Thursday, May 15, 2008

News - 05/15/08...

New Trailer for The Incredible Hulk!

A new trailer for The Incredible Hulk is playing in theaters with Speed Racer and you can now watch it below! The June 13 action-thriller stars Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell and William Hurt.

Children in Cartoons and Comics

In May 2008 the ToonSeum will pay tribute to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and its 25th birthday by presenting, Just Kidding Around: Children in Cartoons and Comics, a cartoon fountain of youth with original art and artifacts spanning more that 100 years.

From the infant stages of the funny pages, little ones have played a big role in cartoons and Just Kidding Around will examine the history of youngsters in comics as well as cartoon characters from babies to teens. The exhibit will feature kid characters from cartoons such as "Little Orphan Annie," "Henry," "Family Circus," "Rugrats," "Dennis the Menace," "Dog Eat Doug," "Archie," "Little Lulu," "Nancy," "Charlie Brown," and many others as portrayed in comic strips, comic books, illustrations, greeting cards and editorial cartoons.

Visitors will get to peek into the creative process of cartooning masters such as Harold Gray of "Little Orphan Annie" fame, through displays of original one of a kind art, ink stains and all. Over 35 original pieces of art will be on display in the ToonSeum gallery, located at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

Cartoons just might help close the generation gap. Just Kidding Around is an opportunity for parents and grandparents to reconnect with their inner child and the younger set to learn about yesterday's toons and share today's favorites.

“We are excited to present an exhibit featuring children in cartoons. In many ways, it is a celebration of the unique collaboration between the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and the ToonSeum,” says Joe Wos, ToonSeum executive director. “We couldn’t think of a more fitting way to help celebrate their 25th birthday.”

The promotional art for Just Kidding Around features the children from "Family Circus" and was created by Bil and Jeff Keane specifically for the exhibit.

This exhibit is made possible by the ToonSeum Drawing Board Fund.

What: Just Kidding Around: Children in Cartoons and Comics
When: June 7th-August 3rd, 2008
Where: ToonSeum at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh on the city's historic North Side, 10 Children’s Way, Allegheny Square.
Cost: Free with paid admission to the Children's Museum, which is $8 for children 2-18 and seniors, $9 for adults
Details: 412-325-1060 or

Fox Launches Inkubator Shorts Program

This Variety article explains how 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Broadcasting Co. are launching Fox Inkubator, a new inititative designed to find and develop animated projects. The program will give animators the opportunity to make two-to-three minute shorts, and the successful ones will later be developed into pilots and series. Inkubator, headed by Jennifer Howell, a former supervising producer on South Park, could eventually turn out up to 25 shorts a year. Most notable, unlike development programs at other networks, the Inkubator shorts will be distributed online and available to the public.

In addition to Inkubator, 20th Century Fox has established an in-house animation department for the first time in its history. It is also headed by Howell. The Variety article makes it sound as if Fox is dedicating its future to animation in a big way. Various Fox execs are quoted in the piece saying that animated series “have done so much for us financially and building the brand of this studio. We felt we needed to shine a bigger and brighter light on the future of animation production at this studio,” and “Animation is the perfect product for the world we live in, where DVD sales are so critical, appealing to young men is so critical, and there’s growing digital distribution of shortform content.”

Read between the lines though and things look less rosy. For example, take this quote from one of the suits about the production costs of the Inkubator shorts: “It will be cost effective given the way technology has developed…This isn’t about paying big premiums or big fees to writers. It’s intended to be done on a less-expensive scale.” In other words, they’re likely planning to hire a bunch of young artists and have them produce a crapload of cheapo Flash cartoons with the hope that audiences latch onto one of them. That’s too bad. I’ve long felt that development programs today are shortsighted by focusing on the creation of one-hit wonders and trendy properties, instead of pouring their resources into the long-term development and nurturing of talented artists, who in turn could develop many successful properties. Perhaps if any good comes out of the Inkubator, Fox will finally realize that there are plenty of talented animation creators out there whose names don’t begin with “Seth” and end with “MacFarlane.” I’m not holding my breath though.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

"Persepolis" Wins Anifest Prize

Persepolis took the Grand Prix Prize at the just-concluded Anifest festival, AWN reports. The film also took the top prize in the festival's Feature-Length category.

Other Anifest winners include Matthew Walker's "John and Karen" (Best Very Short Film); Koji Yamamura's "Franz Kafka's Country Doctor" (Best Short Film); Irina Margolina's Tales of the Old Piano: Ludwig van Beethoven (Best Television Film and Serial); and Jaromír Plachy's "The Clod" (Best Internet Animation). AWN has a complete list of winners.

