Sunday, August 31, 2014

Buying Internet Real Estate

As always, bigger players are gobbling smaller players.

... Amazon believes it’s a $1.1 billion thing. Last Monday, the company announced it would buy Twitch, which surprised most industry observers because they thought Google had wrapped up a purchase. ...

Twitch has built a platform that hosts live events akin to the N.F.L., the United States Open or the X Games — and it has the audience to show for it. Part of the magic is that on Twitch, you are not just watching other gamers, but hyper-talented digital warriors, the Peyton Mannings and Roger Federers of Counter-Strike and Minecraft.

From a standing start in 2011, Twitch garnered 55 million unique users in July who watched 155 billion minutes of gaming and has become the country’s fourth-largest user of Internet bandwidth. ... The economics of Twitch are compelling partly because it supplies its own content and audience, comparable to an oven that produces its own food. ...

Amazon desires Twitch TV because it encompasses a demographic Amazon doesn't have. To date, Amazon has had minimal luck breaking into the internet TV show business because it hasn't clicked with the content it's so far developed and Netflix (apparently) has mastered the infrastructure better than Amazon. All that could change, of course, but Amazon is now going in a new direction -- purchasing a website that features interactive animated product.

Maybe the buy will end up being a genius move for the Big Retailer, leading to more eyeballs, more customers, and more kinds of content. Or maybe it will be an economic bust. In the fullness of time, we'll likely know which it is.

Your World Box Office

... As tracked by the ever-reliable Rentrak.

International Weekend Bo Office -- (Total Accumulations)

Dawn of Apes -- $51,200,000 -- ($613,344,991)

Galaxy Guardians -- $19,7000,000 -- ($547,700,000)

Teenage Mutant Turtles -- $13,000,000 -- ($274,505,980)

How To Train Dragon 2 -- $10,500,000 -- ($593,670,227)

Entertainment Weekly wonders why How to Train Your Dragon 2 didn't do better than its soon-to-be $600+ billion.

... How to Train Your Dragon 2, written off in July for its underwhelming box-office in the U.S., is now an enormous international blockbuster, with upwards of $413 million and counting. By the time its international run is complete, Dragons 2 might double the foreign take of the franchise’s original film ($277 million). ...

But when the [domestic] weekend numbers were totaled, Dragons 2 failed to hit expectations, taking home $49.5 million. It was a surprising blow, especially since the original 2010 film had opened to nearly the same amount ($43.7 million) despite its chilly March release date and without a built-in brand. ...

“American family audiences may very well be conditioned to like their animated films to be light-hearted and easily accessible and cute (Minions, anyone?) and epic stories may play better in the international marketplace,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for Rentrak. “Needless to say it’s still a very impressive performance, at close to $600 million globally.” ...

As of today, the domestic gross of How To Train Your Dragon 2 is $173,470,000. This is 3 1/2 times its opening weekend take, which is about where the picture was always going to wind up. (Early, on, I predicted a multiple of 4 ... or a $200 million domestic accumulation. I was a little over the mark, but not by much.)

Not every picture connects with every audience with the same success. Dragon 2, despite the hand-wringing by the financial press in the first month of its release, looked destined to be a major global hit, and it is. The fact that Americans didn't buy another fifty or ninety million dollars worth of tickets during the movie's run shouldn't detract from that.


love this!

Jack is a strange character. He steals paintings from museums to eat them. He feeds himself with the artistic process of the painter. But one day, the museums are closed and he will have to paint by himself to survive…

The Boxtrolls Featurette - Meet the Characters (2014)

amazing stop-mo...
I take it back... amazing animation no matter what medium!
...besides I will watch any animation where Tracy Morgan is playing a character!

Money Supermarket Elephunk VFX Breakdown by MPC

really nice plussing of realistic motion...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Crowd-Funded TV Animation

They're doing it for live-action, so why not cartoons?

Veteran producer James Manos Jr., creator of "Dexter," and fellow Emmy-winning producer Bill Schultz of "The Simpsons," are joining forces to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support the creation and production of the proposed "Jimmy Stones," animated series. ...

With a goal of raising $100,000, Manos and Schultz plan use the money to produce 10 three-minute fully animated episodes using voice actors, artists, and animators - as well as music and post production. Once produced, the episodes will go online to create support for the proposed half hour and grow a fan base. "If we reach our goal, we will be able to put greenlight the first animated series of its kind! Adult, dark, clever, sophisticated and extremely funny with self-effacing, sarcastic humor. ...

There have been variations of this over the years, of course.

Cartoon Network was launched in a similar manner, with animated shorts pitched by Hanna-Barbera's staff, and Ted Turner's company underwriting the production of six to eight-minute cartoons from favored pitches. If television audiences took to the resulting product, more and longer episodes would be made.

Johnny Bravo, Power-Puff Girls and Dexter's Lab began life this way; the result was successful animated series and the launch of CN. Naturally enough, funding sources were different than the Jimmy Stones model, but the approach was (is) the same: Make animated shorts, throw the resulting handiwork out to the general public, then build on the cartoons to which the public cottons.

We wish the best of luck to Manos and Schultz with their new endeavor, and urge them to sign a TAG contract just as soon as Jimmy Stones catches fire.

Your American Box Office

The halfway animated pics remain on top.

