The Right Sound
Animation dubbing specialist Audioworks Producers Group celebrates its 20th anniversary with a broad spectrum of projects, including co-producing the Mondo TV series Spike Team. By Tom McLean. Spike Team, Spike Team MD Geist, of talent among stage actors. “Broadway is performance and you’re running through the whole thing in one go so you’ve got to know what you’re doing and get it right the first time.”
Crossing Tongues On Spike Team, the voice actors work from scripts that get punched up after being translated from the original Italian, he says, a process that often throws a few curves at the crew. “You have colloquialisms, sort of local phrases where if you put it through Google Translate it might make no sense, so you need someone who has knowledge of both English and the original language, so they can translate the phrases.”
The deal with Mondo began in 2008 and has settled into a smooth working relationship, says Middenway. Other key animated projects in the company’s history include partnering with Ale McHaddo from 44 Toons in Sao Paolo, Brazil, to create their short feature, Diznei on Ice, a send-up of what it might be like if the real Walt Disney had been cryogenically stored and awakened 100 years later.
The company also has been dubbing English animated content into foreign languages since 2005, when a deal with Digiview Productions saw Audioworks convert classics starring the likes of Bugs Bunny into Spanish, French, German and Japanese.
The company does this with a small staff that also includes senior writer and director David Wills and producer Elysse Yulo. They work from a pair of nearby studios on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan.
Demand for Audioworks’ services goes beyond animation, with the company working on projects ranging from audio tours for various attractions and an upcoming live-action feature. But Middenway expects animation dubbing will remain key to the company’s identity. “That’s always been the core,” he says. [
Mike de Seve, creative director of the Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning team Baboon Animation, recently had a chance to talk with some of the incredibly talented voice artists over at Audioworks Producers Group.
The artists — Debbie Irwin, Billy Bob Thompson, Erica Schroeder, Serra Hirsch and Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld — chatted about what it’s like to work regularly at a successful post house in the film industry, and gave the inside scoop on the award-winning music producer who started it all: Kip Kaplan.
Mike de Seve: What is your favorite part of working at Audioworks?
Serra Hirsch: That you never know what one session will entail — you walk in and could be walking out having voiced a 3-year-old, an 80-year-old man, a ball of fuzz, a squirrel, hippopotamus, monkey, a plane and a mom, all in one session.
Billy Bob Thompson: weird projects.
Debbie Irwin: The work is FUN FUN FUN, and allows me to use my acting chops, so it’s not work, it’s play! And the people rock.
De Seve: What was your first impression of Audioworks? How long ago was that? Any other fun details of that historic moment?
Irwin: Kip Kaplan had been on my radar for quite some time, and when he called me in to audition for him I was thrilled. I had training as an actress, but never dubbed before, which he figured out in a nanosecond, yet he was very kind about the whole process. It was exciting, challenging, overwhelming and illuminating — I left there determined to get training in this area to be able to read the script and follow the lip movements simultaneously.
Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld: My audition at Audioworks was one of my first out of college. I was surprised by the level of perfection Kip expected of me right from the (literal) word go, but it’s that same expectation that has pushed me to rise to the occasion in all my work from that moment onward.
De Seve: Kip — and I’m really going out on a limb here — could be considered a character. Anything fun or funny you want to say about him? Don’t hold back! Or maybe do!
Erica Schroeder: Kip is a rude, cheap, stubborn, punctual, talented, genuine, honest, gregarious, loyal, charming, first class son of a bitch ... but I love him. Bottom line is, though, he’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it ... especially if he could write it off at the end of the year! He’s a family man and has the loveliest wife and kids that he’d do anything for. Audioworks is actually the only company I’ve ever received a bonus from. Like I said, he’s loyal and lets you know when you’re appreciated.
Rosenfeld: Kip is the Jewish father I never had. I already have a Jewish father, just not one quite like Kip.
Irwin: Kip knows what he wants and gets right to it!
Thompson: I’ve never seen any of the projects I’ve worked on with Kip ... and I’m so very thankful for that.
Hirsch: Using “And...Go!” as an audio starting point instead of beeps is uniquely Kip. I can honestly say I have not experienced that with anyone else. Also, if he eats popcorn (in your ear) during a session, you are in for a treat!
De Seve: Working on international cartoons can sometimes be quirky, if not outright bizarre. Any funny moments you can share?
Rosenfeld: There was a cartoon where every joke about my character was either a fart joke or a joke about her being fat. We moved away from the fat and leaned into the farts, like the mature feminist artists we are.
Hirsch: Lovable main characters named “Cocks” may not feel quite right when used in English — but we’ll make it work.
