Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Worth a mention - 02/26/14

Disney Planning Back-to-Back INDIANA JONES Sequels?

(             Website MarketSaw states, a source close to “Star Wars” creator George Lucas has reported that 71 year-old veteran actor Harrison Ford is in negotiations to reprise his role as Millennium Falcon pilot Han Solo in J. J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: Episode VII.” The deal will also include Ford returning to shoot back-to-back sequels for Indiana Jones.

Ford has been evasive concerning his return to the “Star Wars” series, but two more Indiana Jones features are said to be part of his contract clause.  This is why he hasn’t ‘publicly’ or ‘privately’ committed. So, if Disney wants to have Han Solo, they’ll have to ante up two more Indiana Jones films.

What do you think about the two-for-one deal?

“Star Wars: Episode VII” will open in theaters on December 18, 2015.  The film will star Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels. Lawrence Kasdan and J.J. Abrams wrote the screenplay based on characters created by George Lucas. John Williams will return to compose the film’s score.  J.J. Abrams directs.

VFX Soldier Speaks To LA City Council

(           Last night I attended an Ad Hoc Film Committee event held by Councilmembers in LA city hall. Each speaker was allowed 3 minutes to speak in front of the council. You can listen to the whole session below. My statement is at the 1:37:36 mark:

You can hear one of the council members gasp as I revealed the ultimatum given to workers recently at Imageworks to move to Vancouver. It’s a shame there was no video of the meeting. The look on the face of Councilmembers when I revealed that taxpayers in BC pay 60% of resident VFX salaries was devastating.

Councilmember Krekorian had a surprised look at how much BC was paying for film subsidies. Councilmember O’Farrell was nodding with interest when I revealed the legal effort.  Councilmember Price complimented me on my presentation after the meeting and I gave him papers explaining the effort.

Afterwards there were a good number of people who gave me their contact information interested in supporting the effort. I handed out fliers directing them to our website and the March in March event. There will be future meetings and I think it’s a good forum to have your voice heard and help shape council members knowledge.

'Ghostbusters' Sequel Still on Sfter Ramis' Death

(           The second 'Ghostbusters' sequel is still a go, despite the death of Harold Ramis.

The actor/director had been scheduled to make a cameo appearance along with the other original Ghostbusters, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, in the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and it was feared his death on Monday would scupper plans.

But Sony insiders claim studio bosses still want to make the film and they're sitting down with director Ivan Reitman this week to discuss how to proceed.

Filming is still set to start later this year.

Sony Santa Monica Suffers Layoffs

(           God of War developer Sony Santa Monica has been hit with a round of layoffs, Sony Computer Entertainment of America has confirmed.

The publisher told IGN a reduction in workforce took place yesterday at the SoCal-based development studio, stating the cuts are the result of resource re-alignment.

"SCEA can confirm that we have completed a reduction in workforce at Santa Monica Studio. This is a result of a cycle of resource re-alignment against priority growth areas within SCE WWS,” the statement read.

“We do not take these decisions lightly. However, sometimes it is necessary to make changes to better serve the future projects of the studio. We have offered outplacement services and severance packages to ease transition for those impacted."

The layoffs were initially leaked to IGN by unidentified sources, who indicated that one of the Sony Santa Monica's active projects ended up getting canceled as a result of the staff reduction.

That bit has yet to be acknowledged by SCEA. The company also chose not to reveal any specifics regarding how many SSM employees were let go – and how many are now left working at the studio.

Sony Fast-Tracks The Smurfs 3 as Fully Animated Movie

(          The sequel won't be a toon/live-action hybrid like its predecessors.

Sony Pictures Animation is reportedly moving quickly on The Smurfs 3 and switching things up for their next screen outing.

According to Variety, "Sony is fast-tracking its third Smurfs installment, which will be entirely animated (its predecessors were live action/animated hybrids). The second installment, released last July, did approximately $215 million less business worldwide than the 2011 original ($347.5 million vs. $563.7 million). Both leaned heavily on the foreign box office, which contributed more than 70% of each film’s global box office take."

With Smurfs 3 now a fully animated movie, it remains to be seen what this means for Hank Azaria's Gargamel. Will the Smurfs face a new (non-live-action) nemesis next time out? Or will Azaria simply voice a now-animated Gargamel? Such important, burning questions ...

Last we'd heard, Over the Hedge screenwriters Karey Kirkpatrick and Chris Poche were writing The Smurfs 3, which is scheduled for release August 14, 2015.

Life After Pi Documentary Released

(           Rhythm & Hues India’s Prashant Buyyala at the 7:40 mark:

We’ve had to chase a price point that’s been dropping very rapidly and the reason why the prices have been dropping quite a bit, one of the fundamental reasons is the tax subsidies that are being provided in Canada, in the UK, and other places.

Watch the full doc:

Open Casting Call for ‘Jurassic World’ This Weekend

The latest installment of Jurassic Park is set to film in the islands and a local talent agency tells KHON2 that the film’s casting department is looking for local extras to be a part of the movie.

A casting call will be held this Sunday, March 2, from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., at the Olelo Community Media Center at 1122 Mapunapuna St. All ages and ethnicities are welcome to try out.

Casting directors are especially interested in seeing families with children ages 6 to 17, twin children ages 6 to 15, and people who look like they’re in the military.

There are no fees or charges.

Ebay Buys Computer Graphics Startup PhiSix

(             Ebay has acquired PhiSix Fashion Labs, a computer graphics startup that makes 3D models of clothing, in a bid to offer customers a virtual fitting room.

The e-commerce giant is like its peers trying to grow its share of online apparel purchases. Research firm eMarketer has forecast that online retail sales in the U.S. of apparel and accessories will rise to $88 billion by 2016, almost as much as the largest online retail category consisting of computers and consumer electronics, up from $54 billion in 2013.

PhiSix's technology can be used both online and offline to allow consumers to see how clothes fit, look and move in different environments without actually having to try them on, the e-commerce company said in a blog post.

Virtual fitting rooms in some forms have been tried before and did not meet the preference of many users to physically try the clothes.

The 3D models will offer shoppers a virtual fitting room where they can view the clothes in a variety of scenarios ranging from walking down the street to hitting a golf club, eBay said Wednesday.

Ebay said the PhiSix technology can be used for omni-channel commerce so users can shop from any online device.

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Ebay said it could integrate PhiSix technology across its product portfolio.

PhiSix founder Jonathan Su and his three-person team will join eBay's Innovation and New Ventures group to focus on ways to transform retail, eBay said.

This Is What Movies Would Look Like Without Visual Effects

(              While watching a movie at home or in theaters, sometimes we forget the special effects that go into bringing a film to life.

This year, "Gravity," "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," "Iron Man 3," and "Star Trek Into Darkness" are all nominated for visual effects Oscars.

Would you recognize any of those films without their added special effects?

We've gathered together images from visual effects studios Industrial Light & Magic, Framestore, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Rhythm & Hues along with visual effects software company Imagineer Systems to show what popular movies would look like without added effects.

From Oscar-nominated films to box-office successes see what popular movies would look like without effects.

Take a look:

Attack On Titan Live-Action Special Effects Look Terrifying

(               Remember that Attack on Titan Subaru commercial? The ad featured giant Titans. Two of them were actors in scary make up. And the third?

From the looks of these behind-the-scenes pics, the third one — the Colossal Titan — was a giant puppet. According to IT Media, seven puppeteers controlled the large-scale maquette. According to me, the puppet looks frightening.

Obviously, this was used with a combination of CG, but that’s a combination that should make fans of old style special effects happy — and scared in a very good way.

Behind the scenes photos:

Autodesk Reveals Cloud-Based 3D Character Generator

(            This week Autodesk expanded its cloud offering with the launch of Character Generator, an easy-to-use, web-based application that enables virtually anyone to create customized, rigged and ready-to-animate 3D characters.

Once designed, characters can be exported for a wide range of applications - from populating game scenes, to learning animation and modeling, generating models for pre-visualization, design visualization and more. Character Generator requires five cloud credits per high-resolution character download for customers on Autodesk subscription or rental plans. Students and educators receive free access to the product, and a lighter version of the app for creating low-resolution and crowd characters is accessible for anyone to try at no cost.

Formerly dubbed "Project Pinocchio," a popular Autodesk Labs experiment that resulted in the creation of thousands of characters, Character Generator was designed with customer feedback integrated throughout development, and houses a robust library of pre-built male, female and creature characters. Using intuitive slider and selection functions, users can combine and morph the physical attributes of the pre-built models – from body traits to facial features, skin color, hair styles, clothing and more – to create unique characters. Upon completion, users on Autodesk subscription or rental plans can leverage cloud credits to export their 3D creations to software packages such as Autodesk Maya, Maya LT and 3ds Max for further customization and animation, or use in game engines like Unity.

Key Character Generator features include:

An extensive collection of male, female and fantasy characters, from which users can blend two different sources to create an original design
A virtually limitless selection of skin, eye, hair, clothing and shoes to choose from
Targeted blending options to refine characters on a per feature basis
The ability to save characters in the cloud and modify them in the future as needed
Autodesk subscription and rental customers will receive access to a body, bone and blend-shape facial rig collection compatible with Autodesk HumanIK middleware to enable keyframe, motion-capture or facial animation in Autodesk software
FBX and Maya publishing options for customers on Autodesk subscription or rental plans

VFX Sign Language

(            On Sunday we had a well-attended pre-rally BBQ to help prepare for the March in March. Some wanted to help make signs and by the end of the day they created works of art.

