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worker_bee
05-05-2005, 06:54 PM
Its a long read but a very good one...here is a snippet.


"And then there was Jonah. Less than 6 months from its required delivery date, the production was almost hopelessly behind schedule. No matter what we tried, we couldn't seem to get a grip on the situation internally. We ended up bringing in a “finishing consultant” from Los Angeles – a specialist in the computer-animation world with extensive experience helping the major studios set up CGI production pipelines. The consultant quickly determined that Jonah would not be finished on time unless we brought in more artists and lots more rendering computers. Our $10 million budget now walked out the front door, got in my car, and drove away. My original $7 million budget was turning into a ridiculously funny joke. The production was woefully behind schedule on lighting and final rendering, so we brought in lighting artists from Blue Sky and DNA, the two studios that had just wrapped “Ice Age” and “Jimmy Neutron,” respectively. Our render farm ballooned from 150 computers to more than 500. "




http://www.philvischer.com/bigidea_archives/Killed_BigIdea1.htm

Velk
05-05-2005, 07:48 PM
Wow, great post - and a great article.

Don Kayote
05-05-2005, 08:31 PM
HE restricted his search to only christian investors. ...in HOLLYWOOD!!? <O_O>

A Chinese proverb comes to mind after reading that story. "Man who stands on toilet seat is high on pot."


Great article :thumbsup:

Fritz3D
05-05-2005, 08:33 PM
great lessons on how not to run such business

opus13
05-05-2005, 08:42 PM
HE restricted his search to only christian investors. ...in HOLLYWOOD!!? <O_O>

theres actuall a fair bit of jesus cash out there. if your project fits inside certian ethical boundries, funding can be had.

Don Kayote
05-05-2005, 09:18 PM
^^ YEah but in Hollywood?? on a moralistic story that's not even popular!? What was he thinking? O_o?

Flog
05-05-2005, 10:25 PM
His product seemed to work before he got in over his head and let others stick their nose in it. He should have stuck to the 7 million and do a 2 million dollar commercial during the super bowl.

I feel really bad for the guy. I'm working on my company and hopefully I'll keep it small and also use worldwide talent instead of local high costing US animators and modellers.

He could have kept his budget going overseas where things are cheaper. Japan, China, etc seem to do a lot more on the money they have than US films.

I wish the best for him

chrisWhite
05-05-2005, 10:39 PM
That's disappointing, I really enjoyed some of Big Idea's work, particularly their late work like Jonah.

MarkusM
05-06-2005, 12:26 AM
That really is an interesting tale. Thank you Phil Vischer for sharing his perspective on the events. We can all learn from it I am sure.

opus13
05-06-2005, 03:27 AM
^^ YEah but in Hollywood?? on a moralistic story that's not even popular!? What was he thinking? O_o?

not necessarily hollywood, per se, but in entertainment in genereal, absolutely. i have met with investors personally who are interested in educational material with a religious twist. they are prudent and shrewd investors, and at the same time want their funds to go to something that furthers their own ideals.

these are people who arent quite concerned with getting a great return on their investment, but want to see something with morals produced, instead of your average dragonballz type of broadcasting trash that leaves kids with mush for brains.

Slurry
05-06-2005, 03:39 AM
I agree.
I think it's pretty amazing that he got as far as he did and keeping is ideals and principles in tact.
I have to wonder though about the decisions that were being made. Why would he start pre-production on a new feature when the current one was puttin him in the hole?
He managed to secure the 20 million he so desparately needed (specifically for Jonah) and yet there were numerous other projects sucking that money dry. I'm sure there is much moreto the story than was related in that lengthy article, but in the hindsight from the article, you could see the place going up in flames after teh second section of the article.
And he continued to let the place plunge into chaos unchecked:

They had more marketers, hr, management, etc than production staff?
They were "well into production" BEFORE they had a budget in place?

I think he needed to employ more common sense than wait around for divine intervention.
Easy to say from the outside I suppose.

Art

Q_B
05-06-2005, 11:56 AM
They had more marketers, hr, management, etc than production staff?
They were "well into production" BEFORE they had a budget in place?

I think he needed to employ more common sense than wait around for divine intervention.
Easy to say from the outside I suppose.

