Wednesday, June 11, 2008

News - 06/11/08...

M. Night Shyamalan’s take on The Last Airbender

The Sixth Sense director told Coming Soon! about his plans for the live action adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon, which is set in a world that’s divided up into elemental factions, two of whom are preparing for war.

Some might be familiar with the cartoon that aired on Nickelodeon for three years called "Avatar: The Last Airbender" set in a world that's divided up into elemental factions, two of whom are preparing for war. It's somewhat strange seeing Shyamalan's name attached to the film's working title, but Shyamalan explained why he wanted to do the movie and what he hoped to bring to it. "It was just the story. I just loved the story," he told us. "I loved the characters in the story and I felt like I could be me inside this larger canvas of this very long-form movie. I think it inherently had kind of family issues and serious larger topics--at the center, genocide--all kinds of stuff. Cultural differences at the center. It has Buddhism, Hinduism, things I'm interested in. It does have martial arts in a way that's not bang bang bang, but more about the person mastering yourself and the things that I love. I took martial arts for a long time. A ten-year-old at the center. That point of view felt good, like I could do my thing."

"It will be tough to keep it PG from PG-13," he said about doing a PG family film. "It will be tricky. I don't know how to make a PG movie so that's going to be much harder, because with R, everything was no problem."

When asked about the martial arts from the cartoon and how he planned on handling the action, he responded, "The great thing about it is it's almost like they don't ever really touch each other based in this world. They kind of do a form of manifesting something and then it comes at the other person and they manifest something. It'll be great to do it as extensions of what the characters are feeling, and there'll be much more CG."

The Last Airbender is scheduled for July 2, 2010.

2D Panda closing credits online

The closing credits for DreamWork’s hit animated flick Kung Fu Panda have appeared on the official website of Shine, the studio responsible for the creation of the sequence. These credits are unique in that they feature traditionally animated snippets of the main characters from the martial arts film, reflecting the film’s opening scene, which was also animated traditionally. The opening of the film, while not currently online, was animated by James Baxter’s studio.

“Don’t call ‘em kids movies!”

An interesting article over at O-Meon brings to light the common perception of animation as purely “kid’s stuff”. The story discusses how modern films like Kung Fu Panda and Wall•E are considered to be aimed solely at children, despite a large portion of their audiences being teenagers and adults. Older animated shorts and films, such as The Three Caballeros and Fantasia, are also mentioned in the article as examples of adult-aimed ‘toons.

The Smurfs coming to the big screen

Variety reveals exclusively this morning that Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation are bringing a live-action/animated Smurfs project to the big screen, in what will be SPA’s first hybrid film. Sony obtained film rights to the blue-colored characters from Lafig Belgium via Jordan Kerner (Charlotte’s Web), who is producing. David Stem and David Weiss, who wrote the second and third installments in the Shrek franchise, are in negotiations to pen the screenplay. Kerner secured film rights to the Smurfs property in 2002 and had been developing a 3-D CGI feature at Paramount/Nickelodeon, which has an option to co-finance the Columbia/SPA incarnation and distribute internationally. The Melrose studio has yet to make a decision on its role in the film.

Best known in the United States for the long-running Hanna-Barbera cartoon, the Smurfs were created in 1958 by Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford, known throughout the world as Peyo. The Smurfs, originally called Les Schtroumpfs in French, were created for a Belgian series of comic books, first as minor characters. The villagers, known for their blue skin and small statures, spawned a line of statuettes, games, toys, theme parks and a hit TV series, which ran as part of NBC’s Saturday-morning lineup from 1981-90. Kerner said the genesis of the current project began during a holiday conversation with Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman-CEO Michael Lynton, who grew up with Les Schtroumpfs in the Netherlands. “He relished them as I do and suggested that it should be a live-action/CG film,” he said. “(Studio topper) Amy (Pascal) felt equally that there was potentially a series of films in the making.” Kerner has been working closely on the project with Lafig CEO Hendrik Coysman and Veronique Culliford, the daughter of Peyo. Smurfs marks SPA’s first hybrid film — a subgenre that proved popular given the success of 20th Century Fox’s Alvin and the Chipmunks — and is the first project to go into development since Hannah Minghella was named prexy of production for the division in April. SPE digital production prexy Bob Osher said the studio plans to rely on SPA for the film’s character animation, and Imageworks — which was recently taken off the sale block — for its visual effects. The Smurfs are one of the best-known franchises, and among the most beloved collection of characters in the world,” Columbia co-president Doug Belgrad said. “We’re very excited to introduce a new generation to Papa Smurf, Smurfette and the other smurftastic Smurfs in all of their ‘three-apple-tall’ glory.” Sony will launch a licensing effort around the classic Smurfs characters at this year’s Licensing Show beginning today in New York. Ben Haber will oversee the development of the script for Kerner Entertainment. Haber and Paul Neesan are exec producing the film. Stem and Weiss’ credits also include The Rugrats Movie and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.

