Wednesday, July 2, 2008

News - 07/02/08...

Hellboy on Inside The Actor's Studio!!!

I wish there was more of this sort of thing. Hellboy on late night talkshows just shooting the s#!t in character - talking about his acting process in the movie versus real life paranormal detecting. Well here's a glimpse of that kind of fun...

The second spot has Hellboy and Chuck playing video games and coming up with a brilliant marketing idea.

Pitch Party ’08 Results Are In!

After several days of deliberation, Animation Magazine's animation industry judges have finally weighed in, and they have the winners of the Seventh Annual Animation Magazine Pitch Party. In addition, they've received thousands of online votes to determine the latest crop of standouts. Their grand prize winners will be given the chance to pitch to the judge of their choice and perhaps become the next big thing in animation. They’d like to thank everyone who voted for their part in making Pitch Party ’08 one of the magazine’s biggest events of the past 20 years.

First Place [Tie]: RIP Alice (Mike Jones)

Mike Jones, a 26-year-old first-year student at north Vancouver’s Capilano College came up with a nice twist on the fish-out-of-water concept: a toon abut a big city Goth girl who has to learn how to cope with the simple pleasures of a small-town lifestyle. Don Perro, who heads up the animation program at Capilano, presented the competition to their animation/design students and their top six ideas made it to their Pitch Party pages.

“RIP Alice was an idea that had formulated in my head over the last few months, having just moved to a big city for the first time,” says Mike. “Traveling on the bus each day I'd see all kinds of young people who seemed like their only job was to look cool and hip ... I found it very funny how they would complain about the most superficial things.”

Mike says he grew up on the Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry shorts and would love to explore the world of animation as best as he can. “I'd like to take a stab at 3D animation, although I don't think I'll ever be able to put away my sketch book,” he adds. “Character design and development is where I'm strongest. Ultimately though, I'd like to work my way towards being a director. Excellent storytelling is becoming rare, and so it's something I'm really looking to learn more about.” We’re hoping that Alice the Goth girl will open a whole lot of doors for this talented artist in the years ahead.

First Place [Tie]: Lerning Is Fub (Brian Smith, Eggplant)

When you’re hot, you’re hot! Brian Smith, who works at Toronto’s sound and design outfit, Eggplant Collective, won top prize last year with his King of the Universe pitch, placed second place in 2006 with Monster in a Box and, this year, he had everyone giggling about his “educational show made by morons and starring Stitches the Lobotomized Cat.”

"It's good to know that there are others out there just as eager to warp the minds of our children," he jokes. "Having three daughters, I was subjected to years of so-called children's 'edu-tainment,' so this was my way of getting back at Barney for all the pain he inflicted upon my wife and I." Brian is developing more animated concepts at Eggplant, and he's also working on an animation/live-action script about a cartoon boy who is trying to adapt to life in the real world--a new take on Pinocchio. "Any agents out there looking to rep a good writer, do call!" he says.

Brian points out that winning the Pitch Party opened new doors for his company and has landed him several fruitful industry meetings in the past. His advice for future contestants? “It’s really important to come up with an idea that is simple to convey: the best idea you have many not be the best Pitch Party idea. If it can’t be conveyed in the space of a business card, it doesn’t matter if it’s the next Simpsons!” Frankly, we would love to see Lerning Is Fub become as big as the Simpsons!

Second Place: The House of Woooo (Colleen Thomas)

First-year Capilano College (in North Vancouver) student Colleen Thomas put a fun spin on the old werewolf mystery tales which appealed to our judges. “It started with the idea of these two odd kids being the caretaker for their grandpa, but something had to be horribly wrong,” says the talented 24-year-old artist. “I've always liked action adventure cartoons best, and I draw a lot of monsters and scrappy kids, so it seemed like a natural combination. It's the kind of story that I would like to work on, or to watch—That's what I tried to think of.” Many of our judges also wanted to see Colleen’s vision come to animated life.

