Thursday, February 28, 2008

News - 02/28/08...

"Black History" Cartoon by Master P & Romeo (Miller Boyz)

In the video cartoon versions of Master P and Romeo present their homework assignment on African American heritage to the classroom and viewing audience. Read along with the lyrics in the video and discover the true reason for Black History month.

"I wanted to make this song into a cartoon also so that it can reach kids. It's entertaining and is a fun way to learn about our heritage," said Master P.

Master P also acknowledged the two animators responsible for the cartoon, Olatokunbo "Ola" Betiku, and Ryan Hutchinson. "Having Ola and Ryan on the team has been great because they're specialists in graphic art. They have great imaginations."

Additionally, Master P will be releasing children's books, coloring books, and other educational resources as part of his Take A Stand initiative. Already, teachers and educators have been contacting him to say they will be using the video in classroom lessons.

On his reasons behind the positive hip-hop video, Master P said, "I changed my life and I want to see our kids be able to grow and prosper. I'm doing this video because it's the RIGHT thing to do and it's more important to do what's right than what others necessarily want you to do or think you should do. This isn't about money - this is bigger than money. To be honest, I don't even have an outlet for this video. Black History Month is a special time for us to reflect and acknowledge how far we have come and how far we can still go. It only takes one person to make a difference. Put down the gun, stop the violence, it's time to educate our youth so they can be better than us. Let the kids grow."

Cartoons on the Bay Makes Selections

A total of 176 programs from 24 countries have been chosen to participate in this year’s Cartoons on the Bay, a showcase of TV animation taking place April 10-13 in Salerno, Italy. Of the official selections, 40 works have been nominated to compete for the 2008 Pulcinella Awards.

Promoted by Rai and organized by Rai Trade and Rai Fiction, the 12th annual edition of the festival will offer a full program of events, including press conferences and networking opportunities. As usual, the screening schedule will be largely dominated by European and American productions, though China, Japan and South Korea will all have a stronger presence, as will Latvia, Malaysia, India, Slovenia and Colombia.

Among the projects representing U.S. TV animation this year are Walt Disney Television Animation’s My Friends Tigger and Pooh, Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender and Back at the Barnyard, Cartoon Network’s Ben 10 and Camp Lazlo, Taffy Ent’s Cosmic Quantum Ray, Soup2Nuts’ Wordgirl, and the Bill Plympton short Shut Eye Hotel. Nickelodeon will have the strongest presence among the U.S. networks with 10 projects in competition. Among them are the new series The Mighty B! and a short titled Samsquatch.

Canada is also well represented with a number of programs, including the award-winning National Film Board of Canada short Sleeping Betty from director Claude Cloutier and the Oscar-nominated Madame Tutli-Putli from Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski. Other Canadian participants include Studio B. Prods.’ Ricky Sprocket: Showbiz Boy, Nelvana Ltd.’s The Backyardigans, 9 Story Ent.’s Futz!, Decode’s Franny’s Feet and Cuppa Coffee Studios’ sixth season of Celebrity Deathmatch.

Home-grown Italian programs to be showcased include the Rai Fiction co-produced Everybody Loves a Moose (Trion Picture and Cosgrove Hall), Amita of the Jungle (Lastrego and Testa Multimedia), Gladiators (MondoTv), Uffa che pazienza (Enanimation Motus Motionworks), Stefi’s World (The Animation Band), A Bicicle Trip (Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia) and Acqua in bocca (Maga Animation Studio).

Throughout the duration of the exhibition, all programs will be available to producers, buyers, distributors, multimedia publishers, journalists and all other attending professionals at the Digital Library. For a complete list of nominees and addition information on Cartoons on the Bay, go to

TV Loonland To Lose Half Its Staff

German TV Loonland will lay off more than half of its 53 employees at its Munich headquarters.

The news prompted the company's stocks to jump 12 percent to 0.28 euros ($0.42), according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Loonland produces and markets children's TV brands, including LITTLE PRINCESS and PETTERSSON AND FINDUS, but is struggling to stay in business.

In 2007, they signed a debt-for-equity swap with creditors, handing over a 10 percent stake in the company to make $30 million in debt disappear.

Loonland is also looking to sell off its U.K. distribution segment Metrodome.

Segal Talks SHAZAM!

During Wondercon this past Saturday in San Francisco, writer Jett had the chance to visit with GET SMART director Peter Segal about what just may be his next film: SHAZAM!.

“Now that the writer’s strike is over, we’ll be getting to work on SHAZAM!,” director Peter Segal told BOF. “John August is hard at work again on the screenplay.”

It was very evident that the director is passionate about the possibility of bringing the iconic Captain Marvel to the big screen. Here’s a few more tidbits that Mr. Segal revealed:

* He and his creative team envision Fawcett City as being a “west coast city.” So I’m thinking it’s going to have an LA vibe to it since Segal is from there.