Art

So true.
Not disputing you can produce value-oriented content, but you can't just trust your God to do the managing steering for you. I think it's already proven beyond any reasonable doubt that God (read:whatever god you worship, whatever religion you profess) isn't going to do any managing whatsoever. Not even wars, let alone business enterprises.

And the overgrowth of non-production staff is such a cancer that rapidly overgrows just to turn into a tumour. So sad.

DanSilverman
05-06-2005, 01:58 PM
Not disputing you can produce value-oriented content, but you can't just trust your God to do the managing steering for you. I think it's already proven beyond any reasonable doubt that God (read:whatever god you worship, whatever religion you profess) isn't going to do any managing whatsoever. Not even wars, let alone business enterprises.

While I do not think that Phil expected God to do his managing for him, he did hope that his God would work a miracle to pull him out of a desperate situation. But there are a few things that we should keep in mind ... or ... I should say ... a few things the Phil should have kept in mind. Phil violated some very basic principles along the way ... principles that God would have frowned upon. In other words, if God were the "manager" of Big Idea (at least in Phil's mind) then Phil did not consult with either God or His Word about what to do. The result of vilolating these principles is that God would not want to be involved in what Big Idea was doing. I.e. Big Idea turned to very "human" means of promoting their company and products. They also slowly drifted from their focus on "God-centered" material to material less centered on God at all. The result was that Big Idea ended up offending some of its own clients, who were purchasing videos of Bob and Larry for a very specific reason. I believe this is part of the reason their sales of these videos dropped from over 7 million videos sold a year to something much less. I know that me and my family (and many that I know) stopped buying Veggie Tales videos as we noticed this shift in their content.

Basically, I have no problem with making God a manager of a company. I just don't expect God to come to that company's defense when God's own ways are violated just as I do not expect a parent to reward a wayward child.

Velk
05-06-2005, 02:08 PM
I think it's already proven beyond any reasonable doubt that God (read:whatever god you worship, whatever religion you profess) isn't going to do any managing whatsoever. Not even wars, let alone business enterprises.I'm confussed, how is it possible to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt?

The bigger lesson here is that people were hired out of convience at first, out of rampant mismanagement later, and dire circumstance as a last ditch effort. Non of these are good hiring or business practices. From hindsight you can see it all coming, but when you switch the focus and try and look forward I can see how it might be easy to make the same choices.

Q_B
05-06-2005, 02:33 PM
I'm confussed, how is it possible to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt?


Just look around you. Just look at the world you're living in. Just look at our history.
Anyways this is just MY point of view. I understand if people disagree. Plus, it is not ment to offend anyone's beliefs, trust me.

Don Kayote
05-06-2005, 02:37 PM
Guess God is just a state of mind then.

unchikun
05-06-2005, 02:59 PM
Wow....

I've read a few postmortems and have been involved in a couple. Big Idea had a combination of everything! .... except maybe the sex scandal.

I realised one difference with Phil Vischer is that he comes across as being sincere for the concerns of other people. I've read so many open letters to staff with hallow applogies from CEO's or founding members who have just bailed out of a company with their golden parachutes. Mr Vischer pretty much went down with the ship.

Pentagramma
05-06-2005, 03:04 PM
Great article, thanks for posting it. It´s a little scary to see how things can go wrong, even when people have the better intentions.

I´m not a christian, so it´s a little alien to me to accept the "god will help us out of this mess we made" attitude, but my sympathies go to everyone who worked there at Big Idea, and tried hard to make their best, despite the bad management.

It´s a real eye-opener.

Tocpe
05-06-2005, 03:21 PM
That was such a sad story. But I guess one good thing came out of it, it looks like he learned from his mistakes and was kind enough to share them with others so we can learn from them too.

Q_B
05-06-2005, 03:35 PM
I realised one difference with Phil Vischer is that he comes across as being sincere for the concerns of other people. I've read so many open letters to staff with hallow applogies from CEO's or founding members who have just bailed out of a company with their golden parachutes. Mr Vischer pretty much went down with the ship.

I´m not a christian, so it´s a little alien to me to accept the "god will help us out of this mess we made" attitude, but my sympathies go to everyone who worked there at Big Idea, and tried hard to make their best, despite the bad management.

Quoted for agreement.

dmonk
05-06-2005, 04:12 PM
That was such an eye opener. So, the animation industry is in fact a business, no matter how many folks fantasize it up.

unchikun
05-06-2005, 04:47 PM
That was such an eye opener. So, the animation industry is in fact a business, no matter how many folks fantasize it up.