Third Place: Tag (Mike Chapman)

Mike, a senior at Savannah’s College of Art and Design, says he wanted to create a short that was simple, yet, very cinematic. “I liked the idea of thinking of the robot as the kid's best friend combined with the devotion and playfulness of a dog,” he explains. Tag is basically about love, and what you would do to save what you love.” Mike learned about the Pitch Party through SCAD chair of animation Jeremy Moorshead, who generously sponsored six of the school’s students. He says his senior project will be a short based on his pitch. He adds, “I think most people enter this field because they have a story to tell, something that they think about day and night. It's a wonderful thing when we are given a chance to bring some of these ideas to light.” We have a feeling Mike’s work will get a lot of more recognition once he finishes his senior project.

Animation Magazine Staff Picks

First Place: Lerning Is Fub (Brian Smith, Eggplant)
Second Place: The Princess & The Mermaid (Jo Reid, Capilano College)
Third Place: Cow Kitty (E. Mullock, Capilano College) )
Honorable Mention: Evil Genius Academy (Lee Sheppard)

Animation Magazine Online Readers’ Picks

First Place: That Intellectual Wacky Show (Ariel Quezada)
Second Place: Rocket (Daniel Contois)
Third Place: The Boogie Woogies, Superhero Band (Grande Musical Promotions, Selina Box)

The Pitch Party is an extremely targeted advertising campaign designed to help indie producers and up-and-coming talents present their ideas to influential people who currently hold key positions in the development and production of animated television. Contestants who purchased a 1/6th–page ad at a discount rate in this issue were able to get their ideas off of their computers and draft tables, and in front of these execs and the animation industry at large.

We wish our grand prize winners Mike Jones of Capilano College and Brian Smith of Eggplant the best of luck with RIP Alice and Lerning Is Fub and hope good things come from the exposure all of this year’s contestants received by participating. Next year’s Pitch Party will be here before you know it (deadline is June 16, 2009), so start getting those pitches together now!

Be sure to check out all of this year's Pitch Party ads in the August (Comic-Con) issue of Animation Magazine!

"Avatar" Book 3 Vol. 4 DVD Reveals Titles, Special Features has revealed the back cover of Avatar the Last Airbender Book 3, Vol. 4 DVD. The DVD will include the final six episodes of the show, and the newly released artwork gives the subtitles for each episode in the four-part finale. The artwork also reveals that commentary tracks will be provided, although not for which episodes. The DVD is scheduled for release on July 29, 2008.

Jill Shields Named SVP at Turner Animation, Young Adults and Kids Media

Jill Shields has been named Senior Vice President of marketing and promotions for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.'s Animation, Young Adults and Kids Media (AYAKM). In her new position, Shields will be developing and executing promotional marketing programs for brands across the division, which includes Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and She was promoted from vice president of promotions marketing and sponsorships for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.

Motion Capture Animation Techniques Help Children to Walk

A report on the ABC Brisbane site states that movement analysis technology used to create animation is being used to treat children with conditions like cerebral palsy and spina bifida. A patient is fitted with reflective markers and then recorded while moving, with the resulting recording being viewed from all angles by doctors. By being able to see motion from all angles, including directly above and below the patient, doctors are better able to determine the source of motion aberrations which can then be corrected more effectively.

George Lucas talks Clone Wars

NYTimes has posted an article wherein George Lucas discusses elements of his latest film and television project Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Lucas talks in depth about creating the film and his involvement with the project. The film, set to be released by Warner Brothers on Aug 15, will also introduce an animated television series with the same title that will have its debut on the Cartoon Network this fall.

The recipe to Pixar’s success

The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at Pixar’s winning streak and tries to break down the reason for the studio’s consistent success. Stability, smarts and techno-savviness are key according to the trade magazine, resulting in an even better-than-projected $63.1M opening weekend for Wall•E, the biggest for an animated film this year.