The Weekend Top Ten

1). Guardians of the Galaxy (DIS), 3,462 theaters (+91) / $3.8M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $15.6M to $16M / 4-day est. cume: $20.6M to $21M+ / Total est. cume: $278.5M to $279M / Wk 5

2). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PAR), 3,543 theaters (-321) / $2.65M Friday / 3-day cume: $11.2M To $11.4M / 4-day cume: $14.9M / Total cume: $165.55M / Wk 4

3). If I Stay (WB), 3,003 theaters (+96) / $2.59M Fri. / 3-day cume: $9M+ (-42%) / 4-day cume: $11M to $11.7M / Total cume: $31.6M to $32M+ / Wk 2

4). As Above/So Below (UNI), 2,640 theaters / $3.2M Friday / 3-day cume: $8.7M to $9.2M / 4-day cume: $10.3M to $11.1M / Wk 1

5). Let’s Be Cops (FOX), 3,010 theaters (-130) / $2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $7.9M / 4-day cume: $10M+ / Total cume: $59M+ / Wk 3

6). The November Man (REL), 2,776 theaters / $2.15M Friday / 3-day cume: $7.5M to $7.7M / 4-day cume: $9.45M to $9.8M / Total cume: $11M+ (over 5 days) / Wk 1

7). When the Game Stands Tall (SONY), 2,673 theaters (0) / $1.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5.2M to $5.5M (-36%) / 4-day cume: $6.8M to $7.5M / Total cume: $17.25M to $17.7M / Wk 2

8). The Giver (TWC), 2,805 theaters (-198) / $1.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5M / 4-day cume: $6.5M / Total cume: $32.8M / Wk 3

9). The Hundred-Foot Journey (DIS), 1,918 theaters (-26) / $1.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.4M / 4-day cume: $5.7M / Total cume: $40.5M / Wk 4

10). The Expendables 3 (LGF), 2,564 theaters (-657) / $851K Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.5M / 4-day cume: $4.5M / Total cume: $34.2M / Wk 3

Guardians Of The Galaxy hangs on to the No. 1 rung of the ladder after five weeks in release. Mjarvel can clearly do no wrong. (If this space opera does $278 million in business, what will the next Star Wars picture do?)

Where can you find free rigs for animation?

There are many free rigs available to Maya animators hoping to practice and learn their craft. Norman, Max, Morpheus - all excellent rigs available at no charge and easy to download, all free for non-commercial use. But beware - all rigs are different and each one has its own quirks. All take time to get used to, and each one will drive you crazy at first. Fortunately for us, The Eleven Second Club Resources Page has helpfully provided a page pulling together many of the best free rigs most commonly used for character animation.

The five most commonly used by competitors in the monthly 11 Second Club competition (which we highly recommend our students enter) are Eleven, Norman, Morpheus, Max, Moom and Bishop. Beware of the latter - it is owned by the online school Animation Mentor and only free for use by their students. Of the first five, Norman is the longest established, arguably the simplest to learn, and probably the most robust. All, however, have their strengths and weaknesses.

Which ever rig you choose, make time to get used to it, and don't forget the power of Google to help solve problems. Other students will have encountered the same difficulties as you, and there are user forums across the web which will help you overcome hurdles and get you on your way.

"What is wrong with Morpheus' skin textures"
"Where are the IK switchers on Norman?"

Someone out there knows. If you don't get an answer quickly, try formulating the question in a different way:

"Morpheus skin texture problem"

One way or another,  you will find the answer. Make a note of it, build up your own library of rig notes which you can come back to next time you animate with that character, or help out a fellow student who is stuck.


For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks. And find out about how our online video tutorials work.

Friday, August 29, 2014


AB 1839 moves closer to Governor Brown's signature.

... Two days after a deal was struck between the governor and the legislative leadership to increase California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program to $330 million, the state Senate today passed the Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act. The bi-partisan vote on the amended legislation was 32 to 2 with 6 Senators not voting. The bill is a response to years of seeing the film and TV industry “cannibalized by states and other countries poaching tens of thousands of good California jobs,” said Senator Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) today introducing the Act on the Senate floor today. “This is a strategic investment.” The incoming state Senate President Pro Tem estimated that the expansion would increase production in the Golden State by five times once it fully kicks in. ...

Once the guv gave the bill his blessing (and final numbers were worked out) the outcome for 1839 was a foregone conclusion.

TAG Wage Survey -- Complete

Now with trade paper Add On.

Every year, we drill down into wages paid in the animation industry by polling Animation Guild membership. We ask 1) what folks have been paid, 2) they answer, and 3) we compile results publically so that interested parties can get a feel for what the "going rate" in various job categories might be.

(No wage suppression going on here, boss! Just wage knowledge!)

This year, we got a survey form return rate of 33%, considerably higher than last year's total (26%) or the percentage from the year before that (24%). The highest response rates were

Story Art -- 36%

Layout Background -- 34%

Design/Color -- 35%

Some of the highlights: ...

Selected Wage Categories

Staff Story Editors (weekly): Low - $1640; High - $4,000; median - $2,531

Staff feature writers (weekly): low -- $1499.60; high - $7,558.82; median - $2,800

Staff TV writers (weekly): low - $1100; high - $3000; median - $2000

Feature Directors (home video, theatrical; weekly): low - $1973.19; high - $9,615.39; median - $3,800

TV directors (weekly): low - $1,406.25; high - $4,600; median - $2,475

Timing Directors (weekly): low - $1,375; high - $3,100; median - $1,824.43

Retake Directors (weekly): low - $1,707.38; high - $3,100; median - $2,593.75

Feature Storyboard artists (weekly): low - $1,400; high - $3,789; median - $2100

TV Production Board artists (weekly): low - $1,238.16; high - $3,307.50; median - $2000

Character layout (weekly): low - $1,312.50; high - $2,526.32; median - $1,886.40

Background layout (weekly): low - $1,175; high- $4,200; median - $1,909.40

Art Directors (weekly): low - $1,187.50; high - $2,909.09; median - $2,363.64

Production Designers (weekly): low - $2,125; high - $5,250; median - $2,330.47

3D Animators (weekly): low - $1,200; high - $3,100; median - $1968

Effects animators (weekly): low - $1,346.15; high - $2,850; median - $2,018.10

You can find the complete Animation Guild wage survey here.