Thompson: The biggest problem I find with international cartoons is the script. The true intent of a line is often lost in translation and if the clients are too precious with their lines, you sometimes find yourself forced into reading things that sense do not make lots no good. [ Baboon Animation is a U.S.-based collective of Oscar-nominated, multi-Emmy winning animation writers with credits on dozens of the most iconic animated shows worldwide.
nimation and visual effects are reaching further than ever into the global culture. Demand for quality content is at an all-time high, and the opportunities for companies that can best maneuver the business landscape are extraordinary.
But it’s also a complicated and fast-changing business, and there’s no better way to learn how to plot a path to success than from people who have already done it — and no event offers as much access to those people than the World Animation and Visual Effects Summit.
The fifth annual summit — set for Oct. 31Nov. 2 at the California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey — will offer a slate of panels and speakers to inform and surprise even the most veteran operator in the industry. Highlight panels include: • A seriously deep dive into the state of the markets for animation and VFX in virtual reality.
• A survey of the visual effects landscape in 2016.
• The annual “business of show business” panel.
• A chance to learn how to promote your animated project from publicists for top animation studios.
• A look at the pros and cons of turning toys into toons.
• The annual Oscars contenders panel, looking at which films have the best shot at taking home the industry’s highest honor.
• A preview of Moana, the upcoming animated feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios.
• Exploring co-productions with Asian studios
• And looks into the issues facing independent and startup animation companies.
The opportunities to network also will be unique, ranging from daily breakfast and lunch roundtables to an
It’s been 10 years since Guillaume Hellouin came to loggerheads with the majority shareholders in the animation studio he had founded in France, Sparx Animation. “We wanted to have a studio we controlled,” he says, with “we” including several key members of the Sparx staff such as Corinne Kouper and Caroline Souris. “We wanted to start something new with a vision that we shared together without any interference from shareholders who don’t understand our business.”
The result was TeamTO, which started from scratch and is celebrating in 2016 its 10th anniversary as a robust and successful company of its own. Its track record includes such successful shows as Babar & The Adventures of Badou, My Knight and Me, Angelo Rules and the feature film Yellowbird.
“We believed in research and development, we believed in pushing the limits and in growing the talents,” says Hellouin. “Basically, that was the recipe.”
TeamTO always plotted a steady course to success, starting off with work on Babar, a series called Zoé Kézako and some service work, building on the relationships employees had with people at companies like Nelvana, Disney and top French broadcasters, Hellouin says.
The company also took advantage of the tax credits available in France to open a studio in Bourges-les-Valences in the south of France to handle its animation in house. By 2009, the entire pipeline was in France.
When the company delivered the original shows Angelo Rules and Oscar’s Oasis at almost the same time in 2010, it proved a major turning point France’s TeamTO has in 10 years exceeded its founders’ expectations with a solid track record of TV hits, an animated feature, and more to come. By Tom McLean. as the market began to look upon TeamTO as a legitimate player that delivered successful animated shows.
Expanding even further, Hellouin opened a TeamTO office in Los Angeles to reconnect with former partners in the United States — especially Disney. That led to work on shows like Pac-Man and then to larger roles in animating series such as Sofia the First and recent hit, Elena of Avalor.
The studio now employs 300 people and is working on the fourth season of Angelo Rules, the third season of Rabbids Invasion for Ubisoft, Elena of Avalor for Disney, the second season of PJ Masks, the second season of Skylanders, and a few others.
Hellouin says TeamTO brings its best effort to each project. “We try to make sure that they are very different from one another,” he says. “We don’t have a studio style. … We work for different artists on each project. We build a specific creative team and they create their show and we help them and finance it and put everything in place to make it happen.”
In 2014, TeamTO released its first feature film, Yellowbird, directed by Christian De Vita and fea- Easy, Mike.
It’s not uncommon to see models and fashion reporters elbowing each other out of the way to get a selfie with one celebrity or another at London Fashion Week, the British capital’s semi-annual celebration of all things style.
It’s less common that the celebrity in question is Minnie Mouse.
But at last September’s launch of Minnie: Style Icon, an exhibition exploring the Disney character’s influence on fashion and pop culture, even the fanciest of fashionistas couldn’t resist posing for a snap with the overgrown mouse while, around them, wait staff circulated with canapés decorated with Minnie’s trademark polka dots and bows.
The event, which was hosted by Disney, marked the growing allegiance between two, outwardly, very unlikely industries: animation and fashion — an alliance that presents a new world of opportunities for licensors of animated properties gathering for the 18th annual Brand Licensing Europe show, set for Oct. 11-13 in London.
Those who know their fashion history might argue that designers have always taken inspiration from the animated world. French designer Jean-Charles de Castelabajac was emblazoning sweaters with Mickey Mouse back in the 1980s, but the difference now is that savvy animation studios are much more active in seeking out such collaborations, having realized that not only is there a proven adult audience for this kind of merchandise — especially among today’s nostalgia-obsessed Millennials — but strategic brand collaborations can themselves be harnessed as part of the marketing drives for upcoming feature releases.
