Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Newer Cartoons

A Times think-piece on the changing state of animation ... with President Emeritus Tom Sito.

... "Conventional thinking was that animated filmmaking was a high-stakes gamble," said Tom Sito, a professor at USC's School of Cinematic Arts who was an animator and storyboard artist at Disney Animation in the 1990s. "Only Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks with their brand-loyal audiences seemed to hold a monopoly on success. But the Illumination films seemed to come out of nowhere and were wildly successful. Add to that the success of 'The Lego Movie,' and the thinking now is that anyone can play." ...

It's a long way from the 1970s, when animation on big screens meant a Disney feature (Robin Hood, The Rescuers) or some lower-budget offering from an independent film-maker like Bakshi. And television was Hanna-Barbera and a few small pretenders to the Saturday-morning throne.

The 1990s saw a boom in television and theatrical animation, but that faded at the turn of the century. Rival studios hoping to emulate Aladdin and The Lion King fell on their faces, and even Disney Feature Animation produced a series of clunkers.

But fifteen years further on, animation has exploded, fueled by CG blockbusters on large screens and a plethora of hand-drawn series on the t.v. that draw impressive ratings. With Laika studios in Portland starting to gain traction, it's clear that there are other styles of animation beside CGI to which the viewing public will flock.

If somebody turned out a hand-drawn feature with compelling characters and story, I would happily bet that that would do well.


The financial press, it thinks Frozen 2 is a dead-bang certainty. (Why would anybody come to that conclusion?).

The hit movie "Frozen" has yet to receive an official sequel order. Disney (NYSE:DIS) signed a new licensing deal this week that will extend the power and revenue of the franchise and could be major foreshadowing step to an extension of the franchise.

Hasbro gained the rights to make dolls based on the "Frozen" movie beginning in the year 2016. Prior to this deal, Mattel had the rights and is the obvious loser here. The deal comes less than a week after highlighting Jakks Pacific as a winner this holiday season with its highly anticipated Snow Glow Elsa doll and Olaf Sno Cone Maker. Investors sold off Jakks on the Hasbro news, but Jakks does not lose anything in the deal.

Not to take away from the deal or cause speculation, I have to believe that this is foreshadowing for an official sequel notice coming soon. ...

No conglomerate worth its buy-backs creates a hugely profitable product and then walks away from it. Not in 2014.

Did Fox-News Corp. walk away from Ice Age? Did Pixar walk away from Toy Story? Did DreamWorks ANimation abandon Shrek? Sure, Walt Disney never followed up with a sequel to Snow White, but 1937, that was a different freaking universe. Studios weren't geared toward sequels. They were geared to "Let's make another Clark Gable/James Cagney/Tyrone Power movie very much like the last Clark Gable/James Cagney/Tyrone Power movie."

Sequels just didn't enter into the equation.

But they do now. We're living in the first half of the twenty-first century. Not the first half of the twentieth.


From trades, press releases, etc.

Alec Baldwin will play a baby in DreamWorks Animation’s newly announced comedy Boss Baby. Kevin Spacey also is aboard as corporate uber-villain Francis E. Francis and the two will duke it out amid a struggle for world power and the title of World’s Best Boss.

The pic, inspired by Marla Frazee’s 2010 picture book, will be released on March 18, 2016 by Fox. ,,,

Mr. Spacey, of course, memorably played the villain in Pixar's Bug's Life; it's nice to see him climbing aboard the animation freight wagon once again.

Mr. Baldwin slides back and forth between television and movies. He will no doubt make a spectacular baby.

Meditations: An Exhibit opens next week!

Opens Friday, October 10th
6:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Knock Knock

While the story is nothing new, the technique is inventive. My hat is off for conceiving this and managing to execute it in a single take.

You can read about the production of this here.

Madrid Studio ILION is looking for animators

Madrid based animation studio ILION is crewing up for a big new project. To find their jobs page, go to  http://www.ilion.com/jobs. When a studio is looking to recruit large numbers of digital artists for a film, this creates opportunities for students and graduates looking for entry-level positions. Time to polish your CV and make sure your demo reel is as good as it possibly can be. Remember that a great demo reel is your calling card - it is how employers will judge your work. And don't worry about not speaking Spanish - almost all studios speak English nowadays - the international language of new media.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cartoon Network's Anti-Bullying Outreach

The Washington Post details anti-bullying campaigns in kids' television:

It used to be that when a television show wanted to get serious, it would take a break from its everyday proceedings for a Very Special Episode, devoted to the consequences of unusual intrusions into what was presumed to be everyday life, including drunken driving, racism, or violence against children. ...

But for Cartoon Network, which is on track to collect a million viewer-made videos in an ongoing bullying prevention campaign, raising awareness has become less about trying to push the children who are its target audience into new ways of thinking and more about meeting them where they are. ...

Rather than commissioning bullying-specific storylines, Alice Cahn [Vice President for Social Responsibilty at Cartoon Network] met with animators to give them the information. “A guy raised his hand in the back and said, you don’t need to share this with us, in junior high, we were the kids getting our heads stepped on in the toilet bowl,” she recalled. Now, the network produces anti-bullying posters featuring characters from Cartoon Network shows and quotes they have already spoken in episodes — Cartoon Network does not have to put new words in their mouths to get a message across. ...

In the sixties, when I was growing up, most kids got bullied at one time or another. In those far-off days, there weren't many counseling programs to deal with it, or cartoons on Saturday morning to raise collective awareness of the problem. You just suffered through the torture, and muddled through.

We look at school bullies as a modern phenomenon, but they've been around forever. And things like school massacres? A totally new occurrence, something that never occurred before in the Land of the Free. (Except not).

At least now, we're dealing with the problems in a slightly more sophisticated, systematic way.

Premiere Ratings

Fox Broadcasting had a good Sunday night.

The season premiere of The Simpsons scored a 3.9 adults 18-49 rating, up 34 percent from a 2.9 for the previous season premiere and up 144 percent from a 1.6 for the previous season finale.

It was the show's highest rated premiere in three years. ... The season premiere of Family Guy, which was an hour-long crossover with The Simpsons, notched a 4.5 adults 18-49 rating, up 73 percent from a 2.6 for the previous season premiere and up a 125 percent from a 2.0 for the previous season finale.

It ranked as Family Guy’s highest rated premiere since 2010. ...

There was a time when other networks programmed animation in prime time, but putting on cartoons in the evening on various networks has disappeared ... except at Fox.

A few months ago, I asked an executive who works in the upper reaches of Disney's ABC network if the Mouse was ever going to challenge Fox in prime-time network land, maybe sign an agreement with the Writers Guild of America, the better to compete with Rupert's minions.

He looked at me as if I'd just climbed out of an over-flowing septic tank and said, "Never."

So I guess the only broadcast entity serious about animated half-hours between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. is the one owned by News Corp.

Wrestling with a Conglomerate

The Editors Guild, Local 700, IATSE, is punching back:

IATSE accuses cable channel of retaliating against workers wanting to unionize

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the union representing striking editors on Bravo's “Shahs of Sunset,” has filed charges against the cable network with the National Labor Relations Board.