So given that a reader suggested I put up a post for people to discuss good sign slogans to help with the effort. Sometimes the most effective message is the one that is visually creative and pithy!

See the artwork:

The Special Effects Firms Transforming the Film Industry

(          If you are looking for a sure thing at this year's Oscars look no further than Gravity to win the best visual effects category. Despite containing the combined star power of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the real standout of the film has been the work of London-based special effects company Framestore.

Under the guidance of VFX supervisor Tim Webber, the company worked closely with director Alfonso Cuaron to bring the tale of two stranded astronauts to the screen. Originally conceived as a small, intimate film with practical effects, Webber believed that the difficulty of representing gravity in space, or the relative lack of it, could best be overcome through digital technology.

The end result is a film that is about 80% composed of digital shots. Each frame took around 50 hours to render fully and if the entire film had been rendered using a single CPU processor then it would have taken about 7,000 years.

Facial Capture

Actor Kezia Burrows explains how facial expressions can be captured

As performance capture has advanced over the past decade so has the quest to make a realistic human CGI face. Rather than doing away with the actor, the process actually works in conjunction with their performance, tracing and capturing the movements of their face. This information is then fed back into the software to give as realistic a digital performance as possible.

One of the most recent products in this field is the Vicon Cara. Its makers claim that the system is the world's first, out-of-the-box, 3D facial motion capture system. The light-weight helmet is made up of four HD cameras which record their movement and which allow the performer to act without their view being obscured.

While the tech still has some way to go before it can create a truly believable human CGI performance, it has reached a stage where human performances can be altered by visual effects artists afterwards, albeit in subtle fashion.

Phil Elderfield of Vicon points out that: "You can start with the true performance of the day but you can also tweak it a little bit if you want to - you can embellish it or you can play it down, you can emphasis or de-emphasis certain things and by re-creating a [filmed] world inside a computer that flexibility exists."

Performance Capture

Spencer Kelly finds out how Bepe the blue alien is created

In 2001 the film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was released. The movie may be unfamiliar to many these days but it marked the first widespread release of a film made entirely using motion capture technology.

The studios of AudioMotion are based just outside of Oxford and, while the name may not be immediately familiar, they have worked on some of the biggest films and computer games of the last few years.

The company specialise in motion or performance capture which involves actors wearing a special mo-cap or performance capture suit that is covered in highly reflective dots. The location of the dots is captured by cameras all around a set and visual effects engineers are able to digitally recreate the exact movements of the actor.

The process achieved widespread prominence with the release of the second Lord of the Rings film, The Two Towers, where the performance of actor Andy Serkis as Gollum earned critical acclaim.

The last decade has seen the technology develop further still with more detailed and complex movements able to be mapped while more realistic and human-like creations are now commonplace in films and computer games.

Close-Up Image Of Godzilla Looks Sufficiently Terrifying

The last few Godzilla trailers have been great and all, but has anyone else been uncomfortably reminded of the 1998 movie trailers? You know, how they built so much suspense not showing the monster in anything, all to have it end up looking like a really awkward iguana? No worries, friends. This Empire cover will assuage your fears.

Unlike the 1998 Godzilla, this one’s clearly a lot stockier and more reminiscent of the classic Kaiju movie monsters with their squat, lumbering frames. That’s definitely a good thing, although I’m still a bit wary of being excited for this movie, if only because how are they going to make me care about Bryan Cranston as much as I cared about those dorky ass-kicking jaegar pilots in Pacific Rim? (spoiler alert: I cared about them more than I would prefer to admit) But at least we can all rest easy for now, safe in the knowledge that Godzilla isn’t going to look plain ol’ stupid like he did last time.

Take a look:

DreamWorks Animation Falls as ‘Turbo’ Leads to Revenue Drop

(             The DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. logo is displayed in the courtyard of the company's headquarters in Glendale, California. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. (DWA:US), the independent film studio, tumbled the most in more than four years after reporting a 23 percent drop in quarterly revenue, as home-video sales of the movie “Turbo” trailed estimates.

DreamWorks Animation slumped 14 percent to $30.33 at 10:05 a.m. in New York, after falling to $30.02 for the biggest intraday decline since September 2008. Sales in the fourth quarter fell to $204.3 million, the Glendale, California-based company said yesterday in a statement (DWA:US). That missed analysts’ projections of $223.2 million, the average of nine estimates.

The home-video release of “Turbo” during the quarter and the film’s expansion outside the U.S. failed to reverse its fortunes. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg said on Oct. 29 that he believed “Turbo,” a box-office disappointment for DreamWorks Animation in July, would turn a profit. Instead, the company yesterday wrote down its value by $13.5 million.

The film “faced one of the most competitive feature film environments we’ve seen,” Katzenberg said on a conference call with investors. “While it performed fairly well during the fourth quarter at the international box office and its home-video release, it still fell short of our expectations.”

Net income totaled $17.2 million, or 20 cents a share, DreamWorks Animation said. In last year’s fourth quarter, the company posted a net loss of $82.7 million, or 98 cents a share, following the lackluster performance of “Rise of the Guardians” in theaters.

“Turbo,” available on DVD and other home-video formats starting Nov. 12, sold 3.3 million units in the period, the company said. In addition to the impairment charge, equaling about 12 cents a share, DreamWorks Animation recorded amortization expenses of $4 million on the film, Chief Financial Officer Lew Coleman said on the call.

A separate $7 million impairment was recorded for a “Rocky & Bullwinkle” short, which the company previously planned to run before its next feature film, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” which opens in the U.S. on March 7.

Analysts had expected profit of 32 cents a share, the average of 10 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” released in some international markets, has collected $22.5 million to date outside the U.S., according to researcher

Motion Capture Breakthrough: Persons Filmed Outdoors Can Now Be Easily Transformed Into Virtual Characters

(              So far, film studios have had to put in huge amounts of effort to set monsters, superheroes, fairies or other virtual characters into real feature film scenes. Within the so-called motion capturing process, real actors wear skintight suits with markers on them. These suits reflect infrared light that is emitted and captured by special cameras. Subsequent to this, the movements of the actors are rendered with the aid of software into animated characters. The most popular example of this is “Gollum” from the film Lord of the Rings, played by Andy Serkis.

Nils Hasler and Carsten Stoll, two researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbruecken, developed a method that works without markers. It immediately transfers actors’ movements to the virtual characters in near real-time. They presented their technology for the first time at the Cebit in 2013. The researchers used the last few months to improve their technology. “We made it more user-friendly”, explains Nils Hasler. “Now it is possible to film the movie scenes outdoors and not only in the studio.” For example, movie scenes like those from Lord of the Rings, where Gollum has to wander through the mountainous landscape of Middle Earth, wouldn’t need to be produced in the studio any longer, but could actually get filmed in the landscape where the scene takes place.

Moreover, the researchers dealt with the task of transferring the movements of two actors at the same time into two animated characters. “But the software needs a little bit more computing time to deal with two persons”, explains Carsten Stoll. Moreover, the technique makes it possible to imitate entire tracking shots. The movements of one character can thus be more easily captured from every angle.

Together with Christian Theobalt, leader of the research group “Graphics, Vision & Video” at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, they could solve another problem: with their method, they can display people in full even if they had been partly obscured by other characters in a movie scene. This novel approach is not only interesting for the film and gaming industry. Sports journalists could better comment on movement sequences during a live boxing match or judo coaches could use it to analyze the fighting techniques of their athletes immediately. “Company doctors and physiotherapists could also use the technique to prevent, for example, back pain issues for company staff, or to optimize work processes”.

To commercialize their technology, Hasler and colleagues founded the company “The Captury” last June. At the same, they are already working on first requests from industry. The researchers also won the main award within the IKT founder competition that is announced yearly by the Federal Ministry of Economy and Energy and includes the prize of 30,000 Euro.

The researcher will present their approach from the 12th through the 14th of March at the computer fair trade Cebit in Hanover at the booth of the Federal Ministry of Economy (hall 9, booth E24).

10 Pre-2000 Movies With Special Effects That Still Hold Up Today

With Pacific Rim, Man Of Steel, The Hobbit and Iron Man 3 all being released last year, it is clear to see that the special effects blockbuster is still alive and kicking. When employed correctly, special effects can greatly enhance the enjoyment to be had from a film; but with new technology constantly emerging, it can often be the case that what knocked your socks off last year, will barely raise an eyebrow now.

Of course this is not always the case; there are those movies which, even today, look fantastic, whether that be through the use of CGI, practical effects, set design, make up, or a combination of all of the above. For the purposes of this article, we have decided to take a look at those movies from before the millennium which were heavily reliant on special effects and yet, despite their advancing years, manage to utterly convince the audience that what they are seeing is real.

It is no coincidence that all of these movies’ special effects were completely integral to the story and so perhaps that is the reason they still hold up well. Or perhaps it is simply a case of a group of talented people at the absolute top of their game; either way you can’t help but still be impressed by what you are seeing. So read on for 10 movies with special effects which could still rival those of modern cinema.

Take a look:

Why Hollywood Struggles to Quickly Clone Animated Hits

(           With the runaway success of Disney’s (DIS) Frozen and the explosive opening of Warner Bros.’s (TWX) The Lego Movie, animated films have had a great run in recent months. When a live-action movie becomes a big hit, it’s not long before imitators—both real and imagined—show up on the horizon. Doing the same in the animation world isn’t quite so simple.

