Saturday, May 31, 2014

Personal Service Contracts

Personal Service Contracts (agreements between an animation studio and individual employee) were de riguer in the go-go nineties. But when animation hit a slack spot at the end of the 20th century and start of the 21st, PSCs fell out of fashion.

Disney Feature stopped doing them; DreamWorks Animation continued the personal service contract practice but the documents became less beneficial to employees.

In the last twelve months, however, some studios have started doing individual contrast with employees. Because of the uptick, TAG did a seminar on Personal Service Contracts at the last General Membership Meeting. Some of the bullet points: ...

* Term contracts -- these PSCs begin and end on a date certain. Like for instance, June 1st 2014 to May 31st 2015. The studio agrees to employ an individual for a set period of time (with the usual loopholes in case of performance issues, insubordination, etc.). And the employee agrees to remain with the employer.

* At Will contracts -- an agreement with no long-term guarantee of employment. Employer will call this a "week to week" contract, or "run of picture" contract, but in practice this seldom means an employee will be retained until the end of a project, but only until the Producer no longer requires the employee's services. (Note: In a true "at will" contract, an employer can lay off an employee with a week's notice; an employee can resign from the studio with or without a week's notice.

* Indemnity Clauses (or "indemnification") -- the employee agrees to pay to defend his/her employer against lawsuits triggered by employee using stolen work on the employer's project. (The Guild always points out indemnification clauses in PSCs. these clauses have been around since the 1990s. We've never seen an animation employee pay for a legal defense against a third-party lawsuit, but the threat remains.)

* "Two-picture contracts" -- A PSC that offers employees a "two picture, run of feature" deal, but the way the contract is structured and worded, an employee can be laid off at any time. (There's no definition of "end of picture"; there's an option, exercised by the studio, to extend an employee to a second feature). The guild considers these "two picture agreements to actually be "at will" agreements.

* Ownership rights -- the employer/Producer claims that the producer retains ownership of any artistic work the employee creates during her/his term of employment. (In practice, the employer seldom -- if ever -- lays claims to such work, but language in the contract makes it a potential threat.)

* Carve outs/ Exclusions -- TAG recommends that artists negotiate "carve outs" to studio ownership of their work by negotiating "carve outs" for rights to three or more personal project that the employee is working on at the time of hire. (And if she/he doesn't have three personal projects, she/he should invent three titles under which future personal projects could be placed.)

There are sometimes disputes over PSCs. Studios will label them "term" deals (thereby blocking an employee from resigning and taking another job) when they are, in fact, "at will" deals.

And PSCs that have no better terms or conditions (higher wages, guaranteed employment, additional vacation, etc.) can often be disputed. As the TAG lawyer Stu Libicki has said more than once: "Slavery/involuntary servitude was outlawed a few years ago."

All Things DreamWorks

Seeking Alpha projects DreamWorks Animation's future ...

* DWA has a release schedule full of sequels, which historically translates to lots of cash flow.

* DWA's Chinese JV makes it much easier to distribute its movies in China and increases its box office take per movie.

* The new cost structure allows $20 million cost savings per movie.

* DWA's fast-growing TV segment will bring in significant revenues in the next few years. ...

And the cash flows for various feature releases in its sparkly past:

Feature -- Release Date -- Budget -- Gross

Antz -- 10/2/1998 -- $105,000,000 -- $171,757,863

Prince of Egypt -- 12/18/1998 -- $70,000,000 -- $218,613,188

Road to El Dorado -- 3/31/2000 -- $95,000,000 -- $76,432,727

Chicken Run -- 6/23/2000 -- $45,000,000 -- $224,834,564

Shrek -- 5/18/2001 -- $60,000,000 -- $484,409,218

Spirit -- 5/24/2002 -- $80,000,000 -- $122,563,539

Sinbad -- 7/2/2003 -- $60,000,000 -- $80,767,884

Shrek 2 -- 5/19/2004 -- $150,000,000 -- $919,838,758

Shark Tale -- 10/1/2004 -- $75,000,000 -- $367,275,019

Madagascar -- 5/27/2005 -- $75,000,000 -- $532,680,671

Shrek the Third -- 5/18/2007 -- $160,000,000 -- $798,958,162

Kung Fu Panda -- 6/6/2008 -- $130,000,000 -- $631,744,560 ...

Puss in Boots -- 10/28/2011 -- $130,000,000 -- $554,987,477

Madagascar 3 -- 6/8/2012 -- $145,000,000 -- $746,921,274

Rise/ Guardians -- 11/21/2012 -- $145,000,000 -- $306,941,670

The Croods -- 3/22/2013 -- $135,000,000 -- $587,204,668

The company has a shot at becoming a mid-sized conglomerate, with lots of different corporate pieces creating profit, but also of falling on its face and not going on to greater glory.

Maybe the sequel strategy will work. It's certainly true that every other feature cartoon company is using that corporate business plan, and since DWA kind of started it, there's no reason they can't cash in on sequelmania.

But it's up to the general public whether they succeed or not.

Wicked Box Office

The evil sorceress/fairy/whatever appears to be dominating the box office.

May 30th-June 1st

1). Maleficent (DIS), 3,948 theaters / $24.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $65M to $70M+ / Wk 1

2). X-Men: Days of Future Past (FOX), 4,001 theaters (+5) / $9.5M Fri. / 3-day cume: $31M+ to $32M+ (-66%) / Total expected cume: $161M / Wk 2

3). A Million Ways to Die in the West (UNI), 3,158 theaters / $6.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $16M to $17M+ / Wk 1

4). Godzilla (WB), 3,501 theaters (-451) / $3.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $11M / Total cume: $173.5M / Wk 3

5). Blended (WB), 3,555 theaters (0) / $2.37M Fri. / 3-day cume: $7.8M to $8.2M (43%) / Total cume: $28.9M to $29.4M / Wk 2

6). Neighbors (UNI), 2,939 theaters (-327) / $2.4M Fri. / 3-day cume: $7.2M to $7.5M / Total cume: $128M+ / Wk 4

7/8). The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (SONY) 2,152 theaters (-1,008) / $1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.6M / Total cume: $192.5M / Wk 5

Million Dollar Arm (DIS), 2,329 theaters (-690) / $1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.6M / Total cume: $28M / Wk 3

9). Chef (OPRD), 624 theaters (+126) / $496K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.8M / Total cume: $6.76M / Wk 4

10). The Other Woman (FOX), 1,114 theaters (-1,040) / $435K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.38M / Total cume: $81M / Wk 6 ...

