Wednesday, February 6, 2008

News - 02/06/08...

Disney's "The Aristocats" ... The Animated Series ?!

Jim Hill takes a look at a show that was proposed for the Disney Channel back in 2003. One that would have ditched Duchess & O'Malley and made Marie, Berlioz & Toulouse teenagers

Today, the "Special Edition" version of "The Aristocats" DVD goes on sale.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

And while it's hard to find fault with this 1970 Walt Disney Productions release itself (Which remains just as charming as ever. With Duchess the filthy rich feline falling for Thomas O'Malley the alley cat ...

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... not to mention the amusing antics of Duchess' pampered offspring, Toulouse, Berlioz & Marie), ...

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... as you watch this single disc edition of "The Aristocats" ... It's hard to get all that excited about the meager assortment of "Bonus Material" that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has placed on this DVD. I mean, yet another interview with Richard M. & Robert B. Sherman? Zzzzz ...

Don't me wrong, folks. I grew up listening to the Sherman Brothers. So I love these guys and greatly admire their work. But that said, when you watch as many WDSHE releases as I do, it seems like Dick & Bob are interviewed for every single ItalicDVD that Disney puts out. And -- to be honest -- I'm getting kind of tired of looking at these guys.

Surely there must be someone else left on the planet who actually worked on "The Aristocats." Another person who could then offer some fresh perspective on how this picture -- the very last animated feature that Walt Disney personally put into production -- came together?

But if that's really not possible ... Okay. Then how's about we expand the definition of what "Bonus Material" is? Wouldn't it be fun if WDSHE chased down someone from DisneyToon Studios to talk about that "Aristocats 2" home premiere that they had in the works a few years back? Or -- better yet -- got someone from the Disney Channel to talk about "Aristocats: The Animated Series" ?

Copyright 2003 Disney. All Rights Reserved

What's that? You never heard about this project? This was way back in 2003 or thereabouts. Right after then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner had just gone on one of his "We-have-to-start-getting-more-value-out-of-our-pre-existing-library-of-characters" jags. And given that the theme parks & the Disney Stores were moving a startlingly large amount of Marie-themed merchandise, it was then decided that "The Aristocats" might be a franchise that was worth revisiting.

Or should I say "reinventing" ? Given that the very first thing that the folks at the Disney Channel did was kick Duchess and O'Malley to the curb (You see, adults are boring). Next they turned Marie ...

Copyright 2003 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... and her brothers, Toulouse and Berlioz ...

Copyright 2003 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... into teenagers. And then give Marie (Who was supposed to be the main character of this new "Aristocats" show) someone new to bounce off of, they then basically invented this teenaged version of O'Malley the alley cat and called him Delancey.

Copyright 2003 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Who (To give you some idea of how cool Delancey was supposed to be, circa 2003) could dance like a combination of Justin Timberlake and Usher.

And then -- to round out the cast (as well as give Marie et al characters that they could then be in conflict with) -- the Street Cats were created.

Copyright 2003 Disney. All Rights Reserved

The basic idea here was to reinvent "The Aristocats" so that this franchise would then appeal to your typical Disney Channel / Toon Disney watcher. And while Glen Hanson really did do a great job of updating the look of these classic characters (More importantly, then making it possible to do Disney's "Aristocats: The Animated Series" in Flash) ... In the end, Mouse House management thought that ... Well, maybe this Marie,-Berlioz-and-Toulouse-as-teenagers idea was too big a departure from the original 1970 film.

Which is why it was then decided to introduce the Marie-as-a-teenaged-character concept in an "Aristocats" home premiere. And then -- if that film was successful -- then the Disney Channel would use "Aristocats II" as the jumping-off point for Disney's "Aristocats: The Animated Series."