The union alleges that Bravo is retaliating against workers requesting union representation. Last week, Ryan Seacrest Productions handed over the production of “Shahs” to Bravo amid a work stoppage by the show's editors. Individuals with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap that the cable network will most likely hire non-union editors to finish “Shahs'” fourth season.

“If Bravo or Ryan Seacrest thinks that their problems go away because they announce that our editors have been fired, they're sorely mistaken,” said Alan Heim, ACE, President of the Motion Picture Editors Guild (IATSE Local 700), in a statement on Monday. ...

At the moment, NBC-Universal is playing hardball with the striking crew. The editors have a hill to climb, but continue to picket on Wilshire Blvd.

It All Started With a Mouse - The History of Disney Animation

It All Started With a Mouse
Below is an excellent documentary on the History of Disney Animation, titled It All Started With a Mouse.  It was broadcast in 1989 - so it does not include anything from the digital era - but much of what the Disney Studio achieved is timeless, and still withstands close scrutiny today. In short, this is an excellent documentary on the history hand-drawn animation at the studio up until the late 1980s.  The video is hosted at YouTube (for some reason I can't embed the video here) but if you follow this link you'll find it OK. It runs an hour and a half, and is an excellent introduction to the medium of animation.



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Broadening Their Reach

Internet distribution giants go after overseas cartoons.

With networks increasingly tightening their purse strings, digital platforms like Amazon and Netflix are opening up a whole range of opportunities for European animation producers and sales agents.

“Netflix and Amazon are the first players in broadcast history that are global and do not own a kids library and production unit so they are willing to invest. It’s a big change,” said Philippe Soutter, co-founder of Paris-based PGS Entertainment, which handles “Monchhichi” and “The Jungle Report.”

Netflix, which launched last week in France (along with Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg), has been on a buying spree, picking up five shows, including “Pok et Mok,” “Alfred,” “Franklin” and “La Petite Geante,” from Gaumont Animation. ...

Amazon, which attended Cartoon Forum for the first time, is having a more cherry-picking approach than Netflix, but still ensures series great visibility across multiple markets, said Malene Iversen, head of sales at Copenhagen Bombay, pitcher of “Me and Sonny” at Cartoon Forum. ...

Like more and more platforms, Amazon aims to board series at an early stage to participate in the creative process and is looking for diverse shows from different nationalities. ...

The question will ultimately be: Which cartoon series will have the broadest worldwide popularity? And if Amazon and Netflix can pick winners, then over time they'll want to own franchises outright.

Cartoons, after all, are ever green products that generate significant cash flow for decades. Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna may have gone to their rewards, but the animated half-hours they've left behind still make other people money.

Your Worldwide Box Office

As detailed for us by the beloved Rentrak.


The Boxtrolls -- $5,100,000 -- ($34,950,000)

Guardians of the Galaxy -- $4,000,000 -- ($644,292,000)

Teenage Mutant Turtles -- $3,900,000 -- ($342,082,132)

Dawn of Planet Apes -- $3,300,000 -- ($695,789,537)

And then there are the old animation titles with little in the way of box office grosses left in them, but hang in at various multiplexes anyway.

Almost Gone Features -- World Cumes

How to Train Your Dragon 2 -- $611,076,665

Planes: Fire & Rescue -- $138,772,624

Maleficent -- $756,489,220

Add On: Deadline gives a breakdown of what title is doing what, where.

... Universal release The Boxtrolls added an estimated $5.1M this frame at 1,806 dates in 16 territories for an early total of $17.7M. The Laika Entertainment pic opened in Russia at No. 5 with $1.1M at 80 dates. That was 72% above Coraline and 28% above Paranorman, both of which also hailed from Laika. In New Zealand, it opened on par with those films with $76K at 50 dates. Kiwi kids are off on school holidays from tomorrow. The Philippines bowed to an estimated $27K at 51 dates. ...

Disney/Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy added $4M from 33 overseas territories this frame as it preps a landing in China on Oct 10. The offshore cume to date is now $325.1M with a worldwide take of $644.29M.

Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are still strutting at the overseas box office with an added $3.9M at 2,156 locations in 40 holdover territories. The international total to date is $154.9M. ...

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is closing in on the $500M international mark with $3.26M more this frame for a current haul of $488.2M. As the Fox movie wraps its run in China, it has cumed $107.3M there. Japan is still performing with a $7.85M cume after this 2nd frame. ...

And just so nobody thinks it's only about American movies ...

German 3D animated pic The 7th Dwarf opened in Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland to gross a total estimated $830K at 641 dates. Directed by Boris Aljinovic and Harald Siepermann, it’s the story of clumsy Bobo who triggers a major crisis at Fantabularasa Castle that puts the entire kingdom into a deep sleep

Bobo? Bobo?! Whatever happened to Doc, Sleepy, Bashful, etc. etc.??


Via President Emeritus Tom Sito:

ANIMATION BREAKDOWN: The Hubleys - A Centennial Celebration (trailer) from Cinefamily on Vimeo.


Today's the last day of the Hubleys' show on Fairfax. ...

As Jerry Beck relates:

The Cinefamily presents a major retrospective and art exhibition at The Silent Movie Theatre this weekend, 9/26-9/28: The Hubleys, A Centennial Celebration. Screenings include newly restored and 35mm prints, an art exhibition of original Hubley family artwork, and live appearances.

John Hubley had been a Disney animator and a pioneer at UPA (he created Mr. Magoo), but during the McCarthy days he refused to name names and was blacklisted. This led to him forming his own fiercely independent animation studio with his wife, which became one the most influential animation teams of the 20th Century -- they won Oscars and created the whole mid-century cartoon aesthetic. ...

UK Creative industries are "worth £71.4 billion per year"

Creative industries are worth £71 billion a year
The UK Creative industries are "worth £71.4 billion per year", according to the UK's Business Secretary Vince Cable. In an article in Wired news two days ago, the British Government announced a big new investment in a NextGen Skills Academy to help close the skills gap in creative industries in the UK.  The story was also covered by the BBC. What does this mean for students at Bucks? Hopefully, big new opportunities in employment in the future.

Vince Cable
Cable also added that: "Visual effects and games in particular are a great British success story. But if we're to maintain our cutting-edge position, we need to make sure that we have the talent and skills the industry needs."

Plus, the industry is expanding fast. According to a a report from Ukie and the innovation charity Nesta, there are currently some 1,900 games businesses in the UK - an astonishing number in an industry that is only likely to increase in size.

Arts minister Ed Vaizey described the creative sector as "a powerhouse within the UK economy" but said employers often found it hard to recruit staff who were up-to-speed with the latest technologies.

Here at Bucks we teach cutting edge skills with the latest software. If you're interested in getting the training you need to become a great animator, and take advantage of the opportunities now on offer in new media industries, come in and visit us on our next Open Day, and discuss how we can help you start your career in creative media.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sale Pending?

Now with Add Ons!