So the Sleeping Beauty spin-off opens convincingly, while Mr. Macfarlane's Western (as many Westerns do) dies a quick death.

Rio 2 has fallen out of the Top Ten and now resides at #12, with a total accumulation in the $124 million range. (The feature is way bigger overseas, where it's made $326,600,000, for a grand total of $450,000,000 and change.)

Pink Troubles

Friday, May 30, 2014

Bye Bye Imageworks

The effects house (and feature animation production facility) is exiting Culver City.

In a further blow to Southern California's visual-effects industry, Sony Pictures Imageworks is moving its Los Angeles-area headquarters to Vancouver, Canada..

The unit of Sony Pictures Entertainment said Thursday it was transferring the bulk of its operations to a new facility in Vancouver, where it already has a satellite studio.

Sony is expected to keep a small staff in its Culver City facility, which employs about 270 workers.

The move will allow the company to cut costs by capitalizing on generous tax breaks that aren't available in California.

Film companies operating in British Columbia, the province in which Vancouver is located, can recoup about 60% of what they spend on local labor costs. Those incentives have made Vancouver a major hub for film and TV production, as well as visual-effects work. ...

California is halfway through ginning up tax incentives of its own that will include the visual effects industry. What difference it makes ... if and when the legislation passes ... remains to be seen.

An evening at UCSB ..

Weeks before the tragedy that took place in Isla Vista, I had the opportunity to sit with Mariana Acuña-Acosta and Daniel Lay, aka VFX Soldier in the Pollack Theater at UCSB for a discussion sponsored by the Carsey-Wolf Center's Media Industries Project (MIP). The MIP had been holding a two-day conference called "Precarious Creativity" that was focused on discussing issues in today's film and television industry.

The video above is of the keynote discussion on visual effects that was held on April 25th

We have hopes that the state of visual effects in California will see a revival if AB 1839 makes it to law.

Even now, there are smaller boutique studios sprinkled across the east valley and in Santa Monica and Culver City that are doing more visual effects. But the big places -- Digital Domain and Rhythm and Hues -- no longer exist as they once did.

The New-Movie Channel

The ground continues to shift in the way that people consume live-action and animated features:

Consumers are rapidly adapting to purchasing movies through digital channels, according to NPD.

* The growth rate for the electronic sell-through of movies is triple of that for TV EST.

* The exclusive early release window for some digital titles appears to be helping to boost demand and awareness.

* The trend is encouraging for studios looking to capture some of the lost revenue from the lower demand for DVDs.

* Movie theater operators might look at the development differently with their revenue share mix tilted higher the longer movies stay in a theater.

Why is Electronic Sell Through important? Or being posted about here?

Because "sell through" is part of a secondary mvoie market, and labor organizations get a piece of the action. For the Animation Guild and the IATSE, DVDs and electronic sell through royalties help fund our pension and health plans.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


So this afternoon I stroll through one of the Mouse's animation division, and a member says this:

"I've been in the business for over twenty years, I'm in my forties, and I'd like more than two weeks vacation. And Human Resources tells me, 'Sorry, we have an agreement with the UNION. What you get is two weeks.'" ...

At my advanced age there's not a lot that ticks me off, but Disney's minions continually saying "Oh, the union agreement is for two weeks off per year. So that's all we can give you. Sorry."

Actually, that's not all they can give. Because the "agreement" also states this:

"Employees who have had one continuous year of employment with the Producer shall be entitled to two weeks paid vacation."

Sure enough, the contract says it's two weeks. But the contract also says this:

Nothing in this agreement shall prevent any individual from negotiating and obtaining from the Producer better conditions and terms of employment than those herein provided.

See, what sticks in my craw is this flapdoodle spouting from administrators' mouths that they have no choice but to grant a mere two weeks vacation because, gosh darn it, the contract forces them to..

What the ten days of pay is, is a base line. The boys and girls at Diz Co. can always dole out more days off, but they can't give less. If the company would man up and say: "Junior chum, the contract says we only have to give you a minimum of two weeks paid vacation, and that's what you're getting, because we will it to be so," honest to God I would be fine with that.

But they don't. And it's this maddening impulse to deflect responsibility and make some other entity the bad guy that causes me to lose my lunch.

But hey. It's Tinsel Town. Honesty has been missing in action for seventy years already. No doubt it will be missing for the next seventy.

The Book

Mr. Del Toro branches away from DreamWorks Animation.

ReelFX of Dallas and Santa Monica is doing this picture. I like that it doesn't look like the standard-issue Disney/Pixar/DreamWorks offering.

Perhaps a wee bit like Tim Burton. It's out in the Fall.

The Book Of Life Trailer

all you can eat churros!

Mary Blair's "Johnny Appleseed"

A collector has gifted us with this Blair original.

Back in the late forties, when the allies had defeated the Axis powers and all was right with the world, Walt Disney Productions was a small, struggling studio in Burbank which was doing "compilation" features, that is, shorts and featurettes wrapped inside a full-length format.

Artist Mary Blair did a whole lot of development work on Disney projects of the period (some of it seen here)but I hadn't come across the piece above.

So we thought we'd show it to you.

Bucks animators collaborate with the Learning Development Unit to create a unique film project

A group of our awesome animation students have collaborated with the Learning Development Unit here at Bucks to create a unique film project - How To Write a Literary Review. The project is aimed at students who are struggling with the challenging process of carrying out a literary review before writing an essay or dissertation, and aims to simplify and de-mystify the process. We asked the students who worked on the project to explain what they did, and how they pulled it off.

Bucks: What is the project about, and what made you want to take it on?

Jack Strood (director): This project aimed to produce a short animated film to educate students on the process involved in writing a literature review and how to approach the task. The project was initiated as part of the student-staff partnership project in animation, where the Learning Development Unit academics collaborate with Animation and Visual Effects students to produce fresh, exciting new work.

In this case, a group of five students worked together to write the narrative, character design, set design, the animation and finally the sound design for the partnership project. As students, we appreciated to be involved as this was the perfect opportunity to have a client-based project straight from university.

This provided us with the chance to present ourselves as professionals, work as a successful team, delegate roles and work around the client’s needs. The difference that this project has to a university brief is that this animation could possibly have a positive impact on other students writing their own literature review.

Bucks: What were the challenges you met along the way?

Jack Strood: This project came with many challenges; to work through a project challenge-free is very rare - and you are lucky if you do. The challenges came straight from the start. Even the approach to the animation had many different styles, and there were many possible potential story lines that we could have followed.