But then in January of 2006, the Walt Disney Company acquired Pixar Animation Studios. And John Lasseter -- with the hope that this one move might then make the movie-going public appreciate Disney's animated films once again -- got the Mouse out of the unnecessary sequel business. And "Aristocats II" -- right along with "Chicken Little 2" and "Meet the Robinsons 2" -- wound up getting cancelled.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

But that said ... All of the development art that was done for "Aristocats: The Animated Series" and "Aristocats 2" is still sitting in drawers in the Frank Wells building. And wouldn't it have been more fun to see all of that stuff on "The Aristocats: Special Edition" DVD? Rather than having to listen to Dick Sherman tell his "We-didn't-write-that-title-song-thinking-that-Maurice-Chevalier-would-actually-come-out-of-retirement-in-order-to-perform-it" story again.

Again, no disrespect intended toward Dick & Bob. I'm just looking for Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment to freshen up the sort of "Bonus Material" that it features on its DVDs ...

"Nocturna" named best animated feature at Goyas

"Nocturna, una aventura magica," directed by Victor Maldonado and Adria Garcia, won the award for best animated feature Sunday at the Goya Awards, Spain's top film honors.

The Spanish Film Academy had also nominated Michel Ocelot's Azur y Asmar; the Basque-language Betizu eta urrezko zintzarria, by Egoitz Rodríguez Olea; and En busca de la piedra mágica, by Lenard F. Krawinkel and Holger Tappe.

For best animated short, the winner was Tadeo Jones y El Sotano Maldito, directed by Enrique Gato Borregan.

Other nominees in the category were Atención al cliente, by Marcos Valin and David Alonso; El Bufón and la infanta, by Juan Ramón Galiñanes García; La Flor más grande del mundo, by Juan Pablo Etcheverry; and Perpetuum mobile, by Raquel García-Ajofrin Virtus and Enrique García Rodríguez.

The top honors went to Jaime Rosales' Festival de Cannes entry La Soledad. Not only was it named best film, but Rosales won the Goya for director.

However, Juan Antonio Bayona's directorial debut, The Orphanage, received seven awards: best new director, original screenplay (Sergio Sanchez), production design, artistic director, makeup and hair, sound and special effects.

Gracia Querejeta's Siete mesas de billar frances (Billiards) gave Maribel Verdu her first acting Goya after four previous unsuccessful nominations. Alberto San Juan was named best lead actor for his part in Bajo las Estrellas, which also won Felix Viscarret the adapted screenplay award.

The awards for original score (Roque Banos), photography, supporting actor (Jose Manuel Cervino) and wardrobe went to 13 Roses. Spanish actor Javier Bardem's documentary Invisibles won in its category.

Other winners:

Original Song: "Fado da Saudade," by Fernando Pinto do Amaraland Carlos Do Carmo, for Fados
Editing: David Gallart for Rec
New Actress: Manuela Velasco for Rec
Spanish-Language Foreign Film: XXY, directed by Lucia Puenzo (Argentina)
Fiction Short: Salvador (Historia de un Milagro Cotidiano), directed by Abdelatif Abdeselam
Documentary Short: El Hombre Feliz, directed by Isabel Lucina Gil Marquez

"For The Love of God," film's a winner at SBIFF

Joe Tucker's "For The Love of God" won the Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animation at Sunday's closing night ceremonies of the 23rd Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Produced at Britain's National Film and Television Film School, the 10-minute For the Love of God is an unsettling story of one man's fascination with God Almighty as he attempts to pursue a strange fantasy life under the nose of his overbearing mother.

The jury for the 2008 SBIFF included Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt, who judged shorts.

The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema, given to a unique independent feature that has been made outside mainstream Hollywood, went to Amal, directed by Richie Mehta. The film follows an Autorickshaw driver named Amal who is bequeathed an entire estate with only one month to discover and claim the inheritance.

The Heineken Red Star Award, recognizing and celebrating the achievement of the most progressive and gifted independent film director, went to Tao Ruspoli for his film Fix, starring Shawn Andrews and Olivia Wilde. The film, shot in the first person, is a one-day odyssey through the myriad worlds of Los Angeles as documentary filmmakers Bella and Milo race to get Milo's brother Leo from jail to rehab before 8 p.m.