Please note: The survey encompassed members working both union and non-union animation jobs in Los Angeles. Also note: It includes new media production, where rates are sometimes lower than traditional media.

The weekly wages shown above and at the link are based on 40 hours. Smaller samples have larger variances year to year, and larger samples have smaller differences.

Add On: Deadline does its own analysis of TAG's latest wage survey.

he Animation Guild’s 2014 wage survey is in, and it shows salaries for animators holding fairly steady this year compared with last year. But the reported median weekly pay for some jobs — most notably staff animation_guild_logoTV writers, feature storyboard artists, and staff story editors — is down from salaries reported five years ago. The median weekly pay reported by feature animation directors is up compared with 2013 and 24% higher than in 2010. Meanwhile, overall employment at the guild, IATSE Local 839, is at an all-time high. About a third of the guild’s 3,200 members took part in this year’s survey, up from 26% last year. ...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Zahra Dowlatabadi Explains How to Produce Animation

Zahra Dowlatabadi is an animation producer who literally wrote the book - "Producing animation" - co-authored with Catherine Winder and edited by Tracey Miller-Zarneke. In this recent interview  at our sister blog FLiP, Zahra talked about her book and what lies behind a good producer of animation.

You wrote the book "Producing Animation". How did that come about and what made you want to write a book?

Zahra: Producing Animation was Catherine Winder's idea. Initially I met Catherine on the feature film Once Upon A Forest. It was a very challenging production that was animated in five countries. Catherine and I were counterparts as production managers in Los Angeles and Taiwan. At that time the main mode of communication was fax, so often I would come to work to be greeted by a sea of paper.

Our relationship could best be described as contentious. Why? Because unfortunately the production was more about finger-pointing and less about collaborative thinking and action. Catherine and I worked on a number of projects after Once Upon A Forest, and we discovered one consistent problem: on every new production the wheel was getting re-invented, and so we were all paying the price of inept production methodology, over and over again.

We decided to write Producing Animation in order to share our collective experiences, and to offer possible production scenarios that can be tailored for individual projects, ranging from TV series to Direct to Video and feature film releases.

You collaborated with two other writers, Catherine Winder and Tracey Miller-Zarneke. How did you divide up the work?

Zahra: Catherine is truly a visionary producer. I have no idea how she was able to be the president of an animation studio, produce a feature film and, in addition, co-author a book. Much of her expertise comes from her vast experience working on numerous projects for the likes of George Lucas, Chris Meledandri, Peter Chung and Ralph Bakshi - to name just a few. Tracey Miller-Zarneke is a dream editor with exceptional writing skills and enormous patience. We all brought our own particular field of expertise to the book.

Quest For Camelot; "Ruber", voiced by Gary Oldman
You produced the film Quest For Camelot at Warner Bros Feature Animation back in the '90s. How was that experience?

Zahra: I learned a great deal on Quest For Camelot. Much of that experience fueled the writing of Producing Animation. The talent that was gathered for this feature film was truly remarkable and you will find many of the artists on that film continuing to contribute to the animation industry and winning awards - acknowledging their unique skills.

Quest For Camelot was in many ways the same story as Mulan, but it fell short because it lacked an authentic vision. But I remain grateful for having had the opportunity to have worked on the film.

What are the challenges that are unique to a producer, and how do you overcome them?

Zahra: In our book we have an entire section devoted to what makes a good producer. There are many excellent quotes from industry luminaries but one of my favorite is by the writer Dave Reynolds, who worked on Toy Story 2 & 3, and Finding Nemo:

"Having a good producer in animation is like having the greatest sherpa going up Mt. Everest. In fact, a producer once carried me up three flights of stairs after a particularly grueling screening. Little did I know that as he nursed me back to health, that he had also given me two pages of detailed notes on the second act. Now that's a great producer".

What advice would you offer to anyone to wants to become an animation producer?

Zahra: Love the process. Dive in and learn as much as possible.

What project(s) are you working on now?

Zahra: I am producing a TV series for Fox 21/Comedy Central at Bento Box Entertainment. The way this production has been set up is similar to walking into a zen garden -- all exquisitely thought out -- and in short, a complete pleasure.

You can buy Zahra's book, Producing Animation, now in its second edition, here, or find it in the library at Bucks. For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks. And find out about how our online video tutorials work.

Cable Killers

A short history of the serial killers of broadcast/cable TV.

Hollywood's Big-Money YouTube Hit Factory

... Watching the ways in which his two teenage sons consumed media, [Brian] Robbins became convinced that the future of youth entertainment wasn’t in broadcast or cable TV but in short-form digital videos, particularly on YouTube. He thought big media companies had been slow to adapt, leaving a void that he could fill. ...

In June 2012, Robbins launched his YouTube channel, which he named AwesomenessTV. The channel was geared to teenagers and preteens and featured lots of two- to five-minute videos, ...