Hasbro Reclaims Toon Library

Hasbro has bought back nearly 1000 episodes of animated programming based on its properties, the company announced today.

The deal with Germany's TV-Loonland returns the Sunbow Library of Hasbro Classics, which includes such content as G.I. Joe, Transformers, My Little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop to the toymaker.

Variety reports that Hasbro is paying $7 million for the shows.

Torres, Nauck, and Storrie Interviewed on DC Animated Comics

The World's Finest Online has posted three interviews relating to DC's animated series tie-in comics. The first speaks with writer Paul Storrie about his Gotham Girls mini-series, where he digs into the odds of a trade paperback collection and what he's working on currently. The others focus on Teen Titans Go!, speaking with writer J. Torres and artist Todd Nauck, both of which delve into their work on the series and their feelings on its cancellation with issue #55.

Kevin Conroy on Voicing Batman Gotham Knight

Warner Home Video has provided us with this new Q&A with Kevin Conroy in which he discusses voicing the title character in the upcoming DC Universe original animated DVD, Batman Gotham Knight, in stores on July 8. You'll find photos below the interview as well:

Kevin Conroy had studied for and starred on the stage, advanced his career through soap operas, and was featured in television series like "Dynasty" and "Tour of Duty." He had no idea that stepping into a sound booth in 1991 to audition for his first cartoon voiceover role would forever cement his place in the annals of animation and help to extend the Batman legacy to untold legions of fans.

Conroy quickly became the Batman voice by which all others are judged – and rarely assessed as an equal. He has cast a loud shadow in voicing the Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne for 17 years, beginning with "Batman: The Animated Series" and continuing through 16 films, video games and animated series (covering more than 220 episodes). He reprises the role in triumphant fashion in "Batman Gotham Knight," the highly-anticipated third film in the ongoing series of DC Universe animated original PG-13 movies.

"Batman Gotham Knight" will arrive July 8, 2008 on DVD and Blu-Ray disc, and will also be available that day On Demand via digital cable and for download through broadband sites. The film is produced as a collaboration between DC Comics, Warner Premiere, Warner Home Video and Warner Bros. Animation. The film will receive its world premiere at Wizard World Chicago in late June.

From his home in New York City, Conroy spoke at length about the film, his ongoing relationship with the character, and the surprising manner in which he first approached and procured the role of Batman.

What are your impressions of the film?

Kevin Conroy:
It's a really rich experience. The artwork in this film is so beautiful, so amazing. I love the adult-themed animated shows like "The Simpsons" and "South Park" and "King of the Hill." I love the appeal of their writing, the irony, the sense of humor. Those are great animated productions. But you forget just how rich animation artwork can be until you see a film like this. There's just no comparison. I've never seen anything like this in terms of diverse and rich animation in the industry – it's like getting six movies in one.

The story is very interesting, especially the way it weaves in and out of Bruce Wayne's history – like the flashback to him training in India, learning to endure pain. It's very well conceived story and I think it enhances a lot of the Batman mythology.

I don't think there's any question the fans will love it, because it's such a deep animation experience, and it gives such great background into a character they already love. It's a very positive piece.

After three years away from the character, what were the challenges of donning the cape once again?

Kevin Conroy:
Getting back into the Batman voice was not hard – after so many years, it's so familiar to me now that it's like putting on an old coat. As you live with a character over the years, you fill out the skin. You don't even realize you're doing it. Sometimes they ask during a recording session, "What sound would Batman make here?" or "What would he say here" and they trust me to do that. They know I've been living with him for so long, I know what he'd say, and how he'd react.

Batman Gotham Knight has essentially 12 different looks at your characters – nine of Batman and three of Bruce Wayne, varying in design and age range. Were there any challenges to maintaining the consistency of your performance despite voicing to so many different image variations?

Kevin Conroy:
In the past, we've always treated the shows like a radio play – we recorded the lines and then the animation took place. This time, the artwork came first, and that made the process interesting. Sometimes the artists put extra mouth flaps in, or they made the cadence different from the way I'd usually deliver a line. So we had to work within those parameters and try to time the acting to fill the space.

Interestingly, they originally they were going to cast another actor to do the younger Bruce Wayne, and Andrea (Romano) convinced them to let me take a stab at it. I had done the younger voice in a number of the "Batman: The Animated Series" flashbacks, so Andrea knew that I could do it. And once I got into the studio and gave them a sample, they were convinced. The challenge is making the distinctions – you have to make concessions for youth and give the character the sound of a younger man, while still believably being the same guy.