Other winners:

Best Foreign Film
Beautiful Bitch (Germany), directed by Martin Theo Krieger

Nueva Vision Award for the best Spanish-language film
La edad de la peseta (The Silly Age) (Duba), directed by Pavel Giroud

Iconix Video Award for Best Documentary
ONE BAD CAT: The Reverend Albert Wagner Story, directed by Thomas G. Miller

Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award
When Clouds Clear (Despues de la Neblina), directed by Anne Slick and Danielle Bernstein

Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film
Aquarium, directed by Rob Meyer

Sotheby's International Realty 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking Competition
High School Division: Tony Johnson for The Apple and the Tree
College Division: Daniel Lahr for Metal Detector Man

10-10-10 Student Screenwriting Competition for best screenplay
High School Division: Michael Bagdasarian for The Apple and the Tree
College Division: Zoe Braverman for James

Santa Barbara Independent Audience Choice for Best Feature
Saving Luna, directed by Suzanne Chisholm and Michael Parfit

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival attracted record numbers, bringing more than 72,000 visitors to the area.

Toon Zone Interviews Evan Baily on Digging Into "Turok Son of Stone"

In 1954, Dell Comics introduced Turok, Son of Stone. Who created him exactly is in dispute, with different sources giving Matthew H. Manning or Gaylord Du Bois the honor. What isn't in dispute is the popularity of the pre-Colombian Indian and his companion, the young Andar, in their battles with dinosaurs and monstrous beasts in a mysterious, lost valley. With a run into the 1980's, Turok became Dell's longest-running original comic book title.

Turok was revived about 10 years later, with a new comic book from Valiant Comics appearing in 1993 and a top video game for the Nintendo 64 following about four years later. Since the Valiant (and eventually Acclaim) comic folded in 1998, Turok had largely vanished from the pop culture consciousness until this year with the release of the direct-to-video
Turok Son of Stone animated movie. Toon Zone News got to speak with story writer and producer Evan Baily about the Son of Stone and what he has to offer modern animation audiences.

This interview contains small spoilers for the plot of the movie.

TOON ZONE NEWS: How did you pick Turok to make a direct-to-DVD movie?

EVAN BAILY: We have the rights to a treasure trove of Gold Key/Dell properties, most notably Turok, M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War, Magnus Robot Fighter, and Dr. Solar: Man of the Atom. I grew up on sci-fi and fantasy -- the John Carter of Mars books, the Tarzan books...I think I read every sci-fi and fantasy author. I just always loved the genre. I think the genesis of the project was a conversation with Michael Uslan, who is also a tremendous fan and who we've worked with on lots of stuff with over the years, and it was one of those things where we realized we'd be idiots not to make a Turok film. He's such a fantastic character and he inspires such an intense reaction from the fans.

TZN: There's been the original comic book series, the Valiant comic book series, and the video games. How did you pick and choose what to pull in from all those different series?

BAILY: We wanted to go back to the roots. There's a generation of people who grew up on the original Turok Son of Stone comics, and then there's another generation that knows Turok best from the Valiant comics era and from the Acclaim video games in the 90's. By going back to the roots and telling an origin story about the character, we felt that there was an opportunity to serve that fan who knows and loves the character from way back, but also to introduce someone who grew up on the Valiant/Acclaim incarnation of Turok to the origins of the character. Maybe also introduce them to some layers and aspects of the character and the story that they may not be familiar with.

TZN: If you're familiar with Marvel Comics, it sounds a lot like it's "Ultimate" Turok, then.

