Friday, June 13, 2008

News - 06/13/08...

Marvel hopes to turn green to gold with new `Hulk'

Mount Olympus never had such a potent gang as Marvel Comics, whose vast pantheon ranges from Hollywood A-lister Spider-Man to the murky shape-shifting process server Ditto.

Now producing its own film adaptations for all but a few previously licensed superheroes, Marvel Studios unveils "The Incredible Hulk" , opening today, on the heels of blockbuster "Iron Man," whose 2010 sequel will be followed by an ambitious Marvel lineup.

Headlining their own upcoming movies are Norse thunder god Thor, super soldier Captain America and bug impersonator Ant-Man, those adventures culminating in 2011's Marvel all-star tale "The Avengers."

With an estimated 5,000 characters and a wealth of stories dating back nearly 70 years, Marvel could spin an endless web of big-screen yarns.

"It's inexhaustible," said Gale Anne Hurd, a producer on "The Incredible Hulk" and Ang Lee's critically drubbed 2003 take on the character, "Hulk." "What I love is, Marvel is now controlling Marvel's destiny. They are the greatest caretakers of the characters and the stories."

Until "Iron Man," the company watched big movie studios count their millions on superpowered comic adaptations of Spidey, X-Men, Fantastic Four and other Marvel properties. Marvel made some cash by licensing the characters for films, but it was a pittance compared to what studios hauled in on such billion-dollar franchises.

Following George Lucas' "Star Wars" formula, Marvel now finances movies itself and hires studios to release them for a fee, Paramount distributing "Iron Man," Universal releasing "The Incredible Hulk."

Marvel keeps all of the profits and retains lucrative rights for toys and other merchandise based on the films.

"The financial upside on a movie like `Iron Man' or `Incredible Hulk' is multiples of multiples of what we had in the old arrangement," said David Maisel, chairman of Marvel Studios, a division of Marvel Entertainment Inc. "We have the power to greenlight our movies. We set our schedule. We're not reliant on a third party."

A few elite franchises — among them Sony's "Spider-Man" and 20th Century Fox's "Fantastic Four" and "X-Men" with its upcoming "Wolverine" spinoff — remain under those studios' control.

That still leaves legions of superheroes for Marvel to put on screen.

Iron Man was a beloved character among fans but far from a household name to general audiences. The comic-book gods smiled on his movie adaptation, though, as all the ingredients came together to create an instant Hollywood franchise.

The manic charm of Robert Downey Jr. made billionaire weapons designer Tony Stark as interesting in a business suit as he was inside the metal contraption he builds to fight bad guys. Downey's own stints in rehab added a nice nuance to the movie's boozy Stark.

Director Jon Favreau struck an ideal balance between action and character development, resulting in one of the best-reviewed entries in the onslaught of comic adaptations.

After a nearly $100 million opening weekend in May, "Iron Man" is closing in on $300 million, a mark previously reached only by the "Spider-Man" flicks among comic-book movies.

Though the Hulk was more widely known than Iron Man from the comic books and the TV series starring Bill Bixby, no one in Hollywood expects his new movie to put up those kinds of numbers.

"Previews of this film have been mediocre. The buzz seems to be lacking," said Mike Hickey, an analyst who follows Marvel for Janco Partners.

The Hulk has been a problem child on the big-screen. The 2003 version, which starred Eric Bana as scientist Bruce Banner and featured a cartoonish Hulk hopping around in the desert, opened with a whopping $62.1 million weekend, then a record for June debuts.

But word of mouth was bad, and the audience quickly dried up, leaving one of Marvel's standard-bearers in Hollywood limbo.

"It was a noble experiment, I think, that first film, but I, like much of the audience, left wanting a lot more than what we got," said Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios' president of production.

The new movie is more action-oriented, clocking in at well under two hours, nearly 30 minutes shorter than Lee's dark, ponderous version.

