Wednesday, March 5, 2008

News - 03/05/08...

Dungeons & Dragons co-creator E. Gary Gygax dies

The father of the fantasy role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons co-creator E. Gary Gygax, died Tuesday morning at his Lake Geneva, Wisconsin home. He was 69.

Gygax had been suffering from health problems for several years, his wife Gail said. He had suffered multiple strokes and a near-fatal heart attack, as well as an abdominal aneurysm.

Gygax was a producer and writer for the Marvel Productions, Ltd. cartoon series Dungeons & Dragons, which aired on CBS in 1983-84. He had guest voice roles as himself in Anthology Of Interest I, a 2000 episode of Futurama, and "Todd Loses His Mind," a 2007 episode of Code Monkeys.

With Dave Arneson, he used medieval characters and mythical creatures to develop the game in 1974. Known for its oddly shaped dice, D&D also appeared in video games, books and live-action movies. Gygax's wife said that he always enjoyed hearing from his many fans.

Despite declining health, he hosted weekly games of Dungeons & Dragons as recently as January, she said. "It really meant a lot to him to hear from people from over the years about how he helped them become a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, what he gave them," Gail Gygax said. "He really enjoyed that."

Born Ernest Gary Gygax in Chicago on July 27, 1938, he grew up in the Windy City and moved to Lake Geneva at age 8. His Swiss immigrant father, a Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist, read fantasy books to his only son and hooked him on the genre, Gail Gygax said.

A high-school dropout, he took anthropology classes at the University of Chicago for a while, his wife said. In the 1960s, he was an insurance underwriter when he started playing war-themed board games.

However, Gygax wanted to create a game with more fantasy. To obtain more time to do this, he left the insurance business and became a shoe repairman, she said. He co-founded the company Tactical Studies Rules (TSR, Inc.) with Don Kaye in 1974.

Gygax wrote dozens of fantasy books, including the Greyhawk series of adventure novels.

Besides his wife, E. Gary Gygax is survived by six children. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Script Review: 'Thor'

Comics 2 Film's Chad Derdowski gets ahold of the script for the upcoming "Thor" live-action feature.

I've been a fan of Thor for a long time now; I've always loved mythology, and one of my earliest comic-related memories was picking up a few issues of Walt Simonson's classic run on the series. For my money, those stories are still the gold standard for the character. Hey, I love me some Kirby, and nobody does it better, but… man, that Simonson stuff just rocks! I'm diggin' J. Michael Straczynski's current run as well. A lot of writers have trouble balancing the mythological aspects of the character with the present-day setting, but JMS has really nailed it.

But for as long as I've loved Thor, I've never really thought it would translate to film. How do you fit in all the mythological back story and the modern stuff and make it clock in at under 4 hours? Is it possible to put a Norse god of thunder in modern Manhattan and not seem cheesy? As I said before, a lot of other writers seem to have trouble with it. But if you don't put Thor in a modern-day setting, is it really the Marvel Comics' version of the character, or would it just be a retelling of the old myths? I recently read a draft of the 'Thor' movie script by Mark Protosevich dated 04/04/07, and I think he's found a perfect balance between Marvel and myth, but in a totally unexpected way.

First of all, there's no New York, no Don Blake, no Jane Foster, none of that. Rather than go for the typical superhero movie approach, this script feels more like 'Lord of the Rings' or 'Beowulf'. This version of Thor is very much an origin story firmly rooted in Norse mythology, and it reminded me a lot of the old "Tales of Asgard" backup features that ran in old Thor comics from before I was born.

We get a quick but detailed history of Asgard, Midgard, and the origins of the universe. We find out why Loki is at odds with Thor, and how Thor got Mjolnir. We see giants, gnomes and fairies. Sif, Odin, Balder and The Warriors Three all make appearances, and despite all the back story they cram in (and all the words that seem to have way too many consonants), it's surprisingly accessible. I don't think that the casual viewer would have any problem whatsoever becoming totally immersed in this world.

While it doesn't take place in modern Manhattan, it is definitely the Marvel Comics version of Thor. Much like Stan & Jack's take on Odin's favorite son, this story is all about a boastful, pride filled warrior who cares only for slaying monsters and bagging babes. At the beginning of the story, he's almost completely unlikable, and definitely needs to be knocked down a peg or two. He's a god with a god-sized ego, to say the least.

Meanwhile, the other focus of the story is Loki. At the beginning of the story, he's trapped in his brother's shadow, but once he learns of his true parentage, the more devious side of his nature begins to assert itself. Without giving too much away, he ends up betraying not only his brother, but pretty much all of Asgard in his attempts to gain power and revenge.