BAILY: Yeah. Certainly, Tony Bedard co-wrote the story and wrote the screenplay and was just integrally involved in shaping the film, and he wrote and edited Turok for Valiant comics and grew up reading the Gold Key/Dell Turok, so we certainly benefited from his familiarity with the Valiant version of Turok. We were all really drawn to the Gold Key/Dell Turok, though, just because there's something so awesome about just the primal nature of those stories. The man vs. nature struggle, the struggle to survive. I feel like on the blogs and on the forums, people think of this character as, "Hey, he's the Dinosaur Hunter." That's NOT who he originally was. He wasn't getting his kicks killing dinosaurs. He was fighting to survive in an alien, harsh, hostile landscape. And that's the story that we wanted to tell. We didn't want it to be a guy on safari. We wanted him to be a more dimensional character. A guy wrestling with himself, and we wanted to use the backdrop of the Lost Land and everything he faces there as a crucible to put pressure on him as he worked through character stuff. When I say character stuff, I mean issues and conflicts that are core to him figuring out who he is.

TZN: You mentioned some titles earlier, but what other kinds of novels or comics or movies influenced you in making the DTV?

BAILY: We referenced so many things. Early on, the story seemed like it was heading in a different direction. I'm fascinated by the kind of character who, for lack of a better term, you could call "The Quiet Man." It's Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo and Sanjuro, or Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven. It's Jack Bauer in 24. It's a good guy who isn't chatty, with a lot of aggression and rage and a dark side. He keeps his own counsel and there's a lot happening beneath the surface. I'm proud of the quietness of the final movie. That there's so little dialog and the storytelling is so visual. To me, dialogue is the enemy in a project like this, and I think we rooted out as much of it as we could.

Early on, the template for the story was quite different, but structurally, it had a lot of commonalities with
Payback and Unforgiven. Actually, I can't really lump those two things together. More than anything else, it was like Unforgiven. What we were originally thinking was that he would be someone who had put his violent past behind him. The story would be a series of provocations that would constantly escalate until eventually, he would need to just unleash the full force of his fury and what he's capable of, just because he'd been pushed too far.

TZN: Why did you change directions from this earlier version?

BAILY: What we realized early on as we started talking to Tad Stones -- who had phenomenal insights that really made the story so much better -- was that what we had might work in live-action, but it would potentially make for a real problematically passive protagonist in animation. It just didn't feel like it would have the moment-to-moment visual dynamism that you need in animation, so we moved away from that model and came more to the story we have now. He's that same sort of character, but he's not someone who has forsaken violence. He's someone who has this idea that he's incapable of NOT being violent, and therefore he needs to be apart. So there's still a transformation that happens, but rather than a transformation of him hiding his violence, he's ultimately getting comfortable letting it loose. He's violent, but he's a man out of time and out of place. It's only when he gets to the Lost Land that he realizes that it isn't that there's something wrong with him. It's just that his destiny has always been to be in this place. At least, that was our conception of it. Ultimately, it's up to the viewers to make their own decision as to whether we delivered on that idea.

TZN: One of the things that everybody picks up on is that Turok is a very violent cartoon. Did you come up with the idea of Turok trying to unleash that more primal side of himself and say, "Let's go all the way with that visually"? Or did you always want to make a more mature, more violent cartoon from the start and then come up with a story that used that?

BAILY: Sort of a combination of the two. I don't think we set out to tell a violent story. We set out to tell a story that was emotionally true, and powerful and really about something. For me, storytelling should never be didactic. It should never be about teaching a lesson, but it should be a distillation of some kind of human truth, so that the audience is satisfied along the way because it's a great ride, but they're also left with something. I don't mean that we've imparted something to them or taught them something, but that they're left with questions.

Along the way, the audience is kind of injecting themselves into the story, relating to some of the choices that the protagonists and other characters make and not relating with others. As they kind of go on that ride, they are sorting through emotional stuff for themselves, and they emerge with some of those things clarified. And they emerge with questions. That's what we wanted to do, was tell a story that had some heft to it. Totally bad-ass and totally fun and a rocking ride, but that had some heft to it, because I believe that comics and animation and sci-fi and fantasy are not a lesser art form than literary fiction or so-called serious independent film. I think the best genre stuff stacks up against the best "serious" stuff. To me, Neal Stephenson was at his best when he was writing Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, and when he got more into literary fiction mode with Cryptonomicon and Quicksilver, I liked him a lot less. We wanted to find that fusion of bad-ass but something more, too.