As with "Iron Man," Marvel cast an acclaimed actor, Edward Norton, as Banner, the guy who turns into a not-so-jolly green giant when angry. The story emulates the TV show, with Banner a fugitive, and it gives him real villains to battle, including Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, a soldier transformed into the Hulk's huge nemesis, the Abomination.

Roth did not see Lee's "Hulk" but said he expects the new movie will satisfy fans looking for spectacle.

"Our thing opens with a big action sequence. That's probably going to set the tone with the audience," Roth said.

While Norton took an active role in reshaping the story and rewriting the screenplay, the notoriously finicky actor almost became a liability after word leaked out that he, director Louis Leterrier and Marvel executives disagreed over the final cut of the movie.

Norton, who typically does little press, declined an interview for this story. The filmmakers downplayed any differences, saying the usual discussions that take place as movies near the finish line were blown out of proportion.

"It was just somebody, somewhere, somehow heard we were arguing, but we were not arguing," Leterrier said. "We were having a meeting, and maybe somebody walked in and heard Edward saying, `I really want this scene back in.' But there was no argument."

There is no argument that Marvel's move to finance its own movies has paid off, at least so far. A month after "Iron Man" opened, Marvel Entertainment's stock was trading at an all-time high of about $36 a share.

Analysts take a wait-and-see attitude about whether the strategy will work over the long haul. While Marvel plans to make two movies a year, there is a two-year lag before its next releases, "Iron Man 2" and "Thor."

"That's a big hiccup, to have no movies next year," analyst Hickey said. "They did a phenomenal job with `Iron Man.' I think the jury's still out, but the initial read is positive."

The Marvel logo will be in front of audiences with next year's "Wolverine" from Fox and this fall's vigilante thriller "Punisher: War Zone" from Lionsgate, which retains the rights to that Marvel franchise.

A clear benefit Marvel has gained by making its own movies is creative control. Comic-book fans are perpetually wary that Hollywood will mess up their favorite characters. With Marvel calling the shots, fans can rest a little easier that the movies will remain true to their origins.

Ghost in the Shell

In Japan, someone’s been tinkering with a classic. You may have heard of a little film called GHOST IN THE SHELL. You know, the one that the Wachowski’s ripped off shamelessly for THE MATRIX and that Spielberg is currently prepping a live action adaptation of. It’s a legitimate classic, one that has stood the test of time, spawned sequels and TV shows and gotten out of the anime ghetto and into the mainstream consciousness. And now the creators of the original film adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s manga are going back to the first film and tweaking it up with fresh animation and sound design and releasing it as GHOST IN THE SHELL 2.0. The new work looks to be more in line with the style shown in the STAND ALONE COMPLEX series and there is now a teaser and a series of comparison shots so you can check out the changes yourself.

Find it all here.

The world’s biggest drawing

Filemon Trevino accomplished his lifelong dream of entering the Guinness Book of World Records thanks to a quarter-mile-long pencil drawing now certified as the world’s largest. The Mexican artist said he spent 6,000 hours and used 800 pencils to complete his representation of the heart and circulatory system, with symbols including doves, geometric shapes and hundreds of yards of intertwined tubes. Breaking the record became an obsession that led him to neglect his health: he was hospitalized seven times for dehydration, heart and kidney problems and fainting spells, all attributed to long hours spent drawing in a hot, stuffy room. Filemon Trevino started the drawing in July 2004 and completed it in August 2005 but he could not apply for the world record until he found someone willing to display the work and sponsor Guinness’ $600 entry fee.

What to expect from Disney’s BD Live Features

Disney hosted a press demonstration of its new BD Live features earlier this week, which will be launched with the Blu-Ray release of the Sleeping Beauty’s 50th Anniversary Edition disc. Movieweb offers several stills from the demo along with a detailed rundown. While the new features do sound impressive, sadly they will only be available to those with Profile 2.0 compatible Blu-ray players.

