Wednesday, January 23, 2008

News - 01/24/08...

Surf’s Up Director, Writer React to Oscar Nom

When the Academy Awards nominations came out on Tuesday morning, no one in the animation industry was more pleasantly surprised than the folks at Sony Pictures Animation, who assumed Academy voters would overlook Surf’s Up because most moviegoers did over the summer. Still dazed and a little confused, writer Chris Jenkins and director Chris Buck, who shares directing credit with Ash Brannon, spoke with us shortly after receiving the news.

Animation Magazine Online: Was the nomination a big shock to you?

Chris Jenkins: It’s a big shock all right, biggest shock of my life. I think Chris, Ash and I had gotten used to the possible penguin malaise that was out there–not to be mistaken with the penguin mayonnaise, which is something different all together. We just wanted more people to see it. In terms of awards and recognition, I think getting this kind of vote from the industry gives us the most validation for everything went into it, and for really trying to make a different kind of movie—not to be different for different’s sake, but to stretch animation out a little bit, push out the corners and see if we could do a very different kind of genre in our own medium. It’s been five years now I’ve been attached to Surf’s Up and pushing this idea of doing a mocumentary in animation, and it’s thrilling to see it recognized.

AMO: How do you size up the competition? You have Ratatouille, another state-of-the-art CG movie, and Persepolis, a very stripped-down, black-and-white 2D film. It’s a very interesting race this year.

CJ: I love both of them, and would have voted the same way. There’s a touch of magic about Ratatouille, and it’s great to see that 2D animation is alive and kicking and people are recognizing that. I don’t know what to say about how the competition’s going to run. Again, I hadn’t contemplated this three-way race, but I do believe it shows a sort of health about the animation industry that I hope most studios will reflect on and we can keep trying to do new things. In coming up with the idea and approach for Surf’s Up, we knew that we were not playing it safe, and we though the way it performed at the box office was maybe an indication that maybe we should play it more safely. Now I think that when people can see different kinds of movies, it speaks to the healthy end of the industry.

AMO: Has this completely caught you off guard?

Chris Buck: Yeah, kinda. I was still asleep when I got the call and I thought it was my phone alarm for getting the kids up and off to school. Luckily, I didn’t just open and close it like I usually do. As you know, this summer was a disappointment for us because people just didn’t go and see it, but it’s been a whirlwind these last few hours.

AMO: Do you start to play the odds, thinking Disney and Pixar already got their share of Oscars so perhaps Academy voters will share the wealth a bit?

CB: You never know. Last year, I was surprised that Happy Feet won. You don’t know what the voters are thinking because they’re not all animation people, obviously. That’s just a small portion of the voting membership. I’m just telling people this is a kick and I’m just going to have a good time. Whatever happens beyond that is gravy.

AMO: Hopefully there’ll be a ceremony this year.

CB: I hope so, too. The Oscars are sort of how America is viewed by the world sometimes. They follow our celebrities and our movies closely, so I hope that [the Writers Guild] can come to some sort of decision at least just for the show, and, of course, I do hope that the writers and producers can come to a decision soon.

AMO: Sony Pictures Animation has experienced some growing pains with these first two films. Has this nomination lifted the mood over there a bit?

CB: Chris Jenkins and I are developing the next one, which I can’t talk about yet, so we’re out of the day-to-day mood of the place, but I know the guys working there. We put so much work into it, Ash, Chris and I, but the artists and everybody on the crew really put their hearts and souls into the movie and for them to get noticed between the Oscars and Annies is huge for them. That makes me happier than anything.

AMO: I’m sure there was a lot of excitement around the house when you got the call. Are your kids old enough to really appreciate what any of this means?

CB: My youngest son, who’s 10, did one of the voices in the movie, the young penguin Arnold. He was excited about it, but still he was like, “That’s great, now could you just close the door so I can get back to sleep?”

AMO: Sounds like it’s business as usual at home, but can you start throwing your weight around at work now?

CB: Yeah. I’m going to have to re-negotiate now! No, it’s actually humbling. Brad Bird was one of my first mentors. We went to school together at CalArts and he was one of the first guys I worked with at Disney. I worked with him on Family Dog and stuff like that, so I’m thrilled to be in the same category with him.

AMO: But you still want to beat him, right?

CB: Of course!

Animation Collective Delivers Comedy, Action and Chinese Food to NATPE 2008

Leading independent producer Animation Collective has announced that it will bring a sneak peek of the premiere episode of its new action-comedy series THREE DELIVERY (26x22) to NATPE this month.

Targeting kids 6-11, THREE DELIVERY tells the story of three teenage kung fu heroes on a quest to recover magical recipes missing from an ancient Chinese cookbook; they must battle the evil Kong Li, who wants to use their power to take over Chinatown and the world. The series has sold to YTV, BBC and Nicktoons in the U.S. and Nickelodeon Australia.