“A lot of people who aren’t in the industry don’t realize how long it takes to get an animated film made,” says David A. Price, author of The Pixar Touch. “The development process is quite long, and then production itself takes a couple of years. An animator turns out about three seconds of finished animation a week.”

Those best positioned to take advantage of these films’ success are the companies that created them. A Lego Movie sequel is already in the works, and Warner will likely schedule the next one during a more competitive season, such as summer 2016. That’s actually a remarkably short period of time in which to produce a high-profile animated film, but the Lego folks have a technological advantage. As producer Dan Lin recently told the website Collider: “We’ve been augmenting the Lego digital builder, so we have the technology to make the movie faster.”

The box-office hit came from the toy company’s first-ever theatrical release, but The Lego Movie wasn’t actually Lego’s first feature-length film. Just last year, the company released Lego Batman: The Movie—DC Super Heroes Unite and in 2010 put out Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers. Warner Bros. and Lego are also working on a feature-length film called Ninjago, a ninja-themed Lego brand that has already inspired a hit Cartoon Network animated series. Look for production on that to begin quite soon to take advantage of the new film’s success. Existing franchises, of course, can speed up faster than originals because very often key character design and development has already occurred.

Could a Frozen sequel also be in the works? Disney tends to shy away from theatrical sequels to its features, instead relying on similarly positioned original films to carry the day. Last summer word had already filtered out that Disney was working on Giants for 2016, another musical fairy-tale reboot that seeks to do for Jack and the Beanstalk what Frozen did for Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.

As for a new Disney princess movie, fans will have to wait until 2018 for the studio’s South Seas-set Moana. Could that open sooner, to capitalize on Frozen’s success? Not likely, as even concept art for the film hasn’t been released yet. In the meantime, Disney could conceivably try to spin off Olaf the snowman (a fan favorite) in a series of direct-to-video shorts, not unlike the way the studio took advantage of Mater the tow truck from Cars. Illumination Entertainment, responsible for the Despicable Me films, has done something similar with popular short videos featuring the beloved Minions.

Other companies looking to capitalize on these films’ success will have to tread carefully. Last November, the small distributor Phase 4 Films replaced the U.S. home video art for the Canadian animated film The Legend of Sarila, changing the title to Frozen Land and even using Disney’s own Frozen logo. The Mouse House immediately took legal action, and in January the parties reached a settlement preventing Phase 4 from referring to Frozen in any of its marketing materials.

Another possibility for a Frozen-related animated film was dangled last December when Minkyu Lee, an animator and visual development artist who worked on the Disney hit, posted some images he had created years ago for an animated film based on Wicked, the long-running Broadway show featuring characters from The Wizard of Oz. A live-action film of that property has been in development hell for years. Could it now be reimagined as an animated film? The producers would be crazy not to at least consider it. They could even get Idina Menzel, Frozen’s own Queen Elsa, to reprise her Tony-winning turn as Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West.

The fact is that while imitation can be hard in the animated world, it’s not unheard of. “Back in the 1990s, after the success of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, you had lots of companies trying to fit musical numbers into their films,” recalls industry veteran Tom Sito, now an animation professor at the University of Southern California and the author of Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation. Genndy Tartakovsky, director of Hotel Transylvania and the upcoming Popeye, for Sony Pictures Entertainment (SNE), says something similar could happen now: “I’m sure there are studios all over town going through their vaults looking for animated film ideas with strong female characters, as a result of Frozen.”

But in many ways, Tartakovsky suggests that recent successes will end up being most helpful for animators working on their own dream projects. “Both The Lego Movie and Frozen have actually been very helpful to us as we work on Popeye,” he says. “We’re trying to contemporize a property that has been around for decades, while also keeping the essence of what it’s been for 50 years. Both of those movies have done that so well, in different ways.”

Sony Can't Survive On 'Spider-Man' Alone

(          Sony Chairwoman Amy Pascal has promised a new Spider-Man film every year.

In a Variety piece eye-rollingly titled “Analysts: Sony Needs More Bigscreen Franchises“, Sony has come under fire by media analyst Harold Vogel. Vogel claims that a lack of major franchises for Sony Pictures is “creative entropy”, although I would argue just the opposite. Whatever distaste I may have for the opinions on one media analyst being greeted as quasi-factual “news”, he and I do agree on one thing. Despite Pascal’s claims that she will craft spin-off franchises involving Venom and the Sinister Six which will create what amounts to a new Spider-Man movie every year, the studio cannot subsist on just Spider-Man.

As I mentioned last week while discussing Guardians of the Galaxy, the sheer variety in terms of scope and genre is what makes the shared Marvel universe manageable in the long term. Those who prefer somewhat real-world geopolitical action will flock to Iron Man or Captain America while those who want fantasy adventure will prefer Thor or Guardians of the Galaxy. An expanded universe based around Peter Parker’s New York City is still (most likely) a bunch of Spider-Man movies.  Moreover, I would argue that Sony has not been “dragging its feet” on new franchises so much as attempting to create new film franchises that don’t pan out.

Sony could have unleashed an entire multimedia universe based around Will Smith’s After Earth had the film clicked (there were allegedly plans for comic books, video games, and the like). White House Down could have been the next great action franchise had it performed in relation to its budget ($200 million but with a $150 million budget), and Film District’s cheaper rival Olympus Has Fallen will be getting a sequel. Elysium made money ($286 million on a $115 million budget) but wasn’t necessarily franchise material. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones ($90 million worldwide on a $60 million budget) didn’t exactly become the next Hunger Games, although producer Constantin is making a sequel anyway. So it’s not that Sony has been actively avoided the construction of potential franchises so much that their would-be newer properties haven’t quite panned out. It’s a trial-and-error process and sometimes there’s mostly error.

The Smurfs 2 still made $347 million worldwide, even if that’s down from the $567 million gross of The Smurfs. So we’ll still get a Smurfs 3 in August 2015. They’ve got 22 Jump Street and Think Like A Man Too set for June, along with a new James Bond film (a co-production with MGM) dropping in November 2015. They have a a viable animation division that pumps out hits like Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. Their next Denzel Washington vehicle is allegedly so good that it’s already getting a sequel, which would be Washington’s first if The Equalizer 2 comes to pass. And while it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to sequels or action figures, it’s hard to imagine the Will and Jada Smith-produced and Quvenzhane Wallis/Jamie Foxx/Cameron Diaz-starring Annie not being a monster in December, 2014.

There is an unfortunate reading of box office as it relates to studio health that often states that a big box office hit doesn’t count in the big picture if it doesn’t fit into the expected “boy-friendly sequel-friendly fantasy action” template.  This Is The End scoring  $126 million worldwide off a $32 million budget “doesn’t count” because it’s not a mega-budget superhero film and likely won’t spawn a sequel. American Hustle earning over $200 million worldwide doesn’t count because there will be no American Hustle 2. It’s that thinking that makes a film like Sony’s recent Robocop remake more likely to be emulated than Zero Dark Thirty ($132 million on a $30 million budget) or The Call ($68 million worldwide on a $13 million budget) even though those films will (presumably) end up making far more money in relation to their budgets than the sci-fi would-be franchise starter ($142 million thus far on a $100 million budget).

A studio cannot live by tent poles alone, but the creation of new franchises that may become tent poles requires trial-and-error. It’s no secret that Sony didn’t have a great 2013. As I more-or-less wrote last year, the worst thing they could do is look at their 2D originals that perhaps didn’t pan out and see only The Smurfs 2 and Grown Ups 2 as the way of the future. A healthy handful of franchises can maintain a studio and allow it to both grow new would-be franchises and produce (or distribute) old-school movies that don’t necessarily lend themselves to video game tie-ins. But the idea that Sony should be faulted over the short term because a handful of would-be franchises didn’t pan out is just the kind of thinking that harms the industry overall.

Sony Pictures already has enough healthy properties (Spider-Man, 007, Resident Evil, its animated properties, the seemingly surefire Goosebumps adaptations, and its comedy star vehicles) to survive and even thrive as they foster new franchises, attempt to reboot older ones (Men In Black, Ghostbusters, Charlie’s Angels, etc.), take some financial hits, and occasionally distribute “real”  films like Captain Phillips or Looper. A film slate built on the overexposure of Spider-Man will do little more than to to kill audience interest in the web-slinger while leaving the studio with that much less money and release date real estate to foster other would-be franchises for the future. Point being, Sony had a bad summer. It happens. As you recall, they had a terrible summer 1996 (The Fan, Multiplicity, The Cable Guy, etc.) only to roar back to life in 1997 with My Best Friend’s Wedding, Men In Black, and Air Force One.  The worst thing Sony can do is panic and just overload on the one surefire property they own while ignoring their very real successes.

Not every studio has to be Disney, which has basically become “all tent pole franchises, all the time”. The classical meaning of the tent pole used to be 1-3 films a year that were major pictures, predetermined hits if you will, that could hold up the studio over the year and both make them lots of money and help them weather the storm of periodic flops. But it’s all-but reversed today, with small hits like This Is The End helping to soften the blow of big-budget under-performers like After Earth.  We can’t complain as film fans about the glut of remakes, sequels, and big-budget franchise entries and then discount the successes outside that specific criteria. Variety is the key to a healthy studio, a healthy industry I’d argue, in terms of the films they produce or distribute and the respective production and marketing costs associated with those films. You need the American Hustles mixed in with the Men In Blacks.

