Wednesday, July 9, 2008

News - 07/09/08...

First Look: 'Wonder Woman' DVD Movie

TV Guide has unveiled your first look at the upcoming 'Wonder Woman' animated feature film.

The best-selling magazine also chats up actress Keri Russell ('Felicity') who provides the lead voice for DC Comics' amazonian warrior.

Russell said the story is funny and action-packed, and tells the origins of the character.

"She's a true, strong warrior, but she's also right at the break of being a young woman standing on her own and fighting out in the world," Russell told TV Guide. "Then they said Nathan Fillion was playing opposite me, and that made it that much better."

Fillion, a fan-fave for his role as Captain Mal in 'Firefly' and 'Serenity', has previously worked with Russell on the indie feature 'Waitress'. He said he's happy to be co-starring with the actresss again. He, of course, plays Steve Trevor in the film.

"What I like about Steve Trevor is that he's a very real guy. He's very honest and he's very natural. He doesn't apologize for much. And he's about as normal as a guy can be while hanging out with Wonder Woman."

'Wonder Woman' is slated to be the next DVD release from DC Comics after the 'Batman Gotham Knight' movie.

'Jimmy Two Shoes' Animation in the States

Jimmy's Debut Stateside

Independent animation studio Breakthrough Animation's kid-centered "coming soon" property Jimmy Two Shoes is about a boy whose unbridled passion for having fun. For this series, not slated for broadcast until early next year, its producers and promotional partners are doing everything they can to make sure that the adventure and comedy they expect from Jimmy Two Shoes is well anticipated. A co-production with Teletoon and Jetix Europe, Breakthrough Animation's latest cartoon pops up again in the news with word of distribution in the States, and more.

The series itself will follow Jimmy, who lives in Miseryville. Although the town itself is conducive to pain, suffering and all of the above, Jimmy is that enthusiastic anomaly which proves that "being good" can have its own consequences. In a town that's run by an irritable tyrant, Lucius Heinous the Seventh, whose main goal is to cause misery to the citizens, Jimmy emerges as the nuisance… He's a kid who likes to have fun, no matter how dire the situation, and as a result, when he partners with a couple of friends to cause "trouble" by having fun, Miseryville gets a dose of perhaps some much needed medicine.

Announced for broadcast in the United States only recently, Jimmy Two Shoes is scheduled to air on Jetix (U.S.), an action-adventure programming block currently run on the Toon Disney network. The animated television series from Breakthrough Animation (at 26x30) is additionally slated to air on Teletoon (Canada) and Jetix (Europe). Jimmy Two Shoes is created by Edward Kay and Sean Scott.

"Jimmy Two Shoes is a unique series that has benefited from the unorthodox approach of having a whole creative team from writers to actors to artists step outside the conventional storytelling process," Kevin Gillis, an Executive Producer at Breakthrough Animation, commented. "This, combined with the support and vision of our broadcasters, promises to be a fresh, new entertainment experience for kids on many platforms and levels."

on Breakthrough Animation: Breakthrough Animation is one of Canada's leading creators and producers of original, animated programming for the global marketplace. Since its inception in 2003, Breakthrough Animation has produced over 200 half-hours of award-winning and critically acclaimed children's brands including Atomic Betty, Captain Flamingo and Miss BG.

Cartoon Network Kicks-Off Mini Match Gameplay

Mini Match Play with Cartoon Network

Keeping ahead of the curve when it comes to interactive online entertainment for its key audience, Cartoon Network continues to adapt to the needs of its wired viewers. Online games of an action, adventure, self-created nature constantly cycle through the kid's entertainment group's online domain both domestically and internationally. It is in this new tradition that Cartoon Network kicks off its latest master plan, "Mini Match," a social-gaming virtual-world community that blends the interests of multiplayer games and online chat into one, giant, interactive destination.

Mini Match features miniature avatars of its users, who have the option to engage their friends as other users in puzzles, multiplayer games, "tag" battles and other elements that contribute to the virtual world's expansive environment. The Mini Match online service even has a built in reward system, where points are offered to players who excel at certain mini-games; the points of which go to the customization of characters and other in-game abilities.

"Mini Match opens up a whole new world of gaming to our online audience," Paul Condolora, Senior Vice President, Digital for Turner Broadcasting System Inc.'s Animation, Young Adults and Kids Media Group, commented.

"The action-adventure theme complements some of our most popular shows and provides kids with a safe virtual destination for social gaming. Kids can come and enjoy the multiplayer games or insert themselves into the fabric of the Mini Match story by joining the ranks of ninjas, pirates, space pilots and other characters, customizing their 'Minis' with the gear those adventurous characters bring."

The two-player Mini Match games are easily accessible, intuitive to play and branded to popular Cartoon Network content. Incorporating chat and exploration functions into the realm dubbed social-gaming, Mini Match, if successful, could serve as Cartoon Network's next most-influential new media property for export, as online gaming has proved immensely popular in other territories CN serves.

On Mini Match, players can chat about and explore (at present) any of four environments--Haunted Garden, Tower of Heroes, Underwater Lab and Alien Zoo--by playing various games that feature characters from network favorite animation titles such as Ben 10 and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.

Players can chat with one another using a custom dictionary that allows only kid-appropriate words and phrases. By chatting, players can also work together to discover more about the overarching fantasy storyline of the Mini Match world and earn new avatar gear, some of which will help players navigate different parts of the Mini Match landscape.

on Cartoon Network New Media: Cartoon Network New Media is responsible for the production of Cartoon Network's popular Web sites, which include,, and (the Spanish-language site). These sites are some of the most popular entertainment sites in the world for kids, currently attracting an average of more than 5 million unique users each month in the United States (Nielsen//NetRatings). The top attraction is their roster of games, which drew more than 2 billion game plays in 2007.

