Monday, June 9, 2008

News - 06/09/08...

Kung Fu Panda kicks box office with $60M, #1 opening

Jack Black's Po the panda outgunned Adam Sandler's Zo the hairdresser. Black's cartoon comedy "Kung Fu Panda" pulled in $60 million in ticket sales to debut as the weekend's No. 1 movie, while Sandler's salon romp "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" opened in second place with $40 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The movies combined to carry Hollywood to a big weekend. The top 12 films took in $172.4 million, up 32 percent from the same weekend last year when "Ocean's Thirteen" led with a $36.1 million opening.

DreamWorks Animation's "Panda" and Sony's "Zohan" bumped off the previous weekend's leader, the Warner Bros. chick flick "Sex and the City," which slipped to fourth place with $21.3 million.

Paramount's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was No. 3 with $22.8 million, raising its three-week domestic total to $253 million, and Paramount's Iron Man edges closer to $300 million domestically with another $7.5 million of box office, bringing its total to $289 million, while Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian dropped to 7th place with $5.5 million and a disappointing four-week gross of $125 million.

Strong international debut for Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda not only topped the U.S. box office this weekend; it also had a strong start overseas with $20.7 million from only nine markets with each posting the top result for a DreamWorks animated film, according to Variety. “The booming Russian market led the way with $9.2 million, 158% better than Ratatouille, followed by $7.5 million in South Korea, more than triple Ratatouille. Panda also set records in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines for the best three-day animated launch ever, underlining the strong offshore appeal of CGI animated titles. Paramount is holding back the pic in Western Europe until July to take advantage of holidays and the start of vacations.” Variety also reports that Panda nabbed the best exit polls of any DreamWorks Animation film, besting those for Shrek 2, and received an A- CinemaScore.

New Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa trailer debuts

/Film posted the trailer for DreamWorks’ November sequel, which will be attached to copies of Kung Fu Panda this weekend.


More Incredible Hulk and Wanted TV Spots!

Universal Pictures is releasing the TV spots for The Incredible Hulk and Wanted fast and furious now.

For The Incredible Hulk, opening in theaters on Friday, a sixth TV spot (titled "Adventure") has been added to the "Videos" section on the official website. You will also find more TV spots here (hello Tony!!), here and here!

For Wanted, in theaters on June 27, you can watch a fourth TV spot here.

Casper the friendly ghost celebrates 60 years in 2009

AWN reminds us that 2009 marks the 60th anniversary of Casper and Classic Media, an Entertainment Rights group company, is gearing up for the big celebration with the launch of an expanded licensing program for The Official Ambassador of Halloween. Casper products across key categories, including apparel, DVDs, music, digital content, games and social expressions will begin to roll out to retail in time for Halloween. Classic Media and Genius Products will also be releasing this Halloween the first two volumes in an all-new Casper DVD collection; each themed DVD compilation will contain 12 classic Casper cartoons. Last but not least, a brand new Casper Scare School CG television series will hit the small screen next year; it has been sold to more than 60 territories worldwide already. Key broadcast partners include TF1 (France), Cartoon Network (U.K., Asia, Latin America), YTV (Canada) and Jetix (Europe).

PPC acquires new Indian film Dashavatar

PPC has tied up with Anushvi productions for Dashavatar a mythological tale about the divine incarnations of Lord Vishnu in an animated format. PPC’s Shailendra Singh says of the company’s latest acquisition: “Our country’s mythology has such strong elements of story telling that it’s unbelievable that most of us are still in the dark about it. It’s imperative that this generation’s children are educated about it as mythology is the integral part of our culture. We made Hanuman for this very reason and now comes Dashavatar. It’s a film which can be watched together with the entire family and also imbibes the values and mythology of India.”

Pixar animator presents UK animation workshop

Escape Studios is hosting a two-day animation workshop in London on June 10-11 presented by Andrew Gordon, who is currently supervising animator on Pixar’s new short film Presto. During the two days, Gordon will cover all aspects of character animation craft in extraordinary detail. He’ll review the basic principles, staging and pose design as well as advanced techniques for gestures, face and hand animation. He’ll also be demonstrating the high-level polishing techniques used to lift a shot from being good, to being great. An animator at Pixar for 11 years, Gordon has contributed character animation to nearly every major feature the studio has produced. On Academy Award winning film The Incredibles, Andrew spent the majority of his time animating Edna Mode, the beloved super hero costume designer character. He is currently working on Toy Story 3. The event is designed for both professional and student animators of any level, and the skills and techniques included are not software specific. The pricey £300 tickets for this exciting workshop can be purchased online via Escape Studios.