Reese Witherspoon’s role to be the lead in DreamWorks’ Monsters vs. Aliens

The actress recently dropped a tidbit to Reuters about her part as Susan Murphy, aka Ginormica, in DreamWorks’ March 2009 stereoscopic feature: “[It] will be a real achievement for myself in that it’s the first female lead of an animated film from a major animation studio in quite a while. I just work with studios in trying to find very rich characters, who have a rich background, who are complex, like all women are.”

Disney animation exhibit coming next year to New Orleans

NOLA reveals that Bullard said the New Orleans Museum of Art blockbuster will host an exhibit of cartoon illustration next year called Dreams Do Come True: Classic Fairy Tales from Disney Studios, and set to coincide with the release of Disney’s New Orleans-based The Princess and the Frog.

First look at Where the Wild Things Are

MTV offers an exciting first look at Spike Jonze’s troubled adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are which will incorporate voice performance, live-action puppetry and computer animation. The film, which Warner Bros. will release theatrically on October 16, 2009, features the talent of Catherine Keener, Benicio Del Toro, Forest Whitaker, and Catherine O’Hara.

More on Weta’s special effects in Prince Caspian

In anticipation of the New Zealand opening of the second Narnia film, the Dominion Post takes a closer look at the special effects for the film created by local studio Weta.

DreamWorks Animation share downgraded from neutral to sell

DreamWorks Animation SKG was downgraded today to sell from neutral at UBS Investment Research, which said the current share price implies domestic box office receipts for future films above the historical average. The share price, driven up by enthusiasm over Kung Fu Panda implies the company will average domestic box office receipts of $202 million for all future films, above the historical average including the highly successful Shrek franchise. The company’s last five films have averaged $191 million in the domestic box office. UBS, however, raised its price target for DreamWorks to $29 from $27 to reflect the bigger-than-expected success of Kung Fu Panda and the higher estimated theatrical and home video revenue and profit from the film.

Walt Disney performs magic tricks

Head over to MovieWeb for a vintage clip of Walt Disney doing some magic of his own. This clip is included on the 45th Anniversary Edition DVD of The Sword in the Stone which will be available next Tuesday and also features a Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers featurette along with two classic Disney shorts: Goofy’s Knight for a Day and Mickey’s Brave Little Tailor.

Hubby hopping mad over bunny cartoon, calls cops

Police in the Czech city of Hradec Kralove had to mediate a domestic dust-up Tuesday between a soccer-obsessed husband and his wife who preferred watching cartoon rabbits on TV.

The 62-year-old man was glued to the televised Euro championship match between Russia and Spain when his wife started demanding that he switch the channel so she could watch the evening kiddie cartoon series Bob a Bobek, about two bunnies who live in a hat. She had noted that the show was going to be on the tube that day.

The husband refused to give up the remote control, whereupon his 52-year-old wife allegedly started to "swear violently" at her husband. That's when he called the police.

"Several minutes before 7 p.m., he called to say that his wife was going crazy, and that she was verbally attacking him," Hradec Kralove police spokeswoman Eva Cizkova told the Web site of Mlada fronta DNES, a leading Czech daily.

Once police arrived, the couple cooled off somewhat.

In their report, officers handling the case didn't state who won the age-old battle over the remote.

Cizkova speculated that the husband probably was victorious, since a football game usually runs longer than an episode of a kids' cartoon show.

Animation auction aired live June 22 from Vegas

Whether you're a fan of classic cartoons or legendary film animation, you're bound to find a treasure during the Wonderful World of Animation auction presented by Julien's Auctions live from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on Sunday, June 22.

The event will be broadcast live in high-definition on Auction Network ( starting at 8:30 a.m. PDT. Auction Network features millisecond bid-to-live broadcast technology and secure real-time bidding across all currencies so participants can bid with confidence and stay on top of the action.