TZN: Having that emotional core so you can identify with the hero, maybe.

BAILY: Yeah, and for me, what I kind of latched on to was so much of what pop culture tells us about violence. How many times have we seen at the end of an action know, I'll set the scene for you, I'll tell it to you beat-for-beat. The good guy has been duking it out with the bad guy -- who's just awful, just pure evil -- and they have the final confrontation on the roof or the balcony or the cliff or whatever it is. Somewhere along the way, the rule got written that the good guy is not allowed to take out the bad guy. And, you know, there's always that sort of "you're not worth it" moment, but then the bad guy launches himself at the good guy one last time, and the good guy has to kill him in self-defense. And it's a kind of pat conception of morality and of aggression. I wanted to tell a story about a character who wasn't putting away his anger, but was mastering it and ultimately harnessing it and channeling it as a source of energy and a source of strength, because I do think that's a huge part of the journey into adulthood into everyone. I think if you're just sort of squashing that stuff down, you're really not coming to grips with some basic stuff. And everyone has it in their emotional makeup.

What we didn't want was the story to be a celebration of rage. I think for this character, he finds his place. He finds his destiny. We were almost working backwards from what we knew that destiny was. How this character has been established for so many people is, "He's the guy in the Lost Land, fighting to survive," at least in that Dell/Gold Key incarnation of the character. We wanted to almost create a backstory to take him there that would be worthy of all the storytelling that's already been done, and that would bring some new layers and new dimensions to the character and to his myth.

TZN: Speaking of places, the movie has such a such a strong sense of place in the first part of the movie in the "real" world and then in the Lost Land. Did you have a specific time period and geographic region that you were thinking of for that first part when you were making the movie?

BAILY: We did, and this came from Tony. In addition to knowing so much about Turok, he's also just a fantastic writer and understands that it's just all about details and it's all about specificity. We saw this as Colorado in the 1880's. I'm pretty sure it was the 1880's.

TZN: That seems a little bit late to me, because they're still using ramrods to load the weapons.

BAILY: You are an inspiration to me, because you know more about the history of guns than I do (laughter). I know that they're flintlocks, and I know that our sound designer Bob Pomann recorded the actual sound of a flintlock firing for the movie. Anyway, the notion was that Turok's people had not had contact with the outside world, and so when they encounter guns for the first time, it's like, "Whoa, what are those things?" Chichak obviously has adopted guns in the service of his quest for revenge.

We didn't want to peg anyone in the film to a particular tribe or nation, though. There's been speculation over the years as to what tribe or nation Turok might have belonged to, but we didn't want to do that for him or for Chichak's people, because it would create a different expectation for the audience, where they would be asking questions about historical accuracy. Fundamentally, this is pulp. This is fantasy. This is action-adventure. It's not meant to be a piece of history. However, to the extent that these are Native American characters and there's Native American imagery and details about Native American life in the film, we wanted to make sure that as much as we could, we got it right. So we worked with a brillaint writer/producer/director named Valerie Red-Horse, who reviewed the script and reviewed designs, not just of characters but of artifacts and weapons. She also spoke to tribal scholars and gave us feedback just to make sure that... again, it's fiction, it's fantasy, it's pulp, but to the extent that we were delving into this territory, we didn't want to mis-step.

Also, by the way, I should say that every single symbol...because when artists and designers are doing research, they go on-line and they do Google Image search, and then they find stuff and say, "Hey that thing looks really cool." We were very careful not to put actual symbols on shields or on teepees into the film because that symbol might have sacred significance for somebody, and we didn't want to just casually deploy it and just get it really wrong.