The trades tell us ...

Word spread late today that Japanese conglomerate SoftBank was in talks to acquire DreamWorks Animation. When reached by Deadline, a DreamWorks Animation spokesperson said, “We do not comment on rumors and speculations; we do not know where this news is coming from.” A source with knowledge of the matter told Deadline, “talks are at a preliminary stage, but no paper has been signed.” ...

I've thought for a long time that Jeffrey was angling to sell DreamWorks Animation even as he denied he had any interest in selling. Back a few years ago, an animation exec (and entrepreneur) told me over breakfast that Mr. Katzenberg had been trying to sell DWA before the bottom dropped out of the economy in '08.

Six-plus years further on, DreamWorks Animation now owns some some valuable content, not only its library of films, but its internet properties, and its library of acquired cartoon characters. So at the right price, the company would be well worth purchasing. My crystal ball tells me if a sales happens, Jeffrey will stay involved with the company under a long-term employment contract.

I guess we'll find out how much change comes to DreamWorks Animation in relatively short order. If Softbank buys the the company, it will likely do it sooner instead of later. (Maybe even by Monday!)

Add On: The L.A. Times take; the New York Times take says this:

... One reason that acquisition talks have never gone anywhere is that Mr. Katzenberg — who controls an outsize portion of the voting power — has demanded a hefty price. Mr. Katzenberg has publicly said in the past that he believes DreamWorks Animation is worth as much as its rival, Pixar Animation Studios. The Walt Disney Company paid $7.4 billion for Pixar in 2006. ...

This is pretty much what I've heard over the years. Mr. Katzenberg wants a Pixar-sized deal, but the Mouse's purchase of the Emeryville studio was a non-recurring phenomenon: Diz Co. believed it needed Steve Jobs' company a lot, and paid accordingly.

But there haven't been other conglomerates who felt the same way about DreamWorks Animation. So nobody is going to cough up $7,000,000,000. Maybe Jeffrey is coming to terms with this reality.

Add On: Bloomberg discusses Softbank's move to acquire DreamWorks Animation:

SoftBank controls the third-largest U.S. mobile operator, Sprint Corp. (S), and has been looking for more U.S. media and technology investments. The company ended talks to buy the fourth-largest mobile carrier, T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS), in August because of regulatory opposition.

SoftBank can afford DreamWorks Animation and a successful deal would make it the second Japanese company to currently own a Hollywood film studio. The company’s stake of more than 30 percent of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA), the Chinese e-commerce company that went public this month, has a market value of more than $70 billion. Sony Corp. (6758) owns a film and TV studio in Culver City, California.

Just weeks after abandoning the T-Mobile takeover, SoftBank sold almost $4 billion in bonds. Alibaba’s initial public offering on Sept. 19, which led SoftBank to forecast a gain of about 500 billion yen ($4.6 billion), is a step toward global expansion, Son said at the time on Bloomberg Television’s “Market Makers.”

Most Acquisitive

“The acquisition would benefit SoftBank in revenue, and also by offering content to its mobile carrier, it would benefit Sprint,” said Tomoaki Kawasaki, a Tokyo-based analyst with Iwai Cosmo Securities Co Ltd.

Son (CEO of Softbank) laid out a 300-year plan in 2010 that included investing in 5,000 companies by 2040. Even as he forecast that 99.98 percent of companies would cease to exist in their current form over the next 30 years, he vowed that SoftBank would survive. Last year, he attempted to buy Universal Music Group from France’s Vivendi. ...

“Most investors believe Katzenberg wants a deal with a bigger media company where he has a path to the CEO seat,” said Paul Sweeney, director of North American research at Bloomberg Intelligence. “This does not appear to be such a deal.” ...

Add On Too: The Wall Street Journal says (behind a fire wall):

SoftBank Corp.'s discussions to acquire DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. have cooled, according to people familiar with the matter, less than two days after word first emerged of the talks.

It wasn't immediately clear what had happened between Saturday, when the talks were under way, and Monday. It remained possible that negotiations could restart, two of the people said. The two sides could ultimately strike a deal other than an outright takeover ...

Add On III: Like an energetic shark, Softbank has, if reports are true, turned its attention away from DWA.

The same day that talks SoftBank and DreamWorks Animation cooled off, the Japanese telco/Internet company has turned its attention to Legendary Pictures. Sources tell Deadline that Softbank is looking to take an equity stake in Thomas Tull’s studio, which aligned with NBCUniversal last year. Legendary reps could not be reached for comment. ...

Leverage ... and Hard-To-Move Objects

A brief back-story: A couple weeks back, the editors on the reality show Shahs of Sunset went on strike. Apparently they wanted better pay, saner hours, and health and pension benefits. Socialistic things like that.

Since the walk-out, there's been a picket line on Wilshire, with which the Animation Guild has been proud to help out. A week ago, NBC-Universal moved the shows launch date back, and now there is this:

Bravo has taken over production on its reality series “Shahs of Sunset” from Ryan Seacrest Prods. to end the standoff with 16 editors who are seeking IATSE representation.

Bravo and Ryan Seacrest Prods. confirmed the shift in production responsibility on Friday afternoon. The show had been in post-production on its fourth season when 14 editors and two assistant editors went out on strike earlier this month, demanding an IATSE contract.

IATSE condemned Bravo’s move to fire the editors as a violation of the employees’ legal right to organize. ...

The story here is pretty simple: union yanks crew. Company decides to be hard-fanny.

But the company would, we think, take a different tack if Shahs of Sunset was a major hit, pulling in big bucks for NBC-Universal, and advertisers were screaming.

But that's not the case.

The ratings for Shahs are far from stellar, ranking down below any number of animated half-hours and the 4,522nd re-running for Friends on the magical Nielsen list, so NBC-Universal (the owner of Bravo, on which the show airs) is not feeling too vulnerable.

The situation would be different if SoS was a more valuable commodity, but it rates what it rates, and the boys and girls at the network aren't about to let some uppity labor organization waltz in and grab better wages and benefits for its members without a fight. Especially when the show is marginal and the corporation doesn't stand to lose much.

So NBC-U will try to get current episodes completed with some other crew, the Editors Guild will work to get a contract, and the strike will go on.

And it's safe to say that union leverage has, because corporate stakes are low, met a hard-to-move object.

Box Office Across the Fruited Plain

The weekend totals.

1). The Equalizer (SONY), 3,236 theaters / $12.5-13M Fri. (includes $1.45M late nights) / 3-day est. cume: $33-37M / Wk 1

2). The Maze Runner (FOX), 3,638 theaters (9%) / $5M Fri. / 3-day cume: $16-17M (-44%) / Total cume: $58M / Wk 2).