Andrew Stanton discusses Waaaall•E

“What is the point of living? In my mind, the point of living is to love.” Stanton’s words to the Guardian are reflected in Wall•Eessentially a love story, but specifically about a robot’s awareness of the ability to love. Part of what inspired Stanton to create Wall•E was the exploration of the question that if a robot was left to repeat the same menial task over and over again for centuries, would it ever question the monotony of its job? “I love the idea of this machine coming to that awareness and seeing what came of that.” While Stanton has used non-human characters to convey his stories, Wall•E is, in essence, the fruition of Stanton’s true beliefs as a storyteller, since the characters themselves don’t even really speak. Stanton believes “if you can orchestrate your story right without much dialogue, you can really get some powerful responses from your audience.” It’s hard not to underplay Stanton’s reputation of delivering classic animated movies. “It hasn’t been since Toy Story that I’ve been this excited about the originality of a movie … you knew that it was one of a kind.”

Dustin Hoffman recalls first encounter with Kung Fu Panda co-star Angelina Jolie

Dustin Hoffman told Fox News on the red carpet of at the recent
Kung Fu Panda premiere that he first met co-star Angelina Jolie when she was an awkward, not-so-stunning teen who accompanied her father, actor Jon Voight, to the set of Hook back in 1991. “I meet this slender, awkward, shy girl with a mouth full of braces and I ask what she wants to be. She says ‘I am going to be an actress’ with this laser-like intensity, and we talked about it. It’s so interesting now, what the media creates is not the person she is. She is just a pregnant lady who is nice.”

Platinum Studios and Vanguard Animation developing Illegal Aliens as a feature film

Platinum Studios and Vanguard Animation have formed Vanguard Comics, an imprint designed to develop properties that can simultaneously be launched as comicbooks or graphic novels as well as feature films, says Variety. Platinum Studios CEO-chairman Scott Mitchell Rosenberg and Vanguard Animation chairman John H. Williams, producer of the Shrek series, are launching the imprint. They’ve already acquired a first property, Illegal Aliens, about a skeptical tabloid reporter sent to a Texas border town to investigate cattle mutilations. The reporter uncovers stories of the chupacabra monster. The comic was created by freelance illustrator Kevin MacDougall. Illegal Aliens was among the 50 finalists of Comic Book Challenge. After Rosenberg asked Williams to be a judge, the Vantage Comics principals got the idea to join forces. Both were surprised to find a comic in the contest that fit their multiplatform hopes. “When Scott asked me to be part of the Comic Book Challenge, I thought it would be a great way to hear story concepts,” said Williams, whose Vanguard Animation is partly owned by Starz Media. “Scott and I both immediately agreed that Illegal Aliens was a full throttle horror thriller” that had franchise potential. Vanguard is developing the Walter Salles-directed On the Road with Zoetrope Studios and The Twits, with Universal and Working Title. It produced Fox’s upcoming animated film Space Chimps.

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg writing a Simpsons episode

Actor Seth Rogen reveals to Collider that he and his writing partner Evan Goldberg are currently penning an episode of The Simpsons‘ coming season. “We called The Simpsons and asked if we could write an episode. Evan actually met James L Brooks at a party and James said he really liked Superbad, so we thought there’s our in. We went in and pitched them like 5 ideas and surprisingly they hadn’t done some of them. And…yeah…we all sort of settled on one during the meeting and then we went out and wrote an outline and they gave us notes on it.”

Holly Hobbie Makes High-Fashion Splash on DVD

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment rolls out
Holly Hobbie and Friends: Fabulous Fashion Show, its fifth release based on the recently re-imagined 1967 brand, on August 12. The two-part DVD will feature two brand new sing-alongs and a bonus interactive game and will retail for $12.99.

Fabulous Fashion Show features Holly and her “Hey Girls!” Club in a series of adventures which combine the property’s sweet old-fashioned values with some high-fashion fun perfect for today’s young ladies-in-training. Comprised of two episodes: Inside Out, which teaches friendship and understanding while the girls plan a fashion show to help their library, and Hats Off, in which the girls venture into the big city and deal with the issues of homesickness and accessorizing.

SPHE will also release the Holly Hobbie & Friends Hey Girls! DVD Fun Pack of three Holly discs the same day. Holly Hobbie is a trademark of American Greetings Properties, the intellectual property and outbound licensing division of American Greetings Corp. Holly Hobbie is actually the name of the American writer and illustrator, who created the character in the 1970s. She is also the author of the popular Toot and Puddle children’s books which will star in their own animated preschool series (produced by National Geographic Kids and Mercury Filmworks) on Noggin this fall.

For more information, visit To learn more about Holly Hobbie and other AGP characters, go to

Monster Buster Club Open for Business on Jetix

U.S. audiences will finally meet Marathon Media’s CG-animated series
Monster Buster Club when it premieres this Monday (June 9) at 7 p.m. on Toon Disney’s Jetix block. With an estimated budget of $21 million, the show is a France-Canada co-production between Marathon Media, TF1, Jetix Europe, and Canada’s YTV.