TZN: How soon in the process did you involve Ms. Red-Horse?

BAILY: At the script stage and onwards from there.

TZN: Was there ever a point where she looked at something and said, "No, you can't do this," or "Maybe it would be more interesting if you did this instead?"

BAILY: There weren't a whole lot of changes that she suggested, but we made as many of her changes as we could. One thing where we didn't is an interesting window into the kinds of things that you grapple with when you're doing animation. I think the costume on the young version of Catori had sort of a ragged edge, and Valerie said, "You know, that's not consistent with how almost all the other characters are garbed." Most of their attire is really sort of carefully made and immaculate. I went to Tad Stones with that, and he said, "I take your point," but one of the challenges in animation is to actually depict the particularities and the feel of materials, and it's very hard to show something that's intended to be buckskin. It's not computer graphics where we're using photographic textures or actually modeling texture into the models, so there were some instances where we had to weigh an animation consideration against a note from Valerie. In that instance, just because we were consistent across the vast majority of other characters, I think we kept her clothing as it originally was.

TZN: Did you actually try to cast Native Americans in as many of the speaking roles as you could?

BAILY: For sure. Absolutely. We're so thrilled with the cast. We wanted great actors, and we wanted Native American actors, and we got both. Well, Robert Knepper is great, but he's not Native American, and some of the actors in the loop group aren't, but the vast majority of the actors are Native Americans.

TZN: Did any of them ever contribute anything during recording from a cultural perspective?

BAILY: Every actor I've ever worked with has brought layers and ideas and things to the script that we didn't see, and that was definitely the case on Turok. I can't think of a particular moment where we sort of did a wholesale rethink because of a note from the actor, but I can tell you that we certainly changed lines and tweaked lines and took ideas from actors. You always ask the actor to do it his or her way first, even if you have a preconception of how the line should sound, and many times, an actor gave us something that made us say, "Wow. That's not what we were hearing, but we love that. That's better."

TZN: Is anything going on for another Turok movie?

BAILY: We don't have any news at the moment. We have lots of conversations just because this is such a phenomenal property and there's so much interest in it, but we'll definitely let you know when we have something to announce.

TZN: What did you learn working on Turok?

BAILY: Boy, I learned a lot. It was a very, very intense schedule, and everyone rose to the occasion. I don't know if I can distill it down to just one thing. Every production is different, and in this one we had 3 directors and a supervising director, so one of the things that we needed to make sure of was that it was sort of coherent and felt like one film, so that was kind of a new process for me. This isn't like a "Here's the one big lightning bolt that hit me in the head," but I guess for me, the biggest learning on almost any production comes from the engagement with the characters and the story, and working through those questions and shaping it and getting it to a place where you get those goosebumps. You get that feeling in the pit of your stomach. There's sort of all the intellectual stuff about story and craft, but ultimately all that stuff is trumped by, "Do we feel it?" or "Do we not feel it?"

I guess the biggest lessons for me came from working with Tony, working with the rest of the producing and directing team: Michael Uslan, F.J. Desanto, Mike Weiss, Tad Stones, Curt Geda, Dan Riba, Frank Squillace, the whole creative team, everybody. It's tricky for me, because once I start mentioning people, I want to mention everybody, because everyone just rocked. Jim Venable's amazing score. Bob Pomann's amazing sound design. Lotto animation in Korea just hit it out of the park, and really exceeded our expectations. You refine your ability to work through the combination of creative stuff and production stuff and financial stuff and legal stuff because it all ties together. We had to solve a million different kinds of problems, and I feel sharper and psyched for the next one.

TZN: If you could go back and redo one thing in the movie, what would it be?

BAILY: Go back and redo one thing...(laughs) There is a FRAME of animation that I'd like to take out. It's the scene when Turok and Chichak first meet (laughs), and every time I watch it, I think, "Man, I wish we pulled that out." Right before Turok starts running towards Chichak's guys, it's sort of held for about two or three frames, and I wish we'd cut into that shot with Turok already in motion. There are probably bigger things, but that's the one that springs to mind just because I just looked at it recently, and I was like, "Man, I wish we'd cut that."