At its core, this film represents several different perspectives of Batman, providing many different layers to the character. Can you discuss that range of emotions the film explores, and to what depths you reach to capture those emotions?

Kevin Conroy:
It's that delicate balance you get in voices. As an actor, it's still the same job – it's acting – except that you only have your voice, and you have to be a little more precise in finding the balance. You have to keep it very minimal and you don't want to be too cartoony, but at the same time you only have your voice to tell the story – so you have to juice it up a bit. Sometimes the hardest acting is in the non-dialogue aspects of the performance. As an example, there was one long scream when Batman is falling down a series of ladders into a pit. They recorded that over and over and over again, trying to figure out how to do it just right, and not overdue it. I had to give them lots of variations and I'm sure they picked the best one later. Overall, it was a little challenging with the different artistic styles and the different stories, but it was still Batman.

The legions of Batman animation fans have hailed you as the definitive voice of the character. How did you originally settle on that particular voice?

Kevin Conroy:
To tell the truth, after reading the original script, I really went to audition for the character voices – like Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock. Like most actors, I really love to be challenged, and I thought they'd be more interesting and really push me. And then Bruce (Timm) and Andrea (Romano) said they wanted to hear me do Batman. The only exposure I'd had was the campy Adam West live-action series, and they said that wasn't what they wanted. So I put myself into a very dark place in my voice, and my voice got deeper and darker and huskier, and it came out very mysterious. I really just took a stab at what I thought the voice would be, and then I saw Bruce and Andrea and Paul (Dini) running around the booth, so I knew I either was very good or very bad. That's how it started -- just me in a sound booth, them on the other side of the glass describing the character, and then the voice just came out of my imagination. And it worked. So initially I was much more interested in doing the character voices, but luckily they talked me into Batman.

Do you require a certain mindset to approach the voice of Batman?

There's an emotional place I go to – Bruce (Timm) says he see it in me in the booth. It's much more a psychology than just producing the sound. Batman is very complex. The Bruce Wayne voice is the real put-on. This is a guy who saw his parents murdered in front of him, and nobody would be normal and together after that. He feels like a freak inside. So to do the voice, you have to take on all that drama.

That's why everyone relates to Batman – because everyone feels like a freak inside. Everyone has ghosts that they don't want to show anyone else. All of us feel like we have that inside us. For me, that's one of the most interesting aspects of the character – that a super hero would ultimately be based on that inner-freak that we all feel that we have.

In your mind, what's special about playing Batman?

Kevin Conroy:
I think what I didn't anticipate about voicing Batman was the fact that I was playing an icon – I just didn't take into account how much Batman meant to so many people. Coming from a very conservative background, and not having extensive exposure to comic books and the character, it just never occurred to me. So in the beginning, I only thought of it as an acting job.

And now … you're an icon in the Batman universe?

Kevin Conroy:
I'm always flattered that people actually know who the voices are. It seems to me such an anonymous job. But periodically, somebody recognizes me – it happened in a furniture store recently. To me, that's truly amazing – first that someone knows who does the voice, and it's even more amazing that someone would know the face of the voice. I think a lot of the reason that I'm so linked to Batman is because I've been doing it for so long. Before "Batman: The Animated Series," there really hadn't been a voice aside from Adam West. People knew Batman from the campy live action series, and the fans knew the Dark Knight comic books, but there hadn't been a voice associated with the character, and certainly not a dramatic voice. I think I just lucked out because I was the one who started with it, and people grew up with that voice.

Visit the official website for more info.

Auction to Attend the Dark Knight Premiere & After Party is hosting an online auction benefiting Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project (online until May 29th). One item in the auction will surely turn Batman fans' heads, as they are offering the following:

"Fly to LA with JetBLUE and Attend the Premiere and After Party of The Dark Knight"
This Package Includes: 2 tickets to Premiere & After Party. Premiere will be held in LA, July 2008- exact date TBD PLUS roundtrip airfare for 2 from JetBLUE.

Donations from the charitybuzz online auction will help the nonprofit New York Restoration Project (NYRP) to reclaim, restore, and develop under-resourced parks, community gardens, and open space in New York City, primarily in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

You can check out the auction directly here!