If the shoe fits … It’s a tactic Disney has certainly used successfully for a number of years to ensure coverage in fashion magazines that wouldn’t otherwise cover what they consider to be “kids’ films.” In 2012, for example, to celebrate the release of Cinderella on Diamond Edition Bluray, the studio commissioned renowned shoemaker Christian Louboutin to create a pair of crystal-encrusted high heels inspired by the film’s legendary glass slippers. Although they were less prepared for the blockbuster suc- cess of Frozen in 2013, a collaboration with Comme Des Garçons was quickly lined up for the following December to cement the film as an evergreen holiday staple. And, earlier this year, Californian designer Trina Turk created a Finding Dory- themed beachwear collection ahead of the film’s theatrical release.
Now other studios are getting in on the act. This past summer alone has seen DreamWorks tap cosmetics brand MAC and New York designer Betsey Johnson to create makeup and accessory collections themed around the upcoming Trolls movie while, in July, Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment partnered with achingly cool Parisian department store Colette for a capsule collection inspired by The Secret Life of Pets that featured $45 cellphone cases and $67 T-shirts.
“There’s absolutely a trend towards animated characters on adult clothing,” says Mark Kingston, senior VP of Pan European Licensing at Viacom International Media Networks, whose roster includes long-beloved properties such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Ren & Stimpy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. “As each year passes and more teenagers grow into adulthood, they’re bringing their favorite characters, particularly the animated ones, with them and looking for them on adult ap- parel.”
In recent years VIMN has worked with brands such as Moschino, Jeremy Scott, Beatrix Ong, and streetwear brand Kith, who in September debuted a Rugrats- inspired collection at New York Fashion Week. VIMN is now working on a year-long campaign, set to launch in 2017, called SpongeBob Gold, which will kick off with “several fashion collaborations with big-name, as well as up and coming, designers,” Kingston says. These will later be followed with mid- and mass-market apparel collections.
A glowing ‘halo’ This type of strategic high-to-low brand partnership is common in licensing and works by launching so-called “halo” collections with aspirational brands to carefully position or re-vitalize an animated character, which then attract mass-market retailers that will sell a larger volume at a more affordable price point. When Moschino sent SpongeBob SquarePants down the runway at Milan Fashion Week in 2014, with models wearing yellow sweater dresses and purses featuring the madcap character’s face, retailers such as Forever21 and H&M quickly followed suit with Spongebob T-shirts and even sneakers. “We absolute-
CThe CTN Animation eXpo puts art and artists in the spotlight for three days of toon talks, exhibits and portfolio reviews.
TN Animation eXpo’s focus on the art and artists of animation has made it one of the most popular events on the industry calendar for both pros and fans.
This year’s edition once again is set for the weekend before Thankgiving, Nov. 18-20, at the Burbank Marriott and Convention Center.
CTN founder Tina Price catches us up on what to expect at this year’s event.
Animation Magazine: The theme this year is Forces of Mass Creativity. What does that mean and how will it be represented in the programming?
Tina Price: At the core of it all are the artists and The Forces of Mass Creativity in this industry are the artists. This is a highly creative event full of energy as CTN always brings together the very best under one roof for three days. It is a force all right. Animag: What’s new at this year’s event? Price: Great for students and the general public, we are very excited to announce a new general public one-day pass for $20 that gives you access to the exhibit floor artist pavilion. Also, operationally, we have more staff and more seating in the theaters and workshops. Also new is CTN’s Talent-opolis, an interactive live demo and experience center. It’s hard to explain, you have to experience it. Animag: Who is the headline talent? Price: At CTN all the talent are headliners, with special guests this year that include illus- trators Loish, El Gunto and Goro Fujita and 200 plus coming from as close as Burbank and as far away as Serbia. We are releasing guests daily and the full list of special guests and events this month.
Animag: Any new companies exhibiting this year?
Price: New this year we have put all the studios, vendors, organizations and artist exhibitors together under one roof. With many newcomers to CTN, there are a lot of repeat regulars like Walt Disney, ILM, Nickelodeon, Pixar and Blue Sky. For a new exhibiting experience this year check out those companies representing VR.
Animag: How many attendees do you expect? Is attendance growing?
Price: As with anything good, there is always growth, and we are very excited by the growth and about some of the new things we get to do this year to accommodate for the growth, but without jeopardizing the experience. CTN is a more intimate, unscripted and highly targeted event that features artists, and we plan on keeping it that way. CTN is like a rough sketch. It is alive, expressive and not finished.
Animag: What advice do you have for attendees to get the most out of the expo?