Can Kung Fu Panda mark DreamWorks’ return to the Oscars?

Jeffrey Katzenberg’s studio has been snubbed by the Academy Awards two years in a row now, and only scored house nominations once in the past five years (Wallace & Gromit was the studio’s last win since 2001’s Shrek but an Aardman production). Tough to digest for the only studio in town to be solely dedicated to animation and releasing two features a year. But industry insiders agree that things are about to change this year with Kung Fu Panda a strong contender for at least an Oscar nomination and–depending how much Wall•E actually delivers–possibly a win. The Envelope takes a closer look… Many expect Waltz With Bashir to be the third nominee in the animation category.

Studios tying licensing programs to animated sequels

DreamWorks Animation plans to launch a fairly modest licensing program behind Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa later this fall with a new videogame, toys, apparel and home decor, according to Variety. But the Madagascar film franchise, just like Fox’s Ice Age ’s, has yet to translate in equally impressive consumer product sales. Hoping to come closer to Disney’s Cars success story, Fox plans a cross-category licensing program for the dinosaur-themed Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, hoping the July vs. March release will also help boost merchandising sales.

Will Finn Analyzes Chuck Jones

Animator and director Will Finn recently watched the entire Warner Bros. output of Chuck Jones and has composed a thoughtful blog post analyzing the work of Jones. Lots of good insights throughout, especially this spot-on comparison between the work of Jones and fellow WB director Bob Clampett:

“Unlike his arch rival Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones wants to prove to us that he is smart, tasteful and always in control of everything. Clampett of course is ultimately “in control” too, but his genius is for giving the genuine impression that all Hell is breaking loose onscreen. Much like that other Jones, namely bandleader Spike, Clampett makes us feel (frequently throughout an entire film) that every person in his troupe has gone out of their minds. This never happens in Jones’ world because he won’t allow it. Clampett’s embrace is wider: he can grasp the highbrow world of surrealism in one hand and the lowbrow crudeness of burlesque with the other–he has no boundaries. Boundaries are Chuck Jones’ stock in trade, his main theme is pitting the rational against the irrational. Even when he adopts the point of view of an irrational character, (as with the Coyote), he only does so to mock himself.”

(thanks cartoonbrew)

Boondocks 2, Fantastic 4 Discs Land Today

As most students begin their countdown to the end of the school year, two hot DVD releases hit stores today. Fans of Aaron McGruder’s edgy and trend-setting comic The Boondocks can let forward to Sony’s three-disc release of the animated series’ second season today. This must-have set contains 15 uncut episodes (including the previously unaired “The Hunger Strike” and “The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show”) and includes commentary by the talented Mr. McGruder himself. Viewers should get a big kick out of the episodes which poke fun at BET’s programming and CEO. Of course, there’s also plenty of Granddad, Sarah, Riley, Tom and everyone’s fave pop vocalist, Usher! Boondocks: The Complete Second Season is priced at $49.95.

In 2006, Marvel Entertainment and Moonscoop Animation in France joined forces to create a new animated series based on the popular comic-book heroes Fantastic Four. Capitalizing on the success of the two recent live-action features, Fox Home Entertainment is now releasing the complete first season of the series which debuted on Cartoon Network. The four-disc Fantastic Four—World's Greatest Heroes: The Complete First Season ($39.98) contains 15 episodes plus cool extras about the toon—and runs over 13 hours. Now that’s a lot of Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, Ben Grimm and their alter egos. Also note that other Marvel faves such as Iron Man, Ant Man and even, the Hulk pay the Fantastic Four visits in this series.