Almost overnight, Robbins had transformed AwesomenessTV from a boutique YouTube production house into a teen entertainment factory. Within a year, he had venture capitalists visiting each week looking to invest, and in May 2013, Robbins announced he was selling AwesomenessTV to DreamWorks Animation. ...

When I was a teenager, I went to an awards dinner (the Boys Scouts of America was invoked, as I remember) where the featured speaker informed us that if all of recorded history was packed into a 24-hour time span, then all the significant technological change since the dawn of many would have occurred in the previous sixty seconds.

That was in 1965. There's been one hell of a lot of technological change in the 49 years since; in television land, change is an almost duly occurrence where the status quo is getting sliced and diced with a carefree abandon. I seriously doubt that cable will exist in the (rapidly unraveling) form it now inhabits for another decade. Revenues keep shrinking as new platforms spring up, and there is little that the large entertainment conglomerates can do about it.

... DreamWorks Animation has landed on Planet YouTube with a healthy respect for the native culture. His growing investment there, Jeffrey Katzenberg says, is entirely “in service of everything that is great and unique and singular about what I believe will be the biggest, most valuable media platform in the world, which is YouTube.”

"Adapt or perish" has never been truer than right now. The big movie and t.v dinosaurs from the last century, they are still trying to figure out how to do it.


DWA tv isn't sending all its TV production work to Canada.

A South Korean animation studio said Thursday it will co-produce multiple television animation series with DreamWorks Studios, a leading motion picture company in Hollywood.

Studio Mir Co. has recently signed a contract with the American studio to collaborate on a number of animation projects, including a 78-episode TV animation series by 2018, Mir said.

Details of the deal were not immediately available. But sources say it would be the largest deal that a local animation company has ever signed with a foreign studio.

"We will start with the television series," said Kim Jae-yoon, who is in charge of co-production projects at Mir. "Discussions are under way on which series to make later," he added.

Studio Mir is best known for its production of the popular American TV animation series titled "The Legend of Korra." ...

They don't name the show(s) with which they'll be partnered with DreamWorks Animation, but it's gotta be some of the gargantuan Netflix order.

The Glendale company will be working on those the next four years, at least. And it will likely need multiple studios here and abroad to get all of the work done on time.

Cable Ratings

Cartoon Network trumpets its victories.

Across the fourth week of August 2014, Cartoon Network original programming – including new episodes of Teen Titans Go!, The Amazing World of Gumball, Steven Universe and Uncle Grandpa – claimed all top 15 telecasts of the week among boys 6-11.

Charting growth across all targeted kid demos, Cartoon Network also continued last week to rank as television’s #1 network for Total Day delivery of boys 6-11 & 9-14, and #1 for Early Prime (6p-8p) delivery among all targeted boy demos. Average Total Day delivery increased by double digits among kids 2-11 (+18%), kids 6-11 (+19%) and kids 9-14 (+15%). Early Prime also earned solid growth vs. the same time period last year—kids 2-11 improved by 29%, kids 6-11 by 18%, and kids 9-14 by 2%.

Out-performing all competition, Cartoon Network claimed the #1 television destination among kids 2-11 & 6-11 and all targeted boy demos on Thursday Night (6-8 p.m.). The Early Prime performance grew across all kids/boys demos, ranging from 2% to 51%. A new episode premiere of Teen Titans Go! (6 p.m.) scored as the #1 telecast of the day among kids 2-11 and boys 2-11 & 6-11, earning 62% to 88% delivery gains across kids/boys 2-11 & 6-11. Similarly, the new episode premieres of Steven Universe (6:30 p.m.), The Amazing World of Gumball (7 p.m.) and Uncle Grandpa (7:30 p.m.) each ranked #1 in their respective time periods among kids 2-11 & 6-11 and all targeted boys.

Despite the chest thumping in the Turner press releases, are we really believing that everything is endlessly ducky? That YouTube and all the newer delivery systems to iPads and phones don't pose a threat? Young eyeballs might be multi-tasking, but sure as hell they are watching less traditional cable than previously.

Facial Reference

Some great slow motion reference of reaction both pain and joy in the face. You really get a sense of how some of the muscles area firing. For more about that check out the interview I did with Andy Conroy about facial animation.


found via onanimation

Bucks student wins prize for animated short

One of our first-year animation students recently won a prize at the Bristol Festival of Football Ideas, for a short film created here at Bucks.

Bucks animation student Anton "Alfy" Alfimenko was awarded a prize at the Bristol Festival of Football Ideas for "Super Fergie in 3D", his animated tribute to retired Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who appears as a video game character winning endless footballing triumphs. Anton's film, hosted at YouTube, scored over 300,000 hits, and won him international attention from fans of Manchester United. Now he has seen his work recognised by the judges of FOFI, the Festival of Football Ideas.

To see Anton's prize-winning film, click on the link below. And to find out more about Super Fergie, read our interview with Anton here.

Here at Bucks we encourage all our students to enter animation and film competitions whenever possible. Even if you don't win, you learn a huge amount by entering, and the mere fact of competing helps every artist to raise their game and strive to be the best.

To Anton, we offer our warmest congratulations, and we look forward to seeing what he does next. We have many talented students here at Bucks, competing at the highest levels in international competitions and in many disciplines around the world.


(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, August 27, 2014

Dragon Remains On Top

DWA's "disappointment" (per Forbes Magazine) romps in the Middle Kingdom.

DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon 2” remained atop China’s box office last week, and will soon become the top-grossing animated film of 2014 in the territory.