Fans from around the world can enjoy a front-row seat to watch and bid on more than 250 lots of cherished images from major studios and rare original concept paintings from many of the masters of animation art. The acclaimed works of such animation pioneers as Charles Schulz, Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, Fritz Freleng, Virgil Ross, Chuck Jones and numerous Disney artists represent the extensive collection available to fans of the genre.

"We're again proud to partner with Julien's Auctions to allow people access to world-class auction events they otherwise couldn't attend," says Auction Network CEO and founder Pamela McKissick. "As the more than 300,000 visitors to our site during May discovered, Auction Network captures the spirit and sport of live auction events and makes them instantly global."

Interested bidders can visit to register and view an up-to-date video catalog with photos and details for each lot. Bidders must be registered 24 hours before the event. A live pre-show starts at 8:30 a.m. PDT on

"This collection of rare animation and sought-after Hollywood collectibles has the makings of a dynamic event for both bidder and viewer," says Darren Julien, president and CEO of Julien's Auctions.

This 1937 hand-painted Walt Disney celluloid from Snow White is one of more than 250 cherished images from major studios and rare original concept paintings up for sale at the Wonderful World of Animation auction at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on June 22.

Briefly: Bakshi Party; YTV in July; "WALL*E" and "Alvin" Licensing Plans

* ASIFA-Hollywood will be holding a party for animator Ralph Bakshi at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles, CA, on Saturday, June 14, 2008, from 7:00 - 11:00 PM. In addition to Bakshi himself, several alumni from Bakshi Productions will be in attendance as well.

* Canada's YTV has announced its programming schedule for July 2008, which includes the premiere of Doogal, two All Dogs Go to Heaven movies, and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman [YTV]

* Disney has announced licensing plans for the upcoming Pixar movie WALL*E, which shows Disney's expectation that it will be much more amenable to licensing than Ratatouille. The same article also examines Fox's expansion for Alvin and the Chipmunks licenses. [Variety]

* Australian animation house Animal Logic will be opening a video game studio in Los Angeles. The studio is currently working on the CGI animated movie Guardians of Ga'Hoole for Warner Brothers. [Variety]

Toon Zone Throwdown Final Round: Top 5 Takedowns

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.

All fights have to come to an end (despite Dragon Ball Z's repeated attempts to prove us wrong), so we're wrapping up the Toon Zone Throwdown with the Top 5 Takedowns -- a cross-section of exceptionally creative or notable ways to end a fight. Obviously, since these moments are usually the climaxes of the TV shows or movies they are part of, there's even more of a spoiler warning in effect for this entire article.

It's the final round -- there's no tomorrow. Ready? FIGHT!

The Flash vs. Brainathor
Justice League Unlimited: "Divided We Fall" (2005)
Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos


"Back when I was training as Kid Flash, [Barry] would pull out tidbits of useless information. He called them his 'Flash Facts.'"
-- Wally West, JLA #3

In this fight, the Flash is the last Justice Leaguer standing against a monstrous hybrid of Brainiac and Lex Luthor. To fight him, the Flash runs around the world eight times in 38 seconds, punching Brainathor each time around the world. At first, he runs around the world (a distance of 40,070 kilometers) in 10 seconds. By the end, he's moving fast enough to run around the world three times in less than 1 second. Thus, the Flash's starting velocity was (40,070 * 1,000) / 10 = 4,007,000 meters/second -- approximately 11,700 times faster than the speed of sound but a paltry 0.013 times the speed of light. His final velocity can be calculated as (40,070 * 3 * 1,000) meters/second = 120,210,000 m/s (a sizeable jump to 0.4 times light speed), if we round the final speed up to 1 second to simplify the math a bit.