One lesson is the bigger you get the more of a "business" it becomes. A good example is a small game company where a handful of people can oversee and manage the whole production. As they get more successful and bigger there is a loss of hands-on control in production. More administrative duties, becoming well versed in "legalese", stock options, quarterly earnings, time shares etc. People no longer know the names of all the staff anymore. Stress becomes a huge factor as there are increasing pressures and responsibilities.

If I've learned anything in this industry is to have a healthy fear of success ;)

arctor
05-06-2005, 05:38 PM
That was such an eye opener. So, the animation industry is in fact a business, no matter how many folks fantasize it up.

anything, every single thing we do that, in the end, involves one person giving money to someone else is a business.
the entertainment /industry/ is about making money. period.
while we may want to do more - artisically or whatever...the bottom line is money.
never forget that.
do your 'art' all you want - but make sure your employer keeps making money.

exposed1
05-08-2005, 05:31 AM
HE restricted his search to only christian investors. ...in HOLLYWOOD!!? <O_O>Ironically, aren't several of the Veggietales videos based on stories taken from the OLD testament?

Don Kayote
05-08-2005, 06:09 AM
Ironically, aren't several of the Veggietales videos based on stories taken from the OLD testament?

Well Hollywood "was" famous for giving big "Jesus Cash" for biblical stories. One example was the "10 commandments" It was so big. The production was like the mordern LOTR. Imploying the best actors with the highest notch Fx's.

Okay okay there was a not too long ago film "The Prince of Egypt".

Soo maybe no one liked him. LOL. :scream: Poor guy, there must be a "L" tattooed on his forehead :)

luispages
05-09-2005, 08:08 PM
It's a great article, and it reminds me of the whole Genesis Orlando and Tugger, it was something like this, in the case of Big Idea it sounds like there's a mix of bad decisions, bad management and terrible luck, but no bad intentions... on the Genesis case they used God and their whole Tugger foundation as their main marketing tool, I only want justice....

If you want to see what I'm talking about check this out
http://www.cgtalk.com/showthread.php?t=154941&highlight=tugger

Later...

rebo
05-09-2005, 08:41 PM
More concerning, we were proposing to double our staff size, without increasing our ability to produce films. Of the 165 hires being requested, only a handful were in the animation studio. Ninety percent were in finance, HR, marketing, licensing and design. So at 315 people we would be able to produce no more videos per year than we had produced five years earlier with a staff of 10.


6 Months later....


It was clear drastic steps were needed. The new president recommended immediately cutting staff to preserve cash. Though I absolutely despised the thought of laying people off, it was clear that Big Idea was horribly overstaffed given our actual sales level. Many of our leaders had built their teams based on sales forecasts that simply never came to pass. The unthinkable was now the only way out.


Thats what you get for believing that christians are inhernent better, more honest and more competant than non christians. The guy seemingly had no leadership ability and his belief of putting trust in others without question or censure let him down.

Slurry
05-09-2005, 09:05 PM
6 Months later....

Thats what you get for believing that christians are inhernent better, more honest and more competant than non christians. The guy seemingly had no leadership ability and his belief of putting trust in others without question or censure let him down.

WHAT!? Where in the article did it say Christians are better than Non-Christians?


Art

Don Kayote
05-09-2005, 09:11 PM
WHAT!? Where in the article did it say Christians are better than Non-Christians?


Art

He didn't. I believe rebo was making a gut-feel statement.

flipnap
05-09-2005, 09:23 PM
Thats what you get for believing that christians are inhernent better, more honest and more competant than non christians



Don't be ignorant.. you're on the verge of turning a very informative thread into a closed one..

BlueCougar
05-10-2005, 01:32 AM
I can honestly say I am thankful Phil was willing to put the cards on the table for all to see and take ownership of his part in the life of Big Idea in this article. Having followed the process in the news and rumors on message boards and hearing of artists moving to different studios it was beneficial for me to see Phil's take, a true insider, on it.

I have looked fondly upon BI's growth and accomplishment using CG Animation to bring a message/art of storytelling to the mass market because it showed that it was possible. They broke ground, christian or not, to show how a niche demographic can bring to life and distribute a message using CGI.

