Monday, June 30, 2014

Frozen, Hand-Drawn

Some viz dev drawings, showing the blockbuster in a Beauty and the Beast type mode. ...

As we've noted, the picture started existence as a hand-drawn project, then got shelved weeks after its first story pass went up on reels. (Disney production top kick Richard Ross was the culprit; John Lasseter liked the project).

At the time, the studio was veering away from hand-drawn features, since it wasn't thrilled by the box office results of The Princess and the Frog. The company didn't become enthusiastic over Princess movies until Tangled got released ... and Mr. Ross was booted from his Disney job.

So the drawings at the link? A glimpse into Might-Have-Been. And another time.

Biggest Openings

Anything strike you about this list of big openings over the past few months?

Biggest Opening Weekends -- 2014

Transformers -- $97.5 million

Captain America -- $95 million

Godzilla -- $93.1 million

Amazing Spider Man 2 -- $91.6 million

The X Men; Days of Future Past -- $90.8 million

Maleficent -- $69.4 million

The Lego Movie -- $69.0 million

22 Jump Street -- $57 million

Divergent -- $54.6 million

How To Train Your Dragon 2 -- $49.4 million

All but two of these candidates are heavy with animation. And two of the movies have nothing but animation inside them.

Tent poles with lots of animated effects are the order of the day. So there's going to be a lot of people sitting at computers making the entertainment the world craves.

Bodes well for jobs in the global marketplace, particularly jobs in geographic locales where governments are throwing money at our fine, entertainment conglomerates. (Vancouver? I'm talking about you).

Posing: Straight vs Curve

In this quick clip Aaron Blaise talks about posing your character using Straight vs Curve. It's great to see this out there and way back when I posted on Posing in Animation I remember getting some great feedback. So have a listen and maybe even a refresher. I'll links my posts at the bottom.


Posing in Animation

Follow Up on Posing in Animation

Don't be afraid of the blank sheets: Ricky Nierva at TEDxAthens

Sympathetic Doesn't Have To Mean Likable

Likeability VS Vulnerability in your characters is the difference between sympathy and EMPATHY in your work.  You want your audience to EMPATHIZE with your characters.  I was looking at some pitches yesterday from students for new comedic acting pieces and many were pretty brutal with anger, pain or intensity of emotions that needed more backstory.  If you do not set-up the character in some way to have a vulnerable moment where we see motivations for these actions, they just feel like an empty, soulless character.  Look for ways to show the vulnerability in your characters, even if it's just a micro-expression and you can have them do most anything in your shots.

Dreamworks Animation Layoffs

As DreamWorks Animation Television continues to hire, DreamWorks Animation's feature division continues to shed jobs. Last Monday and Tuesday, an estimated forty to fifty DWA employees were called in for one-on-one meetings and informed their services would no longer be required.

via TAG Blog


A great little post from the folks over at Animator Island about twinning. There are definitely times that I think it is OK to do so and may even feel based on reference that it is the proper action. There are ways to change it up slightly and this post covers a few of them.


Jason Thompson explains why students must fail, and why professors should watch video games

Jason Thompson
Last week at the SAS (Society of Animation Studies) conference in Toronto, Sheridan professor Jason Thompson gave a brief but fascinating talk on "Why our students need to fail". Citing the book by Guy Claxton What is the point of school?, Jason argued that school is important because of eight critical things that students must learn:

1. Curiosity
2. Courage
3. Investigation
4. Experimentation
5. Imagination
6. Reasoning
7. Sociability
8. Reflection

Jason then posed the question "Why are our students not more engaged in school?"

Maybe school should be more like this
Answering his own question, Jason argued that students are engaged – but with video games. Game players love it when they get “The Epic Win”, that feeling of success that makes them feel great. Games like World of Warcraft gives us chances to be tested not too much, not too little, but "just beyond our abilities". Game players "get challenged on the tipping point of our ability".

Jason went on to apply this to education, arguing that students need to feel the thrill of a "Level Up!" in the classroom.

He then cited a book by Jesper Juul titled  The Art of failure. Juul argues that successful video games give us “a fair chance” to get past the monster, and that it is this that makes them work. In order to succeed, we have to fail first. Coming back to education, Jason argued that in school today both educators and students are now too afraid of failure.  Hence, "Girl Guides all get badges", and everyone passes the test. Educators have become "afraid of failure". Students ask "what if I fail?", and educators respond by passing everyone.

According to Jason, the author Seth Godin says that we should ask a better question: "After I fail, what then?" After all, successful people don't necessarily succeed initially. Many fail, "and then overcome their failure". Success in life is less about succeeding first time and much more about failing, trying again, and succeeding he next time, or the time after that.

After all, Disney failed – he lost Oswald The Rabbit, and then created the famous mouse which made his name. Steven Spieflberg was rejected by film school three times. Jason quoted Winston Churchill as saying that : “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”.

Spielberg - a failure?
So maybe if students worried less about failing a test, and educators were less concerned about passing all their students, we would be doing everyone a favour.

Here at Bucks there is, just as at any university, a grading process which takes place over the whole course of our students' three years of study.  Grades matter, because the university says they matter. However, we emphasise to our animators and digital artists that what really counts (in the real world of work) is not their grade, but a continually improving body of work that can eventually be turned into a killer demo reel. A great demo reel helps our students find work in the industry of their choice - which grades, no matter how stellar, do not.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Your Foreign Box Office

Animated titles that are performing well:

Foreign Weekend Box Office -- (World Totals)

How To Train Your Dragon 2 -- $17,900,000 -- ($229,214,532)

Frozen -- $2,700,000 -- ($1,263,716,000)

And semi-animated titles aren't doing badly either.

Foreign Weekend Box Office -- (World Totals

Maleficent -- $16,000,000 -- ($585,571,000)

Transformers -- $201,300,000 -- ($301,300,000)

Edge of Tomorrow -- $6,900,000 -- ($318,654,632)

As Variety tells us:

From Beijing to St. Petersburg, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” was the clear choice of overseas ticket buyers, amassing an astounding $201.3 million, nearly half of which came from China. ...