Basic physics tells us that Energy = 1/2 * mass * velocity2. If we assume that the Flash is approximately 165 lbs (or about 74.843 kg), this means that the Flash's first punch had about 6 x 1014 joules of energy behind it (or about 600 terajoules), and his final energy payload was 5.4076 x 1017 joules of energy (540,757 terajoules, or about 540.76 petajoules). For comparison, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki had a yield equal to about 21 kilotons of TNT, which is about 88 terajoules of energy. The largest nuclear device ever detonated was the Russian Tsar Bomba in 1961, which had an official yield of 50 megatons of TNT or 209.2 petajoules of energy. That detonation measured about 5.25 on the Richter scale. The Flash was hitting Brainathor with more than 2.5 times the energy of that blast.

So what have we learned today, class? We've learned that if he wants to, the Flash can hit people really, really, really, really, REALLY hard.

Flash fact!

Aang vs. Admiral Zhao
Avatar the Last Airbender: "The Deserter" (2005)
Directed by Lauren Macmullan

"To subjugate the enemy's army without doing battle is the highest of excellence."
-- Sun Zi, The Art of War

"My style? You could call it the art of fighting without fighting."
-- Bruce Lee, Enter the Dragon

Why: In this episode of Nickelodeon's Avatar the Last Airbender, the title character Aang is battling the Fire Nation's Admiral Zhao. If anything, Zhao's skill at Firebending, augmented by his almost boundless fury, seems to have the edge over the young Avatar. Then, Aang seems to get a crafty idea in his head. He begins taunting Zhao as only a 12-year old boy can, driving Zhao to even greater heights of anger. Zhao lashes out wildly, until his opponent confidently declares that the fight is over and Zhao has lost.

"Are you crazy?" Zhao demands furiously. "You haven't thrown a single blow!"

"No," replies Aang, "But you have."

As his ships burn from his own attacks, Admiral Zhao can only howl in defeat as he is left impotent on the riverbank, while Aang makes a clean getaway on a flying bison with his friends.

Sun Zi and Bruce Lee would be so proud.

Prince Phillip vs. Maleficent
Sleeping Beauty (1958)
Directed by Eric Larson, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Les Clark

Animation aficionados may have noticed a distinct lack of work from the Walt Disney studios in earlier rounds, but this shouldn't really come as much of a surprise. There may be lots of action sequences in Disney feature films and TV shows, but most of them defuse or soften the impact of the violence through various means. Also, many Disney films will not permit the hero to openly kill or even seriously harm the villain, opting instead for a conveniently lethal fall or other indirect means to end fights.

However, it would be a shame to omit the work of Disney entirely, and luckily there is one standout climactic fight among the feature films: the final battle between the valiant Prince Phillip and the evil witch Maleficent at the end of Sleeping Beauty. After her minons and her magic prove incapable of stopping Prince Phillip from his oscular appointment with Princess Aurora, Maleficent takes matters into her own hands. She transforms into an enormous dragon, challenging him to "deal with me...and all the powers of Hell!" (a line that probably wouldn't pass muster in a modern-day Disney film). The battle that follows is short but intense, as Phillip pits his sword and shield in a losing battle against the green flame and snapping jaws of Maleficent. Just when all seems nearly lost, the trio of Aurora's fairy godmothers enchants Prince Phillip's sword to "fly swift and sure, that evil die and good endure!"

The magic might be what makes the sword penetrate and destroy Maleficent, but it's unmistakably Prince Phillip's hand that sends the blade on its way. For being the first time that the hero of a Disney animated movie openly takes out the villain on his own, and for being an intense, cathartic fight on its own merits, this battle from Sleeping Beauty edges out all its competition to land a berth on this top 5 list.

Unit-01 vs. the 14th Angel
Neon Genesis Evangelion: “Introjection” (1995)
Directed by Hideaki Anno

In this episode, the 14th Angel, whose distinctive feature is the ribbon-like arms that slice through pretty much anything, has infiltrated the GeoFront, the first Angel to do so in the series. Two attempts to stop the Angel prove futile, leaving Shinji Ikari in Unit-01 as the GeoFront's last defense. Ikari does pretty well, despite losing one of the Eva’s arms during the fight. Then his internal battery runs out and the Eva shuts down. The Angel rips off the Eva’s front armor, attempting to destroy Unit-01’s core.