Animation Collective will also bring its growing library of titles to the market including:

DANCING SUSHI (26x1) - A hyperactive anime comedy about four pieces of fish who have escaped from the sushi bar with one dream: to become the world's biggest pop stars.

ELLEN'S ACRES (52x11) - The amazing adventures of 5-year old Ellen, her feather duster, her radial tire, and the hotel she owns (actually, the hotel belongs to her parents).

HTDT (52x11) - When all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again, they turned to Dr. Kizami Miyazaki, who did the trick with some bio-nuclear physics. Now known simply as HTDT, with the help of Dr. Miyazaki's 10-year-old son Axel and his babysitter, the beautiful assistant librarian and teen pop star Arisa, he battles the forces of evil that regularly threaten the kingdom of Olde Story.

JOLLY RABBIT (52x11) - An idiotic and irreverent high seas adventure for boys. Jolly awakens one morning to find someone has stolen his leg. Leaving the safety of his boyhood burrow, he takes to the sea and makes friends with a punk-rocking trio who are inexplicably and precariously in control of a pirate ship. Together, they have lots of adventures, made more interesting by the relentless Captain Squid.

KAPPA MIKEY (52x22) - American actor Mikey Simon joins the cast of "LilyMu," once the top-rated anime show in Japan. Though Mikey is a fish out of water, his crazy antics and style lift "LilyMu" out of the ratings gutter and transform Mikey into the biggest star Japan has ever seen.

Gazoon Conquers Continent

New non-dialogue animated series GAZOON (30x3.5) from Sparkling Animation Studios in co-production with TF1 France has been picked up by YLE Finland within days of signing with Monster Distributes. The series has already sold to RAI in Italy and Samanyolu TV and Mehtap TV in Turkey.

Take a group of wild animals in the African savanna, add wacky behavior, and you've got GAZOON -- an animated comedy with a tender and surreal touch aimed at kids 4-10.

Studio100 Inflated by Balloontoons

Newly formed Studio100 Media NV & Co. KG, a subsidiary of Studio100 (Belgium), announced today that they have acquired extensive distribution rights to the animation series BALLOONTOONS (Russian title "Smeshariki") from German licensor FunGameMedia GmbH. The contract encompasses all broadcasting rights, including video on demand, databank and home video rights and extends to worldwide territories excluding the U.K., Ireland, U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, 12 GUS countries, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Serbia & Montenegro.

Produced by Studio Petersburg and targeted at kids 3-9, BALLOONTOONS (52x13) features a friendly group of funny round characters whose world is full of adventure, without violence or brutality. The series is designed as a representation of the society that surrounds a child's life. Each figure has a specific character, an individual background and its own personal interests, and each always finds a way to solve its problems in an unexpected and cheerful way.

Final Nominees for 2nd Elan Awards Announced

The Producers of the Canadian Awards for the Electronic and Animated Arts announced the final nominees for their 2nd Annual Elan Awards. This year's awards show will be hosted by Seth MacFarlane (FAMILY GUY, AMERICAN DAD) at the Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts on Feb. 15, 2008.

The nominees are:

Best Feature-Length Animated Production
* MAX STEEL: COUNTDOWN - Rainmaker Animation

Best Animated Production (Television Series)
* CARL SQUARED - Portfolio Ent.
* EDGAR & ELLEN - Bardel Ent.
* STARVEILLANCE - Cuppa Coffee Studios

Best Animated Short Subject
* YELLOW STICKY NOTES - Jeff Chiba Stearns

Best Direction in a Feature-Length Animated Production
* MAX STEEL: COUNTDOWN - Rainmaker Animation

Best Direction in an Animated Television Series
* CARL SQUARED - Portfolio Ent.
* RUBY GLOOM - Nelvana

Best Male Voice-Over in in Animated Feature or Television Production
* Lee Tockar - GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE - Studio B
* Louie Chiurillo - JOHNNY TEST - Cookie Jar Ent.
* Stewart Stone - CARL SQUARED Episode 32 "Superstar" - Portfolio Ent.

Best Female Voice-Over in an Animated Feature or Television Production
* Emily Hampshire - CARL SQUARED Episode #29 "Carl SuperSized" - Portfolio Ent.
* Maryke Hendrisk - JOHNNY TEST - Cookie Jar Ent.
* Julie Lemieux - WILBUR: WILBUR'S BIRTHDAY - Mercury Filmworks
* Tabitha St. Germain - RICKY SPROCKET SHOWBIZ BOY - Voicebox Prods. & Studio B

Best Original Musical Score
* BRUNO AND THE BANANA BUNCH - Cuppa Coffee Studios
* CARL SQUARED Episode 32 "Superstar" - Portfolio Ent.