For instance, the design for the boat had around fifteen completely different designs; the main character went through countless clothing changes and the fish had many alterations before they were finished . These are all natural challenges that every animated project faces, but the main challenge without doubt was perfecting the script.

For students who would approach the task of writing a literature review for the first time, we had a duty to get all of the steps right. The script went back and forth between us and the Learning Development Unit to get the specific details correct on how to write a literature review. The animation course we study on includes a dissertation with a slightly different format, so we had first to educate ourselves on another style of work first before the production could start.

Bucks: What were the best and worst moments? 

Tosin Oluyadi (Lead animator)
As a team we had a lot of ups and downs. It was the first time working on a project together. I guess the best moments would have been the start of the project and just gathering all these great ideas. The worst moments mainly involved the challenges of effective communication between ourselves as a group, and sometimes with the LDU, which threw us back quite a bit in terms of the schedule.

The team
Bucks: What software did you use? 

David Wheeler (designer)
We predominantly used the Adobe Creative Suite for this project. Starting with the storyboards that were created in Photoshop. The Animation and typographic assets were made in Illustrator, and the 2D animation came all together in After Effects. The script was written and edited in Celtx and InDesign for the Learn Higher poster layout and design.

Bucks: What advice would you give to other students at Bucks looking to make a short film together?

Stacey Houston (Producer and Narrator): The advice I would give is this: schedule everything and stick to it. An unrealistic schedule can make hitting a deadline very difficult and stressful. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare everything, and take into account what every student in the group does in their free time. Be it work, hobbies, exercise etc. It all needs to documented before writing your schedule. There is always going to be at least one participant who can’t make it in or cannot deliver for some reason, so be prepared and give yourself plenty of time to recover for when issues occur.

(Editor's Note: For more impressive work done by our students and recent graduates here at Bucks, check out the work of Jens KopkeBen Gray's Moonbeam, and the architectural visualisations of Sabah Masood and Anton Alfimenko. Also take a look at the work of Andy Thomas here, see our latest commercial project for Rocketseed, our short film done for a global aid agency, and take a look at the excellent work of designer Monika Dzikowicz, architectural visualisation specialist Krsytof Michalski, Alex Whitfield and the 3D artwork of Mike Swan. And don't forget to see the simulation work of our students done in RealFlow. To see our student demo reel, click here.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cable Cartoons

... and their ratings. (Which explains why they go on ... and on):

... Among the Cartoon Network/Adult Swim’s original programming, new episodes of Robot Chicken (Sunday, 11:30 p.m.) ranked #1 in its time period among adults 18-24/18-34 and men 18-24/18-34 across the month. Similarly, The Boondocks (Monday, 10:30 p.m.) posted delivery gains among adults 18-34/18-49 and men 18-24, 18-34 & 18-49 vs. the same time period last year, ranging between 8% and 38%. ...

On Saturday night, animated series comprising the network’s TOONAMI block, including Bleach (12 a.m.) and Blue Exorcist (2 a.m.), grew delivery of all targeted adults and men between 8% and 61%.m Additional series Attack on Titan (11:30 p.m.) and Black Lagoon (2:30 a.m.) increased delivery among adults 18-34 & 18-49 and all targeted male demos across May, ranging between 3% and 24%. ...

Cartoon Network’s newest series Clarence (Monday, 7 p.m.) scored as the #1 program among all boy demos – 2-11, 6-11 & 9-14 – on Monday nights in May. Additionally, the May 5 new episode premiere of award-winning original series Adventure Time (Monday, 6 p.m.) stands as the #1 telecast of the month among boys 9-14. In fact, Adventure Time (6 p.m.), Regular Show (6:30 p.m.) and Clarence (7 p.m.) all ranked #1 in their respective time periods on all television among boys 6-11 & 9-14 ...

Wednesday night’s presentation of original animated series Teen Titans Go! (6:30 p.m.) ranked as the #1 program of the day among boys 2-11 & 6-11 across the month of May, with new episodes earning 3% to 24% delivery gains across all targeted kids and boy demos. Similarly, new original animated series Steven Universe (Wednesday, 7 p.m.) ranked #1 in its time period among boys 6-11 & 9-14. ...

What jumps out at me is the number of hand-drawn cartoons directly above that are #1 in the cable universe.

It should be clear by this time that kids don't care if a show is CG or hand-drawn. If they like a Nick or Cartoon Network or Disney offering, they'll happily watch it, format be damned. Sofia the First thrives as a CG show, but the hand-drawn Teen Titans Go! is #1 in its time slot.

And Adventure Time, after getting tossed over by Nickelodeon in favor of a CG show that didn't click, is (once again), the leader of the pack for Time-Warner's Cartoon Network. Puzzle that one out.

Our fine entertainment conglomerates now recognize that though computer generated animation often means big box-office at the local AMC, it adds little value or profit to television cartoons. And because CGI for tv costs more, studio have been forced to reassess. When you look across tv schedules, the trend is clear: there are fewer CG shows, and more animated offerings of the Fred Flintstone/Peter Griffin variety.

It makes perfect economic sense.

Over the First Hurdle

To nobody's surprise, AB 1839 clears the first legislative house.

California's TV and movie tax credit bill cleared the full state Assembly by a 71-0 vote on Wednesday, leaving Senate passage and Gov. Jerry Brown's approval as the final hurdles.

The bill, AB 1839, would extend the program through 2022 and expand the eligibility to include movies with budgets over $75 million and network TV dramas. No dollar figure has been attached to the bill, but it's almost certain to be significantly higher than the current program, which is capped at $100 million annually. That's well below the credits offered by several states, such as New York, which makes more than $400 million available annually, and that had led to a major production exodus over the past several years.

Wednesday's unanimous passage of the measure, introduced by Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) and Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), was expected since many of their colleagues had signed on as co-authors to show broad support for the bill. ...

The politics of this bill is tricky.

Republicans are for 1839 because it's a tax break. Democrats are for 1839 because it's a "jobs bill." But the California Teachers Association, which has a bit of influence in the state, opposes the measure because it takes revenue from the state's General Fund. And northern California Senators, who have yet to vote, say "I get why L.A. likes it, but what's in this package for my constituents?"

Then, of course, there's Governor Brown and the question of whether he'll sign the bill ... if and when it reaches his desk.

My prediction is ultimate passage and a signature into law, but I'm not an expert on the wheels of government in Sacramento. I could well be wrong.

