Monday, June 30, 2008

News - 06/30/08...

'WALL-E,' 'Wanted' team up as $100 million duo

A lonely little robot made millions of friends during the weekend — and even outgunned Angelina Jolie.

"WALL-E," the Pixar Animation tale of a robot toiling away on a long-abandoned Earth, debuted as the No. 1 movie with $62.5 million in ticket sales, with Jolie's assassin thriller "Wanted" opening in second place with $51.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The two movies combined to keep Hollywood on a roll. The top 12 movies took in $179.2 million, up 22 percent from the same weekend last year, when Pixar's "Ratatouille" opened with $47 million.

It was the fifth straight weekend that revenues climbed. Revenues for the summer season that began May 2 are up 6 percent over last year's record pace, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

The sour economy and high gas prices may be helping to fuel Hollywood's boom, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers. Movies tend to thrive when times are tough because they are relatively cheap compared to sports events, concerts and other outings.

"Audiences are obviously gravitating toward the movies as their first choice for entertainment," Dergarabedian said. "It doesn't take that much gas to get to the local multiplex. That might have a little something to do with this, as well."

The previous weekend's No. 1 movie, the Warner Bros. comedy "Get Smart," slipped to third place with $20 million, raising its total to $77.3 million.

maintains the perfect track record of Pixar, the Walt Disney unit that has made nine films, all of them critical and commercial successes, including "Cars," "Monsters, Inc." and the "Toy Story" flicks. "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles" put up the biggest opening-weekend numbers among Pixar movies, both pulling in just over $70 million.

Set centuries in the future,
is the story of a rickety, walking trash compactor that humans left running after abandoning the over-polluted planet.

The movie overcame a dialogue challenge — the two main robot characters barely speak, beyond each other's names — using wildly inventive visuals and sound effects to propel much of the story.

Like other Pixar films, "WALL-E" packed in family crowds, as well as adults without children.

"The real secret is they're not children's movies. They're movies for everybody. Children absolutely adore them, but parents enjoy them on a different level," said Mark Zoradi, president of Disney's motion-picture group. "You can't be nine-for-nine like Pixar is without that."

The G-rated "WALL-E" was complemented by Jolie's R-rated "Wanted," which distributor Universal originally planned to release back in March. The studio decided the movie was too good to release at a slower moviegoing time and moved it to summer on a weekend when competition for a violent action tale would be light.

"We knew `WALL-E' would be huge, but it's not the same audience as `Wanted,'"
said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal.

"Wanted" stars Jolie as a member of a secret society of assassins whose new recruit (James McAvoy) is trained to use his superhuman abilities to take out a rogue killer.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. 1. "WALL-E," $62.5 million.

2. "Wanted," $51.1 million.

3. "Get Smart," $20 million.

4. "Kung Fu Panda," $11.7 million.

5. "The Incredible Hulk," $9.2 million.

6. "The Love Guru," $5.4 million.

7. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," $5 million.

8. "The Happening," $3.9 million.

9. "Sex and the City," $3.8 million.

10. "You Don't Mess With the Zohan,"
$3.2 million.

1st Trailer for Miyazaki's PONYO ON THE CLIFF is 非常に奇妙な

From aintitcoolnews:

Hey folks, Harry here with the first trailer from Hayao Miyazaki's PONYO ON THE CLIFF which is 非常に奇妙な. I mean it, this thing is just plain 非常に奇妙な. So 非常に奇妙な that I don't know what else to say about it, other than it is 非常に奇妙な. Thanks goes to Chris Brown who discovered this 非常に奇妙な trailer for the new Miyazaki film - which you can see below. But tell me, did you think it was 非常に奇妙な?

From The Disney CGI People Who Aren't Pixar Comes BOLT!!

The trailer for BOLT! is online over at Empire. The film features voices by Malcolm McDowell, John Travolta, and Miley Cyrus & is about a TV action dog who doesn't know he's not the character he plays.

Evidently, Bolt the dog subjugates a cat in this...which makes the film transcendent in my book.

Find the trailer...


Animated Sounds

Heads up on yet another animation event at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. The Sound Behind The Image II: Now Hear This! is an evening celebrating the art of sound in animated films. It will take place at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills on Friday August 8th. Hosted by Mark Mangini (Looney Tunes: Back In Action, Runaway Brain, Raiders of the Lost Ark, etc.), the presentation begins at 7:30. You can order tickets ($5./students $3) here.

(thanks cartoonbrew)

The Clockmaking Monkey (1938)

Here’s a rare treat: El Mono Relojero (The Clockmaking Monkey - Argentina, 1938) is only surviving film by the creator of the first animated feature (El Apostol, 1917), Quirino Cristiani (who also created the world’s first animated sound feature, Peludópolis in 1931). The rest of his films perished in a fire in 1962. Oscar Grillo says the voice is by Pepe Iglesias (aka “El Zorro”), the actor who later dubbed into Spanish the voice of the fox in Disney’s Pinocchio. A few months ago Jorge Finkielman posted a rare cel from this film on the Animation Show forum. For more about Cristiani, read Giannalberto Bendazzi’s 1983 article on AWN.

(thanks cartoonbrew)

Little Nemo test film

The tortured history of the TMS feature film Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland (1992) could rival that of Richard Williams The Thief And The Cobbler. It was an American/Japanese joint project, with no less than Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata involved in the pre-production stage (1982-83).
George Lucas, Chuck Jones, Gary Kurtz, Ray Bradbury, Chris Columbus, Moebius, John Canemaker, Leo Salkin, Paul Julian, Ken Anderson, Frank Thomas and Brad Bird (who talks about his involvement in the comments here) were attached to this film at one time or another. Bill Hurtz (George of the Jungle, Unicorn In The Garden) and Masami Hata (Sea Prince and the Fire Child) ultimately directed the final release, admittedly a mixed bag.

The idea of making a fully animated adaptation of Winsor McCay’s comic strip masterpiece somehow seems like a good idea (McCay himself authorized a musical stage play based on the strip in 1908), and the names assembled (above) to tackle such a project were certainly capable doing so.

If you’re wondering what a Miyazaki version might’ve been like, check this out. Below I’ve posted a short test film dating from December 1984. Key Miyazaki animator/director Yoshifumi Kondo (Whisper Of The Heart) directed this test sequence, supposedly filmed in 70mm. The mind boggles as to what could have been.

Oh, and who authorized this?

(thanks cartoonbrew)

Daniel Thomas MacInnes from the Conversations on Ghibli blog comments on the posting, saying:

"Great job on bringing up Nemo. I actually wrote about the 1984 Nemo pilot on the Ghibli blog, and showed the entire four-minute short. You can read my post by clcking on the website link here."

The 1984 Nemo pilot was created by Yoshifumi Kondo (director), Kazuhide Tomonaga (animation director/e-konte/key animator), Nobuo Tomizawa (key animation), Kyoto Tanaka (key animation), and Nizo Yamamoto (art director).

Tomonaga is one of the great action men of the period. You’ve seen his work before and likely didn’t realize it. For instance, he animated the car chase from
Castle of Cagliostro; the destruction of the floating city in Castle in the Sky; numerous action scenes from Sherlock Hound; and any number of Studio Ghibli movies. Tomonaga also worked on several WB cartoons in the early ’90s, including Animaniacs and Batman - he animated the original opening to Batman: the Animated Series, actually."

"I think the Nemo pilot is one of the great highlights of Japanese animation. It’s a thrilling example of what makes anime great. There’s that kinetic action, the wide cinematic sweep, the brilliant sense of imagination, and a terrific sense of polish. Anime at its best always defined “cool” animation. Of course, you have to dig deeper than naked chicks and giant robots to discover this."

