Sony Animation in LA TIMES

OPEN SEASON

With the upcoming release of OPEN SEASON, all eyes are on Sony and whether its CG feature animation division will be a hit or a flop. The LA TIMES published an article on Monday that gave a little history of Sony Pictures Animation and offered some insight into how the studio operates. My impression is that Sony is very typical of other major US feature animation studios and that’s never a good sign. This part of the article caught my attention:

“I think that Sony is going to do big things, but they will really do bigger things when they start looking to artists for ideas and trusting the artists for those ideas,” said John Sanford, a former story artist at Sony Pictures Animation who was fired in July.

Sanford is one of several casualties of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” which has been heavily reworked and is now on its third set of directors.

A studio that discards directors so easily doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence because it makes clear that the development and execution of ideas are controlled by a force higher than the director. Similarly, a studio that has top-notch story artists working for it, yet doesn’t value their ideas and instead options flimsy children’s book stories, like CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, is fundamentally flawed and setting itself up for failure. It’s worth noting that on his personal blog, John Sanford says that the LA TIMES took his comments about Sony out of context, and that they didn’t quote the part when he said how great the artists at the studio were and how great OPEN SEASON is. While I don’t think there’s any question that OPEN SEASON will be at least moderately successful, it’s the exec-heavy organizational structure of the studio and the films that come after OPEN SEASON which worry me.

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