"We consider ourselves like a Pixar on steroids." - Morris Berger, CEO of IDT Entertainment, July 22, 2003.
Liberty Media to Buy IDT Entertainment - Associated Press.
There's something about the animation business that attracts certain types of business people. Many are egotistic enough to see themselves as the next Walt Disney. Others just see the profits and figure they're smart enough to get their share.
The problem is that these people know absolutely nothing about the animation business. They don't understand the film or television markets and they know less than nothing about how to organize a studio to produce a cartoon. Some of these people start up companies on a small scale, but occasionally you get somebody with real money. Those are the people who fail big and do the most damage.
I wouldn't be writing about IDT except that I had a personal experience with them early on in their quest to become players in animation. We were trying to complete the financing to make another 26 half hours of the cgi show I created called Monster By Mistake. IDT was a telecom company looking to buy their way into the animation business. They had deep pockets, but they didn't just want to invest; they wanted their studios to do work on the show.
In co-productions, the partners divvy up the work based on the size of their investment. IDT was to build whatever new characters and sets we needed and then light the 26 half hours. Their character models were unusable; I spent weeks trying to patch some of them up.
After dithering for months on lighting issues, IDT bailed out on us. They never lit a single episode. We had to locate a subcontractor to take on the work and the show delivered five months late as a result. If you've ever worked in TV, you know that the cardinal sin is delivering late.
In addition to ruining Monster By Mistake, they went on a buying spree. They bought into Mainframe in Vancouver. They bought into Vanguard. They became minority investors in Archie Comics. They bought Anchor Bay, a home video distributor. They bought Dan Krech Productions and fired the management. They bought Film Roman, but the artists were no fools. Seeing how freely IDT was spending money, they voted to unionize, which is perhaps the only good thing that ever came out of IDT.
They managed to subcontract the feature Happily N'ever After when the producers decided to ditch their pencil animation crew (which included Disney veterans) and go the 3D route. Several months later, IDT no longer had the project and it was subcontracted to several other studios. I'm guessing that they once again failed to deliver.
Recently, they created a new studio in Vancouver to do Space Chimps, even though they already own Mainframe there and even though their Toronto studio just finished Everybody's Hero. Why build a new studio when you already own a local studio that could do the work? Why build a studio when you already have an experienced feature crew ready to start another picture?
Now they've sold IDT Entertainment to Liberty Media for $186 million and Liberty Media assumes an undisclosed amount of IDT's debt. So much for "Pixar on steroids." When I read that quote, I immediately said that IDT was closer to Filmation on laxatives. IDT is, by far, the worst company I have ever seen in my 29 years in the business. While I couldn't go public while I was working with them for obvious reasons, I sent emails to everyone I knew in the business warning them to avoid IDT.
You have to believe that they lost a lot of money or why would they bother to sell? You also have to believe that they have no faith in Everybody's Hero. If they believed it was going to be a hit, they could have taken the profits before selling or used it to raise the company's price.
I know people who work at several IDT facilities and I wish them the best of luck with their new owners. But so far as IDT is concerned, good riddance to bad rubbish.