Back in 2012, DreamWorks Animation helped spearhead an ambitious venture in China. Partnering with Chinese Media Capital, they launched Oriental DreamWorks. They began helping with pipeline work on several DreamWorks films, and had a heavy hand in Kung Fu Panda 3. Eventually though, the ambition had been for the studio to make its own movies, blending the technical expertise of DreamWorks artists with Chinese culture.
That strategy began to shift in 2016 though, when Universal purchased the studio. Sure enough, earlier this month Universal's share in Oriental DreamWorks was bought out by CMC Capital Partners. It has since been rebranded as Pearl Studio, with the hope to build it "into one of the world’s leading creators of high-quality animated content for every screen and platform." Its first expected release will be Everest, which has been in the pipeline for some time now and is due out in 2019.
This marks the end of an era in a way. When Katzenberg's DreamWorks first agreed to this deal, it was one of the first major collaborations between Hollywood and China. The Chinese government had been notoriously selective about which films were allowed into the country, but by utilizing Chinese resources studios found that they could access a large market, with a burgeoning population and increasing economic prosperity. It had been seen as a goldmine.
In practice, however, the goldmine was a golden goose - and the eggs were quickly extracted. Studios wanted to appeal to American and Chinese audiences as easily possible, but it became difficult to tell stories that everyone could relate to when the authoritarian Communist administration also needed to be pleased. Movie quality suffered overall, and when the government began cracking down on ticket fraud, the Chinese box office stumbled in 2016. As other studios lost interest in Chinese collaboration, it did make sense for Universal to rethink their commitment to Oriental DreamWorks. They already have powerhouse Illumination, and with DreamWorks also under their belt, they didn't need a third animation studio.
This could also be part of the beginning of a new era though... because despite that dip in 2016, the Chinese box office is again growing strong. Between 2016 and 2017, the country's gross sales jumped from $6.59 billion to $8.6 billion. By comparison, the 2017 box office in the United States was just under $10.7 billion, and the global box office was $39.9 billion. So China still wants to see movies, and they are still watching movies. A fundamental shift though, is that more movies are coming from within their own borders.
Last year, Wolf Warrior 2 became a huge success, grossing over $870 million worldwide. That was more than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Pirates of the Carribean, or Wonder Woman. Entirely Chinese produced, it made history as the first non-Hollywood movie to become one of the 100 highest grossing movies of all time. The Middle Kingdom has definitely broken into the blockbuster business, and I'm certain we can see more in the future.
The animation front doesn't have quite that kind of success story yet; last year's Rock Dog fell flat in its attempt. However, Pearl Studio has a fair shot at winning over audiences. Universal will carry Everest overseas, so it does have a powerful distributor behind it. Not to mention the buzz around Over the Moon, a production between Pearl and Netflix, which boasts Glen Keane at the helm. It will be exciting to see how Pearl ends up unfurling in the coming years, with these very promising projects coming our way.
It's only the 1st month in 2018 and there's already so much going on in the animation industry! Here is a few things that have come and yet to come in the month of January! Stay tuned for a round-up for every month this year!
1. Animation at the Golden Globes!
So many great animated features were nominated for "Best Animated Feature Film" at the Golden Globes.
- Boss Baby, which was released on March 31, 2017 by 20th Century Fox and produced by DreamWorks Animation.
- Breadwinner, which was released on November 17, 2017 by GKIDS, Elevation Pictures and Studio Canal. It was also produced by numerous production companies, including: Cartoon Saloon, Aircraft Pictures, Guru Studios, Jolie Pas, Irish Film Board, Melusine Productions and Telefilm Canada.
- Ferdinand, which was released on December 10, 2017 by 20th Century Fox and produced by Blue Sky Studios, 20th Century Fox Animation and Davis Entertainment.
- Loving Vincent, which was released on October 13, 2017 in the United States by Altitude Film Distribution and Next Film. It was produced by BreakThru Productions and Trademark Films.
And the one that took home the Golden Globe, Coco, which was released on November 22, 2017 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios!