In Strike News...

February 5, 2008 - Reports are spreading that the WGA has reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP which is getting a positive reaction from both sides (free registration required). While neither side will comment officially on a settlement, anonymous insiders are reporting that the tentative agreement was reached on Friday. In the meantime, the WGA leadership is reminding its members that the strike is still on-going, and to continue picketing.

Outsourcing Deals Driving India Animation Revenues Toward One Billion Dollars

India's animation industry could hit revenues $950 million by 2009, the Business-Standard reports.

The rise in revenue is being driven by co-production and outsourcing deals with American producers such as Walt Disney, Imax, and Warner Bros. Industry observers caution, however, that the local industry still faces significant hurdles, including widespread piracy and a lack of resources.

British Animation Awards Announces Nominees

Aardman's Shaun the Sheep was nominated for Best Children's Series by the British Animation Awards (BAA), the organization announced yesterday. It will compete against KNTV Philosophy and The Secret Show.

Other nominees put forward by the BAA include "The Pearce Sisters" for Best Short Film, Pocoyo for Best Pre-School Series, and Peter & the Wolf for Best TV Special.

A complete list of categories and nominees can be found at the BAA website. Winners will be announced on March 13.

CN: BET Didn't Seek to Censor "Boondocks"

Turner Broadcasting did not receive any pressure from Black Entertainment Television (BET) or from BET executives Reginald Hudlin or Debra Lee to pull two controversial episodes of The Boondocks, a Cartoon Network spokesman has told Advertising Age.

The trade journal quotes the spokesman, James Anderson, as confirming that the two episodes, "The Huey Freeman Hunger Strike" and "The Ruckus Reality Show," are not scheduled to air on Adult Swim.

"Phineas" Premiere Scores Big Ratings for Disney

Phineas & Ferb' Monday night premiere gave the Disney Channel its second-best animated series debut ever, garnering four million viewers, Variety reports. The series did even better with 9- to 14-year-olds, among whom it was the best animated debut for the channel of all time.

"Alvin" Getting Blu-ray, Digital Releases

Alvin and the Chipmunks will get both a DVD and Blu-ray Disc release, Video Business Online reports. In addition, distributor Twentieth Century Fox will also use Apples digital rights management technology to allow consumers to transfer copies to their iPods.

Single-disc versions of the release will retail for $29.98; special edition discs for $34.98; and the Blu-rays for $39.98. Release date is April 1.

Karasawa is the 20th Century Boy

Toshiaki Karasawa will topline Toho's sci-fi trilogy "20th Century Boy," reports Variety.

The trilogy's budget is 6 billion yen ($57 million), with shoots scheduled for seven countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Thailand and China. Produced by Nobuyuki Iinuma, Toho will release the first film on August 30.

The trilogy is based on a hit comic by Naoki Urasawa that ran in Big Comic Spirits magazine from 1999 to 2006 and has sold 20 million copies in paperback.

The movie is about a store manager (Karasawa) who wrote a prediction about the end of the world when he was a teenager, which seems to be coming true.

Also starring in the pics are Etsushi Toyokawa and Takiko Tokiwa.

Rolling Stones to get animated

MovieWeb reports that Dick Clement and Ian La, the writers of Across The Universe, are planning on making an animated film using music of The Rolling Stones, much in the same way Universe featured Beatles tunes. Currently titled Ruby Tuesday, the project will reportedly be “a lot edgier” than more kid-friendly fare, though not enough to earn an R rating.

Interview: Marjane Satrapi

Ain’t it Cool News recently had a chance to chat with Marjane Satrapi and present us with an in-depth interview with the author of the controversial graphic novel Persepolis and co-director of the animated feature of the same name. The interview elaborates, among other things, on the films’ Oscar-nomination, its upcoming English translation as well as Satrapi’s life as an artist, a writer, and a leading figure in the efforts to end oppression in her homeland.

