Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ollie Johnston's Birthday

Today is Ollie Johnston's 94th birthday. Happy Birthday, Ollie! Thanks for all the great scenes and the books that you and Frank wrote explaining your approach. Best wishes for the day and for the coming year.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

New Walt Disney Biography

Neal Gabler's Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination has now been published and reviews are beginning to appear. You can read the L.A. Times review here (registration required?), a short interview with Gabler on Amazon.com's website, and an interview with Library Journal.

Friday, October 27, 2006

How to Write a Movie

I'm reading The Sound of No Hands Clapping: A Memoir by Toby Young. The book, among other things, details Young's attempts to become a successful screenwriter. I thought I'd share this paragraph with you:
Take the script for Alien 3. In 1986, cyberpunk author William Gibson (Neuromancer) was hired to write "two drafts and a polish," only to be interrupted by the 1987 writers' strike, and, when that was over, Eric Red (Near Dark) was brought in to do a "five-week job." At this stage, Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) was attached to direct, but when he read the script he handed in his notice. The next writer to come on board was David Twohy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and while everyone liked his version he'd neglected to write a part for Sigourney Weaver, the star of the franchise. So in 1991 the producers hired Vincent Ward (The Navigator) and put him to work with Jon Fasano (Another 48 Hours). Fasano was replaced by Greg Pruss, but after "five arduous drafts" Ward and Pruss quarreled and Larry Ferguson (The Hunt for Red October) was called in to do a "four-week emergency rewrite." However, when Sigourney Weaver read this version she threatened to pull out, so producers Walter Hill and David Giler knocked out a draft of their own. The version that eventually reached the screen in 1992 was a combination of this and another script written by David Fincher, the film's 27-year-old first-time director. Of Gibson's original screenplay, only one detail survived. "In my first draft, this woman has a bar code on the back of her hand," he told me during a newspaper interview. "In the shooting script, one of the guys has a shaved head and a bar code on the back of his head. I'll always privately think that was my piece of Alien 3."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gene Deitch and Terr'ble Thompson

Gene Deitch is one of the many cartoonists who works for print as well as animation. Before he took over Terrytoons in the 1950's, Deitch had a syndicated comic strip called Terr'ble Thompson. Fantagraphics will soon publish a reprint of the strip. It's something of a precursor to Deitch's TV cartoon Tom Terrific.

At the time the strip was appearing, a children's record was produced to tie in to the strip. It featured Mitch Miller's Orchestra and had Art Carney providing voices. Unfortunately, the record was never released, but Deitch managed to locate a copy and Fantagraphics has posted an MP3 as well as a spoken introduction by Deitch himself.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More Bar Sheets

A while ago, ASIFA-Hollywood posted the bar sheets to the Merrie Melody Shuffle Off to Buffalo, directed by Rudy Ising. Hans Perk has now posted the complete bar sheets for the Mickey Mouse cartoon Thru the Mirror, directed by Dave Hand. In addition, he's posted a sheet with his annotations, explaining what the notations on the bar sheet mean. It's an excellent guide to figuring out how classic cartoons were timed to a musical score.

While you're at it, you can read Dave Hand's speech about directing made to the Disney staff, courtesy of Hans Perk. Here's part 1 and here's part 2.

Børge Ring Documentary

I had the pleasure of screening a 2006 documentary on Børge Ring made, I believe, for Danish TV. It's a half hour long and includes photos and footage of Børge talking about his films, as well as shots of his home, his wife Joanika and her sculptures, and a guest appearance by animator Kaj Pindal. The film also covers some of Børge's career as a professional jazz musician.

(Right now on Ebay, you can buy an LP of De Millers at the North Sea Jazz Festival, recorded in the early '80's and featuring Børge.)

I don't know where this documentary is scheduled to be screened. Keep an eye out for it at festivals. Somebody should package this film and Børge's animated films together and release them on DVD. The documentary shows that Børge is working on a new animated short and I'm looking forward to seeing it.

If you're not familiar with Borge's films, you can watch Oh My Darling and Run of the Mill on YouTube. Unfortunately, Anna and Bella is no longer posted there.