Price: We encourage everyone to download the free CTN event app at the App Store and on Google Play. Introduced in 2015, it was a huge hit with attendees. Also get to the event early and go to the info booth located in the center of the event.
Animag: What screenings are planned for the event?
Price: We have two very special screenings, but we can’t say what they are just yet.
Animag: Any changes to the setup at the venue, i.e., will everything still be generally in the same place as last year?
Price: CTN has reinvented itself with a new look. We’re calling ourselves the CTN Village, which includes the artists pavilion, a downtown theater district with a Talent-opolis experience center and the CTN University all located on property at the Burbank Airport Marriott Convention Center with a slew of top talent. I hope to see you there. [
The Animago Award & Conference celebrates its 20th anniversary with a move into a new location in Munich, Germany, and a special look back at its history.
Filling us in on the most-recent news on the event, set for Oct. 27-28, is Animago project manager, Jana Freund.
Animation Magazine: How is the event planning to celebrate its 20th anniversary?
Jana Freund: This year we have a special category called the 20th Anniversary Prize. … We’re also hosting an official welcome reception before the Animago Award ceremony gets underway; plus there will be previous Animago winners giving lectures as part of the conference program. The Animago special edition print magazine will also cover our jubilee with editorial content.
Animag: Who is the headline talent?
Freund: We will be presenting three Canadian keynote speakers in our conference program: Tom Morrison of Mr. X Inc., Digital Domain’s Phil Cramer, and Ian Dominic Kirby from The Sequence Group. For the first time at the Animago, we’re going to have Detlef Müller & Michael C. Müller speaking about “Design & Creation @ adidas AG.” The headquarters of this globally known
CWork in Batches For those tasks you simply cannot find a way to automate or outsource, be sure to tackle them in batches.
For example, check your email once or twice per day, not constantly. Answer your voicemail and do your callbacks once or twice per day, not as they come in. If you like to make your own lunch for work or school, prepare as many days of lunch at one time as possible. When doing laundry, save up a full week’s worth and do it in one shot instead of doing a little at a time. When going to the grocery store, buy as much at one time as you can instead of a few things here and there, requiring you to go back and forth several times per week.
Focus on one thing at a time and avoid multi-tasking at all costs as it has been proven to be more damaging to your productivity than being under the influence of THC. Fragmenting a task into pieces also fragments your productivity and wastes precious time, so it’s crucial to accomplish things in groups if you want to earn substantial time savings.
Waking Up Let’s take a look at your sleeping schedule. How many hours, down to the minute, do you sleep every night? In the morning, do you feel rested, full of energy, and ready to tackle the day? If the answer is no, you must work on sleeping more restfully. If an increase in quality of sleep doesn’t improve your energy and focus, try adding more slumber time in 30-minute increments.
It’s tempting to think that by cutting your sleep hours you can be more productive be- cause you have more waking hours to work. However, if you are not well rested, your productivity will suffer severely and you will waste untold amounts of time because you are not operating at an optimum level. This is an example where actually removing time from your waking hours could pay huge dividends in the big picture.
On the other hand, if you wake up every morning feeling great, focused, and ready to take on the day, try cutting your sleep back by 15 minutes at a time. Do this cautiously and measure your progress, because if you start cutting into necessary sleep, your productivity will suffer and you’ll end up in the trap mentioned above. If you cut back from nine hours to eight hours per night and still feel great, try keeping it there for a while to see how things develop. If all goes well, congratulations — you’ve captured 365 hours of time to add to your life every year for the rest of your life just from this one area. The Waiting Game Do you find that you spend X amount of time waiting for things? For example, do you sit around and wait for the microwave to ding? Do you sit in traffic for many minutes if not hours per day, doing little more than becoming increasingly aggravated? Make a weekly total of the time you spend waiting and find a way to reduce if not eliminate these waiting periods all together. Subsequently, if you can’t seem to figure out how to eliminate these things, find something productive that you can do to fill in those spaces. The key is to make use of this time by shifting as many necessary, productive tasks possible into these waiting periods. Using these spare moments to send inconsequential text messages or to chat aimlessly with friends is not the goal. The idea is to do something in these blocks of time that advances your schedule. If you find that you spend 14 hours per week waiting on things, that’s a total of 728 hours per year that are literally being wasted. Once reclaimed, you’ve essentially added an additional full month to your life, which can be repeated every single year from now on. After 12 years, this one small capture alone will give you one full year of new time to use.
Once you’ve applied these techniques to as many areas as possible and have successfully added precious time to your life, the final question remains: what are you going to do with it? Martin Grebing is an award-winning animation director and producer who has focused his career on smaller studios and alternative markets. Today, he provides private consulting and is the president of Funnybone Animation, a boutique studio that produces animation for a wide range of clients and industries. He can be reached via www. funnyboneanimation.com.