If you’re in an anime state of mind, we recommend two awesome new box sets from VIZ: Naruto Uncut Box Set, Vol. 8 ($49.95) and Bleach: Uncut Season One Box Set ($49.95). Both packages have enough thrills to keep you inside all summer.

Nick Jr. Says Hello to More Ni Hao, Kai-lan

Nick Jr. has ordered 20 new episodes of the half-hour animated preschool series Ni Hao, Kai-lan. Created by Karen Chau and exec produced by Mary Harrington, the toon introduces preschoolers to Chinese culture and the Mandarin language and is currently the No. 2 ranked show on Nick Jr (ride behind Dora the Explorer).

Production on the new episodes is set to start in August, with the episodes to begin airing in winter 2009. Nickelodeon and Viacom Consumer Products also are ready to launch an extensive merchandising program with deals already in the works for apparel and DVDs. The show’s first DVD Ni Hao Kai-Lan: Super Special Days will be released on August 12.

Channel Frederator Announces Freddies Winners

Animation site Channel Frederator has announced winners in 17 categories in the second annual Channel Frederator Awards.

The winners of this year's Freddies are:

Bad Ass Bunny Award: In the Beginning by Choom Lam
Youngest Filmmaker Award: Ace & Aqua by Stephen Levinson
Best CG Film: Kiwi by Dony Permedi
Vanguard Award: Dan Meth
Best Traditional Film: Fumi and the Bad Luck Foot by David Chai
Cartoon of the Year: Fumi and the Bad Luck Foot by David Chai
So Cute It Hurts Award: Bobble & Sqweek by Choom Lam
Best Foreign Film: Anfang Anzufangen by Alex Gellner
Best Music Video: Anfang Anzufangen by Alex Gellner
Sick Sick Sick Award: Respire, Mon Ami by Chris Nabholz
Joe Robot Award: A Great Big Giant Robot from Outer Space Ate My Homework by Mark Shirra
Best Flash Film: Make Mine Shoebox by Chris Harding and Maura Cluthe
Kiwi Award: Sparkle Friends in Rock 'em, Sock 'em by Muk Puddy
Best Design: Max & the Pigeon Incident by Dave Wasson
Funniest Film: Trapped In the Drive-Thru by Doug Bressler
Producers' Choice: Sub! by Jesse Schmal
Cartoonist of the Year: Marjane Satrapi for Persepolis

The winning cartoons and the nominees can be seen at the awards website.

Hot Pitch Party Tips from Last Year’s Winner!

One of the most frequent questions Animation Magazine gets around this time of the year is what has happened to previous winners of their Pitch Party contest. They caught up with Brian Smith and the team at Toronto’s Eggplant studio who won in 2007 with their entry King of the Universe and also got second place with their Monster in a Box two years ago.

“Our first Pitch Party entry from '06, Monster in a Box, was optioned by Decode Entertainment,” says Smith. “Last year's winning entry, King of the Universe, opened a lot of doors. We met with Sony Pictures' feature animation division, a division of Disney, and have had ongoing talks with broadcasters, production companies and talent agencies. We're optimistic that it will be picked up in the next little while.”

Smith tells us that those important meetings allowed his team to discuss their other projects as well. “For example, at Sony Pictures, their primary interest in that division is feature length—so we left them a feature length script we're very excited about.” Another advantage of entering is raising your profile in the industry: “At Eggplant, we have a great reputation for producing award-winning music for animation, but this has allowed the industry to see us in a new light—as an originator of ideas,” he adds.

When we asked him to offer some advice for this year’s brave batch of Pitch Party contestants, Smith says it’s really important to come up with an idea that is simple to convey. “The best idea you've got may not be the best Pitch Party idea you've got. If it can't be conveyed in the space of a business cad, it doesn't matter if it's the next Simpsons!”

Natasha Parrish, who came in second last year with her Deidra Daydreamer concept, also wrote to remind us that you don’t have to be the Top Prize winner to get some attention! “I had wonderful feedback on my entry, so right know I'm working out some of the story kinks to make it ready for pitching.” She also entered Baton Rouge’s Red Stick Festival event, has polished her live pitching techniques and is ready to take on the big studios in 2008.

There are only three spots left for this year’s Pitch Party. To find out how you can be a contestant and get your idea reviewed by a top list of industry professionals, visit

To find out more about their past winners, go to

Toon Zone Throwdown Round 3: Top 5 Power Fights

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.

