1) The Los Angeles area has an animation talent pool that is wide and deep, and 2) that talent pool has turned out animated features that are Big World-Wide Hits for years and years.

It's that second reason, the creation of high-profit features, that causes animation companies with glittering visions of global grandeur to headquarter in the land of palm trees and perpetual drought. DreamWorks Animation is here. Disney is here. Early Pixar derived a lot of its story talent from here. (And John Lasseter was born, raised and artistically trained in Southern California). Illumination Entertainment, with its string of hit films from its Paris studio MacGuff, uses storyboard artists from here.)

The way it works in Tinsel town is, everybody slavishly apes the latest Perceived Formula For Success. If that means super heroes, then everyone does super heroes. If that means slap happy romantic comedies, then every corporate entity goes that way. In the nineties for animation, it meant following the Disney hand-drawn model, having everything from storyboard to finished color setups under one roof. (Unfortunately it worked for Disney but nobody else.)

And now here we are in 2015, and there are a variety of CG animation models that have proven to do gangbuster business at the box office. But the constant that's run through most of that is, L.A.-based story and design crews play large roles in most of the productions that have become blockbusters. So it's not a surprise that Original Force is setting up shop where proven, successful animation talents are readily available.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

American on Foreign Project

DreamWorks/Disney/Pixar veteran takes on Russian project:

... Former Walt Disney story writer Robert Lence has joined the scriptwriters' team of the third installment in the international franchise The Snow Queen.

In collaboration with director Aleksey Tsitsilin, Lence is set to contribute to the script of The Snow Queen 3, said Wizart Animation, the franchise's production company. ...

The Snow Queen is one of Russia's most successful international animation franchises. Its first two installments have been sold to 130 countries, grossing $30 million worldwide. ...

No problem with the Russian company tapping into the work of Hans Christian Andersen. The Danish author is long dead and his works are public domain.

So Disney can't sue Wizart for encroaching on their "property." Everybody uses the same source material. But why would Disney care anyway. If the Russian flicks are grossing $30 million (all in), Diz Co. can't be concerned about random drops of rain splashing on its billion-dollar parade.

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Technicolor goes shopping.

Technicolor, the French-owned media and production services company, has acquired The Mill, the British visual effects studio known for its work with the advertising industry..

Founded in 1990, the Mill has received numerous industry awards for its work for advertising agencies and brands, including spots to promote popular video games such as "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2."

The company has 800 employees and has enjoyed rapid growth. Since 2009, revenues have grown 16% to reach $152 million in 2014, Technicolor said. ...

Visual effects isn't a high margin business. But there is money to be made and the California VFX subsidy has kicked in, which means that the California visual effects industry has a future. The company has had a presence in Los Angeles since 2007.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

In and Around DreamWorks Animation

I spent a large part of my afternoon at DreamWorks Animation Glendale campus, where animators are on the last few weeks of Kung Fu Panda 3, due for release at the end of January, 2016. ...

One staffer told me:

Jeffrey is more focused on the features than he's been in years. He was stepping away and getting involved in other things. He thought he could leave more of the day-to-day oversight to his executives, but that didn't work out the way he hoped.

But now he's involved in most of the decisions for the movies in development. Like he was back at the start of the studio. ...

Stock analyst Vasily Karasyov anticipates DreamWorks Animation wil gain a $100 million profit from Kung Fu Panda 3, $25 million from Trolls, $25 million from Boss Baby (January 2017), and $104 million from The Croods 2.

Predicting the profits of motion pictures is always risky, but if Karasyov is half right, DWA should be around for a while.

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Mining the Vault - Part XXI

Diz Co. is thoroughly and methodically through the feature library to bring new takes on well-loved classics.

From 101 Dalmations to Maleficent to Cinderella and Dumbo, the remakes and re-thinkings go on.

I eagerly await the live-action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

2015 Wage Survey

We have now finished tabulating the 2015 wage survey, the complete breakdowns and totals for which you will find here.