The Once and Future Strikes : Hollywood Labor Relations 101

Not quite sure what to make of what's going out west right now? Let JHM guest writer John Wayne walk you through LA's latest labor action

The headlines seem never to end: "Producers make final offer," "Industry Braces for Possible Walkout," "Strike Threatens to Bring Hollywood to a standstill." etc. etc. etc. And for the past year or two right up to this week, the situation looks pretty grim in the "dream factory" here in LA-LA-Land.

And I was thinking …maybe you (who, unlike me, are NOT inside this industry and have only the fan press and TV entertainment nonsense reporting to give you clues) would like to know a little bit more about "Why For?" So here we go:

Though there are unions and guilds (never mind the distinction between 'em. That's next semester, okay?) that cover everything that can be done on or around the set of a movie, there are basically FIVE major ones that we need to pay attention to:

The Director's Guild of America (DGA -- Which covers Directors, Assistant Directors, Unit Production Managers, Associate Directors, Stage Managers, Production Assistants in live TV and Location Managers in the NY area)

The Writer's Guild of America (East and West -- WGAE/WGAW, but basically the same club. The DGA has offices in NYC and L.A. too, but just doesn't distinguish the names of the sub-groups that way)

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG -- ONE of the TWO actors unions -- the much larger one dealing more with filmed and pre-recorded material … sorta)

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA -- the OTHER actor's union -- smaller, and more about live media, news personalities, variety shows, but often overlapping into SAG territory and often actors belong to BOTH)

The International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E., or "The IA" as it is known-really an ALLIANCE of all the various craft and "below the line" folks such as camera, lighting, grip, sound, prop, costume, makeup, and other technical people who get the show down on film/tape/bytes etc. etc. etc.
THESE folks have contracts which specify their MINIMUM wages ("stars" and their agents and lawyers can always negotiate MORE, of course,) working conditions, rights, procedures to adjudicate violations, pension and health and welfare plans, safety issues, and a host of other particulars of the workplace. And these contracts are negotiated/updated/reformed every three years -- though not all together. They are staggered over various years so that not EVERYbody is fighting at once - -partially to avoid utter chaos and mostly because while there are FIVE groups above (and sub-negotiations within them-different contracts, for example in the DGA, for filmed entertainment, live and tape, network vs. non-network shows, etc. etc.) they are all talking to ONE entity on the other side of the table which can only meet with them individually.

THAT side of the game is the Alliance Of Motion Picture and Television Producers AKA the AMPTP. (NOT to be confused with its other incarnation as the Motion Picture Association of America --the lobbying group for the producers more like a trade association than a negotiating body but made up of the same major companies, nor with the various Academies that give out Oscars, Emmys etc. etc.)

So … Once upon a time, every three years or so, within a few months or weeks of the expiration of the current contract, the two sides (AMPTP and ONE or more of the various unions/guilds-whoever's contract was up next) would schedule meetings to negotiate a new deal, usually leaving a lot of the old one intact and just updating as needed the things that changes in production techniques necessitated, experiences during the three years that needed clarifying, and, of course, increases in wages and other payments.

Once an agreement is hammered out in a highly sophisticated form of horse trading mostly behind closed doors (I've been there/done that BTW on many occasions), the finished agreement that the union/guild representatives endorse is then presented to the full membership of the body for "ratification" -- a majority membership vote up or down, which, of course, the leaders tell their members they SHOULD endorse and vote up. IF they do not vote yes OR if the negotiation reaches an impasse and there's no deal to approve or disapprove of, the union/guild leaders will, instead, ask their members to vote on a "strike authorization" -- to give them the ultimate card to play in the negotiations -- the threat to shut the industry down.

But here's the problem: IF a studio begins production on a film or TV show close to the date of the end of the contract and IF there is NO agreement or if it looks like there might be a fly in the negotiation ointment, then producers are reticent to START anything because it costs SO much more to STOP in the middle and then have to re-start -- not to mention the much bigger financial cost of simply stopping and NEVER re-starting a movie or show and having to throw away all the funds already spent. Let's remember that the major studios are PUBLIC companies who have to answer to stockholders and regulators and must spend their money prudently … or not spend it if that makes more sense.

That's why (a) what's known as a "de facto" strike happens often -- production slows to a crawl or stops weeks before the contract deadline as a self-protection technique by the studios, and (b) why there's a lot of pressure to make a deal and, in recent years, to go negotiate much EARLIER than the last minute to make sure no such slow-down or stoppage happens so that nobody adds the insult of less income under the OLD contract to the injury of a strike instead of a new contract. We have seen some guilds go into "early negotiations" in recent years as much as 6 months or more prior to the contract's official termination deadline.

Remember, please, that strikes in Hollywood affect more than the many hundreds of thousands of us who work in the industry. Movie and TV folks are mostly freelance workers -- they are not on an annual or steady salary. When the show is shooting or working, so are they. When it isn't, they are not. And when NONE are working? Well, strikes-de facto or actual-- also affect our local shops, our dry cleaners, our mortgage bankers, our school tuition payments, and every other ripple-through in the local economy of this "company town" for the movie and TV biz that is Los Angeles.

The losses of recent strikes to the overall economy here have been measured in BILLIONS, not mere millions. And that includes the direct added expenses of starting things up again once everyone comes to their senses. The effects can last for YEARS -- especially for those who, in prior strikes, had mortgages foreclosed on, businesses that serve the industry fail, or even bankruptcies and divorces and other life-changing tragedies happen because a usually thriving industry lost its way and fell apart.