Among other releases, Tom Cruise’s “Edge of Tomorrow” brought in $6.9 million from foreign markets, bringing its total to $318.6 million worldwide. The $178 million production will still struggle to become profitable, but it’s not the turkey some had predicted it would become. Thank you China.

China, it seems, has a lot to answer for.

DWA Layoffs

As DreamWorks Animation Television continues to hire, DreamWorks Animation's feature division continues to shed jobs. ...

Last Monday and Tuesday, an estimated forty to fifty DWA employees were called in for one-on-one meetings and informed their services would no longer be required. (The studio, according to the DreamWorks people we talked to, didn't have enough features that required staff building front-end production elements, so employees in departments that were overstaffed -- and who didn't have longer-term contracts or assignments -- were given their walking papers.)

Most, according to DreamWorkers who contacted us, were told to clear out their desks the day of their meetings.

"I get that the company needs to be cautious, but I talked to one employee who said she wasn't allowed back to her desk. She was kind of upset." ....

Another employee said:

"DreamWorks doesn't want somebody who's ticked off to go back and do something to their work or their computers. ..."

The company is working to align staff with the number of in-development/in-production features lined up on the tarmac. Separated employees who contacted us say their contracts are being paid out.

So it goes.

Annecy Replay - see what you missed at the world's biggest animation festival

Annecy is the world's biggest and longest-standing animated film festival. Hosted in the idyllic Alpine village of Lake Annecy, the setting could not be more beautiful, and the hotels could not be more booked up.

For those of you who missed animation's annual international shindig, either because you couldn't get a room, or you booked too late, or you simply didn't get around to it - visit this page to see the highlights. And make a point of going next year. It's a great place to see excellent work, meet other film-makers, catch up on the latest technology breakthroughs and - who knows - maybe even win a prize.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

New Animation Head

This news has already been posted lots of other places, but anyway:

Animation veteran Lino DiSalvo has joined Paramount Animation as Creative Director. The announcement was made today by Adam Goodman, President of the Paramount Film Group, who oversees Animation for the studio. DiSalvo moves to Paramount following a 16-year stint at Walt Disney Animation Studios, where he most recently served as Head of Animation on Oscar-winning pic Frozen.

In his new role, UTA-repped DiSalvo will be assisting Goodman and the Paramount Animation team to build a world-class feature animation studio. He begins his new role immediately. ...

Paramount Animation has had bad luck with finding a crackerjack executive to run its animation division. David Stainton (also from Disney) came and went in four months, which is probably a record.

A retired animation exec said that Paramount wanted to replicate its Rango model, having live-action directors helm animated features. Unfortunately, Stainton had no relationships with live-action talent, so he wasn't a comfortable fit with the Paramount business model.

Or so I was told. So here's hoping Mr. DiSalvo works out in a more satisfactory way.

Your American Box Office

Dragon hangs in at the "Show" position.

1). Transformers: Age of Extinction (PAR), 4,233 theaters / $41.3M Fri. / $34.3M Sat. (-17%) / 3-day est. cume: $103M+ / Wk 1

2). 22 Jump Street (SONY), 3,426 theaters (+120) / $5M Fri. /$5.8M Sat. (+15%) / 3-day cume: $15.2M (-44%) / Total est. cume: $139.4M / Wk 3

3). How to Train Your Dragon 2 (FOX), 3,750 theaters (-518) / $4.1M Fri. / $5.5M Sat. (+35%) / 3-day cume: $13M+ (-45%) / Total cume: $121.8M to $122.5M / Wk 3

4). Think Like A Man Too (SONY), 2,225 theaters (0) / $3.38M Fri. / $4.5M Sat. (+35%) / 3-day cume: $10.5M to $11M+ (-62%) / Total cume: $48.1M to $48.5M / Wk 2

5). Maleficent (DIS), 3,073 theaters (-377) / $2.59M Fri. / $3.35M Sat. (+30%) / 3-day cume: $8.4M (-35%) / Total expected cume: $201.9M to $202M+ / Wk 5

6). Jersey Boys (WB) 2,905 theaters (0) / $2.25M Fri. / $3.2M Sat. (+40%) / 3-day cume: $7.1M to $7.5M (-43%) / Total cume: $26.7M to $27.3M / Wk 2

7). Edge of Tomorrow (WB), 2,535 theaters (-677) / $1.5M Fri. / $2.1M Sat. (+40%) / 3-day cume: $5.15M (-47%) / Total cume: $84M+ / Wk 4

8). The Fault In Our Stars (FOX), 2,845 theaters (-495) / $1.84M Fri. / $1.9M Sat. (+5%) / 3-day cume: $5.2M (-39%) / Total cume: $109.8M / Wk 4

9). X-Men: Days of Future Past (FOX), 2,014 theaters (-667) / $948K Fri. / $1.3M Sat. (+40%) / 3-day cume: $3.2M (-48%) / Total cume: $223.2M / Wk 6

10). Chef (OPRD), 801 theaters (-160) / $435K Fri. / $685K Sat. (+60%) / 3-day cume: $1.58M (-8%) / Total cume: $19.3M / Wk 8

Meanwhile, Maleficent climbs to $200 million in domestic receipts.

But beyond the animated feature and the daughter of an animated feature (Maleficent), three other entrants in the Top Ten are chock full of CG animation. (If you don't have a program book those would be: Transformers, The Edge of Tomorrow and X-Men.)

There might not be as much CG animation being done in Southern California right now, but around the wide world there is a LOT of CG animation work packaged inside various high-budget tent poles.

Bucks Graduate Jaffar Ali joins The Bionic Group

Bucks animation graduate Jaffar Ali has just landed a job with The Bionic Group, a visual effects house based in Pinewood Studios, who have been producing visual effects for films such as Aliens, and Mission Impossible 1 & 2. Nowadays Bionic also create architecture animations for the construction industry.

Jaffar has been offered a job as a 3D Visualiser, starting in mid July.  We are delighted to offer our congratulations to Jaffar and wish him the very best with his new job. Here at Bucks we focus heavily on employability, doing our very best to ensure that all our graduates have the right skills to succeed in the industry of their choice.