DreamWorks Diversifies

This Variety article reports that the penguins from Madagascar and the cast of Kung Fu Panda will both be developed into series for Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon is owned by Viacom, which recently purchased DreamWorks' live action division.

In addition, Animated News is reporting that Shrek is due to become a Broadway musical in 2008.

As I've noted before, companies that are animation-only have a tough road to travel. Pixar decided to sell itself to Disney rather than continue to rely solely on their feature releases for revenue. DreamWorks is a public company that has to take stockholders into account. By adding new revenue streams, they're bolstering their profits and reducing the impact of a film that's a box office disappointment. I wouldn't be surprised if we see DreamWorks making more moves to diversify.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Symphony Hour Part 3

I have to admit that I've been referring to this cartoon as The Symphony Hour, but its official title is just Symphony Hour. My mistake.

This is another Riley Thompson cartoon where he has cast the animators by character. Mickey is mostly done by Les Clark and Marvin Woodward, with a bit of Ken Muse and a sprinkling of Bernie Wolf. Les Clark gets the confident, in-control Mickey at the start of the cartoon. The animation is slick as a whistle and beautifully drawn. For all of that, Marvin Woodward actually gets the more interesting Mickey scenes. Instead of being in control, Woodward's scenes have Mickey react to everything going wrong. As great as Clark's animation is, I'm betting that Woodward had more fun.

Ed Love does Pete in a somewhat old-fashioned way. By this I mean that by the time of this cartoon, there was a streamlining of characer design going on. In the mid-thirties, the Disney characters have lots of wrinkles in their clothing and all kinds of follow-through in their fleshy bodies. By this time, a lot of that was pared away, but Love's Pete still has that fleshiness.

I wonder the final shot is a satirical jab at Walt Disney himself. Pete ends up hiding Mickey behind him while he takes the bows for Mickey's work. Is Pete a stand-in for Disney and the hidden Mickey a comment on the artists who didn't get screen credit at this point in time?

Bernie Wolf does a very interesting Donald. He catches Donald's temperament without resorting to the kinds of fireworks that Dick Lundy used when Donald's temper exploded. His Donald is also thick with multiple images and dry brush streaks to sell the idea of fast action. Wolf draws a great, mean Mickey when he's holding that gun.

With the exception of a couple of Muse shots of Mickey, the rest of the animators just do 'bits.' There's not a lot of acting here for Horace, Clarabelle, Clara or Goofy. They're all slickly animated, but they're just there to put across gags. Only Horace reacts to what's going on with other characters in scene 61 by Jack Campbell. Clarabelle, Clara and Goofy exist in a kind of limbo, playing their instruments in a vacuum.

In many ways, this is a 'high concept' cartoon. It's based on a funny idea that's well executed; the gags themselves are nothing special. The fun comes from Riley Thompson giving the animators lots of room to work, and in the case of Clark, Woodward, Love and Wolf, it pays off.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Great Sketch Experiment

I received an email from Evan Spiridellis of JibJab. You've got to hand it to the Spiridellis brothers. They refuse to stand still. They invited 50 comedy sketch troops to submit scripts using a police station set. They selected the six best and flew the troupes to L.A. to make the sketches under the direction of John Landis. Those sketches are on the site as of today, in addition to a dozen documentaries on their making. Tonight the Spiridellis brothers will be appearing on The Tonight Show to talk about the project.

JibJab is not abandoning animation. Their next three projects are all animated.

At Evan's presentation at the Ottawa Festival, somebody asked him his opinion of YouTube. He replied that he felt they had done a poor job of branding. He considered JibJab a comedy brand. Clearly, these sketches were in the works during that appearance and are proof that JibJab sees itself as something bigger than just animation.

I think this is all to the good. Historically, companies that focus only on animation have had a rough time. Disney did not become truly successful in a financial sense until the 1950's when the company diversified into live action, TV and theme parks. In the 1950's, commercials studios like Shamus Culhane Productions and Pelican both made money on live action and struggled to make money with animation. Pixar chose to sell itself to Disney rather than take its chances as an animation-only company. By broadening its brand beyond animation, JibJab is building a stronger foundation for its future.