* While intent on Capt. Marvel’s costume remaining “classic,” it will be updated a tad as well as allowing for the creative team to put their own stamp on it.

* Both Freddie (Capt. Marvel Jr.?) and Mary Marvel are in the mix.

* Mister "Tawky" Tawny the Talking Tiger? “Yep,” says Segal, “well, at least our version of him,” he said with a wink.

* SHAZAM! will definitely NOT be a comedy, campy, or “really light-hearted.” “We’re going about this seriously, but it will have some humor.”

* Segal and Dwayne Johnson, who co-stars in the director‘s GET SMART, have indeed spoken about The Rock playing Black Adam -- who looks to be the villain of the film.

* Segal said he’s looking for his own “Tom Hanks” to play the Captain. Someone who can be heroic, but still convey the fact that he’s really 13 years old. Should we be looking for someone who’s today’s Fred MacMurray? Creator C.C. Beck modeled Capt. Marvel on the actor and Segal said as much during the interview.

It certainly sounds as if Segal, writer John August and the rest of the team behind SHAZAM! are genuinely excited about the project and intend on developing it with a great deal of respect for the source material.

I get the feeling that “BIG in tights” is the goal and I mean that in a good way.

"The Batman" Series Finale To Air March 8th, 2008

A representative for Warner Bros. Animation has confirmed that the current season of The Batman is the last season of the popular series.

The series finale, called "Lost Heroes," is slated to air as a one-hour special on Saturday March 8th, 2008.

Three New Images from "Gotham Knight"

Warner Bros. Animation has released three new images to along with the recent press release that was sent out across the internet yesterday. The three images, each one from a different segment of the film. Those who attended WonderCon this past weekend were treated to the world premiere of the Batman: Gotham Knight trailer following the premiere of Justice League: The New Frontier (now available on DVD and Blu-Ray). Click on each image to see a larger version.

Exclusive: New Wolverine Shot

New pic of Hugh Jackman. Snikt!

20th Century Fox has provided Empire Magazine with an exclusive new image of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Click the image below to see it a little bigger. It also appears in mahoosive dimensions in the new issue of Empire, out this Friday.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
is directed by Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) and tells, naturally, the origin of our favorite grumpy mutant. The film also stars Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Ryan Reynolds, Will i Am and Dominic Monaghan. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is out next summer.

Galactus Being Saved for Silver Surfer

Possibly one of the biggest disappointments for any comic book fan seeing last year's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was that the world-devouring entity known as Galactus was barely shown, looking more like a giant storm cloud than the immense being with the spiked headpiece and purple outfit that we've come to know and love since his introduction during Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's run on the characters.

Well, have no fear, true believers, because the planned Silver Surfer prequel movie will give the fans what they want, a much better look at Galactus, at least according to the film's screenwriter, J. Michael Straczynski, who mentioned this at his Wondercon Spotlight panel.

As Newsarama reports from the panel:

For what the Silver Surfer movie entails Straczynski says it will cover the origin of the character. He said it will feature Galactus, noting that the latest Fantastic Four film held off on showing Galactus to reveal him for this film.

Who knows when we might actually see the movie as no director or production start has been announced, but you can read the rest of their report where JMS talks about his other movie and comic book work here.

Heroes Gears Up Soon

James Kyson Lee, who plays Ando in NBC's Heroes, told SCI FI Wire that the show will probably return to produce new episodes as early as June for next fall now that the writers' strike is over.

"Or possibly May, if they want to speed it up," Lee said in a group interview at WonderCon in San Francisco over the weekend, where Lee was promoting his upcoming horror movie Shutter. "And I think NBC is going to do another big push again, right after the Olympics, and we'll premiere season three in September."

The upcoming third "volume" in the Heroes
saga will be called "Villains." "I know they're very excited about it," Lee said. "They had a lot of great ideas that they wanted to incorporate, and obviously our second season got cut short because of the strike, so now they're really happy that they're going to be able to play with some stuff."

The "Villains" theme "opens up a whole new world," Lee said. "Are they going to bring a whole new set of characters that are going to face off with us and whatnot?"

The truncated second season left a lot of loose ends, Lee said.
"[The] assassination of Nathan [Adrian Pasdar] and Nicky/Jessica [Ali Larter]," he said. "Is she alive or dead?'"

But for Lee personally, he's eager to work again with Masi Oka, who plays fan favorite Hiro Nakamura.
"I know people are excited that Ando and Hiro are back together after their little stint away [in] different timelines," Lee said. "I think more adventures and mayhem ensue for us."

Lee will next be seen in Shutter, a remake of a Thai supernatural horror film, which opens March 21. Heroes returns in the fall.

7 New Iron Man Movie shots!

And remember: "Iron Man" comes to a theater near you on May 2!