First Ponyo review

GhibliWorld has posted the very first review of Hayao Miyazaki’s upcoming film Ponyo on the Cliff by industry insider and broadcasting writer Hashimoto Atsushi. In his spoiler-free review, Atsushi mentions, “I’ve never seen such a hot air during any of the previews I visited over the last two years. They all gazed at the screen to ensure they would never miss any of the cuts Miyazaki challenged himself to.” Ponyo opens in theatres across Japan on July 19.

Details emerge on Open Season sequel

While announcing the projects it will be working on over the next 2 years, Sony Pictures Imageworks revealed details on Open Season 2, Sony Pictures Animation’s sequel to the $190 million hit Open Season for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “Boog and Elliot are back for more crazy adventures. After falling head over hooves in love with Giselle, Elliot’s road to the altar takes a slight detour when Mr. Weenie is kidnapped by a group of pampered pets determined to return him to his owners. Boog, Elliot, McSquizzy, Buddy and the rest of the woodland creatures launch a full-scale rescue mission for their sausage-shaped friend and soon find themselves in enemy camp: the world of the pets. Led by a toy poodle named Fifi, the pets do not plan to let Mr. Weenie go without a fight. Can a toy poodle REALLY bring down a 900-pound grizzly bear? Will Elliot ever marry Giselle? Find out in Open Season 2.” The direct-to-DVD release is expected to hit shelves next year. An alledged teaser trailer is currently floating on YouTube.

A look back at the 1941 Disney strike

As the SAG contract expired a few hours ago and Hollywood is crossing its fingers, the TAG Blog takes us down memory lane by looking back at the Great Walt Disney Cartoonists Strike that took place 67 years ago…

Gary Oldman discusses his Christmas Carol roles

The Dark Knight actor confirmed to Sci Fi Wire that he would be playing at least three characters in Robert Zemeckis’ upcoming motion-capture-animated A Christmas Carol: “I play Marley. I play Tiny Tim, and I play Bob Cratchit, so I play three [characters].” In the animated film–which Robert Zemeckis is directing with the same technology he used in last year’s Beowulf–Gary Oldman will play opposite Jim Carrey as Scrooge in the retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas ghost story. Gary disputed reports that acting in a motion-capture studio was like doing theater. “People that have never done theater say it’s like [that]; it’s nothing like theater.” Rather, he said, he performs his part in an empty room surrounded by “200 cameras, … and you don’t wear a costume, and you have dots on your face, and Zemeckis will make the movie in the computer later.” A Christmas Carol will be released by Walt Disney Pictures on November 6, 2009.

Mark Millar for 'Superman' in 2011?

'Wanted' creator Mark Millar, who's somewhat notorious for using well-placed hype to jump-start his ambitions, may be up to his old tricks in a recent interview with the UK's Daily Record.

In the interview Millar talks about his dream of writing the new 'Superman' movie, something he lobbied hard for before Bryan Singer took over the franchise years back. But now Singer is in charge and Millar is on the outside looking in.

Or is he?

What the comics writer told the Daily Record makes it seems as if he has his chess pieces in place to wrest control of the franchise away from the director and into the waiting embrace of his own hand-picked team:

"Since I was a kid I've always wanted to reinvent Superman for the 21st century," Millar said. "I've been planning this my entire life. I've got my director and producer set up, and it'll be 2011. This is how far ahead you have to think.

"The Superman brand is toxic after that last movie lost [money], but in 2011 we're hoping to restart it. Sadly I can't say who the director is, but we may make it official by Christmas."

The comments are somewhat puzzling. What will be made official? No doubt Millar and his unnamed producer are not in a position to simply claim control of the 'Superman' franchise. While they could be negotiating with Warner Bros. to oust Singer, it would seem like a monumental task to actually make that happen.

While Millar's comments come across as very assertive and definitive, he closes the 'Superman' talk with a softer remark.

"...Fingers crossed it could work out, that would be my lifetime's dream."

