i'm guessing that many of you have already read the news that laika has pulled the plug on their proposed CG film "jack and ben", leading to the layoffs of 65 employees. weird timing, right? obviously this totally sucks for those 65 people. i don't think i personally know any of those directly affected by the layoffs, but i can relate since i was recently "rolled off" from the company myself. there is a huge difference, though. we got to finish a movie, and they didn't even get theirs off the ground. i can't imagine how bad it must feel to invest yourself in a project only to see it come to a grinding halt and have nothing to show for it. i think this decision really surprised everyone, so there is an inevitable negative emotional component to the parting of ways. i sympathize.
i can only see this as a good thing for the future of laika. according to this article in animation magazine, "jack and ben's animated adventure" was announced in july of 2005. (that article is so old that coraline is then referred to as a hybrid CG/stop motion film.) when i started work on coraline in 2006 "jack and ben" was well into the development process. the 2005 article linked above states that:
"jack and ben will reportedly tackle the ever-popular talking animal formula as it follows the adventures of two brothers from a yet-undisclosed sector of the animal kingdom."
a more recent synopsis was a little more specific:
"A young bird, desperate to fly solo, and his little brother, determined to tag along, risk their tail-feathers when they skip migration to compete in a cross-continental race."
maybe they didn't feel like it had the right tone for a follow up to comparatively edgy film like coraline. another article published in the oregonian a couple of months ago left me with some questions along those lines. in brief, the piece is about how laika is going against the grain on coraline by using an unconventional animation technique (stop motion), telling an unconventional type of contemporary children's story (scary), and doing it in an unconventional town (portland). (its still too early to use the word maverick isn't it?) i remember trying to reconcile that philosophy with the rather typical sounding "talking animal movie" and it just never made much sense to me. in some ways i'm relieved that they pulled the plug on it, because it is an indication that they are trying to refine the direction they want to take things in the future. hopefully the NEAR future. if coraline does well, i think laika is going to be in a good position to make good on those claims of creating a niche for itself with films that are a bit more distinctive than all that other CG mung out there, and that can only be good, right?
ultimately, we all know it just comes down to 3 things. yeah, STORY, STORY, STORY! if you start with an interesting, solid, tight story and then manage to tell that story in a compelling way by using the technique that best suits it, then you are really doing all you can. if you can tell great stories and still manage to stylistically stand apart from the crowd, then you've really accomplished something rare. if laika wants to tell some of these stories with CG, that's great. i hope they're awesome. if laika wants to tell some of these stories with stop motion, that's even better. i hope they kick ass too, and i hope i get to work on some of them. according to the article reporting the layoffs laika will have more announcements after the first of the year. let's hope those announcements lead to more work for all of us.
reading back over this... jeez, what a boring post... i'm really trying to come across as some kind of a know-it-all, huh? blah blah blah. at least we still have this "jack and ben" to look forward to next year, even though i really never look forward to jack...
i don't really know what the heck this is, but it looks crazy. if you live in NYC go down to 57th and 3rd and tell me what the heck is going on.