And, of course, there's the hammer. As the inscription says, "Whosoever finds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor." And that middle part is really the gist of the story - "If he be worthy." While the Thor in this movie doesn't become a crippled doctor in 1960's New York, he does have to learn a big lesson in humility. Thor's quest in this story isn't merely about killing the beast and winning the war, but about learning responsibility to both himself and others, and in that sense, this character is 110% the Marvel Comics creation.

Beyond all that stuff, it's an awesomely huge action epic! I've heard that there's some doubts as to whether or not this script will be actually see the big screen, as it may break the budget. I can see why. Like I said earlier, there's monsters and special effects galore: sea serpents, gnomes, elves, eight-legged horses, giants, ogres… you name it. Plus, there's a whole lotta thunder and lightnin'. This is the God of Thunder we're talking about here, and trust me, he earns that title in this flick.

As a long-time fan of Thor and Norse mythology, I have to say, I'm uber-geeked about this movie, and I hope the script I read (and the necessary budget) get approved. If this script is followed, I think this movie can bridge the gap between the sword & sorcery fans and the comic geeks… not that that gap really needs to be bridged, of course. At any rate, it would be a perfect opportunity for comic book movies to be perceived as more than just dudes in tights with crazy powers. It's a truly epic tale that should appeal to people who like great stories and to people who like great action.

Imagine, if you will, that '300' had a plot. Now imagine a version of 'Lord of the Rings' that was a bit less artsy, with elves that were a little less pretty and a lot more badass. Now add a big freakin' hammer that can summon thunder and lightning. Get the picture? That's the movie I saw when I read this script. With any luck, that's the Thor movie we'll get.

Dalmatians, Horton on Disc

Disney has polished up the beloved 1961 animated feature 101 Dalmatians for a new platinum edition DVD release that hits retail today. Offering enhanced picture and sound, the film is joined on shelves by another classic toon, Warner Bros.’ 1970 version of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, which arrives in advance if 20th Century Fox Animation’s CG update. That film comes to theaters on March 14. See the trailer on AniMagTV.

101 Dalmatians: Platinum Edition is a two-disc set that includes the featurettes Redefining the Line: The Making of 101 Dalmatians, Cruella De Vil: Drawn to be Bad and Sincerely Yours: Walt Disney. Other extras include a virtual Dalmatians activity, 101 pop-up trivia facts, a Cruella De Vil music video and deleted songs. The release retails for $29.99.

Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! Has been re-mastered for this new deluxe edition that includes three additional animated Dr. Seuss stories: Dr. Seuss' Butter Battle Book, Daisy-Head Mayzie and Horton Hathces the Egg! The Warner Home Entertainment release carries a suggested retail price of $19.97 and also includes the featurette Who Hears Horton Who?

More vintage animation can be had today with Archie's Funhouse: The Complete Series, a three-disc set containing all 16 episodes of this classic series chronicling the misadventures of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and Reggie. Bonus material includes a featurette titled Ron Dante: The Voice of The Archies, as well as the Archie and His New Pals TV special, two music videos for songs performed by The Archies, and the first seven episodes of Archie's Funhouse from The Archie Comedy Hour. Released by Classic Media and Genius Products, the set lists for $29.95.

Old-school toon fans can also pick up The Pink Panther & Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume Six: The Inspector. A single disc holds 17 episodes that aired between 1965 and 1967. These installments highlight the bumbling police work of The Inspector and his dedicated assistant, Sergeant Deux-Deux, both voiced by Emmy and Golden Globe winner Pat Harrington Jr. (One Day at a Time). Put out by MGM, the disc lists for $14.98.

More modern animated TV fare can be found in Warner Bros.’ release of Ben 10: The Complete Season 3 two-disc set of 13 episodes ($19.98) and the anime favorite Blood +, which airs on Adult Swim in the U.S. A single disc release containing the first five Blood + episodes retails for $24.98, and a six-disc set with 25 episodes and an exclusive t-shirt and manga sampler can be had for $119.95.

Gromit is Kennel Club’s “Good Citizen”

The Kennel Club has once again teamed with Aardman Animations to make Gromit, the canine half of the Oscar-winning animated duo Wallace and Gromit, the new face of the largest dog training program in the U.K. Dubbed the Good Citizen Dog Scheme, the program promotes responsible dog ownership and has seen nearly 200,000 four-legged students enrolled. The announcement was made today at the 2008 edition of the prestigious dog show Crufts.