The Spiridellis brothers are also ace marketers. I wasn't the only one to receive Evan's email. Today on CinemaTech, there's a discussion of filmmakers building databases of their audiences as a marketing tool. This is old news to the JibJab boys, who have been doing this all along.

As I mentioned in a comment under To Pitch or Not to Pitch, NBC is laying off 700 people and giving up on producing comedy or drama for the 8-9 p.m. timeslot. They can't compete and have decided to shrink. At the same time, JibJab is expanding and offering a wider variety of content. There's still a tremendous gap between NBC and JibJab, but it's only going to get smaller. That's why I think that pitching to a dying TV industry is a mistake. Better to own your own content and build your own audience like JibJab.

And if this industry discussion isn't your cup of tea, why not head over to JibJab for a laugh?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

To Pitch or Not to Pitch

I assume that everyone who reads this blog also reads Cartoon Brew. Amid Amidi originally commented on September 11 on an interview with Pat Smith, where Smith offered his thoughts on the pitching process for selling ideas to TV. David Levy then offered his thoughts on Amid's comments. Amid has now returned with a long, thoughtful piece about whether or not artists should pitch.

(I should point out that Michael Sporn also referenced this debate before Amid's latest article.)

I have to say that I agree with Amid's point of view based on personal experience. I pitched several TV series and managed to get one sold. My experience on that series makes it unlikely that I'll ever bother with TV again.

For those not familiar with Monster By Mistake, the series was based on a boy who accidentally gets affected by a magic spell. Every time he sneezes, he turns into a 7 foot tall blue monster. My thinking, as the creator, was that this situation was general enough so that any child in the audience with a social, mental or physical problem could identify with the boy. The show always had comedy and adventure in it, but the underlying message was that life was unpredictable and often unfair. People have to be resilient in order to survive.

A Canadian broadcaster, YTV, bought the series quickly cut the heart out of it. Being a monster couldn't be seen as a handicap; being a monster had to be fun. Our producer-distributor simply said, "Right," and my concept of the show went up in smoke. There was money on the table and the producer was not about to jeopardize it. My concerns were totally off his radar.

Other bad decisions were made over my objections as the series progressed. They had to do with stories, designs and business deals. I won't bore you with the details.

The experience completely soured me on working in TV. I now understand that even if someone is lucky enough to sell a show, the structure of the business is such that the creator has no leverage and that business people will act on their opinions, no matter how poorly informed those opinions may be.

Other people's experiences may be different. Actually, I hope that my experience was unusually bad and that other creators are not facing the same frustrations. However, I'm not willing to try again. I don't need the aggravation. When I left the TV business and started teaching, I realized that I wasn't angry anymore and I liked that feeling.

I have written a lot on this blog about the possibility of bypassing gatekeepers and going directly to the audience via the web. The nature of web video is still evolving and there are lots of issues (primarily economic) that have to be worked out. However, if you are a creative person with an idea that would make a good film or series, I'd think seriously about going straight to the audience instead of pitching. For one thing, you may never make the sale, and if you do, you may not recognize the work that results.

There's no story and no character that hasn't been done before. There's only your point of view to differentiate your work from everybody else's. If that point of view is stopped or twisted before it reaches the audience, the essence of your work has been destroyed. My experience tells me that it's unlikely to survive in the TV industry and if there are alternatives that will protect your point of view, you should seriously consider them.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

TV and Autism

Slate has published an article on a Cornell University study that links autism to the exposure young children get to television.

As much of the programming made for pre-schoolers is animated, this is something that may have an impact on the animation industry.

Studies are done all the time and it takes several to corroborate a finding. I am curious to see if this study will be backed up by other research and more curious to see how the broadcast and animation industries will deal with it if it turns out to be true.

The typical corporate response to inconvenient facts is to deny them by commissioning biased studies of their own and to throw money at government officials to protect business-as-usual. Should this study prove to be true, I'm wondering if we'll be able to tell the difference between the tobacco, oil and animation industries.