Dream? Hoax? Imaginary Story? Or will Millar and some amazing director really make the next 'Superman' film for release three years from now? We'll find out in the next six months!

Jon Favreau on 'Iron Man 2' and interlocking Marvel movies chatted up Jon Favreau about 'Iron Man 2' and more.

The director commented on the surprisingly slow contract negotiations for the film.

"It's gonna work out. I have a feeling...we're working it all out. They're actively engaged..."

He then discussed the agressive release schedule that Marvel has announced for the film.

"The summer 2010. It's a lot of work to get it done in that amount of time.

"You look at the ones who took three years. ['Dark Knight' director Christopher] Nolan did 'The Prestige' in between. You're able to ...mix things up a little bit. To get this thing done in two years it means that we've got to dig in really fast and be relentless. It's just a wind sprint all the way through."

However with suits designed, the cast already in place, not to mention the marketing infrastructer, Favreau sees development of the sequel keeping pace with the schedule.

He also aims to keep the franchise family freindly, which doesn't mean the franchise can't go to more serious places.

Favreau denies talk that Thor will be introduced in 'Iron Man 2'. He goes on to discuss the ambitious plans for crossover, including the 'First Avenger: Captain America' film.

"That I've seen artwork from that and it's pretty impressive."

He said he aims to be involved in all the movies, in the same way comic writers would discuss crossovers with one another, but his focus will be on the armored avenger.

New 'Next Avengers' trailer, plus 'Hulk Vs.' scoop has the third trailer for 'Next Avengers' , plus info on its' upcoming screening and first looks at 'Hulk vs. Wolverine' and 'Hulk Vs. Thor', (two parts of Marvel's upcoming animated 'Hulk Vs.' title).

Marvel and Lionsgate are proud to give the fans of the 2008 San Diego Comic Con a first look screening of this incredible new adventure on Friday July 25, at 8:30PM in Room 6A. Seating is extremely limited so bring your friends, family members, and get there early!

The screening will be followed by a panel that will include the film's Supervising Producer Craig Kyle, Producer/Supervising Director Gary Hartle, Writer Christopher Yost and some of the voice talent from the film. This will be your only chance to see the film before its September 2, 2008 Blu-Ray and DVD release.

Also, as an added bonus fans who stay to the end of the event will get to see a sneak peek of 'Hulk vs. Thor' which is Marvel and Lionsgate's next hardcore fan focused feature being released in January 2009.

On Monday, the trailer or
'Hulk vs. Wolverine'
appears online!

New "Behind the Scenes" Video Clip from "Batman Gotham Knight" at

MTV has posted another brief video clip from Batman Gotham Knight, which contains clips of the movie superimposed over several writers, editors, and producers discussing how they approach the Caped Crusader.

'Clockwork Girl' set for animated feature

Arcana is proud to announce that Telefilm Canada, the federal cultural agency dedicated to the development and promotion of the Canadian audiovisual industry, has provided funding for the 'Clockwork Girl' animated film.

'Clockwork Girl' tells the tale of a nameless robot girl who has recently been given the gift of life from her creator. While she explores the wonders of an ordinary world she meets an amazing mutant boy and they share a friendship that must overcome their warring families. Created by Sean O’Reilly and Kevin Hanna, the series was the first release from Arcana’s all ages division, Arcana Kids. Debuting in July 2007 the book received critical acclaim for its astounding artwork and timeless love story.

Telefilm Canada is a Crown corporation reporting to Parliament through the Department of Canadian Heritage. Headquartered in MontrĂ©al, Telefilm provides services to the Canadian audiovisual industry by means of four regional offices located in Vancouver, Toronto, MontrĂ©al and Halifax. Telefilm’s main goals are celebrating the telling of unique Canadian stories, actively championing a sustainable Canadian audiovisual culture, reward performance, encourage new thinking, and promote diversity.