Jaffar recently got a paid internship with Vizrt, which you can read about here, showing how important it is to get a foot in the door of the industry and develop your skills.

Later, Jaffar came back to Bucks to help our current students develop the right skills to find work, talking in some detail at our Employability Panel about his journey into the industry. You can read what he and his fellow panelists had to say about finding work in digital media here


(Editor's Note: For more on jobs and employability, read our guide to getting your first job. For posts on what studios look for in a great demo reel, try this link, hear what London's Blue Zoo has to say about finding work, and take a look at this video by Sony Pictures Animation. You can also watch Alex's ten minute video on creating a great reel, and read this post on the perfect demo reel. Also, check out our guide to animation careers here, and also take a look at this map of digital studios - a great place to start your search for work in the business. Learn the nuts and bolts of freelance life by reading our guide to invoicing clients, and our guide to putting together a great CV.)

Friday, June 27, 2014


On the eve of How To Train Your Dragon 2's third weekend of release, Forbes does its premature post-mortem.

... There are a number of reasons why How to Train Your Dragon 2 didn’t fly to top-tier DreamWorks Animation box office highs in America. It is possible the television show muted the special-ness of the event, while it is possible that parents decided to hold off on a film that they were worried would scare their kids.

Walt Disney’s Maleficent proved to be just leggy enough to eat into the female demographic that otherwise might have showed up for the (mostly) boy-centric dragon adventure. Or it could just be that the lasting popularity of How to Train Your Dragon was overstated by we adult critics and box office pundits who presumed that the kids liked it as much as we did. ...

Or how about: "When people don't want to come and see your picture, you can't stop them."?

Except no, that doesn't work either, because HTTYD2 has opened #1 almost everywhere else in the known universe, so we can't say with total certainty why the U.S. of A. was the market that under-performed. An economist friend of mine told me some years ago that economists get economic predictions wrong because no human can project how 350 million people will be spending their money on any given day.

And so it is with box-office predictions. People go to movies for all kinds of reasons, and the WIlliam Goldman axiom about movie-making holds: "In Hollywood, nobody knows anything." More to the point, nobody knows what any given movie will pull in during its release. Educated guesses are about the best the soothsayers can do.

But I still think it'll rake in close to $200 million. (Letting my prejudices cloud my judgment, I think.)

Box Office Leakage

Timing is, apparently, a large part of the game.

Frozen took in $48.24 million in China, according to film data site “That’s good, but nowhere near what it could have been,” says Michael Curtin, director of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Media Industries Project research center. He noted that the movie opened in China more than two months after its domestic U.S. release, where it took in more than $400 million. “Hobbit 2” opened in China more than two months after the U.S. release and pulled in 29% of the U.S. box-office takings. “Despicable Me 2” took in 14% of U.S. box-office figures after opening six months later than in the U.S.

Synched international release dates keep people from downloading pirated versions, Mr. Curtin said, noting that they also create the most of online buzz for a film in a crowded market where advertising is tightly regulated. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” opened simultaneously on May 23 in the U.S. and China. The film took in $119 million in China, according to Beijing-based film data firm EntGroup, 54% of its U.S. results. ...

We're never going to prevent streaming and pirated DVDs from chomping into the cash flow of our fine, entertainment conglomerates' movies. But by releasing pictures the same day and date around the globe, we can reduce the flow of money going elsewhere.

iAnimate Student Spotlight - Matt Roe

Matt Roe was my student last Spring 2014 in the iAnimate WS4 - Facial Acting and also my student for WS3 - Advanced Body Mechanics Fall 2013 at iAnimate  Matt killed every shot he started.  

The piece with the church door he is trying to open was a VERY long piece of Advanced Body mechanics and I worried he might not finish... but he completed it in spades.  The piece with Sheldon playing a mafia type from around the way (Deniro's voice) is definitely my favorite, but he also nailed the subtlety on the last shot of his reel with the clip of the character against the fridge.  I am so proud of Matt's work and I know he will not be a free agent for long.

Check out Matt's work here!

Pacific Rim - The Animation

Exciting news for fans of giant robots.

My second-born was outraged and disheartened that Pacific Rim didn't perform more robustly at the U.S. box office. He thought it was one of the best features of the season.

And I'll take his word for it, because not being a fan of giant robots, I passed the movie up. I'm sure that having an animated series based on the film will make him and other Millenials glad.

Why Should Animators Watch Charlie Chaplin? Nancy Beiman explains...

The Little Tramp. Photo: Wikipedia
Why should animators watch Charlie Chaplin films? Nancy Beiman, former supervising animator at Disney Feature Animation and now one of the key professors at Sheridan College in Toronto, thinks she has the answer. It's because animators are, in the end, pantomime artists, and Chaplin was the greatest pantomimer of them all. At the 2014 SAS (Society of Animation Studies) conference in Toronto, Nancy explained how animation and silent film comedy developed together, inspiring one another to perfect the art of physical comedy.

Nancy Beiman
Nancy Beiman, who worked for many years at the Disney Studio, is a huge fan of Chaplin's work, as are many of the finest animators. Her talk at SAS was essentially about the history of Chaplin's influence on animation and - vice versa - .the history of animation's influence on Chaplin. Her talk was titled: “The Animated Tramp".

Felix the Cat
From the beginning, animators copied Chaplin's work. Felix the Cat, the original cartoon super star (he was as big as live action stars like Chaplin himself) was based on Chaplin’s timing. At the Disney studio, Walt recognised the importance of having animators base their work on real life action analysis, and he pioneered life drawing classes at the studio. In effect, art classes became mandatory. Good animators are actors, and learning how the body works was vital to giving a great performance.

Thus it was a short step to look closely at Chaplin: - “the greatest pantomimist in the world”. Look closely at Chaplin's work, says Nancy, step through the images frame by frame, and you will see that "it's the little things that make his work great". The timing of even tiny gestures is vital, all carefully rehearsed and worked out in advance. Not for nothing had Chaplin honed his craft on the notoriously tough music hall stages of London, developing the character of The Little Tramp long before he went to Hollywood.