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.

A power fight is something many of the readers of Toon Zone News know ever so well. These fights focus on the use of powers — super-, magical, or otherwise — that involve more destruction than can be generated by mere grunting or physical exertion. In addition to the usual superhero world-saving of American comics turned cartoon, power fights additionally lend themselves to Japanese shônen stories like Dragon Ball, or even Pokémon with its ‘General ordering Foot Soldier’ style of combat. With the ease that the medium has in defying the laws of physics and nature, power fights have been a staple of animation for years.

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

Son Gokû vs. Vegeta
Dragon Ball Z: Episodes 30 - 35: "A Hot, Unbounded Battle! Goku vs. Vegeta," "Now, Goku! A Final Technique with Everything on the Line," "Battle Power Times Ten! Vegeta's Great Metamorphosis," "Don't Die, Father! This is the Depth of Gohan's Power," "Shoot, Kuririn! The Genki Dama, Packed with Hope," and "Cause a Miracle! Son Gohan, the Super Saiyan" (1989-1990)
Directed by Daisuke Nishio (Series), Takao Koyama (Series), Katsumi Aoshima (30), Tomekichi Takeuchi (31), Masayuki Uchiyama (32, 35), Yukio Ebinuma (33), and Minoru Maeda (34)

Probably one of shônen’s most compelling of rivalries; this battle during the Saiyan story arc was one most Western fandom may not have felt the true emotional impact of. One must remember that after a brief thirteen episode stint, the original Dragon Ball never really caught on when it premiered in syndication in the mid-nineties. Thus, American fans came into the Saiyan arc not knowing just why the deaths of Yamcha, Tenshinhan, and Chaozu were so important to series lead Son Gokû. In fact, Son’s bitter battles with Demon King Piccolo -- at one point a renowned demon who attempted to conquer the Earth -- were never seen, robbing the former villain's sacrifice (leaping in the way of a blast launched by Nappa to kill Son Gohan, son of Gokû) of its impact. Sporting both giant blasts of energy and fast, high power gut busters, this fight is also notoriously lengthy -- just when you think it’s over, Vegeta gets back on his feet, refusing to die.

Son Gokû ends up losing this fight if you want to get technical, and his son and best friend Kuririn and ol’ Yajirobe take over, each contributing their share to cutting the prideful prince down to size. Even though Kuririn has the chance to kill Vegeta, Gokû asks for his life to be spared so that they might have a rematch which Son can win. This rematch, while just as awesome, cannot be afforded a spot in the top five for sportsmanship but we recommend it just as much as we do this fight. This battle wins out, if solely because it was the first.

Naruto, Tsunade, Jiraiya, and Shizune vs. Orochimaru and Kabuto
Naruto: "A Dubious Offer! Tsunade's Choice!", "Breakdown! The Deal is Off!", "Attack! Fury of the Rasengan!", "The Fifth Hokage! A Life on the Line!", "Deadlock! Sannin Showdown!" (2004)
Directed by Hayato Date

As this episode begins, the Third Hokage and the leader of the Village Hidden in the Leaves is dead, and a new Fifth Hokage must be selected (the Fourth having died before the series beginning). Jiraiya takes it upon himself to track down his fifty year old former teammate Tsunade -- a medical ninja genius who has a bit of a vanity problem and uses ninjutsu to remain young looking. When Tsunade mocks the idea of becoming the Fifth Hokage, Naruto becomes infuriated and a bet is drawn: if Naruto masters the Rasengan in a week he gets her necklace, once a possession of her grandfathers, the First Hokage. However, prior to this meeting, Tsunade had been contacted by Orochimaru to heal his arms and she was given a week to think it over. Realizing Orochimaru would just destroy the village, and because Naruto reminded her so much of her dead little brother, Tsunade attempts to kill Orochimaru, but Kabuto arrives just in time to reveal that what seems to be a healing jutsu is really ridden with killing intent!

From there a huge battle royal is set off in which Naruto masters the Rasengan, Tsunade overcomes her hemophobia, and giant snakes, toads, and slugs duke it out so wildly you’d think it was some Samuel L. Jackson flick. Despite the villains escaping the day is won, in a sense: Tsunade agrees to be the Fifth Hokage and learns to believe again while Naruto gets that well deserved necklace, a sign that he was right and that even a ungifted kid like he can accomplish what he wishes if he puts his mind to it.