Add On: the California Film and Television Production Alliance speaks:

“On behalf of hundreds of thousands of middle class California workers, creative talent, small businesses, vendors, local governments and film commissioners across the state, we wholeheartedly thank the two authors, Assembly Members Gatto and Bocanegra, and the entire California Assembly for their vote on AB 1839, the California Film and Television Job Retention and Promotion Act. The strength of the unanimous vote demonstrates the Assembly Members’ clear understanding of the vital economic importance of the motion picture industry to California and their determination to return this state to a competitive position. This could not have been achieved without the dedication of AB 1839’s authors, and the unwavering support of 67 co-authors. Our industry has been a vital part of California’s heritage and we want to continue be part of the Golden State’s economic vitality in the 21st century. This vote puts us one step closer to that reality.”

Bucks needs your vote to win £5,000!
Rebecca Rochon, Senior Lecturer in Education and Learning Development, has developed a new App called Unite, which allows students to connect with other students before starting university. The App has been entered in the JISC Summer of Student Innovation, and she needs your help to win £5,000 for Bucks! The App will need animators to work on it, so with any luck we can bring a little freelance work into our department.

What is the JISC Summer of Student Innovation?
The JISC Summer of Student Innovation is a chance for students to create real technology solutions to improve education, research and student life.  JISC champions the use of digital technologies in UK education and research and is funding learners with new ideas on how to use technology to improve student life.

What is the new App about?
The new App is called Unite, and was developed by Rebecca Rochon, Senior Lecturer in Education and Learning Development. It allows students to connect with other students before starting university.

Unite is a social networking app for the community of higher education. It’s cooler than a standard social networking app, a little less grown-up than an app for working professionals and far less awkward to use for finding housemates than a dating app.

What is at stake?
At stake is £5,000 of prize money to help develop the App. If it goes through, there will be paid work for animators at Bucks!

How can you help?
Your vote is needed to see the idea through to the next level of the competition! Voting closes on Friday 30 May (the day after tomorrow) and we need to get to 250 votes to go through to the next round. Please follow this link and take two minutes to support this Bucks project.

Thanks for your support!


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Banking on Animated Product

The L.A. Times tells us:

... Hollywood is banking on DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon 2," the sequel to the 2010 original that brought in $218 million domestically. Paramount Pictures' "Transformers: Age of Extinction" and 20th Century Fox's "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" are also on tap for the summer. ...

All the high-budget movies listed above rely heavily on animation. Obviously not all of that animation is done in California, or even the U.S. of A., but let's acknowledge the tune being played here. Blockbusters, whether animated or live-action, need crews of animators to get to market. The studios in which they work might be in New Zealand or Australia or France or Canada or India, but animation workers are indispensable to the process, wherever they are.

This week, the California Assembly will be voting on Assembly Bill 8139, which puts the Golden State in serious competition with other New York, Georgia and Louisian, also Britain and Canada, for entertainment tax subsidies. For the first time, California has language in the bill for visual effects and the animation that propels VFX.

This hasn't happened before.

Up until now, California's entertainment tax subsidies have focused on cable t.v. shows and lower budget features, but the boys and girls in Sacramento have come to recognize that visual effects jobs and high-end movies/television have been scampering out of the state. This legislation (and who knows if it reaches the governor's desk and the governor freaking signs it?) is designed to stanch the bleeding.

My starry-eyed prediction: if this bill passes and gets signed, you will see a goodly amount of visual effects return to California.

It's Distribution, Amigo

As J. Katzenberg says, multiplexes are so ... 1998.

... "Netflix and Sony Pictures Television have reached a multi-year agreement to bring Sony Pictures Animation feature films in the first pay TV window to Netflix members in the U.S., beginning with the hit movies Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and The Smurfs 2 in 2014," the three companies said in a joint statement. "Sony and Starz continue their long-term partnership, and Starz remains the exclusive pay TV home of Sony Pictures Entertainment feature titles through 2021." ...

For Netflix, the news is positive, because the company can replace part of the content it lost from its discontinued licensing deal with Starz, the analyst said, adding: "The Sony deal would only add one or two titles per year to its lineup, but gradually increases the company's focus around younger/animated content as they have exclusive access to Pixar, Disney Animation, DreamWorks Animation, and Sony Animation."

That means that Fox's Blue Sky Studios and Universal partner Illumination "are the only other major sources of animation, which are distributed through HBO," Wible said, adding: "We believe the younger demographic is an important element of Netflix's long-term strategy as they condition future generations to use the platform as they mature." ...

Anybody who spends time with teenagers (good luck getting their noses out of their eye phones) understands that the demographic sucks up entertainment on their communication devices, on iPads, on flat screens bolted to the wall. And sometimes, they absorb images from all of those sources at once.

So for Netflix and Sony Pictures Animation, this is likely a good match. SPA has the product, and Netflix has the pipline.

Mojo Vignette

iCandy: An Exhibit by Don Jurwich at Gallery 839 in June

Opens Friday, June 6th from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at Gallery 839.

Tissa David and John Canemaker

John Canemaker has generously shared a lengthy video interview with the late Tissa David. It is part autobiography, part nuts and bolts instruction and part philosophy, illustrated by clips of Tissa's work for John and Faith Hubley, Michael Sporn, R.O. Blechman and others.

I knew Tissa when I was beginning my career and it's remarkable how little she changed physically in 30 years.  I also realized when watching this that there are things I'm teaching my students that I learned from Tissa. 

Tissa rarely had the opportunity to work on projects with large budgets.  She was a fantastic draftsman, but she was always conscious of how to get the maximum effect from each drawing.  Her animation was forced to be limited in the sense that she was only allowed a limited number of drawings, but her art and acting were so strong that there was no limit to the expressiveness she could communicate.

It's wonderful to have this video available as a record of her thoughts and work.  Not enough animators write autobiographies, but this lengthy visit with Tissa is the next best thing.

John Canemaker's generosity doesn't stop with this video.  May has been a banner month for John, with the release of an updated version of The Art and Flair of Mary Blair and two new books.  Magic Color Flair: The World of Mary Blair was created to accompany an exhibit of Blair's work at the Disney Family Museum.  The Lost Notebook: Herman Schultheis and the Secrets of Walt Disney's Movie Magic is an annotated version of a manual put together by an early Disney special effects artist.  Cartoon Brew has published samples from the book and Jerry Beck has reviewed it at Cartoon Research.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Links

Holiday linkage!