Best Storyboarding
Still in Judicial Process

Best Production Design or Art Direction
* EDGAR & ELLEN "Crushed" - Bardel Ent.
* GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE "Naked Ape Man" - Studio B
* MAX STEEL: COUNTDOWN - Rainmaker Animation
* WEIRD YEARS "Pipes" - Mercury Filmworks

Best Writing in an Animated Production
* CARL SQUARED Episode #44 "Doomsday" - Portfolio Ent.
* GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE "Beetle Invasions/Naked Ape Man" - Studio B
* RICKY SPROCKET SHOWBIZ BOY "Screen Kiss/Double Crossed" - Studio B
* Storm Hawks "Age of Heroes" - Nerd Corps Ent.

Best International Animated Production (Television Series)
* AMERICAN DAD - Fuzzy Door Prods.
* DOGSTAR - Media World Pictures
* FAMILY GUY - Fuzzy Door Prods.

Game of the Year
* MASS EFFECT - Bioware/Microsoft Games
* SKATE. - Electronic Arts

Best Console Game
* MASS EFFECT - Bioware/Microsoft Games
* SCARFACE - Radical Ent.
* SKATE. - Electronic Arts

Best PC Game

Best Sound Design
* CRASH OF THE TITANS - Radical Ent.
* SKATE. - Electronic Arts
* MASS EFFECT - Bioware/Microsoft Games

Best Original Musical Score
* MASS EFFECT - Bioware/Microsoft Games

Best Character
* Commander Shepard (MASS EFFECT) - Bioware/Microsoft Games
* Crash Bandicoot (CRASH OF THE TITANS) - Radical Ent.
* Death Jr. (SCIENCE FAIR OF DOOM) - Backbone Ent.
* Tony Montana (SCARFACE) - Radical Ent.

Best Art Direction
* MASS EFFECT - Bioware/Microsoft Games
* SKATE. - Electronic Arts

Best Handheld Game of the Year
* CHICKEN LITTLE: ACE IN ACTION - Disney Interactive
* HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL SING IT - Disney Interactive
* SONIC RIVALS - Backbone Games

Best Game Design of the Year
* MASS EFFECT - Bioware/Microsoft Games
* SKATE. - Electronic Arts

Best Mobile/Casual/Arcade Game of the Year
* SKATE. - Electronic Arts

Best Writing for a Game Production
* MASS EFFECT - Bioware/Microsoft Games
* SCARFACE - Radical Ent.

Outstanding Innovation in Gaming
* MASS EFFECT - Bioware/Microsoft Games
* SKATE. - Electronic Arts

International Video Game of the Year
* RATCHET & CLANK FUTURE: TOOLS OF DESTRUCTION - Insomniac Games & Sony Computer Ent. America
* CRYSIS - Crytek & Electronic Arts USA

Student Animated or Motion Graphic Production of the Year
* LEGEND OF BORUTA - Emily Carr Institute - Bartosz Nowakowski
* SWING - Vancouver Film School - Estaban Azuela
* TURNTALE - Emily Carr Institute - Kora Kosicka
* DUELITY - Vancouver Film School - Marcos Ceravolo & Ryan Uhrich

Student Game of the Year
* BLOOM - Vancouver Film School - Boring Games; Project Manager: Adrian Audet
* CHAMELIO - Vancouver Film School - Chad Sehn, Dave Malmberg, Jefferey Chang, Kayo Wildman
* FOAMZILLA - Vancouver Film School - Johan Eickmeyer, Mark Barazzuol
* SEAS OF EUROPA - Vancouver Film School - Scott Riesterer, Jordan Ivey

Best Original Sound Design/Musical Score for an Animated Production or Game
* LE BUILDING - Vancouver Film School - Doug Woods
* CLIMBER - Vancouver Film School - Jessica Lemes da Silva
* SNOWMAN - Vancouver Film School - Steve Bigras
* HATCHED - The Art Institute of Vancouver - Kevin Webb

Best Student Art Direction - Game Production
* HYDRO - School of Interactive Art and Technology (SIAT) SFU - Yohei Shimomae, Scott Ko, Darrell Yeo
* INTROSPECT - The Art Institute of Vancouver - Team Leader - Mitchell Lagran
* PATCHWORK PLAYGROUNDS - Vancouver Film School - Jimmy Steorts, Sean Bosshardt, Brian Chong, Tom Munro
* SEAS OF EUROPA - Vancouver Film School - Scott Riesterer, Jordan Ivey

Best Student Art Direction - Animated Production
* 8 - Emily Carr Institute - Jeff Simpson
* A MODELLING REEL - Vancouver Film School -Julianna Kolakis
* MANSO SINISTRA - Emily Carr Institute - Kate Lee
* THE LEGEND OF BORUTA - Emily Carr Institute - Bartosz Nowakowski

Best Student Writing for an Animated or Game Production
* CATNIP - Western School of Interactive Art and Technology (SIAT) SFU - Cody Church, Mohammed El Eryan, John Pang
* DOCUMENTARY - Vancouver Film School - Lawrence Chung
* FOR YOU MY PEOPLE - Emily Carr Institute - Jose Pablo Gonzalez
* THE LEGEND OF BORUTA - Emily Carr Institute - Bartosz Nowakowski