Some good examples of his stunning pantomime work include “Easy Street” (1917). Art Babbitt, one of Disney's pioneering animators, idolised Chaplin, and Chaplin's work influenced Babbitt's superb animation of the drunken mouse in the Academy award winning short "Country Cousin".

According to Nancy, Chaplin "was jealous of animated cartoons because their timing was perfect". Why? “because they never need to take time to breathe”. Some animators were so fascinated by Chaplin that they would go to screenings and watch him watching their work, to see how he reacted to what they did. Curiously,  Chaplain tended to laugh at the wrong times – not when the audience laughed. His own sense of humour was unique and individual.

Chuck Jones. Photo: Wikipedia

At Warner Bros, Mike Maltese was a Chaplin fan. Director and animator Chuck Jones “grew up with Chaplin”, and idolised his work. He asked Chaplin about comic timing of a scene, and Chaplin told him: “you can make comic business out of anything”. After seeing The Gold Rush (1925), Jones told his artists to “steal from the best” - and Chaplin was the best. Some of the best work in Jones' short “Rabbit of Seville” is borrowed from scenes in Chaplin's “The Great Dictator”.

In the modern era, Pixar's Ralph Egglestone said that the team on Wall-e watched all the Chaplin films before they made Wall-e, because their film was essentially a silent film, and they needed to understand the secrets of Chaplin's success. Good animators "learn to make films read well without sound", because "the best animated acting is expressed through pantomime".

Here at Bucks, we work hard to make sure our students understand the important of learning pantomime animation long before they are given audio scenes to animate. Even when we animate shots with lines of dialogue,  the first exercise is always done with a character who has no mouth - to force the animator to use body language alone to bring the shot to life. Mastering the art of pantomime is still the foundation upon which any successful animator will build their career.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Four Artists

From 1958.

Walt Disney narrates the tale of four Disney artists painting a tree. ...

It's been up before in other places, but I thought it would be useful to post it again here ... and profile the two artists in it that I spent some time around as a kid.

Marc Davis was an animator's animator. I met him once, briefly.

Eyvind Earle had a long career as a fine arts painter. He worked at the studio for a decade, known best today for his background styling on Sleeping Beauty. I never met him, though he and my dad worked in the same department.

Josh Meador lived a few blocks from where I grew up in La Crescenta. Josh was one of my father's close friends, and they painted up and down the coast of California together. At the studio, Mr. Meador was the head of the effects department. He had been put in that position by Disney in the 1930s, jumped over the heads of several senior artists. Josh worked on both live-action and animated effects, and was one of the artists who worked on Forbidden Planet when Walt Disney Productions sub-contracted the effects work from M-G-M.

Josh was known for his classy oil paintings. Walt Disney owned several, some (most?) of which hung in Disney's Palm Springs home.

Walt Peregoy. Feisty and out-spoken (some would say "irascible") Walt Peregoy started at Disney's during World War II in the traffic department, left, then returned to work in the animation department. Eyvind Earle helped him get into the background department, though Walt didn't like Eyvind much. (You can listen to Walt speak his mind here and here.)

I knew Walt when I was a little kid. He was just as curmudgeonly then as he was decades later. "Speaking his mind" only covers part of it. "Blow torching his enemies" comes closer.

Knowing how Walt REALLY talks, it's almost comical listening to him speak in this Disneyland segment. Where the %$#@?! are all the four-letter words?!

The Next Big Thing

... Noted by the head of DreamWorks Animation:

... Jeffrey Katzenberg traveled south to Anaheim today to talk about online video, a business he does see growing into the next big entertainment business platform. ... [He] talk[ed] about why online video, particularly on YouTube, is such a promising creation and distribution platform for a new generation of talent outside traditional Hollywood.

“I think the opportunities ahead are so immense,” Katzenberg said. “This platform is in its infancy. Monetizing that is still a struggle. What we will see in a very short period of time, that will all start to migrate up to the top of the pyramid. I believe in five years, 95 percent of the value will come from the top 5 percent” of video creators. ...

I was never convinced that 3-D movies, which Mr. Katzenberg's once touted as game changers, were actually going to alter overall theatrical attendance very much. But on internet delivery, Jeffrey is probably onto something. New Media has certainly paid off for his company, what with their humungous deal with Netflix.

The challenge, of course, is how to monetize the tidal wave of internet content. To figure out how to do that will need high-powered, innovative thinking, because tweens, teen-agers and twenty-somethings are not jazzed about having to pay for what they listen to and watch. And there are plenty of ways to get movies, music and cartoon shorts without charge.

(YouTube, which Jeffrey thinks is the wave of tomorrow, is a dandy vehicle for downloading high-quality music. All you need is a handy, on-line converter and voila! You have your own library of free tunes!)

The internet is, at present, a double-edged sword for content providers. I have no idea when ... or if ... that will change.

Outsourcing -- Another View

TAG Executive Board member (and President Emeritus) gives us his take on the current send-the-work-elsewhere mania:

(Click on the comic for a LARGER image. ...)

I know exactly where Bob is coming from and sympathize with his sentiments. But reality is what it is: We live in a robust corporatist state where the conglomerates play the tune ... and we dance to it.

Duet - Glen Keane

Bucks Unite App Design Competition: Win £250!

Summer money: a competition to win £250! 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 was successfully entered into the JISC Summer of Student Innovation, winning £5,000 for Bucks students to develop the App further. Now Rebecca needs some help from designers and animators at Bucks to help bring the project to life.

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 winning app?
The winning project is called Unite. It is a mobile app to connect people through higher education. And it now needs some student-designed graphics.

What specifically is needed?
The following elements need to be designed:
  1. A logo
  2. The app icon (if different, but presumably incorporating the logo)
  3. A colour scheme and font choice for interface
Who is it aimed at?
The main target market is students aged 18-24, but it should have general appeal.

What style should the design be?
The design can be in any style, but it should be universally appealing. To get inspired, just take a look at your phone and see other apps that have been well designed. Good app designs are simple, clear and stylish.

Who is eligible to enter?
Bucks students and recent graduates.

What is the deadline?
The competition closes at 5pm on August 15th.

