The Oscars: Animated Voting Procedure Change

On Friday, March 7th, 2017, Awards Editor for Variety Kristopher Tapley examined the changes made to the voting system in regards to the animated film category. Noting: “Going forward, nominations in the animated feature category will be open to anyone in the Academy willing to join a nominating committee” (Tapley 2017). Normally, the Academy’s committee of voters: “was supposed to be a 50/50 composition of animators and members from other branches” (Tapley 2017), and due to declining voter turnouts, the Academy hopes that this shift will promote animated films.

Tapley notes one of the main issues with the Animated Film Category is the inclusion of short films along with the features, which usually splits the vote. The splitting up between animated shorts and features has been talked about but the talks at the moment are simply opening up to a wider selection of persons to vote if they so chose (Tapley 2017).

“The big studios have no doubt been annoyed by scrappy indies that have found purchase in recent years because of the die-hard traditionalists that permeate the branch” (Tapley 2017).

The die-hard tradtionalists, or animators that follow the original Disney formula using traditional animation, or use traditional animated techniques in general, allow the category of Best Animated Feature to be “diverse” (a word that is over-used to describe essentially everything that is “different”).

“Will the studios come roaring back? I’ve heard they lobbied for these changes and I’ve heard they didn’t, but either way, they could ultimately benefit from them. More people certainly have a potential say in the process now” (Tapley 2017).

What this rule means is that bigger productions, such as “Finding Dory” and “Moana” will have the potential to generate a Win in the Category as opposed to a piece like “Ernest and Celestine” (2013) (which lost to “Frozen” anyway) but paved the way for more recent nominees to come pouring in, i.e. “Song of the Sea”, “The Red Turtle”, and the like.

The troubling issue is the entire category all together, Best Animated Feature. While a fantastic idea and a loving labor, should not be a category in the Oscars, in face, the archaic nature of the Oscars should be in question (see this year’s mix-up between “Moonlight” and “La La Land”). The Awards is an arbitrary accolade that simply exists because it’s been there since Hollywood’s origins. Originally starting out as a grand idea, but now it seems superficial and… stupid, to use a word. Will this move hurt small independent animation? Yes. Will there be more independent animated films coming out? Of course there will. The problem now becomes- how with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which was co-founded by Mary Pickford (who’s 125th birthday is today), handle the situation in a fair manner as they should or do as they always have done and become a pit of lobbyists. However, that is more so disdain for the Academy than the move itself. Frankly, the move is not necessarily needed, much like the Academy itself, but only time will tell if this action will bear any fruit.


Work Cited

Tapley, Kristopher. “Oscars: Will New Animated Voting Procedures Hurt Smaller Films?” Variety. N.p., 07 Apr. 2017. Web. 08 Apr. 2017.

 

How Social Issues Helped Change “Zootopia”

Over the weekend, Kim Masters of The Business podcast spoke with “Zootopia” directors, Rich Moore and Byron Howard, who have been in the industry for 25 years, over the production history of the film and how the events of Ferguson and the emergence of Black Lives Matters affected “Zootopia” and it’s story. The film is now nominated for Best Animated Feature for this year’s Academy Awards.

Before the directors spoke about the film, they mention how despite traditional animation no longer being a norm at the Walt Disney Company, the attitude is the same with CG. As Rich Moore mentions: “I think as far as personalities, the people involved in animation have been exactly the same… despite the change in medium, the personality and characteristics  of animators, I don’t think that changes” (Masters, Howard, and Moore 2017).

Originally, Jason Bateman’s character, Nick Wilde, was the main character of the film, and about a year before release, the main character switched to what the film is now. Also originally the film was to be a spy film. Byron Howard noted that early on they noticed a predator and prey relationship and wondered “could we use an animated film to talk about bias, prejudice, and stereotype?” The idea was supported throughout the company and had a darker tone than the final product.

Similar to the production history of “Toy Story” (Lasseter 1995), the film’s main characters were unlike-able, the setting was dark, the scenario was dark and the film wasn’t working. Due to this problem the team flipped the film’s main character’s and wanted to make it more contemporary and relate-able, using subtle bias instead of explicit bias (Masters, Howard and Moore 2017).

One of the main issues of this film was going too far and becoming too dark with the subject matter. One scene in particular involved a shock collar element and due to the darkness of the scene, it made the filmmakers question what this film really was about: “Some people loved individual scenes,” Moore said, “but they knew that as a whole, it was not coming together…” (Masters, Howard and Moore 2017).

As the film dabbled into uncertainty, it was the social issues brought up Ferguson that made the team change and finalize the vision of the film despite being far into the production stage:

“We were in production of the movie when the crisis of Ferguson began and it really hit home that what we were working on thematically, an animated film about talking animals, it was happening in our real world, in our country and suddenly it went from a theoretical observation of the world around us to, no, this is real and to me, that’s when the whole thing kind of crystallized and it made it so much easier to tell this story.”