HORTON HEARS A WHO And Aint It Cool News' Spy Sees It!

There are two new clips from this film on Yahoo! Movies right now, and I think they had the opposite effect from what’s intended.

When I saw the first two trailers for this, I was excited by how close they came to the look of classic Dr. Seuss illustrations, and I was hoping the film would play as a righteous homage to his work in general.

Long-time-spy-with-a-brand-new-name “Ouendaaaaaaaaaaan!” pops in today with a full report on his reaction to Blue Sky’s latest animated offering, and it sounds like he felt the way I did after seeing those clips, which seemed more manic than funny, more loud than entertaining.

Let’s see...

Sigh. It's not much fun laying into one of these films. When you hear the Blue Sky guys talk, they're full of such enthusiasm. When you see the images they've generated for the screen, you're amazed at what they've pulled off. When you have a book and an author as well loved as Seuss, you're really pulling for them to get it right. But when you see the finished product, it's a really underwhelming, even slightly draining experience.

I remember the rush of seeing Toy Story for the first time, and everything came together so beautifully that it took a few more viewings to really take in. A leap forward visually, but more than that, a wonderful combination of imagination, characterization and genuine wit, which managed to entrance kids and adults alike. In the mid-90s, something of a golden age for cinema if you ask me, here was a kids' film that left you dizzy on the power of cinema to enthrall and entertain. And while Pixar produced a series of films (which were nearly as good, and occasionally, arguably better) the other 3D guys arrived, and the likes of Shrek were born. For me, the goodwill generated by Pixar's work carried over onto these other films, createing a feeling that a 3D animated movie would be worth seeing. That then began to wane as Dreamworks in particular shovelled out a series of also-rans, dominated by sequels, stunt-casting, uninspired plots and tiresome pop culture references. (Shrek 3 was, for me, one of the better ones as they seemed to not bother with jokes, so we were spared seeing yet another humorous historical take on a Burger King logo...)

To be fair to Blue Sky Studios, I thought Ice Age was a pretty decent start, mainly thanks to the visual humour they brought with Scrat's antics. Robots was pretty middle-of-the-road in my eyes but with Horton Hears A Who, they seem to have completed their transition from Pixar-wannabe to Dreamworks-style also-ran. It starts nicely, with some genuinely impressive visuals: photo-realistic water drops on a leaf start a chain reaction that dislodges the Whoville speck and sets the story in motion. And then the rot of overwhelming seen-it-all-before averageness starts to set in. Here comes Jim Carrey (as Horton) doing his wacky thing once more, with a script that's not really worthy of the enthusiasm he puts into it. Now we'll introduce a few cute, happy-meal-destined sidekicks, most of whom are voiced by someone you'll have heard of, with Seth Rogen being given the most screen-time. He made me laugh a few times, I'm gracious enough to admit.

Down in Whoville, things are a little more entertaining because there's a little more to look at. On the downside, the humour level seems pretty similar. "Thing X is not going to happen!" [Thing X happens]. And then come my beloved pop culture reviews. There's an eye-rollingly tired 2D bit where (stepping on Kung Fu Panda's upcoming toes) Horton imagines himself as a heroic warrior, complete with that joke where people move their mouth a lot and speak like they're dubbing a 70s kung-fu movie. Bombarded with fruit by monkeys, Horton claims to "love the smell of bananas in the morning". They're jokes that'll go over the heads of a young audience and bore the shit out of the parents. It was the moment when the Mayor's assistant (complete with sassy black woman voice over, but a white face) logs onto and brags about how many friends she has when I genuinely lost all hope, though. NNNNGGAAAAAAARGGHGHGHHGH!!!! You're adapting a book that's loved, by a writer loved even more. A nice story with lovely visuals. Just adapt the fucking thing, keep the voiceover, and drop the references to the internet, which didn't even exist when Seuss died. Or if you have to drag the thing kicking and screaming into the modern era, do it with some ingenuity, wit and originality, and leave the riffs on slow-motion action sequences and brief moments of breakdancing for Meet The Spartans 2. It's simply not good enough to make a reference to something without a genuinely good joke to back it up.

I understand why these moments are there - this is a thin story that needed expanding to fill an animated feature. The end result, however, is a film that's occasionally delightful, when all you're given is some impressive visuals and excerpts from the original Seuss rhyme, then increasingly tiresome as everything in between pads out, or flat out pisses on, the good stuff.

Is there anything to like? The finale works pretty well, and would have been a lot more effective on the end of a better film. The angry mob who try to seize Horton's speck are slightly sinister and the way Whoville reacts is worth seeing on a big screen. But that's certainly not a recommendation for this genuinely lackluster effort.

DreamWorks Animation stays the course with HD DVDs

Although Japanese electronics maker Toshiba plans to quit HD DVD technology, DreamWorks Animation said Tuesday that it's remaining in an exclusive distribution deal using the moribund format.

