Co-pros are no-go

This week, instead of virtual reality, some cold hard reality: there’s no pot of gold waiting for you at the end of the Chinese co-production rainbow.

Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon and co-produced by Universal, Legendary, LeVision and China Film Group, succeeded in eliciting a universal “Meh” from audiences around the world, earning roughly $172 million USD in China (a figure which once would have been astonishing but now is unimpressive) and around $35 million USD in North America. With combined production and marketing expenses in the neighborhood of $250 million USD, and global revenues expected to peter out at $320 million USD (prior to exhibitors taking their share), it’s safe to say that investors in “the biggest-ever U.S.-China co-production” are less than thrilled.

On the bright side, we’ll hopefully be spared a glut of formulaic Great White Hope films set against the backdrop of other historical Middle Kingdom marvels, pimped by puffy Chinese real estate companies with their eager Hollywood studio mascots in tow. Folks actually have to think now, and that’s a good thing. So, let’s elevate that thinking with some straight talk.

First, the unfortunate fact is that…(full post on AWN)

Co-pros are no-go

SIGGRAPH Asia Macau musings


Early last month in the gambling haven of Macau, I attended a SIGGRAPH conference for the first time in a long time. My initial SIGGRAPH experience as a student volunteer in 1993 was eye opening, and I was a regular attendee and occasional speaker for the next 15 years – including the very first SIGGRAPH Asia in Singapore, 2008. As an outsourced event, SIGGRAPH Asia has always been a distant relative to “SIGGRAPH SIGGRAPH” (as many folks comparatively refer to the “real” conference), but the initial offerings in Singapore and Yokohama were respectable.

Cut to today. Scarfing down a plate of Doritos at the SIGGRAPH Asia 2016 opening reception is a far cry from doing shots off the back of an SGI Onyx at the Nixon Library in the heady days of 1993 (though perhaps an appropriate analogy for the austerity arc of the graphics industry over the past two decades). Twenty years ago, there was a palpable sense that “anything is possible,” even though much still was not. Now – at a time when anything essentially is possible – we seem to be holding back. These days, CGI is like Doritos: tasty but predictable. And the VR game-changer has yet to emerge.

I attended all four days of the SIGGRAPH Asia conference and decided to distill my notes into three key observations (I’m a big fan of The Rule of Three). The following takeaways are… (full post on AWN)

SIGGRAPH Asia Macau musings

The new John Lasseter?


As widely reported, DreamWorks Animation has been purchased by Comcast’s NBCUniversal for $3.8b USD. Comcast is out to challenge Disney in the family film space, with Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Jeff Shell hailing Chris Meledandri as “the new John Lasseter”.

NBCUniversal intends to retain both the DreamWorks and Illumination animation brands (much as Disney has retained both Disney Animation and Pixar under Lasseter’s creative stewardship), with Meledandri reportedly being offered latitude over DreamWorks Animation’s business along with his ongoing leadership of Illumination.

Given that Illumination’s films outperform Pixar’s in mainland China, Meledandri appears well qualified to reinvigorate not only DreamWorks Animation but Oriental DreamWorks as well, adding fuel to the fire in what will soon be the world’s biggest content market.

Jeffrey Katzenberg is now effectively relegated to an advisory role as a consultant to NBCUniversal and chairman of the newly-minted DreamWorks New Media, with oversight of AwesomenessTV and Nova, but no further authority over DreamWork’s film and television operations. Helping the medicine go down will be the more than $400m USD that Katzenberg stands to earn from the buyout of his stake in DreamWorks.

At an all-hands meeting at the company’s Glendale headquarters, Jeffrey reassured everyone that: “The next chapter of our company’s historic journey begins today, and as I’ve said many times, there is no doubt that the best days for DreamWorks lie ahead.”

No doubt for the corporate entity, but those people affected by the layoffs at Disney Animation in the years following the Pixar acquisition (including many folks now currently employed at DreamWorks) know that there are other shoes yet to drop.

The new John Lasseter?