The end of the podcast grew political but despite the political biases of the directors, they managed to create a piece of work that showcases that animated film can talk about modern social issues in a way that makes an impact to a mass audience.

The Academy Awards are February 26th, 2017 and other contenders for Best Animated Feature include: “Kubo and the Two Strings”, “Moana”, “My Life as a Zucchini”, and “The Red Turtle”.

Work Cited

“‘Zootopia’ directors on finding their story, late in the game.” Interview. Audio blog post. KCRW, 18 Feb. 2017. Web. 19 Feb. 2017. <http://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/the-business/zootopia-directors-on-finding-their-story-late-in-the-game&gt;.

#oscars #zootopia #animation #thebusiness

If You Can’t Be Yourself, Be Batman: “The Lego Batman Movie” Makes an Impressive Run at the Friday Box Office

“The Lego Batman Movie” (McCay 2017) which was released on February 10th, 2017, made an impressive two week run on Friday, beating out three of the February 17th new releases: “Great Wall”, “Fist Fight”, and “A Cure for Wellness”.

According to a  Variety article by Seth Kelley, the animated comedy picked up a healthy figure for a film that is already breaking box office records. “$7.5 million 4,088 theaters on its way to a four-day estimate in the $38 million range” (Kelley 2017).

While “Great Wall”(Yimou 2017) picked up $5.9 million and “Fist Fight” (Keen 2017) $3.8 million, “A Cure for Wellness” (Verbinski 2016) did not have a great opening day in the United States, only gaining a measly $1.5 million. Variety reports that the film could be “on its way to an opening between $4 and $5 million that could leave it out of the top ten.”

“Great Wall”, which has already earned over $200 million overseas “including over $170 million in China since its release on Dec. 16… the film carries a $150 million budget — the most expensive movie ever shot in China ” (Kelley 2017). This is not only a healthy sign for the film, but is also a bit of a make up for the travesty that was “47 Ronin” (Rinsch 2013).

As for “A Cure for Wellness”, let us hope that the film can find a cure for the box office slump that it managed to catch over the weekend. For now, it is Batman that takes the weekend office and hopefully, this time next year, it will get an Oscar nomination as Best Animated Feature as revenge for “The Lego Movie” (Lord and Miller 2014).

Perhaps that is just wishful thinking at its best.

Work Cited

Kelley, Seth. “Box Office: ‘Lego Batman’ Blocks Trio of Newcomers to Win Friday.” Variety. Variety, 18 Feb. 2017. Web. 18 Feb. 2017. <http://variety.com/2017/film/news/box-office-lego-batman-great-wall-fist-fight-cure-for-wellness-1201992010/&gt;.

The Walt Disney Company: Wage Fixing and Antitrust Lawsuit

When one thinks of civil lawsuits, the name Walt Disney Company, does not come to mind very often. We do not usually think of The House of Mouse having anything to do with getting their hands dirty with anything. The creators of family friendly films for nearly a century found themselves in a class action lawsuit on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 along with Pixar, DreamWorks, LucasFilms, and ImageMovers (Johnson 2017).

Variety’s Ted Johnson reported on January 31st that “workers have reached a $100 million settlement with The Walt Disney Company, Pixar Animation Studios, LucasFilms, violated antitrust laws which conspired to fix animation wages with non-poaching agreements” (Johnson 2017).

The lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2014, was headed by Robert Nitsch, David Wentworth, and Georgia Cano who claim that the anti-poaching agreements between DreamWorks, Pixar, and The Walt Disney Company, among other organizations, go back to the 1980’s when George Lucas and Ed Catmull agreed to not gain employees from each other (Johnson 2017).

Something went wrong between 2004-2010 though, as animation and visual effects employees at Pixar, LucasFilms, DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., The Walt Disney Company, Sony Pictures Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Blue Sky, and Two Pic MC (formerly ImageMovers), seemed to have a swap-employee moment, or “raid” as Johnson says. At the same time, there were complaints with Adobe, Apple, and Google, as well as the aforementioned companies about fixed wages, in other words, employees were given a fixed wage for their work. This issue was taken to court in 2010 and the companies agrees to refrain from such policies for five years (Johnson 2017).

The Walt Disney Company is the last to settle with the hearing scheduled for March 9th in the San Jose District Court (Johnson 2017). This begs the question, how and why did this happen and what can be done to prevent this behavior in the future? I suppose we shall see the result of the case in March.

Work Cited

Johnson, Ted. “Variety.” Animation Workers Reach $100 Million Settlement With Disney in Wage-Fixing Suit. N.p., 31 Jan. 2017. Web. 3 Feb. 2017. <http://variety.com/2017/biz/news/disney-settlement-wage-fixing-anti-poaching-animation-1201975084/&gt;.

#disney #lawsuit #wagefixing #variety #animation