Briefly: New Asian Films

* Singapore's MediaCorp has picked up local distribution rights to the upcoming Madhouse/Rintaro CG-animated feature Yona Yona Penguin. [Variety]

* Toei will release its upcoming feature Gegege Kitaro—Nihon Bakuretsu!! in six slightly different versions, each keyed to reflect a different region in Japan. [Variety]

* The film Ha! Ha! Ha!, which features several computer-animated sequences inspired by on-line video games, opened across China on Tuesday. [Hollywood Reporter]

Frank Miller Blogs on the NYCC Spirit Panel

Spike has posted a new exclusive blog from comic creator/filmmaker Frank Miller talking about the reception that the first teaser for Will Eisner's The Spirit received at the New York Comic-Con last month.

Miller writes:

The recent New York Comic-Con was a blast. Just three years on, the show has made it clear that it wants to be a healthy rival to the San Diego Goliath.

Allow this New Yorker a moment to be thrilled by this development. It’s good for everybody, especially, and incidentally, it’s good for my friends in San Diego, who have startled the entertainment world by transforming their show from a lonely shepherd for a much-maligned story form —comic books — into a pop culture force to be reckoned with. Well done, friends: now let’s see what my town can do to compete!

The crowd was generous and wildly enthusiastic, showing New Yorkers’ secret virtue: our sweetness.

He goes on to talk about his love for New York City, something Miller shared with his mentor Will Eisner, and talks about how the rest of the Comic-Con panel went, which you can read about here. If you missed any of Miller's previous installments, you can read them on the official The Spirit Blog.

Interview with sculptor Damon Bard

An interview with Damon Bard can be read at the Character Design Blogspot. Bard is a sculptor who has created character maquettes for animated films such as Kung Fu Panda, Surf’s Up, Madagascar, and Over The Hedge. The interview also features many photographs of various pieces Bard has sculpted in his career.

"Bleach the Movie" has U.S. premiere June 11, 12

National CineMedia's Fathom brings anime back to the big screen for two nights only in the United States debut of the action anime Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody in more than 300 theatres across the country at 7:30 p.m. local time June 11 and 12.

Adapted from the popular animated TV series and best-selling manga (graphic novel) series, the Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody in-theatre event features an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the talent behind the characters and a first-time ever interview with acclaimed Japanese director Noriyuki Abe.

Tickets for this special anime event (dubbed in English for American audiences) are available at presenting theatre box offices and online at For a complete list of theatre locations and prices, visit the Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody event details page (theatres are subject to change).

"This premiere will offer a rare opportunity to see a brand-new story inspired by the successful animated series," said Liza Coppola, VIZ Media's senior vice-president for corporate relations and partnerships. "For those not yet familiar with the BLEACH series, this is a wonderful introduction to the characters and thrilling action that have made the property a hit in North America."

Acclaimed Japanese creator Tite Kubo illustrates the story of "Blanks," unidentified beings who are being followed by a Soul Reaper named Senna who makes them disappear. Puzzled by these unknown beings and the mysterious girl who follows them, Ichigo and Rukia set out to learn more, but uncover an evil plot when a menacing clan tries to kidnap Senna. Can Ichigo and his fellow Soul Reapers save the World of the Living and the Soul Society worlds from annihilation?

Presented by NCM Fathom and VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody appears on the big screen in high-definition with Cinema Surround Sound in more than 300 select AMC, Celebration! Cinema, Cinemark USA Inc., Clearview Cinemas, Georgia Theatre Company, Goodrich Quality Theaters, Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres, National Amusements and Regal Entertainment Group movie theatres, as well as the Penn Cinema (Lititz, Pennsylvania) through NCM's exclusive Digital Broadcast Network.

"NCM Fathom has experienced great success bringing anime events to movie theatres, and we are excited to bring Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody to anime fans across the country this summer," said company vice-president Dan Diamond.

The manga series Bleach has been licensed in more than a dozen countries, selling over 50 million copies in Japan alone. In North America, the popular animated series is viewed weekly by millions on cable TV.

For more information on Bleach and Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody, visit

Florida man claims DreamWorks stole "Madagascar"

Florida resident Joseph Davis filed suit Tuesday against DreamWorks Animation SKG, alleging that the California-based studio stole his ideas and drawings to produce the 2005 film Madagascar.

Davis, of Boca Raton, claims he submitted his work, "Animal's Night Out," to DreamWorks in 1999, and that his story, like the subsequent animated movies, features New York locations and similar animals. Davis registered a copyright for his work in February.

Featuring the voice talents of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith, DreamWorks' Madagascar follows the adventures of five Central Park Zoo animals who are released back to their home country. During the trip back to Kenya, the boat sinks, and they are stranded in Madagascar.