It's a May 26th link-fest, because I'm just too damn lazy busy to write commentaries to the interesting articles below.

The artist who imagined Middle-earth. -- You may not know John Howe, but you have probably visited his worlds.

A quarter century of Simpsons guest voices.

Award-winning animation filmmaker Gitanjali Rao talks about the state of Indian animation industry and her films.

How technology is driving the next wave of film animation ...

Spielberg, Katzenberg And Geffen Celebrate The Twentieth Anniversary Of DreamWorks SKG. (There are some facts wrong in this piece, but it's the thought that counts.)

Robert Iger, Major League Baseball's next commissioner?!?

John Lasseter's Cal Arts talk; John Lasseter's Cal Arts Doctorate.

Pixar Thumbnail

Out today for Inside Out, the June 2015 release.

... In 2015, [Pete Docter] will take us ... inside the mind of an 11-year-old named Riley.

Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.” ...

Disney/Pixar is on a recent roll with female protagonists: Rapunzel, Anna, Elsa, Tiana, and Merida. A lot of female leads in a relatively short period of time.

And now Riley.

Add On:

And nobody can argue that heroines in animated fetters don't pull in big bucks.

... Frozen just iced the studio’s own Iron Man 3 to become the fifth highest-grossing film of all time globally. Frozen‘s gross now is a whopping $1.219B compared to Disney/Marvel‘s Iron Man 3‘s $1.215B.

Disney and the filmmakers have the Japanese, in large part, to thank as it has been been sitting in the No. 1 post in the Land of the Rising Sun for 11 straight weekends to take in an incredible $193.7M to date. It is the No. 4 film of all time in Japan and Disney’s largest grosser of all time in the country (live action and animation, including Pixar). It is the No. 3 Western movie, only behind James Cameron’s Titanic and Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

So I'm guessing we'll see female leads in a few more animated movies down the road, yes?

Roadkill Redemption

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Supporting Players Move Their Date

It's not just The Penguins of Madagascar, those well-known second bananas of DreamWorks Animation, who are getting a new release window. It's also happening to supporting players at Universal-Illumination Entertainment.

The Minions Movie release date has been moved from the original Dec. 19, 2014 to July 10, 2015 as announced on Friday. Universal's decision to move the movie means that it'll have no animated film to release this year, a first since 2009. ...

Someone close to the company revealed ... that Universal is determined in repeating its success with "Despicable Me" and "Despicable Me 2," both were released on July. ...

DreamWorks Animation, it turns out, is going to have the 2014 calendar pretty much all to itself.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 rolls out within weeks, and its Madagascar spin-off comes out in the Fall, (like Minions moved from its original play date.) Between those two DWA features, only Disney Toons has a cartoon release scheduled, the second feature in its Planes franchise.

International Box Office

Super heroes and giant reptiles dominate, but there's a small chunk of room for animation.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (Worldwide Accumulations)

X-Men Umpty Ump -- $171,080,000 -- ($61,780,000)

Godzilla Again -- $34,500,000 -- ($315,373,367)

Amazing Spider-Man Deux -- $11,200,000 -- ($673,901,192)

Rio the Second -- $4,800,000 -- ($450,798,040)

Frozen the First -- $6,700,000 -- ($1,219,273,546) ...

Rio the Second, is Numero Uno in Venezuela (there's a surprise) four weeks running. South America has been fertile territory. Meantime, Frozen continues to frolic in Japan and continues to increase its huge numbers.

The Spandex crowd (see above) is also doing quite well at the world box office.

Bucks New University's Polish Connection

Characters in Polish national dress by Monika Dzikowicz
Some of our most talented recent graduates in recent years from the Animation, Games and Interactive Media course here at Bucks have been from Poland. We are not sure why there has been a strong Polish presence here in High Wycombe but, whatever the reason, it is a connection that we are proud of and want to encourage in future.

Students from overseas help to give our course a more international and cosmopolitan flavour. In addition, many of our foreign students are highly motivated to squeeze everything they can from their experience at University, working hard out of hours and during the holidays to make the best use of their time here. Our students from Poland have been no exception, and they have done some of the best work to come out of our department in recent years.

Designs by Monika Dzikowicz
Monika Dzikowicz graduated last summer, and since then has done some excellent work on our film co-operative at, where we have been making short commercial film projects for live clients. You can read more about Nano Films here, and also here, and see the first paid project we completed below.

Monika's website at is an fine example of the kind of online portfolio that all students and graduates should have. It showcases her best work and creates a public space in which to promote her skills and - ultimately - find a steady stream of paid work. You can also read this piece about her work, posted last year.

Another student who did excellent work here at Bucks was Krzysztof Michalski. You can see his website here at Kris has developed a strong portfolio in 3D design and model creation, able to do professional-level 3D modeling and Architectural Visualisation.
Krzysztof Michalski at

Kris's work has a strong sense of design and he has also developed the kind of sparse topology that is needed in the film and games industry, where employability is measured not just by a digital artist's ability to create an accurate surface mesh but also the ability to use the minimum possible number of vertices to create an economic and light model, suitable for a commercial production pipeline.

Krzysztof Michalski at

(Editor's Note: For more impressive work done by our students and recent graduates here at Bucks, check out Ben Gray's Moonbeam, and the architectural visualisations of Sabah Masood. Also take a look at the work of Andy Thomas here, see our latest commercial project for Rocketseed, our short film done for a global aid agency, and take a look at the excellent work of designer Monika Dzikowicz, architectural visualisation specialist Krsytof Michalski, Alex Whitfield and the 3D artwork of Mike Swan.)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mo Cap = Big Box Office

At least, just this once, that's the reality in India.

... The unrivalled king of the box office, ‘Superstar’ Rajinikanth, on Friday set the coffers ringing to the tune of ‘Kochadaiiyaan’ as the country’s first full-length photo-realistic animation took a bumper opening across the State.

According to sources, the film has had an overwhelming response at over 450 screens across the State. Archana Kalpathi of AGS Entertainment, which has two multiplexes in Chennai, said: “The response has been phenomenal and it feels like the summer box office has finally arrived this year. Most audiences are eager to see the film in the 3D version.” ...

Creating the 3D-animated characters in the likeness of the lead actors and bringing the story to life meant that the makers had to collaborate with several international companies.

The film was shot with the actors performing at the Centroid Full Motion Capture studio located within Pinewood Studios in UK. ... For the post-production work, team Kochadaiiyaan also worked with Los Angeles-based Counter Punch studios. The head camera that the actors are seen wearing in the ‘making of’ videos was provided by another US company, Faceware Technologies, which specialises in facial capture in various Hollywood blockbusters and computer games. ...

