Tuesday, February 19, 2008

News - 02/19/08...

New Software Lets Fans Make Digital "Speed Racer" Comic Books

Speed Racer fans will be able to create their own Speed Racer comics using software bundled with PD Particles, developer Planetwide Media announced today.

Speed Racer Comic Book Creator 2 will come with officially licensed Speed Racer art, backgrounds, icons, screen shots, video clips and audio that can be dragged and dropped into personalized digital comic books. The PD Particles software also gives users the ability to create original artwork.

Mattel's Dark Knight and Speed Racer and Panda Toys!

ComingSoon.net/Superhero Hype! spent the day Sunday at Toy Fair '08 taking pictures of whatever movie-related toys they could find, and though they already were scheduled to stop by the Mattel showroom on Tuesday, they were able to grab some early pics of Mattel's toys relating to this summer's biggest movies.

One of the most anticipated movies of the summer is clearly Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight and with the license to produce toys based on the movie, Mattel will be going whole hog with dozens of toys that start rolling out around May 1. There are maybe a dozen different variations of Batman in different outfits, including a "battle cape," "stealth wing" and "Firefly Batman" (possibly inspired by the comic book villain). Noticeably absent from the display were any figures for his new arch-nemesis the Joker, probably out of respect for the family and friends of Heath Ledger, though they did get to see a few pictures. Mattel was even more secretive and careful about having any pictures of their figure for Two-Face on display, but one was listed in the materials as part of the first wave of action figures, as well as there being a new Scarecrow figure, confirming his appearance in the sequel. Instead of any of these, they had a "Gotham City Thug," one of the Joker's clown-faced henchmen, on display. Even more interesting were some of the vehicles on display including a look at the Batcopter and the Batpod, which is the new Batcycle, and something called the "Treadator, Ultimate Pursuit ATV" (that's "all-terrain vehicle"), which we may have to wait and see if it's actually a vehicle from the movie. The new "Dark Knight" toys also include a Zipline Gun and a Disc Shooting Jet, fairly typical toys customized for the movie, but the most interesting new toy might be the "Interactive Bat" which hopefully, they'll be able to see in action on Tuesday. You can check out pictures of most of the new "Dark Knight" toys here.

Just as exciting are all the vehicles from the Wachowski Brothers' upcoming live action Speed Racer that are being reproduced by Mattel in various sizes and designs, including Hot Wheels versions of the Mach 5 and Racer X's car. They only scratched the surface with their pictures of the dozens of cars, vehicles and playsets Mattel would be producing, many of which will be available on March 23. While many of the toys are clearly for kids, it's obvious that older Speed Racer fans will geek-out to the highly-detailed "race and flip" versions of the Mach 5, Mach 6, Racer X's car and the very cool GRX driven by a new character, Jack "Cannonball" Taylor. There are also radio-controlled versions of the cars and ones that include racing sounds from the movie and an actual Speed Racer helmet, all of which you can see here. (They'll definitely have more pictures of all of these later this week!)

DreamWorks' upcoming animated comedy Kung Fu Panda was getting a huge push at this year's Toy Fair with a lot of licensed toys and games based around the characters in the movie and Mattel leading the way on all fronts. From what they've seen, it looks to continue DreamWorks' tradition of creating family-friendly animated comedies with lots of fun and lovable characters. This one's no exception with lots of talking (and fighting) animals that the kids should embrace—some of them reminiscent of classic Disney characters from movies like The Jungle Book and The Lion King, particularly the lead character Po and the bad guy Tai Lung. Of course, Mattel has a lot of plush toys of Po and other characters, but more surprisingly, were the amount of full-size weapons on display for kids to fight each other with, including the Commander Crossbow (that kid on the box is out for blood!), "Po's Power Paws," Master Monkey's staff and the very cool "Sword of Heroes," both which split into multiple weapons--I have a feeling that some dads will be getting into this action--and there's even a "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Game" featuring the film's two main characters. You can see pictures of all of these in the gallery here.

They'll be visiting Mattel's showroom on Tuesday, and they'll have more pictures then, including hopefully a few pics of the Joker and Two-Face figures.


Here at aintitcool.com... but check it quick, or it'll be gone soon.

