Hello, 2021! Everyone was especially excited to say good riddance to 2020 for a plethora of reasons, most of which involved the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the lives and livelihoods of so many across this nation and the world.
In our industry alone, productions were shut down literally overnight. The lucky ones were able to pivot but had to contend with a whole new way of working. 'Remote workflow' became the new norm. Some even began to turn to virtual production, which offers a host of advantages, some pertaining to COVID workflows (see "Virtual Production" on page 12).
For those not as fortunate, furloughs have been the order of the day. And for those fresh out of college and eager to pursue their career in animation, game development, visual effects, or postproduction, job prospects practically dried up overnight.
Nevertheless, projects (many of which were nearly finished when the restrictions went into effect) were completed and released to audiences eager to be entertained with new content. But for studios, that came at a tremendous cost. Consider, for instance, Disney's Mulan 2020. With an estimated $200 million budget, IMDb places its cumulative worldwide gross at just $66.8 million, after its theatrical release date, scheduled for last March, was delayed multiple times until it ultimately premiered in the fall on Disney+ for a premium fee. (The film, in my opinion, was breathtaking; I can only imagine what it would have been like to watch in theaters.)
Another feature that was long held but finally released, in December: Disney•Pixar's Soul, our cover story. The animated film is Pixar's 23rd feature, but it is the studio's first to feature a Black lead character. Transcending cultural boundaries, the story focuses on that thing that makes life worth living. What's amazing is how the studio continues to roll out hit after hit by focusing on amazing storytelling and amazing visuals.
Not long after the pandemic hit here in the US and theaters were forced to close, studios were left in a quandary: kick the release date down the road until theaters reopened or release them as premium video on demand or through streaming services as part of the package price. When studios began to consider these new distribution models as a more permanent option, it left theater chains outraged. With theaters either closed or encountering low attendance from cautious audiences, streaming content was on the rise - compelling, exciting content such as Netflix's Over the Moon (see "Moonstruck" on page 18). In fact, Disney+, Amazon, Apple TV+, HBO Max, and other streaming services have been rolling out exceptional content and are expected to continue this trend (to the appreciation of content-hungry viewers) into the future.
As we continue into 2021, expect some highly-anticipated and big-budget movies to finally see the light of day. These include Dune, F9, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Minions: Rise of Gru, No Time to Die, Raga and the Last Dragon, and many others. Of course, there are still a host of others that just wrapped filming and have not yet set release dates or are looking to 2022.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that 2021 will be a better year for everyone. And while the concern for films and entertainment pales in comparison to bigger issues many are facing in the world due to the virus and other issues, it does provide a much-needed escape from those realities.
Oh, be sure to check out what some industry experts are expecting for this year as they provide a 2021 outlook on industry technologies and trends, available on CGW.com.
By Karen Moltenbrey