Who do you submit to?
Designs must be submitted to Rebecca Rochon at Bucks New Uni. Please submit by email to and (just to be safe) cc Rebecca at

Who will own the IP?
In submitting your work, you are agreeing that (if selected) the submission becomes the property of the project. It may be used and adapted without any further consultation from you.

Where can I find more information?
For full details of the project, please go to

---- alex

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pushing the Bill Along

So the Movie/Television Tax Incenitve legislation has taken one more step toward passage.

... AB 1839, the California Film and Television Job Retention and Promotion Act of 2014, cleared a major legislative hurdle today, passing the Senate Governance and Finance Committee by a vote of 6-0. ...

... Figures from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics show that from 2004-2012, California lost more than 16,000 film- and television-industry jobs, resulting in more than $1.5 billion in lost wages and economic activity. ...

I was in the room for the hearing today, and spoke in support (along with a lot of other labor reps) of the bill. Afterwards, I delivered 300 letters from TAG members favoring the legislation.

AB 1839 is a long way from being a silver bullet, but it's about the only way to counter the free money being handed out by Canada, Britain, New York, Georgia, Louisiana and a few other places. There are still multiple hurdles to leap over, but so far, so good.


Two heavy-hitter in VFX land get together.

Prime Focus World and Double Negative have agreed to merge in a deal that represents a major shakeup at the top of the visual effects business.

The combined entity will be the world’s largest provider of visual effects, animation and 3D conversion services. It will have the Double Negative name, and be led by DNeg managing director Alex Hope and CEO Matthew Holben. “We’ve made it clear from our side: You guys run visual effects, we’ll run 3D conversion and animation,” Prime Focus founder and CEO Namit Malhotra told Variety. ...

London-based Double Negative is one of the world’s top vfx studios. Christopher Nolan routinely brings his pictures there and the company won an Oscar for his “Inception.” His next picture, “Interstellar,” is in production there now. The company has also announced a feature animation division.

The last sentence grabs my attention. One more big player will be jumping into feature animation, lured by the possibility of Big Bucks.

Of course, to do feature animation takes more than throwing money at crew and computers. You must also have a story development game plan. And they need to understand that it ain't just script, storyboards, kabboomski! Eight months of production followed by a gangbuster wide release.

There will be lots of false starts and dead ends along the way. Much heartache and sorrow. As Ward Kimball once said:

... We finished Snow White and we said, "Ha! We know how to do features!" And everybody went into Pinocchio with this great load of confidence. Boy, six months later we found out, and Walt found that, that what you learn in one picture doesn't necessarily work on the next picture. ...

Think the boys and girls and the merged Double Negative notice that Pixar has a wee gap in its release schedule? Because it's "fixing story"?

Let's hope the DNeg crowd knows what it's plunging into.


From overseas news services:

Filmmaker Siddharth Anand, who is busy with his film Bang Bang, will be flying to Los Angeles to work on the visual effects of the action scenes. ...

"It is a breathtaking action sequence whose VFX is being done at the Fox Studios in Los Angeles. Sid Anand would be traveling there for 5-6 days to oversee the process. The best VFX guys who have worked on the biggest Fox Films are going to work on this," a source said on Tuesday.

So there is visual effects work going on in L.A. The stuff isn't all happening in London, Vancouver, and Toronto.

(We even know of vfx work for television now happening in the east San Fernando Valley. Who would have thought?)

Need financial help to study in September? Apply by 30 June for the National Scholarship Program

NSP offers help to students from less well-off families. Photo: Wikipedia
The National Scholarship Programme is one of the many means by which higher education in the UK receives public support and funding. Here at Bucks New University, we participate in the Government's National Scholarship Programme (NSP), which is targeted towards students from less affluent families who need a bit of extra help. So, how in practice does the system work?

This year, Bucks will make available 140 individual scholarships of up to £8,000 for students starting year one of their course from September 2014. Recipients will be entitled to a financial support package of £2,000 in their first year of study and £3,000 in each of their subsequent years of study (to a maximum of three years in total). Needless to say, there are a limited number of scholarships available and there are no guarantees of success. Still, check the criteria and, if you qualify, get an application in asap. And hurry! The application process will close on 30 June. 

What is the NSP?
The NSP is a scholarship designed to provide a direct benefit to individual students from England and the European Union who come from low income backgrounds and is intended to support the progression of students from groups currently under-represented in higher education. It is part-funded by the Government and part-funded by participating universities.

Who is eligible?
Students are eligible to apply for a scholarship if their declared household residual income is £25,000 per annum, or less, if they have firmly accepted an offer of a place at Bucks and will be paying tuition fees in excess of £6,000 (pro-rata for part-time students).
Scholarships will be awarded based on the merit of each individual application and in addition to the national eligibility criteria outlined above and set down by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)

To find out more, including how to apply, see the official page here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Taking Pitches

The New York Times tells us:

Two years ago, Viacom’s Nickelodeon announced an annual competition as it battled a ratings drop. Rookie animators could vie for the chance to create an 11-minute cartoon. With any luck, Nickelodeon would find fresh creativity. ...

Nickelodeon’s animation development team will sit for three long days in a trade show booth at next month’s Comic-Con International and evaluate in-person proposals for shorts. Comic-Con, a convention that draws 130,000 pop culture fans, will take place on July 24-27 in San Diego.

“Performance art, costumes, story boards, video, a sketch on a napkin — we’ll look at it all,” said Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon’s president for content development and production. ...

The paper of record as it a teensy bit wrong.

Nickelodeon has been doing cartoon shorts based on cartoonists' pitches for a long time. Nick was doing them when it was in partnership with animation exec Fred Seibert the better part of a decade ago.

And Fred had been doing the "cartoon pitch" thing since his days running Hanna-Barbera in the early 1990s.

Hell. Cartoonists' ideas (Power Puff Girls, Johnn Bravo, Dexter's Lab, etc.) built Cartoon Network out of the remnants of H-B, and then CN went on to make a hit of Adventure Time, the brain child of Cartoon Network's godfather Fred Seibert and ... Nickelodeon.