3). The Boxtrolls (FOC), 3,464 theaters / $4.8M Fri. (includes $1.45M late nights) / 3-day est. cume: $16.5M / Wk 1

4). This is Where I Leave You (WB), 2,868 theaters/ $2.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $7 M (-50%) / Total cume: $22.5M / Wk 2

5). Dolphin Tale 2 (WB), 3,376 theaters (-8%) / $M Fri. / 3-day cume: $5M (-43%)/ Total cume: $33M / Wk 3

6). No Good Deed (SONY), 2,130 theaters (-2%) / $1.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.6M / Total cume: $46M / Wk 3

7). A Walk Among the Tombstones (UNI), 2,714 theaters (-1%) / $1.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.4M / Total cume: $21M / Wk 2

8). Guardians of the Galaxy (DIS), 2,451 theaters (-16%) / $1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.7M / Total cume: $319M / Wk 9

9). Let’s Be Cops (FOX), 1,534 theaters (-33%) / $400K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.4M / Total cume: $79M / Wk 7

10). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PAR), 1,585 theaters (-32%) / $340K Friday / 3-day cume: $1.4M / Total cume: $187M / Wk 8

Meantime, a few older animation titles continue to hang around.

The Old Timers -- Domestic Totals

24) Dawn of Planet Apes -- $207,367,837

25) Maleficent -- $240,147,220

28) How To Train Dragon 2 -- $175,655,104

34) Transformers: Extinction -- $245,288,377

37) Planes: Fire and Rescue -- $58,590,624

No doubt Diz Co. will keep Planes in circulation until it breaches that magical $58 million.

Bucks IT - Quick Start Guide - How to Log In

Welcome to Bucks! For all our new students, the first weeks at Uni will bring a huge rush of new information to process. One of the first things you need to figure out is how to log in to our network, so you can start learning and start creating awesome animation. Below is our handy guide from IT to help you get started.

IT Quickstart Guide - Page 1

Starting off at Bucks can be frustrating.  But there's a lot of help available to get you off to a good start - if only you can find it. One of the purposes of this blog to help our new students figure out which end is up, and what they need to get underway.

IT at Bucks - page 2

Don't forget, for all IT related problems, your best bet is often to find your way to the IT Help desk in the library.
IT Help Desk - find it in the Bucks Library
There is always someone there on duty, and nine times out of ten they will be able to sort you out in just a few minutes.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Jack Kirby Makes Disney and Marvel Blink

Next Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States was to announce whether it would hear an appeal from the Jack Kirby estate over the estate's copyright claims.

Today, Marvel and the Kirby estate jointly announced that they have reached a settlement.

“Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.” 

I hope that more details emerge.  From my perspective, I hope that Jack Kirby receives co-creator credit on the various comics he spearheaded with Stan Lee.  Furthermore, I hope that the estate receives royalties on Kirby reprints, Kirby designed merchandise and the flood of superhero movies that are being made using characters that Kirby designed and co-created.

There are people who are constantly commenting on various news sites that Kirby's children and grandchildren had nothing to do with creating the work and so don't deserve anything.  My response is that Robert Iger and the stockholders of the Walt Disney company had nothing to do with it either, yet they're making money from it.  Why do their rights trump Kirby's family?

I congratulate the Kirby family for their persistence.  If Jack and Roz Kirby were alive, they would be very proud that their family stood up to one of the largest entertainment conglomerates on the planet and made them acknowledge the value of Jack Kirby's work. 

It's nice to get a happy ending.

Just Crazy

But hey. It's an art form.

'The Boxtrolls' And Why It's Crazy To Do Stop-Motion Animation

“It’s the worst way to make a movie,” said [producer Travis] Knight. “It makes no sense. You’re cutting your hands and contorting your body. But it’s an incredible art form that is so rare and so beautiful.” ...

“Stop-motion combines all the worst aspects of live and stop-motion,” said director Anthony Stacchi at Comic-Con. “It’s very much a performance. We might do one rough pass of moving the puppets and a rehearsal but then we really have to do the whole scene in one go.” ...

Tell us something we don't know.

The reason that more studios don't do more stop motion isn't because it's difficult. Or time consuming.

It's that the big studios have made lots more money with CGI animated features than the other versions of animation. If our fine entertainment conglomerates made bigger grosses from stop motion and/or hand-drawn animation, then the multiplexes would be full of them.

But CGI animated features are the coins of the realm, so that's what Disney, Fox-News Corp, Sony and Viacom tend to mint. There are, of course, the occasional stop-motion/hand-drawn feature from Europe (and elsewhere), but these are small-budget releases that mostly earn small grosses. Niche, boutique features, if you will. (We'll leave off the specialty items derived from tv shows like The Simpsons or Sponge Bob Square Pants).

Until the market changes, CGI features will be what most companies focus on.

Work for FREE!

And, at the same time, pay for some college course or other where you can earn course credit so that this scam is legal.

Our friends at Blur Studio in Culver City have this gem up on social media:

Blur Studio is seeking unpaid Animation Interns to work on a Blur sponsored project here at our Culver City studio. Applicants must be in a program through which they can earn course credit for their work. Ideal candidates will have a positive attitude, the ability to take direction and work independently, experience animating in 3dsMax, Maya, or XXSI and a desire to grow as an artist. Please send reels and resume to ... (etc.)

No minimum wage. In fact, no wage at all. Such a deal.

Of course, you can earn course credit by going to a college or university and listening to the prof. And that would probably be more restful than being bent over a computer monitor animating for Blur Studio for ten or twelve hours at a stretch.


Career advice from our Latest Graduate Panel at Bucks

our graduate panel at Bucks
Yesterday, Thursday September 25th, we welcomed our latest graduate panel. These are Bucks graduates who have made it in the creative industries who come back to tell us about the latest trends in creative media, and to help our students gain an early understanding of what it takes to launch their own careers. Our guests this time were cinematographer Barry Gross, Matt Harris, Tammy Riley-Smith, who has just directed the feature film Delicious, BBC Producer Simon Fox, John Osbourne of Brassneck TV,  and TV director Lorna Gibbs.  A number of the panelists will be coming back to Bucks to teach our students the latest skills in new media.

Delicious by Tammy Riley-Smith
Steve Partridge chaired the panel, and his first question to the panelists was this:

How does the rise of new media digital content such as YouTube and mobile devices affect your job in creative media?

Lorna Gibbs said that she was not heavily impacted, as she does mostly live broadcasts. John Osbourne of Brassneck said that broadcasters have "less and less money to spend", but brands (by contrast) have "more and more money to spend" - especially on web content. This means that the market for "short form videos" is growing. And these can still be high quality, such as a series of films that Brassneck did recently for Fred Perry, who commissioned six 15 minute films on the history of British youth sub-cultures, such as Mods and Rockers. They wanted the films for their website. So, overall, there is more and more money for "short form" videos which can "pay very well".

But how do you pitch your ideas? Nowadays commissioners don't just want a paper proposal - they "want a sizzle", which is to say a four or five minute video which encapsulates your idea. John recently made a video about the housing estate where he grew up, and they are creating their own musical about this - which has been given funding for a feature documentary.
John Osbourne
Simon Fox said that web content was still regarded as the poor relation of TV - but it really isn't anymore, and the web should not treated as a lesser medium.  Tammy Riley-Smith said that film was changing fast - consumers don't go to the cinema anymore. But, she added, digital platforms are "saving the lives" of independent film-makers. Theatrical distributors are hard to convince - they want mass audience material. For niche film-makers, you can't get into theatres, but you can get a release online. Delicious (her latest film) got a release on iTunes, and YouTube offered a chance to promote the film. This is "exciting news" for student film-makers - now you have a platform that you can access.

