Monday, January 21, 2008

News - 01/22/08...

Studio 4°C’s Genius Party

If you are anywhere—and I mean anywhere—in the DC area on February 15 and 16, then mark your calendars for the American premiere of Genius Party and the world premiere of Genius Party Beyond. These two new Japanese features are from Studio 4°C, the same production studio that has given us Mind Game and Tekkon Kinkreet. Each 90-minute film is a compilation of seven shorts, some from well-established directors, some from the young and up-and-coming.

The Washington DC screening, which is a part of the Japan! Culture + Hyper-Culture festival, will also include in-person appearances by three of the fourteen Genius Party directors: Shinichiro Watanabe, Koji Morimoto, and Mahiro Maeda.

To truly grasp the uniqueness of this undertaking, listen to Studio 4°C CEO Eiko Tanaka describe the idea for these features in this FPS magazine interview:

“Studio 4°C was born from the desires of the creators who longed to create what they really wanted to make. Creators and people generally cannot keep living without expressing themselves. [Genius Party] has to have this kind of energy with strong longing for self-expression. This was the only requirement and also the theme. It was of course clear to us that it is much easier to sell the product if all the short films have the same tone from a given particular theme. But we chose not to make the same theme or set particular conditions to the films. Instead, we decided to have the diversity of these films be the sales point.”

Which major feature production studio in the US would take the risk of producing not one, but two 90-minute compilations of anything-goes animated shorts? Which studio would be inspired enough to hand the reins to fourteen different directors and allow each to bring to the screen the stories they really want to tell, and then find a workable business model to distribute these films to the general public?

There are many promising shorts in the Genius Party packages including new works by Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game) and Koji Morimoto. This trailer for the first Genius Party offers a taste of what’s in store.

In the FPS interview noted above, Tanaka lays out one of the primary reasons why her studio, which she cofounded in 1986 with Koji Morimoto and Yoshiharu Sato, is such a consistent producer of excellent and challenging works of animated art:

“Another reason for Studio 4°C being successful might be that we are not a profit-seeking company. We have not tried to grow bigger, or to pursue profit, or to float the company on the stock market. We keep the number of our management and controller staff to a minimum to save the budget for the production of the film. Our policy has been that the film is made by the creators, but not by the capital. In spite of our intention, the studio has expanded, had more employees, and the number of film productions has increased. Naturally there are issues with managing larger production budgets. But we are confident in cost controlling and the artists are also fully aware of the deadlines and the limitations of the budget. I believe that we have reached where we are now because we have been producing the best possible pieces within a budget.”

One of the Genius Party shorts that I’m most looking forward to is Wanwa, the Puppy directed by Shinya Ohira. recently offered scans of a magazine article featuring artwork from the short. The images in this article are a tantalizing mix of stylistic experimentation and individualistic character animation; its free-spiritedness reminds of the very best of the works by John and Faith Hubley, a comparison that can’t be made often nowadays. As anime critic Ben Ettinger writes, “it’s truly stunning stuff that has little to do with anime and everything to do with great animated art.” Ettinger’s blog AniPages Daily offers some explanation of the short’s technique and his thoughts about the short’s potential:

“Ohira is creating the backgrounds himself in addition to doing all the animation. He’s not only drawing but also gluing origami paper and string and other assorted materials directly onto the paper to create a very rich and beautiful texture. Sections of animation are even being animated using crayons. The crayoned keys will be inbetweened in a conventional manner, however, and not with crayons. The film will be made using many of the same materials that might be littered around the house of some pint-sized Picasso, in other words, extending the thematic underpinning to the materials used to make the film. I can only say that each of the individual images he has created are of stunning beauty and seem like they would function just as well framed on a wall as photographed in sequence.