Some highlights:

2015 Median Wage Rates

TV Directors -- $2,414.06

Feature Board Artists -- $2,227.27

TV Production Board Artists -- $2,000

Character Layout Artists -- $1,900

Rough Layout Artists -- $2,250

Previs Artists -- $2,273.68

Art Directors -- $2,312.50

Visual Development Artists -- $1,981.82

Production Designers -- $2,235.31

Tech Directors -- $1,932.63

3D Animators -- $2,021.05

Although we received the highest number of returned survey reports (1,293) that we've ever had, the percentage total was lower than last year. (2015=30%; 2014=33%).

Reason for the divergence of numbers? This year,we sent out a thousand more survey questionnaires.

From last year's survey to this year's survey, 34% of the categories were down, while 66% of the categories were up.

And if you're wondering why some reported wages are below listed journey minimums, it's because

1) Some non-signator studio rates are included in the mix.

2) The listed minimums are journey rates, and some reported wages are for lower-tier minimums ("first six months", "second six months", etc.)

But the above wages will give you a pretty good snapshot in time about what's going on with pay levels at Los Angeles animation studios.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

New Show From "Rick and Morty" Creator

Per Den of Geek:

... Last night [Justin Roiland] tweeted a bunch of pictures and information about a new show he’s working on with Rick And Morty writer Mike McMahan. ...

The show is titled Solar Opposites, and Roiland and McMahan are developing it with 20th Century Fox.

Information on the show was launched on Twitter. It's a very clever publicity rollout for Solar Opposites, and we look forward to welcoming the series into the Guild family as soon as it's launched.

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Foreign and World Box Office

Minions and Inside Out might have played out their string domestically, but overseas, they continue to frolic.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (World Totals)

Minions -- $26,100,000 -- ($1,080,100,000)

Inside Out -- $5,300,000 -- ($747,361,000)

Ant-Man -- $5,100,000 -- ($394,741,000)

Pixels -- $5,200,000 -- ($202,810,193)

Fantastic Four -- $2,700,000 -- )$160,759,637)

The trades tell of Mr. Meledandri's latest success story:

Universal and Illumination’s Minions marched into the Middle Kingdom today with an estimated $20.1M (125M yuan) opening. That makes it the biggest opening day for an animated film ever in China; roughly 50% higher than the previous record held by Kung Fu Panda 2 (81M yuan). ...

Combined with the U.S. gross of $331.6M, the estimated global take is $1.08B, meaning Minions will today pass Toy Story 3‘s $1.064B to become the second-highest-grossing animated film of all time worldwide. ...

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Double Anniversary

On this date in 1979, Don Bluth resigned his position in the Feature Animation department of Walt Disney Productions and went off to make The Secret of NIMH with one third of the Disney animation staff, who left with him. (A few years later, Don and many of those former Disneyites made The Land Before Time, pictured above.)

Don Bluth's exit happened on Don's 42nd birthday. ...

I trained under Don Bluth. For the first three-plus months I worked at the studio in 1976 and early 1977, he was the boss to whom I reported.

I found Don to be a talented guy. He was a good animator, a good layout artist and draftsman, and there was nobody who could stand up in front of a group of young artists and inspire them with a passionate speech about the glories and possibilities of animation like he could.

At the time he exited, the department was split into two camps. There was a group of artists who thought Don was a great leader and the future maker of great animated films. Then there was a group of animators and designers, many of them recent graduates of Cal Arts, who thought he was many things, but not the guy who should run the Disney animation department.

His departure took Disney management completely by surprise. They had no idea that he was walking out, and that he was leaving with so much staff. All of a sudden key personnel were saying sayonara, and there were production deadlines to meet!

But Mr. Bluth wanted to be his own man and creative force, and that's why, I think, he left the studio. It put the release date of "The Fox and the Hound" back a year, and caused at least one middle manager's head to roll, but life, ultimately, went on.

And Don went on as well, making over a dozen animated features, more than any Disney competitor before or since. And lots of big talents who are now pillars of the cartoon business saw their careers launched at one or another of the studios Don led after his career at Disney.