So here we are, come full circle. Nick is back taking pitches from all comers. It will no doubt be an exhausting exercise, but Nick might find a few diamonds in the big pile. If so, the attempt will be worthwhile, yes?


Live action goes through a rough patch.

Runaway production and new broadcasting strategies have really cut into one of the backbones of Los Angeles’ TV industry, a new report out today from FilmL.A. says. For the first time since records have been kept, the home of Hollywood’s share of total pilot production has fallen below 50% according to the nonprofit local-permitting organization. In fact, with a 6% drop from 2012/2013, the total share for 2013/2014 is 44%. ...

This comes as a big contingent of union members and union reps (me included) is up in Sacramento pushing for passage of AB 1839 (the t.v. and feature tax incentive bill designed to counter the free money being handed out by Canada, New York, Georgia, Louisiana, etc.)

Today we traipsed to different State Senators offices in the state capitol, seeking support for 1839. And over the last couple of weeks, TAG and other IA unions have been doing this:

[IA unions] sent out packages to members urging them to sign letters to two state Senate committees and the Governor to stop runaway production and pledge support and passage of the multi-sponsored Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act. “We are in a fight to save our families and our livelihoods,” said the letter to Brown

At this stage, the prospects for the bill's passage out of its first Senate committee hearing look (we're told) pretty good. Tomorrow, a lot of us will be in the capitol bright and early to see how AB 1939 does in its first Senatorial test. There's still a lot of work to do, and more hurdles over which to jump. In August, when the legislature reconvenes, there are more committee hearings (and votes), then the final Senate up-or-down, and lastly negotiations with the governor that will (everyone hopes) leads to final passage and the guv's John Hancock.

We'll just have to see how it goes.

Withoutabox - the smart way to get your animated short film noticed

What is Withoutabox? It is the best, simplest and most efficient way to enter your short animated film to the many film festivals currently welcoming submissions all around the globe. Submit your film to just once, and you can enter most of the festivals on the planet.

The site allows you to upload your film, fill in some (rather long) forms, and then - hey presto - you can enter film competitions all over the world. Withoutabox is free. As for individual competitions, the fees vary from nothing to quite a bit. It's up to you as to how many you want to enter.

If you are an indie animator and film-maker who wants to get your stuff noticed, entering festivals is the the way to go. Not only do you have the chance to win prizes and awards, but as long as your work is good you will get noticed by recruiters. All the big studios attend the major festivals (see this blog post here about where to find the big recruiters).

Plus, you get to hang with other indie film-makers, folks who have the inside scoop on where to apply, who has the big prize money, and who might be recruiting this year. In short, you get the chance to network, and get noticed.

You will need a bit of a war chest - few festivals are free to enter; most charge a modest fee, but this is often lower for students. Most festivals offer "early bird specials" for those entering in good time. Being well-organised pays dividends.

Of course, you have to finish your indie film first. But once you have done that, withoutabox will help you to enter as many festivals as possible, and maximise your chances of winning a prize or two.


Sito's Animation History

President Emeritus Sito on Norm Ferguson:

One thing Homer Brightman's memoir Life in the Mouse House finally cleared up was what may have happened between Walt Disney and Norm Ferguson to get Norm fired. Everyone since has always been very oblique about what happened. For years Fergie was one of Disney's top animators, the man who gave Pluto his personality. Shamus Culhane called him the greatest pantomime actor in animation. But by the mid 1940s, Fergusons older animation style was considered behind the times to the more sophisticated draughtsmanship of the Nine Old Men. By then many of his generation like Ham Luske and Wilfred Jackson had moved into supervisory roles.

Ferguson was directing and supervising on Three Caballeros. Brightman explains (Page 80) during the completing of Caballeros, Walt and Ferguson had a argument over the cost overruns. " After Walt left the meeting, D (Fergie) said he could have finished the picture a lot sooner and cheaper if Walt had stayed out of it. It was something someone says in anger. One of Walt's lackeys reported the comment to Walt, and he cornered D(Fergie) in the hallway with the story. Ferguson faced up to it and admitted he said it. Walt never forgave him."

Brightman says Walt gave Ferguson his own short to write, direct and animate, knowing it was beyond his abilities without a good support team. He was an animator's animator, rather than a writer or story guy. Ferguson slaved away, but the final result got a thumbs down. Norm Ferguson was unceremoniously terminated. When Guild President Bill Melendez went to Walt to ask Fergie be re-instated, Walt waved him off. "Dead wood," he said.

Norm Ferguson had said he'd stay at Disney until he couldn't draw any more, then work in the parking lot if he had to. Now he was through. He bounced around the studios, drinking heavily, even though he was a diabetic, until a heart attack killed him at age 55.

If anybody has heard otherwise or another version, I'd love to know. I'm very curious.

What happens to the Great Men of history is that after they're dead, they too often become marble saints. Their genius gets buffed to a high gleam, but the darker corners of complex human personalities are forgotten or ignored.

Walt could be petty. Walt could be petulant, impatient, short-tempered. My old man told me stories of Walt's gruff put-downs and dismissals. So did Ward Kimball and Don Lusk. It takes nothing away from his gifts for story-telling or building new art forms, it simply makes him a fully dimensional human being.

Owning a full, human portrait of people we admire is a hell of a lot more interesting than having a marble saint.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Stock Down

More Wall Street disappointment.

... B. Riley’s Eric Wold cut his domestic forecast [for How To Train Your Dragon 2] by 36% to $175M, and his international by 20% to $400M. As a result, the analyst trimmed his target price for DreamWorks Animation shares from $37 to $32. He cut his revenue estimate for the company’s current fiscal year by 5.5%, and cash flow forecast by 14.8% to $109M.

Maybe I'm delusional, but I still think the picture's domestic take nudges $200 million and the world wide accumulation ends up at $600+ million.

Disney TVA Greenlights

The Mouse announces new and renewed cartoon t.v. shows.


