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Low Budget Features

Share your views on the state of the Animation Industry.

Low Budget Features

Postby tstevens » Tue Jul 20, 2010 11:12 am

At the moment the average animated film is costing somewhere around 150 milion to 200 million to produce. However Chris Meledandri and Universal squeezed Despicable Me out for a reported 69 million. Other reports have stated that much of the cost savings came from using talent in Paris and eliminating things like fur to kill render times (some articles have even mentioned that the crew worked an un-hollywood like 35-40 hours a week). Toy Story 3 however, cost a reported 200 million. While it has done very well at the box office the numbers don't seem so hot when you factor in the actual number of tickets purchased. With the economy being as tepid as it is, it makes much more sense to produce films like Despicable Me and less like Toy Story 3. However, will studios be willing to support lower budget films with greater creative control. Or, will they continue to dump money into large traditional Hollywood productions. If animation is going to thrive (expecially 2D) it would seem that the lower budget creator driven films would be the best way to go. It must also be noted that there is more potential talent than ever before yet the system is literally limited to handling only a few directors (I can think of less than 20).

We have been arguing the small budget model for years but I think most of us are still stuck in the high budget mindset. There are a lot of big issues to tackle if smaller high quality productions are to get off of the ground. Will animators go to smaller cities to work? Will those artists require LA wages? Is runaway production to Europe the future? Is the North American animation community too set in its ways to change? Why haven't directors at Disney and Dreamworks offered to make films at a lower budget to gain more creative freedom?

Melendandri has definately set a new standard.
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Re: Low Budget Features

Postby jeffnevins » Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:54 pm

I find this to be an interesting topic. Thanks for posting. I support the idea of more lower-budget creator-driven films. I hope NA studios aren't too set in their ways, or if they are, they will at least support good indie films.

Smaller cities, or at least different cities, and a slightly lower payrate (especially in this economy) would be good.

Imagine an indie 2-D feature made in S.F. I know of a studio or two with some talent & facilities. :idea:
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Re: Low Budget Features

Postby tstevens » Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:48 am

I think with the right designs and story it would be highly likely that a good looking feature could be made for well under 50 million and probably closer to 35 million.

As for S.F. being a place to make it??? San Francisco is still one of the highest rent cities in the nation. I think Bluth had it right when he looked at Phoenix. Any decent sized midwest town would probably work. I have understood that Texas and Colorado are suppose to be fairly business friendly. New Mexico has great tax incentives for film production but it isn't nearly as pro business as its nieghbors.

Years ago I can remember John K talking about producing low budget features but I haven't heard much from the way of Spumco in a while. The biggest barrier to doing this is finding a combination of people who are business minded and creative. If you look back on Pixar they were only able to survive because Steve Jobs apparently spent 5 million over 5 years to keep the company alive. That is an extremely unusual model for any company in any business.
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Re: Low Budget Features

Postby jeffnevins » Thu Jul 22, 2010 5:17 pm

Good points.
I suppose I'm partial to the Bay Area because of the 2-D studios that closed down over the past decade or two. There are a lot of great artists over here (and not everyone could squeeze into Pixar). Some people have moved out of town.

But one of the spots you mentioned could work as well. In fact, I could see people from L.A. & S.F. moving to one of them for such a project.
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Re: Low Budget Features

Postby Charles » Thu Jul 22, 2010 7:49 pm

The Europeans are doing a great job at providing several models for successful animated feature films produced with reasonable budgets. Secret of Kells, Missing Lynx, The Illusionist is on the way, to name just a few. I see no reason why we can't be doing the same thing across America in the future.

This is a production system that several European studios are using to help make their feature films a reality.

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Re: Low Budget Features

Postby iwincar » Fri Jul 23, 2010 10:22 am

Hi all I am from India, and at present Dirrecting and Exec. Producer of one its kind 'Low Budget' features, Any thing beyond 100 million is a dream figure for us, when none of you will believe that Indians are producing 3D features at the 1/10 th of the Hollywood cost, this is the same studio from India that has worked on the upcoming feature Alpha and Omega, and I am directing the indigenous movie that will be positioned for India and Asian markets, but will be scalable for the US market as well.
Fur, water, clothe ,hair are some of the most difficult things in 3D and its a smart creative choice that one has to do right at the stage of Scripting and choosing a particular project.

Director has to be absolutely clear of his expectations about animation style,Design etc

one can techniclly comprise certain areas, but not the great story .

I think Low budget features will be making there way thorough
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Re: Low Budget Features

Postby tstevens » Fri Jul 23, 2010 10:58 am

I think the key word for 3D is compositing.

If you pick and choose correctly, anything beyond a certain point in the camera can be done as a matte painting and even a lot of foreground stuff can be rendered out as a single frame. Pixar likes to joke that they are the company thats sands the bottoms of the cabinet drawers. As for the rest of us... We have to survive on a fairly tight budget.

Tell us more about how ya'll are approaching the production pipeline in India.
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Re: Low Budget Features

Postby iwincar » Sat Jul 24, 2010 3:18 am

if your feature is extreemly lowbudget, then I would say you have no choice but to go for matt layers and other cost saving and less time consuming options.It is one kind of smart product designing, what is critical is the 'clarity' and creative choice, what happens is it keeps on changing, and the work tends to go back and forth, no. of changes in a end cost, resulting in budgets going hay wire.
About pipe line I would say at Crest animation studios, it is simmilar to any other Feature pipeline, and not any different just because the project is 'low budget' ,since the product that will come out is the same, artist pay same attention to details and quality norms that are there on any high budget features, where it works smart is the time limit which compel me to be abolutely clear in thinking and I hardly go back to alter the choice I have made say in Pre-Dev. stage, or any design choice,etc. the Idea hardly changes once it goes past the design,modeling, texturing, rigging etc.
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Re: Low Budget Features

Postby hcjehg » Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:03 pm

Just some bits of information on European budgets.

For The Secret of Kells - it was approx. €6.5 million or around $US 8.4 million.

The budget for the upcoming "Chico and Rita" was €10 Million or $US 12 million.

The average budget for animated features in Europe was approx. €6 million in 2008.

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