Targeting six to 11-year-olds, the 52-episode half-hour toon centers on a top-secret group of four young adventurers led by Cathy (a good alien with stretchy arms), who unmask monstrous intruders from outer space which threaten their hometown of Singletown. The series has already been sold to Super RTL in Germany, RTVE Spain, Slovenia's RTV, Ireland’s RTE, LNK in Lithuania, Denmark’s TV in Europe, to Radio Canada, and to the Arabic network MBC. The series was created by Marathon Media’s Vincent Chalvon-Demersay and David Michel, who also collaborated on Totally Spies and Martin Mystery.

Toon Disney is also featuring the Monster Buster Club characters in upcoming PSAs. Kids can also interact with related online content and watch 3D videos on

BRB’s Imp Begins Mischief in France

French TV Canal+ will begin airing BRB Internacional’s award-winning new series The Imp on a daily basis today. Co-produced by Red Kite Animation, Screen 21 and TVC, the 65-part High-Def comedy centers on a hilarious character who tries unsuccessfully to unleash his devilish plans upon the world in each 90-second episode.

The black-and-white series has already been sold to Cartoon Network in the U.S., Antena 3 in Spain, MTV in Poland and Portugal, Xeip Canal One in Mexico and SVT in Sweden. Canal+ has acquired al broadcast rights in France—including free TV, pay TV, video on demand and mobile- of the TV Series distributed worldwide by BRB Internacional. The Imp is especially designed to be adapted to various multiplatform formats such as mobile phones, web, consoles and MP3 players. You can out the property’s interactive website at

Toon Boom Sharpens Pencil Check Pro

Toon Boom has launched a new flexible line-testing software called Toon Boom Pencil Check Pro. The new tool completes the animation pipeline by offering a wide array of capture options, an efficient line testing process and an advanced feature set.

Pencil Check Pro supports a full range of devices from scanners to DV
/HDV cameras, webcams and digital cameras. Pencil Check Pro performs all capture operations from a unique interface and has a real-time preview for devices equipped with live video stream. Users can sketch key poses directly in the software, playback instantly and use the audio track capabilities while filling the exposure sheet.

"Toon Boom has always been committed to animators, developing leading-edge technology to support their creative process,” says Toon Boom president and CEO Joan Vogelsang. “As a testament to that, Pencil Check Pro offers an extensive feature set designed around a user friendly interface, and is fully compatible with Storyboard Pro, Digital Pro and Harmony.”

Pencil Check Pro is available online and retails at $399.99 US. Educational pricing is also offered: $299.99 US for a single license, and $2499.99 US for a 10-unit lab-pack. For more information, please visit

Josh LeBar Discusses Being Flash Thompson on "The Spectacular Spider-Man"


Josh LeBar draws on all kinds of life experiences when giving voice to Flash Thompson for "The Spectacular Spider-Man."

LeBar, best known for his role as agent Ari Gold's arch rival Josh Weinstein on HBO's "Entourage," has lived the life of both a prep jock and an aspiring super hero … so taking on Flash Thompson's persona wasn't much of a reach.

Growing up in Cincinnati, LeBar was the captain of his high school football team and then advanced to Butler University, where he starred for a year before a shoulder injury ended his career on the gridiron – and permanently steered his livelihood toward the performing arts.

LeBar's comic book experience is a little less refined – as you'll note in the Q&A below. In addition to "Entourage," LeBar has been a guest star on TV series ranging from "CSI: New York" and "Boston Public" to "7th Heaven" and HBO's "Tell Me You Love Me." In this Saturday's episode of "The Spectacular Spider-Man," LeBar gets the opportunity to give Flash Thompson a more heartfelt side that goes beyond his usual goofy bully approach.

"Intervention," an all-new episode of "The Spectacular Spider-Man" premiered Saturday, June 7 at 10:00 a.m. ET/PT on CW4Kids.

Do you have any relatable history in the super hero arena prior to assuming the role of Flash Thompson?

Josh LeBar answers:

Oh yeah, I did a lot of research (LeBar snickers) – I played The Flash at Six Flags St. Louis. I had to put on the muscle suit and the roller blades, so I could whoosh around the park for about four hours a day. I'd just be flying through the gates of Super Hero Den – it was pretty much the easiest job ever. When I got the part of Flash Thompson, I thought that was just a funny coincidence.

What do you bring to the role of Flash Thompson?

Josh LeBar answers:

I think Flash has a certain brashness, but he also has a likeability, so he's not a complete doof that you hate. He's a dichotomy – he's got a few different sides, and he surprises people. I was both a theatre guy and a football guy in high school, and people tried to stick me into that one-note category, depending on how they knew me – and I didn't like being stereotyped. So when the (Spider-Man) show gives me the opportunity to represent his other sides, like this week when you see Flash's compassion rather than just all that testosterone, I really enjoy showcasing that part of his character because I can relate to his situation.