So maybe, all things being equal, Don going off to chart his own course on that Fall day in 1979, was a pretty good thing after all. For everybody.

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Saturday, September 12, 2015


Congratulations to all the artists, writers, execs, and animation directors who work hard every day getting the images up on screen.

And the winners are ...



Jake The Brick

Pendleton Ward, Executive Producer/Story by

Rob Sorcher, Executive Producer

Curtis Lelash, Executive Producer

Brian A. Miller, Executive Producer

Jennifer Pelphrey, Executive Producer

Fred Seibert, Executive Producer

Adam Muto, Co-Executive Producer/Story by

Nick Jennings, Supervising Producer

Kevin Kolde, Supervising Producer

Kelly Crews, Producer

Jack Pendarvis, Story by

Kent Osborne, Story by/Written by/Supervising Director

Dong Kun Won, Overseas Director

Don Judge, Timing Director

Michel Lyman, Sheet Timing

Phil Cummings, Sheet Timing

Jung Yon Kwon, Sheet Timing

Helen Roh, Sheet Timing

Barbara Dourmashkin-Case, Sheet Timing



Patrick McHale, Executive Producer/Story by

Rob Sorcher, Executive Producer

Curtis Lelash, Executive Producer

Brian A. Miller, Executive Producer

Jennifer Pelphrey, Executive Producer

Pernelle A. Hayes, Producer

Amalia Levari, Story by

Thomas Herpich, Story by

Bert Youn, Written by

Robert Alvarez, Animation Director

Larry Leichliter, Animation Director

Eddy Houchins, Animation Director

Ken Bruce, Animation Director


HANK AZARIA as Moe Szyslak and Pedicab Driver FOX

The Simpsons

The Princess Guide


(Juried Award: All entrants are screened by a jury of appropriate branch members with the possibility of one, more than one, or no award).


Adventure Time

Walnuts & Rain


Gravity Falls

Not What He Seems


King Star King

Fat Frank’s Fantasy Lounge


Over The Garden Wall


Robot Chicken

Robot Chicken’s Bitch Pudding Special


Tome of the Unknown


Tome of the Unknown

H/t Deadline.

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Wage Hikes and Retroactive Pay

Here's a narrow-cast: On August 27th, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, complete with wage bumps of 3% in each of the next three years, was ratified resoundingly by Guild membership.

Which means that the new wage minimums were officially in place as of August 27th, 2015.

We're getting inquiries about when these raises materialize on paychecks. Well, they should materialize NOW. If you're working at your classification's minimum in one of the signator studios, you should see a boost NOW.

So are you? ...

Reports I received from one studio last week is, yeah, the boosts are happening. But understand the way this works:

Sometimes wage hikes to minimums don't show up until mid-September or October.

From our perspective, there is no reason for delays. The new rates have been known since freaking July. And the new rates were circulated by TAG and the AMPTP months ago. But the same thing happens every three years. The pay-boosts take effect; nobody sees the effect until weeks and weeks later.

If you haven't seen a hike in salary, it could be you that

You are over-scale and no increase is due.

Or it could be your employer hasn't gotten around to it yet.

When the studio ultimately does get around to increasing the minimums, you should also get a check for retroactive pay back to August 2nd.

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Your American Box Office

The weekend take one week after Labor Day Weekend:


1). The Perfect Guy (SONY), 2,221 theaters / $9.9M Fri. / 3-day cume: $25.4M to $26.1M / Wk 1

2). The Visit (UNI), 3,069 theaters / $9.2M Fri. (includes $1M from Thursday preview) / 3-day cume: $21.6M to $22.5M / Wk 1

3). War Room (SONY), 1,647 theaters (+121) / $2.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $7.4M to $8M / Total cume: $39.2M to $39.8M / Wk 3

4). A Walk in the Woods (BGP), 2,139 theaters (+179) / $1.4M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.9M (-40%) / Total cume: $20.18M / Wk 2

5). Straight Outta Compton (UNI), 2,812 theaters (-282) / $1.19M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.86 to $3.97M / Total cume: $155.48M / Wk 5

6). Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation (PAR), 2,649 theaters (-200) / $1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.78M to $3.87M / Total cume: $187.8M / Wk 7

7). No Escape (TWC), 3,022 theaters (-393) / $810K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.79M / Total cume: $24.1M / Wk3

8). The Transporter Refueled (EURC), 3,434 theaters (0) / $775K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.55M (-66%) / Total cume: $13.17M / Wk 2

9). 90 Minutes In Heaven (IDP/SGF), 838 theaters / $740K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.3M to $2.8M / Wk 1

10). Man From U.N.C.L.E (WB), 1,656 theaters (-446) / $520K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.739M to $1.78M / Total cume: $42.98M / Wk 5 ...

Last weekend Inside Out rocketed back up the box office list. This was because Diz Co. but the movie back into 2,000+ screens and it pulled down $3.2 million.

With a little more push from the Mouse, the picture could end up the third highest grosses (U.S.) of 2015.

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The Top Chinese Grosser

So I guess cartoons continue to be profitable in various parts of the world.

“Monster Hunt,” the Chinese-made fantasy movie, has overtaken “Furious 7” to become the biggest film of all time at the box office.

According to an announcement by state news agency Xinhua, “Monster Hunt” has grossed RMB2.428 billion. “Furious 7” had grossed RMB2.426 billion, Xinhua said citing the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. ...

And then there is Monkey King: Hero is Back, a Chinese animated feature which has made back its production and distribution costs several times over.

So the cartoon industry in the Middle Kingdom seems to be going rather well.

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Disney Corporate Discusses Cash Flow and Profits

Bigwigs of the Walt Disney Company talk about the theme parks, talk about movie franchises, and the changing universe of content delivery systems at the 2015 Bank of America and Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference .,.

... A decade ago when Bob Iger took over as CEO he laid out a really clear and concise strategy that had three pillars. The first of which was around high quality branded content; the second is geographic expansion; and the third was really leveraging technology across the business and that was a strategy that has served us well and continues to do so. ...

We talked about this Disney Ecosystem, the unbelievably rich library of content we have but also the pipeline of new content for us means that there is endless opportunity for us to keep things fresh to monetize and leverage franchises around the whole company. ...

[Frozen] was a new franchise [two years ago] and now it is something that’s throughout the company. And so again we know that the strength of our creative organization allows us to over time add those franchises to the library. ... We’ve got more going on with Frozen in terms of the parks, it’s already in the parks around the world, but we got an attraction opening in 2017 with Frozen.

-- Tom Staggs, Chief Operating Officer

Here and there, old Disney hands complain to me that "Disney isn't DISNEY anymore."

Well, yeah.

And Warner Bros. isn't Warner Bros. anymore. Because Jack, Harry, Sam and the rest of the Warner siblings are long dead. Just like Walt is no longer with us. And time marches on.

What is the Disney Company now? In 2015? It's a wide-ranging collection of brands, similar to how Berkshire-Hathaway (Warren Buffett's company) is a collection of brands.

"Walt Disney Productions" started changing in the late seventies and early eighties, and now the change is on steroids. I don't look at it as good or bad, but just the way American corporations evolve in the 21st century: If they survive and grow, their original characters inevitably morph into something else.

We are a loong way from the days of good old, sleepy old, Walt Disney Productions.

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hitchhiker's Guide to an Adult Cartoon

Rick and Morty has landed in the United Kingdom on Fox, so the Guardian has spent a little time with one of its creators, picking his very active brain.

... Interviewing [Dan] Harmon is like talking to an oil strike: gushing, messy, enriching.

One moment he’s raving about Nicolas Roeg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, the next he’s pinpointing the key tonal differences between Ghostbusters 1 and 2. There’s a similar chaotic feel to Rick And Morty, a show that parodies Star Trek’s space-safari optimism by sending brilliant but perma-drunk inventor Rick and his fearful grandson Morty on wild sci-fi adventures with disastrous consequences. ...