Mo Cap, sadly, doesn't always have the greatest reputation.

When James Cameron does it, and mixes in some live-action, box office records get broken. Yet when Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg do Mo Cap in its pure, unadulterated form (Beowulf, Tin Tin), the public stays away in droves.

But it appears that the Devil's Rotoscope works well on the sub-continent. (Who would have guessed?) And American and British companies are getting in on the act.

The Holiday Box Office

It's super heroes and giant reptiles, from dawn to dusk:

1). X-Men: Days of Future Past (FOX), 3,996 theaters / $35.7M to $36M Fri. / 3-day cume: $91M to $97M / 4-day cume: $110M to $120M / Wk 1

2). Godzilla (WB), 3,952 theaters (0) / $8.8M Fri. / 3-day cume: $31.7M to $33.2M (-64%) / 4-day cume: $31.8M to 41.8M / Total cume: $157M to $159M / Wk 2

3/4). Blended (WB), 3,555 theaters / $4.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $13.2M to $14M / 4-day cume: $16.5M to $18M / Wk 1

4). Neighbors (UNI), 3,266 theaters (-45%) / $4.28M+ Fri. / 3-day cume: $13.5M (-48%) / 4-day cume: $16.5M to $17M / Total cume: 116M+ / Wk 3

5). The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (SONY) 3,160 theaters (-831) / $2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $7.5M to $8.1M (-53%) / 4-day cume: $9.6M to $10.3M / Total cume: $186.8M to $187.4M / Wk 4

6). Million Dollar Arm (DIS), 3,019 theaters (0) / $1.8M Fri. / 3-day cume: $6.5M to $6.9M (-33%) / 4-day cume: $8.2M to $8.5M / Total cume: $22M / Wk 2

7). The Other Woman (FOX), 2,154 theaters (-900) / $1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.5M (-44%) / 4-day cume: $4.3M to $4.5M / Total cume: $78.6M / Wk 5

8). Rio 2 (FOX), 1,701 theaters (-670) / $535K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.4M (-35%) / 4-day cume: $3.2M / Total cume: $122.4M / Wk 7

9/10). Chef (OPRD), 498 theaters (+426) / $562K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.1M (+210%) / 4-day cume: $2.7M+ / Total cume: $4M+ / Wk 3

Heaven Is For Real (SONY), 1,720 theaters (-1,173) / $498K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.8M (-57%) / 4-day cume: $2.3M / Total cume: $86.5M / Wk 6

Rio 2 is close to falling out of the Top Ten. Domestically, it's performed a wee bit better than Mr. Peabody and Sherman, but it's performed heroically outside the U.S.

73% of Rio 2's money comes from countires not named the United States of America/Canada.

AnimSchool Classtime: Body Mechanics on a side step with Thom Roberts

Great little insight to some workflow tips about analyzing reference for some body mechanics from AnimSchool instructor and Blue Sky Animator Thom Roberts.


Free Laptops for our new students in October!

Why do we offer free laptops to our freshmen students in October? The reason is simple: we want all of our students to be able to work equally as well from home as they do at university. One of the many career paths open to a skilled digital animator is to do freelance work from home, and the best way to do this is to master as many software packages as possible, allowing you you to take on small jobs even while you are still at university. So what kind of computer do our students actually get? Dave Creighton explains how it works.

What we try to do is get the best possible spec within the target price allocated to the course. Obviously we can't spend a fortune - but the machines must be fit for purpose and capable of doing the job.

We aim for at least an i5 processor, 8Gb RAM, nvideo graphics card (not onboard graphics), a decent screen and we try for a 17" display with reasonable resolution.  We go for a reputable but well-priced Manufacturer such as Acer or Toshiba.

For this year, we haven't yet placed a purchase order, but we will review the best deals through the University sources in August and find the best specification that we can.

Whatever we end up getting, we're sure you will find it a reliable workhorse that will sustain your professional career all the way through university and beyond.


(Editor's Note: To find out more about how our Animation & VFX course works, read this post. For information on the student loans system, click here.  To read about what we're doing to improve what we do, read this post. For help finding your way around, see this map of campus here. To take a virtual tour of our animation studio, click here, and also check out what our students have said about our course. To see why Bucks is ranked among the top twelve creative universities in the UK, click here. To see the work of our talented students who are graduating this, year come to our End of Year Show on June 13)

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Story Tao of Vance Gerry

Disney story director Mark Kennedy relates the teachings of a grand master of feature animation story telling.

... Vance [Gerry] is saying that--in general--you want to use simplified anatomy and direct lines for readability and to get the audience to grasp the point of a story sketch quickly and directly. Usually the goal in story sketch is for the audience to grasp the meaning of the sketch in a quick glance. Many times, when story sketches are cut together to make a story reel, they are on the screen for a second (or even less time than that). So you need to eliminate any confusion that might arise in the viewer. The audience won't have time to hunt for the point of the sketch and decipher what they're seeing. ...

Vance made storyboarding ... and animation story work in general ... appear effortless.

He had a gift for staging, for the use of color, shadow and light. And he had a genius for creating the right drawing for the tale he wanted to tell the first time out of the box. Which is rare talent. As Ed Gombert says:

"Vance could get more work done in a day than most of us accomplished in a week. ..."

You've seen Vance's work on screen for years. You just didn't know it was his.

Entertainment Tax Incentives

Assembly Bill 1839, California's version of Canadian/New York/Georgia movie and television tax incentives, moves closer to a vote:

... Legislation to expand California’s tax incentives for film and TV production cleared another committee on Friday, as the state Assembly appropriations committee unanimously approved the bill.

The legislation now goes to the full Assembly for a floor vote. ...

The bill would expand the state’s $100-million per year of incentives for production by making big budget movies eligible, along with more categories of one hour TV drama series.

Still to be determined is what amount supporters will see in annual tax credits, a key figure to make California more competitive with other states that offer more generous incentives. ... New York’s tax credit provides about $420 million per year, but the challenge for the bill’s authors has been to propose an amount that can survive the legislative process.

The legislation would also provide a post production credit for projects that complete at least 75% of visual effects work in the state...

The thrust of the bill is to lure production back to California. On Tuesday, IA union members will be at the capitol, leafleting and jaw-boning lawmakers to pass the new incentives. Expectations are the legislation will move briskly through the Assembly. The challenge will be to get it past skeptical State Senators from northern California.