Ready To Rocket
* Bartosz Nowakowski - Emily Carr Institute
* Karl Schmidt, Alex Ting - School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) SFU
* Diego Rodriguez - Vancouver Film School
* Matt Alder - VanArts

For more information, visit

Pitt Named CN VP

Adina Pitt has been named vice president, content acquisitions and co-productions for Cartoon Network and Boomerang, it was announced today. In her new role, Pitt will be responsible for identifying, negotiating and acquiring pre-produced series, specials, movies and short-form product that fit the Cartoon Network and Boomerang brands for exposure on all platforms. She'll continue to oversee those programs once they have been acquired and positioned at each of the networks. Pitt also will serve as a liaison with international Cartoon Network and Boomerang channels to coordinate global acquisition contracts, and she'll represent the U.S. networks at all major programming markets including MIPTV, MIPCOM, Kidscreen and NATPE. Pitt will be based in New York City.

Previously, Pitt was vice president of acquisitions for Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family Group. In this position, she developed acquisition strategies that supported current and long-term programming plans for Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, Nick Jr, Nick at Nite, The N and Noggin. In addition to these duties, she oversaw channel inventory, cable and network television series and movie deals, competitive pricing, theatrical and made-for-TV movie availability, and competitive inventories, both domestically and globally.

Pitt joined Nickelodeon in 1998 as a coordinator of acquisitions and, over the course of nine years, has worked on Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, TV Land, Nicktoons Network, Noggin, The N, Nick Jr., TNN and Spike TV. She previously worked in film programming acquisitions at HBO.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Pitt earned a BA degree in elementary education from Brandeis University and a master's degree in educational communication and technology from New York University.

Heath Ledger Autopsy Inconclusive

An autopsy on Heath Ledger was inconclusive, and more tests are needed, the medical examiner's office said Wednesday, a day after the 28-year-old actor was found dead with sleeping pills nearby.

It will take about 10 days to complete the investigation, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner.

Earlier, police said the death was caused by a possible drug overdose and appeared to be accidental.

About Heath and The Dark Knight..

Not that it really matters - the guy is gone, big deal if a marketing campaign has been thrown into turmoil - but according to Warner Bros, Heath Ledger had completed all his work on “The Dark Knight”, so they're safe there – and the only problem they’ve got on their hands is “The status of the pic's marketing campaign. The first phase is built around the Joker and pics of his character are particularly ghoulish. Warner execs were still grappling with the news on Tuesday and had no comment on how they would proceed”, said Variety.

The "Dark Knight" rollout will present more than a few challenges en route to opening weekend. One poster shows the Joker the character drawing a clown's smile on a mirror with red lipstick and scrawling the words, "Why So Serious?" Tagline was also used to launch a Joker-centric website that the studio used to bow new photos from the pic and a viral scavenger hunt, among other games.

"The Joker character is dealing with chaos and life and death and a lot of dark themes," one insider with knowledge of the campaign said. "Everyone is going to interpret every line out of his mouth in a different way now."

As for those that are wondering whether The Joker, and therefore Ledger, was supposed to come back for the third ‘Batman’ film?– Yes, the character is in stencil for the third film. If I recall correctly, David Goyer (writer) wrote into the third film that The Joker somehow aids Batman in his search for that film's villain, Two-Face - whether that's from a jail cell, or the looney bin Fortunately for the filmmakers, it would only be a cameo by The Joker (either behind bars, or some kind of flashback) so they can work around that - I presume they'll either cut the character from the eventual script or simply re-cast (and have that person in the shadows). Again, who gives a shit. It's not really important... but everyone's emailing me and asking so there's the answer.

Warner have issued a press release.

"The studio is stunned and devastated by this tragic news," said Alan Horn, president-COO, Warner Bros. & Jeff Robinov, president, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. "Heath was a brilliant actor and an exceptional person."

Do Artists Improve With Age?

Do artists improve with the passage of time or do an artist’s skills begin to deteriorate at a certain age? Animation director Will Finn explores this fascinating topic on his blog, using as an example the late work of Chuck Jones. It’s a thought-provoking read that argues that Chuck was actually a better artist when he created artwork intended for the animation process instead of static pieces of fine art.

"Bee Movie" Coming to DVD March 11

DreamWorks Animation will release Bee Movie to DVD and HD DVD on Tuesday, March 11, the studio said today.

The two-disc set will include as extras a commentary with Jerry Seinfeld and the producers; "TV Juniors" segments; alternate endings; early live-action trailers; "lost" scenes with commentary; a music video; and documentary featurettes about the cast and technical aspects of the film. The HD DVD will also include a feature-length picture-in-picture storyboard reel, customizable menus, pop-up trivia, and web-enabled downloadable features.