Now in 2005 with software advances, drops in prices and processor/memory speeds increasing who knows what the future holds for storytellers willing to invest the time to get their own personal message out, no matter what it be...thanks Phil for showing us what is possible and thanks to all those who's blood, sweat and tears made it possible.

BillB
05-10-2005, 02:00 AM
Thats what you get for believing that christians are inhernent better, more honest and more competant than non christians. The guy seemingly had no leadership ability and his belief of putting trust in others without question or censure let him down.

Nothing to do with that. This is a trap many fall into as they go from small to big, especially with a visionary like Phil at the helm. Company does well when small, thanks to great creativity and vision, but when things take off the business skills aren't there and have to be imported. Finding just the right people for that job and making that leap is VERY difficult, and has been the undoing of many a great company.

Kudos to Phil to baring his soul that we can learn from his mistakes (if we're lucky!)
Veggie Tales rocks :buttrock:

Tripdragon
05-10-2005, 03:49 AM
wwow after all of that, he still gets to work on the movies and shows... And the others... uh lots of freaky experience hmm,, oh well that was a great read.

danimat0r
05-10-2005, 12:16 PM
Urgh. Christians in business (and everywhere else) would do well to realize that most of the time, God's not too likely to save you from the simple causality of stupid decisions. My last gig was for a similar 'christian' company that the boss effectively ran into the ground with staggeringly incompetent management, all the while waiting for that miracle to bail him out at the last second.

Whoops! It never came.

Whoops! Our sales are nonexistent!

Whoops! We're out of money!

Whoops! We're all laid off!

Well, that was fun. Time to go get a real job.

ivanisavich
05-10-2005, 12:57 PM
What a disappointing story! I had no idea that Big Idea was gone. I really hope the new owners of Veggie Tales are able to pump out episodes of the same caliber and with the same values.

I grew up on Veggie Tales, and I know it's hard to find a kid who hasn't at least heard of them.

Pinoy McGee
05-11-2005, 01:59 AM
The devil got them with greed. :shrug:

BillB
05-11-2005, 02:40 AM
The devil got them with greed. :shrug:

Maybe - but it sure doesn't sound like money was a motivating factor from reading his article. At least not for Phil, maybe for some of the execs he hired.

Don't forget, "money is the root of all evil" is a misquote :)

jeremybirn
05-11-2005, 03:00 AM
My last gig was for a similar 'christian' company that the boss effectively ran into the ground with staggeringly incompetent management, all the while waiting for that miracle to bail him out at the last second.

It's not just Christians who seem to always be hoping for miracles in business. Today Dreamworks' stock just plummeted 17% after-hours - and they are apparently blaiming their failure to meet expectations on having too many Shrek 2 DVD's which are still sitting unsold in stores:

Shrek Wreck at Dreamworks (http://www.thestreet.com/_yahoo/stocks/sandybrown/10222744.html?cm_ven=YAHOO&cm_cat=FREE&cm_ite=NA)

For a company that size, 17% is a loss of over $600 million - maybe now everybody on cgtalk should run out and buy some of those unsold Shrek II disks to help Dreamworks' stock recover!

Anyway, if even a company run by some of the smartest marketing people in the business can estimate wrong on things like that, then it's no surprise so many smaller start-ups make these kinds of mistakes, really.

-jeremy

richcz3
05-11-2005, 03:06 AM
That was a very long but informative read. Building up management and marketing teams on overly optimistic sales forecasts...ouch. How some managers hired only because others were hiring, turned my stomach.

From previous posts I was expecting a heavy religious theme. That was hardly the case.

pearson
05-11-2005, 03:52 AM
Wow. I'd heard stories and rumors, but reading the whole sad tale is really, really...sad.

dmonk
05-11-2005, 12:34 PM
Do you guys think it would have been more beneficial if they stayed in that happy little space where they were making a good profit and not overextending themselves?

Things seemed to be going find until they decided to turn up te heat. If they would have just kept developing the videos and "slowly" creeped towards movies, I think they'd still be around today.

It seemed like before he decide to go with that big move into movies, he was actually doing what he set out to do from the beginning. Was it greed or just wanting the company to be bigger than it was?