The sequel earned $24.4 million in the seven days ending Sunday, according to figures from film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway, bringing the movie’s gross to $51.5 million. “Despicable Me 2,” released in China earlier this year, took in a total of $52.3 million. ...

And HTTYD2 is closing in on the $600 million mark: $585,398,939.

Not bad for a picture that drove DreamWorks Animation's stock price down.

At the Hat

I was at the Hat Building on Riverside Drive during the afternoon, and it seems that the company was promoting a new picture.

... Disney-Pixar chief John Lasseter, [Big Hero 6's] producer Roy Conli and co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams teased the movie Wednesday by revealing 25 minutes of footage at a gathering of Oscar bloggers at the Disney Animation building in Burbank. ...

Hero is the first film made on Disney's new high-powered, patented rendering system, which produces images of a greater photo-realistic quality than has been possible before. It is also the first time ... that Disney animators have dipped into Marvel's comic-book library, where they discovered the new movie's eponymous six superheroes — or "supernerds," as Lasseter called them. ...

Lasseter summed up the movie as "a simple story" with real "emotional heart." Hall said of adapting the comic-book series, "We kept the title and we kept the character names, but we basically remade the story." (I'll just say that one should prepare for a lot of "How to Train Your Robot" references, since Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon both deal with humans bonding with nonhumans in moving ways.) ...

Meantime, I wandered around the first and second floors. The lighting department is still working full-bore to get its part of the movie finished. I was informed there's three weeks left on the schedule, then it will be tweaks and color corrections and getting the Moving View Master version readied. (The wrap party is slated for the month of October. Release is in early November.)

Animators told me there work is done, and it appears to be true. Several of them were happy to chat for a long stretch of time. Usually they're too busy to give me much more than the time of day. A couple of staffers echoed the news story above: The storyline is emotional, the robot comes across winningly, and one lighter told me: I tear up every time I see it. The story works."

Which is good. Because I know they were wrestling to get the story right late last year.

And We Have ... Touch Down

So we won't have to go to Sacramento and wave signs and sit in hearing rooms next week:

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed off on a deal that would more than triple funding for California's film and TV tax-credit program.

The compromise would increase funding to $330 million a year over the next five years. While that falls short of the $400 million annually sought by backers, the amount would more than triple the current level of funding.

AB 1839 also would allow more projects to qualify, including new network television dramas and big-budget studio movies. It would also scrap a controversial lottery system used to divvy up funds. Instead, tax credits would be allocated based on how many jobs projects would create. ...

It's not the $400+ million that some AB 1839 backers were hoping for, but it's higher than some of the crustier cynics among us believed we would end up with.

This bill will favorably impact visual effects and will likely bring work back in those areas to Los Angeles and the bay area. (It's doubtful the legislation will bring back all the work. Canada is still handing out more free money than California is.)

The next eighteen months should tell us how effective the new tax incentives will be.

Add On: From the California Film & Television Production Alliance (which includes a whole bunch of entertainment guilds and labor unions):

“On behalf of hundreds of thousands of middle class California workers, creative talent, small businesses, vendors, local governments and film commissioners across the state, theatre owners, tourism, hotel and lodging associations, we are elated at the statement today by Governor Brown, Speaker Atkins, Senate President Pro Tem-elect de León, Senate President Steinberg, Assembly Leader Conway and Republican Leader Huff that California’s film and television production incentive program will be expanded, extended, and improved through the passage of AB 1839 and with funding of $330 million a year for five years. This is a win both for the State of California and the working men and women across this state who will no longer have only one choice— to leave their families to feed their families. Behind the glitter that most people associate with Hollywood is the glue that holds it together—the many talented and often unheralded men and women whose names fly by in the credits. Their voices are rarely heard but they are today: AB 1839 is for them.

We are grateful for the leadership of Governor Brown, Speaker Atkins, Senate President Pro Tem-elect de León, and Senate President Steinberg, along with Assembly Republican leader Conway and Republican Leader Huff who gave this legislation their support so it could move forward to a vote. We also wholeheartedly thank the two authors, Assemblymembers Gatto and Bocanegra for their leadership and commitment throughout the past year, as well AB 1839’s 70 co-authors. We look forward to working with all of them on passage in the Senate and Assembly and to the Governor’s desk for his signature."

Timo Vuorensola, director of Iron Sky, explains how to crowd fund your feature film

Timo Vuorensola, director of Iron Sky, gave a lecture at Closing The Gap, a European conference on film financing, explaining how to crowd fund an independent feature film. Iron Sky was initially funded through online sources, and later on secured more conventional funding on the back of the crowd-sourced contributions. Timo explained how he pulled off such an ambitious and successful project by starting an online fan base to help make his film.

How did Timo Vuorensola develop Iron Sky?

In the late 1990s Timo Vuorensola was a student in Finland, studying film and visual effects, and he began work on StarWreck, a student fan project which was made over seven years for just $15,000. It was a "SciFi Star Trek satire"; the pitch was "Star Trek versus Babylon 5".

Timo Vuorensola. Photo:Wikipedia

The film was crowd sourced by fans and distributed free in 2005 on the web, just before YouTube became huge. Timo describes it as "the first film distributed free on the web". They sold a bunch of DVDs and made "a lot of money".

While they worked on Star Wreck, they began work on their next film, all about Nazis on the Moon, which became "Iron Sky". According to Timo, there is actually an online community that genuinely believes there are Nazis on the Moon. In the end, Timo managed to raise $1 million from the internet. Then, on the strength of this, they were able to raise a further $2m from other investors. Then, having raised this seed capital, they had enough money to get started making the film.