Tammy Riley-Smith
Cinematographer Barry Gross said he is doing more and more work online, shooting on 2k and 4k cameras, with high production values. Higher resolution cameras can now shoot great material; the technology is improving all the time. The trouble is that actors are getting paid less and less for their work, and it is harder and harder to track where the material is being used and broadcast. By the time our current freshmen have graduated, the new media and old media will have "merged into one".

Barry Gross
Matt Harris said that broadcast is still fairly secure, still focused on TV and less on YouTube and Vimeo.
Matt Harris

Tammy Riley-Smith talked about how the industry is changing "not just year by year but month by month...it is changing all the time". Stephen Partridge talked about the positive side of new media - ie how much bigger job prospects are today, because their are "zillions of channels". There is "plenty of work out there" which is "exclusively for the web". He talked about a new Government survey which recently predicted that "half of the new jobs in the UK will soon be in the creative sector".

Stephen Partridge
The next question was: "Who is paying for content, and how has this changed?"

Barry Gross said that the author of content is not being paid in the same way; you can't digitally watermark stuff and he "hates seeing people create stuff and get ripped off".  Animators for example put "a lot of time and love" into their work (Amen to that - Ed).  Music videos used to have budgets - now they don't. Stephen Partridge argued that it is still possible to make money - but Barry pointed out that only small players and the majors (like Disney and DreamWorks) still survive - the middle-sized companies have disappeared. He asked "honestly, how many people in the room have pirated a film online?" - almost everyone put their hand up.

Tammy Riley-Smith said that the equipment has gotten cheaper. But John Osbourne said that Broadcasters are paying less too; they "know that costs have come down". Tammy said that film-makers "always lie" about their budgets. She also mentioned that there are "lots and lots" of ways to get a film made nowadays - "you have to be guerillas".

The next question was: "What should universities and colleges do to prepare students for the market?"

Matt Harris said that almost all his work "comes through his Twitter account". His advice is: "Get a Twitter Account". Also, don't just email your CV. You have to "try something new - why not send a box of chocolates with your CV? You have to what it takes to get noticed". Sending CVs "by mail or email - it does not work anymore - everyone else is doing the same thing". You have to try harder. "Find the show you like, find out who makes them, find their Twitter account, and congratulate them on their work. Then once you have made a connection, try to meet them; ask to shadow them for a day - you will eventually get a job". That is how Matt made it work for him.

Chocolates with your CV - a new way to get noticed? Photo: Wikipedia
Steve Partridge said that most undergraduates find networking hard, but this can be the most important thing in terms of building a career.

Lorna Gibbs said that "no experience is bad experience". Even jobs you don't like can provide you with good experience. She also said "never lie about your experience, because it will always catch you out". The industry is "still quite small...and it goes around".

Lorna Gibbs
John Osbourne said that to find work "you have to hustle". He added that Bucks was "awful" when he was here. It is "much better now...else I would not be here now". He had to "get out there and do it himself", he would "go to London and work for free" to find work. "What did you do?" asked Steve. "What didn't I do?" replied John. He "worked for everyone, to get a real flavour for the industry". John said you have to make it personal, you can't just email the office your CV. If you don't make the effort, you won't make it. He added that "spelling mistakes" will cost you work. No-one will hire you "if you can't run a spell check".

Simon Fox said that all the great people "are looking for ideas...you have to get out there and make a nuisance of yourself, in the nicest possible way".

Tammy Riley-Smith said "you can't sell yourself if you don't believe in yourself". So, over the next three years, you have to figure out "what it is you want to do". She thought it would be "glamorous working for a production company...but it was bloody awful". So, find "what you want to do, and develop that, find your self-belief". You have to "know thyself".

Matt Harris "studied TV production at university". He networked by "going on reality TV shows". He did "ridiculous numbers of pilots", mainly dating shows, one of which got aired.  He got to know people, and he would get called back. It was "not a normal way to get a job", but it worked. They "see you are keen, and they will employ you".

Barry Gross worked on Desperate Housewives in Los Angeles

Barry Gross said he moved to the UK and had to hustle - but at least "he was in his forties", so he was able to do it. Networking is a lot about trust; his contacts really helped him when he first moved to LA. "Get onto a [film] set", he added, because "it's not like anything else you have experienced". Another thing: "never talk smack about anyone". And, don't "buy stuff on payments", because it's important to work for free from time to time. Also, "go to whatever you're invited to", and "hang out with the smokers" outside. Networking is "so important".

The closing question for the panel was:
What current innovations and technologies are exciting you right now?

Lorna Dean Gibbs mentioned "The Mars system" which is changing broadcast TV. Barry Gross said that 5K cameras are appearing now. The Canon 5D "changed Barry's world", because it has a "very shallow depth of field". In the end though, it's all about what you do with the camera. A camera is "just a box with a hole in it". New cameras "can make people look like they've just been dug up", because "the cameras are so good".

Other general advice for students included the following:

John Osbourne said that to get your ideas made, "you need a great title". A great idea "with a bad title, will not get made". Tammy Riley Smith said that "collaboration is key".

To read more about our recent Graduate Panels, follow this link


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Animation de France

From Variety:

France Televisions injects 29 million Euros ($37 million) per year into animated programs. Why do you invest so much in animation?

Kids programming is one of the editorial mandates of France Televisions. Children watch a lot of TV and we see them as future citizens, not just as future consumers. Our ambition is to strengthen our role as prime purveyor of qualitative animated programs for young audiences — one which parents can trust.

As public broadcaster, [we] have a responsibility: develop a qualitative offer which helps young people become citizens, promotes values of civism, equality, integration, which contributes to the battle against discrimination and stereotypes.

This is why we program more than 5000 hours of animation on our channels each year — France 3, France 5 et since March also on France 4 from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. These channels attract considerable audiences. ...

France has long been a center for animation (even though a lot of the country's output i unknown to American audiences.)

A couple of weeks ago, I encountered a veteran of Paris's MacGuff Studios, who reported that long hours and not great pay are not limited to cartoon factories in the States. He said that under-reported work hours happened in the City of Light, too. Who could have guessed?

Honorees at World Animation and VFX Summit

An eclectic mix of artists.

Film Roman founder Phil Roman, DreamWorks producer Bonnie Arnold (How to Train Your Dragon 2), director David Silverman (The Simpsons, The Longest Daycare), veteran voice actor Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh), Gotham Group founder Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, and RGH (Rubicon Group Holding) Studio will be honored at The World Animation & VFX Summit on November 2nd, at the California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey. This year’s six honorees selected for their contributions to the art, technology and business of animation and visual effects. ...