Sony can ill-afford to over-saturate the market with Spider-Man films. But more importantly, they shouldn’t have to.

MPC Opts for OptiTrack Mo-Cap

(            International vfx studio The Moving Picture Company (MPC), which recently lent movie magic to World War Z and Man of Steel, has revealed its reliance on its 18-camera OptiTrack motion-capture set up, now supplemented with Prime 17W cameras and Motive software. The mo-cap system is overseen by Global Head of Crowd Simulation and Motion Capture Adam Davis at MPC’s London, U.K. headquarters — but the setup is also leveraged by MPC’s international outposts including Vancouver, Montreal, Los Angeles, New York, Amsterdam, Bangalore and Mexico City.

MPC had previously invested in an earlier generation of OptiTrack, but the new enhancements to Motive and the Prime 17W upgrades offered a an economically viable advantage to the studio. Through integration with MPC’s proprietary asset management system, artists at all the studio’s facilities around the world are linked in an open infrastructure that allows each studio remote access to the stage. (MPC performed its first transatlantic motion-capture shoot for Man of Steel). The team submits a request for moves and associated characters, shoot data and reference video are recorded in Motive and sent to a database, from which it is processed, solved onto skeletons and exported to Autodesk MotionBuilder for editing.

MPC also utilized its OptiTrack system to develop a twitchy motion for the zombies of World War Z. With the addition of the new cameras and Motive, MPC is now using motion capture for more prominent hero shots as well, which will be seen in its upcoming films like Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Maleficent and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Jail for Man Who Tried to Blackmail Transformers 4 Film Crew

(         Mak Chi-shing demanded the crew pay him HK$100,000 during shooting on October 17 last year.

An air conditioning technician who tried to blackmail the film crew of Transformers 4 into paying him HK$100,000 has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail.

Mak Chi-shing, 27, demanded the sum from the crew as they shot part of the film at North Point on October 17 last year.

He was convicted today in the District Court, which found him guilty on one charge of blackmail and one of assaulting a police officer.

His elder brother Mak Chi-hang, 28, was acquitted on the blackmail charge with the judge citing insufficient evidence.

But the judge convicted the elder brother of resisting a police office while he was struggling with the crew. The elder brother was sentenced to six weeks in jail.

Judge Josiah Lam Wai-kuen noted that the case involved a foreign filming crew and had been broadly reported by the media.

"The case affected the reputation of Hong Kong as an international city," said the judge. "[The negative publicity] could affect foreigners deciding whether to travel to or work in Hong Kong."

The judge said this was an aggravating factor in the sentence..

The court had earlier heard that the two brothers ran an air-conditioning shop in King’s Road, Quarry Bay, outside which the Transformers crew were filming on October 17 last year during a 10-day shoot in the city.

The night before filming, a crew member agreed to pay HK$1,000 to the pair for the inconvenience. But when the crew arrived, the two brothers played music loudly at the scene. The younger brother then demanded HK$100,000. Later, the brothers and other men began moving bricks out of the shop to obstruct the crew.

VFX Oscar Protest Site Goes Live

(           Thanks to Bran Dougherty-Johnson who helped design the ADAPT logo. Note that the domain link up is still making it’s way through the internets. Let me know if there are any issues.

There will be some huge news coming out tomorrow. Be on the look out for it on twitter and this blog.

-H     The models used for the German U-boat in Raiders of the Lost Ark were rented from the production company that was making Das Boot (1981). The company, however, had forgotten to tell this to the crew of Das Boot, who were surprised to find the model suddenly missing.   -IMDB Trivia

Friday, February 21, 2014

Worth a mention - 02/21/14

$100M Tentpole 'Pompeii' To Be Burried By Legos

(            Paul W.S. Anderson's 3D disaster movie Pompeii could find itself quickly buried in ash at the North American box office, where The Lego Movie is poised to stay at No. 1 for its third weekend.

Pompeii is expected to open south of $15 million, a dismal start considering the movie's $100 million-plus budget. Germany's Constantin Films fully financed Pompeii, resulting in limited financial exposure for TriStar, which is releasing the film domestically per its deal with FilmDistrict. FilmDistrict paid for marketing.

Constantin is hopeful that the historical epic will do strong business internationally, where it opens in 30 markets this weekend (Constantin sold off foreign rights to independent distributors).

VES Awards: Honoree John Dykstra on What Makes Effects 'Good'

(            The Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, who's won Oscars for "Star Wars" and "Spider-Man 2," on how he sees VFX evolving and how companies can fix their troubled business model.

When the Visual Effects Society gathers Feb. 12 for its 12th annual VES Awards, Alfonso Cuaron can expect to spend a lot of time at the winner's podium. Gravity leads in the feature film competition with eight nominations, and the director is set to receive the group's Visionary Award.

Meanwhile, renowned visual effects pioneer John Dykstra will be recognized with VES' Lifetime Achievement Award. Dykstra played a key role in the startup of George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic. His work led to developments in motion-control and bluescreen technologies, and he won Oscars for Star Wars and Spider-Man 2 and an Emmy for Battlestar Galactica. THR caught up with the VFX visionary, who recently completed Legendary's upcoming Seventh Son.

How do you see visual effects evolving?

The content -- meaning the story -- is going to be the thing that determines what is considered "bad visual effects" and "good visual effects." By virtue of the fact that we can now do anything, it comes down to choosing to do something that is evocative. We were much more originated toward the technical side of filmmaking when we started -- we used miniatures, high-speed photography, chemistry. Now it's about integrating VFX into the emotional content of the movie.

This year, VES nominated Gravity's Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, for best animated character. Do you see a change in the way Hollywood thinks about animated characters?

No question, it's changing. I think the key is that an animated character -- if it is not based on an actor -- is the persona of the animation director. But that character has to come from one person's brain or that character starts to become dissolute. Then it's really hard to invest in them. In Sandra Bullock's case, it's her performance, and she is the driving force that gives that character life. I don't consider her an animated character.

How can VFX companies fix their troubled business model?

There's no answer. It's not a profit center. To maintain the agility and depth of invention, you have to maintain really smart people who command fairly high wages, and you have to figure out how to keep that resource constantly engaged. For me, the successful business model is more along the lines of a facility that has a benefactor.ILM was that with George Lucas in its days when it was nascent. I think the companies that don't have that benefit have trouble getting through the lean times.

Pacific Rim 2 and Hollywood's Shift East

(            Pacific Rim seemed to have all the trappings of a major sci-fi blockbuster. It had an impressive cast, a brilliant director, a massive budget and, most of all, a storyline which features giant robots batting equally titanic monsters in major metropolitan areas. A sure fire hit, right? Surely, Legendary Pictures are rushing a Pacific Rim 2 straight into production?

Well, no, unfortunately not. Although there is talk of a sequel, Pacific Rim only just managed to break even on its production costs. Indeed, it was roundly snubbed by the domestic audiences. So, if we do eventually get a Pacific Rim 2, then there’s probably only one bunch of guys you should thank — the Chinese cinema going audience.

Pacific Rim and its proposed sequel are the latest movies to highlight an increasing trend in Hollywood. Whereas traditionally the North American box office was where movies sank or swam, increasingly studio heads are looking East in order to bolster their quarterly profit reports.

Although the 'Communist' state has traditionally been suspicious and critical of American cultural output (or as they’d term it, imperialism), in recent years there’s been a softening attitude towards US imports. Until last year, the Chinese government would only allow 20 foreign movies to be shown in the country per year. Now the number has risen to 34, perhaps illustrating both sides of the bargain realize the mutual benefit of increased cooperation.

The Chinese movie market has exploded in recent years. Every day in China, 10 new screens are added to the already existing 13,000 cinema screens. It is already home to the world’s largest film studio and the film industry grew by 36% over 2013 — meaning it rakes in $2.8 billion a year. It’s already replaced Japan as the second largest movie market and is fully expected to eclipse the US by the end of decade, if not sooner.

As a result, movies which were minor (or even rather severe) flops in the US can still make a profit on the international market. Pacific Rim might be the best known example (it took in $90 million domestically on a budget of $190 million, but generated $225 million globally, $104.5 million from China alone), but even Will and Jadan Smith’s de facto failure After Earth has means to thank the wider market, as it emptied foreign pockets to the sum of $182 million.

So what does this mean for Pacific Rim 2 and the wider movie industry? Well, quite a lot to be honest. You see, once movie studios have realized there is money to be made in China, I’m sure we can expect to see more films attempting to appeal to the interests of the average China moviegoer. Now, on the surface surely this is a good thing? The American movie industry obviously isn't just the American movie industry, it is in many regards the 'world' movie industry, so the less US-centric the films, the better, right?

Full article:!wJHg3

Sony's 4K Movie Tech Pioneers Axed in Tech Division Cuts

(           Sony has revealed that it is making a number of major changes to its movie tech division, announcing that it is shuttering the Sony Picture Technologies unit.

The changes mean that a number of key people in Sony who have overseen major technological breakthroughs are set to leave the company.

According to Sony, Chris Cookson - the president of Sony Pictures Technologies - will be leaving the company has part of the cost cutting.

He oversaw a division that not only looked after the 3D training side at Sony but helped push the studio into the world of digital production, as well as the transition to 4K and digital distribution – which we all know as UltraViolet.