When recently asked about the Clockwork Girl film, co-creator Kevin Hanna said, “I'm not sure how much I can say, other then I am thrilled that things are going as well as I ever hoped they could be. Working in Hollywood, I know that adaptations are a gamble that often taint the source material. So far everything is going right with Clockwork Girl, the people involved really understand the spirit of the book and the characters. I think fans of the book will be very happy with where this ends up.”

For more information on Clockwork Girl and Arcana Comics, visit

"Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow" Officially Rated PG

The MPAA has officially passed down the PG rating to the upcoming direct-to-video Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow animated feature.

According to the MPAA, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow will be rated PG for sci-fi action violence and some mild language.

Imageworks Takes on Heroic Projects

With its work on the big-budget superhero satire Hancock set to splash onto screens this weekend, Sony Pictures Imageworks has released a rundown of all the projects currently in its pipeline. In addition to the upcoming Sony Pictures Animation production Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and the toon sequel Open Season 2, the award-winning digital production company is at work on five major motion pictures. Included in the mix are the partially animated Jerry Bruckheimer/Disney's family adventure G-Force, Warner Bros.' comic-book adaptation Watchmen and a recently announced DreamWorks' action thriller titled Eagle Eye.

Directed by Peter Berg (
Friday Night Lights), Hancock stars Will Smith as a conflicted, sarcastic and misunderstood superhero whose well-intentioned heroics always seem to leave jaw-dropping damage in their wake. As the people of Los Angeles decide they have finally had enough of his antics, Hancock saves the life of PR executive Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), and decides to turn over a new leaf. Leading the vfx crew is effects designer John Dykstra, who has won Academy Awards for Star Wars and Spider-Man 2. Ken Kee-Suk Hahn, the digital effects supervisor for Imageworks, most recently served as the digital effects supervisor on Spider-Man 3.

G-Force is being directed by Hoyt Yeatman, who received an Academy Award for his visual effects work on the remake of Mighty Joe Young. Combining live actors with CG-animated animal characters, the family feature follows an elite team of highly trained covert agents employing unique tactics and nanotechnology to avert a looming global disaster. The Imageworks team is led by Academy Award-winning visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk. Stokdyk has worked on all three Spider-Man
movies, sharing in the 2005 Oscar win for Spider-Man 2. The G-Force crew also includes digital effects supervisor Seth Maury and animation supervisor Troy Saliba. Imageworks will also be delivering the stereoscopic 3-D version of the film, led by senior stereographer and digital effects supervisor Rob Engle

Based on the bestselling, Hugo Award-winning graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons,
Watchmen is a complex, multi-layered mystery adventure set in an alternate 1985 America. In a time when real-life costumed heroes have been outlawed, one former masked avenger investigates the murder of one of his own and uncovers a conspiracy to drag the world closer to Armageddon. Imageworks’ Pete Travers is the film’s visual effects supervisor, with Dan Kramer serving as digital effects supervisor and Kenn McDonald (Beowulf) as animation supervisor. Directed by Zack Snyder (300
) and produced by Lawrence Gordon (Die Hard), Lloyd Levin (United 93) and Deborah Snyder (300), the pic is slated to hit theaters on March 6, 2009.

Open Season 2 will be released directly to DVD, continuing the adventures of animal odd couple Boog and Elliot. After falling head over hooves in love with Giselle, Elliot's road to the altar takes a slight detour when Mr. Weenie is kidnapped by a group of pampered pets determined to return him to his owners. McSquizzy, Buddy and the rest of the woodland creatures join Boog and Eliot in launching a full-scale rescue mission and soon find themselves in the enemy camp. Led by a toy poodle named Fifi, the pets have no intention of letting Mr. Weenie go without a fight.

Eagle Eye stars Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Mackie and Billy Bob Thornton is in a race-against-time thriller about two unsuspecting Americans who are separately drawn into an assassination plot by a mysterious woman they have never met, but who seems to know their every move. Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia) and produced by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Patrick Crowley, the film has Academy Award nominee Jim Berney wroking as visual effects supervisor with David Smith as digital effects supervisor and Bob Pietzman as CG supervisor.