Then, of course, there's the governor, who marches to his own drum.

News From Our Charming, Corporatist State

There is now an official settlement, ladies and gents:

Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe to pay $325 mln to settle hiring lawsuit

Four major Silicon Valley companies have formally agreed to pay $324.5 million to settle claims brought by employees who accused them of limiting competition by colluding not to poach each other's talent.

The settlement, between Apple Inc, Google Inc , Intel Corp, Adobe Systems Inc and roughly 64,000 workers, was disclosed in papers filed late on Thursday with a federal court in San Jose, California.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has been asked to preliminarily approve the accord at a June 19 hearing, over an objection by one of the four named plaintiffs, Michael Devine, who says the settlement let the companies off too easily.

The payout was originally reported by Reuters but not officially confirmed. ...

Please never forget: Steve Jobs was a revolutionary genius, looking to better the world.

And most, but not all, of humanity.

More from Splatfrog: Ken Fountain talks about Eyes and Finger Tips

Ken is really rolling out the Podcasts...I can't keep up! But he is giving up some amazing tips on things to think about while animating acting shots. This one below is about how you could use the eye movements as your guide to laying out emotion in your characters. Fun stuff!

The Eyes Have It! - Podcast #07 from Ken Fountain on Vimeo.

He also just released another on the importance of animating all the way to The Finger Tips! Great looking character.

Always inspiring stuff from Ken Fountain!

check out more from Ken @
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or on Twitter at:

The Contradictions of Copyright

The success of Disney's Frozen highlights the contradictions of copyright.  Salon has an article called, "How Disney Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Copyright Infringement."  YouTube is full of covers of Frozen's "Let it Go."  While I haven't bothered to wade through them all, searching for "Let it Go" on YouTube turns up 2.5 million videos.

As Salon reports, Disney is turning a blind eye to this as they have determined that it's free advertising.  The problem for me is how arbitrary Disney is with regard to copyright infringement.

This 1990 article from the Gainesville Sun in Florida details that Disney sued over a thousand people for copyright infringement over a four year period.  Yet now, people who could be charged with infringing the copyright on Frozen are being ignored.

The whole point of law is to establish clear rules for what is permitted and what is not.  The government's legal monopoly on force is used as a deterrent to discourage lawbreakers and punish, by fine or imprisonment, those who do break the law.

When laws are sometimes ignored, it leads to injustice.  The current drug laws are a perfect example.  Those who are poor and members of minority groups are more likely to spend time in prison than those with money or white skin who commit the same offense.

The enforcement of copyright laws are not based on economic status or ethnicity; they are based on economic advantage to the copyright holder.  If the copyright owner deems something to be economically beneficial, it is ignored.  If it is seen as economically detrimental, either by doing damage to the copyrighted item or by siphoning profits from the copyright holder, the violator will be prosecuted.  The problem is that it is impossible to know how a copyright owner will view a "tribute" or "fan fiction" at any given moment.

Andrew Wallenstein writes in Variety,
If it chose, Disney, or any other studio for that matter, could scrub YouTube clean of any content that didn’t come from the company. YouTube’s own Content ID system, and firms that specialize in online content monetization like Zefr, empower copyright holders to monitor any unauthorized appropriation of its content, and to collect audience data. A content owner has the choice of removing what it doesn’t like, letting it remain, or taking the next step — imposing ads on it that yield revenue.
The balancing act that content owners have to do with regard to YouTube — as well as other fan-friendly platforms like Tumblr — is a tough one. On the one hand, corporations must loosen their grip on their own product for their promotional benefit. On the other hand, ceding control can be a scary thing.

But erring on the side of a long leash is the right call. The DIY ethos of YouTube means allowing a mashup culture to blossom even if that impinges on fair use and brand values. The tight rein that studios typically keep on their intellectual property simply doesn’t fly here.
The copyright laws, as written, don't work.  Copyright holders are simultaneously loosening their hold and tightening it through secretly negotiated trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership.  Maybe this loosening will force the current laws to crumble, but the potential for a corporate backlash is there.  Rather than have it both ways,  it would be in everyone's interest for the law to be reworked so that it can be applied consistently.  Instead, it encourages fans to create based on their favorite copyrighted works, until such time as it doesn't.

Calling all animators - time to enter the annual Winston Churchill Design Competition

The Winston Churchill Design Competition has just been launched. The annual competition, delivered by Pentland Group PLC in partnership with The Churchill Centre and ARTS THREAD, seeks to encourage and uncover upcoming talent, who will create a unique piece of artwork that captures Winston Churchill's essence, making his life and work relevant for a modern audience.

Cash prizes

The top three winning entries will all received a cash prize.
  • First prize is £1000
  • Second prize is £750 
  • Third prize is £500
The winners will also get a paid work experience at Pentland Group PLC headquarters in London. They will also receive an invitation to the prestigious annual Sir Winston Churchill Dinner in London, in the Autumn of 2014

The Brief

The brief for the competition is to "capture the essence of Churchill's unique style and personality, and present it for a modern audience". Entrants can create work in any media that can be viewed on a website.The panel, made up of external patrons and members of The Churchill Centre, will review entries against five criteria.

The Criteria
  1. Design craft. Does the design demonstrate a high degree of sensitivity to materials and techniques? Is the composition exciting and dynamic? 
  2. Insight. Does the design present fresh and insightful perspectives into the different aspects of Churchill as a journalist, historian,great orator,politician,soldier,bricklayer, artist and more? Is the design exciting and compelling? 
  3. Communication.  Is the design easy to understand? Is it able to communicate its message directly and with force?  
  4. Contemporary relevance. Does the piece of work show thought about the enduring appeal of Churchill's personality and style? 
  5. Inspiration. Does the work have the potential to inspire great things?

The competition is open to international BA/MA students or recent graduates and will close on 31st August.

2014. Further details can be found on ARTS THREAD's website, here.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Studio Roundabouts

The last few days I've been at Disney TVA (Sonora and the Yahoo Building) and Bento Box, where production-type things are happening. ...

Up at the Empire Center (that's near the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, if you're wondering), Princess Sophia the First is embarked on a third season of shows while the second season wraps up.

The 7D, airing this July, is close to completing work on its first group of episodes, with many storyboard artists on hiatus as storyboard revisionists continue work into June. (Penn Zero, another yet-to-air Disney show, is also in work.)

Long-running series Jake and the Neverland Pirates is slated to return for another season, but many artists are still on hiatus.