It was the trailer for Iron Sky was the key to their success - it went viral and soon reached 10 million hits on YouTube.

How did Iron Sky get underway?

They began making Iron Sky in 2006. It was filmed in Frankfurt in 2010, some was shot in Gold Coast Studios in Australia. In Australia, they got a very good tax rebate (40%!) and a skilled crew. Also, as Timo put it, it's a "very laid back place - highly recommended".

The film was sold to 70 countries and made "$8m worldwide".

What did the fans contribute?

Timo got the fans to write the lyrics of the Nazi songs, by running an online competition. They used the website, which helps to raise seed capital for films, and they built their own website at

In the end, crowd funding is about "people asking other people for help". But, "you can't ask crowds for big things. You must offer them stuff they can do in 45 minutes to an hour - you have to start easy". Iron Sky got started by creating a global map where fans could "demand to see Iron Sky!" All fans had to do was register and fill out a form.

What was the Risk involved in crowdsourcing?

The risk was quite simple - "failure". Timo was very much afraid of it. But his producer said: "we have no other way" to fund the film. In the end, "the community came together". Timo emphasised that "very few projects work this way though, you have to be very smart". So, how did they do it?

They started out with "a really cool teaser throwing out a hook". (see above at YouTube) The pitch was simple: "In 1945 Nazis went to the 2018 they are coming back".  Timo owns a small visual effects house, so he was able to get some nice visual effects done for the teaser.

Their website said - Buy War Bonds! You could buy a bond to help finance the film - just like in WW2. What fans got was "a piece of paper which costs €50 and says that you helped to pay for the film". What do the fans do with it? They "frame it and put it on the wall". The website had "lots of information, such as how much they needed to raise from various sources. In the end, €300,000 came from crowd funding.

What were the problems?

Timo explained that crowd investment "is very complicated", with "lots of legal problems". However, as they had no real alternative, their lawyer was "driven to make it work". There are certain restrictions - for example you can "only have ninety nine investors from each country". They needed "cash quickly for the film shoot", so they "got a bank to cash-flow the crowd investment. Norde Bank gave them €1m". The total budget was €7.5m. But, as Timo emphasised, "you need legal advice if you are asking people for money...there are rules & regulations".

Building your online community

To begin with, said Timo, "you must build your community. You must show them first that you know what you are doing. If you just go and ask for money - it simply does not work". But how to start? "You have to start talking with them; there must be participation. How can people help you? You must communicate with them, on Facebook, on Twitter through video blogging - you must contact your fans".

Does the process undermine your creativity?

No. Because film-making is a dictatorship, not a democracy. You have to run it from the top. You can communicate, and share - but they are not there to tell you what to do.

Swastika fortress on the moon

How do you get people excited about the project?

Timo explained that "your elevator pitch is vital" [an elevator pitch is a one line summary of the premise that underpins your film - Ed]. You have to "get people excited, since it is easy to get lost in the web. You have to keep it simple. You need good concept art. The video must be top quality. Your fans may do concept art for you for free". How does that work? "You can create tasks for concept art. People upload their art - other fans can comment on the designs.".

The film has a "long credit roll - the fans get a free screen credit! That alone is worth it for many people. Being in the Thanks section - this has huge value". What about the IP (Intellectual property)? Fans and contributors "have to sign agreement that the IP is owned by the film". The Creators of the movie "have all the rights". There is "an online form for people to fill out. You have to be blunt and honest". It's a case of "You do the work and we make the money", but then, "if you don't like it, then don't do it".

Timo urged that the online community "must be part of your daily routine". You must "Tweet, blog,  do a takes at least 45 minutes a day".

Who runs the website?

Timo suggested that "you may need a community manager on your film". This would be "someone who really understands the web, and can use Wordpress, which utilises a simple code". You must "develop your Facebook, Twitter and blogging presence", since a traditional advertising agency "will be very expensive".

To see more about Iron Sky, visit To buy your own copy of the film (The "Dictator's Cut"), visit this page at amazon. All the images shown here are copyright Iron Sky Productions.


For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks. And find out about how our online video tutorials work.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MacFarlane and Music

Seth MacFarlane is plugging his oncoming Christmas album with interviews.

...Q: Do you have any favorite holiday albums that inspired the sound [of yours?]

I’m not frankly a huge conossieur of holiday music, but I love orchestral jazz. I love that era of high orchestral musicality that bears a lot of similarities to holiday music in a lot of ways. As far as holiday records, gosh I don’t know -- the Home Alone soundtrack? ...

What interested me most about the interview with "Billboard" was this:

Q: How do you rationalize your faction of fans who may continue to expect comedy from your musical projects?

Surprisingly, a good chunk of Family Guy fans recognizes why we do this -- they see that against all the comedy is a legitimate regard tor the importance of music. It's virtually the only show left on TV that uses a live orchestra for every episode. We use anywhere from 50 to 90 people, depending on how many players are available.

Big, live orchestras? I had no idea.

Battling Books

A comparison of two new versions of The Jungle Book.

The Wrap's Jeff Sneider details upcoming movies based on the same underlying material from Warner Bros. and Disney. Disney's will be animated; Warners' will use mo-cap, animation and live-action.

I'm not sure the world is waiting for another Jungle Book, but a lot of money has been made from previous incarnations, so why stop now? Using Rudyard Kipling's handiwork costs nothing.

So ... Smaller Tax Incentive?

California's movie/tv tax credit. Not the $400 million originally envisioned.

Last-minute negotiations between legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown likely to lead to an amount above the current $100 million in tax credits ...