Studio Also Receives Season Pickups for "Mickey Mouse" Cartoon Shorts and "Wander Over Yonder"

Scheduled for a fall 2015 premiere on Disney XD, "Pickle & Peanut" employs an innovative mix of 2-D animation and live-action clips to tell the small-town adventures of two underdogs who dream up plans to be anything but ordinary. The series was created by Noah Z. Jones ("Fish Hooks") and developed by Joel Trussell ("Yo Gabba Gabba!"). ... Mark Rivers ("Jimmy Kimmel Live!") is the story editor.

[Disney TVA Senior Vice President Eric] Coleman said, "We see very few pitches that are as funny and original as 'Pickle & Peanut.' We instantly fell in love with these characters, and Noah and Joel have built a world with a visual style and sensibility unlike anything on TV."

The animation studio ... also received a third season order of the Emmy and Annie Award-winning "Mickey Mouse" cartoon shorts and a second season order of Craig McCracken's comedy series "Wander Over Yonder." "Mickey Mouse" cartoon shorts ... have reached over 135 million unduplicated viewers worldwide, in 34 languages. ...

The last couple of weeks, I've been in and out of a bunch of different studios. But I'm not doing a lot of fist-hand posting about it, because even though I don't get hassled by studio managers that much, after years of slogging around I get tired of the occasional churlish phone call from this or that exec. (It's been known to happen even when I'm saying something positive and uplifting. Hard to fathom, but there it is.)

It gets old, you know? So I shy away from it.

Mostly. But a little about the MM shorts: What I find refreshing about them is how visual they are. One of the Mouse Short artists told me that the writers are largely responsible for that. I find the minimal dialogue/maximum sight gags a very good thing.

TAAFI 2014 College Animation Challenge

The Mouse Never Stops

Now with synergistic Add On.

The Disney animated feature that could.

Frozen took in another $3.6M in Japan over the weekend to take its box office tally in the nation to $233.3M.

The Disney film has now been the box office leader in Japan for 15 weeks in a row as its warm response continues to shock analysts.

Frozen's $1.259B worldwide gross places it 5th all-time with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 within striking distance at #4.

All I can say is, my face has fallen atop the floor.

Add On: But it shouldn't, since Disney has long been built of inter-locking pieces that reinforce each other:

... [The Disney] ecosystem is amazing. Second, the opportunities for strong growth going decades into the future exists. The Shanghai theme park and Star Wars franchises are simply two of the more high profile examples of the sort of thing to expect over and over from Disney in the future. ...

Even since I was a little kid watching Anette and the other Mouseketeers dance their hearts on the teevee, I was kind of aware that walt Disney Productions had a lot of moving parts.

The Disneyland shows about Davey Crockett sold a lot of 45 rpm records and coonskin caps. The Mickey Mouse Club (also the nighttime show) tirelessly plugged Disney theatrical releases and cartoons. And sold a lot of Mouseketeer caps.

The big amusement park in Anaheim built a lot of its rides and exhibits around the animated features. Which (in those ancient days) were recycled into theaters every seven years.

Smart. And certaintly forward-looking. At a time when most movie companies didn't look beyond the next quarter of profits and losses.

Understand that Diz Co. was cross-promoting and plunging into new media (then known as "television") before any other movie studios were doing it. The corporation got into amusement parks decades before other entertainment conglomerate ventured into that pool. In the seventies and eighties, when its movie operations withered on the vine, Disneyland and Disneyworld did a lot to keep Diz Co. afloat.

That fact that, today, it has morphed into the Berkshire-Hathaway of entertainment conglomerates shouldn't take away from the fact that in building a healthy corporate "ecosystem", Disney was there first.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

As Goes Netflix ...

... So goes Amazon Prime., Inc. today announced a U.S. content licensing agreement with Aardman Animations that will make Prime Instant Video the exclusive subscription streaming home for the beloved, award-winning television and short film series Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Timmy Time and classic animation Rex the Runt. ...

In addition, new shows from the Shaun the Sheep and Timmy Time series will be added to Prime Instant Video, including seasons 3 and 4 of Shaun the Sheep, the Shaun the Sheep: Championsheeps special and two new Timmy Time specials. ...

It's particularly gratifying that Rex the Runt will be available, yes?

But seriously. Animation is becoming a valued commodity on the web. A couple of years ago, Amazon was setting up an animation production entity here in town and wanted to sign a contract with TAG. But it also wanted some changes in the contract.

The Guild said no.

And lo. A few months back, they came back and said (paraphrased): "Okay then, if you're going to be stubborn about it. We'll sign your standard deal."

And they did. (Not that they have ramped up into a big fat cartoon studio as yet, but they are obviously thinking along those lines. Netflix, on the other hand, is engaging existing studios to turn out cartoon product.)

The World Movie Market

Two movies with dragons in them are doing really well.

Maleficent crossed the $500 million mark globally after adding $44.7 million to it haul from 54 foreign territories. Its foreign grosses were robust in large part because it opened in China, the world’s second largest film market, to $20.3 million. ...

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (World Totals)

Maleficent -- $44,700,000 -- ($521,580,000)

How To Train Your Dragon 2 -- $43,500,000 -- ($172,376,735)

Frozen -- $3,400,000 -- ($1,259,103,000)

Meantime, HTTYD 2 had the biggest worldwide haul over the weekend, taking in $68,800,000 to Malificent's $57,712,000.

... “How to Train Your Dragon 2” flew into the record books — and past concerns about the World Cup denting the global box office — with a $6.8 million opening in Brazil.

That's the second biggest animated opening ever in that country, which is playing host to soccer's biggest event. It's also three times more than the original's debut there, and 10 percent better than last summer's debut of “Despicable Me 2.” ...

Why do practical effects get replaced with CGI?

The 100 Best Animated Movies

The 100 Best Animated Movies

World-famous animators pick the best animated movies ever, including Disney and Pixar movies, cult movies, kids movies, stop-motion, anime and more...

Expiration Date

Lorenzo (2004, Short) - Pencil Tests

Animation by Mike Allard

Animation by Georges Abolin

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Your American Box Office

How To Train Your Dragon 2 hangs onto the third rung of the ladder.