That’s when it happens. Desperate to save his friends and allies (well, except for his complete jackass of a dad, Gendo), Shinji once again unconsciously mind-melds with Unit-01’s core, but the result is far deadlier than previous encounters. Before, Unit-01 merely went mad and just killed the Angels, but here, Unit-01 goes primal. The now-wild Unit-01 cuts through and rips off one of the Angel’s ribbon arms and attaches it to itself, using the material to instantly create a new, human-like arm. Unit-01 then uses its AT Field to blow the Angel away, causing severe injuries and destroying the Angel’s AT Field with little effort.

Then the fun begins. Hunched over on all fours, the Eva grunts and sniffs the injured Angel, grabs its head, looks around like a wolf checking to see if there are any other hunters around, then begins to pick the Angel apart. Suddenly, Unit-01 turns its back to the camera, opens its mouth wide, and starts eating the Angel. Misato, Ritsuko, and the other NERV personnel can only look on in horror as this giant monster literally consumes its enemy, tearing the meat from the bones, occasionally checking to see if there are any other predators around before going back to gorge on the enemy’s flesh. To accentuate the horror, Unit-01 gains large green, human-like eyes to replace the white, pupil-less eyes it has had up to this point. As the Eva finishes devour the Angel, bones and all, it peeks around one more time and then stands up, howling in triumph and breaking all the armor and restraints around its body, looking more human than ever before.

While previous Evangelion fights have had a lot of blood and gore, they were normal fights for the most part. This makes it that much more uncomfortable when this giant monster performs this act of cannibalism -- a disturbing event that has yet to be duplicated in any anime since.

AUTHORS NOTE: Despite what it may look like, a lot of thought goes into these top 5 lists. This one went through an unusual number of revisions right up to the last minute, with some entries getting full entries written up, only to get axed (check out our forums for "Deleted Scenes" -- they're not just for DVDs any more!).

The problem was that we were missing a really good Earth Shattering Kaboom to finish everything off. We racked our brains for a while to find one, before realizing that the answer was staring us right in the face:

Daffy Duck vs. Marvin the Martian
"Duck Dodgers in the 24th and 1/2 Century" (1953)
Directed by Chuck Jones

OK, so maybe it's more of a Planet X Shattering Kaboom. After trading cartoon violence in the inimitable Chuck Jones style, Daffy Duck and Marvin the Martian have had their fill of each other, and begin deploying gigantic ultimate weapons. Too bad they both go off at the same time, leaving a hunk of rock barely big enough for the two to stand on. And yet, they're still fighting.

Maybe this was Jones' comment on the nuclear deterrence strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction (which is exactly as MAD as it sounds, even if it proved to be a successful deterrent to all-out nuclear war). Maybe it was just a funny gag. Either way, it's a perfect expresion of one ultimate Truth about cartoon fights: when all else fails or you need to wrap things up in a hurry, blowing everything up is a perfectly good way to do that. Most of Katsuhiro Otomo's movies seem entirely predicated on this idea. In fact, rather than attempt anything more meaningful, I may just take my own advice right now.

And there you have it! The staff at Toon Zone News hope you enjoyed this week's look at the finest fights of animation. Obviously, there's no way only 25 fights can encapsulate all the great moments of cartoon violence in the history of the medium, so if you wanna fight us about our choices, come on and bring it in the Forums! Punk.

The Fourth Dark Knight TV Spot

A fourth TV spot for Warner Bros. Pictures' The Dark Knight has made its way online and can be watched using the player below! Opening in conventional theaters and IMAX on July 18, the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman Begins follow-up stars Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.

