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REanimate..?. The uncertain future(s) of British filmed animation. The Competition is scary… and it wants us to wear funny glasses. Hollywood enforcing stereoscopic 3D as the new gold standard CG animation lends itself naturally to 3D – far more so than live action (colour spectrum loss)

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REanimate..?

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Reanimate

REanimate..?

The uncertain future(s) of British filmed animation


The competition is scary and it wants us to wear funny glasses

The Competition is scary… and it wants us to wear funny glasses.

  • Hollywood enforcing stereoscopic 3D as the new gold standard

  • CG animation lends itself naturally to 3D – far more so than live action (colour spectrum loss)

  • 3D animated features take between 3 to 7 times box office of standard versions

  • Europe has only managed one 3D animated feature so far

  • Is it too late to Fly to The Moon..?


The competition is scary and they get help

The Competition is scary… and they get help !

  • 191 Animation hours produced in the UK in 2008 – for a value of £102 million

  • Compares with 330h in the US, 282h in Canada, 259h in France

  • French tax credit =20% saving on production costs – Ireland = 28%

  • Subsidies and tax breaks enable non-Hollywood industries to compete – except in the UK


The competition is scary and we can t home grow the right kind of animators

The Competition is scary…and we can’t home-grow the right kind of animators

  • As animated feature output in the UK has declined, courses training animators have increased (250 grads per yr).

  • But are they the right kind of graduates, from the right kind of schools?

  • CFC Framestore, UK’s no.1 VFX company says UK graduates are only 30% of their recruits today, vs 95% a decade ago. Aardman needs well-trained post-grad animators, not being produced in quantity in the UK

  • Foreign universities more adept at training graduates for specialist skills and career awareness

  • And the workforce is becoming itinerant


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Artists or gamers? ...what would inspire the next generation?

  • UK still steeped in the tradition of the animator as auteur/craftsman/artist – encourages individual vision, and a cottage industry mentality

  • Wins prizes at festivals too. Isn’t this important for the image of UK animation – from Richard Williams and Bob Godfrey to Ruth Lingford, The Quays and Aardman

  • Or will new generations just go into game design – with higher earnings, stronger prospects, stability of employment?


The competition is scary and it s making our own tv shows for us

The competition is scary… and it’s making our own TV shows for us!

  • UK renowned the world over for its lead in pre-school animation series for TV

  • Thomas the Tank Engine, Fireman Sam, Pingu..!

  • Today, all these shows are produced abroad, in countries where workforce combines high technical skills and lower wages – UK is becoming uneconomic as a production base

  • The UK retains the IP… but for how long?

  • UK animation graduates gaining experience at non-UK companies… In 10 years, these countries won’t need our IP – they will have their own creative/innovative engines


But wait a minute we do have assets

But wait a minute… We do have assets!

  • Significant British animation studios still making features here (Aardman, Astley Baker Davis, Chapman Entertainment, etc)

  • Innovative multiplatform series, like Sean the Sheep, helping to keep UK animation afloat.

  • UK still world n02 in VFX industry – strong industrial base from which to develop animated work (e.g Framestore)

  • Pioneering performance capture and other hybrid technologies (Andy Serkis)


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So what do we want from British animation?

  • UK originated features made by UK talent?

  • Sparky, original short animation, able to win awards?

  • Animated TV series, which might produce feature spin-offs?

  • OR

  • Made for hire work for studio features and series

  • Hybrid forms, new technology apps, games cross-over


For features the challenge is steep

For features, the challenge is steep…

  • Average UK independent animated feature is £5 to £6 million (the European average)

  • Average Hollywood animated feature starts at $50 million with at least as much in home market p&a

  • Animated features for the family market require considerable upfront spend

  • Marketing tie-ins a key ingredient for visibility in the marketplace – Hollywood has a monopoly on those deals


Are we loosing our r d engines

Are we loosing our R&D engines..?

  • Channel 4 as sponsor of new originated animated feature shorts is the shadow of its former Oscar-winning self

  • Award-winning UK animation often has darker, more adult-oriented themes/tone

  • Tradition of satire and parody – irreverence and pessimism

  • And PSBs are loosing their ability to serve as R&D environments for the British animated feature brands of the future


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TV series

  • 5 years ago, 84% of all animated kids’ shows broadcast in the UK were British.

  • In 2008, it was down to 23%

  • PSBs have either emphasised pre-school TV products or arty/experimental films –

  • no commercial vision linked to feature animation

  • But successful long-running animated TV shows need experienced writers as well as animators – look how many The Simpsons and South Park use.

  • We don’t have that kind of experience


Work for hire

Work for hire?

  • Is there a future in work-for-hire productions for Hollywood?

  • Tale of Despereaux was a moderate success for Framestore on behalf of Universal

  • But: could be made more cheaply elsewhere

  • Can our original brands control their IP and the upside on commercial successes ?


And why chase the family market when hollywood can do it on a bigger scale

And why chase the family market when Hollywood can do it on a bigger scale?

  • Asset or liability?

  • South Park and others have proven there is a strong potential market for adult-oriented animation

  • Why can’t we achieve the US success in converting TV-branded shows into feature successes (Simpsons, South Park)?


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Learning from Japan and elsewhere?

  • Japan has a self-sufficient animation industry – why?

  • One reason is the manga tradition with its vast domestic as well as export market

  • Another is that Japan takes graphic fiction seriously, like France, Italy and Belgium – but unlike Britain


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Game – set and match?

  • Britain has a successful video game industry. US and Japan are no.1 and no. 2 in the CG gaming market. UK was n03 in 2008 but could slip to 6th place by the end of 2010

  • Does this translate into building animation capacity? Income from game pre-licensing on larger animation features + feature version of hit games?

  • Maybe – though the skills and creativity needed for games are different from those needed in film animation

  • However the basic training and production incentives needed could be common to both industries, to ensure talent not diverted solely into game sector


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So does it matter if we don’t have an animation industry?

  • Given the accelerating convergence of ‘live action’ and animation (Avatar classed as ‘animation’ in France), it does matter

  • Only retaining animated feature production will create job opportunities and make economic sense of u/grad and advanced p/grad training

  • Ultimately, games and animated fiction do support each other, industrially and culturally – we need both

  • Successful, exportable animation requires many skills, but above all characters and stories – it’s about creativity, and being able to deliver in the long term. We can’t afford to give up on these!


But does it matter if we don t have a feature animation industry

But does it matter if we don’t have a feature animation industry…?

  • US and Japan are n01 and n02 in the CG gaming market (UK was n03 in 2008 but could slip to 6th place by the end of 2010)

  • Both countries are also leaders in animated features

  • Creative and technological cross-pollination between those two sectors – strategic income from game pre-licensing on larger animation features + feature version of hit games

  • Differentiated tax break will accelerate migration of UK animation talent to gaming – higher rewards potential

  • Is this a cohesive strategy, given the bridges between the two sectors? Shoudn’t bespoke support for animated feature also be considered?


It s all about hairs

It’s all about… hairs…

  • The number of CGI-rendered hair on Andy’s head in Toy Story I (1995) was 12,000

  • The number of hair on Despereaux’s head (2008)was 413,138…

  • CG processing power has mutiplied by about the same rate over the past 15 years

  • CG animation technology is in constant and rapid change

  • Implications for capital costs and R&D favour large scalable studios

  • UK had 300 animation companies in 2008

  • Cottage industry structure makes it difficult to concentrate capital and expertise


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