The latest film to be released in the U.S.A., All Dogs go to Heaven, opened in November 1989 and grossed $14.4 million in its first three weeks. It tells the tale of a roguish but lovable dog, his sidekick and a girl who can speak to animals, enough said. The film features the voice of Burt Reynolds, Dom de Luise and Lori Anderson. The voice of Dom de Luise has featured in two other films produced by the studio, he was the voice of Jeromy the Crow in The Secret of NIMH and Tiger the loveable cat in An American Tail. Unlike the studios last two hits Land and Tail, this film was not a collaboration with Spielberg/Lucas, and it was not financed by a major Hollywood Studio.
All Dogs Go To Heaven is the first of three films to be produced in partnership with Goldcrest, the film subsidiary of the U.K. leisure, property and brewing conglomerate, Brent Walker plc. The second, Rock-a-Doodle is in production, with a third – an ecological tale featuring whales – in the early stages of production.
The MGM/UA distribution deal, is, according to Sullivan Bluth’s Financial Director, Andrew Fitzpatrick, a milestone for the company. Unlike previous deals in which the distributor put up all of the funding and took most of the revenues, in the recent deal, MGM/UA is paid a distribution fee for the use of its facilities.
Sullivan Bluth regard All Dogs Go To Heaven as its “best film yet” and feel that the studio is now beginning to achieve excellent arrangements for finance, marketing and distribution and is looking forward to receiving substantial profits from these arrangements.
Under a new profit-sharing agreement entered into with staff, employees will share in up to 25% of SB’s profits from each film. This arrangement, unique in the business, derives from Morris Sullivan’s and Don Bluth’s philosophy that each employee is an important member of the Studio team without which the film could not be made.
As well as feature film production, Sullivan Bluth has embarked on the development of television animation production. The studio plans to make a couple of half-hour specials on video which will be screened on TV at a later date, possibly some Oscar Wilde Classics. The studio hopes to venture into the realms of Saturday morning animation or better still, prime time animation with as much quality as is financially possible. They also have a TV commercial division where they put their creative talents to work in the field of advertising.
I would like to thank producer Gary Goldman, Veronica Carroll of Public Relations and all the staff of Sulivan Bluth who put up with me during my visit. Also Danny Smith who helped with the finishing stages of this article.
Irish Animation School launched
Sullivan Bluth Studios Ireland Ltd. together with Ballyfermot Senior College have announced the establishment of The Irish School of Classical Animation, officially launched by The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Brian Lenihan.
Artistic chief, Don Bluth was full of praise for his Irish animators:
“Sullivan Bluth is working towards an all Irish crew. At the moment 75% of our 350 staff are Irish and our team has never been better. The employee profit share plan we have developed should encourage the young Irish to make the animation industry their own.”
The largest animation studio in Europe, Sullivan Bluth’s recent smash hit, The Land Before Time is topping records set by their first success, An American Tail. A third feature, All Dogs Go To Heaven reported to be ‘the best yet’ is set for US release in November.
The school forms part of Ballyfermot Senior College. 75 students will be accepted for the first year of the course which concentrates on basic drawing skills and an introduction to the classical animation process. Students will be awarded an internationally recognised Certificate in Animation Studies on completion of the course.
Sullivan Bluth Studios is taking an active part in the course. Top artists from the studio will give master classes at the school, and also assist in reviewing portfolios and developing the course syllabus.
Senior College Ballyfermot, since its establishment in 1981, has expanded the sphere of third level education with the development of courses in such varied fields as Art and Design, Business and Computing, Media and Broadcasting, Engineering, and Catering and Nursing.
College Principal, Jerome Morrissey, spoke enthusiastically about the course: “The launch of The Irish School of Animation which is being funded through the Department of Education by the European Social Fund, is our most ambitious project. Sullivan Bluth Studios have tripled in size since their establishment in 1987. The studios’ continued growth offers tremendous job prospects but the necessary link between education and industry has not existed until now. Irish talent had not the proper training to fully exploit that opportunity.”
The Irish School of Classical Animation plans to rectify that situation and looks forward to fortifying Ireland’s position as one of the world leaders in classical animation.
Printed in Animator Issue 26 (Spring 1990)