The Animation Guild welcomed Rick and Morty into the union fold last year, and we are now at the one year anniversary of R & M being under at Guild contract. The show's pre-production is done at Starburns Industries, a Burbank studio partially owned by Mr. Harmon.

The American success of R & M now seems to be happening in Britain. Bully for Mr. Harmon, Mr. Roiland, and the entire Rick and Morty crew.

If you want an interview with both R & M's creators, you can find it here.

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Foreign Animation In America

From a Deadline article:

FilmRise has acquired North American rights to Chinese blockbuster Monster Hunt.

The adventure pic, produced by Bill Kong’s Edko Films, led the unofficial blackout box office period this summer and now has over $380M in Chinese takings. If it crosses $391M, it will beat Furious 7 to become the highest grossing movie of all time in the Middle Kingdom.

With the film on release for more than 50 days already, the local powers that be appear determined to lap F7. Monster Hunt is directed by Shrek franchise veteran Raman Hui. ...

FilmRise is releasing in early 2016. ...

From The Hollywood Reporter:

... North America has always been a strong export market for France, but mostly for animated programs. ...

Though animation sales fell a slight 3.9 percent [this year], the genre remains the most exported one for the French, with $50 million (€45 million) in overall sales on the strength of popular characters, such as Ubisoft's The Rabbids. ...

Animation has been riding a wave, and it's a global tsunami, not just a local one. Canada does a lot of animation, likewise Great Britain. (Free Money helps). There's a growing animation infrastructure in China and India and various countries in Europe. There's also cartoons happening in Atlanta, Georgia, not the first location people dwell on when they think about animated entertainment.

D\Yet despite all the bustling activity in other states and continents, the Guild has been doing well. Southern California continues to have a deep pool of talented artists, technicians and writers, and animation companies want access to it. That's probably why, despite some production shifting away from L.A. county, TAG now has the largest membership in its history.

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From Deadline:

The DGA is calling on the industry to make a “revolutionary” move to increase employment for first-time women and minority TV directors: Hire more directors and fewer actors and writer/producers to direct the shows.

According to a new, six-year study of hiring practices, 46% of all the first-time episodic TV directors were actors or writer/producers. The report found that writer/producers made up 26% of the first-time episodic director pool, while actors made up 20%. Cinematographers/camera operators were 8%; editors totaled 5%; and other crew made up 6%.

Surprisingly, only 27% of first-time hires were individuals who had previously directed in other genres including independent film, new media, commercials, music videos, student films and documentaries. ...

“As it stands now,” said DGA president Paris Barclay, “nearly half of the new hires are writer/producers or actors. It may sound revolutionary, but those with the power to hire may want to consider bringing in more directors – people who are committed to directing as a career – instead of approaching the assignment as a perk. ...

This is not an issue in the Animation Guild.

Board artists and animators are in the Animation Guild. Animation writers are (mostly) in the Animation Guild. So anyone who gets promoted into the director's chair in Cartoonland, she or he is going to be a Guild member to start with, and not somebody from SAG-AFTRA or the WGA who's making a side-trip into the jurisdiction of the Directors Guild of America.

It's understandable the DGA is a little prickly about the trend. Don't know what they can do about it.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Sanjay and Craig

... of Nickelodeon Cartoon Studios.

Maulik Pancholy (Sanjay) and creators Jim Dirschberger and Jay Howell talk about S & C's beginnings and processes. They also talk about working with the creators of "The Adventures of Pete and Pete," how that collaboration helped shape the tone of the series.

And then there's Part II, wherein Dirschberger, Howell and Pancholy discuss how a character of Indian descent, plus his family, are front and center in the show, as well as why the issue of diversity is both an important thing for television and why there's not some kind of agenda attached to it.

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Thirty Years Ago Today

She-Ra, Princess of Power premiered.

And who, what, was She-Ra? A syndicated cartoon series from Filmation, a studio that had been around (in 1985) for almost a quarter of a century. ...