So what's going on right now? Simple: Even though all the unions and guilds go to negotiate in different years, there's usually an overall "issue" that's the "hot topic" of any particular period, and what usually happens is that ONE of the major unions makes a deal to solve that issue first and that becomes what's known as a "pattern of negotiations" that the other groups tend to follow. Because -- in most cases -- it makes no sense for the producers to give a lot MORE in the same area to one group over another. We also negotiate that SHOULD another Guild somehow get a better deal on an issue, everyone else will move up to match that level, too.

Rightly or wrongly, the issue at hand this time around has been "New Media" and the residuals paid on DVD's, pay-per-views, and all the other means of delivery such as streaming video, etc. etc. Many of the unions say the studios are making big bucks on these things and thus the percentage they share should go up. The studios, of course, say "Not so fast. We have higher expenses and we make a lot of flops that devour the hits. And besides, we take the risk by backing the shows. And we just plain think that the current percentage is fine & dandy." There are good and bad arguments on both sides. Lots and lots of them. Way too many to go into here. Trust me.

But, as it happens, the DGA made a deal on this (and everything else) and DGA members approved their contract. And after a pretty nasty & costly strike a few months ago that you certainly will remember from the headlines, so did the WGA. And now that its contract year has arrived, AFTRA has made their own deal. And SAG has been in negotiations on its contract over these same issues and ... Oops ! SAG has NOT agreed to the same basic "pattern" as everyone else. SAG's contract has in fact actually just expired a few days ago on June 30 without reaching a new agreement to replace it. But SAG has NOT asked its members to authorize a strike … yet.

BUT … approximately 40,000 members of AFTRA, who currently have their ballots in hand to APPROVE their negotiated agreement (and must do so by today, July 8th when the ballots will be counted and the results revealed) are ALSO members of SAG (which has well over 100,000 members). And that's where it has gotten really sticky.

You see, as a way of strengthening their bargaining position to get a BETTER deal (they think) the SAG leadership has asked its members who are ALSO members of AFTRA to vote "NO!" on the AFTRA contract. Even though the AFTRA leaders have asked their members to vote "YES!" and endorse the deal they negotiated in good faith with the producers. THIS has caused a HUGE battle amongst the actors with famous folks taking opposite sides, placing ads in the trade papers, giving speeches and press conferences, and generally going nutso (another highly technical labor relations term -- I'd love to explain, but this is already too long … So take your best shot and guess).

SOME say this "sabotage the AFTRA deal if you're also in SAG" plan is the only way to pressure the studios to offer SAG and AFTRA both a better deal that will benefit everyone when it becomes the "new" pattern. Others say that for AFTRA to have negotiated in good faith and then have SAG butt in and meddle in their vote and basically tell the producers they didn't MEAN it when they negotiated would not only weaken everyone but give the producers a really good reason to say "a pox on both your houses" and hold out for WORSE terms for the actors in both guilds.

So … Last week, the studios gave SAG a basic ultimatum -- "This is the last, best deal we will offer you. Take it or go on strike." And SAG has said "Well, gosh, we aren't ready to strike just yet or even ask our members to approve one -- We just want to see how the AFTRA vote comes out." And meanwhile, as all three groups fight and offer brickbats in the industry media, and as the DGA and WGA and IA wait to see what happens …

Just about everyone is NOT working because, as I explained, NOBODY wants to start up a show only to have it shut down by a strike. And EVERYbody is still hurting from the very recent WGA strike that shut the town down for months only a little while ago, killed the last TV season, and cost everyone in and out of the industry billions of dollars. Which, they fear, might all happen again. Soon.

SO…the possible results are that either

(A) AFTRA ratifies their contract and SAG realizes it can't do better and takes the deal and THEIR members ratify too and we all go back to work, or ...

(B) SAG succeeds in torpedoing the AFTRA deal and then one or both of these unions authorize a strike and the town shuts down which ...

(C) won't look a whole lot different than the defacto strike now happening due to the producers' shutting things down to cut their losses but will be a whole lot angrier and nastier and potentially could lead to ...

(D) producers saying "Screw you guys -- we'll hire NON-union actors and the big stars will walk away from you because they like their big paychecks more than they sympathize with a union of 100,000 waiters and shoe clerks who once upon a time got an acting job but have nothing to lose by striking and making everyone else in the business lose their butts."

Yep. It could get that ugly out here. So stay tuned and we'll see.

I know this was long. But at least now you have some context for what the usually-inept news media will be telling you about what's going on at places like Sony and Paramount and Fox and Warner Bros and Universal and … oh yeah, DISNEY right now. Namely, a whole lotta nothing and a whole lotta name-calling and a whole lot of anger and tension and fear.

Ain't showbiz glamorous? You bet it is. And while the outcome as I write this is truly unknown, at least, I hope, you have some basic background to filter the sometimes incomplete news reportage through ... Because, as a JHM reader, you now know a little better the answers to the famous question: "Why For?"

Questions? Ask.

DISCLAIMER: This is a SHORT and BROAD BRUSH STROKE portrait of a VERY complex subject. The Secretary will disavow all knowledge of my actions. Your mileage may vary. Do not remove tag under penalty of law. Etc. Etc. Etc.

"Hulk Versus" Announced, Screening At Upcoming Comic-Con

Marvel and Lionsgate have announced the upcoming Hulk Versus direct-to-video animated feature, set to premiere at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con.

The official description for the Hulk Versus direct-to-video animated feature is as follows, as seen below. The feature is made up of two separate stories.