New Iron Man Photo Released

Marvel Studios has released this new photo from the Jon Favreau-directed Iron Man, coming to theaters on May 2. The comic book adaptation stars Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges.

The movie tells the story of Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity. Upon his return to America, Tony must come to terms with his past. When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, he dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man.

Edward Norton on The Incredible Hulk

Edward Norton talked to Total Film magazine (via The Sun) and said there is no connection between upcoming The Incredible Hulk and 2003's Hulk.

"First off it's utterly unrelated to that film," he told the magazine. "This is in no way a response to it or picking up from it. I think like Chris Nolan and those guys did with Batman, we just said: 'We're going to start completely with our own version of this myth or saga.'"

While he said "no" to the role a couple of times until he was able to rewrite the screenplay, Norton now says the story will likely span more than one film.

"To me the whole thing was to envision it in multiple parts," he said. "We left a lot out on purpose. It's definitely intended as chapter one."

The Incredible Hulk opens in theaters on June 13.

Treehouse TV February 2008 Programming Highlights

Treahouse TV: February 2008 News

Treehouse Television, the early education focused programming network who last fall scheduled popular programming such as The Backyardigans and The Land Before Time, are again looking forward to another round of quality additions to their line-ups. A specialty network owned by CORUS Entertainment; Canadian parents and/or caretakers now have the option of accessing a wide array of television animation selected specifically for their young children.

For the month of February 2008, Treehouse TV is scheduling a slew of themed programming for their preschool animated television series' in addition to the long anticipated inclusion of two new properties. New are My Friend Rabbit and Fifi and the Flowertots, the former is a well-designed property about problem solving while the latter is a lighter, simpler environment emphasizing the values of sharing and the like.

Additionally, all day long on Thursday, February 14th 2008, Treehouse will celebrate Valentine's with "Friendship and Caring Day". Special highlights include Little Bear: Valentine, Max & Ruby: Valentine, Franklin: Franklin's Valentine and a variety of Strawberry Shortcake specials including Strawberry Shortcake: Best Pals Yet. Highlights from Treehouse Television's February programming schedule includes the following (all times Eastern):

Fifi And The Flowertots {new series}
Fifi and her amazing group of Flowertot friends live in Flowertot Garden. Since Flowertots are small, everything around them appears to be huge! Fifi and the Flowertots love the outdoors and through Fifi's fine example, children can learn to care for and explore the natural world. From HIT Entertainment, the producers behind Bob the Builder, Fifi and the Flowertots will air on weekdays, Monday through Friday at 6:20pm beginning Monday, February 25th 2008. Additional airtimes may include: Saturdays at 10:30am.

My Friend Rabbit {new series}

Welcome to the adventures of two ebullient heroes, Mouse and Rabbit – best friends through thick and thin. In these unique stories based on Eric Rohmann's award-winning book, this Canadian original series shows children that curiosity, friendship and creativity can make problem-solving fun! It's the whimsical journey rather than destination that Rabbit, Mouse and their friends love most and no idea is too wacky or quirky for this group of critters to try.

Aimed at kids three to six, this new 2-D Nelvana-produced series premieres on Treehouse. The show's regular timeslot will reportedly be Tuesday, starting February 26th at 8:00am in its regular timeslot. Other times for My Friend Rabbit will include: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3:30pm, Thursdays at 8:00am and Saturdays at 1:00pm.

Strawberry Shortcake: Best Pals Yet
Strawberry Shortcake's cat, Custard, lives quite the pampered existence. But with the sudden arrival of Pupcake, a rambunctious stray puppy, the comfortable world little Custard once knew is then turned upside down. The episode Strawberry Shortcake: Best Pals Yet airs Thursday, February 14th at 3:30pm and 9:30pm.

Little Bear: Valentine
Love is in the air for Little Bear on Valentine's Day. When a mysterious valentine appears with his name on it, Little Bear makes it his mission to discover the identity of his secret admirer. Little Bear: Valentine airs Thursday, February 14th at 6:30am, 12:30pm, and again at 8:00pm.

Franklin: Franklin's Valentine
During the classroom Valentine's Day party, Franklin makes the distressing discovery that his handmade cards were lost on the way to school. But Franklin's classmates are so understanding that he decides to celebrate their friendship in a special way. Airs in primetime Thursday, February 14th at 7:30pm.

Max & Ruby: Valentine
Valentine's Day is a busy time for Ruby and Louise who make special Valentine cards for all their Bunny Scout friends. Max wants to make a Valentine but he's too little to use scissors and glue, so Ruby gives Max the important job of taking her Valentines to the mail box -- and Max ends up making a special delivery of his own. Airs Thursday, February 14th at 2:30pm and much later in the evening at 9:00pm.