As a relative newcomer to the Los Angeles acting scene, you seem to have had some quick success – between the regular gig on "Entourage," guest starring roles and a main cast voiceover job on "The Spectacular Spider-Man." Is it as easy as it appears?

Josh LeBar says:

I think I've been on about 600 auditions since I got to LA, and I consider my ratio (of success) pretty good. I used to log all the auditions, but it got depressing. Spider-Man is a real blessing because it's employment that's consistent, and it's great acting. You aren't defined by your face in animation, so you don't get over-exposed. I do one episode of "Entourage," it gets aired 40 times and my face gets played out. You can get typecast. Here, you get to step in every week and use your voice as your instrument and really push some limits. You really get to participate in the acting part of the job.

This is your first true voice acting experience, and Spider-Man records its actors together rather than individually. How are you acclimating to this process, and was there any intimidation factor entering the booth for the first time with 10-12 other actors?

Josh LeBar answers:

Everyone has made this a great experience. This is an amazing ensemble cast – they're all complete and total professionals. It's fun, because I've watched all of them in their iconic roles. I used to watch
"Coach," and here's Bill Fagerbakke. I loved "L.A. Law," and I'm standing next to Alan Rachins. I've never missed a "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie, and the first week I did Spider-Man I'm right here with Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund. It's amazing to be a part of such a great, experienced cast.

Moreover, the calibre of the voice actors on this show – the people you normally never see on camera – are beyond amazing. These are the real A-listers. You have no idea how good the people are that do the Saturday morning cartoons until you actually get to see them in action. It's really humbling. They walk in and just start switching between three or four characters on a dime. Actors like Kevin (Michael Richardson) and Daran (Norris) and Vanessa (Marshall) – I'm just in here stocking up massive amounts of experience and information from these pros. It was a little intimidating at first, but I'm more confident now because I've now seen how the best of the business do it … and I just try to emulate that.

Has animation and comic books had any influence on your life prior to joining the cast of "The Spectacular Spider-Man"?

Josh LeBar answers:

I was a cartoon junkie as a kid – I'd make my mom wake me an hour early so I could watch cartoons before school. I never missed a
"GI Joe" and I always loved the old Batman series, and things like "Thundercats" and "Voltron." I still love those shows. But now I have two nieces, and they don't get to watch "Entourage" and my primetime shows, so they're very excited to see their uncle as a cartoon character. And I've got my TIVO and my alarm set for Saturday mornings.

Exhibit by Shrek's creator opened Sunday in S.F.

"From the New Yorker to Shrek: The Art of William Steig" will be one of the exhibits opening San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum on Sunday, June 8.

Steig's 1990 picture book
Shrek! (the Yiddish word for "fear") served as the basis of DreamWorks' Oscar-winning 2001 feature film Shrek, as well as sequels Shrek 2 (2004) and Shrek The Third (2007) -- and last year's holiday TV special Shrek The Halls. Two more sequels are scheduled for release in 2010 and 2013. A Broadway musical version is in the works.

Character studies and models created by animators at DreamWorks will be in the show, organized by New York's Jewish Museum.

The traveling show will make its only West Coast appearance at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. It will be on display in the museum's 2,500-square-foot first-floor gallery through September 7.

Pen-and-ink drawings, geometric figure studies, watercolors, artists' sketchbooks, letters and sculpture by the creator of the famed cartoon ogre are all part of the show.

Steig, who died in 2003, was best known for his cartoons and children's books. He worked for an incredible 73 years at the New Yorker, creating over 120 covers and 1,600 cartoons.

He created Shrek after retiring from the magazine, when he became a writer and illustrator of children's literature. Steig also was responsible for such works as
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and Doctor De Soto.

Steig was the New Yorker's first cartoonist to create, draw and caption his own cartoons. Born in New York City in 1907, he often based his work on his experience as the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants.

"I think I feel a little differently than other people do," Steig once said. "For some reason, I've never felt grown up."

The architect of the $47.5 million, 63,000-square-foot Contemporary Jewish Museum is Daniel Libeskind, the architect of Berlin's Jewish Museum and the master site plan for the rebuilt World Trade Center.

All three different program spaces at the new museum have been designed to be flexible, as the museum doesn't have a permanent collection.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum is at 736 Mission Street in San Francisco. For more information, call (415) 655-7800 or visit

New Eva Mendes Poster for The Spirit

Yahoo! Movies has debuted a new poster featuring Eva Mendes as Sand Saref in writer/director Frank Miller's
The Spirit, coming to theaters on Christmas Day. The action-adventure, based on the Will Eisner comic book, stars Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Sarah Paulson, Paz Vega, Jaime King, Dan Lauria, Stana Katic, Johnny Simmons and Louis Lombardi.