Acclaimed former Disney animator Glen Keane (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Tangled), Production Designer Max Keane and Technical Project Lead Rachid E Guerrab discuss the making of Google’s beautiful new 2D animated short Duet. ...

To spotlight one of the honorees: Phil Roman began his career in the Disney animation department and had a long tenure at Bill Melendez Productions was a director. Founding his own studio where he produced Garfields specials and episodics, then a myriad of other television shows including Bobby's World and The Simpsons, Phil's studio was one of the most successful independent operations in a time when small animation studios were more than just job shops creating product wholly owned by monster entertainment conglomerates the way they are today.

Film Roman was among the last of the independents that created and owned their own shows. Hardly possible now, but very possible in that happy time before federal laws and regulations allowed the giants to vertically integrate everything. Now, if Disney, Viacom, Fox or Time Warner doesn't own the cartoon, then the cartoon never gets on broadcast and/or cable. (That's changed a wee bit with the growing reach of the worldwide web, but we'll see how much it changes. And for how long.)

Trailer Thumping

Lift-off is only weeks away, so on to the next trailer.

And nobody's singing Broadway show tunes, and there is no snow in sight. So I have no idea what its world grosses are gonna be, except it should make money for Diz Co.

Mouse in the Sub-Continent

Diz Co., despite a big investment, appears to be struggling inside the Indian market.

India Remains A Dream For Disney: Not A Reality

Disney is going back to its brand in an attempt to connect with the tough Indian market. The only demographic being reached by Disney in India is the educated, elite class, it must go beyond them to grow. Executives abandoning UTV after Disney acquired it suggest there is still a cultural disconnect that has to be solved. ...

The major hurdle is the very localized tastes of the people of India, which results in many films being accepted in some areas, while in other areas comparatively doing almost nothing. Indian filmmakers know this, which is why it produces many more films each year. They must produce according to local and regional tastes, which requires many more productions. ...

Disney's strategy in India was the acquisition of UTV. At that time of the closing of the deal the company reached over 100 million Indian viewers on a weekly basis.

UTV is comprised of five foundational brands - Disney; Marvel; Bindass (which targets Indian youth); Hungama TV, a children's channel; and UTV.

Initially the deal did well for Disney, as a number of decent performances from its film releases showed promise. Again, the problem is how it can successfully reach beyond the elite, educated consumer to a much larger market. ...

Branding is one of its biggest, if not the biggest challenges, because many people have no emotional connection with Disney, if they've heard of them at all. I also know from people that have worked in India in other areas of life, that it is just as hard to make inroads among the various ethnic groups as it is anywhere in the world. It appears Disney faces the same challenge in the film and TV business there. ...

Disney's India business is going to weigh on the company for a long time. It's going to have to go incrementally across numerous ethnic groups and geographic regions, probably having to figure out how each one can be penetrated and won over. ...

Disney spent close to half a billion to acquire UTV Motion Pictures; by all accounts, the investment isn't anywhere close to paying off. And now that UTV's top staffers have gone elsewhere, Ciz Co. is faced with starting over and rebuilding from the sub-basement up.

Apparently not every corporate acquisition Disney makes pays off like a rigged slot machine. Odd.

Mery Rig Now Live! And Free!

The Mery rig is now live! One of the many benefits of animating with Autodesk Maya (the main animation software we use at Bucks) is the large and growing global community of artists who collaborate on freeware projects, bringing to life excellent animation rigs like Norman and Morpheus. The latest character rig to be released is The Mery Project - now available to Maya users free of charge. Of course there will be bugs and glitches - but all rigs have their strengths and weaknesses. We're excited to see what our students can do with this new, free download.

To find The Mery Project, go to  http://www.meryproject.com. Below is a short video explaining how it all works:

Mery Project Presentation from Mery Project on Vimeo.

Below is a list of some of the other rigs that we recommend our students use, and which we think are the best for animation training. They are all free to use, though their creators should always be credited. Industry professionals always give credit where it is due.
  1. Bouncing Ball. The best place for beginners to start learning animation. You will have to register with Creative Crash first, but it's free and they don't send spam.
  2. Ultimate Rigs. A great collection of free rigs.
  3. Monty. Our favourite simple biped rig - perfect for learning animation. 
  4. Norman. An excellent biped rig, very stable and thoroughly tested. Norman can be adapted and customised.
  5. Heavy. Based on the character from the video game Team Fortress. An excellent, stable rig.
  6. Morpheus. Arguably the best free rig for character performance. Very adaptable. Not for beginners though.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

At Warner Bros. Animation

Warner Bros. Animation is house in (count 'em) four different buildings on the Warner ranch in Burbank. Last week I got to the main animation building; today I traipsed through the two multi-story structures at the south end of the lot. ....

The studio has more more work in progress than it did a year ago. Wabbit, the latest incarnation of Bugs and Co., is deep into boarding and design. I talked to one of the people working on it who said:

"We're getting back to the original takes on the characters. The company knows it's gotten away from the Bugs and Daffy that made Looney Tunes popular back in the day. So we're going for the approach that made the characters work, the sight gags, the craziness. The new Mickey Mouse cartoons are, what? Three minutes long? These new Wabbit cartoons are going to be five minutes, which is a couple of minutes shorter than the old theatrical shorts.

The trick is, we can't do all of the same kinds of gags. We can't do a gun going on in Daffy's face, can't do all the shooting with guns. So we have to do work arounds, find jokes that work for the characters but avoid the modern prohibitions." ...

I told the artist I get why the Powers-That-Be don't want all the fire-arm humor from the old days, except it's actually kind of a dumb prohibition since all the old cartoons are out there and I seriously doubt that six-year-olds are going to differentiate between the original crop of LT shorts and the new cartoons without all the bang-bang, shoot-shoot.

The originals from the thirties and forties will still be on the internet and cable networks, correct? And they will have the off-limit violence in abundance, won't they? Like for instance ...

Elsewhere in the building, artists and designers are working on a new Lego TV series, which makes a great deal of sense, what with the Lego theatrical feature that cleaned up at the box office. (Synergy! That's where it's at! Monetize product on all the distribution platforms!)

Since this is a television project, animation is being done in China rather than Australia. Now if the Chinese will only wise up and kick in some tax incentives ...

Ever Expanding Animation Markets

Everybody wants a slice of the global marketplace.

Estonian arthouse animation seeks bigger auds

Produced by Estonia’s Nukufilm, stop-motion dialogue-free “Carrot” will be pitched on Friday at Toulouse’s 25th Cartoon Forum.

Tallin-based Nukufilm (“Lost and Found”) was founded in 1957 and according to studio sources, produces “90 minutes of pure animation per year,” being the biggest puppet animation studio in Northern Europe.

“Nukufilm'”s is one out of the six projects coming from Eastern Europe –Poland has two and Croatia, Latvia and Bulgaria one a piece. ...

“Estonian animation industry is approaching more and more mainstream areas. And this series project is also a sign of this trend.” ...

It mostly flies under the radar, but non-U.S. animated features do credible business in various foreign venues.

The Hayao Miyazaki features, for example.

