Week Links 20-2013

An interesting collection of week links this week!

The State of the VFX Industry and where do we go from here

The Thinking Animation blog poses a number of questions relating to the VFX industry and the ongoing attempt to organise it in some way. They’re worth thinking about because similar issues will affect the animation industry at some point in the future even more so than they do already.

An Independent Success

Mark Mayerson has his usual measured approach to his analysis of one animator’s success on YouTube. He’s right on the money when it comes to merchandising too, but I disagree that YouTube is the level playing ground it once was. The rise of professional channels makes them gatekeepers by another name. Why make your own animation when you can try and pitch it to one of them?

Disney Dreamscapes

Sibley_PotC Chess

Brian Sibley has up on his excellent Disney blog some lovely artwork from the book The Art of Walt Disney World. Visit for the post, stay for the archive of fantastic Disneyana.

‘Epic’ a decidedly derivative, if colorful, new animated film

The website Sound on Sight has a review of Blue Sky’s latest film ‘Epic’ which, while not overly positive, does contain this nugget of a paragraph near the end:

It wasn’t that long ago when we were lucky to get one animated movie from a big Hollywood studio a year; once, it was as much an event to go to a Disney movie as it is to see the next superhero blockbuster. Now, you can’t go two months without a studio-released animated movie, making each of these movies a little less special. Epic has impressive enough animation—and the 3D isn’t terrible, though a climactic action sequence set in a darkened landscape is fairly diluted through the format conversion—but it feels like the umpteenth version of the same Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey, and done in a way that’s forgettable instead of fun.

More signs of an animation bubble?

Tweets of the Week

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/StupixAnimation/status/336512428521164800″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/boylebob/status/336864882999832576″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/le_bibo/status/337472416924176384″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/PigtailPals/status/337601766659088384″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Cowkitty/status/337636511065456640″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/amymebberson/status/337795239358107649″]

Lastly…

I love Avatar: The Last Airbender and I love the handiwork of Mike Maihack. What better than when both come together:

Mike Maihack_Toph

Epic: A New Low In Celebrity Voice Casting

It’s a topic I’ve covered in the past, and one that continually grinds my gears in more ways than one. However none more so than the recent announcement of the cast for the upcoming FOX animated film, Epic. When I saw it, my heart almost sank.

Who picks these people? That’s what I want to know. Beyonce? OK, sure, she has some sort of vocal talent, for which there had better be some good songs coming out of this film. Pitbull on the other hand; how does he fit into the mix? I once read a tweet that described him as the guy who shows up in the middle of songs and starts rapping gibberish. How about Johnny Knoxville? The guy’s a decent actor for sure, but what about his voice? Can you picture anyone else shouting “I’m Johnny Knoxville and welcome to Jackass”? I can think of at least 5 personal friends that will give him a good run for the money. Throw in Colin Farrell, the guy from the Hunger Games and Steven Tyler among others and you have a very weird cast altogether.

Is this something that studios are losing sight of? Yes, a star can help sell a film, but it won’t make the film. Think of Delgo, it was a film that had an admittedly admirable B-list celebrity voice cast, but it was a terrible film that failed. Celebrities far from made that film into a success.

So why keep doing it? If Eddie Murphy costs $10 million, that’s $10 million that can’t be spent on (a lot of) animation. In addition, you have to earn double that at the box office to turn a profit. What studio wouldn’t want to get the same or similar film for a good deal less? Add in a couple of celebrities and we’re already talking double-digit percentages of the total cost. Will Eddie Murphy bring in $10 million more in box office gross? For something like a family film like Shrek, I would hope to doubt it, but then I do tend to overestimate the intelligence of people.

Another aspect of the practice is that celebrities are a brand onto themselves. By associating them with a film, a studio is essentially betting that their brand identity will be strong enough to boost sales. That may be OK if it were a company, but if you’re betting on a single person that could prove problematic, if say for example, that person ends up in rehab but you just cast them in a family film, and so forth.

Who si to blame? Studios are to be sure, but celebrities and their agents are the catalyst and someone in the casting department is getting hoodwinked.

I’m sure Epic will be an OK film, but with a cast like that, I can’t help but wonder whether the film will actually suffer instead of benefitting.