New Hancock Featurette Online

A Korean website has posted a behind-the-scenes featurette on
Hancock that includes new footage and interviews with director Peter Berg, Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman and the producers about the flawed superhero. Columbia Pictures will release the action-comedy on July 2nd.

You can watch the video here!

Exciting new projects to get their first look at Annecy this week

Variety notes that the six-day Annecy International Animated Film Festival will world premiere two new Pixar shorts, Doug Sweetland’s Presto as well as Glago’s Guest. Helmer Bibo Bergeron will also present the anticipated A Monster in Paris, the key animation project at Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp outside its
Arthur trilogy, at fest’s Work in Progress initiative. Also in Work in Progress, director Jerome Deschamps will talk an audience through MK2’s big animation bet, The True Story of Puss ‘n Boots. Albert Pareira Lazaro and Emmanuel Klotz will screen a brief extract of comedy Les Lascars, a bigscreen adaptation of the hit Canal Plus TV series. Premieres section includes Belgian Ben Stassen’s Berlinale sales hit Fly Me to the Moon, an early Euro 3-D film, and the world premiere of Jacques-Remy Girerd’s Mia et le Migou, the latest toon feature from France’s Folimages Studios.

Andrew Stanton confirms John Carter Of Mars

The Pixar Blog has confirmed that Andrew Stanton is currently writing the film version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’
John Carter of Mars for Pixar. No details on the project has been announced yet. AWN, however adds that the film is said to be a mix of live action and animation and Stanton is rumoured to be the director on the project.

Ponyo US release buzz

GhibliWiki reports that according to Toshio Suzuki, a US release for Miyazaki’s upcoming film
Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea has been decided. Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy have been selected as the producers. No details on a release date or voice cast have been announced. The website however reports that a large scale release for the film has been planned.

Toon Zone Throwdown Round 1: Top 5 Bare-Knuckle Brawls

Here at Toon Zone News, we firmly believe that non-violent solutions to Real World problems are the ones that should be actively sought out and implemented. These solutions are harder to do, but if done correctly, they will tend to be more permanent, resulting in less ancillary suffering of innocent bystanders and more long-term happiness for all parties involved.

That's why we want our cartoon characters to solve their problems with as much violence as possible.

So, to commemorate the opening of
Kung Fu Panda last week and The Incredible Hulk movie this week, and with tongues placed firmly in cheek, the staff at Toon Zone News has pumped up the adrenaline and the testosterone to put together the Hulk-sized Toon Zone Throwdown: our completely subjective picks for the best slugfests in animation, divided into five categories of five fights each. There will be one new Top 5 list per day, starting Monday and running to the opening of The Incredible Hulk on Friday.

Our first list of Top 5 Animated Fights are the Bare-Knuckle Brawls. We have a few rules on how we picked these fights:

1. The first rule of the Toon Zone Throwdown is that we do not TALK   about the Toon Zone Throwdown.
2. What am I talking about? We want EVERYONE to talk about the   Toon Zone Throwdown. Tell all your friends about this.
3. All the fights on this list are about putting Fists and Feet in   Faces (FnFiF from here on out).
4. The only permissible weapons are ones physically integral to the   fighters (like teeth or claws) or Opportunistic Clubs, meaning stuff   lying around that someone picks up to smash an opponent with.    Nobody should start the fight with a weapon. Weapons fights are   coming up in the list of Duels.
5. Super powers are permitted only if they are used to assist in   putting FnFiF. Super power brawls are coming up in the Power   Fights list.
6. If we were considering a gang brawl, then we expect at least two   of the fighters to be obeying rules 3-5. 

The more fighters engaged in   FnFiF, the better.
In addition to the screenshots for these fights, any title that's a link will take you to a legal video of the TV show or movie in question, either streaming or downloadable for a fee. Nothing brings across a fight like seeing it in motion.

All these writeups may contain spoilers. Ready? Then let's

The Hulk vs. The Thing
Fantastic Four: The Animated Series: "Nightmare in Green" (1995)
Directed by Thomas McLaughlin. Jr.

Why: Given the inspiration of the list and the long-running rivalry between the two, we had to include a Hulk vs. Thing fight somewhere. However, despite the multiple times both characters have had animated shows, there haven't been that many Hulk vs. Thing matchups, perhaps due to licensing issues, the younger audiences these shows aimed for, or Broadcast Standards & Practices injunctions against "imitatable acts." Nothing is more imitatable than punching someone in the face. Luckily, the 1995 Fantastic Four episode "Nightmare in Green," has not one but two heavy-duty, knock-down, drag-out punch-ups between Green Genes and Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew. It doesn't even wait long to get the party started -- the Hulk and the Thing have at each other for nearly three minutes even before the opening credits. The lovingly rendered fist-to-face impacts are even more surprising when you consider that this was the era when Spider-Man and Wolverine couldn't even make a fist on the air in other Marvel cartoons. The rest of the Fantastic Four may make token appearances, but at heart, this fight belongs to the Hulk and the Thing.