Aang and Katara vs. Zuko and Azula
Avatar the Last Airbender: "The Crossroads of Destiny" (2006)
Directed by Michael Dante DiMartino

The elemental bending of Avatar the Last Airbender is a perfect way for the show to run wild with martial-arts action while dodging the usual prohibitions that keep fights in kids' cartoons from being too intense. There have been many awesome bending battles on the show, but we've picked the climactic fight at the end of the second season of the show for a few reasons. The two-on-two duel between the heroes Aang and Katara against the villains Zuko and Azula is the first one that really showcases all four bending arts -- Air, Earth, Fire, and Water -- at the same time in a serious fight. The two-on-two setup also creates all kinds of interesting fight dynamics, including multiple double-teams and a mid-fight opponent trade.

Finally, it's also a spectacular fight, with the magic kung-fu happening against a striking crystal cave setting that provides plenty of raw material for Water and Earth bending. It also includes lots of little moments that illustrate how the characters have grown over the two seasons of the show. Aang attempts Earthbending on a larger scale than he ever has before, and his inexperience often does as much damage to himself as to his opponents. Katara began the show as a hesitant self-taught Waterbender, but by now her skill has grown to the point where she nearly bests Azula in a straight-up, one-on-one bending battle -- a feat nobody else on the show has managed yet. Meanwhile, Prince Zuko shows that he was, in fact, listening to his Uncle Iroh earlier, adapting Katara's water whip move to create lashes of flame. This is also the first time we see Princess Azula use her Firebending to propel herself like a rocket -- a move she repeats even more spectacularly later in book 3. Finally, the electrifying ending of the fight is a picture-perfect demonstration in using shock tactics to utterly defy viewer expectations. Simply marvelous, from start to finish.

Straw Hat Luffy vs. Mr. 0
One Piece The Movie: Episode of Alabasta: The Desert Princess and the Pirates (2007)
Directed by Takahiro Imamura

In the Kingdom of Alabasta, civil war brews. One Piece's Straw Hats had met Princess Nefertari Vivi of Alabasta shortly after the pirates entered the Grand Line, when we learned that Mr. 0, leader of the Baroque Works clandestine organization, is in reality Sir Crocodile, one of the World Government's Seven Warlords of the Sea. Sir Crocodile is dead-set on creating a civil war in Vivi’s desert kingdom by spreading rumors and lies about her father, so that he may uncover the whereabouts of the Ancient Weapon known as Pluton and rule the sand kingdom for the three year drought. Vivi is left crying as rebels aiming to overthrow the king do battle with the royal armies. Angered by his friend’s personal pain at seeing her country senselessly destroy itself, Luffy promises to "send Crocodile flying."

Luffy tries twice to defeat Crocodile's body of sand, at first on his own and then coating his body in water, for it is the only way to cause damage to the sand Warlord. He fails both times, and is poisoned by Crocodile’s hidden hook. Out of desperation, Luffy covers himself in his own blood for a third attack. In what is regarded as one of the greatest of One Piece moments, Luffy unleashes his Gum-Gum Storm to fulfill his promise, sending Crocodile flying right through solid bedrock out of the Grave of the Kings and knocking over several buildings in the process. At last, with Crocodile out, Alabasta enjoys her first rainfall in three years as Navy Captain Smoker bags and tags Crocodile, stripped of his Warlord status. Luffy is "rewarded" with a bounty of one hundred million berries.

With great emotional drama and some pretty inventive battle styles — not to mention a near-suicidal style of fighting — this fight is relentless despite being sandwiched between a war and a political coup d’état. This fight requires a bit of background knowledge for the full emotional impact, but it is still clear as day that watching the greedy and shameless villain Crocodile getting thrashed by the passionate and almost fatherly hero Luffy is complete and unadulterated fun.

Team Urameshi vs. Team Masho
Yu Yu Hakusho: "Master of Disguise," "Kurama's Stand," "Crushing Revenge," "Jin, the Wind Master," "Reverse Decision," "A Matter of Life and Death" (1993)
Directed by Abe Noriyuki

Mere minutes after their fight against Team Ichigaki in the Dark Tournament, which left Kuwabara too injured to even stand, Team Urameshi is forced to fight against Team Masho, a team of shinobi seeking to own Hanging Neck Island, the site of the Dark Tournament. To make matters worse, Hiei and the Masked Fighter end up trapped in a medical tent thanks to a ruse from the tournament committee. Thus, it is left to Kurama and Yusuke to fight all five members of Team Masho, or die as losers.