"If you’re a Ghibli freak and a very careful observer, you’ll spot some cuts that were later quoted in
My Neighbor Totoro and Porco Rosso. Parts also point back to Sherlock Hound, which in turn pointed back to Toei’s 1971 movie Animal Treasure Island (another essential cartoon classic, especially for Miyazaki fans)."
"As this was a “pilot” film, there was no attempt to dig any deeper than the thrilling, freewheeling action setpiece. But it’s a perfect example of where Kondo and his team would have gone, if everything didn’t fall apart. To me, this sequence is far closer to Windsor McKay’s original vision than the watered-down Disneyesque version that was finally made. That movie was much more of an embarrassment, if only because it was so blandly lifeless, forced into the Disney paradigm as so much American animation was. Why Westerners could never grasp any other paradigms for the medium puzzles me."

"Kondo was more of a veteran than most Westerners realize, however; his career dates back to the original Lupin III tv series (1971-72), where he met Takahata and Miyazaki, who were directors. He was later involved in the two
Panda Kopanda films shortly after. He worked on Miyazaki’s Future Boy Conan in 1978, and was Animation Director for Sherlock Hound. His most important collaboration was with Isao Takahata for Anne of Green Gables in 1979, where he served as the Character Designer. His more naturalist style of drawing was exactly what Takahata wanted, in pursuit of his own documentary/neorealist/Ozu fueled work. At Ghibli, Kondo became Takahata’s right-hand man, as seen with Grave of the Fireflies, Omohide Poro Poro and Pom Poko. Kondo, of course, was a big player at Ghibli and certainly set to sit alongside Takahata and Miyazaki as the studio directors, if not for his 1997 death."

"It’s always a bit of a problem that Americans know so little of Japanese animation. But there’s little interest or desire to notice anything before Ghibli, or to be aware of any name other than Miyazaki. Anything from Japan that’s good is dimly dubbed as a “Miyazaki” anime, which often is not the case. This just reinforces the notion of Americans as not very bright, as people who can’t retain more than one foreign name at a time."

"Ahem. Not to become cranky on the subject. We’re all doing the best we can. There’s still only a small handful of resources to turn to for a history of Japanese anime. Ben Ettinger’s Anipages is the gold standard. I’ve tried to follow suit with Conversations on Ghibli."

You can find a longer version of this pilot here :

And here's a three part "Making Of" the final product:

From the Animation Guild Blog:

It's Only Business

The past week, I've gotten e-mails complaining about salary cuts at Disney, along with the question: "Can they do this?"

The answer is, sure they can.

Salary decreases happen all the time. Over the years I've seen internal memos from studios that say: "Hold down wages!" I've watched higher-priced employees laid off for months, then brought back at union scale. Employees don't like it, but they accept the job and work at the lower rate, because they're not in a position to say no.

And the studio knows it, and acts on the knowledge.

There is nothing inherently evil or vindictive in this, because (mostly) it's "only business". Companies strive to pay no more than they have to ... for acquisitions, outside services, or employees.

"Companies," as honest CEOs like to say, "are not charities."

A dozen years ago, when studios were bidding against each other for talent, weekly salaries went into the stratosphere. Companies weren't crazy about this, but for a moment they were unable to prevent the sky from being the limit.

I remember the time well. Artists came through my office, gleeful about the salaries they were getting. Many of them thought the flush times would last the rest of their careers, but it was over in fifty or sixty months. The lesson I took away from the mid-nineties boom and the animation depression that followed was:

Everything is temporary. Plan accordingly.

What employees need to wrap their heads around is that, as it's only business for companies, it must also be business for employees. Know what your rights are under the collective bargaining agreement, know labor regs. Know the phone number and address of the California Labor Commissioner. Share wage information. Build a support network. Improve your chops.

And don't fall into the "we're one large, huggy family" seduction that companies often spin. Despite what department and division heads might say, they're not looking out for your interests. Companies are focused on the bottom line. They are Fox or Warner Bros. or Disney or Viacom, not the Red Cross.

In the end, it's business, and always will be. Companies decide what they need to do, and then do it.

Heath Ledger delivers brilliantly as the Joker

The buzz over Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker in "The Dark Knight" for the last several months was justified. With his final full film role, Ledger delivers what may be remembered as the finest performance of his career.

A press screening of the "Batman Begins" sequel Thursday night had the audience cackling along with Ledger's Joker, a depraved creature utterly without conscience whom the late actor played with gleeful anarchy.

At times sounding like a cross between tough guy James Cagney in a gangster flick and Philip Seymour Hoffman's fastidious Truman Capote, Ledger elevates Batman's No. 1 nemesis to a place even Jack Nicholson did not take him in 1989's "Batman."

Nicholson's Joker was campy and clever. Ledger's Joker is an all-out terror, definitely funny but with a lunatic moral mission to drag all of Gotham, the city Batman thanklessly protects, down to his own dim assessment of humanity.

Spewing alternate personal histories for how he got the horrible scars on his face, the Joker hides behind distorted clown makeup that looks like a chalk drawing left out in the rain.

The Joker masterminds a series of escalating abductions, assassination attempts, murders and bombings, all aimed at calling out Batman (Christian Bale) and proving to the tormented vigilante hero that they are two sides of the same coin.

"You complete me," the Joker tells Batman, dementedly borrowing Tom Cruise's sappy romantic line from "Jerry Maguire."

Long before Ledger's death in January from an accidental prescription drug overdose, his collaborators on "The Dark Knight" had been describing his performance as a new high in the art of villainy for a comic-book adaptation.

Director Christopher Nolan, reuniting with "Batman Begins" star Bale, told The Associated Press earlier this year that Ledger came through with precisely what he had envisioned for this take on the Joker, "a young, anarchic presence, somebody who is genuinely threatening to the establishment."

"It was though they'd taken the Joker and all the colors, everything of it, and just kind of put him through a Turkish prison for a decade or so," Bale told the AP. "It's like he's gone through that personal hell to come out being this, if you can even call him mad, at the end here."

A best-actor Academy Award nominee for "Brokeback Mountain," Ledger has earned fresh Oscar buzz for "The Dark Knight," which could land him in the supporting-actor race.

Running just over two and a half hours, "The Dark Knight" is a true crime epic. Throughout, the Joker's bag of tricks is bottomless, twisted to the point of horror-flick sick.

"Some men aren't looking for anything logical," Michael Caine's butler Alfred tells Bruce, who's trying to decipher the Joker's motives. "Some men just want to watch the world burn."

Come July 18, when "The Dark Knight" lands in theaters, the world will be watching Ledger burn up the screen.

Next Man: Chris Yost on Writing the Animated Avengers

The X-Force and Emperor Vulcan writer dishes the dirt on Next Avengers

Next Avengers assemble!

This summer, the fate of the world lies in the hands of children. Thankfully, though, these kids happen to have some very powerful hands.

Set decades in the future, "Next Avengers," Marvel's next animated feature, focuses on the children of Earth's Mightiest Heroes as they learn to follow in their parents footsteps when Ultron returns to menace their world. This time around, not even Tony Stark—the man formerly known as Iron Man—can protect them...but can they band together in time to save the day?

For the kids, living up to their parents' legends hasn't crossed their minds much. "The kids know the story of the Avengers, but they know it as just that...a story," writer Chris Yost explains. "They know the tales of their parents' heroics, they know the names and the adventures, but for reasons you'll see in the movie, they aren't really thinking about the Avengers as something they'll have to live up to."

The son of Storm and the Black Panther lets loose

However, he adds, "That changes pretty quick."

And while the movie focuses on the next generation of heroes, will we see the classic Avengers in action at all? "It's definitely the kids' movie," Yost teases. "That being said...mmmaybe."