Absorbing the functions

Although not officially announced by Sony, Bloomberg Businessweek is reporting that Mitch Singer, Sony's chief digital strategy officer, has also left the company.

Singer is know as the person who led the development of UltraViolet – the digital distribution system that has been adopted by most movie studios (and annoyed many a movie buyer) and can be found on many a Blu-ray.

It is not known just what kind of an effect these cuts will have on Sony going forward. What is known is that two key players in its technology division are gone – two people who helped push Sony's 4K plans, as well as 3D before it.

In a statement, Sony explained that "Sony Pictures Entertainment is absorbing the functions of Sony Pictures Technologies into various core businesses" and this should "accelerate creative and technological innovation." So, fingers crossed future tech plans aren't affected by the cuts.

TechRadar actually visited Sony's technology unit in Culver City, California, last year where we saw Sony's impressive 4K eco-system in action, which stretches from 4K projectors in theaters worldwide to Breaking Bad being remastered in 4K, ready for when Netflix flicks the switch.

‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ Is “Not a Kids Movie”

(            In today’s Hollywood, violence is complicated topic. A single violent scene in an otherwise timid movie, if shot in a graphic way, can get a film an R rating. On the other hand, if the violence isn’t graphic, a filmmaker can kill millions of people and get a PG-13. Is one worse than the other? Is the death of many, if it shown without blood, less frightening than the gory death of one?

This issue comes to light most often in blockbuster movies. Films like Man of Steel or The Avengers contain wanton destruction, yet are considered family-friendly due their rating and genre. It’s with that knowledge actor Titus Welliver, best known for being the Man in Black on Lost, probably said the following about his upcoming film, Transformers: Age of Extinction. He called the film darker and said “it’s not a kids movie, I’ll tell you that much.”

The quote came from Nerdist (via TFW 2005). Here’s the full context:

How was it for the actor, best known for his roles on The Good Wife and Argo, stepping into the huge Transformers summer movie franchise? “I’ve now won the hard earned respect of my children because I’m in aTransformers film, and I’ve always wanted to work with Michael Bay and certainly Mark Wahlberg and Kelsey Grammer.” And what can fans look forward to in this installment? “It’s a bit more of a darker vision of the Transformers world… It’s not a kids movie, I’ll tell you that much.”

Considering the last three Michael Bay Transformers movies were all PG-13, it’s probably safe to say Bay is contractually obligated to do the same with Age of Extinction. If it was to get an R-rating, the young boys and girls who the film is made for wouldn’t be able to see it and box office would sharply decline. So when Welliver says the film is “not a kids movie,” he’s not suggesting this movie will be an R. He’s just saying parents should be cautious to expose their kids to the potential destruction and robot on robot violence sure to be all over the film. This isn’t Frozen or Finding Nemo. It’s a big action movie.

That, of course, is just my interpretation of the quote. For all we know, Age of Extinction could get much darker and more disturbing than the previous films. Even if that’s true, though, it’ll still be PG-13. Does that mean it’s a “kids movie?” It’s open to interpretation.

16% of US Gamers Have Dropped Physical Games Completely

(            A new report from NPD suggests that only a limited number of US gamers have made the decision to completely abandon physical games.

VG247 has word from NPD’s Exploring Digital Gaming report which claims that 16 per cent of US gamers say that they now buy all their games digitally. 36 per cent play downloaded games at some point.

When asked specifically about preferences for digital or physical, 30 per cent prefer physical, 25 per cent prefer digital and 45 per cent have no preference. 90 per cent of PC gamers have a preference for digital.

“Most digital players, regardless of device, don’t plan their purchases,” NPD analyst Liam Callahan said. “They purchase simply when they find something they like. But primary console players do have a greater tendency to purchase at or before the time of release relative to PC players.

“As more consumers purchase the new consoles, we expect to see greater digital spending from digital console gamers as consumers indicated that purchasing these consoles will most likely increase their digital spending.”

Foudry Call For Showreel Submissions

(        he Foundry are getting ready getting ready to create their 2014 showreel and would love to hear from you if you have material you'd like to submit.

Their 2013 showreel has over 55,500 views and has been shown at events all over the world, from Foundry events in the US, Europe, Latin America, India and Australia to our MARI 2.0 & NUKE 8 live event which was broadcast live across the globe. The 2014 Showreel will premier at NAB Show 2014 in early April.

They are looking for a wide range of material, including:

Motion graphics
Product design

Submissions are being accepted until 17th March 2014

If you're interested in being in the 2014 showreel, and have permission for us to use your content, please complete their online submission form and they will contact you with FTP upload details.


Our Industry Has Thrown Us A Curve

(              Because I was working at Digital Productions when Apple released the Macintosh, the 30th anniversary of the Mac really brought home to me how long I’ve been in this crazy industry of ours and how many changes I’ve seen. I realize that I’ve seen the business of visual effects through almost its complete industry curve – that natural cycle that every industry grows through from infancy to maturity.

The normal industry life cycle has, according to experts, four or five distinct phases. Let’s look at those phases in the light of vfx.

Introduction/Incubation: In this initial phase there are very few competitors because the industry is so new. Because those who require – or want – the product are willing to pay to get hold of it, suppliers have some power. Though costs of production may be high, thus making profits small.

When I first went to work at Digital Productions in 1983, high-end computer graphics for entertainment was just beginning. There were only a few facilities in the world doing what we were doing. It was a very exciting time. Because we were pioneers, there were no off-the-shelf products, nor “off-the-shelf” talent. We were using computers, recorders and in-put devices in ways their manufacturers had never envisioned. And the people doing the work came from all kinds of backgrounds: mathematicians, programmers, architects, film editors. Heady times. We knew we were doing something that would, if not change the world, would change the way films were made. There were also many companies who didn’t make it. DOA, anyone?

Growth: In this stage, more firms enter the industry and competition increases. On the other hand, demand outstrips supply, production processes and tools become more cost effective, all leading to high profits. Although, companies may still be cash poor and run extreme risks as they jockey for market share and competitive positioning.

Digital Productions was long gone by the time vfx reached this stage. But these, too, were heady times. Hardware and software products developed specifically for our industry advanced the art of what we were doing and began to get the technology out of the way of the creativity. Plus, market demand for what we could do had sky rocketed. Forrest Gump, Titanic, Lord of the Rings all pushed our capabilities, box office receipts and audience expectations. It was a good time to be in visual effects. Artists and programmers with experience could expect good pay and steady employment. Facility’s parking lots were full of Porches and more.

Maturity: In this stage, the power of buyers increases, as capacity meets or exceeds demand. The industry consolidates through mergers, acquisitions and failures. Rivalry amongst suppliers is stiff and falling prices threaten profits.

Sound familiar? I think we all watched in amazement as the decrease in cost-of-entry into production and an education path well-paved with schools made it much cheaper and easier to get into visual effects. Less expensive, more robust software and inexpensive, powerful machines made it possible for just about anyone to set up shop. Mergers of production facilities and failures of some long-standing firms kept the ground shifting. Highly-paid artists and supervisors began to get laid off and replaced by less-expensive juniors. Studios began to be much more demanding about what they expected and how much (little?) they paid. Times were no longer heady.

Decline: In this stage, capacity far out-strips demand, thus increasing the power of buyers. The weakest competitors leave the industry (or fail). At this stage, competitors may join forces to ask for government intervention in the form of subsidies or tax breaks.

It doesn’t take a Nobel-winning economist to tell you that this is where we are right now. Although there is an ever-increasing demand for visual effects in entertainment venues of all kinds, the profits are razor-thin – if there are any at all. Long-standing companies are finding it harder and harder to keep their doors open. Artists must pack their bags and follow the work from tax subsidy to tax subsidy. More experienced workers find it tougher and tougher to find work at all. It’s a pretty miserable time to be in vfx.

So what’s to be done? I’ve painted a very gloomy picture, but it’s our current reality. How do we survive? I’ve put a lot of thought into this issue over the years, as I’ve watched vfx move from growth into maturity and on into decline.

To survive and thrive, I believe we – the individuals and companies - need to do what we did back in those heady, exciting days – back when the Mac was introduced and architects were developing ways to get digital starships onto film: We need to take our skills, experience and passion into the next industry that’s on the left side of industry bell curve.

What is that next industry? Special venue? Museum displays? Virtual reality? Something else entirely that we haven’t even thought of or doesn’t exist yet. I don’t know for sure, but let’s begin the exploration. Shall we?


Where’s VFX Soldier?

(               These few weeks coming up are going to be quite busy for me. Here is a consolidated look of where I’ll be. Please join me if you can. To help spread the word, I put together a little one sheet that you can print copies and distribute:

Friday February 21 – Walt Disney Animation Lunch

I’ll be having lunch with some colleagues so you’ll probably see me around. Please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions.

Saturday February 22 – IATSE “Jobs Recovery Event”

As a former IATSE member I heard about this event which you will have to RSVP with the info in the image above. I will be there letting members know of our alternative legal effort.

Sunday February 23 – March In March Pre-Rally BBQ 12:00-4:00pm

Click the link above for more info. We still need people who are coming to bring some items so please help if you can. There will be food, drinks, and music. Kid friendly park too.

Monday February 24 – LA City Council Meeting On Film Subsidies 6pm-8pm

I was invited to attend and testify to the LA City Council about our legal effort. Not sure if this is open to the public but it will probably be at city hall. Still gathering details and will update this page.