The $400 million allocated in the bill that passed the state Senate is not going to hold, but otherwise the legislation as amended is acceptable to all sides, according to an informed source who spoke Tuesday on background. ...

Both sides hope to have the “the number” wrapped up by Friday; but the final re-votes, which will be necessary by both the state Assembly and Senate (because amendments were added), can take place as late as Aug. 31. ...

The Entertainment Union Coalition has been pushing for $400 mill (or more) for months. Far back, one of the wise old union reps said:

"When this wraps up, the bill's going to be Two hundred, maybe three hundred million dollars. No way is it going to end up at $400 million."

Governor Brown is a tight-fisted guy. And he plays his guards close to his vest. I think, in the back of my brain pan, I thought it was going to end up less than four-tenths of a billion, but I had hopes it would come close to that.

Governor Brown, apparently, was never going to let that happen.

Google VFX

Web search is only part of it.

Google has acquired Zync, a firm that enables complex visual effects sequences to be rendered over the cloud. ...

Zync Render, which was developed with visual effects studio Zero VFX, has been used to produce over a dozen films like “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “American Hustle” and “Looper,” and hundreds of commercials, totaling over 6.5 million core hours completed.

Until now, Zync, founded in 2011, has promoted Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud hosting platform, saying on its website that EC2 “is the only public-cloud that meets or exceeds MPAA security requirements with a Best Practices rating award.” ...

Chances are Zync won't be using Amazon's cloud much longer.

It's hard to know what Google plans to do with its new purchase. Exploit the software? Get deeper into movie production and make its own content? I think Silicon Valley companies aren't keen on letting entertainment conglomerates like News Corp., Disney and Time-Warner control the playing field.

Bucks Graduate Designs Poster for Award Winning Animated Short

Charlie & Yip by Monika Dcikowicz
Bucks animation graduate Monika Dzcikowicz has designed a poster for the award-winning animated short, Charlie and Yip, which won Best Animation at the British Animated Film Festival this year. Since leaving Bucks, Monika has developed a successful freelance career working for a variety of commercial clients. She has also been directing projects at Nano Films, our small film co-operative that makes short animated films for commercial clients.

Monika Dzcikowicz
The poster was executed in Photoshop, using elements composited from the film. Part of the job of an aspiring film-maker is to be able to master as many elements of the film-making process as possible, including story, design, the ability to create an eye-catching image and, of course the ability to work to a client brief.

You can see more of Monika's work, which includes design, animation, visual development and storyboards, by following this link.  To see more about Charlie and Yip, read our post here.

To see the impressive work done by our students and recent graduates here at Bucks, check out SuperFergy in 3D by Anton Alfy, see 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.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hasbro Chief

The toy company has a new movie top-kick.

Josh Feldman, formerly of Genre Films, has joined the entertainment division of Hasbro Studios in a newly-created position of head of development. The move comes off the crazy success of Transformers: Age of Extinction and as the entertainment division of Hasbro continues to strengthen its brand as a force to be reckoned with. It’s currently in development on a number of properties based on their toy and game line (all of which it will also produce) — Transformers Universe and G.I. Joe 3 at Paramount, Candy Land at Sony, and both Ouija and Jem and the Holograms at Universal Pictures. ...

Feldman will be responsible for overseeing the film division for Hasbro Studios and work on both live-action and animated properties to be developed into film. He’ll also work closely with the TV development team. He started last week, reporting to Stephen Davis, president of Hasbro Studios and Global Entertainment and Licensing for the parent, Hasbro, Inc. ...

Interestingly, both Marvel and Hasbro have small animation studios turning out animated versions of some of their live-action hits.

Hasbro aspires to replicate the Marvel track record. Mr. Feldman looks to be the man the company intends to make those hopes and dreams reality.


The financial press's old meme has now changed.

... •After several flops at the box office, the company is doing well with 'How to Train Your Dragon 2'. ...

Say what? Whatever happened to "Ooh, the picture didn't open too good", and then DWA stock went down. ...

Me, I always thought that the HTTYD2 would take in something around $200 million domestically (is $172.2 million close enough to count?) and a whole lot more overseas.

And what do you know? The movie is closing in on $600 million, so I guess it's not a flop and disappointment after all

Exclusive Coupon for Long Winter Rig Cody!

Another exclusive coupon from Long Winter Studios today for the Cody Rig!

Head on over the site and grab him! $10 off all day! Check out the forums while you are over there and have a look at the goodies and WIPs! Great stuff!

code: animatorsresource8448


Can You Make an Animated Film in a Single Day?

Hold Me Clothes by Evgenia Golubeva
Everyone knows that animation is slow, expensive and time-consuming. However, with a bit of determination and good planning, it is possible to make an animated film in a single day.  Evgenia Golubeva is an animator and film-maker who put together a short film titled "Hold Me Clothes", a stop-motion film written by her and animated in just one day at a film festival in Italy.
Evgenia Golubeva
Hold Me Clothes is a completely charming film. Evgenia's work reminds us all that good animation is as much about storytelling and an eye for comic timing as it is about technique. Evgenia is well on her way to being an excellent film-maker as well as a very talented animator. Congratulations to her on a delightful piece of work.

Hold me clothes from Pera & Mela on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Index Investing Advantages

From the Washington Post:

Imagine the following: You, the investor, believe you have an uncanny skill at picking stocks. You set up an online trading account and begin to buy and sell.