Yost's versatility as a writer, evidenced by both his work in animation ("Fantastic Four") and comics (X-FORCE), shines through in his first full-length screenplay. The writer says he tried to blend the more dramatic, adult aspects of his writing with the lighter elements.

"This is a fun adventure film, starring a really young cast of kids," Yost says. "But at the same time, the stakes are incredibly high, literally the survival of humanity. The situation is grim. And while all that seems like it could be a big bummer, we keep the kids so busy running for their lives that they don't have a lot of time to think about it."

Verily, Thor's daughter isn't one to be trifled with

Making the film accessible while still giving longtime Avengers fans enough to chew on might have caused others to stumble, but not Yost. "It's tricky, but I think we've done a good job. If you don't know anything about the Avengers, this movie still works, and works well. It's a fun, fast, action-packed adventure in the vein of 'Goonies' that introduces a new generation of viewers to a new generation of heroes.

"But!" he continues, "If you do know the classic characters, and do know the history, then there is a TON of stuff packed into the movie. Nothing distracting, nothing that will take people out of the moment, but there's going to be plenty of goodness for hardcore Avengers fans."

With all this to look forward to, the wait until "Next Avengers" hits shelves seems unfathomable…so to whet your appetite, check out the film's all-new preview below and stay glued to for the latest news and features throughout the coming months!

S4 Studios Shows Flash With Fraidy Cat Original Animated Cartoon

S4 Studios, the Hollywood-based design, branding and animation studio, has completed its first independent short animated film.

The Adobe Flash animation FRAIDY CAT, written by Larry Le Francis and directed by Geoffrey Kater, is planned as the first in a series of horror-genre shorts to be produced and marketed by the studio, which last year created the entire branding campaign for NBC Universal's "Chiller" Channel. FRAIDY CAT also celebrates the re-launch of the S4 Studios website, and is part of the "Theatre S4" area that showcases the studio's original work.

FRAIDY CAT takes place in a shabby, rundown urban tenement apartment where Claire, a poor but seemingly serene elderly woman, is opening a can of cat food. She is set upon by her bullying landlord, who loudly and violently bangs on her door, demanding rent money. Claire tries to ignore the badgering, but quietly begins to get more and more angry. She then begins to go through some major changes, and her landlord is in for a big, horrific and well-deserved surprise. And was that cat food really for the cat?

S4 Studios embarked on the project encouraged by the huge viral success the studio enjoyed with the series of graphic horror Flash webisodes they created and animated for Sony Playstation's TWISTED METAL: BLACK game. Though now six years old, the webisodes continue to be long-running net favorites, and that convinced S4 partners Le Francis and Kater of the genre's viability.

"We knew the fan interest was out there, and we were looking to become a bit of a cartoon studio again," said Le Francis, who produced the original SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS and CATDOG pilots for Nickelodeon.

Writer Le Francis drew his key inspiration from the brilliant Richard Matheson's work on THE TWILIGHT ZONE in the early 1960's, along with a disturbing hint of Stephen King crossed with vintage DC Comics and EC TALES FROM THE CRYPT horror comics of the 1950s.

"The idea of a seemingly normal situation that isn't really normal at all is what appealed to me. This landlord just messed with the wrong sweet old lady," Le Francis said. That sense of outward normalcy masking something horrible also motivated Kater and his animation team, which included storyboard artist Dell Barras.

"We gave a lot of care to the mood," said Kater. "That included the seedy ambiance of Claire's apartment, the muted, monochromatic colors, the secondary shadows, and the lighting. All were designed to keep the viewer from suspecting what was about to happen."

Kater was an early convert to Flash as a full-on animation medium. "Originally, Flash was intended solely as a quick vector-frame medium for the web because of its very small file size, but as we discovered for ourselves with the TM:B stuff, Flash lends itself very nicely to traditional-looking animation. It gives someone who is primarily a designer the opportunity to animate and fully realize his or her designs. With the way Adobe has been integrating all its graphics and animation tools, primarily After Effects, Photoshop, and Premiere, Flash has emerged as a primary cross-platform animation tool. It's great because of the way you can tweak individual frames. At one point, we needed to add a can of cat food to a scene, so I just drew it and dropped it into the shot. You're using your training and experience as an animator, but you don't have to reboard and reshoot entire scenes."

For Le Francis, the story of FRAIDY CAT could serve as a metaphor for America's vanishing middle class. "A lot of elderly live like Claire; that's a sad fact. I see them on the streets of Hollywood every day. They're not necessarily living on cans of cat food, and they don't all get the same opportunity for retribution that Claire gets," he said. "Her retribution is very feline in nature; she doesn't go out and attack the landlord, but simply lashes out when she's had enough. She has a very sweet nature, but it's her inner animal that responds. She gives a whole new meaning to the term 'cat lady!'"

Sound was by David Baron of Lightpost in Los Angeles, Micha Lieberman composed the score, and Keith Ferguson was the voice talent.

New trailer for The Tale of Despereaux
Yahoo! Movies exclusively debuted the trailer for the December 19th animated feature film The Tale of Despereaux, Directed by Sam Fell (Flushed Away) and featuring the voices of Matthew Broderick, Robbie Coltrane, Frances Conroy, Tony Hale, Ciaran Hinds, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Kline, Frank Langella, Christopher Lloyd, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci, Tracey Ullman, Emma Watson and Sigourney Weaver. It is based on the book written by Kate Dicamillo and illustrated by Timothy B. Ering. A brave and virtuous mouse, Despereaux is simply too big for his small world. Though tiny, wheezy and saddled with comically oversized ears, Despereaux refuses to live a life of weakness and fear…believing he was destined to be celebrated in the tales of chivalry he so adores.

The Making of WALL•E

UpcomingPixar shares a SlashFilm link featuring the Making of Pixar’s WALL•E. The site has made available two clips featuring concept art, design and voice acting that went into the making of the film.

aniBoom network secures $10M in additional funding

aniBoom, the premier independent animation network, has just closed a $10 million Series B round of funding led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson and DFJ Tamir Fishman Ventures and existing investor Evergreen Venture Partners, the company announced Friday.

The company, which is based in Israel with its United States headquarters in San Francisco, will leverage the new financing to expand operations, fund short-form premium content for Web and mobile platforms, and develop original animation series for television.

"The new media content space, and specifically animation, is growing at an explosive rate. aniBoom created a disruptive model harnessing the power and reach of digital distribution to generate tremendous opportunities for animated content created by a massive network of independent professionals around the globe," said DFJ managing director Andreas Stavropoulos.

"In aniBoom, we recognized a solid business model and an exceptional creative team led by Uri Shinar," said Evergreen Venture Partners general partner Erez Shachar, who led the first round of financing in the company. "AniBoom's track record has been impressive since its launch, and we are positive that aniBoom will continue to succeed and to be a leader in its field."

aniBoom was founded in 2006 and is led by entertainment and new media veterans. The company's vision is to leverage the Web and mobile platforms to create a production pipeline and an audience base that can fundamentally change the economics of the animation business.

Today, aniBoom has a network of over 4,000 independent creators from over 70 countries around the world, and features thousands of movies on In addition, aniBoom reaches hundreds of millions of viewers with its animations across multiple platforms through its Web and mobile distribution partnerships.

Nearly 1,000 videos were created by the independent professional community for aniBoom's music video contest, now in progress, for songs from Radiohead's In Rainbows album.

"In teaming up with DFJ and DFJ Tamir Fishman Ventures, we are proud to partner with one of the top venture firms in the world," said aniBoom founder and president Uri Shinar. "aniBoom is the innovator of the now very hot virtual digital animation studios and animation incubation model, and to see the major media and entertainment powers following suit is a strong endorsement of our vision."

For more information about the company, visit

Event News

Anime Festival Orlando 9 has added Reuben Langdon, Devil May Cry's Dante, as well as a stunt actor with credits on "Power Rangers", "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" and James Cameron's current project: "Avatar," to their list of guests.

Langdon will be participating in a number of panels during AFO where he will discuss his work on various projects, explain the process of motion capture for video games and demonstrate how stunts are choreographed.

Already confirmed guests for AFO9 are Aaron Dismuke (Alphonse Elric, "Fullmetal Alchemist"), Travis Willingham (Roy Mustang, "Fullmetal Alchemist, " Ginko, "Mushishi") Christopher Patton (Sousuke Sagara, "Full Metal Panic"), Doug Smith (Kintaro, "GoldenBoy", Graphic Artist), Colleen Clinkenbeard (Riza Hawkeye in "Fullmetal Alchemist," Éclair in "Kiddy Grade"), Monica Rial (Sakura, "Tsubasa Chronicle," Lumiere in "Kiddy Grade"), Jason David Frank (Tommy Oliver the "Green Ranger," "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers") and Stephanie Yanez (Pop Singer).

AFO is held at the Wyndham Orlando Resort August 15, 16 and 17, 2008.

Memphis, TN will be getting its own anime convention with Anime Addicts Convention. The event is scheduled to take place January 9-11, 2009. Announced guests include Kyle Hebert, Chuck Huber and Maria Vu.

ADR director and voice actor Tom Wayland has been added to the Providence Anime Conference guest list. Additional panels have also been announced.

The New York Anime Festival (NYAF) announced Yoshitaka Amano (Final Fantasy, Vampire Hunter D, Gatchaman) appear as a Guest of Honor. The event takes place September 26th through the 28th at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.

Yoshitaka Amano joins fellow Vampire Hunter D talents Hideyuki Kikuchi (the author behind the Vampire Hunter D novel series) and Kevin Leahy (the translator of the Vampire Hunter D novel series) at NYAF. All are Co-Sponsored by Dark Horse Comics.

Virginia's Anime USA will host Freezepop as its first musical guest of honor. During their stay, Freezepop will perform in concert, and will also be available throughout the weekend for autograph sessions, panels, and press interviews.

Baltimore's Otakon has added voice actor and localizer Peter Fernandez (Astro Boy and Gigantor, more recently Star Blazers’ "Mark Venture," Lupin III’s "Arsene Lupin"), Willow Johnson (Kasumi Tendo" in Ranma 1/2, "Kikyo" in Inuyasha) and Michael Sinterniklaas ("Dean Venture" in Venture Bros, "Leonardo" in the updated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, "Mikey" in Kappa Mikey, "Leo" in Fullmetal Alchemist, "Ataru" in Urutsei Yatsura, "Mackie Stingray" in Bubblegum Crisis)

Supercon Conventions will presents Super Anime Day and Super Comic Day.a<>

Anime News Network summarizes the anime/manga based films at Montreal's Fantasia Fest

Anime producer and distributor Right Stuf, Inc. and Nozomi Entertainment unveiled their events schedule for Anime Expo 2008, which takes place July 3-6, at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California.

Right Stuf & Nozomi Entertainment at Anime Expo 2008:
Right Stuf & Nozomi Entertainment Industry Panel
Day 2: Friday, July 4 at 3 p.m. PDT / Location: LP2 (LACC Rm. 502)
Join Right Stuf President and C.E.O. Shawne Kleckner for the inside scoop on Nozomi Entertainment’s DVD releases of Emma: A Victorian Romance, Maria Watches Over Us (Maria-sama ga Miteru) and Aria, plus the latest news about upcoming projects.

Right Stuf’s Nozomi Entertainment Premieres:
Day 3: Saturday, July 5 at 4:30 p.m. PDT / Location: LP2 (LACC Rm. 502)
Maria Watches Over Us (Maria-sama ga Miteru) at its first official convention screening, and check out Nozomi’s recent release Emma: A Victorian Romance

Production I.G will be hosting a panel, which will show previews of The Sky Crawlers, Library War, Real Drive, and Phone Braver 7

Event: Anime Expo 2008
Panel: Production I.G Panel
Panelist: Maki Terashima-Furuta
Place: Los Angeles Convention Center, Live Programming 1 (West Hall B)
Date: July 5, 2007 (Sat)
Time: 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Patrick Macias details MARUIONE.JP and KERA's Anime Expo presence.

Upcoming in Japan

A new two episode Gunslinger Girl - Il Teatrino- , subtitled "Vanessa no Hikari, Kokoro no Yam" OVA has been announced

A preview for the new Bird the Mighty action sci-fi

From AnimeNation
The site for space opera Titania, based on the work by Legend of the Galactic Heroes creator Yoshiki Tanaka has gone online

Character designs for the anime incarnation of Yozakura Quartet are online

From Anime News Network

Doraemon's Fujiko Fujio A posted an original one-shot manga called Mumako: Kokoro no Yume, Kanaemasu on Sony's Japanese mobile comic site Manchu.

The digital distribution company Suncorp will launch a Leiji Matsumoto (Space Battleship Yamato, Galaxy Express 999, Space Pirate Captain Harlock) project on Nintendo Wii's WiiWare platform.

Suzue Miuchi's classic theatre shoujo manga Glass no Kamen (The Glass Mask) will return to Hakusensha's Bessatsu Hana to Yume magazine in its September issue (on sale on July 26). The manga had previously run in the main Hana to Yume magazine, but the 42nd and last compiled volume of the manga was published back in 2004.

Gegege no Kitaro creator Shigeru Mizuki will return to manga and folklore with an adapation of Kunio Yanagita's Tono Monogatari (Tales of Tono) in Shogakukan's Big Comic magazine. Big Comic says that it is unprecedented for an author of Mizuki's age (86 years old) to start a new manga.

Takara Tomy's Tokyo Toy Show exhibit indicated that the new incarnation of sci-fi action Casshan will tentatively be titled Shinzo Ningen Casshan anime. Creative staff features director Shigeyasu Yamauchi (Saint Seiya, Boys Over Flowers, Dragon Ball Z movies), character designer Yoshihiko Umakoshi (Berserk, Mushi-Shi, Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor), and series script supervisor Yasuko Kobayashi (Claymore, Witchblade, Shakugan no Shana).

On the non anime/manga front, software maker Internet announced that it will be releasing Gackpoid vocal music synthesizer (a follow-up to the blue-haired Miku Hatsune), featuring the voice of voice of musician and occasional anime voice actor Gackt, with packaging design by
manga creator Kentarou Miura.

Worth Checking Out...

Batman Gotham Knight preview and another

PW has spoken to ADV about their manga line and Queenie Chan about In Odd We Trust.