Gromit is the nation’s favorite dog, and it’s very exciting for the Kennel Club to have such a star as the new face of the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme,” comments Kennel Club secretary Caroline Kisko. “As anyone who has ever seen a Wallace and Gromit film will know, Gromit is the ideal good citizen. He is the most responsible dog of all, a role model not only for dogs, but also for their owners to follow!”

To compliment the new relationship Aardman will introduce a new line of co-branded merchandise to include mugs, refrigerator magnets, key chains, polo-shirts and fleeces. The items will be available exclusively at this year’s Crufts. More merchandise, including dog accessories, will be made available later this year.

Aardman and Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park are currently at work on a new animated adventure for their beloved plasticine pals. A Matter of Loaf and Death (formerly Trouble At’ Mill), is a half-hour TV special for BBC One that went into production in January and is expected to be ready for delivery this fall. Park is directing from a script he co-wrote with Bob Baker, who co-scripted the Academy Award-winning Wallace and Gromit shorts The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave.

Broadcasters get More Oggy

French animation company XILAM has signed a slate of broadcast deals for the third Season of its animated comedy Oggy and the Cockroaches. Currently in production in Paris, the new slate of episodes is Xilam’s top priority for the upcoming MIPTV in Cannes, where buyers will be able to screen a fresh installment of the slapstick series about the explosive confrontations between a fat, blue cat and three ugly cockroaches.

Oggy is an easy-natured and diplomatic cat who, despite his best efforts to avoid conflict, always finds himself the victim of Joey, Dee Dee and Marky, a trio of indestructible insects with a knack for mischief. And just when it looks like Oggy has the upper hand, the cockroaches scurry back for another round.

The third season will air on French pay TV outlet Canal + this fall. Other broadcasters on board for more episodes include Mediaset in Italy, VRT in Belgium, MTV Oy in Finland and Noga in Israel. Further international sales and licensing deals will be announced at MIPTV.

One of the top France’s top animated exports, Oggy and the Cockroaches has aired in more than 100 countries worldwide. Season three brings the total number of episodes to 200 seven-minute installments ore or 65 half hours. For more information on this and other Xilam properties, go to

Toon Disney Joins Monster Buster Club

Toon Disney-Jetix is going after some of the world’s scariest creatures with the acquisition of Monster Buster Club, the first CG-animated series from France’s Marathon. The 52-episode pick up will mark the U.S. debut of the French-Canadian co-production, which already airs in parts of Europe and Canada. Co-producing with Marathon Media are TF1, Jetix Europe and Canada's YTV, working with with a budget of about $21 million.

Monster Buster Club is a comedy-action show that follows the adventures of a top-secret group of four children who have inside information on an alien invasion threatening their hometown. Using a network of secret tunnels running through the town, the heroes conduct undercover alien investigations to seek out the eccentric-looking bad guys and foil their alien tricks.

According to Marathon, the series is already the third best-performing show among kids 4-10 in France, topping Ben 10 and Scooby-Doo. It has already been sold to Super RTL in Germany, RTVE in Spain, RTV in Slovenia, RTE in Ireland and LNK in Lithuania, as well as Denmark's TV in Europe, Radio Canada and the Arabic network MBC. Marathon is also in negotiations with other broadcasters in around the globe.

Following on the heels of Totally Spies!, Team Galaxy and Martin Mystery, Monster Buster Club will be Marathon Media's fourth show to air in the U.S. Other popular series handled by the group include Dolmen, Atomic Betty, Marsupilami, Street Football, Saint-Tropez, Fort Boyard, The Dominici Case and And Man invented Animals.

Azaria in Treehouse for Simpsons Sequel

Having grossed more than $525 million worldwide, The Simpsons Movie is all but guaranteed to see a sequel, and voice cast member Hank Azaria has an intriguing concept. The actor told the MTV Movie Blog that he would like to see a feature-length treatment of Treehouse of Horror, the popular annual Halloween installment of the long running animated FOX series. The film would play like a comedic toon version of the cult classic Trilogy of Terror, perhaps with Homer being terrorized by a knife-weilding Zuni fetish doll.

It took about 18 years for creator Matt Groening and the rest of the Simpsons crew to commit to making a movie based on the hit show, and its unlikely that they would rush into production on a sequel, though the wheels are reportedly turning. There’s no word on what direction it will take, but a Treehouse of Horror approach does offer a lot of potential for parody and anything-goes storylines that don’t necessarily have to adhere to the show’s bible.

