Why does the UK lack CG Animation Studios who produce full feature length CGI?

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Old 09 September 2012   #16


that's a series.....
 
Old 09 September 2012   #17
Originally Posted by leigh: Yeah I realise this slowdown is all over, I just mention Soho since that's what's affecting me personally right now. Here's to hoping things will change soon!

I'd love for those producers to get something together. I love live action too, but I guess as a texture painter there's something really fun about hand painting stuff, like getting back to my roots. Despereaux was particularly nice since the art direction was heavily based on Flemish painting, which was just fantastic from a texturing perspective. I loved working in that style. Live action will probably also always be my main love, but feature animation is an exciting affair once in a while ;-)


Personally I was never good at all with live-action. I was always frustrated at all the things I couldn't control or dictate to. So animation is my first love.

Relative to Andrew's remark that McLaren's "Tooned" (made by Framestore) is not a full length animation. That is true. But it is a UK-based example of the Branded short film that is sort of evolving now in the post BMW's "The Hire" era.

It's not a solution to the slowdown. But having short animation or films with an Advocacy (read: Someone sponsoring it) is a way to maybe chug along for some people. I think Roberto has been discussing on separate threads, encouraging artists to make their own material as a way to weather the storm. I think Leigh touches on something there where "it might be fun to do for a while".

Asides from that Kickstarter campaign for Star Command, there's also some enterprises geared towards really short shows like Thrash Labs and DumbDumb. DumbDumb, in particular, found out they can come up with some pretty clever stories around Orbit Gum (which pays for these shorts).
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Old 09 September 2012   #18
I think its all about money, like most things. If you're doing straight to DVD stuff, there's a top-end of about $10 million, after which you can't make enough sales to make money back. Obviously, that segment is a bit of a race to the bottom and not really suited to London - it's about getting 90 minutes of anything onto screen, rather than good quality. Then there's a bit of a dead-zone, and at about $25 million you can start doing cinema release stuff. The problem is in order to make money back at the cinema you have to go head to head with the big guns and spend ridiculous marketing to even get a look in - mostly many times the films budget. That makes it difficult to get money back unless you have a ready-made infrastructure selling towels and lunch-boxes.

What it boils down to is that money-men are typically scared of gambling big on a good-quality animation from places like the US or UK and tend to try going to cheaper places and produce something good enough to get a cinema release that might get lucky with box office sales. Something like Hoodwinked is pretty much the model they try to emulate. It why India has had a few cinema releases in recent years.

Of course, this all conjecture, I may have it wrong but it fits what I've seen of the industry. Almost my whole career has been spent making animated films that somebody hopes will get a box-office release and be very successful, defying the status quo. The current slump in Soho might be the perfect opportunity to produce something great using a bit of unorthodox funding and profitting from the new distribution models that exist. The thing about people investing large amounts of money is, for obvious reasons, they try to draw up plans and graphs giving an idea of the success of something but it can sometimes blind them to very good ideas that simply sit outside their paradigm.
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Old 09 September 2012   #19
In my opinion its partly due to the origins of 3D graphics and computer science why feature CG animations are not made in the UK, there is no precedent for it, nothing like the scope for growth etc, its just how things align over time and even as computers were reaching higher levels of performance there were no animators that could cross over from Disney and so on. I also don't think the UK would not be very good at doing what Pixar / Disney does to be perfectly honest, part of the appeal is completely down to US culture, why try and emulate it.
 
Old 09 September 2012   #20
I think Paul nailed it to be honest.
If it was a culture/origins or national model thing, the success of overseas studios working for American distribution (same model Valiant and Desperaux had) like Despicable Me and Lorax from France, and Happy Feet here wouldn't have been possible.

It also wouldn't explain why similar projects where the non-American sensitivity was replaced by a more formulaic, studio driven American influence, HF2 and Guardians, respectively tanked hard compared to the budget and only made little money back over the budget (mind, guardians also had major marketing problems and was neutered out of cult and into an odd and narrow market niche that was clearly unprofitable).

It's largely a matter of critical mass, and at this point the only players that truly have that have it because they were there early and solid.
Mc Guff and AL seem to be the only ones catching up to those, and even then, we're both feeForService for now, and that takes out a huge chunk of potential earnings that Disney and Dreamworks can capitalize on which is more related to their status and early entering with some IP swing, which is nowhere as easy to acquire now.

CGI feature animation is also a very scary prospect, nothing else that requires that level of commitment and money for such a long time has tanked and killed those who tried nearly as quick or often (see various studios working for Miramax, the Weinstein, CORE etc.). That makes it a hard proposition to find bonding or venture capital investments which are easier to acquire as an alternative to studio financing for other genres.
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Old 09 September 2012   #21
I see where your coming from I just don't understand why the US would ever want to make entire american films in the UK when they can make them there, probably for less than it would cost here. I can somewhat understand the VFX model turning around shots with lots of different studios in a short amount of time. As for entire UK based CG animated films they would be facing a huge amount of competition domestically from the US market (this is why not many British films are made and often stick to tired cliches like east-end gangsters). In France they have a lot more cinema that is watched in french.. animation and comics are taken more seriously, as is cinema in general so its a bit different really. Stop motion is pretty established and has a foothold here, TV is huge but that's about the extent of it.
 