About Treehouse TV: Treehouse TV ( is the first and only national, specialty network in North America dedicated to providing suitable programming for preschoolers, age six-years and younger. Available 24 hours-a-day in most markets, Treehouse offers a unique television environment that is in tune with the interests and developmental levels of this age group. Treehouse provides a balance of real people, puppets and animation within its program schedule. The program lineup contains high-quality children's programming from Canada and around the world including Blue's Clues, Dora The Explorer, Berenstain Bears and Big Comfy Couch.

Frisky Dingo Bound For DVD

The entire first season of the Adult Swim animated series Frisky Dingo is set to arrive on DVD for the first time on March 25. The release will feature more than 150 minutes of content and will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.97.

Created by Matt Thompson and Adam Reed, the twisted minds behind Adult Swim favorite Sealab 2021, Frisky Dingo plunges viewers into the world of the villainous Killface, whose mission of destroying mankind is derailed by the boring details of media buys, personnel staffing and marketing. His arch nemesis is Awesome X, the alter ego of billionaire Xander Crews, who is more concerned with the sales of his action figure line than foiling Killface’s plans and saving the world.

Frisky Dingo debuted on Adult Swim in October 2006 and, during its first season, consistently placed among the top 10 programs with men 18-24 among all broadcast and cable programs, with more than 4.5 million viewers checking in. Fans of the series will also be able pick up Frisky Dingo apparel and toys that will debut at retail this spring from various licensing partners.

Cartoon Movie Celebrates 10th Anniversary

More than 500 animation professionals are expected to visit the German city of Potsdam to view 47 new projects from 16 European countries as the next edition of Cartoon Movie kicks off on March 5. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the business forum aimed at boosting the production, financing and distribution of European animated films. The three-day event will take place at Babelsberg fx.Center, some 30 kilometers outside Berlin.

Created by the European Association of Animation Film, Cartoon Movie is key annual event for the European animation industry. This year’s projects represent a combined budget of more than $473 million. France is represented the most with a total of 20 projects, followed by Germany with 12 and Spain with six. Denmark and Belgium chime in with five projects each. There are approximately three times more 3D projects than 2D as the popularity of CG-animated productions continues to grow.

Cartoon Movie main partners are MEDIA Programme of the EU, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Land Brandenburg, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung (MDM), Filmförderungsanstalt/German federal Film Board (FFA), fx.Center Babelsberg and Studio Babelsberg. For further information on this year’s edition, go to

"Inspector Gadget" coordinator Nicole Pascal dies

Assistant animator Nicole Pascal, production coordinator for Dic Entertainment's Inspector Gadget during its 1983-84 season, died November 30, The Animation Guild announced.

Pascal's age was not immediately available.

She handled color key for DiC's Rainbow Brite (1985), as well as for Citizen Ghost, a 1986 episode of The Real Ghostbusters.

An assistant animator for the 1996 Turner Feature Animation movie Cats Don't Dance, Pascal worked on the starring character, Danny. In addition, she was an assistant animator for the Warner Bros. movie Quest For Camelot (1998) and a clean-up assistant for WB's The Iron Giant (1999).

Pascal was a character breakdown artist for Fox's The Pagemaster (1994), which combined live action and animation. She was a background and character designer for DiC's Madeline, released as a half-hour HBO TV special in 1989.

Her career lasted from 1965 to 1999. Her other studios included Jean Mineur, DePatie-Freleng, Hanna-Barbera, Bakshi-Krantz, Filmation and Disney.

Daigle Lets Burlap Out of the Bag

Jacques Daigle, a Canadian animator, has had plenty of TV and feature experience. He's worked on a 3D feature (Space Chimps) and handful of Flash-animated series including George of Jungle, Delilah and Julius, and Johnny Test, but more recently he's trying his hand at some online shorts. His original series features Burlap, an odd, mischievous, little character. Here's the first two episodes.

Drink and Drive

Patridge Produces Pickles

Harry Partridge is an animation student at UCCA in Surrey, England, and for his latest class deadline, he submitted a Flash-animated short titled Jimmy Tickles' Magic Pickles. The class was limited to 2-minutes running time, and Partridge used this opportunity to try out the tween function in Flash. Tweening can be a tough nut to crack, but the results here are smooth and snappy.

Esurance Customer Drives to Toon Town

Paul Mackinaw, an Esurance customer since January 2002, was in attendance last year at a silent auction fundraiser for the San Francisco Urban Services YMCA. After besting his competitors in a bidding war, Mackinaw had won an opportunity to "play a villain" (via voiceover) in an upcoming Esurance TV spot - promoted as a $300 value. But for Mackinaw the opportunity turned into something priceless . According to Kristin Brewe, Esurance’s Director of Brand & Public Relations, when her team discovered that Paul "was an Esurance customer from very early on, and saw how articulate and engaging he was, we decided to offer him a starring role with Erin Esurance." Mackinaw wound up on-camera in two Flash-animated TV spots - Paul Gets Animated and Paul Saves Some Green. For more on his experience, check out the microsite.

Here is Paul Saves Some Green.