Azaria told MTV that whatever the producers decide to do, he wants to play a bigger part than he did in the first movie. “Whenever my characters get fleshed out, it’s more fun for me,” he says, referring to such favorites as Moe the bartender, Kwik-E-Mart shop keeper Apu and Police Chief Wiggum.

IHOP Offering Seuss Breakfasts

IHOP will serve up a new menu with four Seussian-style breakfast items to coincide with the release of Horton Hears a Who, the restaurant chain said today.

Who-Cakes will be multi-shape and multi-colored shortcake stack with boysenberry-blueberry glaze, chocolate chips, and a pink lollipop. The Mayor's Breakfast will feature eggs scrambled with spinach, ham strips, hash browns, and pancakes; Jo-jo's Kid's Breakfast will be a smaller version of the same. The Beezlenut Splash will be a lemon-lime soda topped with Jell-O cubes.

The new menu will be available from March 3 through April 20.

Speed Racer to Get Simultaneous IMAX Release

IMAX Corporation and Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that Speed Racer, the action-packed adventure from the creators of "The Matrix" trilogy, will be simultaneously released to IMAX® and conventional theatres on May 9, 2008. Speed Racer, based on the hit anime series created by Tatsuo Yoshida, is written and directed by The Wachowski Brothers. The film will be digitally re-mastered into the unparalleled image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® with IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology. Warner Bros. Pictures will be the exclusive distributor of the film to IMAX theatres worldwide.

"'Speed Racer' combines riveting action with stunning special effects, making it an ideal choice for IMAX's format," said Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution at Warner Bros. Pictures. "We are delighted to release the film to IMAX theatres, where audiences can experience the next best thing to actually sitting in the driver's seat during this high speed adventure."

"'Speed Racer' is a fantastic addition to our 2008 film slate, and we are very pleased to welcome The Wachowski Brothers back to the world of IMAX," said IMAX Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler. "The unique vision of these talented filmmakers has always been well suited to IMAX's format, and we're more than excited to be a part of this release."

"'Speed Racer' has all the elements for a powerful IMAX experience, with its broad appeal and spectacular effects," said Veronika Kwan-Rubinek, President of International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures. "We are excited to be exhibiting the film internationally in this unique format."

"Audiences will experience an incredible thrill ride when they see 'Speed Racer' in IMAX theatres this May," added Greg Foster, Chairman and President of IMAX Filmed Entertainment. "Warner Bros Pictures, The Wachowski Brothers and Joel Silver are masters at telling stories specifically for the big IMAX screen, and with up to 14,000 watts of digital surround sound combined with crystal-clear, larger than life images, this movie and IMAX are made for each other."

Hurtling down the track, careening around, over and through the competition, Speed Racer is a natural behind the wheel. Born to race cars, Speed is aggressive, instinctive and, most of all, fearless. His only real competition is the memory of the brother he idolized-the legendary Rex Racer - whose death in a race has left behind a legacy that Speed is driven to fulfill. Speed is loyal to the family racing business, led by his father, Pops Racer, the designer of Speed's thundering Mach 5. When Speed turns down a lucrative and tempting offer from Royalton Industries, he not only infuriates the company's maniacal owner but uncovers a terrible secret-some of the biggest races are being fixed by a handful of ruthless moguls who manipulate the top drivers to boost profits. If Speed won't drive for Royalton, Royalton will see to it that the Mach 5 never crosses another finish line. The only way for Speed to save his family's business and the sport he loves is to beat Royalton at his own game. With the support of his family and his loyal girlfriend, Trixie, Speed teams with his one-time rival-the mysterious Racer X - to win the race that had taken his brother's life: the death-defying, cross-country rally known as The Crucible.

Transformers 2 to Film in Philadelphia?

Main Line Today posted the following in February about projects that may film in Philadelphia:

"The film industry is [an] increasingly lucrative [thing] for government to em-brace," says Pinkenson. "We already have a reputation as the most cooperative and film-friendly city in the business. Having these tax incentives adds to our attraction. Right now, we’re looking at applications for six to eight films to begin in June, and more to follow."

The not-so-top-secret list includes Remorse, Three Sistas, Shyamalan’s Avatar series, a film based on Marley and Me and possibly Transformers 2. The GPFO website ( is a good gauge of its commitment to making filmmaking a collective experience while enhancing Philly’s reputation as a movie-friendly city with manageable amounts of red tape. "How to" services are offered free of charge and cover everything from hiring a police officer to getting a street closed. There are numerous resources, including screenwriting contests, a job hotline and profiles spotlighting the city’s filmmakers.

Interesting, stay tuned. Transformers 2 is scheduled for a June 26, 2009 release.