Old 09 September 2012   #22
Remember though that Illumination/McGuff has French staffed American productions turning around, not the other way around.
It's hard to think of something more American than slapstick heavy, child-friendly comedy like Despicable Me or a Seuss adaptation
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Old 09 September 2012   #23
Originally Posted by conbom: I see where your coming from I just don't understand why the US would ever want to make entire american films in the UK when they can make them there, probably for less than it would cost here.


Despicable Me and The Lorax are the best examples of how it can work (albeit in France). DM - a movie financed and creatively directed from the States - delivered Pixar/Dreamworks type grosses on a considerably lower outlay than the equivalent Cali-based product. Producers take notice of this kind of margin and every year the major UK vfx facilities receive a handful of inquiries from US prods looking to partner up. Why don't they jump in with both feet? Mainly it's the sustainability thing - they're all one off deals. Framestore did an amazing thing putting together Desperaux, but I'm sure they were hoping that it was going to be the first of many. The other big facilities looks at that and wonder if it's worth the effort.

It's worth noting that Rocket Films exhausted all the options to find a uk-based studio for Gnomeo and Juliet before placing it overseas. Gnomeo didn't earn a fortune, but then it didn't cost one to make either which made it very profitable to someone.
 
Old 09 September 2012   #24
Originally Posted by Splicage: What does the UK lack CG Animation Studios who produce full feature length CGI?


It's kind of been said already in this thread. It's not a lack of animation studios.

The main obstacle is funding, most of which in the UK (and nearly every other country which isn't the USA) comes from government funding or through a co-production deal with one of the big six Hollywood studios. Governments don't have the funds or taxpayer support available to finance a $20-50 million (the low end of the scale) animated feature and then compete against Hollywood studios which have large media conglomerates behind them.

The second obstacle is box-office. If you want to see more animated films from studios like Aardman, Ghibli or Laika then go see the films they make - otherwise your just going to see more Cars, Ice Age and Smurfs films in your local cinema.
 
Old 09 September 2012   #25
Originally Posted by conbom: I see where your coming from I just don't understand why the US would ever want to make entire american films in the UK when they can make them there, probably for less than it would cost here.


What about Flushed Away? That was technically a film made by an American backer (Dreamworks), but produced here.
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Old 09 September 2012   #26
Originally Posted by leigh: What about Flushed Away? That was technically a film made by an American backer (Dreamworks), but produced here.


Flushed Away was directed by Aardman but produced at Dreamworks in the US, it was one of the movies made during Aardman's deal with Dreamworks which ended after Were-rabbit. Aardman went onto make a new deal with Sony which follows the same model as the previous Dreamworks arrangement: stop motion shows like Pirates are made in the UK and digital animation - like Arthur Christmas - is made in the US.
 
Old 09 September 2012   #27
Oh, I was mistaken then. I thought the actual work had been done at Aardman.
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Old 09 September 2012   #28
Originally Posted by leigh: Oh, I was mistaken then. I thought the actual work had been done at Aardman.


DW in LA, as far as I know - if someone else knows better please chime in!
 
Old 09 September 2012   #29
Originally Posted by earlyworm: The main obstacle is funding, most of which in the UK (and nearly every other country which isn't the USA) comes from government funding or through a co-production deal with one of the big six Hollywood studios. Governments don't have the funds or taxpayer support available to finance a $20-50 million (the low end of the scale) animated feature and then compete against Hollywood studios which have large media conglomerates behind them.

The second obstacle is box-office. If you want to see more animated films from studios like Aardman, Ghibli or Laika then go see the films they make - otherwise your just going to see more Cars, Ice Age and Smurfs films in your local cinema.


I think the insight I would like to add here is the "Subjective Element of Quality". I was kind of dipping my toes into the film market for Writers and I was astounded at the huge number of un-produced / un-sold stories or stories simply considered "not very good" and end up not getting done at all. It seemed that for each "Seller" there were as many as 70 stories that weren't getting made.

Now if you combine that with what you wrote, it does become very hard (regardless of funding available) to go forward. Because in a room of say 3 backers, 2 or all 3 could disagree on doing a story that artists and writers may feel strongly about. And even if you have quorum there, you have the pressures of Box Office success (or fear of failure) to cope with.

Unless you have someone with vision who wants to really take something to the audience, you will have people who cave in on suggestions of imitating a successful formula or passing on a concept that might be more true to themselves or homegrown.

What my initial preview of the writer market told me was that a LOT of people simply opt not to launch the project if there is lack of support or if enough people think it won't work. Especially in the current climate. And once that happens... everything doesn't move.

So I think it's more than just funding but it is related in my view.
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Old 09 September 2012   #30
Originally Posted by leigh: Oh, I was mistaken then. I thought the actual work had been done at Aardman.


To expand on what Paul said. In the case of Flushed Away and Arthur Christmas, Aardman were the production company making the film (screenplay, storyboards, concept-art, voice-record, sound-mixing, editing, directing, producing) while Dreamworks and Imageworks (respectively) did the animation work (modelling, texturing, animation, lighting, compositing).

There was also a small animation team in Bristol working on Arthur Christmas.

Originally Posted by CGIPadawan: I think the insight I would like to add here is the "Subjective Element of Quality"...


True and I think that relates/extends to my second hurdle for animation studios finding funding for projects through the "Big Six".

In the rest of world the level of funding required to produce an animated film is often too high for the financiers to even consider whether it has box-office potential or not.

Last edited by earlyworm : 09 September 2012 at 02:53 AM.
 
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