May 2020 roundup May 2020 roundup

The coronavirus has created much temporary disruption in the animation industry. It will also leave permanent legacies. How can we tell the two apart?

As governments map out lockdown exit strategies and some countries start regaining a semblance of normality, eyes are increasingly looking to the long-term future. This month’s biggest stories evidence the continuing migration online of films, events, work life, social life, and even — in the case of a new Wallace and Gromit work — urban exploration. Is this shift a quick fix in a crisis, or a glimpse of the new normal? Meanwhile, good news from Ireland signals the industry’s underlying growth potential. Can that growth be sustained in the trying times ahead?

Streaming boomed as viewers remained housebound. Warner Bros.’s Scoob! skipped the theatrical window in favor of a VOD release, becoming the second animated feature from a major studio to do so. Indie heavyweight GKIDS announced that it will take the same route with Marona’s Fantastic Tale. Meanwhile, HBO Max launched with animation aplenty, and ViacomCBS gave details about its revamped streamer CBS All Access. It also hinted that its forthcoming feature The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run could potentially follow Scoob! in skipping theaters, though the situation remains fluid and the film may still get a theatrical release.

The crisis continued to shake up employment. Many studios are feeling the pinch, as DNEG’s ongoing pay cut saga indicates (although some animation staffers there have managed to protect their wages). On the other hand, some employers seem to be validating the common claim that animation can benefit from the crisis — Toronto’s Wow! plans to double the size of its workforce through a remote working strategy. A production company in Norway told us how it’s gearing up to bring staff back into the studio. Meanwhile, one social media star received a career boost: Miquela became the first “virtual being” to be signed by Hollywood’s influential CAA agency.

The online event space grew and grew. Annecy, the world’s most important animation festival, revealed the lineup of its virtual edition, which will take place in June. The Quirino Awards kicked off their month-long celebration of Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American animation. The global video game industry came together to inaugurate the Summer Game Fest. We got an e-badge to Stuttgart, the first major animation festival to actually hold a virtual edition — here are our thoughts.

Tiktok hired senior Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its new CEO. Mayer was the chief architect of Disney+, and his appointment is a coup for the wildly popular video sharing platform, which is looking to expand rapidly across the world.

Ireland’s animation sector reported a record-breaking 12 months. Half of all production spending in the country went toward animation in 2019, according to figures released by trade body Screen Ireland. A caveat: that was before the coronavirus hit.

Wallace and Gromit teased their comeback. The emphatically British inventor-and-dog duo will return this fall for their first outing in a decade, and first ever in cgi. Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up will be structured as an augmented reality experience set in the English city of Bristol.

Genndy Tartakovsky is trying to make a Popeye feature again. The animation director’s passion project — a reboot of the 91-year-old comic and animation star Popeye — is reportedly back in development. Unlike the first time, when Tartakovsky developed the film for Sony Pictures Animation, this time he’s working directly with Popeye owners King Features Syndicate.

(Images at top, left to right: “Marona’s Fantastic Tale,” “Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up,” “Scoob!”)

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