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  1. #1

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    Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off


  2. #2

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    Re: Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off

    I can't say that I am not surprised... Disney current Modus Operndi in regards to their film studio is Contraction...

    It started with Iger brokering the exit of Harvey Weinstien, and it has continued... Dispite deals with Marvel (who did not have a film released in 2009) and Dreamworks (who is still under contractual obligations to Paramount/Viacom)... But we will see.

    The fabric of the film industry is being shook rather hard...

    The good news is Wonderland is a HUGE hit...
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  3. #3

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    Re: Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off

    Wow - that didn't last long. Wasn't Christmas Carol the only movie they did under the Disney banner, and didn't that do well at the box office?

    The bright side to this is that now maybe they'll forget the ludicrous (rumored) notion of doing a Roger Rabbit sequel in motion capture, and do it properly in live action and hand-drawn animation instead.
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  4. #4

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    Re: Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off

    'Roger 2' was never announced officially but this one was:

    http://micechat.com/forums/news/1302...ne-2012-a.html

  5. #5

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    Re: Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off

    aww that sucks. i was hoping for roger rabbit 2.

  6. #6

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    Re: Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off

    Didn't Disney do this with "The Secret Lab" that was created to increase the level of realism to CGI created movies? I remember "Dinosaur" being heralded as the Next Big Thing but it was only moderately well received at the theaters. Shortly thereafter, the closure of this special branch of the animation department was announced before it even had a decent chance to flex it's wings. I think the film Reign of Fire had effects by "The Secret Lab" but had been closed by the time the film was released. I am very sad that that A Christmas Carol" was not a bigger hit. I personally saw it four times at the IMAX theater in Studio City (took at least two guests with me each time) plus I went and saw it at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood with a group of annual passholders. We all loved the movie and I am excited at the direction that Mr. Zemeckis was going with his animation styles. I personally think The Polar Express was the most jaw-droppingly beautiful film I had seen in years! Nothing but IMAX-3D did this film any sort of justice. Hopefully Mr. Zemeckis can find another studio that will support his love of computer animation (and motion capture technique) over the long run. Shame on Disney for not supporting this artist as he tries to explore his craft.

  7. #7

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    Re: Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off

    That's too bad, and I think Disney is missing the boat as this looked very promising in the future of film.

  8. #8

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    Re: Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off

    I'm not happy to say it, but I called this one a long time ago before A Christmas Carol was even released and I called it again when the Yellow Submarine remake was announced. Motion capture animated features just haven't clicked with audiences. Beowolf was a box office flop as was Monster House before it. Monster House did marginlly well on DVD and cable. Polar Express is heralded as a success, but it all depends on how you do the math. It made money in some areas and lost it in others.

    Mocap works great for some CG characters in live-action films. Two good examples are Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films and Kong in the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong. Mocap also works very well in video games, especially sports games. Why? Because it conveys a very strong sense of realism due to it being based upon real movement. But in animated features realism is not what is called for.

    After I left Industrial Light & Magic in 2002 and the end of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, I served for a few years as the Visual Effects Director for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. One of the things I tried very hard to impress upon my students was that reality is boring. It's not what we look for as an audience when we go to see an animated feature. Our job as VFX artists and animators is not to strive for realism, but to create the illusion of reality. Or to put it another way...effects and animation do not need look real, they need to feel right.

    Films like Beowolf and Final Fantasy, however fantastic the settings, looked real and were as boring as heck. A movie like Finding Nemo (using no motion capture whatsoever) feels right and is completely engaging. Pixar gets it because it's run by people like John Lasseter who were taught by folks like Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston who got it. They wrote the book...literally! ("Illusion of Life" is manditory reading if you want to animate.)

    I have friends, colleagues, and former students at both Pixar and Image Movers Digital (the Zemeckis mocap animation studio funded by Disney) and there is a major difference between the two. The focus, the atmosphere, and the attitude is completely different. If you want to get hired at Pixar you better know how to draw and be able to demonstrate traditional animation skills. Many of the people, perhaps the majority, at Image Movers are computer-only artists.