Also in the works at the studio is United Artists'
Valkyrie, a WWII suspense thriller starring Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Eddie Izzard and Terrance Stamp. Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns
) is directing and Academy Award nominee Rich Hoover will serve as senior visual effects supervisor. CG supervisors for Imageworks are Peter Nofz, Dan Eaton, Theo Bialek and Patrick Witting. In addition, Imageworks artists are working on an untitled Ridley Scott film based on Washington Post columnist David Ignatius’ 2007 novel about a CIA operative played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who devises a plan to infiltrate a major terrorist network. Sheena Duggal will serve as the film’s visual effects supervisor, and John Monos as CG supervisor.

Naruto, Samurai 7, Bravestarr on Disc

Heroic television figures dominate this week's animated home video debuts as anime warriors and space cowboys arrive at retail. Fans can now pick up VIZ's release of Naruto Vol. 25, FUNimation's Samurai 7 box set and Bravestarr: Season 1, Vol. 2 from BCI/Eclipse.

Naruto centers on Uzumaki Naruto, a rebellious ninja in training. Twelve years ago, when he was a baby, the evil Nine Tailed Fox demon was sealed inside his body to stop it from terrorizing The Hidden Leaf Village. For fear that Naruto would abuse the powers inside him and release the demon within, a rule was made forbidding anyone to tell him about the events of the past. Now a teenager, our hero attempts to earn the respect of the villagers by training to become the top ninja. Naruto Vol. 25 contains episodes 97-100: "Kidnapped!" "Naruto's Hot Spring Adventure!," "Tsunade's Warning: Ninja No More!," "The Will of Fire Still Burns!" and "Sensei and Student: The Bond of the Shinobi!" running 88 minutes, the release carries a suggested retail price of $19.98.

Samurai 7 is based on Akira Kurosawa’s classic epic, The Seven Samurai. Produced by GONZO Digimation, the animated show is set in futuristic world that has just seen the end of a massive war. Many villages are being terrorized by Nobuseri bandits, who were once men but modified themselves with machinery during the war to become living weapons. To protect themselves, a group of villagers decide to hire a rag-tag team of samurai. Listing at $49.98, the Samurai 7: Box Set (Viridian Collection) offers all 26 episodes for a running time of 705 minutes.

The last series produced by Filmation and Group W. Prods., BraveStarr follows the adventures of Marshall Bravestarr, who has come to the rough-and-tumble mining planet of New Texas to bring law and order to its people and protect them from outlaw Tex Hex and various other villains who seek to steal the planet’s valuable mineral deposits. He is joined in his quest by the beautiful Judge J. B. and a shape-changing mechanical horse named Thirty-Thirty. Available for the first time on DVD, Season 1, Vol. 2. is a four-disc set that offers 32 episodes for a running time of 704 minutes. Lovers of 1980s animated television can pick up the release for $39.98 or less.

Martha Speaks to PBS KIDS on Labor Day

Young viewers will learn what happens when a dog suddenly acquires the extraordinary ability to talk as the new animated series Martha Speaks debuts on PBS KIDS this fall. Slated to premiere on Monday, Sept. 1 at 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., the show from WGBH Boston and Vancouver's Studio B Prods. is based on a series of books written and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh, and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Meddaugh serves as a creative producer on the toon series aimed at kids 4-7.

Martha is a beloved family dog who is accidentally fed alphabet soup that gives her the power of human speech and the chance to speak her mind to anyone who will listen. Each episode features two 11-minute stories (including six adapted from the books) that showcase Martha's linguistic abilities and the humorous consequences they provoke, while encouraging kids to expand their vocabulary. Over the course of 40 animated installments, kids will get to know Martha as an outspoken, honest, smart, confident shelter dog who loves to eat. Viewers will also meet 10-year-old Helen and the rest of Martha's human and canine family and friends.