Tekkonkinkreet Wins Japan's Academy Award for Animation

Anime News Network notes that Michael Arias and Studio 4°C's Tekkonkinkreet with the Animation of the Year award in the 31st Japan Academy Prizes on Friday. The film was competing with Hideaki Anno and Khara's Evangelion: 1.0 You Are [Not] Alone, Keiichi Hara and Shinei Animation's Summer Days with Coo, Masayuki Kojima and Madhouse's The Piano Forest, and Taiichiro Yamamoto and Shogakukan/TMS Entertainment's Detective Conan: Jolly Roger in the Deep Azure. This is only the second year that an award in the Animation of the Year category has been presented. Mamoru Hosoda and Madhouse's The Girl Who Leapt through Time won the first award in the previous year.

Anime DVDs Down 20%

According to the ICv2 Guide #51: Anime/Manga, sales of anime DVDs in North America tumbled by more than 20% during 2007. The number of anime releases in the North American market also continued to fall, dropping another 21% after a 19% decline in 2006. ICv2 estimates the size of the North American anime market at $275-300 million (in retail dollars). The difficulty of ascertaining the scope of mass market anime sales (especially through Wal-Mart, which does not report its DVD sales) makes a precise calculation of the market size difficult.

ICv2's Top Ten Manga Properties for 2007:

1. Naruto
2. Fruits Basket
3. Death Note
4. Bleach
5. Kingdom Hearts
6. Pokemon
7. Vampire Knight
8. Fullmetal Alchemist
9. Absolute Boyfriend
10. Loveless

ICv2 Top Ten Anime Properties for 2007:

1. Dragon Ball Z
2. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
3. Pokemon
4. Naruto
5. Afro Samurai
6. Howl's Moving Castle
7. Bleach
8. Robotech Shadow Chronicles
9. My Neighbor Totoro
10. Karas the Revelation

ImaginAsian and Fujisankei Content Deal

ImaginAsian Entertainment, Inc. (IA) announced that it has entered into an investment and content deal with Fujisankei Communications International (FCI), a subsidiary of Japan-based Fuji Television Network, Inc.Fujisankei joining the ownership ranks of ImaginAsian Entertainment marks the second such investment from an Asian media or entertainment partner for IA. Seeking to continue the strategic expansion that was initiated with Korea’s Sidus Corp. last year, the financial and content elements resulting from this deal are expected to further enhance IA’s overall programming quality. Through this agreement, Fujisankei will be making a financial investment in IA while also providing multiple hours of programming in the form of news and entertainment content, including popular Japanese dramas and variety shows for iaTV in the US.

Worth Checking Out

Genius Party impressions

Alt Japan has a translation of a conversation between Go Nagai and "Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro" creator Shigeru Mizuki. Also, Matt Alt's thoughts on Macross

Speaking of Kitaro, 'Kitaro' and 'Black Jack' toilet paper rolls

MACHINE GIRL Director Noboru Iguchi talks to Twitch

About.com's Manga section talks to Patrick Macias and Izumi Evers of JaPRESS

Speaking of Macias, the end of "Hot Tears of Shame," sortof

A Q&A with Carl Horn

AniPages Daily looks at classic pro-wrestling anime Tiger Mask

Publisher's Weekly has a preview of Yoshinori Natsume’s Batman: Death Mask

The site for Chocolate Underground, the Production I.G/Trance Arts adaptation of Alex Shearer's novel Bootleg is online.

The site for Macross F(rontier) has opened

A Geek By Another Name notes that a placeholder site is up for PiQ

A quick look at Japan! Culture + Hyperculture

New York Magazine has a preview of 99 Roses

Some amazing new Kaiba images

From ComiPress, The Busiest Mangaka Ever: Go Nagai

The Christian reaction to the Manga Bible

Borderline Hikikomori looks at the eyes in Kyoto Animation's works here

Behind the scenes/preview GYAKUSHU

Via Japanator, Mobile Suit Gundam 28 years after
and via Gundamaniac, Gekidan Gundam's theatre play

Lost Odyssey fast food, with art from Takehiko Inoue and Evangelion Canned Coffee

Hey Japanese! Do You Believe Peace, Love and Understanding? 2008

What to look forward to in spring anime

Gilbert Hernandez's "Manga"

Guns Wiped From Indy Trailer

Ain't It Cool News has pointed out tweaks to the U.S. version of the teaser trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to remove guns from one scene.

At the :40 second point in the U.S. version of the trailer, which was released last week, Indy (Harrison Ford) and his sidekick, played by Ray Winstone, are surrounded by uniformed men, some with guns.