As it turns out, you are quite good. You pour more money into your brokerage account and up your trading. After the first year, you look at your results: You have trounced the indexes. You snicker at your friends who invest passively in low-cost, low-turnover indexes. ...

Over 24 years, you tally up gains and losses. The markets are up, on average, about 9.3 percent annually. You, the World’s Greatest Trader, do much better — 40 percent better. That’s better than most of today’s hedge funds. It is certainly better than most average mom-and-pop investors.

How did you do vs. your friends the passive indexers?

About the same.

Wait, how on Earth is that possible? ... In a word, taxes. Traders pay a healthy tax of 30 percent or more on short-term capital gains. Effectively, you lose the benefits of compounding on one-third of those gains. Over time, this has a tremendous impact on your net returns. ...

The silly little secret of investing is, simpler is better. Drop your money into a Total U.S. Stock Market fund, a Total International fund, and a broad-based bond fund.

Then, don't move anything, don't sell your holdings, just let them percolate over long stretches of time.

Eighteen years ago, the wife and I put $9,000 into Vanguard's Total Stock Market fund for the six-year-old. Eighteen years later, after burst stock bubbles and a major recession, the 9 grand is up around $33,000, give or take. The secret is, we've never touched the money, and seldom even looked at the performance of the fund. (Which helps us to not touch the money.)

There is something to be said to 1) Low costs, and 2) Letting everything ride. Most investors' biggest hurdle is panic selling.

Your International Box Office

World totals for animation.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (Global Cumes)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 -- $18,200,000 -- ($574,516,962)

Guardians of the Galaxy -- $20,700,000 -- ($489,484,857)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- $15,500,000 -- ($238,809,806)

Dawn of Apes -- $8,500,000 -- ($556,960,970)

Transformers: Extinct -- $5,400,000 -- ($1,065,124,603)

Other animated titles still in release:

* The Lego Movie has grand total of $468,049,270 worldwide. What makes the title kind of unique is that over 55% of its earnings come from the domestic run. (Usually a majority of the cash is from overseas.)

* Mr. Peabody and Sherman ended up at $268,759,499. That made it a write-off for DreamWorks; 58% of the take came from abroad.

* The weakly-performing Planes 2 has earned a grand total of $94,378,000; like the higher-flying Lego Movie the majority of its earnings come from the domestic release.

(You will note that, for a movie labeled a "disappointment", Dragons 2 has made a poop-load of money.)

Add On: Another semi-animated title has passed a milestone:

... Maleficent, also made news as it passed up X-Men: Days of Future Past ($744.7 million) to become the No. 2 title of the year so far at the global box office. The live-action fairy tale, starring Angelina Jolie, finished the weekend with $747.6 million in total worldwide ticket sales. ...

One more Linda Woolverton blockbuster.

Mr. Bean: The Animated Series (2002- ) - Pencil Tests

Animation by Gary Dunn

How Long Does it Take to Become a Great Animator?

Canadian animator Norman Maclaren at work. Photo: Wikipedia
Animation is a complex craft and it takes a long time to master.  I have been teaching animation since 1996 and I have spent a good deal of time trying to figure out what should go into a really good animation course. How does a school get its students to a professional level of skill within the shortest possible period of time?

Until joining Bucks in 2012 I was teaching at Escape Studios in London where the animation courses were just 3 months long, which is a very short space of time to teach someone to animate. We had very little time to spend on any individual exercise - no more than a day or two.

What surprised me most about this approach was how well it worked. Everyone worked like crazy and we didn't waste any time. Every hour of every day was precious and the challenge was always to figure out the fastest and most efficient way to get the best work done. In three months almost all of the students had become proficient in the art of animation.

Above is an animation demo reel by Rich Jeffrey, a student who had never done 3D animation before. This reel was assembled at the end of the three month course.

Here at Bucks we apply the same principles; that is to say intensive animation training to get students to a professional standard as fast as possible. By the end of year one all of our students should be feeling reasonably comfortable with the medium, able to give a performance and create an entertaining piece of work. By the end of the final year we want to see the students completing high-quality short films, able to compete and succeed at the highest level in the industry.


For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks. And find out about how our online video tutorials work.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


The Yellow Family still has it.

FXX scored solid ratings in primetime Thursday with its “The Simpsons” marathon, more than tripling the network’s usual audience and contributing to the nascent channel’s most-watched day ever.

According to Nielsen estimates, the six half-hours of “The Simpsons” averaged a 0.49 rating in adults 18-49 and 1.01 million viewers overall. The demo score was good enough for a fifth-place primetime finish for FXX — ahead of parent network FX as well as cable biggies including TNT and USA. ...

On a total-day basis, Thursday crushed FXX records, soaring 618% above its prior average in adults 18-49 (402,000 vs. 56,000) and 524% higher in total viewers (624,000 vs. 100,000).

All 552 “Simpsons” episodes will be airing in chronological order on FXX, which started the marathon earlier Thursday with the pilot episode from December 1989. ...

Congratulations to the hard-working crew over at Film Roman who helped Fox/News Corp. to earn even more money from its 12 billion dollar franchise. They might be getting a slice of the layer cake for their efforts, but at least they have bragging rights.

Jobs Page at Cartoon Brew - Just Launched!

Cartoon Brew has long been the most-visited blog for animation news, but just recently they have expanded their remit to include jobs as well. Nowadays graduates need to focus more time and effort than ever in the course of finding that elusive first job in the industry, and part of this involves keeping an eye closely on the jobs advertised online. To find the jobs page at Cartoon Brew, visit this page:

For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks. And find out about how our online video tutorials work.