One other reason this is a great fight between the Hulk and the Thing is that it doesn't go for the usual cop-out "It's a draw" answer. The Hulk really beats the stuffing out of ol' Ben. It isn't even close -- there's even some doubt whether Ben survived the fight. To his credit, Ben doesn't go quietly, resulting in some pretty major property damage to Manhattan. It's a little ways off from the insurance company nightmare that was the Superman/Captain Marvel throwdown in
Justice League Unlimited's "Clash," but it would be shocking to see that much wanton destruction in a superhero cartoon today, let alone one from 10 years ago.

Black Canary vs. Huntress vs. Vixen vs. Hawkgirl vs. Wonder Woman
Justice League Unlimited: "Grudge Match" (2006)
Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos

Why: Speaking of
Justice League Unlimited, conventional wisdom would put one of its many Superman fights for this list. Conventional wisdom is for the unadventurous, though, which is why we've picked the bench-clearing catfight of "Grudge Match" instead. The fact that it's directed by Joaquim Dos Santos is the first sign of what you're in for here. Personally, I have nicknamed him "Dr. Fight" in my head because he really knows how to direct the hell out of an action scene, and there's plenty of raw material for him to work with here.

The reason why this fight gets picked over all the many great, bone-crunching FnFiF fight scenes of JLU is because it's a perfect demonstration of how the way a character fights can communicate character traits about them. Black Canary's flawless martial arts techniques pound the snot out of people with an elegant, balletic grace that matches her cool, aloof demeanor. In contrast, the Huntress uses a much uglier and more direct street-fighting style that matches her more abrasive personality. Hawkgirl's attacks have no subtlety at all -- they are direct and linear, effective because of their tremendous speed and the way she adds the third dimension to her fighting style. Vixen's powers drive the way she fights -- she moves differently channeling a boa constrictor than when she's channeling an elephant. And once Wonder Woman joins in, it becomes clear very quickly that her combination of superlative fighting skill and raw power means everyone else in the room put together is still nowhere near her weight class.

"Hits like a girl?" Hah! If it's any one of THESE girls, that's quite a compliment.

Amuro Ray vs. Char Aznable
Kidô senshi Gandamu: Gyakushû no Shâ/Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack (1988)
Directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino

Why: Gundam made its name with its mix of realistic mecha and futuristic politics. But perhaps more importantly is the factor that keeps fans coming back: the rivalries. Surely on the top of the list is the original, Amuro Ray vs. Char Aznable. Clashing again and again in the original series with battles that never ended in a definitive victory for either. An uneasy truce was formed following sequel series, but finally the gloves were off for the theatrical motion picture
Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack. Finally at his wit's end with humanity's corruption, legendary antagonist Char masterminds a scheme to drop the massive asteroid base Axis on to Earth, creating a nuclear winter and forcing the remaining Earth elite to join the rest of humanity in space. Opposing him as always is Amuro. With Amuro piloting the Nu Gundam and Char piloting the Sazabi, the two engage in battle on the asteroid surface.

The ensuing fight is vicious. Both pilots cycle through the various weapons available to them, trying desperately to land the killing blow. However, the real reason we include this fight here is that their fight is so furious that soon both men are are out of weaponry and reduced to having their humanoid robots punching, kicking, and trying to rip chunks out of one another. Even while Amuro is attempting to desperately push back the descending asteroid base, the two continue their battle with harsh language. In the end, this fight is not for revolution. Not for duty. They fight simply to settle a decade old feud between two hated rivals who blame each other for the same woman's death.

Also, you know, we ran out of time for "Top 5 Giant Robot Fights" and this one was too cool not to include somewhere.

Porco Rosso vs. Curtis
Kurenai no Buta/Porco Rosso (1992)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Why: Hmmm...and here's another fight over a woman. As the leader of the Mamma Aiuto Air Pirates would say, "There are
FORMALITIES that must be observed!" and one of those formalities is that you should really try to get something by Hayao Miyazaki on to any animation-related "Top 5" list. His collected works aren't much for overt FnFiF action, but the one notable exception is the closing fight between the title character of Porco Rosso and the arrogant cowboy pilot Curtis, with the fate of spunky tomboy mechanic Fio hanging in the balance. It wasn't even supposed to be a fistfight, but both of their guns jammed on their airplanes, and they ran out of stuff to throw at each other in the air.