    I don't blaim the artists and staff for Image Movers' demise. I think it was the company's approach and mindset that doomed it from the beginning. This whole thing reminds me of Max & Dave Fleischer and their rotoscoped animation. In a film like Gulliver's Travels the realistic animation of Gulliver (traced from live-action footage) is too realistic for such a fanciful setting. Years later the Fleischer Brothers used the same technique sparingly, but very effectively to enhance the Superman cartoons they produced in the 1940s. It worked there because it was used as an effect, as a tool, rather than as the vehicle to convey an entire story. Mocap works well when it is used in a similar manner to enhance an animated story instead of as a means of delivering the whole film.

    One man's opinion. Your mileage may vary.

    I'm actually very sad to see Image Movers Digital go. I would have liked to have seen them turn into something along the lines of Pixar or Dreamworks. I just kind of knew it wasn't going to happen though. Too bad.


    [Sorry...didn't realize I was being so verbose. I get passionate sometimes about animation & effects.]

  9. #9

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    Re: Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off

    Quote Originally Posted by C. Andrew Nelson View Post
    I'm not happy to say it, but I called this one a long time ago before A Christmas Carol was even released and I called it again when the Yellow Submarine remake was announced. Motion capture animated features just haven't clicked with audiences. Beowolf was a box office flop as was Monster House before it. Monster House did marginlly well on DVD and cable. Polar Express is heralded as a success, but it all depends on how you do the math. It made money in some areas and lost it in others.

    Mocap works great for some CG characters in live-action films. Two good examples are Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films and Kong in the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong. Mocap also works very well in video games, especially sports games. Why? Because it conveys a very strong sense of realism due to it being based upon real movement. But in animated features realism is not what is called for.

    After I left Industrial Light & Magic in 2002 and the end of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, I served for a few years as the Visual Effects Director for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. One of the things I tried very hard to impress upon my students was that reality is boring. It's not what we look for as an audience when we go to see an animated feature. Our job as VFX artists and animators is not to strive for realism, but to create the illusion of reality. Or to put it another way...effects and animation do not need look real, they need to feel right.

    Films like Beowolf and Final Fantasy, however fantastic the settings, looked real and were as boring as heck. A movie like Finding Nemo (using no motion capture whatsoever) feels right and is completely engaging. Pixar gets it because it's run by people like John Lasseter who were taught by folks like Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston who got it. They wrote the book...literally! ("Illusion of Life" is manditory reading if you want to animate.)

    I have friends, colleagues, and former students at both Pixar and Image Movers Digital (the Zemeckis mocap animation studio funded by Disney) and there is a major difference between the two. The focus, the atmosphere, and the attitude is completely different. If you want to get hired at Pixar you better know how to draw and be able to demonstrate traditional animation skills. Many of the people, perhaps the majority, at Image Movers are computer-only artists.

    I don't blaim the artists and staff for Image Movers' demise. I think it was the company's approach and mindset that doomed it from the beginning. This whole thing reminds me of Max & Dave Fleischer and their rotoscoped animation. In a film like Gulliver's Travels the realistic animation of Gulliver (traced from live-action footage) is too realistic for such a fanciful setting. Years later the Fleischer Brothers used the same technique sparingly, but very effectively to enhance the Superman cartoons they produced in the 1940s. It worked there because it was used as an effect, as a tool, rather than as the vehicle to convey an entire story. Mocap works well when it is used in a similar manner to enhance an animated story instead of as a means of delivering the whole film.

    One man's opinion. Your mileage may vary.

    I'm actually very sad to see Image Movers Digital go. I would have liked to have seen them turn into something along the lines of Pixar or Dreamworks. I just kind of knew it wasn't going to happen though. Too bad.


    [Sorry...didn't realize I was being so verbose. I get passionate sometimes about animation & effects.]

    YOU WORKED AT ILM!? Wow, never thought I'd meet someone who worked there.