A few images from Wanwa the Puppy:


Genius Party [official website]
Studio 4°C [official website]
Info/ticket page for DC screening on Feb. 15-16
Stills from the Genius Party shorts on

Peter and the Wolf by Suzie Templeton

Suzie Templeton’s contemporary stop motion retelling of Peter and the Wolf can be seen below in three parts. As reported last week, the film is on the shortlist for possible nominees in this year’s Oscar race. Last year the film was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Short Animation Film and also won both the Annecy Cristal and Audience Award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

Animex Festival Coming to Teesside in February

The University of Teesside will host the Animex International Festival during the week of February 4, reports.

The festival, which celebrates both animation and computer games, will include speakers representing Sony Pictures Imageworks, DreamWorks, Pixar, and Toonranch Consulting. Surf's Up and Finding Nemo will be among the films screened at the gathering.

"Robin Squires" Getting Toon Treatment

9 Story Entertainment will produce an animated direct-to-video feature based on Joan Clark's The Hand of Robin Squires, c21 Media reports. The story is about a boy trying to find hidden pirate treasure.

"Ratatouille," "Enchanted" Share Golden Tomato Honors

Ratatouille and Enchanted share honors as recipients of the 2007 Golden Tomato Awards, Rotten Tomatoes said today. Brad Bird's Ratatouille garnered a 96% on the website's Tomatometer, which nabbed it the top spot in both the Wide Release and Animation categories. Enchanted won the top spot in the Kids/Family category.

Penelope Cruz Joins "G-Force"

Penelope Cruz is joining the cast of Disney's G-Force, says The Hollywood Reporter. She will voice a guinea pig in the live-action/CGI picture about ultra-intelligent animal commandos.

She joins Nicholas Cage, Steve Buscemi, and Tracy Morgan. Hoyt Yeatman is directing the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced project.

Moviegoers Chip in $7 Million to "Alvin"

Alvin and the Chipmunks grossed $7.0 million at North American box offices over the weekend, bringing its cumulative domestic gross to $196.4 million. Overseas, the picture grossed $9.4 million, for a foreign total of $95 million.

Enchanted and Bee Movie also continue to perform overseas. The former grossed $5.5 million for a foreign cumulative gross of $160 million; the latter took in $3.7 million for a foreign total of $147.6 million.

Cloverfield was the top film at the North American box office, grossing $41.0 million during its debut weekend.

From aintitcoolnews...

Harry exclaims, 'Sweet Father of Life - TUROK: SON OF STONE - Animated DVD is unbelievably fantastic!!!'

In Strike News...

January 21, 2008: has obtained a copy of the interim contract between David Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company and the WGA, including the exact language and terms agreed to over the expanded union coverage of animation (relayed via Mark Evanier, who provides analysis on his weblog).

In other news, The New York Times has profiled Patric M. Verrone, head of the WGA and former writer for The Simpsons and Futurama, and his chief lieutenant David J. Young, focusing on the decision facing the Guild in the wake of the tentative deal between the AMPTP and the Director's Guild of America.

Totoro Appears at Southern Japan Bus Stop

A 43-year old Japanese man has erected a statue of Totoro at a bus stop in the city of Sankai in the Nagasaki prefecture (original Japanese article with picture here). Yoshiyuki Yamamichi constructed the statue out of scrap materials "to improve the image of the area." Thus far, no Catbus has stopped to pick up the Totoro.

Hayao Miyazaki Tribute Screenings in L.A. Feb 1-2, 2008

The American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, will be screening three Hayao Miyazaki movies on February 1-2, 2008, in a tribute to the Japanese animated filmmaker. Full details are available at the American Cinematheque website.

Eidos Preps Highlander Game

Eidos Interactive is capitalizing on the popularity of the Highlander series of films and TV shows with a Highlander video game set to hit retail as early as this spring. Employing Unreal Engine 3 technology, Widescreen Games developing the title for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

Written by David Abramowitz, a writer on the live-action Highlander television series, the game puts players in the role of Owen MacLeod, an immortal who is stalked by a mysterious figure that has unleashed a series of attacks on New York City. MacLeod soon learns that his only chance of defeating this new enemy lies in reuniting the three fragments of a mysterious stone that is reputed to bring unlimited power to the Immortal that possesses it.