Thursday February 27 – KPCC / Milken Institute Discussion On Subsidies 7:30 – 9:00pm

Again another panel I’ll be harassing

Sunday March 2 – March in March 1:00-3:00pm

The main event!

Marvel To Shoot ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ In South Korea

(              Seoul, South Korea will play host to Marvel‘s Avengers: Age of Ultron, the studio announced today. Key elements of the superhero sequel will be shot in the South Korean capital in addition to other international locations including Johannesburg, South Africa and Aosta Valley, Italy and London. The Joss Whedon-helmed Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters May 1, 2015.

B.C. Premier Visited Prime World Focus Offices Last Week

(            Prime Focus World CEO and founder Namit Malhotra with B.C. Premier Christy Clark in Prime Focus World’s Los Angeles facility. (Handout)

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, who has faced mounting pressure in her own province to do more to support the film industry, quietly paid a visit to Hollywood last week.

During a trade mission to California, Clark stopped by the Hollywood offices of Prime Focus World, the Indian-owned 3-D conversion and visual effects company that recently expanded its Vancouver facility, where it employs about 200 people.

In a meeting last Wednesday (Feb. 5) with Prime Focus World executives, Clark said her government was considering expanding the province’s support for the post-production and digital animation sector, according to people familiar with the private meeting.

British Columbia offers a 33 per cent rebate on labour expenditures in the province and an additional 17.5 per cent credit on labour costs for digital animation and visual effects projects.

The meeting comes at a time when Vancouver has been struggling to maintain its reputation as Hollywood North, as more film and TV production has shifted to Toronto, Ontario and U.S. states that offer more generous film incentives.

The issue caused thousands of industry workers and their supporters to stage rallies and protests in Vancouver last year.

Clark has been outspoken in rejecting what she has described as a “race to the bottom” of tax breaks for the province’s film industry, noting that taxpayers already spend nearly $300 million a year to support filming.

Nonetheless, Clark has expressed a willingness to consider broadening the rebate for post-production services, capitalizing on Vancouver’s reputation as a visual effects hub.

The message resonated with executives at Prime Focus World, which recently did the 3-D conversion work on the Oscar-nominated Warner Bros. film “Gravity.”

Namit Malhotra, chief executive and founder of Prime Focus World, showed Clark a series of reels detailing Prime Focus’ work. They also discussed Vancouver’s place as “Hollywood of the North” and the critical nature of the province’s tax incentives, according to a statement posted on the company’s website.

“We were incredibly honoured to host the Premier,” Malhotra said in a statement. “Vancouver has long been a key global influencer in the creative services space, and an important component of Prime Focus World’s global footprint. We salute the Clark administration’s proactive attention to the Creative B.C. incentives and community.”

Avatars Should Win Best Actor Oscars Too, Aays Hobbit Star Andy Serkis

(         Hobbit actor Andy Serkis has called for computer-generated characters to be nominated for top movie awards.

Serkis, 49, said there should be no distinction at the Oscars, Baftas and Golden Globes between actors who play digitally enhanced “avatars” and those playing “in-the-flesh” roles.

His digitally-enhanced performances as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Caesar the ape in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, and King Kong, triggered a debate over the recognition of digital avatars.

He said: “People always say there ought be a separate category for actors playing digital avatar roles but I absolutely disagree. The process of acting is exactly the same. I have never drawn a distinction playing a live action  character to playing a digital character.

“It is just another set of cameras that records your performance in a different way. Like an actor puts on costume and make-up in a live action movie, with performance capture it’s like put-ting costume and make-up on afterwards.”

Other computer- generated roles in-clude Zoe Saldana’s alien in James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi epic Avatar. Serkis, an expert in CGI, wants to promote performance capture technology and has set up a studio, The Imaginarium, which is making an adaptation of Animal Farm, due out next year.

He warned that funding cuts are hitting children’s access to the arts: “We are in a sad situation where 20 to 30 years ago many theatre and education companies would tour productions and they played an enormously important part in allowing children to have access to drama. That has decreased as the Arts Council cuts came in.”

He said the acting profession now was posher than 15 years ago and would become more so: “There’s a huge gulf between people who can afford to go to drama schools and those who can’t.

“There are still people with working-class backgrounds coming through [in the entertainment industry] but not necessarily in acting.”

He said Helen Mirren had been “absolutely right” to raise the issue at the Baftas on Sunday.

“We have talented young people who are computer wizards and are creating apps, animation, film and music. But they don’t have platforms to take that on into industry. That’s what the Government must support.”

Jurassic Park 3D Dinosaurs Are Hilariously Bad

This is the funniest thing I've seen today. Titled 'Realistic Dinosaurs' it replaces the (still) jaw-droppingly brilliant CGI of Jurassic Park with… less realistic CGI versions of the same dinosaurs. This is one of those clips where I can't really explain why I'm laughing, I just am.

This is Really 3D. A series of YouTube videos replacing movie scenes with terrible CGI. They even made a Flappy Bird vid for some reason.

VIDEO - Take a look:

-H        The population of Herculaneum, a city near Pompeii, watched the spectacle of Vesuvius with foreboding, and wondered of Pompeii's fate, but not for long. Soon, a river of ash and mud descended on the city of 10,000 people. There was hardly time to cry out before Herculaneum was buried beneath 60' of mud that dried hard as concrete.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Worth a mention - 02/20/14

Iron Man May Retire After Avengers 3

(          Robert Downey Jr may be leaving the franchise after Avengers 3.

Marvel’s President of Production and top notch lip smacker, Kevin Feige, spoke with Collider last year about the future of the Iron Man franchise:

“I’ve said it before and it wasn’t negotiating tactics. I believe Tony Stark is as strong a character as Batman. We’re about to head into our fifth or sixth Batman--however, you wanna look at it--James Bond, etc. So, there will absolutely be future Tony Starks and future Iron Mans. Who makes those movies, and when those movies are made, who knows? I don’t know. But, the notion with Robert’s contract in The Avengers 2 & 3, is to allow new characters. Part of what we love about The Avengers is the shifting roster. That’s what’s fun about the comic book movies. You shift them up. So, certainly that was a lot of the thought process that went into it.”

Even if Robert Downey Jr does not sign back on for the next film, that doesn’t mean that they will replace him. They may very well hand over the mantle of Iron Man to Tony’s long lost brother, Arno Stark.

Full article:

New Hollywood Tax Breaks Could Be in the Future for Big-Budget Movies

(            A new bill introduced to the State Legislature Wednesday morning could extend and expand California’s Film and Tax Credit Program.

For the first time, big-budget movies and network TV shows would be eligible for incentives under AB1839, which was authored by Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra and Mike Gatto, along with 50 other Assembly members and 9 State Senators.

For the past decade, California has scrambled to preserve its signature movie and TV industry as other states and countries have lured away big productions with their incentive programs.

Also read: Hollywood Tax Credit Fight: Will California Finally Support Blockbusters and Broadcast?

The bill’s provisions include:

* Lifting the budget cap on feature films eligible to apply for the program. A film of any size will be able to apply to the program, however only qualified expenditures of up to $100 million will be eligible for the credit.

* Allowing all new 1-hour television series, regardless of where they air – broadcast, cable, Netflix etc. – to be eligible to apply for the program. Allowing television pilots to be eligible to apply for the program.

* Extending the Program for five additional years.

* Offering a 5 percent increase in the tax credit for filming done outside of the Los Angeles Zone (to a total of 25 percent).

* Offering a 25 percent credit for television shows relocating to California in the first year.

* Modifying the requirement that 75 percent of production days occur in California to 75 percent of principal photography days occur in California, to ensure more jobs are created here.

"The Last Witch Hunter" Shows Pre-Production Art - Looks For Greenlight

(         It was nearly a year ago that Vin Diesel's name was first connected to Breck Eisner's The Last Witch Hunter. Today, the Riddick star posted the below image to his official Facebook page along with a cryptic note.

"I will fill you all in later…" Diesel writes, "but this meeting went well."

Zooming in on the top right of the image reveals a logo for the Eisner film, meaning this is our first look at the pre-production being done on the supernatural action thriller.

The Last Witch Hunter, written by Cory Goodman (Priest), is said to follow an immortal witch hunter (Diesel), who partners with his natural enemy, a female witch, to stop the covens of NYC from unleashing a plague on humanity.

Set up through Summit Entertainment and Emmett/Furla, The Last Witch Hunter does not yet have a green light, but that appears very likely to change in the near future.

Framestore Sells Minority Stake to Asian Investors

(              Framestore has received investment from Malaysian investment group, All Asia Digital Content, which has snapped up a reported 30% stake in the company. The Evening Standard reported last night that Framestore was valued at around £45m, putting the figure All Asia Digital Content invested into Framestore at around £13.5m.

The Evening Standard also report Khazanah Nasional, the sovereign wealth fund of the Malaysian Government, and UT Group are the main backers behind the deal.

"Our choice of All Asia, which has a successful portfolio of investment in media and telecommunications companies, as our shareholder-partner, adds financial and strategic muscle to our plans," says Framestore CEO and co-founder William Sargent. "An important element of our choice was it gives us a strong SE Asia and Far East perspective, which we are very excited about."

So, it's fairly likely we'll soon see Framestore set up shop in Asia, supplementing its growing presence in London, LA, New York and Montreal. The profile of the vfx house has rocketed over the last year, especially with its award winning vfx work on Gravity putting it in the international spotlight.