  10. #10

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    Re: Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkie313 View Post
    YOU WORKED AT ILM!? Wow, never thought I'd meet someone who worked there.
    Ha ha! Yep. I spent four years at ILM as a compositor, matte painter, rotoscoper, and texture artist. Before that I spent six years at LucasArts Entertainment Company where I was a visual effects supervisor and senior artist, helping design and create games. I'm fortunate enough to have worked for or worked with just about every division of the Lucas companies over the years. I also have a...um..."dark side"...that I won't clog up this thread with the details of. Just Google me.

  11. #11

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    Re: Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off

    Quote Originally Posted by Crazee4mm View Post
    Didn't Disney do this with "The Secret Lab" that was created to increase the level of realism to CGI created movies? I remember "Dinosaur" being heralded as the Next Big Thing but it was only moderately well received at the theaters. Shortly thereafter, the closure of this special branch of the animation department was announced before it even had a decent chance to flex it's wings. I think the film Reign of Fire had effects by "The Secret Lab" but had been closed by the time the film was released.
    If I remember correctly the Secrect Lab began life as and effects studio called Dream Quest Images. They were a succesful VFX house that Disney bought. I think at first Disney continued to run it as a separate entity which had first dibs on any Disney projects, but eventually it was folded into Disney and reconstituted as the Secret Lab. I recall that when ILM was bidding on doing the effects for the Mission to Mars (not the attraction at the parks, but the feature film) director Brian De Palma wanted to give us the whole contract. Disney made him use the Secret Lab (still called Dream Quest at the time) for half of the films effects.

    A year later Disney tried to do the same thing with Michael Bay when he was making Pearl Harbor. Bay said it was ILM or nothing, so we got the entire contract. This was a crushing blow to the Dream Quest/Secret Lab I think. They had begun pre-production work on Pearl Harbor before it was yanked away from them. They never really recovered after that from what I understand. If Disney couldn't guarrantee them a piece of any Disney-produced feature and if they couldn't successfully bid on outside non-Disney jobs they were doomed to fail.

    Some of the people were absorbed into Disney's other animation units, but most had to search elsewhee for work. It's too bad because Dream Quest / Secrect Lab did some great work.

  12. #12

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    Re: Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off

    Quote Originally Posted by C. Andrew Nelson View Post
    If I remember correctly the Secrect Lab began life as and effects studio called Dream Quest Images. They were a succesful VFX house that Disney bought. I think at first Disney continued to run it as a separate entity which had first dibs on any Disney projects, but eventually it was folded into Disney and reconstituted as the Secret Lab. I recall that when ILM was bidding on doing the effects for the Mission to Mars (not the attraction at the parks, but the feature film) director Brian De Palma wanted to give us the whole contract. Disney made him use the Secret Lab (still called Dream Quest at the time) for half of the films effects.

    A year later Disney tried to do the same thing with Michael Bay when he was making Pearl Harbor. Bay said it was ILM or nothing, so we got the entire contract. This was a crushing blow to the Dream Quest/Secret Lab I think. They had begun pre-production work on Pearl Harbor before it was yanked away from them. They never really recovered after that from what I understand. If Disney couldn't guarrantee them a piece of any Disney-produced feature and if they couldn't successfully bid on outside non-Disney jobs they were doomed to fail.

    Some of the people were absorbed into Disney's other animation units, but most had to search elsewhee for work. It's too bad because Dream Quest / Secrect Lab did some great work.
    I believe the Secert Lab's last work was Kangraoo jack for Warner Brothers. After Dinosaur, they were supposed to fellow it up with "Wild Life".

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    do you remeber the old Frankstein movie that ILM had in development during the late 90's?
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  13. #13

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    Re: Disney to close Zemeckis' digital studio, hundreds will be layed off

    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Dopey24 View Post
    aww that sucks. i was hoping for roger rabbit 2.
    They can always make Roger Rabbit 2 WITHOUT Mo-Cap.

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