Don Kayote
05-11-2005, 12:37 PM
The devil got them with greed. :shrug:

LOL :scream:

Voted for best liner :applause:

Slurry
05-11-2005, 01:03 PM
I always thought that if were to have my own production company that it would be wise to keep it small, make sure that the employees were the people who benefited most from any revenues. And not worry about inflating the profit margins.
If everyone has a job making decent money and you are working on stuff you love that has to be enough right?
Now I wonder if it's just not human nature to be ambitious and always try to do more, get more, make more. You know?
I don't know if I would call it greed - ambition definitely.
I think they probably be would have been better off to keep it small but who's to say for sure?

Art

danimat0r
05-11-2005, 01:46 PM
It's not just Christians who seem to always be hoping for miracles in business. Today Dreamworks' stock just plummeted 17% after-hours - and they are apparently blaiming their failure to meet expectations on having too many Shrek 2 DVD's which are still sitting unsold in stores:

Shrek Wreck at Dreamworks (http://www.thestreet.com/_yahoo/stocks/sandybrown/10222744.html?cm_ven=YAHOO&cm_cat=FREE&cm_ite=NA)

For a company that size, 17% is a loss of over $600 million - maybe now everybody on cgtalk should run out and buy some of those unsold Shrek II disks to help Dreamworks' stock recover!

Anyway, if even a company run by some of the smartest marketing people in the business can estimate wrong on things like that, then it's no surprise so many smaller start-ups make these kinds of mistakes, really.

-jeremy


Certainly; mistakes happen even to the most savvy and well-prepared. These things just happen. My point was in regards to certain types of Christians (or anyone of any theistic orientation) the trust in God extends to a point where irresponsible behaviour becomes standard practice, on the understanding that we're doing the right thing, so we'll be bailed out if it comes to that. Granted I can only speak from my own experience here, but at my previous company, operating under these premises, we saw plenty of bad financial allocations, misuses of time, poor treatment of employees (ie: 'God will provide me with whatever I need, so I have no qualms reminding you all of how expendable you are, and just consider yourself lucky I don't move this project to the Philippines.') and plain bad management. ie: 'I don't need a marketing budget; we've made a good, Godly product, the sales will just happen. Well, no they didn't. I'm not trying to do an anti-Christian rant here; it was painful precisely because all of us animators there were (are)Christians, myself included, and it killed us to see things being run that way.
Granted mistakes and misjudgments in business happen all the time! It'll happen to Pixar! (someday) But this is a brand of bad judgment that certain types of Christians are far more prone to.

But I'm way OT now, so.. :)

Mike Pauza
05-11-2005, 02:04 PM
Interesting read.

I just think it's a shame Phil didn't realize that running a small company was the way to go.
Hopefully he's happy to still be able to work, even if it's in a limited way.

People make some real boner mistakes sometimes.


-Mike Pauza

richcz3
05-11-2005, 03:14 PM
Here's an intersting point about staying small and not expanding or taking risks. Not once but several times he mentioned that sales in Veggi Tales started dropping. After pumping an exhorbitant amount of money for marketing and giving 400,000 copies away, this did not help their sales slump. Even if he had kept Big Idea small the company still needed to produce new properties or slowly fade away as they fell out of favor with their customer base.

I think the moral of the story is you can never rest on your laurels. Veggi Tales was a declining market and he knew that. But when you have to take risks don't stake your future in questionable talent. He knew the people he brought on were not up to par and he stated so various times. Never the less, he turned a blind and let them run the show anyway. By the time he decided to wrest control back it was way too late.

Wilson-3d
05-11-2005, 09:04 PM
Really enjoyed the article. Highly recommended. As mentioned it is long but interesting and has some good business examples.

My Fault
05-11-2005, 09:17 PM
Great article and cool of Phil to bare all those skeletons to the outside masses. Easy to see what went wrong now after it's all said and done but how many people would've done the same thing if they were in his shoes.... I'd say almost everyone.

REGGUT
05-17-2005, 02:06 AM
Just want everyone who has interest in Tugger and Genesis to know that "they" are having a big premiere 4th of July weekend, with Jim Bulishi and his band (Bulishi is the voice of Tugger) will preform a concert (whick they are being paid big bucks for) and the world wide, no make that the entire cosmo release of Tugger and therefore thrusting Genesis and its head famous and replace Walt as the king of animation. Since I am still owed back wages I think I will drive on over with friends and see how the party is, if anyone would like to join our band of merry men and women, post your interest and we can make it a group event.

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