The UK vfx industry has also been bolstered recently with the announcement that Disney's Industrial Light and Magic will soon be setting up a large vfx facility "just outside Soho." The vfx giant has been attracted by the UK's tax incentives and is planning a substantial sized facility for London, kicking off with around 200 employees, which will be "mostly UK-based talent".

Gravity VFX Supe Claims “Misrepresentation” On Guardian Quotes

(          There was considerable discussion caused by my post on a Guardian article where Gravity’s Oscar Nominated VFX Supervisor Tim Webber was asked to comment on our demonstration for an end to VFX subsidies and why the “British VFX Talent is leading the world”:

We learned to do it significantly cheaper, and used our innovation to be leaner and more flexible operations. In the end, our people are younger and hungrier than they are in the US.

Someone representing Tim Webber responded in the comments section with a statement by him where he explains he was “misrepresented”.

I contacted Guardian reporter Andrew Pulver on Twitter to show him Mr. Webber’s statement asking if it was true. Later on, the article was updated with the younger hungrier quote removed and an amendment at the bottom of the article:

This article was amended on 16 February 2014. A quote from Tim Webber was used out of context, and was removed.

I have yet to receive a response from Mr. Pulver. In Mr. Webber’s statement, he doesn’t actually say he was misquoted but claims the quote was taken out of context and was about when the UK VFX industry first started. I’m not sure how that changes the effect of the quote under any different context. Furthermore, even without that quote, I still think the argument in the article that the UK is significantly cheaper, leaner, and more innovative than the US as Mr. Webber argues is incorrect.

My contention is that there exists parity between the UK, NZ, US, and other international VFX industries. As I mentioned in the first post, I admonished the President for wrongly saying the gap the US film industry had over others was enormous. As I’ve said before the only reason the playing field has tilted in the UK’s favor are because of massive bubble inducing government subsidies. Framestore’s own CEO has acknowledged this when he said they would lose up to 75% of the work without those subsidies and a study commissioned by the UK film industry also said film production would fall around 71%. It’s great to get sympathy but there has been a lot of denial about the dominating force of subsidies. The first step to solving the problem is acknowledging it exists.

Mr. Webber also expressed his shock at the vitriol by some of the commenters on this blog and social media. While it is unfortunate, I think my post was pretty matter of fact without vitriol. Most commenters were civil and were rightfully dissapointed by the quote regardless of whether the context was about the past instead of the present. They also found the nationalistic anti-US tone of the Guardian article distasteful which Mr. Webber rightly denounces. If he’s shocked by the vitriol of some by what he said, he should see what has happened to me for things I have never said but get accused of anyway.

As I pointed out in my last post, I have strongly argued against any form of national identity for VFX but international artists outraged at my objection to subsidies have routinely accused me of racism and xenophobia. The vitriol was even worse than that when this past summer a forum frequented by UK artists somehow got a hold of work emails and authorship comparison software to try to determine who was the writer behind VFX Soldier. While I was on the list of possible writers, others that had nothing to do with this blog were wrongly accused and discussions began on how to blacklist them. Even with me coming forward, the UK forum still continues to have discussions attacking my character in the hopes of trying to make me quiet or ruin my career. It’s important for me to let them know that we are making great progress in our efforts on subsidies and last week a legal announcement was made that swings the pendulum in our direction. More to come when the time is right.

Over the years I’ve sprung into action whenever I learned of someone in VFX was being wronged: An artist in Singapore terminated for tending to pregnant wife. Artists in India experiencing exploitation. Pixomondo artists going unpaid. Dave Rand who has also been accused of the same things I have been accused of and still fights to this day for unpaid artists in Montreal after 4 years. So when BECTU recently made their efforts to help UK artists unionize I was ready to go. I was ready to write what I felt was a very powerful post why we should all be helping the UK artists and BECTU with some really good info. But I didn’t.

I recently received an email from a UK artist asking me why I haven’t posted on BECTU’s effort in the UK. To be honest, I’ve become a bit more reluctant to jump to help not because of the smears but because many of them were content when I extended my hand to help international artists but the instance I tried to help US-based artists at home, they gave me the backhand. When I tried to fight for adequate health insurance for US VFX artists many internationals objected because it was strictly “an American issue”.

Perhaps I should adopt the same position for UK artists that Mr. Webber has: Acknowledge that times are tough and send them my sympathies.

Supernatural Tentpole "Spectral" Finds Its First Ghostbuster

(The Hollywood Reporter)            First announced back in 2011, Legendary Pictures' supernatural thriller Spectral appears to have found its first leading man. The Hollywood Reporter today brings word that James Badge Dale is in talks to headline the Nic Mathieu film.

The script, originally written by George Nolfi from a treatment by Ian Fried, was rewritten by John Gatins. It follows a special ops force that has trained in hunting the supernatural. They come up against ghosts that have taken over Manhattan.

Dale played supporting roles last year in The Lone Ranger, World War Z, Parkland and Iron Man 3. Among his upcoming credits is a part in Joe Carnahan's microbudget actioner Stretch.

"LEGO Ninjago" Before "LEGO Movie 2"?

(                With the runaway success of "The LEGO Movie," the fact that Warner Bros. Pictures wants a sequel is no surprise. Now though they've hit a minor snag.

Warners has to decide in the next few weeks whether to go forward with not just a "LEGO Movie 2," but also a stand-alone "LEGO Ninjago" spin-off movie. Dan and Kevin Hageman were hired to pen a script for the latter and began work in June last year.

Warners only has rights to one "LEGO Movie" sequel and a Ninjago spin-off film at present, but the deadline to green light a Ninjago film, already extended from this past November, is coming up.

If they don't go through with a Ninjago film, Denmark-based LEGO may not want to continue on with Warners for further films beyond the "LEGO Movie" sequel.

If they do go through with it, it would strengthen the relationship between Warners and LEGO. However, making a movie based on the more "boy-friendly" Ninjago toyline is seen as a riskier proposition than the straight up LEGO Movie sequel which would likely come after.

If Ninjago does go forward, Charlie Bean ("Tron: Uprising") will direct while Dan Lin, Roy Lee, Phil Lord and Chris Miller will produce.

Firehose Games is Offering Free Office Space to Laid off Boston Developers Following BioShock Studio Closure

(              Rock Band Blitz co-developer Firehose Games is offering free office space to laid off developers in the Boston area who have decided to go indie.

In the wake of a number of developer layoffs across Boston, culminating in the news of BioShock developer Irrational Games winding down, Firehose will offer desk space and basic equipment for free. Those interested in applying are asked to email the developer with information on their indie plans and why they should receive aid.

"Most of the developers laid off are probably wondering 'What am I going to do next?,' reads a post from the studio's official blog, "and some are considering going indie and releasing their own games. Meanwhile we're in the process of setting up an indie game seed fund designed to support Boston area indie teams, though we're not quite ready to start taking on applications for that yet as we're still getting our ducks in a row.

"However sometimes you need to strike while the iron is hot and we can't sit by and watch all this potential development talent evaporate, especially considering our mission to help other indie devs. So we're going to do what we can to help!"

Interested developers can apply here via email.:

VFX Blowout: James Cameron Promises 'New Worlds, New Habitats, New Cultures' in 'Avatar' Sequels

(CBR)    With not one but three sequels to "Avatar" in development, director James Cameron still has a lot of work to do before he even steps behind the camera for the follow-up to the top-grossing movie of all time. However, he assured RTL, the process is “going very well.”

“We’re still in the early stages,” Cameron said. “Right now we’re developing the software. I’m writing the scripts. We’re designing all the creatures and characters and the settings, and so on. So, I’m not actually directing yet, but I’m doing all the other creative processes that lead up to that … It’s going very well. I think it’s going to be spectacular. You’ll see new worlds, new habitats, new cultures. The primary conflict between the human view kind of dominating nature and the Na’vi view of being integrated into nature is the same, but it manifests itself in very different ways.”

Last fall, Cameron revealed he was working with writers Josh Friedman ("Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles"), Shane Salerno ("Savages", "Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem") and the team of Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver ("Rise of the Planet of the Apes") on "Avatar 2", "3" and "4" all at the same time.

Cameron reiterated to how big of a sandbox he’s playing in, thanks to this wide-open world. “That’s the great thing about Avatar, it’s such a rich world, I can explore any theme or any idea that I want,” he said. “Once you’ve got the characters that an audience loves, it’s great to surprise them and make changes and turns that they don’t expect. And you don’t have to spend so much time of the movie setting up all that stuff, because the audience will remember from the previous film.”

2014 Box Office Will Be Hurt By Diminishing Popularity Of 3D Movies

(            The year will have 28 films in 3D — down from 34 last year and a peak of 39 in 2011 — which is one reason why Morgan Stanley’s Benjamin Swinburne says today that he expects this year’s domestic ticket sales to fall as much as 2%.

Another reason: The analyst predicts that audience interest in 3D will continue to cool. He foresees 3D showings to account for just 39% of the total box office for films released in 3D, the lowest ratio in seven years and down from 42% in 2013 and 53% in 2012.