The sequel Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is scheduled to be released by DreamWorks Animation on November 7. The studio did not immediately return calls and e-mails requesting comment.

"Barbarella" co-star John Phillip Law dead at 70  

Tall, blond stage and screen actor John Phillip Law, who co-starred as the blind angel opposite Jane Fonda in 1968's Barbarella, died Tuesday at his Los Angeles home at 70, ex-wife Shawn Ryan said.

The cause of death was not announced.

Law had a rare turn in cartoons in two 1997 episodes of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, guesting as the Cat/John Hardesky in Partners In Dangers, Chapter II: The Cat and Partners In Danger, Chapter III: The Black Cat.

Born in Los Angeles on September 7, 1937, Law was the son of Los Angeles County deputy sheriff John Law and actress Phyllis Sallee. He grew up on Hollywood studio back lots and was a second-generation graduate of Hollywood High.

He went on to study engineering and psychology at Cal Poly and the University of Hawaii. After taking drama classes at the U of H, he decided to become an actor.

Moving to New York in the early 1960s, Law studied with Elia Kazan at the Lincoln Center Repertory Theater. He made his Broadway debut in Garson Kanin's Come One Strong with Van Johnson and Carroll Baker. He then appeared in the original New York production of The Changeling with Fay Dunaway at Lincoln Center.

His training at the Neighborhood Playhouse sent him on a show business odyssey. He sang and danced as Judge Aristide Forrestier in Can Can, stalked the stage in two productions of Dracula, and won the hearts of children as The Aviator in The Little Prince.

Going to Europe, Law worked in several Italian films, where director Norman Jewison spotted him. Law's star rose when Jewison cast him as young Soviet submariner Alexei Kolchin, who successfully romanced a teenage babysitter in 1966's The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, a 1966 Cold War comedy set in New England.

The following year, the role earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer - Male. Also in 1967, he received fifth place in the Golden Laurel nominations for Male New Face.

Law next gained fame as bronzed angel Pygar in Barbarella, Roger Vadim's science-fiction fantasy starring Fonda, who was married to the director at the time. Wearing huge, feathery wings, Pygar protected Fonda's gun-toting, go-go-booted heroine in outer space.

His subsequent films included Hurry Sundown (1967), The Sergeant (1968) opposite Rod Steiger, and The Red Baron (1970). Law starred in the 1971 flop The Love Machine (based on Jacqueline Susann's pulp novel) as ruthless Robin Stone.

An inveterate traveler (learning Italian and Spanish in Europe), he starred in more than 50 films produced in over 20 countries. He appeared in many action-adventure movies, including The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), The Cassandra Crossing (1977) and Tarzan the Ape Man (1981). Other movies included Danger Diabolik, The Hawaiians and Death Rides A Horse.

Law appeared opposite numerous distinguished European and U.S. actors, including Alan Arkin, Claudia Cardinale, Bo Derek, Ava Gardner, Mel Gibson, Richard Harris, Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, Sophia Loren, Groucho Marx, Sam Neil, Anthony Quinn, George Raft and Ugo Tognazzi. He worked for such noted producers and directors as Robert Wise, Otto Preminger, Carlo Ponti, Franco Rossi, Dino De Laurentiis, George Cosmatos and Dennis Hopper.

In television, he starred in the acclaimed mini-series The Best Place to Be with Donna Reed. He also starred in two Italian series: Little Women of Today and Europa Mission, both for RAI-TV.

Back home, he guest-starred as Jim Grainger (Cricket's father) on the daytime TV drama The Young and the Restless.

One of his European pictures, Stardust (with Alberto Sordi and Monica Vitti), was voted the most popular Italian movie of the past 20 years by the Italian people.

As his career began in the 1960s, Law lived in a 1924 Los Feliz mansion with brother Tom, a former road manager for Peter, Paul and Mary. The two brothers made the residence -- known as the Castle -- a gathering place for such up-and-coming pop singers and artists as Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and Tiny Tim. The experience was documented in the 1987 photo and text collection Flashing on the Sixties by Tom's former wife, Lisa Law.

Besides his brother, John Phillip Law is survived by daughter Dawn Law and a grandson. Services will be private.

"The Pixar Touch" shares seldom-told tales about the early days of this animation studio

Jim Hill talks with author David A. Price about how he went about writing this unauthorized history of Pixar Animation Studios

If you were to ask David A. Price when Pixar Animation Studios first came on his radar, he'd probably tell you about this tech conference that he attended in the late 1980s where the work-in-progress version of "Tin Toy" was shown.