5th Featurette on The Incredible Hulk

A fifth behind-the-scenes featurette on The Incredible Hulk is now online and can be watched using the player below. Opening Friday, June 13, the Louis Leterrier-directed action-thriller stars Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell and William Hurt.

Marvel Planning "Marvel Extreme - Wolverine" Animated Project?

A report at from the Licensing International Expo in New York City is stating that an animated title called Marvel Extreme - Wolverine is in the works at Marvel, alongside the previously announced animation projects such as Hulk: Gamma Corps, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Planet Hulk, and Marvel Super Hero Squad. There was no other information available at the Expo about Marvel Extreme - Wolverine.

DreamWorks Animation Stock Downgraded

Shares of DreamWorks Animation fell Thursday after an analyst at UBS downgraded the stock to "sell" status," saying the company overvalues its box office performance. The stock firm lowered the stock from "neutral" status, saying the company's current stock prices reflects an expected average domestic gross of $202 million, well above the current average of $191 million.

However, the box office performance of Kung Fu Panda, which opened Friday and exceeded expectations, prompted UBS to raise its target price for the stock by $2 to $29. DreamWorks shares fell about five percent in Thursday morning trading to $29.55.

Toonz' Shiva Series Shapes Up

India-based Toonz Animation is prepping the animated series Shiva, its second adaptation of the nation's mythology. In an interview with India's Business Standard, Toonz CEO P Jayakumar, said the series will be produced as a low-cost series and consist of 13 half-hour shows that will air in India on Cartoon Network starting in about six months.

"We are venturing into a different format, which would be close to what may be called picture book animation, with Shiva," he says.

Toonz' first entry into adapting myth was the animated feature film The Return of Hanuman, which unspools at the Annecy Festival this week.

Nick Hatches Plans for New Neopets Goods

Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products unveiled at Licensing Expo 2008 plans for a new line of Neopets toys and merchandise due to hit stores this fall.

The new products follow up on the success of the Neopets plush line, which debuted in February. New products include plush toys, trading cards, figures, playsets, books, stationery, apparel and videogames and all will take part in a "360" product to web experience in which consumers are directed to the web community at, where they can redeem virtual tokens or virtual items for their Neopets. Licensing partners include Capcom, Jakks Pacific, Harper-Collins, Enterplay and Mamiye Brothers. Items will be available at Target, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Claire's and Kmart.

Neopets was originally launched as a virtual pet website by Adam Powell and Donna Williams in 1999. Warner Bros. is preparing a CG-animated Neopets movie (The Lost Tomb: A Neopets Adventures), based on a screenplay by Rob Lieber and directed by Henry Anderson, with CG animation provided by Animal Logic (Happy Feet).The film is slated for an April 2009 release date.

Pokemon Players to Face Off, Grab Launch

Pokemon is ratcheting up its promotion for its new Pokemon: Diamond and Pokemon: Pearl video games, sponsoring an international video game tournament and offering promotional items through a partnership with Burger King.

Sixty-four of the world's best Pokemon: Diamond and Pokemon: Pearl video game players from the U.S. and Japan will have a chance to face off in the first ever Pokemon Video Game Showdown, set for Aug. 16 in Orlando, Fla.

Finalists will be chosen at two qualifying tournaments, in which 256 entrants will fight for one of 16 spots from each city advancing to the finals. Qualifying tournaments will be July 12 in Los Angeles and July 19 in New York. Potential contestants need to register and complete an online quiz at

Meanwhile, Burger King will offer one of 12 exclusive Pokemon game cards and an accessory with each BK Kids Meal as part of a worldwide promotional agreement.

Burger King will be the exclusive outlet for the cards, which are based on the Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl trading card game and features characters from the Pokemon: Diamond and Pokemon: Pearl video games.

The promotion runs from July 7 to Aug. 3 in the United States and from late summer into the fall internationally. Pokémon: Diamond & Pearl the Movie: Giratina and the Sky's Bouquet: Shaymin is the long title of the 11th Pokemon movie, which is scheduled for release in Japanese theaters on July 19, 2008.