The site also speaks to Viz's new operating model

Newsarama has a lengthy investigation of the TOKYOPOP situation and history one two three

Johanna Draper Carlson considers the legacy of OEL manga or lack thereof

Live action Dragon Ball movie poster

AniPages Daily continues their look at Kaiba

Various interesting people talk to the NY Times about Maid Cafes

New York-Tokyo on the Kojima/Metal Gear Solid 4 UNIGLO event here

Music Japan+ Magazine interviewed Amuro Ray voice action Tohru Furuya

Mecha Mecha Media talks "the final frontier of Japanese Media" - here

Media Blasters' John Sirabella talks adult anime on Anime on DVD's forum

MangaCast with Morning 2's Eijiro Shimada concerning their international winners

Jason Thompson spoke to Morning 2 feature artist Felipe Smith (MBQ)

ComiPress presents Readership Data Analysis of Ichijinsha Publications

A trailer for animated action figures in Akiba-chan

Comics Reporter lists 12 Overlooked Comics of the Last 12 Years, including anthropomorphized animal didactic manga Apocalypse Meow (originally "Cat S#!t One")

David Welsh on Kazuo Umezu

Kaiju Big Battle on IGN

Same Hat! Same Hat! has manga history

Dark Horse's Gantz preview here and here

1Up reviews Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress

Yomiuri Shimbun's Makoto Fukuda covers Through Otaku Eyes / Lawsuit exposes mangaka-editor relations

Production I.G's The Making of Asience 5 part I: Kazuto Nakazawa

Iwa ni Hana on More Shinkai-ish animation shorts from Chinese animators

A look at the live action adaptation of Grave of the Fireflies

Cloverfield Sequel On Hold

Matt Reeves, who directed the monster thriller Cloverfield, told SCI FI Wire that plans for a sequel film have been put on hold until the filmmakers can come up with an idea as interesting as the original.

"The thing that we sort of promised ourselves is we only wanted to do another one if we could come up with something that felt as fresh to us to make as that one did," Reeves said in an interview at the Saturn Awards in Universal City, Calif., on June 24, where he received the Filmmaker's Showcase Award.

Reeves added: "We're still kind of toying with what it's going to be and whether or not we're going to find something that will be as exciting for us to make and, hopefully, for an audience to watch. So we'll see. It's really in the baby, baby stages. And right now it's definitely on hold until we come up with what that would be."

Press reports have suggested that some of the ideas for the next film include a prequel that would go into the backstory of the creature that attacks New York in the original or a parallel story set on the same night with different characters. Reeves said that both of those ideas have been under discussion.

"We did talk about that, and I think that we would find some way, if we did it," he said. "Some of the ideas we've come up with reference this idea and reference the film, so that there is a sense that it's related to this film. But it would be different. I would need [it] to be really different."

Meanwhile, Reeves has been talking about other potential ideas with producer J.J. Abrams and writer Drew Goddard that aren't necessarily related to Cloverfield.

"We have a couple ideas," Reeves said. "We have a couple pretty exciting ideas, but it's in the very, very early stages of that. And whether or not that will develop into something that we want to do is really unclear at this point. But as long as J.J. and Drew and I come up with something that seems worth doing, then I think we'll do it."

Boston Herald Talks with Brendan Small on Metalocalypse's Dethklok Tour

The Boston Herald has spoken with Brendon Small about the tour for Dethklok, the heavy metal band that is the star of Adult Swim's Metalocalypse. Small, who plays guitar and bass and provides vocals, states that, "My whole goal was ‘How can I make this live outside of the TV show?,’” adding that he didn't want to embarrass the audience by dressing up like the animated characters.

South Park’s “Major Boobage” Explored

The makers of Comedy Central’s South Park are giving fans an inside look at the making of “Major Boobage,” a recently aired episode inspired by the 1981 cult-favorite animated feature Heavy Metal. Visitors to will be treated to a behind-the scenes tour of the installment with commentary by series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and other South Park artists, as well as the first glimpse at raw footage, storyboards and production art.

Through Wednesday, July 2, is breaking down four special animation segments known as the “Cheesing” sequences. The first scene, “Kenny's Trip” has commentary provided by animation director and producer Eric Stough, who also remarks on today’s new sequence, “Gerald's Flight.” Monday will offer “Kenny's Rescue” with commentary by art director/producer Adrien Beard, followed by “Kenny's Hot Chick” with thoughts from Parker and Stone on Wednesday. Each sequence is to be presented with and without commentary, giving fans the options of enjoying the animation with the original soundtrack featuring music from Heavy Metal. is also launching a new Kenny game titled Major Boobage K-Type. The 1980s-style side-scrolling space shooter has users jump into Kenny's sweet ride from the episode to help him rescue the Hot Chick from hoards of Boob Monsters. In addition, fans can download mobile ringtones and exclusive desktop wallpaper created by South Park technical director Jeff Delgado., designed by a creative team from South Park in conjunction with Schematic, a WWP Digital company, features full episodes and clips of every South Park episode. The site also offers behind-the-scenes information from all 12 seasons of the series, allowing users to see all their favorite moments and comment on them. Re-launches with Comedy Central

Viacom's MTVN Entertainment Group has re-launched popular online video site AtomFilms as The digital comedy network is dedicated to distributing original animated and live-action programming across the Internet, handheld devices, gaming platforms, mobile phones, television and other platforms. Among new properties joining the site are series from Adult Swim stars Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Tom Goes to the Mayor), and Scrubs scribe Ryan Levin and award-winning animator Nye Warburton.

Heidecker and Wareheim have created Steven & Stephen, a short-form series about two groin-conjoined, Internet-obsessed twins, while Levin and Warburton teamed to create Benny, Escaped Convict, which chronicles the exploits of a foul-mouthed rodent on the lam. In addition, Stickman Exodus from Waverly Films finds stick figures doodled by a bored high-school student in search of the "promised page" in the kid's notebook, and Border Patrol from Josh Greenbaum, Ben McMillan and Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) centers on three slacker friends who spend their weekends in lawn chairs at the Mexican border determined to stop illegal immigration. Border Patrol is the first Atom original to also get an on-air development deal with Comedy Central.

Other properties in development include My Best Friend Is My Penis, starring Jon Togo (CSI Miami), topical pop culture videos from a stable of creators including Blame Society Prods. (Chad Vader), a gaming parody titled Legend of Neil and an urban legend comedy series dubbed Never Do This.

“We want to provoke, break rules and uncover talent much as COMEDY CENTRAL did at its inception on cable," says Erik Flannigan, exec VP of digital media for MTVN Entertainment Group. "If we get this right, will be our punk-rock label and help to bring fresh, provocative comedy to every screen our audience is watching.”

In addition to serving as Comedy Central’s exclusive digital comedy content partner and developing properties for television, will provide creators of user-generated content an opportunity to get exposure, earn money and land development deals for the web and television. The revamped site features a streamlined upload system, social networking and content-sharing capabilities powered by MTVN's Flux network, higher-quality video streaming and a Creator's Kit offering dozens of royalty-free music beds, including contributions from Juno composer Matt Messina.

Comedy Central this week debuted a half-hour TV series titled Atom TV. The late-night program brings the best shorts and webisodes from to the tube.

Family Guy Among Emmy Contenders

FOX’s Family Guy may be the first animated series to be nominated for a primetime Emmy Award in the Comedy category. For the first time ever, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has released a list of the top ten comedy and drama shows favored to get Emmy nominations. Based on voting by Academy members thus far, the announcement of finalists is intended to prevent leaks that have hit the web in previous years.

Family Guy and fellow primetime comedies Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO), Entourage (HBO), Flight of the Concords (HBO), The Office (NBC), Pushing Daisies (ABC), 30 Rock (NBC), Two and a Half Men (CBS), Ugly Betty (ABC) and Weeds (Showtime) will now move on to two Blue Ribbon Panel screenings were to be conducted throughout this past weekend (June 28-29). The results of each panel will represent 50% percent of the vote and will be averaged together to determine the five nominees in each category.

Nominations for the 60th Annual Emmy Awards will be announced by the Television Academy at 5:40 a.m. on Thursday, July 17. Top contenders in the Drama category are Boston Legal (ABC), Damages (FX), Dexter (Showtime), Friday Night Lights (NBC), Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), House (FOX), Lost (ABC), Mad Men (AMC), The Tudors (Showtime) and The Wire (HBO).

The producers of Family Guy have hedged their bets by also entering the hour-long Star Wars spoof Family Guy: Blue Harvest as an animated special. While that production vies for a spot in the separate Creative Arts competition, the half-hour series has a shot at competing with the top live-action shows.