The epic adventure will span 2,000 years, from First Century Pompeii, to Ninth Century Scotland, 14th Century Feudal Japan and near-future New York. players will be able to exploit their immortality in various ways as they master the Claymore, Katana and Twin Gladius in intense sword combat, absorbing the power of vanquished enemies.

The latest incarnation of the Highlander saga is Highlander: The Search for Vengeance, an anime feature release on DVD in June by Starz Home Entertainment. The property was previously animated with 1994’s Highlander the Animated Series, produced by Gaumont Television.

Zinkia Names New CEO

In a move designed to drive the company through its next phase of growth and consolidation, Spanish animation company Zinkia has hired business strategist Fernando de Miguel as its new CEO. In the role, he will be responsible for implementing new operational and business structures, building existing global franchises for the award-winning preschool series Pocoyo and Shuriken School, advancing TV projects in development such as Mola Noguru, and developing Zinkia’s video game production division.

Having worked over the last 15 years with an array of prestigious new technology, media and audiovisual companies, de Miguel brings a a good deal of corporate finance and business development expertise to the company. He has worked alongside the senior management team at Zinkia over the last four months to ensure a smooth transition.

New Toy Treatment for 'Skunk Fu!' Animation

Flash animation 'Skunk Fu!' which follows a rambunctious young skunk and his encounters with the rest of the animal kingdom in his quest to master martial arts, will get its own line of plush toys and action figures. Although no date or season is currently set for release, the items will be developed by Croco Worldwide Sourcing, a Galleon Holdings company. Additional licensing deals for 'Skunk Fu!' are in the works.

"Bratz" live up to name, in running for 3 Razzies

The live-action version of 4 Kids Entertainment's Bratz cartoon series has been nominated for three Razzie Awards, including worst picture.

Bratz, about a quartet of young fashionistas, is one of five nominees for best picture. The satirical awards "honor" Hollywood's worst films of the year.

The four Bratz stars -- Logan Browning, Janel Parrish, Nathalia Ramos and Skyler Shaye -- shared a nomination for worst actress. Jessica Alba was also nominated for three films, including Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

Jon Voight was nominated for worst supporting actor for his performances in four films, including Bratz and Transformers.

Leading the Razzie nominations was Lindsay Lohan's I Know Who Killed Me. It's up for nine awards, including worst picture. The Razzie Awards called the flick a cross between the "teen torture porn" film Hostel and The Patty Duke Show.

Lohan received two worst actress nominations -- one for each of the twins that she plays in the movie.

Eddie Murphy's Norbit is up for eight Razzies in all, including worst picture.

Also nominated for worst picture are I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and Daddy Day Camp, the latter a sequel to a Murphy movie.

Spoofing Hollywood awards, the Razzie nominations were announced Monday, a day before the Academy Award nominations are released. "Winners" of the Razzies will be announced February 23, the day before the Oscars.

"5 Centimeters" Wins Festival Prize

Byousoku 5 Centimeters has won the Lancia Platinum Grand Prize at the Future Film Festival, festival organizers have announced.

The jury cited Makato Shinkai's film for its ability to combine "poetry, art, and technical skills with animation and new technologies."

Tekkonkinkreet was also recognized for its "interesting and original graphics" and "involving story with a non-rhetorical message”.

Buyers Circling "Postman Pat" Producer

UK animation house Entertainment Rights says it is in takeover talks with unnamed buyers, c21 Media reports. The parent of Classic Media and owner of Postman Pat, Basil Brush, and Rupert the Bear recently saw its share price plunge when it said its revenues and profits for 2007 would come in at the lower end of expectations.