Out of all the fights in the Dark Tournament saga, this is the only one in which every single fight is just cool, if only for the freak factor. Kurama’s fights are a bit more interesting than his previous fights since he must find a creative new way to use his plants other than his Rose Whip, since Gama, his first opponent, is able to form magical hexes using, of all things, make-up. But this isn’t your normal, everyday eye-shadow, as this makeup is created from Gama’s blood, which leaves Kurama in a precarious position when he faces the Ice Master Toya. The way Kurama manages to beat these two enemies (by using his hair to summon the Rose Whip and by planting a fatal Death Plant inside his body and using his blood as water/fertilizer) is extremely creative and fit right in with characters who use makeup and ice cubes. But the real fun begins when Bakken of Team Masho beats up an unconscious Kurama, obviously pissing off Yusuke. When the Spirit Detective’s turn is up, Bakken shows off his only power: the mighty Mist of Sweat. You can probably guess how this fight ends.

Then it gets even more fun when Jin, the Wind Master, joins the fight. The easygoing friendship Jin and Yusuke create here makes the fight much more fun than the usual “I’m gonna kick your ass!” brawl shônen heroes fight in. Jin’s wind tricks are a delight to watch, especially his Tornado Fist, which is exemplified with some of Studio Pierrot’s best animation and a touch of fight humor. It all culminates in Yusuke’s first ever Spirit Wave, a powerful punch that looks like it really hurts -- considering the brutal fights in this series, that’s saying something. Adding to the fun is the FUNimation dub, with Justin Cook’s usual smartass Yusuke being aided by the hilarious, nigh-unintelligible Irish accent that Jerry Jewell gives Jin.

As if things couldn’t get more awesome, Kuwabara, the best character in the show, steps up to the plate when Yusuke is disqualified on a technicality. With every bone broken in his body, Kuwabara must defeat Risho, the leader of Team Masho, or his team’s out. At first, Kuwabara is a mere punching bag, but eventually decides to use his Life Energy for one last hurrah. Kuwabara gives a rousing and emotional speech, saying good-bye to all his allies, and is ready to bite the big one for the greater cause…and then he sees his love, Yukina. Merely by looking at the ice apparition, Kuwabara instantly gets his Spirit Energy back and whacks Risho away in a glorious revenge scene. And how was Kuwabara able to gain his energy back despite being so injured? Well, that’s the power of love, baby.

Coming up in Round 4: Top 5 Comedy Fights.

Knight's Joker Is A Punk

Christopher Nolan, writer/director of the upcoming Batman sequel film The Dark Knight, told SCI FI Wire that he envisioned a punk rock pioneer as his inspiration for Heath Ledger's Joker character. Nolan--whose Dark Knight cast member Gary Oldman famously played Sex Pistols member Sid Vicious in the film biography Sid and Nancy--said he had in mind Vicious' band mate Johnny Rotten when conceiving of the new Joker.

"We very much took the view in looking at the character of the Joker that what's strong about him is this idea of anarchy," Nolan said in an interview in June 2007 during a break in filming on the sequel's Chicago set, a former post office that stood in for both Gotham National Bank and a Gotham police station.

In The Dark Knight, Gotham City police lieutenant Jim Gordon (Oldman), district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and Batman (Christian Bale) have organized crime on the run. But they soon find themselves dealing with a new threat: a rising criminal mastermind known as the Joker (Ledger), who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and edges the Dark Knight ever closer to the line separating hero and vigilante.

Nolan said that the Joker's commitment was key. "This commitment to anarchy," he said. "This commitment to chaos. So he's not just a bank robber or an ordinary criminal who is out for material gain. His chief motivation would be that of an anarchist."

Ledger, who died in January after completing his role as the Joker, had a hand in developing certain ideas about the character late in the writing phase, Nolan said. "I talked to Heath a lot about it, even [while] we were finishing the script, and we both agreed that that is the most threatening force, really, in a way, that society faces: ... pure anarchy of someone who wants to do harm purely for its own sake and for his own entertainment," he said. The Dark Knight opens July 18.