Toon Zone Interviews Larry Schwarz on "Three Delivery"

Over the span of his career, Larry Schwarz has worn many hats. He began his career in show business as a child actor and stand-up comic. Later, he moved on to publishing with the seasonal H Magazine aimed at the Hamptons and as the CEO of VIAM Communications, which published the Vietnam Business Journal and Vietnam's first countrywide Yellow Pages. Never one to stay still, Schwarz then moved on to found Rumpus, a multimedia children's entertainment company that began with a toy line and expanded to on-line animation.

Currently, Schwarz is the founder and CEO of Animation Collective in New York City. He serves as the creator and executive producer of all of the studio's successful television shows, including Ellen's Acres for Cartoon Network and, Kappa Mikey and Speed Racer: The Next Generation for Nickelodeon. Now, he can add another show to his impressively long list of creations, with the pending debut of Three Delivery. Set in an unnamed North American Chinatown, Three Delivery follows three kids who battle an evil sorceror for magic cookbook pages between delivering take out. Schwarz was able to take some time out of his schedule to talk with Toon Zone News over the phone about Three Delivery and what it takes to run your own animation studio.

TOON ZONE NEWS: How long ago did you come up with the idea for Three Delivery?

I don't know, a few years ago? It was kind of right when we started the company. We put out a bunch of different trailers and everything, and the actual style of it looked a lot different when we first did it. There was always interest in it, but we kind of got more interest in other things. Kappa Mikey took off right away, and we did a lot of work for AOL, so those kind of got pushed to the front. But it was always a show that I really wanted to make, so we kept on going with it. We got a bunch of really great broadcasters all around the world really interested in it, so we got a pre-buy, put together the financing, and did it.

TZN: Can you explain what it means that the show was "pre-bought?"

Sure. This is also different than some of the other shows we did, just in terms of how the actual deal was done. Normally, we own our own shows and we control the rights, so in order to do that, we have to put together the financing for it, so an individual broadcaster doesn't have to pay for the whole show to be made. What we do is we sell it to as many broadcasters as we can, pre-sell it all over the world and try to put together the financing for it, and then we go into production. The different channels pay a license fee and are able to run the series for a certain amount of time, but we control the rights. The way this was different from other shows it's also our first Canadian co-venture. We did it with Fat Kat Animation Studios in Miramichi City, and we did a sale to YTV in Canada, so they were one of our key broadcasters, as was Nicktoons in the US. We also sold it to the BBC and to Canal Plus in France.

TZN: When you pre-sell a show, does that change the way you approach it creatively, as opposed to a regular TV pitch?

Well, all our shows are really sold as pre-sells, and they're not sold in development deals. Something I think that we're good at and that I'm proud of is that we're really able to do a lot of the development work ahead of time that the broadcasters would spend time doing. When we go in and pitch it, we hope we've thought of a lot of the things that would be then raised during the development phase. But we still do a development phase with the broadcasters anyway once they buy it as a pre-sale, because we want to be able to work with their viewers, and we also want to be able to take advantage of a positive way, not take advantage of negatively...but take advantage of their development people. We really think they're great and we respect them, and also want to get their opinions on the thing and have another set of hands working on it and editing it. We do that all along throughout the whole process, not just in the development phase, but for every script as well. Some people don't have positive experiences with this. We're really fortunate because the broadcasters that we work with really respect us creatively and connect with us and really understand what we're trying to do, and that's why they bought the show in the beginning.

TZN: Can you elaborate on any of the changes they asked you to make after you pre-sold the show?

It's not really like drastic changes, where they'll say, "add a girl character" or something like that. The kind of main elements of the show are really there. We did some tweaks in terms of the artwork and design and things like that. They give notes on script and stories and structure and things like that sometimes, and we get the same kind of notes that we'll give in the writer's room. Things like "I think this character would do THIS, or I don't think that would happen," or whatever. It's more of those kind of notes. The title of the show went through a bunch of different changes also, like Wu's Guardians and things like that. We even experimented with some Chinese names for it until we settled on Three Delivery.

TZN: I remember you saying at the panel at New York Comic Con that this is sort of your love letter to Chinatowns and those old chop socky kung fu movies they used to show on the old affiliate networks.

Yeah, and it's actually really cool because we did a screening of it this weekend in the library in Chinatown on East Broadway. This was actually down the block from the street that we always used to go and play on when I was a kid, and so it was kind of cool. It was the first time we really had kids see it. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, but we had a terrific turnout. It was amazing to see it with a group of kids because they loved it. What's great is that they're watching and you watch them and they laugh and think it's really cool. I think Tobey was definitely the most popular characer in terms of what the kids liked. But then they asked a ton of questions afterwards, which I always think is a great sign. My favorite question...most of the questions were about how we make it, and they also wanted to know more about the characters adn what happens next, but one of the kids asked "When is it going to be on YouTube?" (laughs), which is really funny. But a lot of the questions were about animation, so we're going to go back and bring a bunch of animators. We spoke to the librarian who helped organize the screening and we're going to do an animation workshop with them one Saturday, because they really kind of connected with the show. So we're excited about that.

TZN: Three Delivery looks and feels pretty radically different from shows like Kappa Mikey or Speed Racer. What new skills or techniques or challenges did Three Delivery present as an animated show?

What we're proud of, really, is that we don't really have a set studio style. What's exciting for us is that we can do things both creatively differently in terms of storytelling and characters and things like that, but also visually different. The first thing that's really cool about this is that it's presented in 16x9 and that's also our nod to the kind of films that we liked and reference a little bit. The fact that we can present it in that cinematic kind of aspect ratio was really interesting to us. We also really wanted it to have a real "drawn" look, and so that was more work for us, in terms of doing it in Flash and getting that line quality. Internally, there was kind of real pushback to using that really rough line at first, but it was something that we really wanted to do and we really wanted to go for that, and so we did. We also wanted the pacing to really be different than shows like Kappa or Speed.

TZN: The rough line really brings out a graphic novel quality to the artwork, which I remember you saying was very important to you as well at New York Comic Con.

We really wanted to do that. Even in the transitional elements, we kind of reference when the printer for comic books or graphic novels...I don't even know what the term is, but when it's kind of like not aligned right when you're printing it, and you get that double image. That was really kind of stylistically what we went for with the transitional elements. I also bought a bunch of Chinese posters and stuff from China, and we kind of reference that a little bit in terms printing style also.

TZN: What would you say was the most valuable thing that you brought over from Kappa Mikey or Speed Racer in making Three Delivery?

I think that in everything that we do, we have a real focus on characters and stories, and who these characters are and making sure that we really develop them as real characters. Also that they relate to each other as real characters, and then we put them in stories hopefully that kids will find interesting. I'm really proud in Kappa, I think that over those 52 episodes, you really know those characters and you really believe in their relationship with each other. Not to be arrogant, but I see them kind of like the Seinfeld cast. You really know them, and you really know that they're friends and everything. With Speed, I'm really proud that in the first episode, you're really rooting for Speed Racer in that first race scene. And I think that that means right away that you connected and identified with that character.

With Sue, Sid, and Tobey, we wanted kids to care about them, to want to hang out with them, to believe their relationship with each other: brother and sister and a really close friend. And, you know, we wanted the comedy to be not as much like Kappa Mikey cutaways and things like that, but to really come from the way kids talk to each other and joke around with each other. Obviously, a lot of it comes from Tobey being a total cut-up, but we wanted to make it like those characters are real and that's how kids really talk to each other. It is an action cartoon fantasy, but we really did want it to have that real element. There's one scene in an episode later on about how kids talk to each other now, or don't talk to each other now. They're all sitting around a table in Wu's Garden, and no one's talking. Even though they're all sitting in front of each other, they're all just texting each other. I think that's going to be one of the first of that kind of silent dialog scenes in a cartoon. I don't know, I'm excited about that one.