Red Princess Brings Anime West

The Japanese model of using beautiful artwork to get away with fairly limited animation served Alex Ferrari well for his new short film, Red Princess Blues Animated: The Book of Violence. The anime style also suited the theme of this adult-oriented film about a 12-year-old girl who discovers a bloody tome that leads her on a quest for vengeance. Ferrari intends to make a feature film based on the seven-minute short, which has been submitted to a number of festivals and should be making the rounds soon.

Starring the voice of Paula Garces (Harold and Kumar 1 & 2, The Shield), Red Princess marks the directorial debut of Dan Cregan, creative director at visual effects house Numb Robot ( Cregan had been working with Ferrari on live-action projects for a few years and mentioned he wanted to get his feet wet by directing an animated short since he’s comfortable with the medium, having made toon shorts in grad school.

“I created all the animation and I'd probably say that I was responsible for about 90% of the visuals on screen,” Cregan says of Red Princess. “I had about three other really great 3D artists that helped with modeling and texturing. Of course, I couldn't have done it without Alex, our amazing actors or the incredible sound design by Mark Roumelis of Cmpozr Inc.”

The film was mostly hand-drawn with a few shoots aided by 3D software. Cregan spent about six month on it while juggling other projects. He says the choice to use an anime style came from his love of the genre and shows he grew up with, especially Speed Racer, Starblazers and Robotech. The style also fit with the constraints of the production. “Obviously it would have been very difficult to create a Disney-level short in six months with just a few people,” Cregan remarks. “We needed style to carry us and we needed to have a tight limit on the amount of movement present. In Anime series that have lower budgets these productions methods are ever present. That was our blueprint.”

For more information on Red Princess Blues Animated: The Book of Violence, visit the official site Check out the trailer on AniMagTV (

Media Profits: More Cheese for the Mouse

The Walt Disney Company had net income of $1.25 billion in the quarter ended December 29, 2007, down 25% from $1.7 billion in the same period in 2006, the media conglomerate reported today. Revenues rose 9% to $10.5 billion.

Lower income in the period was due to the absence of gains on the sale of operations in the same quarter of 2006. Otherwise, revenue at all operating segments rose, with Consumer Products posting a 29% revenue gain in the quarter. Operating income rose by double digits at all units except for Studio Entertainment, where operating income fell 15% to $514 million.

Operating income at the Media Networks division rose 10% to $4.2 billion and operating rose 28% to $908 million. Gains were driven by a decline in programming costs at ABC Family Channel and by higher ad revenues at other networks; DVD sales of High School Musical 2 also benefited the division. The ABC Television Network also recorded higher revenues and profits.

Revenues at Parks and Resorts rose 11% to $2.8 billion, and income jumped 25% to $505 million. Income grew thanks to better results at Walt Disney World and improved performance at Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland Resort Paris.

Quarterly performance at Studio Entertainment compared poorly to the same period in the previous year, as Pirates in the Caribbean: At World's End, Ratatouille, and Jungle Book failed to match the performance of Dead Man's Chest, Cars, and Little Mermaid. However, theatrical results improved, thanks to the performance of Game Plan, Enchanted, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Revenues were essentially flat at $2.6 billion.

Hannah Montana and High School Musical merchandise drove Consumer Products operating income up 38% to $322 million on revenues of $870 million.

Journey to Saturn trailer

Here's the first proper trailer for Danish animation JOURNEY TO SATURN, the latest from the team behind the hysterical and hugely politically incorrect TERKEL IN TROUBLE. There was an animation test / teaser for this released earlier but this is a much larger and more impressive bit of work that shows the team has lost none of the crude, irreverent edge that made TERKEL so much fun …

You’ll find the trailer and earlier teaser here

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