The Martha Speaks series of books have sold nearly one million copies in the U.S., and have been widely translated throughout the world. Martha's adventures also carry over to, a web destination that will reinforce vocabulary lessons from the series with games, videos and printable offline activities. The site will also offer resources to help parents and teachers support vocabulary development. PBS Parents ( will provide series information and educational goals for parents and caregivers, while PBS Teachers ( offers educational content.

Senior exec producer of Martha Speaks is Carol Greenwald, who originated the WGBH-produced Arthur series for public television and is also senior exec producer of Curious George. Content director is Dr. Rebecca Silverman of the University of Maryland. Martha Speaks is part of PBS KIDS Raising Readers initiative, and is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Education's Ready To Learn grant. Additional funding is provided by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and by public television viewers.

HP Debuts Spore Creature Creator

HP has announced the availability of its exclusive version of the Creature Creator, an application that allows gamers to create, paint, animate and share creatures for Spore, the upcoming simulation game from SimCity creator Will Wright. The HP Creature Creator offers more parts than other free versions and can be downloaded at It will also be available on HP and Compaq Presario desktops and select notebooks starting this September.

Developed by Wright's Maxis, Spore is a massively single-player game that will have gamers create and control the evolution of a new species. How creatures evolve depends on the characteristics gamers design into them. While the game is scheduled to debut in early September, the Creature Creator has been available for download for the past couple of weeks. Maxis reported that more than 250,000 unique creatures were created by the second day of availability.

The full version of Maxis' Spore Creature Creator is available for $9.99 at retail stores or by visiting A free trial version of the application is also available at The trial version features 25% of the creature-making parts and lets players shape, paint and play with their custom-created creatures. Characters made in the Creature Creator can also be imported into the full Spore game, allowing players to populate their own galaxies when the game ships worldwide this fall.

IFG Plows Into FARMkids

International Film Group (IFG) has signed on to be the exclusive sales agent for Australian production company FARMkids in the Asia-Pacific region. The partnership has already yielded a television licensing deal with Australia’s national broadcaster ABC1, which acquired the CG-animated FARMkids series and began airing it this week. In addition, IFG has entered into a co-production and exec producer agreement with Brisbane-based media content company The Creative Farm. The agreements were announced by IFG CEO Jennifer Hughes and Ian Jones, exec producer for both FARMkids and The Creative Farm.

FARMkids revolves around farm animals that ironically know nothing about living in the country. The pampered city critters must learn to cope with new surroundings when they are unexpectedly relocated from thier nursery petting zoo to a seemingly simple farm that holds a lot of surprises. Dude Ranch, the FARMkids' new home, is a place where antique, modern and Twilight Zone-ish elements collide. For more information on the show, go to

IFG will be working with The Creative Farm to produce and market their original animated properties Big Fun Mega Happy Pet Land and Cow Cops, as well as reality-based programming concepts. Further details of series development and acquisitions will be announced at a later date.

“IFG’s representation of The Creative Farm’s original content gives us unprecedented access to the global television marketplace,” says Ian Jones. “We are confident that IFG will bring our unique and state-of-the-art productions to an increasingly global audience.”

The Creative Farm develops and produces content for television, digital and mobile media platforms, and handles merchandising and licensing across a number of properties and genres. The company's catalog includes live action television, Hollywood content for distribution through multiple channels, family sports DVD entertainment, music properties, and 3D and 2D animated productions for both family and adult markets. Go to for more info.

Is Russian ani ready to rise? Stay tooned

The Hollywood Reporter has taken a look at the nascent animation industry in Russia, now experiencing a small revival with five animated feature films released in the past 6 months.

New generation of animators trying to revive genre

"Ilya Muromets i Solovey Razboynik"

Last year, producer Melnitsa's "Ilya Muromets i Solovey Razboynik" set a boxoffice record for Russia's domestic animation industry, grossing nearly $10 million on a budget of just $2 million.