Terence Stamp talks Valkyrie and Superman 2

When I found out I was covering the Get Smart press day and that Terence Stamp would be there…I’ll admit to only thinking one thing…I would see and hear General Zod!

While I’ve been very fortunate with who I’ve met and spoken with while working on Collider, every once in awhile someone will make my inner geek extremely happy – and Terence Stamp definitely qualifies. As General Zod in Superman II, Terence made a huge impression and his performance is still great after all these years. And even though Terence has made many other movies and played tons of other roles, for many people, he’ll always be the General.

Anyway, towards the end of the Get Smart press conference, Terence talked about his work in the upcoming Bryan Singer movie Valkyrie and he reminisced about Superman II and how the part has carried with him all these years. If you’re a fan of Terence and his work…you’ll definitely like the stories.

Q: Terence, you did a wonderful job in this. Could you talk a little bit about the fun that you had and what attracted you to the role?

Terence Stamp:
Me? I’m always rather flattered when I get approached about doing funny stuff. I guess it’s just unusual for somebody as devastatingly good looking and possessing wisdom and sexy that I guess people think I can do comedy so I’m always very flattered. I didn’t know about Get Smart. I guess, I don’t know, I didn’t see it. So when I went in to meet the production team and Pete (Segal), it was just kind of like a chat. You know what I mean? I hadn’t really seen the script. I didn’t know anything about it. And then when it got serious, I did a bit of research into it and I just thought it was one of those characters that I could kind of do something with. You know, somebody who is rather pretentious and looks down his nose at absolutely everybody. I thought I could get fun out of that. And in truth it was just such a great troupe really. It was such a great team of people. So I did have a lot of fun doing it even though I have to make a fool of myself which I don’t like. [laughs]

Q: Can you talk about your upcoming projects and what you have coming out?

Terence Stamp:
Tom Cruise and I were trying to blow up Hitler in Berlin for a long time and then I’ve just finished something called “Yes Man” with the wonderful Jim Carrey. And although I’m like ‘no smoking in the auditorium,’ it was like a real wonderful week to work with him. He’s on fire all the time.

Q: So Valkyrie is finished?

[Terence Stamp makes a funny expression suggesting otherwise; laughter]

Q: Are you finished?

Terence Stamp:
I’m really finished, but the opening has been postponed. Maybe I’d better not say any more. [laughter] Do you know what a rave is? Well I’ve been invited to a Cruise party but it’s like a rave. I don’t know the address until the last minute. So I’ll probably know more by next week.

Q: Can you take a friend?

Terence Stamp:
I don’t know. I’m not sure. I wouldn’t even like to ask. If we meet next week, I may know more about Valkyrie.

Q: Terence, all of us fan boys are really happy to hear our Zod reference today. How big of a deal is that for you still?

Terence Stamp:
There are certain films that change your life. I hadn’t worked for about 10 years when I got the Superman offer and I was very nervous because it was apparent that they just wanted like an ugly and I had the feeling that they were going to just like me ugly and dress me ugly and give me ugly stuff to say. And I had a friend at the time, he was a Baron, a Dutch Baron, he was called Frederick von Pallandt and he was a very wise guy. He was a bit older than me. And I said, “I’m having doubts about this.” And he said, “You shouldn’t really have doubts about it because for loads of kids, Superman movies will be the first movie they ever go to see. And by the time they grow up, there’ll be more people who want to be like Zod than Superman. So you really shouldn’t worry about it. You should just be as ugly and as horrible as you can be.” And it kind of came to pass, you know.

I’m just thinking of a funny example. We didn’t have a bathroom when I was a boy so I became a clean freak very early and if I can get into a steam bath, I do, and especially after a jet flight. So I was taken to a steam bath in New York and I walked in and I undressed. And it was just all guys, you know. And I said to somebody, “Where are the loin clothes?” They said, “Oh, they’re at the front.” So I walked to the front. Very little loin cloth, like a little towel. And I’m not…a lot of guys in the steam bath, they go there to be nude, you know. [laughter] I’m walking back towards the steam and I see in front of me three enormous guys, two of which are black, and they’re just kind of staring at me and I revert to my East End spiv mode. So I just walked straight towards them and as I got close, one of the black guys said, “Are you that Zod guy?” And I said, “Smile when you say that!” [laughter] And there were these three big grins. So whenever I see big, fierce guys staring at me, I know they recognize the General.