It's a factoid lost in the Mists of Time, but Filmation was on a huge roll in 1985. The studio was then the largest animation company in L.A., having pivoted away from making Saturday morning animated fare for broadcast networks, and jumped into the syndicated marketplace. It was amongh the first studios to make large numbers of cartoons with big toy tie-ins.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, was the first, and the show was immensely successful. She-Ra was the second, and less successful. But for a brief span of time, those syndicated shows made Filmation a power-house cartoon studio. It produced large numbers of shows year-round and got into the making of animated features. Its first offering, Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night, died a quick, silent death at the box office. The studio itself perished thee-and-a-half years later when the French conglomerate L'Oreal bought the company and immediately closed it, right on the cusp of the Great Animation Renaissance.

H/t Tom Sito.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Preliminary 2015 Wage Survey Numbers

We are busily crunching 2015 wage survey numbers in the office (and when I say "we", I mean that Steve Kaplan is crunching numbers.)

So you know, we had the highest number of responses that we've had in forever, and the same percentage of returned forms (31%) that we had last year.

So let's turn to the early, first-pass data. ...






2014 median:






2014 median:






2014 median:






2014 median:






2014 median:






2014 median:






2014 median:


There will be more comprehensive numbers as they become available.

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Second Biggest

The Mouse and Universal have had a prosperous four months.

... Universal Pictures and Disney Studios fueled the second-biggest summer ever at the domestic box office, where revenue is expected to hit $4.48 billion through Labor Day — an increase of 10 percent over last year's dismal showing, according to Rentrak.

In terms of attendance, the season saw an uptick of 5 percent or more (since one advantage that summer 2015 had over last year was an extra week). Many, however, had predicted greater gains. A number of box-office pundits had boldly pronounced that revenue would overtake the record $4.75 billion earned in summer 2013 and set a new benchmark for summer's potential. ...

Universal own bragging rights to most of the big domestic pictures.

The hybrid animated-live action feature Jurassic World was #1 by a country mile; Avengers: Age of Ultron was #2, Inside Out was #3; Minions was #4.

So animation had a considerable impact on the summer box office, wouldn't you say?

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Monday, September 07, 2015

Building Animation in Africa

Triggerfish Studios accepts submissions.

... Triggerfish Animation Studios, which has been called the Pixar of South Africa, received nearly 1,400 entries from storytellers and filmmakers in 30 countries for its Triggerfish Story Lab, which it launched with the support of the Walt Disney Co. and the country's Department of Trade and Industry earlier this year.

Triggerfish previously said that it would be investing up to $3.5 million over the next three years in the Story Lab, designed to give African storytellers and filmmakers the opportunity to develop their ideas alongside the studio's international network of mentors. ...

The Cape Town-based studio said the Story Lab received 1,378 submissions, with 1,174 for feature films and 204 for TV series. ... A group of 20 shortlisted storytellers will be announced in October and take part in workshops in November before making their final pitches, after which Triggerfish will announce the final Story Lab participants in December 2015.The selected Story Lab participants will receive two weeks of mentorship immersion with studio and TV executives at Disney’s headquarters in Burbank. ...

There are studios called "The Pixar of Europe," and "The Pixar of China," and now "The Pixar of Africa."

The Emeryville studio is obviously the coin of the realm, but Triggerfish's 2013 feature Khumba made $27,187,375 worldwide, per Box Office Mojo. So it has a bit of distance to cover before it receives the "Pixar" mantle. Maybe this Story Lab effort will help.

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Rabbids Land

A video game company walks one of the Diz Co. goat paths.

Ubisoft has announced it's teaming up with RSG to create a "next-generation" theme park based on properties including Assassin's Creed, Just Dance and Rabbids.

Due to open in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, sometime in 2020, the 10,000 square meter park will aim to build on the success the publisher has enjoyed since launching its Rabbids Dark Ride at French park Futuroscope. ...

Corporations aspiring to do conglomerate thing need to expand in a lot of directions.

Amusement parks.

Feature films.


Because if they don't move into different segments of the entertainment biz, some other hungry little company will eat them alive.

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