Choose Spider-Man: Web of Shadows' Black Cat & Mary Jane

Activision has announced that you can pick which models you want to appear as Black Cat and Mary Jane for the "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows" video game at the San Diego Comic-Con:

The official Spider-Man: Web of Shadows website has kicked off a new vote allowing Spider-Man fans to take control of the Web of Shadows campaign. Those who head to the site starting today will have the opportunity to pick the model who will appear at San Diego Comic-Con dressed up as Black Cat. The vote will last until Monday, June 16th, when Spider-Man fans will then pick who will be portraying Mary Jane at Comic-Con. The chosen models will be dressed up in costumes tailor-made exactly to the specifications of the in-game character costumes. Come check out starting today and have your say about who will portray Mary Jane and Black Cat at Comic-Con! Simply click on the Seize Control tab and pick your favorite model!

Marvel Wants A Titanic Star For Captain America

The scoop mongers at Latinoreview have covertly discovered who Marvel wants to pick up Steve Rogers shield last seen on Tony Stark’s workbench!

Marvel has been having one hell of a week. First the Jon Favreau controversy, then we have a he said/ she said argument brewing over Captain America’s cameo, oh and today THE INCREDIBLE HULK opens which kicked all sorts of ass.

Well, speaking of CAPTAIN AMERICA, I have myself a trusted source internally over at Marvel and they are now starting to toss names for the role of Steve Rogers.

The name at the top of the list?


Now before some loser film website goes out there and tries to debunk me let’s get it straight. Don’t expect Marvel to go on the record and say “Yes it’s true, we are looking at so and so.” Hollywood doesn’t work like that. Studios and production companies only go on the record to announce the casting of a role when it’s official. I announced the lead in the upcoming Prince of Persia. It took the trades weeks later to make it official. That being said…


Just because Marvel wants him, doesn’t mean they are going to get him. Studios and production companies put together their wish lists when they are casting and work their way down the list. I personally believe DiCaprio is an odd choice. To me, Leo’s tall and lanky figure is perfect for Steve Rogers pre-super soldier serum but I wonder how they are going to make Leo look like a bulked up super soldier. Don’t get me wrong, he has the chops for the role but DiCaprio is awfully busy these days developing ATARI, FLEMING and a host of other projects over at Appian way.

Marvel is aiming real high when it comes to talent and rightfully so, it has paid off for them tremendously. I believe to get DiCaprio, they’re gonna have to nail down a kick ass script and a director first.

You know else is also on the list in case they don’t get DiCaprio?


Marvel wants to be in the Brad Pitt business. They are willing to cast him either as
THOR or CAPTAIN AMERICA. Now Brad Pitt as Captain America would be bad ass but as it stands right now…

…Marvel wants Leonardo DiCaprio as Captain America!

Spectacular Spider-Man Premires "Nature vs. Nurture" on Saturday, June 14

Spider-Man has shed his symbiote suit, but the alien has made Eddie Brock's mind and body its new home – and that lethal combination is coming after Spidey and his friends and relatives in the action-packed season finale of "The Spectacular Spider-Man" this Saturday, June 14 at 10:00 a.m. ET/PT on CW4Kids.

Entitled "Nature vs. Nurture," the all-new episode opens on Thanksgiving as Aunt May Parker is released from the hospital – but Venom has no intention of letting May and Peter Parker enjoy a family celebration. Knowing all of Spider-Man's secrets – even some Pete isn't consciously aware of – Venom threatens to destroy Pete and everyone he loves most. Will Pete embrace his destiny in time to defeat this new arch-nemesis?

"Nature vs. Nurture" is written by Kevin Hopps and directed by series producer/supervising director Victor Cook.

Prior to the premiere of "Nature vs. Nurture," Kids' WB! will air a repeat of "Persona" at 9:30 a.m. ET/PT.

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