TZN: Did you guys do very much kid reference to get the language and the style and the patterns of speech for the kids right?

I think so. I think old people (laugh), we always try to stay as current as we can. We also look at some of our interns and things, and they look at the scripts and things that are more connected to their lifestyles. In terms of the clothing and everything in this, we looked at fashion forecasts and things like that for teens to try and predict that, "This is what kids are going to be wearing." Knowing how long it takes for the show to come out, we try to make it current, but not make it so outlandish that it won't be relevant a year later, since fashions and tastes change and things like that.

TZN: What was the working relationship like between you and Fat Kat? How did you divide labor between you two?

The exact split is a ratio set by the Canadian government, and I don't handle that. Our business side and production side kind of handles it so I might get it wrong. But there's two kinds of things: there's a co-production and a co-venture. A co-production is where it's the Canadian company that develops the intellectual property themselves. This isn't that. This is a co-venture, and there's a work split formula set up by the Canadian government. It goes on a point system, and each production entity in the co-venture are allowed a certian amount of points. For us, it was really important that we didn't want to give up creative control of it at all, and I think it was important for our other broadcasters. So we looked for a co-venture partner that kind of really believed in our creative vision for the show also, and was on board with it from the very beginning, as the broadcaster was.

YTV was terrific and really, really supportive of it and a real champion of the show, and was a real ally in helping us find a studio that really did share our creative vision for it. It was important to us that we did all the scripting, the initial character design and background and setting up the world and all the scripts. It was also important to us to do the recording here because, as I said before, the relationship between the characters and having them be real was really important. So, though we cast it and recorded here, by law one of the lead voice actors had to be a Canadian citizen. I think we might have split eventually animatics half-and-half, but I don't remember. We did music and everything here, too. I think the first quarter or first half, we did to make sure that we kind of like got the timing and everything down, and then the animation was then done up at Fat Kat. We did post there also, but the whole process really is a partnership, so we're really involved in everything.

We're spread out here in New York over three offices just because of the way we've grown. I have to go from office to office, but if I'm supposed to look at something at the 51st Street office and I have to be at 37th Street, they'll come to me and we'll watch it so I can give notes and they'll do it. So it really wasn't that difficult for us to see eye to eye because we've done it more locally, and Fat Kat was really receptive to our input. I think we organize our production line differently than other studios, and it was important for us to kind of have both production lines in sync. They were really cooperative with that. Amy Feldman, who's our producer for this show, and Alan Foreman, who's the art director, were both really very involved going back and forth to Canada a lot so we could all work together on it. And it's been good. I'm a control freak and I was definitely nervous about it, but we're really very lucky to have found such a good partner with it.

TZN: Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently in working with that co-venture?

You know, I think that we've had a positive experience. I think that you learn different things along the way, kind of specific things about how to organize things a little bit. Not that either of us is disorganized, but just to be aware that everyone animates things differently and has different production pipelines and stuff like that, so maybe a little bit more coordination on that in the very beginning, kind of a dry run. But, knock on wood unless something terrible happens (laughs), we have not had any really major issues with them at all. So far it's a process that actually has worked really well for us and it's a process that we're hopefully going to do with our future shows. It's something that I was nervous about, but we were lucky to find good partners. I think that the thing to look out for, and the thing that we did look out for, is that you've got to find someone just in the same way when people look for us to partner with us for a work for hire. Even though this isn't work for hire, they're really kind of our partners in it, It's, "Are they doing it because they want to do it just because they want to do it to get the production in?", or "Are they doing it because they really feel passionate about the project and can really contribute to it creatively and really want to do it?" That's what we do for our own stuff. We're fortunate that the broadcasters want to buy stuff from us. People are always like, "What's your favorite show?" and I don't have a favorite show. They're like kids, kind of. I love them all. They all drive me nuts at certain points, but I'm really proud of all of them and you really want to find someone to partner with who really feels the same way about it.

TZN: Kung fu seems to be the new black in TV and movies. I did a quick count and, including Three Delivery, came up with something like 7 or 8 shows or movies that center around kung fu. Are you concerned about a kung fu overload in TV in kids cartoons these days?

For us, even though the kung fu is an important part, it goes back to characters and stories. That's what we really wanted to do. When a particular style of animation is so popular and everyone is trying to those kinds of shows, or this kind of show, I think that what really separates them are whether you care about the charcters, and are the situations that they're in really interesting? In that case, you can have lots of kung fu shows, or lots of characters about undersea creatures, or anything like that. I think it goes, "Do you really care beyond the kung fu?"

TZN: Did the emphasis on action in the show ever get you in trouble with the broadcasters? Did they ever tell you, "You have to tone this down" or something like that?

I think that what they really look for in this was an action show. Certainly there are network standards and practices which we have become experts in. Sometimes, they're strange, like when kids can't ride elevators by themselves. That's one of the weirdest ones that I've found, but I think that you can't have the kind of action that you would have if this were a movie. You always have to be careful, you kind have to play around with the impacts stylistically. People can't get hit in the head or in the stomach or things like that. You have to be really careful with fire and everything. So there are definitely broadcast standards that are involved in it, but we kind of have experienced that before, and we said, "You know, we're going to do it stylistically to hopefully make it compelling, but but that would still pass standards and practices." You'll see other standards and practices issues in it also, of course, like whenever they ride a bike, they have to wear bike helmets and things like that.

TZN: Earlier in your career, I read that you used to be a stand-up comic. Would you say that you learned anything being a stand-up comic that you've applied to making shows or running your own animation studio?

Well, (laughs) I thought that being a stand-up comic was hard, but running your own animation studio can definitely be more tragic, I think, than that. But I think that definitely, we are very proud of our timing and really emphasize that, and I think that in terms of the joke telling and the other stuff that timing really helped me with that. The kind of stand-up I did, even though I did it while I was in high school, would definitely not pass standards and practices, so I guess beyond timing, I don't think too much of it applies.

TZN: You're currently working on the first season of Three Delivery...what's next for you guys?

Well, we're still working on Speed Racer. We have 26 half-hours of Three Delivery that we're working on. We just delivered a spinoff of Kappa Mikey to Nicktoons, called Dancing Sushi. If you see Kappa, we took the Dancing Sushi transitional elements because we had lots of fan mail about them and lots of fan postings that they wanted to see more, and we made a series of Dancing Sushi episodes. Those have all been delivered. We did, I think, 26 two- or three-minute episodes. And those have all been delivered. We are really fortunate to have two series now that we're working on that haven't been announced yet, but I don't know if I'm supposed talk about them yet because the broadcasters don't like it when I do, but we've already sold in two series. We are starting those actually now.

We have Thumb Wrestling Federation, our first live-action show, which has done incredibly well both in Canada on YTV and on the BBC in England. On the BBC, since its launch, it's consistently been rated in the top 10 kids shows in all of England, and a couple of weeks ago it was number 2, so we are working on a fourth season of that now. That actually starts scripting later this afternoon. I can't announce who, yet, but we're going to be announcing a new broadcast partner for it in the US, which we're very, very, very excited about. We have another live-action show ...full human live-action, not just thumbs...but a combination live-action/animation show called Black Dawn that we've got in development and we're trying to sell. That's actually for older kids, like 11 to 17 year olds, so that is kind of older for us.