But in an international version of the trailer (on the site of the U.K. tabloid The Sun), there are more men and more guns.

Fans of director Steven Spielberg recall that he removed guns from some shots in a digitally remastered version of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial a few years back. But AICN speculates the tweaks to the U.S. Indy trailer may have come at the behest of the Motion Picture Association of America to make the trailer more suitable for families.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opens May 22.

Broadcaster Ups Funding for Russian Toons

Russia's Channel One is planning to increase its investment in animation, Variety reports. The broadcaster has already backed new films from Alexander Petrov, the trade journal notes, and it aims to nurture Russia's animation industry by supporting Petrov and the makers of similar art house fare.

Battle Pope Enters Spike’s Comedy Chapel

Robert Kirkman, a popular comic book writer, has built his Battle Pope property into an animated web series. It’s actually a comic that was created by both Kirkman and Tony Moore, an artist who is known for his horror and science fiction work. Spike TV teamed up with Kirkman and Moore to produce the animated series, which can now been seen at spike.com. This Flash-animated series was produced by World Leaders Entertainment, and animated by Justin Offner, Art Siriamonthep, Yuri Fain and Joe Cappabianca. There’s a pair of “celebrity” voices on the series - Ze Frank plays Battle Pope and Christian Finnegan (VH1’s Best Week Ever) plays Jesus. Here’s an episode titled Paying Dues.

You can see a behind the scenes piece over at thecomiccollective.com, where you’ll hear Kirkmain explain that the show is about “superhero Pope and his little sidekick Jesus kicking demon ass."

FlickerLab Helps Light Up Big Tobacco

New York’s FlickerLab has created a follow-up parody to their original parody American Leaf, which starred Great Big Leaf. The new Flash-animated :45 spot, titled The People vs Leaf, was ordered up by the American Legacy Foundation, who accuse Big Tobacco of “consciously misleading the public about the addictiveness of cigarettes.”

Written by Comedy Central Senior writer Lesley Keene, the commercial started airing on Comedy Central in early December. Harold Moss acted as the Creative Director on the project, and by Animation Director Nikolay Nachev and Frank DiGregorio, who helped on the 2D animation.

Arthur and the Vengeance of Maltazard poster

Movie Poster Addict premieres the teaser poster for Luc Besson’s Arthur and the Vengeance of Maltazard, the sequel to Arthur and the Invisibles and the second film in the planned Arthur-trilogy. The film will hit US theaters in 2009 with the third film, Arthur and the War of Two Worlds currently planned for a 2010 release.

Dora the Explorer seeks live-action TV appearance

Nickelodeon will develop its hit animated pre-school series Dora the Explorer into a live-action, prime-time television movie.

Monday's announcement was made by Brown Johnson, Nick's president of animation.

The TV-movie will feature Dora as a 10-year-old live-action Latina heroine in an all-new adventure enhanced by CG special effects.

"We are thrilled for our viewers to see their favorite Latina heroine come to life in a new, vibrant live-action world," said Johnson. "Dora will be a little older for her high stakes live-action adventure, which we think will be very exciting for our pre-school audience, as well as kids and their families who have grown up watching the show over the last seven years."

Dora the Explorer is a play-along, animated adventure series starring Dora, a Latina heroine whose adventures take place in an imaginative, tropical world filled with jungles, beaches and rainforests. Dora explores her world just as pre-schoolers do everyday, and the show is designed to actively engage its audience in an interactive quest using a variety of learning techniques.

"It's like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark with that giant boulder chasing Indiana Jones," Johnson said of the movie. "We see Dora like that. She should have those types of adventures," she told the New York Post.

Nick will likely hold a national casting call for the live-action Dora, Johnson said.

"It will be really fun to hold open auditions. We get so many photos from parents sending in pictures of their kids and saying, 'My daughter looks so much like Dora.'

"Our first priority is to cast someone who's Latina and bilingual,"
she added. "We'll cast someone between the ages of 10 to 13.

Can Nick be successful exploring for Dora? "She's out there," Johnson said of the young actress who will be chosen for the plum role. "I keep trying to think of celebrities I'd like to cast."

Casting calls for Dora's pet monkey Boots and Swiper (the fox who takes things and throws them elsewhere, but doesn't steal them) has presented a challenge for the filmmakers.

"We haven't quite figured that out yet," said Johnson. "My dream would be to have a great CG [computer-generated] Boots. We have lots of ideas for Boots and Swiper."