Hulk Vs. Wolverine
ALBERTA, Canada. The smoldering wreckage of a town-the latest casualty of a rampage by the monster known as The Incredible Hulk. Over the past week, Hulk has been tearing a line across the Canadian wilderness, leaving a swathe of destruction in his wake. He has to be stopped, and there's only one man up to the job. He's Wolverine, and he's been put on Hulk's trail with a single objective: stop the green all costs. Hulk and Wolverine are about to enter the fiercest battle of their lives.

Hulk Vs. Thor
ASGARD, realm of the gods. For ages, Loki the trickster has sought a way to bring defeat to his accursed stepbrother, Thor. But for all the battles Thor has fought, in all the nine realms, only one creature has ever been able to match his strength-a mortal beast of Midgard known as The Incredible Hulk. Now, with Odin the almighty king of the gods deep in a regenerative sleep, and the forces protecting Asgard at their weakest, Loki is finally ready to spring his trap. In an epic battle that will pit gods against monsters, only The Mighty Thor can hope to prevail. But to do so he must survive a perilous quest that will take him into the very depths of the underworld itself.

The first official trailer for the Hulk Versus Wolverine portion of the movie recently debuted on the official Marvel website.

The Hulk Versus direct-to-video animated feature is set to hit DVD and Blu-Ray in January 2009. If you want to catch the Wolverine portion of the film earlier, then check out the premiere of it at 2008 San Diego Comic Con. The world premiere screening takes place on Thursday July 24th at 4:15PM in Hall H.

Cast and crew talk Dragonball

Some of the cast and crew of Dragonball are speaking up about the film, namely screenwriter Ben Ramsey, camera operator Casey Hotchkiss, actor Texas Battle and storyboard artist Dan Fraga.

'Dark Knight' Model Sheets

Legion of Gotham has some exclusive 'Dark Knight' model sheets from the licensing style guide...

INTEL forms 3-D alliance with DreamWorks Animation

Intel Corporation and DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. announced Tuesday that they have formed a strategic alliance aimed at revolutionizing 3-D filmmaking technology, beginning with Monsters vs. Aliens, which is slated for domestic release next March 27.

To meet the increased demands of creating 3-D animated feature films, Intel will provide DreamWorks Animation with the latest high-performance processing technologies, including future chips with multiple processing cores. Intel software engineers will help to optimize DreamWorks' applications for these advanced processors. By converting its computing infrastructure to an Intel-based system, DreamWorks Animation will enable its artists to work with new, state-of-the-art 3-D authoring tools to render higher quality images more quickly and to modify them with greater ease.

As previously announced, DreamWorks Animation has committed to producing all of its feature films in stereoscopic 3-D, beginning next year.

"Our objective is to significantly heighten the moviegoing experience using DreamWorks Animation's ground-breaking 3-D filmmaking tools," said DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. "Technology plays a significant role in enabling our artists to tell great stories. By utilizing Intel's industry-leading computing products, we will create a new and innovative way for moviegoers to experience our films in 3-D."

"This alliance unites the best in computer-generated moviemaking and computing performance to deliver a new level of in-theater entertainment," said Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini. "The high level of inventiveness at DreamWorks Animation has positioned it as a leader in entertainment technology, and incorporating the Intel platform allows them to deliver incredibly rich digital 3-D content to the big screen -- raising the bar for the industry as a whole."

Disney putting Cars, Lion King characters on ice

Characters from Pixar's "Cars" will appear on ice for the first time as Worlds of Fantasy, Feld Entertainment's newest Disney On Ice spectacular, launches a 70-city, two-year tour.

Featuring four classic and current Disney stories, Worlds of Fantasy begins touring in August. It showcases characters from Cars, Disney's The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, and a live debut of the cast of new Fairies from the October 28 DVD release of Walt Disney Pictures' Tinker Bell.

In a "fairy tale" segment, audiences will enter into the world of Pixie Hollow and meet the Disney Fairies from Tinker Bell. The entire ice floor will transform into springtime as the fairies' magical role in the mysteries of nature is finally revealed.

For the tour's first nine cities (Lakeland and Orlando, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Providence, Rhode Island; Fairfax and Hampton, Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia), Worlds of Fantasy performs before the movie releases in the United States, serving as a sneak preview of the enchantment to come.

"Our re-creation of Pixie Hollow and the visual splendor on the ice sets the stage for the magical and diverse cast of Disney Fairies," says producer Nicole Feld. "Audiences will get to meet the fairies live for the first time ever as we open the door to this mystical fairy world deep in the heart of Never Land and unveil the secrets that lie within."

In another first-time reveal, life-size Disney/Pixar's Cars characters -- Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater and the crew -- take their high-octane personalities to the ice. Featuring state-of-the-art, custom animatronics, their eyes and mouths move with every twist and turn on the frozen highway. Mater has amusing antics in store as the Cars characters convoy to rock the ice with jumps, spins and freewheeling fun.

"Worlds of Fantasy connects classic and new Disney stories," says producer Kenneth Feld. "Audiences will be blown away in Radiator Springs when they encounter the unforgettable crew of animated cars, this time built to scale and live on ice. They will see their all-time favorites -- The Little Mermaid and The Lion King -- and discover up-close the secret world of Pixie Hollow. All of this, combined with a brand new Disney Princess pre-show experience, provides a value that is truly unparalleled in the world of live family entertainment."

Complimentary with ticket purchase, the Disney Princess Pre-Show will tour nationally for the first time in Feld Entertainment history. Prior to each Worlds of Fantasy performance, families will be treated to an exclusive collection of enchanting ball gowns and mementos from the Disney Princess stories.

