El Segundo, CA, USA (March 1, 2012) — On Monday, February 11, visual effects house Rhythm & Hues filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a week after winning the Annie, VES, and International 3D Society Awards for its work on Life of Pi. The filing took place the day after the studio won the BAFTA for Life of Pi and two weeks before two of its films were up for the Oscar for visual effects. Life of Pi again won, with awardee Bill Westenhofer on the dais attempting to address the financial situation at Rhythm & Hues when he was cut short at his time limit by the theme to Jaws.
In addition to its award-winning vfx work in movies, Rhythm & Hues has a strong background in attractions, going back to 1982 and the original Universe of Energy at EPCOT. Other major R & H attractions have included the IMAX 3D ride Race for Atlantis, Paramount Parks’ Star Trek: The Experience, Disney’s It’s Tough to Be a Bug, and most recently, two attractions for Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
In September, 2011, the company re-started its Special Projects Division, this time headed by large format, 3D, and attraction veteran Charlotte Huggins (SEE THE IPM COVER INTERVIEW WITH HUGGINS HERE). She was joined at the new division by large format and attraction veterans Don MacBain and Ryan Miziker. InPark News Editor Joe Kleiman spoke with Huggins to find out the status of the company and her unit.
According to Huggins, the bankruptcy was due to a cash flow issue, with no debt involved. Huggins notes, “There were no issues other than vfx having a very slim margin. One tiny blip on screen can take a company down.” Such a blip occurred a year ago when a major project was pulled by its studio. Management knew that this would result in financial hardships eleven to twelve months later and secured a financial backer. “But when Digital Domain [another vfx house based in Florida] filed for bankruptcy [in September, 2012], the investor got cold feet and backed out.”
According to Huggins, numerous buyers are now looking at the company, and she expects a proposal to be presented to the court and sale of the company within the next two weeks. The Special Projects Division continues doing business as usual, taking advantage of all parts of the R&H operation to bring the highest quality productions to special venue screens. Huggins reports proudly, “we have numerous, numerous projects that we’re either bidding on or working on.” She says one of the things that attracted her to the company was that founder John Hughes has maintained the company as a “mom and pop type operation, it has a real family feel to it.” She looks forward to continuing on in this atmosphere that spurs creativity and cooperation as the company emerges from its bankruptcy.