The exhibition companies he tracks already are hurting from these trends. Consumers’ average outlay per admission  in Q1 will rise just 0.5% as price increases of about 2.5% are offset by lower sales of the premium priced tickets for 3D movies. Three of the seven 3D films this quarter are “non-superhero films targeted at kids, which have recently yielded lower 3D [percentage] take-rates,” Swinburne says. Studios also probably won’t have a 3D film in early 2014 that will match last year’s Disney release, Oz: The Great And Powerful. “In the ‘golden age of TV,’ we remain cautious on attendance” for the year. Meanwhile theater growth initiatives aren’t ready to pay off just yet. The impact of efforts to promote sales of high-priced snacks “has been small,” the analyst says. He’s optimistic about plans to offer sports, opera, ballet, and other non-movie fare on slow nights, but they’re still early and “unlikely to materially drive 2014.” Swinburne’s more optimistic about growth from acquisitions, but “visibility into the pace that assets could come to market is very low.”

Here’s how the 3D market has fared, with Swinburne’s 2014 estimates:

The Strange Power of CGI Explored in a Strangely Powerful CGI Video

(           Spherical Harmonics dwells on the ineluctably CGI-like qualities of even the most realistic CGI imagery.

It is a hermetically sealed fantasy, full of digitally created memories, counterfeit physics and controlled accidents. A place where reality fails because it's too perfect, and where spectacular CGI setpieces are replaced with more introverted and complex fantasies - fantasies of the digital-artist-as-god, lost in uncanny valley.

Farbeit from me to argue with the artist, but let's forget the Uncanny Valley. There's more to this than that. It's not about what the machine can't quite show. It's not even about what the machine sees; it's about what the machine makes you see.

VIDEO - Take a look:  

New Unreal Engine 4 Visual Effects Video Is Stunning

(            In the video that you can watch below, two graphics designers will walk you through the new visual and graphical flairs and effects that Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 will allow for.

Unreal Engine 4 is the next generation successor to this generation’s most popular middleware game engine, Unreal Engine 3 (although for next generation, Crytek’s Cry Engine 3, DICE’s Frostbite, and Unity have all seem to beaten it to the punch so far). It is supposed to be highly scaleable, running on everything from that midrange Android phone in your pcket to the most high end PC imaginable, and everything in between. Yes, that means it will run on Wii U too trolls, now stop asking.

Anyway, the effects that you see above? Only possible on the high end devices (so not on Wii U- here, here’s a victory for you trolls after all!), and they look stunning.

It’ll be great to see the power of Unreal Engine 4 harnessed in more games as the generation goes on.

Video - Take a look:

Assailants Plead Not Guilty to Extorting 'Transformers' Crew

(               Hong Kong's judiciary announced last week that live text-based communication would be permitted in courtrooms, allowing local press to live-tweet the proceedings of the Transformers extortion case on Tuesday.

Prosecutors allege the Maks tried to shake Bay and his crew down for $13,000 in exchange for not disrupting the shoot. After the filmmakers refused, the older brother picked up an air conditioning unit and threw it at Bay's head. Bay ducked and escaped unscathed while the brothers turned their attacks on police officers responding to the scene. No charges were filed in the alleged attack on Bay, but the two were both later charged with blackmail and assaulting police officers.

Describing what happened on his blog, Bay later wrote: "It took seven big guys to subdue him. It was like a Zombie in Brad Pitt’s movie World War Z -- he lifted seven guys up and tried to bite them. He actually bit into one of the guard's Nike shoes, insane."

Outside the courthouse, police said Bay wouldn't be testifying in Hong Kong, according to a South China Morning Post reporter on the scene.

Tweets of the court proceedings provide a detailed account of what allegedly transpired on the set in October.

Paramount's assistant location manager Cheung Ngo-yeung visited the shooting location before production began and offered to pay the brothers about $100 (800 Hong Kong dollars) as compensation for any small disruption the movie might cause (a fairly standard amount for nearby business not directly impacted, according to local industry insiders). The elder brother negotiated for slightly more -- $130 -- a figure Cheung agreed to. But then the younger brother abruptly demanded $260 instead, which Cheung refused.

"You will not be able to shoot if someone asks you for protection fees tomorrow," the elder brother then said, according to prosecutors.

Cheung replied: "I don't think that will happen."

The elder brother then said, ominously: "Let’s see if you will be blackmailed tomorrow."

Protection fees paid to local organized crime groups, known in Hong Kong as the "triads," were once commonplace in the territory's film industry. But after a heavy crackdown on organized crime in the 1980s, most local filmmakers had assumed such quotidian extortion was a thing of the past. After the incident in October, the president of Hong Kong's Directors Guild responded by calling the episode "just ridiculous," adding that it was "more unusual than hitting the jackpot."

Nevertheless, when Bay's crew showed up to shoot after Cheung's unsuccessful negotiations, the brothers were blasting loud music and demanded $13,000 not to mess with the production, boasting that they would "call other brothers to do something" if they didn't get the cash, the Hong Kong court heard. Cheung then offered about $650 to make the issue go away, but the Maks refused.

Soon five to six local toughs showed up and began consulting with the brothers. They then placed bricks outside their shop in the path of the shoot, to prevent the crew from working. The Paramount team responded by calling the police, and moments later, the elder brother began shouting and came at Bay with the air-conditioner. Bay managed to duck and wrestle his way free, while his crew tackled and briefly subdued the assailant. When the police showed up, the melee re-ignited, and officers suffered minor injuries such as abrasion and muscle straining while trying to bring the brothers down, according to court testimony.

Bay later told local press that the ordeal was "kind of scary" but insisted he would be back to shoot in the city again, adding: "Hong Kong is a very visual city."

The trial will continue in Hong Kong district court throughout the week.

VFX Protest Rehearsal: Sunday Feb 23: March In March Pre-Rally BBQ!

(             There has been interest expressed in setting up time before the March in March Rally to get some organizational items down and meet with some of us face to face to answer your questions and hear your stories.

Since the rally is on a public sidewalk in Hollywood, gatherers will have to keep moving or else we’ll be asked to disperse. Given that we won’t be able to speak with you about what we are up to so we thought a nice little potluck BBQ was in order! You can also pick up a free green shirt to wear at the rally.

Sunday February 23, 2014
12:00pm – 4:00pm
Veterans Memorial Park - Note: Park is very kid friendly, unfortunately not Dog friendly.
4117 Overland Ave
Culver City, California 90230

There has also been a page setup on what items to bring. Please sign yourself up to help bring food, utensils, and cleanup items and add any other items you think are worth bringing:
To be added to the trello page, please send an email to

Immense thanks to the VFX Progress group for helping setup this event up! If you haven’t yet please sign up and visit their meetings on helping discuss in person on how to fix the VFX industry.

I was thinking about calling this event the Meet with Meat but said nah.

Original Restored 'Godzilla' Will Make a Rare US Theatrical Run

(            Before the expensive new CGI-driven reboot rises into theatres, American audiences will get a rare chance to see the Godzilla movie that started it all.

A dark metaphor for a nuclear bomb-scarred country – the US had bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki less than a decade prior – the Ishir Honda-film was significantly altered for American viewers. Jewell Enterprises bought the distribution rights and lopped off 40 minutes from the original, added in the actor Raymond Burr as a journalist named Steve Martin, and made the film an altogether campy experience.

Now, Rialto Pictures is releasing in American theatres a new restoration of the 1954 film Godzilla, as it was seen by Japanese moviegoers 60 years ago. The Toho cut will play at the TCM Classic Film Festival on April 12, before beginning a run at New York’s Film Forum the next week and rolling out to cities throughout the country.

Its practical effects – with miniature cities and other classic devices of the bygone era – will be seen more in greater detail thanks to the restored cut.

The original version first played in American theatres in 2004, and has since been released on DVD.

Godzilla spawned a huge number of sequels and spinoffs for parent company Toho Studios, and many of the early ones were directed by its original filmmaker, Ishir Honda. The newest update, produced by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros, is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, and Aaron Taylor-Wood, and will come out on May 16.

This follows the disastrous 1998 American reboot that starred Matthew Broderick. — Reuters

Which Disney Ride Did Brad Bird Jump On After Wrapping Tomorrowland?

(             Brad Bird has put the finishing touches on his mysterious drama Tomorrowland, Tweeting the above image to commemorate the moment, as well as to drop yet another hint about what we might expect to see in his movie. And yet, despite Bird buying into the "Shroud of Mystery" approach, we're not nearly as annoyed at him as we tend to get with, say, J.J. Abrams. Imagine that.

What was Bird filming at the Disneyland Resort in California? No clue, and his reference to the 1964 World’s Fair sequence ("where we began," the director hints) only throws more shadows over a project that has lived in the darkness, for the most part, since it was announced. By choice, mind you. Tomorrowland is a project that has enyoyed its anonymity, and even when it chooses to reveal details about its rich, historical inspirations, they are vague.

Remember when Bird and co-writer Damon Lindelof took to the stage at D23 back in August and started pulling props out of box without really clarifying what they were, or how they keyed into the narrative Bird is trying to cobble together for this film? They showed a photograph of Walt Disney with pilot Amelia Earhart… snapped years after she disappeared. They showed a 1928 issue of the magazine "Amazing Stories," and plans for an It’s A Small World ride at the ’64 Fair. But there was no thread to connect. Not yet anyway. And we still don’t have one.

But Bird did confirm that in order to celebrate his project going to wrap, he and longtime composer Michael Giacchino hopped on Space Mountain. Look at how happy they are!

Photos - Take a look:

-H             For Iron Man (2008) roughly 450 separate pieces were combined to make the Iron Man suit.   -IMDB Trivia