"Tinny had just gotten stuck in that box," Price recalled. "And as he looks up to see that giant baby bearing down on him, this title card comes up: 'To Be Continued.' And this huge groan went through the auditorium. Because we all want to know how that story was going to end."

Well, if you'd like to know how the Pixar saga began, how this remarkable animation studio came into being, then have I got a book for you: "The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company" (Knopf, May 2008) does an absolutely brilliant job of walking you through how this Emeryville-based operation actually got up out of the ground.

Okay. I know. There's already another Pixar history on the market. To Infinity and Beyond: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios" (Chronicle Books, November 2007). Which is the companion volume to Leslie Iwerks' excellent documentary, "The Pixar Story."

And while I admit that I did enjoy that 320-page coffee table book ... If "To Infinity and Beyond" does have a flaw, it's that this particular Pixar book is an authorized history. Which means that Paik has a tendency to omit and/or step around some of the awkward moments in Pixar's history.

Whereas the 304-page "The Pixar Touch" ... Well, this unauthorized history doesn't exactly revel in this animation studio's trials & tribulations. But it makes no bones about how often Pixar was right there at the edge of extinction.

Copyright 2008 Random House, Inc. All Rights Reserved

"As I was talking with people like Alvy Ray Smith, the co-founder of the company, I was struck by how much Pixar truly struggled in the early days," Price remarked. "How -- like small businessmen everywhere -- they sometimes had trouble covering their expenses. And they'd then have to go hat in hand to Steve Jobs, seeking more money to keep the place afloat."

And as "The Pixar Touch" makes clear, this animation studio's revisionist history (i.e. That Steve Jobs was always in Pixar's corner. That he never ever lost faith in the studio's staff) ain't exactly true. Price goes into great detail about the numerous times that Jobs put Pixar on the block. Trying to sell off this loser of a company to candidates as varied as Microsoft & Hallmark.

Price also brings to light other often-overlooked parts of the Pixar saga. Like -- for example -- this fledgling animation studio's very first attempt at producing a full-length animated feature.

"That project was called 'Monkey,' " David explained. "It was to have been a retelling of a classic story of Chinese and Japanese legend. The monkey of the title was to be an expert trickster and magician accompanying a priest on a trek from China to India."

That film project was started in 1985 while Pixar was still under the Lucasfilm umbrella, and it carried over after this animation studio was spun off in February 1986. The Japanese publisher Shogakukan was to have financed it. The film never got as far as storyboards. But there were lengthy, detailed story meetings and John Lasseter created fun, expressive drawings of the main character.

Copyright 2008 Random House, Inc. All Rights Reserved

"The reasons that Pixar didn't make the film are a bit involved," Price continued. "But ultimately they come down to the fact that its production would have been exorbitantly expensive and Pixar was focused on its computer hardware business at that time."

You see what I'm saying here? You can go from cover-to-cover in "To Infinity and Beyond" and you'll find absolutely no mention of "Monkey." Whereas David -- who didn't have access to the Pixar archives -- uncovered this story the good old-fashioned way. By doing research.

"I'm kind of an energetic researcher," Price admitted. "So I contacted anyone and everyone who had dealings with Pixar. Even the SEC. I uncovered a lot of great info about the company by going through its old financial filings."

Which -- I know -- may make "The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company" sounds kind of dry. Believe me, it's not. David skillfully weaves the tech talk side of this tale in with all of that behind-the-scenes Hollywood gossip. The end result is a thoroughly readable, highly enjoyable history of this much beloved animation studio that features tons of stories that have never been told before.

So don't make the mistake of thinking that "To Infinity and Beyond" is the definitive Pixar history. As "The Pixar Touch" clearly proves, there's lots that we don't know about yet when it comes to this Emeryville-based operation.

Bolt Character Designs

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, but unfortunately, none of those words are appropriate for printing on this blog. Even when I dismiss all prior knowledge of what Chris Sanders’ original vision for this film was, these designs for Disney’s next feature, Bolt, look downright embarrassing. They veer disturbingly close to this, but we’re not talking about some cheap startup animation studio here. This is Disney dammit…the friggin standard-bearer of this art form for much of the past hundred years. What could possibly be the defense for such witless homely unimaginative designs? Somebody at Disney please fill me in…publicly or privately. Because I’m seriously having difficulty believing that some of the most highly skilled animation artists in the world could come up with something that looks only slightly better than your average student film.

(image via Character Design blog)

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

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