Other Feld Entertainment productions playing North America beginning this fall include Disney's High School Musical: The Ice Tour, Disney On Ice presents Mickey & Minnie's Magical Journey, Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years of Magic, Disney On Ice Presents a Disneyland Adventure, Playhouse Disney Live! and Disney Live! Winnie the Pooh.

For touring information, visit

"Dragon" Flies In 4K-Res IMAX

Producer Charlotte Huggins ("Journey to the Center of the Earth, "Fly Me to the Moon") and Super 78 are teaming to produce the live-action feature "Flight of the Dragon" says The Hollywood Reporter.

Written and directed by Brent Young, "Dragon" is described as a hybrid documentary and fantasy that tells the story of a young boy's desire to discover China from the sky while flying with a mystical dragon over exotic and mysterious landscapes.

"Dragon" will be lensed entirely in mainland China starting in September, principally from aerial perspectives in locations across the country.

The film will be shot with the Red One digital camera in 4K resolution for release in Imax and other giant-screen venues.

“Ugly Betty” Star Ana Ortiz Plays Animated Detective In DC Universe Original Film “Batman Gotham Knight”

As one of the stars of the ABC hit series “Ugly Betty,” Ana Ortiz has enchanted the primetime audience playing Hilda Suarez, big sister to the title character. Today, Ortiz offers fans a 180-degree acting pivot from her most noteworthy role by voicing gritty detective Anna Ramirez in the DC Universe original animated film “Batman Gotham Knight.” The film is available as of yesterday, July 8, on DVD, Blu-Ray and OnDemand.

Ortiz initially auditioned for the same part in “The Dark Knight,” but lost out to Monique Curnen. Her disappointment didn’t last long as casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano took one look at the animated Ramirez and – without prior knowledge of her live-action audition – immediately sought to cast Ortiz in the voice role.

“An agent submitted Ana many years ago, before ‘Ugly Betty’ hit the air,” Romano explained. “I’ve been looking for something to work with her on, and this project was so unusual that it just seemed right. I was clearly looking at the character, and how she interacts with other characters – and when I actually saw the physical character, she was first actress to come to mind.”

Ortiz has had recurring and/or regular primetime roles in “Boston Legal,” “Over There” and “Kristin,” as well as making guest appearances on hit series from “NYPD Blue” and “ER” to “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” However, “Batman Gotham Knight” was her first starring role in an animated voiceover. She has since recorded as a tiger for an animated Noah’s Ark film.

“Ugly Betty” production moved to New York last week, and with it went Ortiz – back to her hometown. Before making her first visit to the new set in the real-life Gotham, Ortiz took a few moments to discuss her time in the animated Gotham – as detective Anna Ramirez in ‘Batman Gotham Knight.”

What were your impressions of your “Batman Gotham Knight” segments?

Ana Ortiz answers:

I loved them – and I wanted more! This was one of my first real voiceovers and, to do it for Batman, that was quite an honor. My husband and all of his cartoony friends were really into it – they all watched my copy of the movie and dug it. I have to admit that it’s fun being in something that my guy friends could get into. So now I’ve got my macho cred, too.

What did you think of the physical appearance of your character?

Ana Ortiz answers:

I was thrilled – I’ve always wanted curly long locks, so that was so cool. And she’s super cute. I loved she wasn’t too stuffy – sometimes with lady cops, they try to be too much like guys. She was foxy, she had jeans and a cute little blazer. It was fun to see her when we were doing the voices, but it’s really cool to see the film in its final form.

What were your initial impressions of the script and your role in the story?

Ana Ortiz answers:

It was cool for me because my character is a peacemaker. Usually the roles I get are the in-your-face instigator or fighter, but the nuance with her is as a peacemaker -- getting her partner to calm down and understand that Batman just might not be a vigilante. It was fun to play that angle, because usually I’m playing the one screaming and fighting. As a person, I would say I’m sort of a peacemaker, but I think I’ve evolved into that role. When I was younger, I was more of a fighter. L.A. has helped me find that side of myself.

The core theme of your segments, especially the more involved “Crossfire” chapter, deal with trust. Do you trust easily?

Ana Ortiz answers:

I think I trust fairly easily – which is odd for a New Yorker. But I think I do trust because I’ve had pretty good experiences. I think I’m also a good judge of character, so that’s a good combination – it’s worked out well for me so far.

As this was your first full-blown animation experience, was there any nervousness on your part entering the recording booth?

Ana Ortiz answers:

I just wanted to do a good job, and Andrea had given me such a great vote of confidence. Batman is such an icon and, for me, it was an honor to even be doing it. You want to be great, you want to bring justice to the characters, and bring these characters to life. It’s a whole different style of acting and the artwork is so impressive that I guess it was a little nerve-racking to try and do that, but it was also fun.

I was definitely nervous going it alone at first, but when Gary (Dourdan) came in and we started to do some scenes together, that’s when it really, really came alive. It felt like we had a cool thing going in the studio and, watching the film now, I remember certain moments when our energy together was really working well. He walked in and that really turned the switch for me. The relationship those two characters have on screen – we were able to do that in real-time in the booth.

Andrea’s direction was important for me, because I’m kind of new at voiceovers for animation. There’s so many specifics that you do in the booth that I wasn’t hip to. For starters, acting alone is difficult, so I was learning those tricks. But then Gary came in and when you act with a partner, that raises the bar. He pushed me to meet his energy. So I really enjoyed the support of Andrea and Gary.