And this:

[Spanish] local toon biz’s flagship is Enrique Gato’s Indiana Jones parody “Tad, the Lost Explorer,” the third Spanish film in a row to open Cartoon Movie. Studiocanal-sold, “Tad” snagged $40 million worldwide through Feb. 17, becoming Spain’s highest-grossing Spanish toon ever ($24.6 million), distribbed by Paramount.

“Spain’s film sector now accepts animation as part of its industry,” says “Tad” writer-producer Jordi Gasull at El Toro. ...

You don't have to rake in half a billion in worldwide grosses if you can make features that cost five or ten million dollars. A fifty million dollar gross will make you a very tidy profit.

Enterprise at Bucks - animated by Anton Alfimenko

Enterprise at Bucks is the department of our University which is dedicated to helping students learn real-life skills. Stuff like how to set up a business, how to invoice a client, and how to survive in the commercial world. Many of our students will launch their own freelance careers (even if they also have a day job) when they leave uni - and a good working knowledge of the realities of the marketplace is a vital tool for survival.

To help get their message across about how they can help our students, Enterprise at Bucks has created a short film to communicate clearly what it is that they do. The animation was done over the summer vacation by our very own Anton Alfimenko - now entering his second year of studies at Bucks. Scroll down to see the finished film.

Partnerships like this between staff and students are one of the many ways that we build on relationships within our university. It also helps to get our students experience on live briefs for clients. Every time you do a freelance job, you get better at it, and you gain a better understanding of what it takes to launch a freelance career.

Enterprise at Bucks

To see more about Enterprise at Bucks, and how they can help you start up your own small business (no business too small!) visit their page here.  You can also email Lydiah Igweh at Lydiah.Igweh@bucks.ac.uk

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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Starz, the media company (and long-time owner of Film Roman), is putting itself through some changes.

Starz Puts Itself Up For Acquisition, Meets With Fox for Potential Bid

The premium cable company's market value is currently $3.2 billion, Discovery is said to be interested

Starz is shopping itself for possible acquisition, taking a meeting on Tuesday with 21st Century Fox, according to individuals with knowledge of the encounter.

Starz could be a valuable asset to the right media company. The premium cable company could be valued at more than $3.2 billion based on its share price of $29.58 on Tuesday.

One individual close to the discussions said Discovery Communications was an interested bidder. The Walt Disney Co., which does not have a premium cable channel and whose CEO Bob Iger has acquired numerous assets in recent years, could be another potential buyer ...

The one constant in 20th century America is ... the Sherman Anti-Trust Act is a quaint relic from the 19th century, and we're done with it.

Starz has talked about spinning off Film Roman for some time. (They acquired it eight years back.)

But I wonder how a corporate acquisition by an outside party would impact the crew of the Yellow Family? (I mean, Diz Co. owning yet another animation studio? That produces The Simpsons? At least if Fox picked up Starz, the prime time cartoon would be coming full circle.)

We'll just have to wait and see who buys the corporation, and then make wise-ass comments.

The Constant Lure of Free Money

A California visual effects shop opens an outpost in Canada. (What a surprise).

VFX studio Atomic Fiction — formed four years ago in the Bay Area with projects including Robert Zemeckis’ Flight — has settled into its second base, Montreal.

Both the Oakland, Calif., and Montreal bases of the company are currently working on Zemeckis’ next film, The Walk, which tells the story of Philippe Petit, the man who walked on a wire between the towers of the World Trade Center in 1974.

Filming of The Walk recently began in Montreal, where Atomic Fiction operated out of a temporary space while its new 15,000-square-foot space was being readied.

The company now has roughly 50 artists in the Bay Area and roughly 40 in Montreal. ... Atomic Fiction signed a six-year lease for its Montreal space and aims to expand the base to 100 artists. Co-founder Kevin Baillie told The Hollywood Reporter that the company had been looking to expand into Canada, and it chose Montreal due to the fact that The Walk was shooting there and, of course, healthy tax incentives that are "some of the best out there." ...

The great thing for Atomic Fiction is, the subsidies will flow in both California and Canada, what with the Golden state's new tax incentives and all. But the pile of free money will be higher in Canada, so naturally enough, more employees will be in Montreal.

Free enterprise and rugged individualism is truly grand, wouldn't you say?

Early Cartoons

Mr. Beck brings this to our attention.

Turner Classic Movies is going Back To The Drawing Board on Monday night October 6th. For only the second time in two years, the network will devote over six hours of prime-time programming to classic, historically-rare animated shorts and feature films. ...

Ten Winsor McCay shorts will be shown including Little Nemo (1911), Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), How A Mosquito Operates (1912), The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918), The Flying House (1921) and Gertie On Tour (1921). ...

From 12:15am (EST)/9:15pm (PST) animated feature films - Lotte Reiniger's The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1927), Max Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels (1939), Toei Animation's Magic Boy (1959) and Chuck Jones The Phantom Tollbooth (1969) - fill out the schedule. ...

Since AMC movie classic changed its mission, Turner Classic Movies is where you need to go for serious movie watching. And every once in a while they run a slate of cartoons.

Graduate Panel at Bucks on Thursday at 3pm - Who's Coming?

A recent Graduate Panel at Bucks
Thursday September 25th is our latest graduate panel, where we bring back Bucks graduates who have made it in the creative industries to hear about the latest trends in creative media, and to help our students gain an early understanding of what it takes to launch their own careers. It takes place at 3pm in the Gateway Lecture Theatre. Talks like this can be vital in terms of bridging the gap between university and the world of commerce. So, who is coming on Thursday?

Ben Chalk

Ben is a Bucks animation graduate with two years studio experience as a designer working on projects from initial ideas, concepts & strategy right through to launch. Ben has been designing at United Agency for the past two years, and having been the creative lead for just over a year now is responsible for the overall visual design of all of the big campaigns, app designs & brand identity. Together with the development team Ben works collaboratively to help design and shape the user experience and user interface across an array of projects.

Gateway Building - our main media hub
Simon Fox

Simon is a producer/director/editor/media trainer, is experienced in all areas of programme making and production and has a wide variety of industry skills and experience. Production credits include being AD on the World Athletic Championships in Athens, which was broadcast live to an audience of 20 million and was commended in its home country of Greece. Simon helped set up the interactive newsroom at ‘The Telegraph’ newspaper and trained print journalists to adapt to a multimedia environment. For two years he was a producer/broadcast journalist for the BBC’s flagship technology programme Click, writing, producing, and shooting features for the show which is broadcast on BBC World and News 24 to a world audience in excess of 100 million.

Lorna Dean Gibbs

Lorna is a very experienced television professional who has worked as a director, vision-mixer, cameraman, P.A. and Technical Manger for over 30 years across all genres of live and recorded programming. More recently Lorna has specialized in news and sport output and currently work for the Premiere League (IMG) and several production companies that have covered events such as the Commonwealth Games, London 2012 Olympics and Wimbledon Tennis. As a director Lorna has worked for likes of ESPN, BBC World, IMG/TWI, Eurosport, Al Jazeera, Sky and Channel. Programme output over recent years has included Wimbledon Tennis Championships (2010, 2011, 2012), Bundesliga, Serie A, Erevidisie, International football, Europa Cup, Aviva Premiership Rugby, FA Cup football and an array of news output.