We're also out there selling our other shows still internationally, like Three Delivery and Kappa and Ellen's Acres, which was our pre-school show that we had done for Cartoon Network in the US. We're kind of busy with that stuff. And also because of the success of Speed Racer, we have a bunch of work-for-hire projects now that people are talking to us about. We're negotiating on a couple of big ones now, and hopefully we'll get a chance to work on one of those. Those are great because it really gives us an opportunity to expand ourselves creatively beyond the kind of things that we would create and develop in-house and give us a chance to work on different kinds of shows. Things that normally we wouldn't have a chance to do in a visual storytelling. With work for hire, we're not always involved in the scripting, but when we are, it also lets us have the opportunity to do that. Especially when it's a classic character like Speed Racer, that you kind of grew up with, it's kind of like a dream to be able to work on that kind of thing, so hopefully we'll get more of that also going.

Toon Zone News would like to thank Larry Schwarz for taking the time to talk with us, and also Sarah Worden at Animation Collective and Maria Poulos at Nickelodeon for setting this up. Three Delivery debuted on Friday, June 27, 2008, at 7:30 PM (Eastern) on Nicktoons. Visit the Three Delivery website for more information.

Leonard Pennario played on "Sparky's Magic Piano"

Grammy-winning pianist Leonard Pennario, the soloist on the 1987 direct-to-video cartoon feature film Sparky's Magic Piano, died Friday at his home in La Jolla, California, near San Diego. He was 83.

Pennario, the winner of a 1962 Grammy Award in chamber music for his work with violinist Jascha Heifetz and cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, died of complications from Parkinson's disease, his biographer Mary Kunz Goldman said.

A remake of the 1960 Mel-O-Toon Sparky's Magic Echo, Sparky's Magic Piano also featured Lalo Schifrin conducting the Paris Philharmonic Orchestra. Such luminaries as Tony Curtis, Vincent Price and Cloris Leachman did the voices.

Once the best-selling concert pianist in the United States, Pennario had a career spanning 60 years.

Kunz Goldman remembered him as an enthusiastic performer. "'You have to play for the people; you have to play for an audience,'" she recalled him saying. "'You can't just go into the studio and make records, you know?'"

Born in Buffalo, New York on July 9, 1924, Pennario made over 40 recordings for the Capitol record label between 1950 and 1960 -- when he was the label's sole classical pianist. He later made over 20 more for other labels.

He was 10 when he and his family moved to Los Angeles. Two years later, he learned Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor in a week in order to perform it with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra from memory (he replaced an ailing soloist).

At 19, Pennario made his debut at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic, even though he never attended a music conservatory.

"He made it to the top of the classical music world without ever attending a big conservatory or winning a major competition,” said Kunz Goldman, the classical music critic of the Buffalo News, who is writing Pennario's biography. “He was such a good pianist."

He could be heard on piano in his composition "Midnight on the Cliffs," which was featured in the 1956 Doris Day film Julie.

According to Kunz Goldman, he was the first pianist after Rachmaninoff himself to record all four Rachmaninoff concertos and "Variations on a Theme of Paganini."

"He worked his way up," Kunz Goldman said. "He became a wealthy man because of his talent."

Pennario was an expert sight-reader who kept performing until the late 1990s. His last Los Angeles concert appearance was in 1992 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, performing with the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra led by Daniel Hege.

Although he moved to San Diego only three years ago, he had longtime ties to the area. For decades, he spent summers in La Jolla, where his family had a suite at La Valencia Hotel. He also had box seats at the Del Mar racetrack and attended Shakespeare productions at The Old Globe.

Pennario also became a life master in tournament bridge. He was listed in both the New Grove's Dictionary of Music and The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge.

He was once part of a celebrity foursome with Don Adams, the original star of the TV sitcom Get Smart; bandleader Les Brown; and Joan Benny, Jack Benny's daughter.

However, "I genuinely love music," the pianist once said. "When I play, I don't give the impression that it's a lot of hard work. I think the public senses that I'm enjoying it."

Leonard Pennario is survived by brother Dr. Joseph Pennario, a retired pediatrician of Del Mar, California.

Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at El Camino Mortuary-Sorrento Valley, 5600 Carroll Canyon Road, San Diego.

Third Hellboy II Trailer and Featurette!

Universal Pictures has released a third full trailer and a new featurette for writer/director Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy II: The Golden Army, opening in theaters on July 11. The anticipated action-thriller stars Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Luke Goss, Seth MacFarlane, Anna Walton, Brian Steele, Roy Dotrice and John Hurt.

Click here to watch the third trailer and featurette. You can also watch the first two trailers and an animated prologue.

NY Times on Lucas' Animated Return to "Star Wars: The Clone Wars"

The New York Times has taken a look at George Lucas' return to the Star Wars universe for Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the upcoming TV series which will debut in a limited theatrical release on August 15, 2008. The article notes that Lucas has yet to make good on his promise to start making smaller, more personal movies after finishing the second Star Wars trilogy, and how his success led to the unorthodox production of the new Clone Wars series. In addition to speaking with Lucas, the article also speaks with Dave Filoni, current director of The Clone Wars, and Genndy Tartakovsky, director of an earlier series of Clone Wars shorts that aired on Cartoon Network.

NY Times on Turning "Car Talk" into Prime-Time Cartoon

The New York Times has taken an advance look at Click & Clack's As the Wrench Turns, the upcoming prime-time animated series based on National Public Radio's Car Talk radio show. The article notes that this is the third try at television for Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the hosts of Car Talk, and chronicles the difficulty in getting the show into production since the idea was first floated in 2001. The show debuts on PBS on July 9, 2008.

Rogen and Goldberg on The Green Hornet

While no director has been announced, Sony's Columbia Pictures has already set a release date for The Green Hornet. Hype! talked to Pineapple Express co-writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg about penning the comic book adaptation.

CS/SHH!: Seth, I take it that there's no pot smoking in 'The Green Hornet' script?

[laughs] We put the green in "The Green Hornet." No. There isn't at all actually.

CS/SHH!: That's a very different kind of writing.

No. It's true.

CS/SHH!: What have you learned as a screenwriter tackling a project like that and what's the progress of that script currently?

We're done with the script. It looks like they're going to make it. We got a release date. June 25th, 2010. So mark your calendars if you're really busy. It was actually helpful having made this movie, writing another kind of action movie. We learned exactly how specific you can or can't be.

Goldberg: People have just been like, "Bullsh*t that Seth Rogen can do that" unless "Pineapple" comes out first.

Rogen: Yeah, exactly, and getting "The Green Hornet" writing job we showed them some scenes from "Pineapple" literally in the pitch for that. We were just like, "Look, we can write action scenes."

CS/SHH!: Do you have to be more disciplined as a writer, writing something like that as compared to this?

No, not necessarily. Luckily the MPAA decided that violence is fine. When you're doing an action movie you can really have as much violence as you want. In writing "The Green Hornet" we haven't hit many situations where were like, "You know what would make this scene better? If Kato said c**ksucker." That hasn't come up that many times. I mean, I'd say that action wise we've been able to do anything that we could've ever wanted.

CS/SHH!: Are you going to play the Green Hornet?

Yeah, I will. Don't say it like that. Soon we want to do a Green Hornet/Green Goblin crossover movie in 2012. "Green Squared," yeah. "Green to the 2."

CS/SHH!: What do you like about the Green Hornet character?

To us it was just kind of this funny notion that when you say "The Green Hornet" to people, the first thing anyone says is, "Hey, Bruce Lee played Kato in that show." We've always wanted to make this hero sidekick movie. That was always an unexplored area to us and for years we've actually been trying to write a movie that was about a hero and his sidekick and then when we heard that "The Green Hornet" movie was up for grabs we thought that could be the most perfect way to do this story because he is the only kind of hero who's sidekick is actually more known than he is. We kind of thought that it would be a good way to tell this relationship story and just do a big crazy action movie basically.