What helped you more in preparing and executing your voiceover performance – your experience on the stage or your experience before the cameras?

Ana Ortiz answers:

Stage acting has helped me in every aspect of my life, not just acting. I think it gives you a confidence and helps to always keep you on your toes. My best friend is a member of an improv comedy theatre, and it’s like she always says: ‘Anything can happen at any moment.’ In theatre, you have to always be prepared. There’s nobody there to save you. You have to figure it out for yourself. It’s a good skill for life and, definitely for any other work that I’ve done, it’s been my saving grace.

Would you like to do more voiceover work for animation?

Ana Ortiz answers:

I want to do as much as I possibly can. I love it, love it, love it. Voiceover is so good – you can do crazy voices and all kinds of characters. Being Latino, it’s hard to get cast for anything that isn’t specific. People expect me to be that larger than life character they’ve already seen, and it’s so specific that it’s hard to get other parts. In voiceover, they don’t judge you on your looks or your past roles -- I can be a 90-year-old man or a tiger or whatever. It’s very freeing. So I want to do as much voiceover as I can.

Are you a fan of the comic book or super hero genre?

Ana Ortiz answers:

I’ve always been a comic book fan, but I’m a girl – so I liked Archie and Betty and Veronica, and Mad and Cracked. I liked super heroes, but I was more for live action, like Linda Carter as Wonder Woman. Of the Saturday morning cartoons, I liked Super Friends and Animalympics. Otherwise, I wasn’t a huge cartoon girl.

Are you a Batman fan?

Ana Ortiz answers:

I guess being in New York, you always have a certain affinity for anyone who lives in Gotham. But I was raised as a Superman girl, because my dad is a Superman freak. I mean, he didn’t name his kid Kal-El or anything like that, but he is obsessed with Superman and he loves Smallville. When I got the job on Ugly Betty, and they told us were were going to air on Thursdays at 8 p.m., I told my parents and my own father started saying ‘What am I going to do? What am I going to do?’ It’s because we were going to air against Smallville. He kept asking ‘What am I going to do? I can’t miss my Smallville?’ I told him – ‘Dad, you’re going to watch Ugly Betty.’ Ultimately, we had to get him a TIVO. But I couldn’t even believe it was a quandary.

Nick Shows Go to the Olympics

Nickelodeon is celebrating the summer Olympics with four new sports-themed episodes of the hit animated shows The Fairly OddParents, The Backyardigans, Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao, Kai-lan. The games begin on Aug. 1 with the premiere of The Fairly OddParents special The Fairly Oddlympics at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT). Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton will guest star as himself, both in toon form and live action, as he joins Timmy Turner in covering the competition to determine once and for all who is the best magical creature in the universe.

The Backyardigans will get sporty in "Match on Mt. Olympus." Premiering on Monday, August 4 at 9 p.m., the installment has Meteorologist Tyrone and sportscaster Pablo playing basketball with Grecian gods Austin, Uniqua and Tasha. Dora and her friends then go on a Super Adventure Race in "We're a Team," debuting on Tuesday, Aug. 5 at 9 a.m. Finally, Kai-lan attempts a T-Rex footprint jump in the Dinosaur Games in "Sports Day" on Wednesday, Aug. 6 at 9 a.m. Anchoring the week is a repeat of "Dora's World Adventure" on Thursday, Ag. 7 at 9 a.m., and a marathon of sports-themed episodes on Friday, Aug. 8 from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

SOFTIMAGE|XSI 7 to be Served with ICE

Avid Technology's Softimage Co. today announced SOFTIMAGE|XSI 7, the latest version of its professional 3D animation software for games, film and television. The update will introduce a transformative open platform called ICE, which will allow artists to explore, learn and modify the library of particle-based visual effects and deformation tools that will ship in SOFTIMAGE|XSI 7, or simply build new ones from scratch. The software will ship with a free training DVD with material provided exclusively for the newest version by Digital-Tutors. Softimage will also offer many ICE tutorials and demonstration videos that will be posted on the SOFTIIMAGE|NET community training page at

”High-quality 3D content plays an increasingly important role in today’s films, games, and TV productions, and Softimage understands that content producers’ visions are larger than any 3D package can deliver out-of-the box,” says Marc Stevens, general manager of Softimage and VP of Avid Technology Inc. “Until today, trade-offs had to be made between fulfilling all creative intent and the cost of extending existing 3D packages via scripting and plug-in tools. The Softimage ICE platform will allow content producers to easily create, modify and deploy complex tools and effects more efficiently than ever before. Powered by our Gigacore II engine, ICE will utilize all the available processing power on today’s multi-core workstations for ultimate scalability—maximizing the return on hardware investment.”

Powering the ICE platform in SOFTIMAGE|XSI 7 software will be the GigaCore II, a parallel processing engine that will deliver optimum performance on any modern workstation. Designed from the ground up to take advantage of multi-core workstations, ICE will directly scale with the number and speed of processing cores available. Softimage will also offer numerous pre-built, production-ready ICE "compounds" for particle-based effects and deformations. Customers who create their own ICE compounds can share them in their facility or with the global community on SOFTIMAGE|NET, in either an open XML format or a locked binary file to protect their intellectual property.

Other new features of SOFTIMAGE|XSI inclde support for mental ray v.3.6 with new rendering stand-ins that will allow users to offload objects along with rigged and animated characters to the disk until render time, resulting in light-weight scene assembly for much larger rendered scenes, and optimized controls for final gathering and global illumination. Delta II is a major update to the lightweight referencing system in SOFTIMAGE|XSI, with enhanced support for clusters and cluster properties, including materials, textures and UVs. A new Real-Time Shading architecture will allow fragment and vertex shaders to exist in one node, and will be programmable and controllable from any ICE attribute.