Q: I heard a story about you in Montreal in the middle of the night. What was that about?

Terence Stamp:
Exactly. I was billeted in a hotel. I live in hotels so I’m very class seasoned about hotels. When I walked in, I just didn’t like it. So I left the hotel. It was about midnight. There wasn’t a sparrow on the street and the guy who’d helped me with my luggage was gone so I just had this great big suitcase. There wasn’t anything. And then suddenly a big, black SUV comes barreling down the road and sort of screeches to a halt and a guy looks out the window at me and he said, “You’re General Zod” and I said, “I am.” [laughter] He said, “What are you doing here?” I said, “I’m looking for a taxi.” “Where do you want to go?” I said, “I want to go to the Vogue Hotel.” “Get in! Get in!” He gets out. He puts my suitcase up. We drive. He says, “Can I have a photo with you?” I said, “Anything.” [laughter]


Video: 'Incredible Hulk' Unscripted

'Incredible Hulk' players Edward Norton, Liv Tyler and director Louis Leterrier interview each other using your questions.

The Complete Interview

Bonus: Liv and Edward on Improvising

Bonus: Edward on Hulk vs. Wolverine

Bonus: What the audience should take away...

And the things we've seen in the original HULK movie and never want to see again!

THE INCREDIBLE HULK opens in theatres this week, and we decided to take a jaunt back in time and look at the original HULK movie by Ang Lee again just to compare some of the things we want to see in the new HULK that were either done poorly or not at all in the first film.

Not that the original HULK was entirely without merit, after all it did have the unique and ingenious storytelling device of using comic book panels to transition from scene to scene, but overall that movie never really figured out what it wanted to do. In any case here’s a list of what we want to see in THE INCREDIBLE HULK and what we never hope to be subjected to again.


1.) To hear the "Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry" in English this time instead of Spanish.

2.) To hear the theme from the original HULK series, just because it was so damn good, and easily identifiable.

3.) See the Abomination kick the ever loving s**t out of the Hulk. The only thing more entertaining than a gamma powered good guy is a gamma powered bad guy kicking his ass!

4.) A less confusing origin for the Hulk. In the Ang Lee movie there were so many different layers to the origin of the Hulk instead of just straight gamma radiation that it made it really confusing. Go back to basics.

5.) Hopefully see a more realistic looking Hulk. I know that Hulk will almost certainly always be CGI, but hopefully things have advanced to a better level so that this new Hulk doesn’t look so much like Shrek.


1.) This stupid, stupid idea in the original film gave us gamma irradiated dogs, even a poodle. Please God, don’t ever let us have this inflicted on an audience again.

2.) Nolte look hopped up on whatever drug cocktail of choice he was using at the time, and his performance was confusing and erratic -- even when he became a CGI bastard version of the Absorbing Man.

3.) In the original movie, Banner had longer hair and when he hulked out the Hulk suddenly had this dopey almost toupee looking hair.

4.) The first HULK took itself far too seriously, and any joy that could’ve been had in the movie was sucked out by the inordinate amount of scenes where it was just people talking at each other.

5.) OK, so this one is from the original HULK series, but Bruce Banner’s name was changed to David, because according to Stan Lee he was told it was "too gay." But, Kenneth Johnson states that it was changed to give him a more normal name and not employ comic book alliteration. In any case his name is BRUCE BANNER and has been for over forty years…’nuff said’




Screw the Hulk fighting it out with CGI monsters. What fans really want to see are the two Betty characters from the movies (Jennifer Connelly and Liv Tyler) duking it out in a destroyed street setting complete with spraying fire hydrants and lots of torn (and revealing) clothes!

"Car Talk: As the Wrench Turns" Animated Series on DVD September 30, 2008

TV Shows on DVD is reporting that the upcoming PBS animated series based on National Public Radio's Car Talk will be coming out on DVD on September 30, 2008. The show, titled As the Wrench Turns, will depict a fictionalized slice of life of the Car Talk co-hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi, who will voice themselves. The show debuts on PBS in July, and the 2-disc DVD set will contain all 10 episodes of the show's first season.

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