1). Think Like A Man Too (SONY), 2,225 theaters / $12.17M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $32M to $33M / Wk 1

2). 22 Jump Street (SONY), 3,306 theaters (0) / $9.35M Fri. / 3-day cume: $30M to $32M (-47%) / Total est. cume: $111M to $112M / Wk 2

3). How to Train Your Dragon 2 (FOX), 4,268 theaters (+15) / $7.6M Fri. / 3-day cume: $25M to $26.2M / Total cume: $94.6M to 95M+ / Wk 2

4). Jersey Boys (WB) 2,905 theaters / $4.6M Fri. / 3-day cume: $13.8M to $14.4M / Wk 1

5). Maleficent (DIS), 3,450 theaters (-173) / $3.96M Fri. / 3-day cume: $12.7M (-32%) / Total expected cume: $185.6M / Wk 4

6). Edge of Tomorrow (WB), 3,212 theaters (-293) / $3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $9.85M to $10M (-39%) / Total cume: $73.9M to $74M+ / Wk 3

7). The Fault In Our Stars (FOX), 3,340 theaters (+67) / $3.095M Fri. / 3-day cume: $8.6M to $9M (-42%) / Total cume: $98.7M to $99M / Wk 3

8). X-Men: Days of Future Past (FOX), 2,681 theaters (-361) / $1.79M Fri. / 3-day cume: $6M (-39%) / Total cume: $216.6M / Wk 5

9). Godzilla (WB), 2,088 theaters (-1,022) / $530K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.8M (-46%) / Total cume: $194.9M / Wk 6

10). Chef (OPRD), 961 theaters (-141) / $480K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.77M (-21%) / Total cume: $16.8M / Wk 7

HTTYD will tick over the $100 million mark early next week. Meantime Maleficent steadily closed in on the $200 million marker.

JOBS IN CALI: Digital Animator - Burbank, CA

Title:Digital Animator

Req ID: 7341
Location: Burbank, CA


  • Work with Digital Animation Supervisor to support multiple 2D and 3D animated shows.
  • Create/animate 2D and 3D VFX.
  • Composite 2D and 3D VFX.
  • Model/Texture 3D toon-shaded props and vehicles and composite with 2D plates.
  • Animate 2D retakes in Flash and Harmony.

Basic Qualifications:
  • The ideal candidate should be a generalist, able to solve problems across multiple platforms and pipelines.
  • Must be an expert in animating and compositing using Adobe After Effects.
  • Advanced knowledge of 3D animation software (Maya, Lightwave 3D) with generalist skills in modeling, UV, texturing, rigging, and rendering.
  • Knowledge of compositing in Nuke.
  • Knowledge of 2D animation software (Flash, Harmony).
  • Strong time-management skills.
  • Work well under pressure with quick turnaround and short deadlines.

Desired Qualifications:
  • BA/BS preferred, or one to two years related experience and/or training; or equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • 2-4 years of industry experience in film, broadcast, and/or games (Not Mandatory).
  • >Knowledge of App/Game Development programs such as Clickteam Fusion 2.5, Construct 2, and Unity 3D a plus.
  • Basic scripting knowledge in any of the following - JavaScript, Lscript, or Python a plus.

Animating Wipes: Aaron Blaise

Fun little snippet about animating wipes or smears. Love that we can see his process and even clearly see the spacing on the frames.


check out more of Aaron Art Tips

Media Warfare

It ain't just movies that cannibalize movies ...

If marketers didn’t have enough to worry about as they start to position movies against sequels in the “Star Wars,” “The Avengers” and “Jurassic Park” franchises, the videogame industry has some serious competition of its own. ...

“The studios should at minimum be aware of big game launches,” says Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities. “The biggest games all come out between September and November, and there are typically a dozen big ones, so fall movie releases have trouble avoiding some overlap. A medium-budget action film can get bowled over by a big release.” ...

At last year’s Visual Effects Society Summit, Illumination Entertainment CEO Chris Meledandri said that the feature film business is losing — or has already lost — the next generation of potential moviegoers. “The thing I worry about the most is the competition for young eyeballs,” he said. “We’ve got so many other competing forms of media and entertainment and content.” ...

Pay attention to historical trends, and you see that the entertainment pie is getting sliced up in smaller and smaller wedges.

I Love Lucy, Mash and other popular t.v. shows of forty and sixty-five years ago commanded 35% to 50% of the eyeballs glued to the idiot box in the living room. We're talking forty or sixty million people.

Today, with a larger population, high-rated network offerings are doing well when they hit an audience of ten or fifteen million. Numbers that were routine in the fifties, sixties and seventies are now seen only for big sporting events. Numbers that used to get a television series cancelled are now cause for rejoicing in executive suites.

And movie audiences? They've been steadily eroding for decades. Key demographic groups, the eighteen to thirty-five-year-olds, now spend way more time playing with their computers, tablets and smart phones than goggling at a 3-D film on a dim screen at the neighborhood AMC. There's lots more entertainment choices, but leisure time? It hasn't expanded much. In fact, it's shrunk.

Meledandri's right. There's lots more competition for our shortened attention spans. So movies and t.v. episodes that want their place in the sun, they better be really, really outstanding.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Aristocats' Add Ons

The last two development sketches for Aristocats.

Because you deserve the full set. ...

And because I'm too lazy to do a lot of typing/writing late on a Friday night.

Turnstile Predictions

What Mojo says the domestic weekend take will be:

Forecast (June 20-22)

1. Think Like a Man Too - $37.5 million

2. How to Train Your Dragon 2 - $29.2 million (-41%)

3. 22 Jump Street - $26.3 million (-54%)

4. Maleficent - $11.3 million (-39%)

5. Jersey Boys - $11 million

6. Edge of Tomorrow - $10.1 million (-39%)

No steep drop-off for Dragon 2, which means that it's got a pretty good hold on the audience's long-term attention. Which also means (I think) that it will do a multiple of four when all the cash from its domestic theatrical run is raked in.

Compared to other June cartoon releases, HTTYD2 came in on the low side, but it should still play well through most of the summer.

36 VFX Shots - Before and After

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The Reddit user Sourcecode12 compiled 36 images showing various scenes from films before and after digital special effects that have been applied to them.

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