Getting Paid

I often reference Scott Kirsner's blog Cinematech. It's a great place to keep tabs on the way that the media is evolving.

Scott has just posted an article and a table of video websites that pay producers for their content. The chart lists specifics for each site. If you're making a film or have one on the shelf that's not generating any cash, it's worth taking a look.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Irv Spector at the Mintz Studio

Updated October 15 with more information.

One of the nice things about this blog is when I'm contacted by people who have historical material to share. It was great hearing from Bernie Wolf's daughter, Laura Wolf-Purcell, who shared some photos and artwork. Now, I've heard from Paul Spector, son of animator Irv Spector, who sent these photos taken of the Mintz staff in the early 1930's. Paul writes,
I do feel compelled to tell you -- probably out of some journalistic integrity -- that they have been through what I will call the "light wash cycle" in Photoshop: converted to grayscale with minor sharpening, contrast, levels, blah blah. Not tremendously of course, but it does give you a better chance at identification of the cartoonists. I use an 800x600 monitor resolution...if they appear to small you might want to view them at that.
We need to identify the people in these photos. Click on any of them for a larger view.

In the photo above, Irv Spector is second from left in the dark sweater. Possible identifications are Al Gould third from right, Felix Alegre second from right and Ed Solomon at right. These guesses are based on a 1935 Mintz photo that Jerry Beck was good enough to send me that's published below.

When the Mintz studio moved to Los Angeles from New York in 1930, they were first located at 1154 Western Avenue in a space that had been occupied formerly by Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising. Harman and Ising occupied it in 1926 when they made Aladdin's Vamp. Furthermore, when they were making Oswald cartoons after Mintz took the character away from Disney, they also occupied this space, so Mintz had a former association with it. The first floor included a pool hall, and the animation studio was on the second floor. This information comes from Mike Barrier's book Hollywood Cartoons. For more views of the doorway to 1154 Western, you can go here to see some Al Eugster pictures from the same location.

Sometime after 1932 and before 1935, the Mintz studio moved to 7000 Santa Monica. Therefore, the above photo is from a different location and time period than the photos below, which were shot at the Santa Monica address.

In the photo above, Irv Spector is at the lower right wearing the dark blazer. Based on the 1935 photo below, I'd say that's Ed Rehberg at left with Sid Davis wearing the sweater at center.
I have a hunch that the above man at left wearing the white shirt is Preston Blair.

The man in the left foreground above is probably Ed Rehberg and at right is probably Sid Davis. Thanks to Paul Spector sharing these great photos with us.

Here's the 1935 photo supplied by Jerry. At least this shot has many, but not all, of the staff identified. I think it's a shame that the ink and paint women in many historical photos of animation studios go unidentified. If you can identify anyone in these pictures, please comment and I'll edit the entry to add the information.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Symphony Hour Part 2

This cartoon is built on two conflicting musical styles. The first is based on broadcasts of symphony orchestras, the most notable of the time being Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC orchestra. The second style is that of Spike Jones and His City Slickers, who were popular in Los Angeles prior to the release of this film. Spike Jones has a couple of other connections to animation; he later recorded the theme from the Disney cartoon Der Fuehrer's Face, which became a #2 selling record. At one point, Tex Avery was writing gags for Jones' TV appearances.

I didn't realize it until I did the mosaic, but this is the last appearance of Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow and Clara Cluck in Disney shorts. Clara only appears during the audition segment and disappears during the actual radio broadcast. There is some confusion as to how to treat the old designs now that Mickey has been updated. At times, Horace has white in his eyes and other times a flesh colour. Clarabelle only has flesh colour in her eye region.

While the story has a straightforward structure, the supporting characters are not really in character. Goofy really doesn't do anything goofy except for smashing through closed elevator doors. Donald never utters a word during the cartoon and while he clearly gets annoyed, he never explodes. Mickey goes overboard by pulling a gun. Is there another cartoon hero (as opposed to villain) who was featured with a gun as often as Mickey? It's odd that one of the mildest of characters was so often seen with a weapon.