2. Animated Features in January!
Paddington 2 was released on January 12, 2018 by Studio Canal and produced by Heyday Films, Studio Canal, Canal+ and Ciné+! The journey of a whimsical teddy bear who goes through a series of jobs to save up money for a pop-up book he falls in love with. When the book is stolen, he embarks on a different search, Paddington sets forth to unmask the thief!
Check out the trailer here!
3. Animated Series in January!
On Netflix there's a few TV Animated Kids' Shows, including: Trolls: The Beat Goes On!, Llama Llama, and The Adventures of Puss in Boots Season 6.
As you know, Animated Series are not just for children, Netflix also has a few other animated series released, including: Devilman Crybaby, which started January 5, 2018, an adaptation of the comic Devilman by Go Nagai. There is also a long list of other Anime being released on Crunchyroll that you can find here!
4. New Animation Competition
Launched by Studio Art&Graft, "7 Second Sins" is a competition where all animations must be 7 seconds long and must reinterpret the assigned sin for the month. The first deadline being January 27, 2018 and on "Pride" with purple as the color palette.
If you're interested in joining in on the competition, check out the rules and deadlines here!
5. Animation Programs for Students
There is also a lot going on for animation students all over the world. New programs, improved programs, and tuition free animation programs!
The Sunrise Animation Studio in Japan has a free animation training program that you can find out more about here! Paris, France also provides a similar opportunity with TeamTO at the animation school La Poudrière in Bourg-lès-Valence, which is right next to their studio!
Plus a whole long list of more of these new and improved programs here!
Stay up to date on more news in animation on all our social media platforms!
This week we sat down with Nico Sanghrajka to find out a little more about his background in rigging and visual effects!
Nico has been helping us with the rigging of Bink. He's also helping us on a client project; we're creating 8 episodes for a webseries. He is originally from Germany and studied computer graphics at a film academy in Germany while specializing in rigging and lighting. After graduation, he sent out his reels and was called to Berlin to work on his first feature film, Rudy- Return of the Racing Pig. This was a live-action movie about a pig. The pig wasn’t doing everything the director wanted so they called on some animators to help replace the pig in a couple of shots. Shortly after, Nico moved to London to work on the Tale of Despereaux. Later, he received a job offer from DreamWorks Animation in Redwood city. He worked for DreamWorks Animation for 6 years on movies like Megamind, Kung Fu Panda, and Penguins of Madagascar. In July of 2014 Nico went back to London for 9 months to work on the Jungle Book which comes out later this year! He now lives in San Francisco and has recently worked as a rigging supervisor for Deadpool, the new Pirates of the Caribbean, and the new Startrek!
When he’s not busy working on rigging or visual effects, you can find him somewhere outside. Nico loves hiking, spending time at the park, and the beach. He also loves activities like snowboarding and riding his motorcycle. If you want to know more about Nico and his work, you can check out his website.
We're thrilled to introduce to you one of the talented animators we work with, Scott Raymond! Scott has been working on the Bink short since the first of this year and we're so happy to have him!
Growing up, Scott watched many animated movies and was always fascinated by animation. When Scott first started at DreamWorks Animation, he was doing crowd simulations, but his favorite aspect of the job was working with the animated cycles. He started animating his own cycles and then switched into an animation role full time. Scott spent 8 years at DreamWorks, where he was able to connect with Eric and many other talented artists. Although he no longer works there, he made many close friends who he keeps in touch with and works closely with. He's excited to work with Eric Miller Animation Studios because he gets to work with people who are so passionate about what they do and produce top-caliber work.
He currently resides in Tennessee and teaches animation classes at Austin Peay State University. He's thankful that he has time to spend working in animation while also balancing life with his wife and two boys.
For more information on Scott and the incredible work that he's doing, check out his blog here.
This year boasts a large amount of animated film releases from major studios. In fact, there are 167 animated films listed on IMDB to be released in 2016. These are the ten films we’re most looking forward to within the coming year, in order of release date.