"LOTR" composer Leonard Rosenman dead at 83

The winner of two Oscars and two Emmys, 1950s and 1960s movie composer Leonard Rosenman died Tuesday of a heart attack at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. He was 83.

Rosenman was nominated for a Golden Globe nomination for his music for the 1978 animated version of The Lord Of The Rings, co-produced by Fantasy Films and Saul Zaentz Production Company.

Credited with helping to modernize film music, he won Oscars in 1975 and 1976 for adapting the classical music of Barry Lyndon and Woody Guthrie tunes in Bound for Glory. He was nominated for Oscars for best original score for Cross Creek (1983) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986).

He also won Emmys for his TV-movie scores for Sybil (1976) and Friendly Fire (1979).

The four dozen films that Rosenman scored including the James Dean starrers East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. They also included such science-fiction films as Fantastic Voyage and Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Period films, including A Man Called Horse, were also part of his repertoire.

Rosenman was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 7, 1924. He learned atonality and dissonance through studying with composers Arnold Schoenberg, Roger Sessions and Luigi Dallapiccola.

In 1954, when he was writing chamber music and teaching piano, director Elia Kazan invited him to compose the score for East of Eden. As a friend of Dean's, Rosenman was on the set during shooting and stayed in California to score the actor's next film, Rebel Without a Cause. Other films that he scored included The Cobweb and The Savage Eye.

Rosenman's involvement in TV was extensive; he composed for such weekly series as The Defenders, Combat! and Marcus Welby, M.D. He wrote scores for three dozen TV-movies and miniseries, including Vanished, Murder in Texas and Celebrity.

He continued writing music for the concert stage during his screen career. Rosenman's oeuvre included many chamber works, two violin concertos and a symphony.

Leonard Rosenman is survived by his wife, the former Judie Gregg, as well as three children and two grandchildren.

A memorial service is being planned. Donations are suggested to the Motion Picture and Television Fund or the Association for Frontotemporal Dementias (

Creative Bankruptcy in TV Animation

Nothing says more about the sad, pathetic, desperate, moribund state of the US TV animation industry than the fact that Seth MacFarlane is the only artist trusted to create new animated shows for a major TV network.

No Dragonball Movie this Year

20th Century Fox has pushed back the studios' big screen Dragonball adaptation from August 15, 2008 to April 3, 2009. On the old date, it was facing The International, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Tropic Thunder and Wild Child, while it is currently by itself on the new date.

Written and directed by James Wong, the movie stars Justin Chatwin, James Marsters, Jamie Chung, Emmy Rossum, Eriko Tamura, Joon Park, Chow Yun-Fat, Texas Battle, Randall Duk Kim and Ernie Hudson.

Dragonball is based on the manga created by Akira Toriyama; the work was also turned into a Japanese anime series that played all over the world. It tells the story of an alien sent to destroy Earth, who has a change of heart and decides to join the humans in their fight against various aliens and bad guys.

"The Batman" Off Kids'WB! After Finale

After the March 8th series finale, The Batman will be removed from the Kids'WB! schedule for the foreseeable future.

For those hoping to watch these episodes again, remain patient. The Batman: The Complete Fifth Season is scheduled for release later this year.

More images from 'The Batman' finale on 'Spectacular' Saturday

It's going to be a Spectacular Saturday on March 8 when Kids' WB!/The CW brings you the broadcast premiere of 'The Spectacular Spider-Man' and the series finale of 'The Batman' in the form of a special one-hour television movie, "The Batman: Lost Heroes."

'The Spectacular Spider-Man' debuts with back-to-back episodes. "Survival of the Fittest" pits Spider-Man against Vulture at 10:00 a.m. ET/PT, followed by Spider-Man's first confrontation with Electro in "Interactions" at 10:30 a.m. ET/PT.

'The Batman' closes its fifth and final season with "The Batman: Lost Heroes" at 11:00 a.m. ET/PT. In the special TV movie, the most powerful members of the Justice League are abducted one-by-one. Batman, Robin and Green Arrow discover the mystery surrounding their disappearance – The Joining has returned with some earthly villainous assistance, and has transferred the Justice League powers into alien androids. It's up to Batman, Robin and Green Arrow to help their JL friends regain their powers and prevent an alien invasion.

The one-hour special includes appearances by Green Lantern, Hawkman, Flash, Superman, Green Arrow, Toyman, Mirror Master, Dr. Hugo Strange and The Joining. The film is written by Stan Berkowitz and Alexx Van Dyne, and directed by John Fang and Vinton Heuck.

Check out these new images from the show!

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