What follows is a simple, straightforward, and hilarious fistfight. It's a great fight because both of them are too stupid and stubborn to give up until they knock each other out. Even then, it looks like they've battled to a draw until Miss Gina shows up to inspire Porco to his well-earned victory. This fight is also one of very few where two guys can pound each other to bloody pulp while maintaining the underlying sweetness and light tone of the film as a whole. It's funny, but it's also serious, and it takes a master like Miyazaki to pull it off this well.

Bigwig vs. General Woundwort
Watership Down (1978)
Directed by Martin Rosen

Why: On the other hand, this fight also involves two characters beating each other to a bloody pulp, but there's no sweetness to be found anywhere. Based on the novel by Richard Adams, 1978's Watership Down is a real antidote to the cutesy, idyllic nature presented in most animated movies. Instead, it opts for a gritty, hard-edged, realistic look at the hard-scrabble life in a rabbit warren. To them, it seems that the entire world has been populated with things that are out to kill them. In the climactic sequence the film, these things turn out to be other rabbits, as the fascist rabbit General Woundwort leads an attack on the rabbit warren led by the valiant Hazel. Hazel dashes off in a last-minute bid to get help, instructing his second-in-command Bigwig to hold off the General's invading forces for as long as he can. Bigwig and Woundwort have history, so once they find each other, it is ON between these two hardcore, bad-ass rabbits.

What makes this fight distinctive is that it is brutal, ugly, bloody, and short...and thus far more realistic than any of the other fights on this list, even though the participants aren't even human. Almost the entire last half of the movie has been building up to this fight, creating tremendous suspense and ensuring that we feel that the very survival of Hazel's warren is at stake. Furthermore, when the fight finally erupts, there is not much variety in it. It's just two rabbits doing their best to rip each other to shreds. What it may lack in length is more than made up for with intensity and drama. As the blood flows freely, the savagery and viciousness of the fight between Bigwig and the General leaves little doubt that this fight is for keeps. There is no glory in this fight, only the most basic and primal struggle for survival.

On a side note, what's up with letting this movie go out of print on DVD in Region 1, Warner Home Video? This animated classic deserves to be seen by everybody everywhere. Don't make us go all Bigwig on your butts to get it!

Earlier Toon Zone Top 5 lists have had runner-ups or alternates. However, in the Toon Zone Throwdown, there are winners and there are losers, and we're not doing runner-up lists for losers. However, because I just know someone's going to ask about it...

Superman vs. Darkseid
Justice League Unlimited: "Destroyer" (2006)
Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos

Why not? Make no mistake: this entire episode is a fabulous smörgåsbord of comic book superhero violence, directed by "Dr. Fight" himself and including the final, earth-shattering confrontation between Superman and Darkseid. Their battles, starting in
Superman the Animated Series and running all the way to now, have been growing in intensity and come to a glorious head in this final episode of the show.

So why isn't this in the top 5? Simple. Superman delivers a bad-ass, tough guy speech. It's a terrific bad-ass, tough guy speech, and it's followed by him cutting loose and giving a right royal pounding on Darkseid. And what happens next? After taking what was supposed to be Superman's best shots, Darkseid stands up, none the worse for wear, and proceeds to kick Superman's butt. The only thing that prevents Superman from getting his heart cut out by a Kryptonite dagger is Lex Luthor showing up to give Darkseid exactly what he wanted all along.

No way a fight is going to make it to our top five when it centers on a world-class trash talker who then gets his ass handed to him on a silver platter.

Coming up in Round 2: Top 5 Duels.

"Kung Fu Panda" 's opening weekend grosses really kicked ass ... but here comes "WALL-E"

Jim Hill shares what he's heard about this new Andrew Stanton film. Which looks ready to reverse the domestic box office trends that tripped up Pixar's last three pictures

There are some very happy people today at DreamWorks Animation this morning, given how well
"Kung Fu Panda" did this past weekend.

Copyright 2008 DreamWorks Animation. All Rights Reserved

This Mark Osborne / John Stevenson took in an estimated $60 million over the past three days. Which not only gives DWA its third best opening film ever (Only
"Shrek the Third" and "Shrek 2" did better over their opening weekends, earning $121.6 million and $108.0 million respectively), but also puts "Kung Fu Panda" in third place for the biggest opening weekend gross (to date) for 2008.

Film Title         Opening Weekend Gross

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of
the Crystal Skull" $100.1 million

"Iron Man" $98.6 million

"Kung Fu Panda" $60 million (estimated)

"Sex and the City" $57.0 million

"The Chronicles of Narnia:
Prince Caspian" $55.0 million

"Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who" $45.0 million

"Cloverfield" $40 million

"You Don't Mess with the Zohan" $40 million

"10,000 B.C." $35.8 million

"Hanna Montana / Miley Cyrus:
Best of Both Worlds Concert Film" $31.1 million

Just in case you were wondering how
"Kung Fu Panda" 's opening weekend gross stacked up against all of the other CG animated features that have ever been released, here's that chart.