I know Leonard Maltin from when we both lived in N.Y. and have enormous respect for him, but I do have to admit that some of his disclaimers for Disney cartoons leave me puzzled. For this one, he makes excuses for Billy Bletcher's Italian accent for Pete. However, there's no comment on the visual gags which turn Donald into stereotype Chinese and Indian characters and nothing about Mickey pointing a gun in Donald's face. Leonard does disavow the cat's attempted suicide in Plutopia, so I guess that it's all right to threaten people with a gun so long as you don't turn it on yourself. I often wonder if these disclaimers don't create more problems than they solve, but if they're the price we pay for getting these cartoons released on DVD, I'm happy to pay it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Pity the Children

The following press release turned up in my email this morning. For those of you not familiar with the attitudes it expresses, this is how animation and entertainment are routinely discussed within the industry. For me, this release is a summary of everything that's wrong with children's television. It's imitative, it's opportunistic and it reduces childhood to a financial transaction.

Cannes wakes up to Slumber Party
DIC Entertainment marked its 25th anniversary in Cannes last night and introduced the international market to its The Slumber Party Girls (SPG) brand, which will debut on DIC's CBS block in fall 2007. Chairman and chief executive Andy Heyward told C21 about the company's latest development project: a dinosaur-based property from Sega.

DIC Entertainment entered a critical phase just weeks ago as it began its five-year deal with CBS Network to supply content for a three-hour Saturday morning kids block called The Secret Slumber Party, with AOL's kids service KOL. In addition, DIC reaches its 25th anniversary this month and the two milestones were celebrated in style in Cannes last night at the Carlton Hotel, with speeches from Andy Heyward and consultant Robby London, with live performances from teenyboppers The Slumber Party Girls.

"When you get involved with The Slumber Party Girls you're not just buying a series," Heyward said. "We've been shooting these girls from the day they auditioned and their record comes out on the 24th of this month. There's a toy deal already in place, but I can't announce who with. We also have a publishing deal. There are videos and movies included and the 26-episode sitcom in the fall. We'll be doing a big push at the toy fair and announcing everything there."

DIC has teamed up with Christina Aguilera and Black Eyes Peas founder Ron Fair from Geffen Records to create SPG, a group who sing, dance and act and have been likened to The Spice Girls.

In addition to its classic properties such as Strawberry Shortcake, Inspector Gadget and Madeline, DIC has brought three new productions to market: Cake, Horseland and Dance Revolution, all of which are being made in batches of 26 episodes. Cake is a live-action drama centering on a 13-year-old girl who hosts a cable access show with her two best friends. Rather like a young Martha Stewart, Cake shows her audience how to make ordinary, everyday items look interesting with a little imagination. "Her motto is 'You can't buy individuality, but you can make it.' It's designed to give children confidence and help build their self-esteem," said Heyward.

The other two shows are both based on concepts that exist in other spheres. Horseland is a 2D/CGI series based on the online community of the same name, while Dance Revolution is based on the eponymous video game and is intended to encourage young viewers to try out different dance styles. Both Cake and Dance Revolution are produced by the team at Brookwell McNamara (That's So Raven, Even Stevens). Other new key properties include Secret Millionaires Club, a direct-to-DVD animated series.

The shows have been airing for around three weeks on CBS's new Slumber Party block. Heyward admits it started a little slow, but the block is occupying a space previously occupied by Nick Junior, which was aimed a preschoolers, so it is a little early to pass a verdict.

In June, DIC tied up with AOL's kids service to develop online and on-air copro initiatives in conjunction with CBS's block, now called KOL's Saturday Morning Secret Slumber Party on CBS, and Heyward told C21 last night that one of the first development projects is Dinosaur Kings from Sega. "It's based on these electronic cards that you put in video games and the game comes to life with the dinosaurs on them," he said. "Of course we're looking to take the property to TV and a number of other platforms."

Meanwhile, Malcolm Bird, senior VP and general manager of AOL Kids and Teens, told C21 he and Heyward were also in discussions about taking KOL's latest original property Scary Fairies, which it is launching at market, to the CBS block. "It will probably be 26x11' episodes and we'll probably get another animation house that will partner on that side of the business," he said. "We think Fairies has the potential to be a huge global brand."