SOFTIMAGE|XSI 7 is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2008. Content creators will be able to pick up SOFTIMAGE|XSI 7 Essentialsfor the suggested retail price of $2,995, and SOFTIMAGE|XSI 7 Advanced for $4,995. For upgrade pricing and maintenance pricing, contact a local Softimage reseller or Softimage sales representative at:

Animated "Mummy" Coming to DVD reports that NBC/Universal will release all 26 episodes of The Mummy: The Animated Series in 3 volume sets.

The show chronicles the O'Connell family in globetrotting adventures against the evil Imhotep.

The Mummy: The Animated Series was produced by Universal Animation Studios, and aired on the WB! in 2001. The show features the voices of Chris Marquette (Joan of Arcadia) as Alex, John Schneider (Bo from The Dukes of Hazzard, and Pa Kent from Smallville) as Rick, Grey DeLisle (Daphne from What's New Scooby-Doo?) as Evy, and Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh) as Imhotep.

The first volume will contain the first 9 episodes, the second will contain 8, and the third will contain the last 9 episodes.

The three volumes will be out on July 22nd, and will be exclusively at Wal-Mart.

Update #3: Ready to Take a Stand?

The Dark Knight viral site has updated with two coordinates where Batman fans will want to gather when the countdown clock hits zero! (9pm Central Time in Chicago and 10pm Eastern Time in New York on Tuesday). Two threads on both gatherings can be found here and here!

In related news, has posted a new clip from the next "Gotham Tonight." And want to see the Toyota F1 team "racing" the Batmobile? You can check it out using the player below (the Batpod also makes an appearance).

UPDATE #1: Fans with the Joker phones just got the following from

OK clown, I see one last test of skill in your future. Post this where everyone can see it: LAMB

UPDATE #2: has come online...

UPDATE #3: The two rally points at have updated to say they will offer a live video stream and text updates. You can check them out by clicking the two coordinates (Chicago and New York).

C&C: Red Alert 3 Adds Robots!

Chris Corry, executive producer of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, told SCI FI Wire that the real-time SF strategy video game is adding a Japanese campaign that will add robotic battle mechs and transforming vehicles. The Japanese faction, dubbed Empire of the Rising Sun, is the latest addition to the game, set in an alternate-universe Soviet Union in which World War II never ended.

"The Japanese faction definitely is the most technologically focused of the bunch," Corry said in an interview. "They do have a lot of cool transforming units and a lot of things that you would expect from a Japanese side that has all those cool pop-culture references, like ninjas and samurais. Certainly mechs are a big part of it. So they're a pretty effective side."

Previous Red Alert games focused on the Allies versus the Soviets. The third faction and their new weapons may involve a learning curve for players who are used to the familiar Soviets and Allies.

"They also have some mechanics associated with them that are perhaps a little bit more advanced, so it takes a bit more time to spin up on that," Corry said. "It's a little different compared to Allies."

While the new Empire technology recalls similar tech in the Robotech and Transformers franchises, it still operates in the realistic world of Command & Conquer.

"I wouldn't maybe go quite so far as to say they're full-on super-sci-fi, but they are certainly the most sci-fi of the three factions," Corry said.

Corry added that the new installment has other SF elements. "The kind of fictional conceit that puts the events of Red Alert 3 into motion is a time-travel event," he said. "The game opens with the Soviet leadership going back in time and killing Einstein, who is most responsible for their enemies'--the Allies'--successes." Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 is in development for the PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

Sony picked up U.S. distribution rights for Planet 51

Variety reports that Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group will distribute Planet 51 in the United States on November 20, 2009. The alien adventure comedy centers on an astronaut who lands on Planet 51 thinking he’s the first to set foot on it. To his surprise, he discovers it’s inhabited by little green people who live in a white picket-fenced world reminiscent of 1950s America. The film is produced by Ilion Animation Studios. New Line previously bought domestic distribution rights for the $50 million plus-budgeted film and had touted it as it as its first-ever CG-animated feature. After New Line was folded into Warner Bros. in February, Planet 51 became the domain of Warners and was set to be released by the studio in summer 2009. Warners’ decision to let the film go is odd given that the studio has only three films slotted for next summer. “We could not ask for a more ideal partner,” said Guy Collins, chairman of HandMade Films Intl. “Sony is perfectly positioned to maximize the film’s box office potential.”

Knight's Bale Did Own Fights

Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Dark Knight, told reporters that it's really him standing on the top of a Chicago skyscraper for a particularly dangerous scene.

"I did enjoy no end the standing-on-the-edge-of-the-Sears-Tower shot," Bale said in a group interview in Beverly Hills, Calif., last week.

Bale added: "It's not really a stunt. It's more an experience. I had a cable [attached to me]--they weren't going to let me plummet 110 stories to the bottom. I could have fallen, but I just would have had a nasty bang against the [side of the building] and surprised some office worker down below and then get hauled back up."

Bale also performed his own fight sequences in a new lighter and more maneuverable batsuit. "All the fight sequences I do myself," Bale said. "I had to turn to my stunt double Buster [Reeves] and say, 'Sorry, buddy, that one's mine. I've got to be doing that one.' But I gave him slamming into concrete pillars at 30 miles an hour, falling five stories onto a car, that stuff. I was like, 'No, that's yours. You can take that one.' But the Sears Tower experience I had to take for myself."

The Dark Knight opens July 18.

Elfquest is Coming to the Big Screen

Elfquest, the cult comic by Wendy and Richard Pini, is heading to the big screen courtesy of Warner Bros. and Rawson Thurber.