"Dream Worlds" offers look at abandoned Disney animated features

Jim Hill reviews Hans Bacher's new "Production Design for Animation" book. Which features visual development art from "My Peoples," "Fraidy Cat" and "Wild Life"

Who is Hans Bacher?

Trust me, folks. If you're a Disneyana fan, you know this man's work. If you were creeped out by the look of the Beast's lair in "Beauty & the Beast" ...

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises. All Rights Reserved

... or ever marveled at the clean, crisp design of the logo for the stage version of Disney's "The Lion King" ...

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises. All Rights Reserved

... then you have Hans to thanks. For Bacher is the production designer / visual development artist who worked on these two projects as well as many other Disney films.

Now what's kind of unusual about Hans' work is that it's rarely seen by the public. His paintings & drawings are mostly used in-house as inspirational material for the artists and animators who are actually working on each new animated feature.

Copyright 2007 Focal Press. All Rights Reserved

Which is what makes "Dream Worlds: Production Design for Animation" (Focal Press, December 2007) so extraordinary. Here -- for the first time ever -- is a collection of the canvases that Bacher did for Walt Disney Feature Animation productions like "Aladdin" ...

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises. All Rights Reserved

... featuring many ideas that Hans originally proposed for these pictures which -- in some cases, anyway -- the film-makers ultimately decided not to go with.

Better than that, Bacher shares behind-the-scenes stories about each of the animated features that he worked on. Take -- for example -- "Mulan," which Hans began working on because ...

" ... Andreas Deja, a good friend and a former student in Germany, now one of the top animators at Disney, had called me and talked about a future project they were planning: 'China Doll.' He explained the showdown between the emperor, Mulan, and her army friend. I liked that ending actually way more than the ending in the final film ... where Mulan had to decide between the life of the emperor and her friend Shang."

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises. All Rights Reserved

Bacher has similar stories about "The Lion King," recalling that ...

"... The first script pages I got were not very promising ... I was working in Germany. Nobody at Disney really believed in the project, so there was no budget to fly me to LA."

Which was not a very auspicious start for what would eventually become the most successful hand-drawn animated feature of all time.

But what should really interest animation fans is that "Dream Worlds" features development art that Hans did for three projects that Walt Disney Animation Studios ultimately decided not to put into production: "My Peoples" (AKA "Elgin's Peoples," "Angel and Her No Good Sister," "Once in a Blue Moon" and "A Few Good Ghosts"), ...

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises. All Rights Reserved

... "Fraidy Cat," which Bacher had some very fond memories of. Given that ...

"... I was the first artist to get involved in ... 'Fraidy Cat,' so I could design with no limitations.

The story outline and the first treatment looked very promising. It was a little bit of a Hitchcock crime story with a cat and a parrot in London. Somehow, it reminded me of '101 Dalmatians,' one of my favorite movies."

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises. All Rights Reserved

But the images that will -- no doubt -- most intrigue animation fans are the pages & pages of development art that Hans did for "Wild Life." Which was to have been Disney's The Secret Lab's follow-up to "Dinosaur." And according to Bacher, this decidedly unusual project (Which was to have a urban, hipster-ish spin on George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion") ....

"The final look of the major areas in story looked breathtaking, together with the very unusual character designs. It would have been an incredible movie."

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, this 216-page hardcover isn't just a fond look back at Hans' days of doing visual development for Disney. "Dream Worlds: Production Design For Animation" is also an excellent how-to book for anyone who's thinking of entering the business. It features all sorts of Bacher's tips about how to put together strong & concise drawings that clearly put across specific story points.

But me personally, what I loved best about "Dream Worlds" were Hans' BS-free stories. Where he'd look back at various WDAS productions that he'd worked on and then tell the real behind-the-scenes stories. Not the carefully edited & massaged versions that Disney Publicity inserts into production notes. But -- rather -- the really-for-real stories about how your favorite Disney animated films actually came together.

Take -- for example -- "Beauty and the Beast." Which Hans remembered like so:

The first 'Beauty and the Beast' treatments were very serious. Well, it's a serious original story. There is nothing funny about a beast. I always compared it to 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' where you have a serious part with the witch and the dwarfs for comic relief. In 'Beauty and the Beast,' we wanted to do it in a similar way with the enchanted objects in the castle.

(So in) the fall of 1989 ... We just worked like crazy. And we finished a story reel in color in a very short time, about 50 minutes long. The First Act: It was not a typical Disney movie, more a European version. But we all believed in it.

Well, they didn't in LA ... When I heard that the plan was to change it into a musical, I was shocked. It's difficult for Europeans to understand how these ideas come up in the New World. We are very serious and would never even think about such an insult. I made jokes about a singing beast.

(But since the Disney executives) felt so bad (about throwing) all our work in the trash, they decided to send us to the Loire area in France ... Our trip lasted 4 days, maybe 20 castles ... We had good French food and even better wine ...

