Wednesday, 3 August 2016

NWR Editorial: The Bankruptcy of Arc Productions & The Future (UPDATE: 11/08/16)


Incase if you don't even know yet, Arc Productions, who had been creating the CGI world of Thomas & Friends after taking over from Nitrogen Studios for four years (counting production years), is facing bankruptcy and a liquidation crisis this month. The production company had created five specials, counting 'The Adventure Begins' and four seasons, with S21 in the works. Sadly this may likely cost 500 employees their jobs and it's really sad to see all these talented people out of the work force, I hope the best for all of them if they are reading this. 

I remember back in early 2013 the Thomas fanbase had some doubts over them after the trailer for 'King of The Railway' was leaked back in January of that year and everyone had been claiming them as bad despite the poor quality video that was uploaded and yes I was doubtful too but I gave them a chance. However by the time it was released everyone praised them for their work and they had been improving themselves with the animation and camera work. 

So what went wrong? Well it's all unclear at the moment on why. The information is at its infancy levels so who knows what. Although hearing from comments from 'Cartoon Brew' it was because of bad judging on how much their projects are going to cost and not having enough talent and hiring out 'binges', according to this comment, into meeting their deadlines. Like I said, it's in its infancy at the moment but if what that comment said was true then I can say it was poor management on the CEO of Arc Productions' part. Even with them not notifying their employees beforehand about it and they only know about it by letter at the front door!

So what would this mean for the future of Thomas? Well considering that Nitrogen studios were in production for four years as well, it's likely that HIT Entertainment might've found another animation company to provide the visuals of Thomas, there contract (Nitrogen) went for four years. Some people are claiming its because of deadlines and quota's unlike what Nitrogen did. I think that if HIT Entertainment are looking for another company they should try and get 'Spider Eye Productions' which is based in the UK and they had made previous Thomas videos such as the 'Thomas is Heading for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!' video in 2014 and provided visuals for the World Tour videos last year. However I don't know whether or not the UK are still facing taxation problems for animation considering that David Cameron, now ex-Prime Minister, wants Aardman, the creators of Wallace and Gromit, to stay in the UK despite thinking about basing themselves in America because of tax. Although they got a tax break. 

The animation from Spider Eye was good but the lip movement for Thomas was a bit stiff, but of course it was just one thing that the company had done and think they deserve a chance, that is if HIT had given them the job. Other say it should go back to Nitrogen. While I do like Nitrogen Studio's work and will give them credit for creating their visuals during the 'dark era' of S13-16, I think Nitrogen Studios had done their part and I think it should go towards a different company. Some people are claiming that this could mean the end of Brenner/McCue's production team. Those two are two VERY different things so I'm definitely sure they will stay on continuing such goodness for the world of Thomas and Friends.

Other think that it should return to the live action format. While I do love the model animation, let me be honest, the models were getting really dated and the sets were getting really generic and plain to look at by S10-12. I would love to see CGI locations like the Steamworks, Arlesbrugh or even the China clay pits or Ulfstead castle in live action form, but CGI is cheaper and has lesser limitations unlike what the models had. Plus most models are sold to collectors like Top Props, Coffey Man Preservation or private collectors and even to a model railway museum in Japan, after Nitrogen's use for the rendering process and yes they weren't looked after properly but they do manage to repair them and of course, when it comes to the models, Drayton Manor as well since 2009. Although some are locked in storage by HIT, but money is the important issue here when it comes to creating the episodes and movies and it's most likely Thomas would never return in live action format considering that the show got more popular with the CGI change. So people just have to deal with what's there.

So this could mean that possibly 'The Great Race' and S20 or the 2017 special and S21 might as well be their last one to animate under the Thomas & Friends banner, although for the latter they might be finished by different company, possibly. However being bankrupt doesn't mean the end. So I hope Arc Productions find a way out of this mess for their employees and if not, again, I wish them all the best for their future and they find other work. I'll be honest, it'll be hard to watch 'The Great Race' and S20 knowing that all the animators and VFX staff are out of the job and I know what it's like to be forced redundant as I lost my first job for four years back in 2014 but they weren't in the same water as Arc Productions. It's tough to deal with but in the end you will get a chance.

UPDATE 10/08/16: As many people would know by now that the sole reason for Arc Productions' bankruptcy was because of 'Blazing Samurai' production, the upcoming 2017 film that'll be starring Samuel Jackson, Mel Brooks etc. which was $30million USD in demand and that what was the cause of their bankruptcy, thanks to CalleyFan for the info.

UPDATE 11/08/16: Turns out Arc Productions hopefully to be saved by 'Jam Filled Productions'. This is great news for the Thomas fanbase as Thomas will possibly continue to be animated by the talented team from Arc Productions and of course most importantly the 500-600 employees are saved from unemployment. Nothing been set in stone yet though. Link to the story is here