The Hollywood Reporter says Thurber (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) will write, direct and produce the feature, whose format is undetermined.

The original comic, which the Pinis initially self-published starting in 1978, followed a tribe of elves known as the Wolfriders in their attempts to survive and link with other dispersed elves on an Earth-like planet with two moons while on the lookout for tribes of humans and trolls, both of which acted as allies and enemies.

"Mobile Suit Gundam 00" to Debut on Sci Fi Channel in November 2008

At Bandai Entertainment's Anime Expo panel, the company reported that Mobile Suit Gundam 00 will premiere on the Sci Fi Channel on November 17, 2008, with two episodes airing per week. It will be the first new Gundam television series to air in the United States since Mobile Suit Gundam Seed.

Thurop Van Orman, Creator of Cartoon Network’s The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack

Animation Magazine has posted an interview with Thurop Van Orman about his new show on Cartoon Network, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack.

Thurop Van Orman’s beautifully animated and quirky toon, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, has developed a nice following since it debuted on Cartoon Network’s Thursday night comedy lineup in June. We caught up with the talented Cal Arts grad who began his career as an intern on The Powerpuff Girls and moved up to storyboard artist on Camp Lazlo and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. We were lucky enough to catch up with the very hard-working and talented 32-year-old animator and father of a three-year-old son and four-month-old baby girl.

Animag: Your show is about the “misadventures” of a young boy, raised by a protective mother whale and his pirate friend, Captain K’Nuckles. Tell us how you came up with this premise.

Thurop Van Orman:
It has a long, winding back story. When I was a kid, we lived in Panama City, Florida, and I used to fantasize about living near the dock and having adventures all the time. Then, we moved to Salt Lake City when I was 13 and I really missed the ocean. I wanted to have adventures in the wild and began reading all these adventure books and Jules Vernes novels. I dreamt about living off the land and building my own hut with my bare hands. I got a job as a janitor after school and saved up enough money for a plane ticket. My plan was live on Shell Island [an underdeveloped island between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrew Bay, near Panama City Beach, Florida]. I brought some rice and potatoes and matches and paddled to the island on a surfboard.

Animag: And you battled the elements alone?

Yup, I was all by myself. When I got there, I found out that it was infested with rattlesnakes. But I managed to build myself a hut. I planned to live on sea urchins and I even speared a a manta ray. But eventually I began to starve—I was all blistered and sunburnt. I had failed as an adventurer, but I got plenty of stories out of it. One summer I went to Mexico and lived in the jungles and found myself eating out of dumpsters. My perspective on life began to change. Now when bad things happened, I told myself that I was having adventures.

How did you get Cartoon Network interested in your show?

I made a Flapjack short in 2001 and put together all my favorite things from my childhood. A lot of the visuals are inspired by etchings from old adventure books. I pitched the show in 2001 and got a lot of notes, then, I re-pitched it two years later. I put together a bible and outline and storyboard. They are pretty open about hearing pitches from anybody at Cartoon Network. I remember the first time I pitched the show to Debbie Reber at the studio, she was watching TV and looking out the window and people would walk by and she’d say, “Hey, how are you doing?” right in the middle of my pitch. I knew I needed to get some experience and work really hard to be taken seriously!

When did you realize you wanted to get into animation?

In high school, I wanted to make my living as an adventurer. I always loved to draw and tell stories, so I was going to become a book illustrator. My first real art job was at a video game company [Zantaro], and that’s when I got really interested in animation. I took a road trip to Cal Arts and was thrilled to find out that I could actually go to a school for animation. One of my teachers at CalArts, Randy Myers, recommended me for an internship, working on The Powerpuff Girls at Cartoon Network.

What are some of the lessons you learned about creating an animated series in the past two years?

Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for all the storyboarding. You can go to school as long as you want, but nothing prepares you for it than doing it on the spot. What I learned that you really have to throw yourself completely in the work. You have to put so much time into it, you’d better be all about making the show. Your hobby has to be doing the show. People sometimes make the mistake of wanting to get into the animation business for the wrong reasons. It can’t be about the money. The show has to be your dream.

Has anything really surprised you about the show?

You know, to me, the stories have been really engaging. Flapjack is a storyboard-driven show, but I find myself really wanting to watch the show because of these great stories that our writers are telling. These are the best stories I’ve heard! We were also lucky to have L.A.-based Screen Novelties work on our stop-motion animation and the credits of the show.

Is it true that you put a lot of yourself in the different characters?

We are very lucky to have Roz Ryan and Brian-Doyle Murray playing Bubbie and Captain K’Nuckles. I can’t imagine the show without the Roz Ryan and Brian-Doyle Murray who do the voices of Bubbie and K’Nuckles. Flapjack’s personality is one hundred percent me. He’s oblivious to danger. K’Nuckles is the crazy direction my life could have taken, while Bubbie is the protective, maternal force—and that’s what life is, a mixture of the crazy brutality of K’Nuckles and the heartfelt warm moments with Bubbie. [Editor’s note: Actor Paul Reubens—aka Pee Wee Herman—was originally supposed to create the voice of Flapjack, but as Van Orman told The Great Falls Tribune, "Pee Wee Herman was going to come in and do Flapjack and I was a little nervous 'cause he wouldn't come in and audition or anything. Then the day of the record, he didn't show up. His manager was like 'Oh, no. He's going to come in tomorrow.' I just went in and recorded them all real fast, and we just ended up using it!"]

The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Cartoon Network as part of the special Har Har Tharsdays comedy block.

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