Newsarama Talks with Tiffany Ward about New "George of the Jungle"

Newsarama's Animated Shorts has spoken with Tiffany Ward, daughter of Jay Ward and caretaker of the many animated properties Ward created including Rocky and Bullwinkle and George of the Jungle. The subject is the new George of the Jungle cartoon, and Ward discusses her father's thinking behind the original and the changes that were made for the updated version. She also briefly discusses the animated Sherman & Mr. Peabody film from DreamWorks Animation scheduled for release in Winter 2010.

Emmy-winning actress Lois Nettleton dead at 78

Veteran actress Lois Nettleton, long seen on Broadway, the movie screen and TV, died Friday in Woodland Hills, California following a long struggle with lung cancer. She was 78.

Nettleton was the winner of two Emmys: one for the 1976 daytime drama special The American Woman: Portraits of Courage, and another in 1983 as a performer in religious programming for "A Gun for Mandy," an episode of the religious anthology Insight.

She received four Emmy nominations: in 1976 for actress in a comedy or daytime drama special (as Jennifer Clifton in "The Last Bride of Salem," an episode of The ABC Afternoon Playbreak); in 1976 for supporting actress performance in a comedy or drama special (as Nan Claybourne in Fear on Trial); in 1987 for guest performer in a comedy series for playing Jean in "Isn't It Romantic," an episode of The Golden Girls; and in 1989 for supporting actress in a dramatic series for portraying Joanne St. John in In the Heat of the Night, one of her regular TV roles.

Nettleton voiced Malificent in the 2002 direct-to-video movie House Of Mouse: The Villains, repeating the role in four House of Mouse episodes: The Stolen Cartoons, Clarabelle's Big Secret, The Mouse Who Came To Dinner and House Of Scrooge.

As well, she voiced Nora in the Spider-Man: The Animated Series episodes Day Of The Chameleon (1995) and Partners In Dangers, Chapter II: The Cat.

Miss Chicago 1948 (and a semi-finalist at that year's Miss America Pageant), she was was born Lois June Nettleton on August 6, 1929 in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois.

She studied acting in Chicago before moving to New York to join the Actors' Studio. Her Broadway debut came in Darkness at Noon and The Biggest Thief in Town, both 1949 productions. Returning to Chicago, she co-starred with Burt Reynolds in The Rainmaker.

Soon she became well-known on Broadway for appearing in Tennessee Williams' plays. Theater critics noticed her when she was in the 1955 Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, staged by Elia Kazan. Barbara Bel Geddes's understudy in the role of Maggie the Cat, she got to play Maggie herself once in a while.

Starring roles came in Silent Night, Lonely Night and The Wayward Stork. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1976 for They Knew What They Wanted, and won the Clarence Derwent Award for God and Kate Murphy.

She won enthuastic reviews in New York and across the Unted States for her part as Blanche DuBois in the 1973 revival of Williams' Streetcar Named Desire.

Although she had a bit part in Kazan's A Face in the Crowd (1957), Nettleton made her official film debut five years later in the film adaptation of Williams' Period of Adjustment. In 1963, she won ninth place when she was nominated for the Golden Laurel for top new female personality.

Other films included Mail Order Bride, Valley of Mystery, The Man in the Glass Booth, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Come Fly With Me. A low point came in 1983, when she was nominated for the Razzie Award for worst supporting actress for her role in Butterfly.

Her regular TV roles included Christina Stockwood in the 1977 series All That Glitters and Penny Vanderhof Sycamore in 1987's You Can't Take It With You. She had recurring roles in Crossing Jordan, Murder She Wrote and Full House. and guest-starred in numerous series, mini-series and TV movies.

Nettleton appeared often on Twilight Zone. Often, she guested at the series' annual conventions.

From 1961 until their 1967 divorce, she was married to radio and TV humorist and writer Jean Shepherd.

They "met" over the phone in the 1950s when she called his late-night radio show on New York station WOR. Shepherd was entranced and broadcast their phone conversations regularly. In 1959, they appeared together in Shepherd's off-Broadway play Look Charlie.

Donations are suggested to The Actors' Fund for Everyone In Entertainment, 729 Seventh Avenue, 14th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

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