Following DIC's listing on the London stock exchange, Heyward said the company was cautiously looking at further European acquisitions in the new media space.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

An Animation Salon?

There's an article in today's Toronto Star about a restaurant that runs an intellectual salon four times a year. In some ways, this is similar to conferences which have sprung up all over the place. Probably the most well-known is the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In many ways, these things strike me as elitist and self-aggrandizing. If these people were really interested in ideas more than status, creature comforts and networking opportunities, they'd be willing to meet in a suburban high school gym and lunch on baloney sandwiches.

Within the animation field, there are conferences like Kidscreen and festivals like Ottawa that serve some of the functions. Kidscreen is very much a business conference and Ottawa very much a film festival, though it runs the Television Animation Conference as a sidebar event.

I wonder, though, if it's possible (or desirable) to run an animation salon. Perhaps it would degenerate into the same elitism and networking that plague other events ("As I was saying to Jeffrey Katzenberg before Brad Bird cut me off...") but maybe it would present an opportunity for artists to inspire and challenge each other.

Animation as a medium is constrained by the economics of film, TV, games and the internet. There's no shortage of articles and commentary on economics' effect on animation. The blogosphere is as close as we've come to an aesthetic discussion and maybe, because of the democratic nature of the net, that's the way to go. However, there's something to be said for the hothouse approach of putting a lot of people in a room and seeing if influences spread or minds get changed. Even if they don't, I still think there's some educational value there.

It may be happening in the schools. It's not happening in my classroom because I'm so focused on delivering the curriculum. Students are always declaring their likes and dislikes to each other, but are they attempting to defend their positions or just assert them?

And professionally, do these discussions lead to changes or are the economic and market constraints so tight that discussions are just a way of blowing off steam before heading back to the same old same-old?

If we're prisoners of the market, does a salon have any value? If we're prisoners of the market, maybe a salon is a way to try and get free.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Grosses

With the help of Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research feature listing and supplementing grosses from Box Office Mojo, here's a snapshot of the last 6 years of North American animation grosses. I've left out films that were released just for Academy consideration or to gain reviews for a video release. The numbers before the titles come from Jerry's site, so you can see where I've left out films. I don't pretend that this is 100% accurate, but I think it gives a sense of the big picture.

I was surprised that the trends were not stronger. There are lots of ups and downs for the industry as a whole as well as individual companies. This doesn't take into account how much money was spent to create the films or to market them, so a big part of the puzzle is missing. We can't figure out actual profits from this.

2006 is still in progress, with Flushed Away and Happy Feet yet to come. Open Season is still in theaters and will gross more than I've listed here. 2006 will probably break $1 billion in grosses for animated features.


246. RECESS: SCHOOLS'S OUT $36,706,141
247. POKEMON THE MOVIE 3 $16,622,570
249. SHREK $267,783,866.
250. ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE $83,111,929.
253. OSMOSIS JONES $13,483,306.
257. WAKING LIFE $2,845,588.
258. MONSTERS INC. $255,745,941.
260. JIMMY NEUTRON, BOY GENIUS $80,920,948.

9 features. Total Box Office: $789,352,119 Average: $87,705,791
Films grossing more than $100,000,000: 2
Additional films grossing more than $50,000,000: 4

264. RETURN TO NEVERLAND $45,184,951
265. ICE AGE $175,676,099.
268. LILO & STITCH $145,771,527.
269. HEY ARNOLD: THE MOVIE $12,641,276.
270. THE POWERPUFF GIRLS $9,589,131.
271. SPIRITED AWAY $10,049,886.
272. JONAH: A VEGGIE TALES MOVIE $25,548,201.
273. POKEMON 4-EVER $1,669,596.
277. EIGHT CRAZY NIGHTS $23,443.124.
278. TREASURE PLANET $38,120,554.

