Genndy Tartakovsky is a 35-year-old man who still wakes up early on Saturdays to watch cartoons. He confesses: “I can’t outgrow them.”
Even a night of hard drinking when he was younger wouldn’t keep him from dragging himself out of bed the next morning to watch his favorite shows.
“I’d be so hung over,” said Tartakovsky. “But I loved them.”
That passion and persistence has paid off for Tartakovsky, whose list of credits includes hit animated television shows “Samuri Jack” and “Star Wars: Clone Wars.”
As creative director at Orphanage Animation Studios Inc. he now finds himself among a small group of northern California artists hoping to rival the towering frontrunners in Hollywood computer animation: Pixar Animation Studios Inc. and Dreamworks Animation SKG Inc.
While the Bay Area upstarts have yet to make a feature-length film, companies such as Orphanage, Wild Brain Inc. and CritterPix Inc. have recently announced separate plans to make computer-animated feature films with characters they hope moviegoers will embrace as fondly as Pixar’s Buzz Lightyear and Dreamworks’ Shrek.
The rub is that the new players find themselves working on shoestring budgets, often with hand-me-down technology, and working under noose-tight deadlines.
“You can’t look at Wild Brain in its current state and say we’re going to be competitors to Pixar,” said Charles Rivkin, who was named CEO of the San Francisco-based company in September. “On the other hand, we would hope in the near future we make it into their rearview mirror.”
Consider what the challengers are up against: Dreamworks produced “Shrek 2,” the third highest-grossing movie ever ($436 million) and the No. 1 animation film of all time, and the company is only No. 2 in the market.
Pixar emerged as the industry heavyweights by releasing the first computer-generated movie, “Toy Story,” in 1995. It has since produced an unprecedented string of five hits, including “A Bugs Life,” “Monsters Inc.” and “Finding Nemo,” which have made about $3.2 billion in worldwide sales.