Barry Gross

Barry followed the Hollywood-trained Gaffer path through to the role of Director of Photography. Features have included Features Rage, Kick Off and The Lost. Barry has also produced commercials for the likes of Nokia, Penguin Books, Ch4 Paralympics and Sky Movies HD. US TV lighting credits included Bones, Chuck, and Desperate Housewives. UK TV credits included GlobeTrekker-Madrid, BBC4 Duffy-The Man Who Shot the 60s, and Saving Face.

Matt Harris

Matt works for Halo Post Production, who make factual and comedy TV. Programmes include Outnumbered, Mrs Brown’s Boys and Richard Hammond’s How to Build a Planet.

John Osborne

John is the CEO of Brassneck TV, the independent production company he founded in London in 2008. He has created and executive produced many hours of factual television, including Exposed, now in its third series on Sky Arts and sold to over 40 countries worldwide. His director credits include the Banff-nominated Sport Matters: One Night in May for Sky 1 and the History Channel's most watched UK programme Hillsborough Remembered. He has also produced a string of music and arts documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4.

Tammy Riley-Smith

Tammy Riley-Smith is an award-winning writer-director. Her debut feature, Delicious, starring Louise Brealey & Sheila Hancock, was premiered at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea. It was officially selected for Vilnius, Miami and Nantes Film Festivals before its theatrical and digital release in summer 2014. It reached no.2 in the iTunes romantic chart, and is still listing in the top 100.

Her short film, Ain’t Misbehavin’, won the Kodak Short Film Prize, an award from Turner Classic Movies and was selected for 11 international film festivals, including Cannes 2001. Tammy won WFTV’s Directing Change Award in 2003, working as trainee director to John Madden on Proof, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. Previously she was a Development Executive at Working Title Films, Assistant to producer Alison Owen on romantic drama Moonlight and Valentino, and Director’s Assistant to Mark Joffe on romantic comedy, The Matchmaker.

To read about previous graduate panels, follow this link.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Randall William Cook Speaks

He won three little gold men for his work on three Peter Jackson epics, and has this to say about CG effects animation.

... To the average person who is not in the film business, what is the most misunderstood part of your profession?

I suppose it's the notion that everything that goes through the computer is untouched by human hands.

If a studio is rushing to complete a Christmas release, they'll hire all the animators they can get a hold of, so they'll all fly to wherever, work on the project then they'll fly to another hemisphere to work on the summer releases. The studios can't really publicize their personnel, so they have to publicize their technology.

As a result, this emphasis on technology is generally the thing that's talked about the most, to the devaluation of the artist, because the artist is just a temporary hire.

If you're painting a house, it doesn't matter if you have Picasso or Diego Rivera or some schmuck from down the street. You're going to have a painted house. And a lot of the big movies are painted houses - some of them well-painted houses, but still - if you're doing a heartfelt character there has to be not only guidance from a good director and animation director or supervisor, or whatever the DGA will let us call ourselves these days, but also guidance from top notch animators. So it's a collaborative work. This all of course builds on top of a performance that may have come from an actor, and it may not have. ...

I've known Mr. Cook a long time (like even before he worked at Disney Feature Animation) and would love to get him to do a TAG podcast. Until then, this interview -- and you should read the whole thing -- will have to do.

And the Newest Lawsuit

The second in September.

Former animator Georgia Cano’s class-action suit filed Tuesday is the second in two weeks over alleged anti-poaching policies at major animation houses.

It targets many of the same defendants as former VFX worker Robert Nitsch Jr.’s lawsuit—including Sony, Dreamworks and Disney’s Pixar and Lucasfilm divisions—claiming they forged non-competitive hiring agreements that “metastasized over the years into an industry-wide wage-fixing cartel.” The difference is, while Nitsch’s proposed class covers animators employed by the studios since 2004, Cano wants to represent those like herself who’d been hired before 2004.

Her lawsuit is one of several cases to spring from a 2010 lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against Pixar, Lucasfilm and technology companies including Google, Apple and Adobe. That litigation ended when the companies agreed not to enforce anti-poaching agreements for five years. ...

People ask me, "You think there was price-fixing wage-fixing? You think there's fie under this smoke?"

I always answer in the affirmative, mostly because the usual suspects have admitted it. The question is, what are the remedies? The game was rigged (I think), and people were wronged. How much money people might get in a settlement is anybody's guess. but nobody will end up wealthy. They might be awarded enough for a nice downpayment on a new car.

Nobody's world, however, will be transformed. Especially not the offending corporations.

Fresher's Week at Bucks!

Welcome to Fresher's Week!  Our new students arrive on campus today and we will soon welcome back our Level 5 and Level 6 students at the end of this week. Summer is over; the university now kicks into the its busiest part of the year.

Induction and the return to your next year of study can be a stressful time. There is a lot to arrange and sort out outside of University with accommodation etc, so we do try to make the process at University as painless as possible.

For our Freshmen (Level 4), the priority is on getting you settled in and enrolled. At the start of the week you'll meet your personal tutor, get your computer account sorted and should get your timetable for the year. Your personal tutor should be your first port of call as you settle into your classes and regular sessions should be available for you to ask any questions related to your studies. Personal tutors at Level 4 will be me (Alex Williams) and Nick Brown. We have two cohorts starting with us in Animation and VFX so we will splitting our freshers into two groups of around 14 each.


We'll be starting everything on Monday 22nd of September at noon in G1.13, our main computer room in the Gateway building (the one that looks like a big blue TV set). Don't forget to get yourself at map at reception!

You will be meeting with personal tutor for one to one meetings on Wednesday September 24th, also in G1.13, so we can meet you personally and get to know each other.

Formal enrollment takes place on thursday at 1.30pm in the Events Hall. After that is the Graduate Panel, in the General Lecture Theatre (GLT) when industry professionals will come and talk to all our students about the world of professional work in creative media.

University life is a different experience for everyone. If any part of your time outside of Bucks starts to affect your studies then you need to let your personal tutor know. Its easy sometimes to get stuck in thinking about your tutors like teachers from school, but really the relationship is different and changes over your study period. The staff team is here to help and wants you to succeed.

For students at Level 5, your priorities are different as you already know what life at the University is about, so there's less need for an introduction. However, some short sessions on what to expect in your new year of study have been scheduled and you'll be able to meet new lecturers and ask questions of them. We want you to be comfortable and informed about the coming year, so do ask questions and make use of the time.

For Level 6 students, the start of your final year is very important. The vast majority of your final grade is determined by your level 6 modules and the year is very much about you creating the work that you want to be known for when you begin your career.

If you can't make the induction sessions for any reason do let us know.  Emailing tutors is a good idea; then we can try to help you get up to speed.

For more on starting out at Bucks, see this post.