Canadian actor-director Vernon "Vern" Chapman dies

Longtime actor and director Vernon "Vern" Chapman, chair of the Canadian Actors' Equity Association for five terms (from 1967 to 1970 and again in 1974), died Tuesday on Toronto.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1923, Chapman provided the voice of Jeeves-like butler Nestor in the 1991 Nelvana series The Adventures of Tintin. He also had an uncredited voice role as Dr. Octopus in two 1967 episodes of Grantray-Lawrence's Spider-Man, The Power Of Dr. Octopus and The Terrible Triumph Of Dr. Octopus.

He served for many years on the boards of directors of ACTRA, and was the artistic director/administrator of the Gryphon Theatre in Barrie, Ontario for four years. He acted in radio, film and stage, and was also a theater producer, directing over 250 stage productions from coast to coast.

Chapman's career as a professional actor stretched back to the amateur theater in Toronto in the 1930s. He was one of the co-founders of the first post-war Canadian professional theater company.

He was drawn to acting when he was only 12, appearing in Shakespeare's King John. He was also involved in high school and amateur societies in Toronto. He was president of the Victoria College Dramatic Club, where he acted in The Importance of Being Earnest under the direction of Dora Mavor Moore.

Following graduation from the University of Toronto, he joined a group of four actors who helped Moore found the New Play Society in October 1946.

After a year in England acting with the Amersham Repertory Theatre, he returned to Canada in 1948 and rejoined the New Play Society, where he was business manager until 1953. During the summer, he directed for the International Players in Kingston, and acted and directed for six summers at the Garden Centre Summer Stock.

In 1968-69, Chapman assisted Walter Learning in establishing Theatre New Brunswick in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where he performed and directed.

His appearances at theatres across Canada were many: three times at Bastion Theatre, twice at the Belfry Theatre, five times at the Citadel Theatre, once at Theatre Calgary, once at Persephone Theatre, three times at the Manitoba Theatre Centre, once at Magnus Theatre, and many times at the Sudbury Theatre Centre and the Huron Country Playhouse.

He created the role of Professor Moriarty in Who Killed Cardinal Tosca for TNB, and toured in it through the Maritimes, Newfoundland and Ontario. He sang and danced in The Heart's a Wonder, The Fantasticks, Sunshine Town, The Wizard of Oz, Annie, and My Fair Lady, and as the Earl of Dorincourt in Fauntleroy at the Charlottetown Festival.

Chapman acted on CBC radio, and on CBC television the second week of its advent in 1952. On TV, he was a regular on The Wayne and Shuster Show from 1957 to 1966. He played Richard Cartwright in the mini-series The National Dream, Canadian defence minister George Pearkes in Straight Arrow, and Admiral Bascawan for the Ontario Educational Communications Authority (now TV Ontario).

He also acted in films for independent producers including The Luck of Ginger Coffey, Billy Madison and A Day In A Life. From 1996 to 1999, he was a regular on the children's series My Hometown.

Chapman served on the board of the Toronto branch of ACTRA for 14 years, and on its national board for thirteen. He also served on the Canadian Advisory Committee of American Equity and wrote the Canadian Actors' Equity Association's first constitution when it separated from American Equity. He received Equity's Larry McCance Award and ACTRA's Bernard Cowan Award.

In 1998, Canadian Equity commissioned him to write its history, a project which took five years.

He was listed as an actor or director in all the Canada On Stage volumes (from 1976 to 1988). Who's in the Goose Tonight?: An Anecdotal History of Canadian Theatre, his book on the history of Canadian professional theater production since the Second World War, was published by ECW Press in 2001.

At Chapman's instruction, no memorial is planned. However a "Celebration of Vernon's life" will be held later this year. Details will be forthcoming from the Canadian Actors' Equity Association.

Spongebob Rectal Thermometer

Are you ready to put this in your “Bikini Bottom”?

I was shopping at the supermarket yesterday when I came upon a unique piece of Nickelodeon merchandising - a Spongebob Squarepants Musical Rectal Thermometer! Yes, it’s musical. And yes, it’s clearly marked for rectal use. It actually plays the Spongebob theme in your ass when your temperature is taken!

Spongebob is a huge success, and merchandise like this literally sticks it to the competition. But this product ranks with the infamous Mickey Mouse vibrator as one of the most miscast in cartoon licensing history! What were they thinking? Spongebob has enough trouble regarding his sexual identity. Ren & Stimpy may have been a better choice here… but Spongebob? Nah!