"We have a partnership with Toshiba and have an obligation to see this through," DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said Tuesday.

"As you know, we have been well-compensated for our support. It really is in their court at this point to really declare what the next step will be. We're poised either way to jump into the marketplace when the conditions are right to do so," he said.

Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks signed exclusivity deals in August to distribute films on HD DVD for the next 18 months.

The New York Times, quoting Viacom executives who knew about the deals reported soon afterward that Paramount and DreamWorks would get a combined $150 million in financial incentives for staying with HD DVD.

Next month, DreamWorks plans to release Bee Movie on DVD. It's waiting to hear back from Toshiba on what to do next.

"We said, we have a release coming up on Bee Movie. What would you like us to do?," Katzenberg said in a Reuters interview.

Toshiba has sold a million HD DVD players and recorders since it went public with the new technology in March 2006. It announced this month that it would halt the format following a tough battle with Blu-ray, Sony's rival, which garnered more support from studios and retailers.

The Blu-ray market remains small, said JP Morgan analyst Barton Crockett, although he expects that DreamWorks is trying to get the issue settled by this year's holiday season.

"It might mean they'll lose the opportunity to sell Bee Movie on Blu-ray, although the market for Blu-ray is still pretty small and the offset is that they'd get money from Toshiba, which may, in fact, be more," he said. "But I'm sure they'll like to have this settled by Christmas."

4Q profits help propel DreamWorks Animation shares

DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. shares rose Wednesday by almost 5% -- $1.21 -- to $25.65, one day after the studio reported a stronger fourth quarter than analysts predicted.

Shares in DreamWorks Animation rose 55 cents to $24.44 even before the earnings were announced Tuesday.

The company said that revenues jumped 42% from the previous year to $290.2 million, helped in large part by Shrek The Third's blockbuster box-office performance.

Net profit reached $94.1 million (98 cents a share) in the fourth quarter of 2007, up from a loss of $21.3 million (20 cents a share) a year earlier.

On average, analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected the company to post earnings of 72 cents a share on revenue of $277 million.

Bee Movie, released November 2, was thought by analysts to be a relative disapppointment. However, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg predicted that the film will become profitable after its DVD release next month. The movie made in $126.6 million in North America and $285.2 million worldwide.

Wall Street expects DreamWorks Animation to write down the value of the movie, said Evan Wilson of Pacific Crest Securities.

Wilson says that the next few years will see stronger DreamWorks releases, including Kung Fu Panda, an adaptation of the book How To Train Your Dragon, and Shrek Goes Fourth. "The content of its upcoming films is vastly improved from the struggles it encountered in 2006, and a much-less-crowded 2008 should allow it to post solid numbers for the year," he said.

Goldman Sachs analyst Ingrid Chung thinks that DreamWorks Animation's four films of 2007 and 2008, including Madagascar: The Crate Escape, will outdo its four offerings of 2005 and 2006.

"We look to strong 2008 results from Kung Fu Panda this June in front of the Beijing Olympics and its Christmas season home video release," Chung wrote in a client note.

Worries about the relatively low North American ticket receipts of Bee Movie and concerns about Shrek DVD sales proved exaggerated, added Chung, who held onto a "buy" rating and a $30 per share price target.

Transformers 2 and Justice League Filming Updates

Variety has published an in-depth article talking about how a posssible Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike could affect movie productions starting soon. The trade says Hollywood studios are refusing to schedule new start dates on films that can't complete shooting by June 30.

Transformers 2 director Michael Bay said the labor cloud has made the process harder, but not impossible as he tries to keep the film on track for an early June start in order to make its scheduled June 26, 2009 release date.

"If there is a strike, we shut down, but shutting down isn't that big a deal," Bay told the trade. "You make accommodations, you make a deal with vending houses on equipment and on the stages where you are shooting. You hope for the best, but you can't be incapacitated by the possibility that there will be a strike. We've got to get this town back to work. I can't imagine anyone wants another strike, we're all tired. Hopefully clearer heads will prevail."

Bay said that the sequel is still recovering from the writers strike, and that he's playing catch-up after getting back his trio of writers, Ehren Kruger, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.

"They did a detailed outline before the writer's strike, and now they are in Michael Bay jail, holed up in a hotel and working feverishly," Bay said. "We're paying for a beautiful suite and they are getting a lot of work done. Hiring three writers was unusual, but it has been a godsend in getting us to where we need to be. Somehow you find a way to get it done."

Warner Bros. is hoping for director George Miller to begin filming superhero extravaganza Justice League in mid-July for a 2009 release. The project has been off-and-on in the last several months, as the script needed work. The minute the strike was over, scribes Kiernan and Michele Mulroney began rewriting the script. The studio is hoping to get a draft in the next six weeks.

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