Over at Disney TVA Sonora, a new set of Mickey Mouse shorts (three minutes long, and animated in Canada) is in work, as are newer installments of Gravity Falls and Wander Over Yonder. Sonora also has some new projects in work, but since I'm A) not sure they've been announced, and B) have no desire to listen to another Disney manager bark at me on the phone, the less I say about them the better.*

Bento Box Burbank (the facility on Magnolia near Buena Vista Street) continues work on Bob's Burgers, while Bento Box North Hollywood (located at Lankershim and Magnolia) creates another season of Brickleberry and is ramping up production on Bordertown, the latest prime-time animated half-hour from the MacFarlane creative team.

They had just finished screening an animatic for one of Bordertown's early shows when I walked in, and crew members reported it was funny. Additional Bordertown staff comes on board next week as the production continues to ramp up.

* Kindly note that I'm a wee bit sketchy about some of the shows in work at Disney TVA Glendale. I tend not to pay attention to show titles, or who's doing what to which series. TV animation is an ever-changing, always-shifting kaleidoscope and I don't pay close attention to everything. I know it's wrong but I'm weak.

Bigger Projections

... which is a good thing.

... DreamWorks Animation's 3D family film “How to Train Your Dragon 2” will open between $55 million and $70 million when it hits theaters on June 13, according to pre-release tracking that came on line Thursday. ... The opening for the Fox-distributed “Dragon” may not hit the high end, but it will be the only animated film in the market until Disney's “Planes: Fire and Rescue” lands on July 18, which should give families plenty of time to catch up with it. ...

If this sequel doesn't do $600 million in global box office, I will be surprised.

CalArts Graduation Lasseter 2014

John Lasseter address CalArts class of 2014.

John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, Receives 2014 Honorary Doctor of the Arts Degree from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) 
One of the most celebrated members of the first graduating class of CalArts Character Animation Program, Lasseter returned to his alma mater to address the Class of 2014 at the commencement ceremony on May 16. 
Click here for video of speech and high resolution photographs. 
May 21, Valencia, CA—CalArts President Steven Lavine is delighted to announce that animation industry icon and Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, John Lasseter, is the 2014 recipient of California Institute of the Arts’ (CalArts) honorary Doctor of Arts degree. In celebrating his originality, creativity and extraordinary contributions to the art of animation and contemporary filmmaking, the Institute welcomed back one of its most prominent alumni.  

At the ceremony on Friday, May 16, Lasseter addressed CalArts’ class of 2014 in a heartfelt speech describing the impact of CalArts on his life and work. He shared two key insights inspired by his time at the Institute. The first was “your voice is worthwhile. Have faith in it. It’s so important to create in your own voice…to hold onto what makes you unique and have faith in your vision." Secondly, he advised, “you need others. Too often people think that being unique means being isolated, and being a great artist means coming up with genius ideas out of nowhere. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

CalArts is an internationally acclaimed Los Angeles-area institution founded by Walt Disney and his brother Roy, offering undergraduate and graduate programs in the visual, performing, media and literary arts. At the commencement ceremony, Lasseter addressed an enthusiastic crowd of alumni, parents and graduating students that included the most recent generation of CalArts animators to follow in his footsteps. “I am the filmmaker I am today because of the people I’ve learned from,” he said. 

Lasseter fondly recalled his teachers and described the celebrated first graduating of CalArts’ Character Animation Program which, along with Lasseter, includes two-time Oscar® recipient Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), visionary filmmaker Tim Burton  (Edward Scissorhands, Frankenweenie), Oscar®-nominated director John Musker (The Princess and the Frog, The Little Mermaid), as well as Chris Buck and Michael Giaimo, director and art director, respectively, of the #1 animated film of all time, Academy Award winner Disney’s Frozen:

We had great teachers in [CalArts’] Character Animation program, great Disney artists who came out of retirement to teach us all that they had learned as they invented this art form with Walt Disney. But I learned just as much from my fellow students as I did from my teachers. Then, when we started making our own student films, we’d look over each other’s shoulders, bouncing ideas back and forth and helping each other out.  

Work with others. Lean on others. Celebrate others.

I developed a way of working at Pixar that revolves around getting honest feedback from your fellow filmmakers as you are making your film. This approach, which is now used at Disney Animation as well, is based on the way we all had made our student films at CalArts.

When times got tough—and we’ve had many tough times—we pulled together and saved each other. We never could have survived alone. We never could have achieved what we have alone. 

“John’s remarkable career exemplifies CalArts’ experimental ethos and creative spirit,” said President Steven Lavine. “Since graduating from the Character Animation Program in 1979, John has brought joy to millions of people throughout the world. As an artist and executive, John is responsible for creating many of the world’s best-loved and most successful films. John’s groundbreaking work ranges from his first feature as a director, Pixar’s revolutionary computer animated Toy Story, to serving as Executive Producer of this year’s Oscar-winning animated feature, Disney’s Frozen.”

This year, the annual March Oscar® issue of Vanity Fair paid tribute to the first generation of CalArts filmmakers, who went on to become animation industry icons. The feature article, “The Class That Roared,” offered an intimate glimpse into the CalArts experience of a now-famous group of students.

The influence of “the class that roared” continues with new generations of animators from CalArts. The latest wave ranges from wildly inventive students to animators, storyboard and character artists and up-and-coming directors at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation, Dreamworks Animation, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, as well as independent filmmakers and artists.

Today, television, too, offers creative opportunities to CalArts graduates. First-time creator/director Skyler Page’s series, Clarence, premiered on the Cartoon Network on April 14.  Cartoon Network’s current roster also includes creator/directors Pendelton Ward of Adventure Time, The Regular Show’s J. G. Quintel, and Uncle Grandpa’s Peter Browngardt. Alex Hirsch is the creator, executive producer and director of the Disney Channel’s Gravity Falls. Having originated Nickelodeon’s El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, Jorge Gutierrez wrote, and is currently directing, the "Day of the Dead” themed 3D animated feature, Book of Life, which is scheduled for release in October 2014. 

Other next generation “Calartians” to watch include Disney Animation Studios’ Stephen Anderson, writer/director of Meet the Robinsons and co-director of Winnie the Pooh. Alumni with anticipated projects in production include veteran Pixar story and voice artist Peter Sohn who is co-directing the studio’s upcoming The Good Dinosaur, and Kung Fu Panda director Mark Osborne, currently in production on the film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince

Links to media:
Video of John Lasseter’s commencement speech
High-resolution photographs
Biography of John Lasseter