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

Horror Toon "Bloodline" Goes Into Production

The Story Hat, a Rhode Island-based animation studio, is producing Bloodline, an animated horror movie about tattoos, the Providence-Journal reports.

Financing and distribution for the film, whose budget reportedly is less than $40 million, has not yet been completed.

The Story Hat has previously worked on Dragon Booster for ABC Family and Toon Disney.

Another Million for "Alvin" at the Box Office

Alvin and the Chipmunks grossed $1.1 million at North American box offices over the weekend, bringing its domestic cumulative gross to $211.3 million, according to data from Box Office Mojo. Overseas weekend business lifted its foreign cume to $124 million.

Academy Award-nominee Persepolis heads into the pre-Oscar week with a cumulative gross of $2.9 million, thanks to $430,000 in weekend business. The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything grossed $298,000 for a total of $12.1 million.

Overseas, Enchanted raised its foreign total to $180.5 million, giving the Disney film a worldwide take of $305.5 million.

NY Times on Animation in Sam Buntrock's "Sunday in the Park With George" on Stage

The New York Times has covered the new production of Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With George musical, directed by Sam Buntrock. Buntrock's background as an animator for television and corporate clients has led to one of the most innovative stage effects of the production, where the pointillist classic “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat comes together on a projection on stage.

Speed Racer Video Game Screenshots

Warner Bros. Interactive has released the first screenshots from its upcoming Speed Racer movie game which you can check out here, here, here and here.

For more details on the game, check out this press release from last August.

Taylor Kitsch is Gambit in Wolverine!

Scooper 'Chaos Bringer' has revealed on Superhero Hype!'s message boards that "Friday Night Lights" star Taylor Kitsch will play Gambit (AKA Remy LeBeau) in director Gavin Hood's X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Kitsch has signed a three-picture deal.

He'll be joining Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Liev Schreiber (Sabretooth), Danny Huston (William Stryker) and Lynn Collins (Silver Fox) in the 20th Century Fox release, opening May 1, 2009.

Leading up to the events of X-Men, "Wolverine" tells the story of Wolverine's epically violent and romantic past, his complex relationship with Victor Creed, and the ominous Weapon X program. Along the way, Wolverine encounters many mutants, both familiar and new, including surprise appearances by several legends of the X-Men universe.

In related news, we've posted a hi-res version of the new Wolverine photo here! Scooper 'Darthjul' also tells us that "Wolverine" will be shooting in Glebe Point Park, Sydney on February 29.

Ryan Reynolds to Play Deadpool?

Let's recap... Ryan Reynolds told Superhero Hype the following a couple of weeks ago:

CS: You were under consideration for "The Flash," correct?
Reynolds: Uh huh.

CS: Are there any other superheroes you'd be interested in playing?
Reynolds: Basically for me there are two superheroes that I could play. One would be Deadpool, the other would be The Flash. There are no imminent plans to do either just now.

CS: Why Deadpool?
Reynolds: He's just the "merc with a mouth". For me I guess it's a no-brainer.

Now, Ain't It Cool News reports today:

Anyone up for a little DEADPOOL?

How about if Ryan Reynolds is playing him?

This one's supposed to be a secret, but cat's out of the bag now, Marvel.

An awful lot must have happened the last few weeks (or maybe he's just a liar... a good one though!) It's not for a Deadpool movie though, but instead for a cameo in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Knight Wins Ratings Race

NBC's two-hour Knight Rider movie topped the Feb. 17 TV ratings among young adults and scored the best demographics for a movie on television in nearly three years, Variety reported.

The good ratings increase the likelihood that the peacock network will green-light a series based on the backdoor pilot, an update of and sequel to the 1980s TV series of the same name.

Preliminary Nielsen ratings showed that Knight Rider averaged a strong 5.0 rating/12 share among adults 18-49 and drew 12.7 million viewers overall from 9 to 11 p.m., building gradually from start to finish.

No movie on television has fared better in the demographic since ABC's Their Eyes Were Watching God in March 2005.

Knight Rider starred Justin Bruening, Deanna Russo, Sydney Tamila Poitier and Bruce Davison and is considered a strong candidate to return in some form next season, with NBC announcing its 2008-'09 series selections in May, the trade paper reported.

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