Film Title       Opening Weekend Gross

"Shrek the Third" $121.6 million

"Shrek 2" $108.0 million

"The Incredibles" $70.4 million

"Finding Nemo" $70.2 million

"Ice Age: The Meltdown" $68.0 million

"Monsters, Inc." $62.5 million

"Cars" $60.1 million

"Kung Fu Panda" $60.0 million (estimated)

"Toy Story 2" $57.3 million

"Madagascar" $47.2 million

And from what DreamWorks Animation insiders told me last night, the folks in management are dearly hoping that this past weekend's box office estimates are revised upwards by at least $200,000. So that
"Kung Fu Panda" can then pull ahead of "Cars" on that "Best Opening Weekend for an Animated Feature" list.

Speaking of
"Cars" ... You might think -- given that Pixar's last two releases didn't meet their opening weekend projections (More importantly, that domestic ticket sales for this animation studio's films have been trending downward since the 2004 release of "The Incredibles") -- that the folks in Emeryville would be stressing right about now. Particularly in the face of "Kung Fu Panda" 's extremely strong opening.

Copyright 2008 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Well, that's where you'd be wrong. According to the research that Disney's already done on
"WALL-E," this new Andrew Stanton film should do rather well this summer. Current in-house box office projections suggest that "WALL-E" will at least do 1 & 1/3 times the business that "Ratatouille" did domestically ($206.4 million). Which isn't exactly what "Finding Nemo" made over its stateside run ($339.7 million over the Summer of 2003) but that figure should still be north of "The Incredibles," "Monsters, Inc." and "Cars" did domestically (Those Pixar films earned $261.4 million, $255.8 million and $244 million respectively).

Intriguingly, those I spoke with at Disney were quite happy to talk about what they expected
"WALL-E" to earn over the course of this Summer. But when I brought up this film's opening weekend numbers, these same folks clammed right up. Remembering all of the bad press that the studio got in the wake of "Cars" and "Ratatouille" not meeting their initial box office projections, no one wanted to say what they thought "WALL-E" might earn over its opening weekend. Even when I asked if they expected this Andrew Stanton film to have a better opening weekend than "Kung Fu Panda" did, all these insiders would say is that they expected Disney & Pixar officials to be very pleased by the time Labor Day arrived.

Speaking of
"Kung Fu Panda" ... If there's a downside to how well this Mark Osborne / John Stevenson film did, it's that DreamWorks Animation officials are now regretting that they moved so quickly to put that "Kung Fu Panda" TV show into development. Given that they already promised this animated series to Nickelodeon ... Well, that's going to make it that much harder to capitalize on "KFP" 's current box office success.Quickly launch another DreamWorks Animation franchise by getting a sequel out there like "Madagascar: Escape to Africa."

Copyright 2008 DreamWorks Animation. All Rights Reserved

But what do you folks think? Will
"WALL-E" 's opening weekend numbers actually best those of "Kung Fu Panda" ? Or Po still come out on top in that particular department?

"Zoologic" top animation winner at Student Oscars

"Zoologic," by Nicole Mitchell of the California Institute of the Arts, won the gold medal for animation Saturday at the 35th Annual Student Academy Awards.

Mitchell was one of 11 college students who received cash prizes and trophies in front of a full house at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California. Students represented nine colleges across the United States, as well as one from Germany.

Zoologic, a fussy zookeeper maintains strict order in his zoo by arranging the animals to his liking.

Born and raised in Cupertino, California, Mitchell received a BFA in character animation from California Institute of the Arts in 2007.

The silver medal went to
Simulacra, by Tatchapon Lertwirojkul of the School of Visual Arts in New York. In the vast galaxy, there is a robot planet on which every natural living thing is extinct -- or is it?

Born in Bangkok, Tatchapon Lertwirojkul graduated from the architectural department of Thailand's Chulalongkorn University in March 2001. Tatchapon currently attends the School of Visual Arts.

Evan Mayfield of Florida's Ringling College of Art and Design won the bronze medal for
The Visionary, in which it isn't easy to make the transition from glasses to contacts. Originally from Fairhope, Alabama, Mayfield graduated from the college this year with a degree in computer animation.

The prizes are presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives the Oscars. Winners get $5,000 for gold medals, $3,000 for silver medals and $2,000 for bronze.

Those presenting the student awards included Jason Reitman, director of 2007 best-picture nominee Juno.

Intended to support young filmmakers, the Student Academy Awards were established in 1972. Former winners for animation include Shane Acker (UCLA); Paul Demeyer, Pete Docter, Mark Kirkland, John Lasseter, Vanessa Schwartz and Kathy Zielinski (all of California Institute of the Arts); Joe Murray (De Anza College, San Francisco); and Trey Parker (University of Colorado, Boulder).

Clips of this year's winning films can be seen at

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