That reference trip could have created an incredible looking movie. We shot thousands of pictures, video, and did tons of sketches. Unfortunately, later in the movie it was decided not to use any of the reference and just do another generic-looking Disney film.

You see what I'm saying? That "another generic-looking Disney film" comment isn't the sort of thing that you'd expect to read in an official "Art of ..." book. Which -- to be honest -- is what makes "Dream Worlds" so refreshing. It makes you realize how truly rare it is to hear the plain unvarnished truth.

So if you want to see some beautiful visual development art (not to mention some great behind-the-scenes wart-and-all stories about your favorite Disney animated features), then I urge you to pick up a copy of Hans Bacher's "Dream Worlds: Production Design for Animation."

A Child’s Metaphysics by Koji Yamamura

According to the website of Koji Yamamura, he has completed a new short entitled A Child’s Metaphysics. The film, which premiered last October, is just beginning to hit the festival circuit. The synopsis of the film is intriguing if slightly confusing:

A child whose head is numerals, a child who winds his own face and has it under his arm. What was left is his identity, a child whose eyes are provided by fishes, a child who lies down on the floor and head-butts his identity, a child who cannot say anything because of a zipper across his mouth. He undo the zipper but under it is another zipper…

Ecology and philosophy of children with sadness and humor.

Yamamura has emerged as perhaps the finest independent Japanese animation director of his generation. Though he’s been creating animated films since the late-’80s, he didn’t begin attracting worldwide attention until 2002 when his short Atama yama (Mt. Head) became a huge hit on the festival circuit and garnered an Oscar nomination. Since then, he’s turned out a couple of other winners—The Old Crocodile (2005) and last year’s Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor, which I’ve heard is nothing short of incredible. You can familiarize yourself with a couple of his best known works below.

The Old Crocodile

Atama yama

Ratatouille vs. Persepolis

The Oregonian has a short but interesting article about what animation artists in Brad Bird’s home state, Oregon, think about the Oscar race between Ratatouille and Persepolis. The piece offers quotes from animators Joan Gratz and Will Vinton, who believe Ratatouille deserves to win, while Joanna Priestley and LAIKA recruiter Tom Knott are in the Persepolis. camp. I agree with Tom Knott who says that recognizing the accomplishment of Persepolis will have long-term benefits for the industry as a whole, and will hopefully encourage animated films with more substance and personal styles of storytelling. Knott says in the article:

‘Ratatouille’ has some of the best animation to appear in decades, and Brad did a great job telling a story. He’s a friend of mine. But personally, I’d like to see ‘Persepolis’ win just because it’s an independent film, and it’s lower-budget. I think it gives hope to other filmmakers trying to do things on lower budgets that are more personal. So if something like ‘Persepolis’ can find an audience, that’s good.”

China to Invest $100 Million in Comics and Animation Industries

Authorities in Guangzhou, China, will spend up to $100 million over the next four years to develop the region's comics and animation industries, People's Daily Online reports.

One-fifth of China's annual revenues off these industries come from companies in the area.

The government plans to expand international cooperation to boost the industries, even as some local cartoonists stress their desire to focus on traditional Chinese culture instead of imitating Japanese or Korean models.

"Code Lyoko," "Fantastic Four" Get Distribution Deals in Iberia

Taffy Entertainment has signed deals to distribute eight of its titles in Spanish and Portuguese territories, KidScreen reports. Titles covered by the deals with Canal Panda, Clan TV, TVE, and Cartoon Network Spain include Dive Olly Dive!, The Fantastic Four, SamSam, Growing Up Creepie, Code Lyoko, Mix Master, Cosmic Quantum Ray and Lamimila.

Ghibli's "Ponyo on a Cliff" Scheduled for Mid-July Release in Japan is linking to a report from Variety Japan stating that Hayao Miyazaki's next feature film, Ponyo on a Cliff, is currently scheduled for release in mid-July 2008. More information about the movie will be released after the Tokyo International Anime Fair at the end of March.

Newsarama Chats with English Writing Crew for "Shin Chan"

Newsarama's Animated Shorts has spoken with the local English translation crew of Shin Chan, the enduring Japanese comedy anime. Series head writer Jared Hedges and staffer Joel Bergen and Alex Muniz talk about the difficulties on translating the show's humor, comparing it to doing The Simpsons in Japanese only more difficult. They also discuss the show's upcoming Star Wars parody episode, which was actually finished and aired many years before the Robot Chicken and Family Guy Star Wars parody episodes.

Chris Kientz, Atomic Cartoons Partnering for "Task Force Shaman"

Atomic Cartoons will partner with Chris Kientz to produce Task Force Shaman, an animated action adventure series about eight teens entrusted with magical amulets to fight a global threat, the studio announced yesterday.

Kientz and Atomic will unveil the project to potential buyers and broadcasters at the 2008 Kidscreen Summit in New York in February.

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