12 features. Total Box Office: $600,745,247 Average: $50,062,104
Films grossing more than $100,000,000: 2
Additional films grossing more than $50,000,000: 3

282. THE JUNGLE BOOK 2 $47,887,943.
283. PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE $23,073,611.
284. COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE $1,000,045.
285. POKEMON HEROES $746,381.
286. FINDING NEMO $339,703,580.
287. RUGRATS GO WILD $39,399,750.
292. BROTHER BEAR (10/24/03) $85,234,177.
294. LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION $20,950,820.

10 features. Total Box Office: $564,851,283 Average: $56,485,128
Films grossing more than $100,000,000: 1
Additional films grossing more than $50,000,000: 1

300. TEACHER'S PET $6,426,692.
302. HOME ON THE RANGE $50,008,224.
303. SHREK 2 $436,471,036.
307. SHARK TALE $160,762,022.
309. THE INCREDIBLES $261,409,367.
310. THE POLAR EXPRESS $162,753,127.

10 features. Total Box Office: $1,186,634,729 Average: $118,663,473
Films grossing more than $100,000,000: 4
Additional films grossing more than $50,000,000: 2

314. APPLESEED $108,050.
315. POOH'S HEFFALUMP MOVIE $18,098,433.
316. ROBOTS $128,067,343.
317. STEAMBOY $410,388.
318. MADAGASCAR $193,187,569.
319. HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE $4,711,096.
320. VALIANT $19,229,436.
321. CORPSE BRIDE $53,359,111.
323. CHICKEN LITTLE $133,270,228.
324. HOODWINKED $51,386,61.

11 features. Total Box Office: $611,691,212 Average: $55,608,292
Films grossing more than $100,000,000: 3
Additional films grossing more than $50,000,000: 3

2006 to date
325. CURIOUS GEORGE $58,360,760
326. DOOGAL $7,417,319
327. ICE AGE 2: THE MELTDOWN $194,914,465
328. THE WILD $36,929,275
329. OVER THE HEDGE $155,019,340
330. CARS $243,735,463
331. A SCANNER DARKLY $5,479,019
332. MONSTER HOUSE $72,595,621
333. THE ANT BULLY $27,592,881
334. BARNYARD $71,333,605
336. EVERYONE'S HERO $13,536,479
338. OPEN SEASON $27,186,287

12 features. Total Box Office: $914,100,514 Average: $76,175,143
Films grossing more than $100,000,000: 3
Additional films grossing more than $50,000,000: 3

2001: $789,352,119
2002: $600,745,247
2003: $564,851,283
2004: $1,186,634,729
2005: $611,691,212
2006: $914,100,514

2001: $87,705,791
2002: $50,062,104
2003: $56,485,128
2004: $118,663,473
2005: $55,608,292
2006: $76,175,143

2001: $119,818,070
2002: $229,077,032
2003: $156,195,731
2004: $56,434,916
2005: $180,447,854
2006: $280,664,738 (including Pixar)

2001: $255,745,941
2002: no release
2003: $339,703,580
2004: $261,409,367
2005: no release
2006: $243,735,463

2001: $267,783,866
2002: $73,215,310
2003: $26,466,286
2004: $625,233,058
2005: $249,298,466
2006: $155,019,340 (Flushed Away still to come)

Blue Sky
2001: no release
2002: $175,676,099
2003: no release
2004: no release
2005: $128,067,343
2006: $194,914,465

2001: $80,920,948
2002: $54,476,868
2003: $39,399,750
2004: $85,373,733
2005: no release
2006: $71,333,605

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Happy Birthday Buster

October 4 is Buster Keaton's 111th birthday. He was one of the great comic geniuses of the 20th century and a brilliant filmmaker to boot. From 1917-1928, he appeared in shorts and features that still provoke laughter and amazement.

This photo is from 1952 and features Buster with his wife Eleanor. I chose it because I'm fascinated with Buster's life after 1928. The creative freedom that allowed him to thrive was taken away, leading to major professional and personal setbacks. Tom Dardis wrote a biography called Keaton, The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down, and that phrase is a testimonial to Keaton's perseverence. No matter how insignificant the job, he took it and did his best at it. He never regained the creative peak of his early years, but he rebuilt his life and career and lived long enough for his best work to be rediscovered.

The Symphony Hour Part 1

More on this cartoon in future entries.