The film, about a hero who has to rescue a treasure -- and his horse -- from a legendary bandit, was part of a mini-wave that has seen five animated features released here during the past six months. But while its success marks a major step forward from the market's darkest days in the early '90s, the local industry isn't ready to call it a trend just yet.

Influenced by Disney and Pixar, a new generation of Russian animators is busy trying to revive a genre that's been in crisis since the collapse of the Soviet economy. But meeting those standards -- both artistically and commercially -- is a work in progress, say professionals here, who point to a lack of technical talent and screenwriters as elements holding back the market.

"In the 1990s, the domestic animation industry hardly existed at all," said Dmitry Pisarevsky, a producer at Moscow-based company Era Vodoleya. "The situation was even worse than in the feature film industry, where some films were still being made."

Now, according to Pisarevsky, an older generation of animated filmmakers is giving way to a new one whose eyes are firmly on the boxoffice prize.

"We have two types of people working in animation," Pisarevsky said. "The older generation is more focused on conveying moral values and exploring creative ideas, while the younger generation is more concerned with the entertainment value and commercial success. And I'm sure the latter will soon win over the former."

Although it is difficult for Russian animated films to compete for domestic audiences with Disney/Pixar-level offerings, there are factors that could compensate for that, industry observers contend.

"Technology apart, if a Russian animated film had a strong script, dynamic action and good dialogue and if it were directed well ... it could compete with an American (animated film) for domestic audiences, or maybe elsewhere," said Alexander Gerasimov, director of film company Masterfilm.

"A lack of qualified screenwriters is the biggest problem," said Alexander Boyarsky, head of the St. Petersburg-based animation studio Melnitsa, adding that, while domestic film schools annually produce dozens of screenwriters, few are qualified enough to work either in the feature film or animated film industry.

"Similarly, we lack directors and animation artists," he said. "None of the Russian schools train animation artists, so we find talented artists and train them to work in animation."

That shortage of qualified personnel is one of the factors hampering possible cooperation and co-productions with Western countries.

"We don't have sufficient resources here at this point," Gerasimov said. "And production-wise, we don't have big facilities as in China or Southeast Asia. So, producing animation here for other countries would be too long, too expensive and with too many risks involved. On the other hand, if at some point there were money and ideas here, domestic producers might look for talent elsewhere."

There are, however, encouraging signs that Russian animation is making progress.

"Russian audiences' interest in animated films is increasing. People here want to watch domestically made feature-length animation films, just like American ones," Boyarsky said.

"The animation industry here is certainly on the rise," said Gerasimov, who points to the recent flurry of local product on Russian screens, adding that about twice as many films are in various stages of production.

But Melnitsa's Boyarsky, while justifiably proud of his studio's success with "Razboynik," has his eye on establishing a road to long-term success.

"Our studio has to achieve stability first, releasing a feature-length film a year, rather than every other year, before we can think about higher budgets," he said.

It's a target the company might be close to realizing, with two films now in production and two more in preparatory stages.

Era Vodoleya's Pisarevsky, meanwhile, expects his new feature-length animated film -- the $2.5 million "Sapsan," scheduled for release at the end of the year -- to do well in theaters.

"This is a family type of movie, and I'm sure that it will turn in a profit," he said. "We have secured a participation and distribution deal with (major Russian film producer and distributor) Central Partnership, so we are pretty sure it will perform well at the boxoffice."

New Poster for The Dark Knight Revealed!

The viral marketing for The Dark Knight revealed this new poster today for the anticipated July 18 release. You can click on it for a hi-res version!

Cover Art For "Batman: Gotham Knight" Region 2 Japanese Release

The World's Finest has obtained the cover art for the Japanese Region 2 DVD Release of Batman: Gotham Knight - Two-Disc Special Edition.

Click on the thumbnail below for a closer look.

No comments: