Thursday, July 10, 2008

News - 07/10/08...

More Images from upcoming 'Wonder Woman' DVD has character model sheets from the 'Wonder Woman' animated feature.

New Images from "Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow"

Lionsgate Home Entertainment has sent Marvel Animation Age new images from Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow.

Click on the thumbnails below for a closer look!

Lionsgate has also provided Marvel Animation Age with the official rundown of the upcoming Comic-Con screening of Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, as seen below.

Next Avengers: Heroes Of Tomorrow – Screening

Whenever the forces of evil threatened mankind, Earth’s mightiest heroes, the Avengers, were there to stop them — until they made the ultimate sacrifice in their final fight with the indestructible robot, Ultron. But all was not lost for Tony Stark (Iron Man) kept the children of the Avengers safe and raised them to become the teenage heroes of tomorrow but it will take more than five teens to destroy the machine that defeated their parents. If these young heroes have any hope of winning, they must find the missing Hulk and come together as…the Next Avengers!

Come meet Supervising Producer Craig Kyle, Producer/Supervising Director Gary Hartle, Writer Christopher Yost and others involved in this new animated film and watch Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow before it’s September 2nd, 2008 Blu-Ray and DVD release on Friday at 8:30PM in Room 6A.

Art of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

GhibliWorld has posted an early cover art for the book Art of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, based on the upcoming Studio Ghibli film of the same name. According to the site, just like any other Studio Ghibli “Art of” series book, Art of Ponyo will also feature a variety of sketches, storyboards, background information, and cel reproductions from Hayao Miyazaki’s upcoming film. The book will be released in Japan on August 2.

China jealous of Hollywood’s Panda success?

ContactMusic reports that the box-office success of Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda in China, has led to a debate in the country about why a film with many Chinese symbols and settings could not have been made in China itself. Ever since its release in late June, Kung Fu Panda has earned $20 million in China.

New Looney Tunes collections coming to DVD

DVD Active reveals that Warner Home Video will release Looney Tunes: Spotlight Collection Vol. 6, featuring 30 cartoons, as well as Looney Tunes: Golden Collection Vol. 6, a 4-disc set including 60 more cartoons and 15 bonus shorts, on on October 21st.

Walden Media to develop Housebroken

Walden Media has acquired a new family-oriented tale titled Housebroken, says the Hollywood Reporter, which takes a comedic look at a group of talking animals forced to live under the same roof when the two halves of the couple that owns them moves in together. Housebroken will combine CG and live action in the manner of such Walden films as Charlotte’s Web and the Chronicles of Narnia series. The movie likely would be released by Fox under the studio’s deal with Walden.

Third-quarter profit at Nelvana's owner rises 27%

The corporate owner of Canadian animation house Nelvana Limited reported Wednesday a 27% jump in its third-quarter profit over the previous year.

Toronto-based Corus Entertainment Inc. said that it earned $37.7 million Canadian ($37 million U.S.), or 45 cents per share, in the three months ended May 31. That's up from a profit of $29.6 million (34 cents per share) in the same period a year ago.

Revenue from Corus Content -- a division which includes Nelvana -- was $16.3 million, up 12% from $14.6 million last year. Segment profit was $3.7 million, compared to $100,000 last year.

As is usual for the company, Nelvana revenues were not stated separately.

The radio and specialty-TV group also owns cable channel YTV, the Canadian equivalent of Nickelodeon, which airs many cartoon series as part of its programming lineup. Quarterly revenue rose 5.2% to $207.8 million (including $114.6 million from its Corus Television division) from $197.6 million in the same period a year earlier.

Corus said that earnings were led by continued revenue growth from its broadcasting businesses. Corus Television contributed quarterly revenues of $114.6 million (up 5% from $109.2 million last year), led by specialty advertising growth of 2% and subscriber revenue growth of 2%. Quarterly segment profit increased to $49.6 million, up 8% from $46.1 million last year.

As well, the company benefited from $10 million in recoveries related to income tax changes.

"This was another strong quarter for Corus Entertainment meeting our expectations," said Corus president and CEO John Cassaday.

"Once again, we delivered excellent results from our television division; solid revenue performance from all of our divisions; and continued excellent overall cost control. We remain very optimistic about our outlook, particularly given the growth opportunities in the expanding women's segment of specialty television and continued strong economic performance in western Canada, supporting our radio and premium television businesses."

Corus shares rose 42 cents (2.5%) to $17.22 at 9:57 a.m. Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Shares had fallen 30% this year before Wednesday's earnings announcement.

Golden Book Art Exhibit in NYC

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (212 West 83rd Street, NY, NY) has opened a new exhibit “Golden Legacy: Original Art from 65 Years of Golden Book”. It runs through August 28. Illustrator and comic artist Mark Newgarden, who told me about the show, reports: “The show features vintage original art by many animation folks on the wall—Mary Blair, JP Miller, the Provensens, etc. I did notice that all the Tengrenn art were digital prints. It’s a small show but worth popping in when you’re on the Upper West Side.”

(Mary Blair artwork above scanned in by the Animation Archive)

(thanks cartoonbrew)

The Dark Knight to Pack Theaters Just Before the Dawn

Need we say more?

With more than a week to go before the highly-anticipated release of "The Dark Knight," Fandango, the nation's leading moviegoer destination, reports that many of its pre-opening Thursday midnight shows on July 17 are already sold out in cities across the country, from New York to Boise, Idaho. Theaters continue to add 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. pre-opening showtimes to meet the ticketing demand.

'The Dark Knight' may be responsible for a lot of bleary eyes at work next Friday morning," says Rick Butler, Chief Operating Officer for Fandango. "We're seeing a record number of late-night showtimes selling out in advance, while theaters are adding new performances every day."

More than 1,500 late-night showtimes of the movie have been scheduled for the film's pre-opening on Thursday night (Friday morning), July 17-18, at An online survey of more than 3,000 "The Dark Knight" fans on over the holiday weekend offered the following information on the late-night surge:

* 37% of respondents plan to see the film at least once during one of the late night performances on Thursday night.
* 38% say that they intend to take off a few hours or the entire day from work on Friday as a result of seeing the movie the night before.
* 60% of these moviegoers are male.
* 71% are under the age of 35.
* 39% plan to see the film in IMAX(R).
* 92% expect that the Academy will recognize Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker with a posthumous Oscar(R) nomination next year.

For Fandango,
"The Dark Knight" is poised to be the year's top advance ticket-seller in wide release, outpacing "Iron Man," "Indiana Jones 4" and "Sex and the City" at the same point in those films' sales cycles.

Showtime and Colleton Team on Exterminators

Showtime is reteaming with "Dexter" executive producer Sara Colleton for "Exterminators," a drama project based on the comic by Vertigo/DC Comics, says The Hollywood Reporter.

Created by Simon Oliver and Tony Moore, the comic centers on an ex-con who joins an exterminator company, working with a freakish supporting cast of characters. A mystery surrounding his girlfriend and the manufacturer of an insect poison percolates on the periphery, and the insects are much more dangerous than they seem.

The project has been described as "Six Feet Under" in the world of pest control.

"Exterminators" will revolve around the Bug-Be-Gone crew, an extended dysfunctional family of exterminators whose greatest enemies aren't the insects and rodents they meet and kill on a daily basis but rather their own self doubts, vices and inner demons.

Timm, Drake and Rucka talk 'Gotham Knight'

Batman watches over Gotham City during the final segment of 'Batman Gotham Knight'

At the recent Wizard World Chicago, Comics2Film sat down with the various men responsible for bringing the Dark Knight to his latest animated adventures in 'Batman: Gotham Knight'.

Bruce Timm needs no introduction as the man who redefined Batman for a new generation, with his dramatic designs for the character that appeared in 'Batman: The Animated Series'. Timm oversaw the production of 'Gotham Knight'.

Batman takes a more cartoony appearance in the final moments of Josh Olson's opening segment of 'Batman Gotham Knight.'

Q: What was your involvement in the movie?

Well it was kind of an odd position for me, I was hired to not give notes. I still had to oversee things, it was along the lines of being a traffic cop. I was involved early on at the script stage, then sat out on the pre-production, and then more involved again in the post-production. It was an interesting project because we would get the story board back from the Japanese, and I would say ‘cut away here, close up here' and I would have to stop and say ‘that's how I would do it'. Would it work? Well, honestly there were times when I wasn't sure, but in the end it did.

Q: Was there a pre-set order?

The scripts were laid out in such a way that they had a pre-set order.

Q: How was it having Kevin Conroy back as Batman?

It was great seeing him again. It was cool, the thing that surprised me the most was that he was a little bit rusty. He did his whole performance in ADR [additional dialogue recording], it gave me a whole respect for people who do dubbing. It took a little massaging to get it right. The thing that worried us the most about using Kevin was that in one of the segments the animation house designed batman looking very, very young and we weren't sure that Kevin could get his voice quite in that natural placement. But it turned out good in the end.

Q: Was it weird to hear Kevin's voice coming out of a different character?

We were initially concerned about that, but there's been so many different Batman's that it wasn't really a problem.

Q: Were there other name actors that you wanted to get for this movie?

Initially we wanted to use the Dark Knight cast, but we just couldn't make the schedules work. It didn't take long to fill in the blanks after we got Kevin.

Q: Are you concerned with is coming out so close to Dark Knight?

It might overshadow it to a degree, but this is an opportunity to add our PR in with the movie. So far that's been very successful. I think the pros outweigh the cons.

Q: Is this a purely DVD release?

A: Save for one episode 'On Demand' [Comcast] there's no plans to release the episodes individually.

Q: So it Wonder Woman your next project or is Teen Titans next?

Teen Titans is still on the backburner for various reasons, but Wonder Woman is our next project. Footage is starting to come back, it looks great. It will be coming out in the beginning of next year.

Batman glares upward from the sewers of Gotham City -- where Scarecrow and Killer Croc lurk -- during "Batman Begins" screenwriter David Goyer's segment "In Darkness Dwells".

You could argue that Batman is nothing without his moody score to back him. In 'Gotham Knight' it falls to Chris Drake to provide the score for two of the segments.

Q: What do you think of the finished product?

It's a Batman like you've never seen before. Visually and musically it's six totally different movies.

Q: What's your best segment?

"In Darkness Dwells", I love the theme for it. It turned out so appropriate.

Q: Is it all synth?

Lieutenant Gordon and his detectives enter a suspicious church, and find Batman already in action, in "In Darkness Dwells," the fourth segment of "Batman Gotham Knight."

A: It's 100% synth, I take great pains to make it sound like a full orchestra. The biggest thing is that I add mistakes, this makes it sound more real

Q: Does anyone help you with your music?

My son, I'll bring him in and ask if it's cool or not. I know it's cool if he throws the horns; it's all about the horns.

Detective Anna Ramirez calls for backup in 'Batman: Gotham Knight'

Greg Rucka is an award-winning novelist and comics writer, who has penned many a Batman comic book. For 'Gotham Knight' he wrote the "Crossfire" segment.

Q: When were you brought on board?

Azzerallo and I were on the same call, and they gave us the whole back story. They asked if I wanted to do Gotham Central. I said "What?" they told me about the story and I said "yeah" and that was that.

Q: What do we see in this segment?

A bad guy gets the drop on Detective Anna Ramirez

A: Gordon gets a promotion, and is chummy with Batman. We've always known Batman is a good guy, but the people in Gotham don't. There's no reason for anybody to believe (with the exception of Gordon) Batman is a good guy.

Q: Were you happy with the voice characterizations

Yeah, you know it was weird. This is the first time I wrote animation, primarily I wrote two cops talking in a car. It become tonally different after the voice actors put there spin on the lines. That was different for me.

Q: How difficult was it writing it into the rest of the story.

Detective Anna Ramirez faces danger in the 'Crossfire' segment of 'Batman: Gotham Knight'

A: It's like a party game, you have to use the words, car, geranium, and piston rotary engine, go! Yeah it might sound funny, and I like collaboration, just like 52. As hard as the work is, it's incredibly rewarding.

Q: How different was the script from the screenplay you turned in?

Except for a few minor changes it was remarkably close to my original draft. There were a few basic plot changes throughout but those were fairly few.

'Batman: Gotham Knight' is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Concept Art For Transformers

Aircraft carrier to appear in the sequel? Doubtful, but the artwork is nice!

Tim Flattery is an artist who has worked on everything from Total Recall to Pirates of the Caribbean. I think it was rumored that Michael Bay wanted a transforming aircraft carrier at one point during Transformers. Tim's website has conceptual drawings showing a transforming carrier and other robot designs. Will a transforming aircraft carrier appear in the sequel? I can imagine the scene now, as only envisioned by the genius mind of Michael Bay:

Sam Witwicky's folks have moved out of the suburbs and into a lighthouse for no apparent reason. While on a college break, Sam goes to visit them in their new home. While walking around outside, Sam notices something is a bit off with the local aircraft carrier conveniently stationed right by the lighthouse. Sam finds out it's a big transforming robot and befriends him with his charm, good looks, and rising movie career.

The robot decides he wants to see more of Sam, but Sam can't let his parents know he's been befriending more robots! So Sam tells the giant transforming aircraft carrier robot to stay out of sight while he goes to find something in his room. Hilarity ensues when the clumsy robot starts trampling the garden as he's peeking inside the windows. Sam meanwhile, makes sure his Dad's back is turned from the window as he explains things with his frantic, wide open eyed expression, that he wants more freedom and has become his own person. Meanwhile the robot keeps getting peed on by the family dog!!! Oh Michael Bay! How you make audiences laugh!

Whether or not there is a giant transforming aircraft carrier, the guy is a pretty bad ass artist. Click HERE to be taken to his website to see more of his work.

Dead Or Alive, Aronofsky, You're Coming With Me!

According to The Hollywood Reporter, cinematic visionary Darren Aronofsky has been chatting to MGM about possibly helming – wait for it - the “RoboCop” remake.

…. And suddenly our interest piques. Mine anyway.

If there’s one thing you can say about Aronofsky
(“The Fountain”, “Requiem for a Dream”),
it’s that all of his films are original and visually stunning. Considering “RoboCop” is as dated as my “Electric Dreams”
calendar from 1985 – he’s a good match (so long as he doesn’t change the look of Robo too much).

I actually really enjoyed that “RoboCop” mini-series they did a couple of years back (“Prime Directives” I believe it was called?). That was good. It didn’t change a lot… but just enough to offer a fresh perspective on proceedings (the whole plot revolved around Murphy’s grown-up son realizing his father is the infamous RoboCop). Maybe they can do something like that- instead of straight-up remaking Verhoeven’s film? (One thing’s for sure, Rachel Weisz will most definitely be in the mix to play Lewis)

In addition, RoboCop Archive has a look at a flyer for the upcoming film. Check it out here.

Despereaux Trailer Debuts Online

Fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Newberry Medal-winning children’s book The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread can finally get their first look at Universal’s upcoming CG-animated, big-screen adaptation. A trailer and teaser site have emerged for the film, which will feature the voices of Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Tracey Ullman, William H. Macy, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin Kline, Christopher Lloyd, Stanley Tucci, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella and Ciaran Hinds. Animation was handled by Framestore CFC, which makes its animated feature debut.

A modern fairy tale, The Tale of Despereaux tells the story of four unlikely heroes: Despereaux (Broderick), a brave mouse banished to the dungeon for speaking with a human; Roscuro (Hoffman), a good-hearted rat who loves light and soup, but is exiled to darkness; Pea (Watson), a Princess in a gloomy castle who is prisoner to her father’s grief; and Mig (Ullman), a servant girl who longs to be a Princess, but is forced to serve the jailer. Refusing to live his life cowering, Despereaux befriends Pea and learns to read (rather than eat) books, reveling in stories of knights, dragons and fair maidens. He soon finds himself at the center of his own harrowing adventure when the Princess is kidnapped and he is the only one who can rescue her.

Directed by Sam Fell (Flushed Away) and accomplished animator Rob Stevenhagen, the movie is slated to arrive in theaters on Dec. 19. To view the trailer in Flash and HD formats, go to For additional information on the production, visit the teaser site at

Ottawa TV Conference Lines Up Keynotes, Pitches

Brown Johnson, president of Animation for Nickeoodeon, MTVN Kids and Family Group, will deliver the opening keynote address at the fifth annual Television Animation Conference (TAC) taking place Sept. 17-18 in conjunction with the Ottawa Int'l Animation Festival. Held at Ottawa's historic Chateau Laurier Hotel, the event will also will feature insightful words from Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matt Senreich, as well as the return of the popular Pitch THIS! contest. Canada’s only animation-specific industry forum, TAC brings together professionals in animation creation, production, distribution and marketing for panels and networking.

“Johnson, Green and Senreich are leaders in the industry,” says TAC director Azarin Sohrabkhani, “We are excited and honoured to have them offering the keynote speeches this year, which will set the tone of the conference, giving insight and inspiration on how to create a quality product and achieve great commercial success.”

Johnson spearheads development and production for all animated programming across Nickelodeon's networks. She is responsible for supervising the creative direction of contemporary classics such as SpongeBob SquarePants and The Fairly OddParents, as well as new series including Back At The Barnyard, The Mighty B! and The Penguins of Madagascar. She supervises creative executive teams on both the East and West Coasts, managing the creative direction and coordination efforts between series production, on-air promotions, marketing and consumer products. During her 20-year tenure at Nickelodeon, Johnson has overseen and nurtured numerous groundbreaking properties, including the preschool hits Blue’s Clues, Dora the Explorer, The Backyardigans, Go, Diego, Go!, Yo Gabba Gabba! and Ni Hao, Kai-lan.

Green and Senreich will kick off the second day of the conference. In addition to providing the voice of Chris Griffin on FOX's Family Guy, Green has appeared in the Austin Powers movies and other live-action films including movies Without A Paddle, Party Monster, Can’t Hardly Wait and The Italian Job. Senreich comes from a comics industry background, having worked at Marvel Comics and Wizard and ToyFare magazines. He most recently served as editorial director of Wizard Ent. Together, they are co-executive producers, writers and directors of Robot Chicken, an Emmy-winning late-night series that airs on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. They are also currently producing a stop-motion animated holiday family feature titled Naughty or Nice.

Animation producers are once again to participate in Pitch THIS!, an annual contest that offers an opportunity to get pitches for new show ideas in front of top television animation execs. One of the most popular and most attended events at the conference, the event will see two intrepid producers step up to the plate on Wednesday, Sept. 17 to pitch their projects for 10 minutes to a panel of leading animation broadcasters, as well as the entire conference audience of more than 300 buyers, financiers, partners and industry gurus. Following the pitches, representatives from various networks will respond with detailed insights, assessing each project’s creative and financial elements and analyzing its marketability and appeal to each broadcaster.

For Pitch THIS! consideration, producers should submit their proposals for an original adult or children’s animation series and must include a project bible, sample episode synopsis, concept art and biographies of the key creative team. Submissions may be sent to, or by regular mail to the attention of TAC Pitch THIS! at 2 Daly Avenue, Suite 120, Ottawa, ON K1N 6E2. No more than two submissions per production company will be accepted. Deadline for submissions is August 1, 2008. For more information on the contest and the Ottawa Int'l Animation Festival, go to

`Clone Wars' orbits Hollywood for Aug. 10 premiere

George Lucas is revisiting familiar space in the heart of Hollywood to unveil his new "Star Wars" adventure.

The animated tale "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" will have its world premiere at the Egyptian Theatre along Hollywood Boulevard on Aug. 10, five days before it opens in theaters. Lucasfilm announced the premiere Wednesday.

Proceeds from the premiere will benefit the American Cinematheque, a film organization based at the Egyptian, which opened in 1922. The Egyptian was one of two Los Angeles theaters where the first "Star Wars" sequel, "The Empire Strikes Back," played during its extended run in 1980.

Tickets for the 4 p.m. premiere will be on sale exclusively to American Cinematheque until July 23 and will then be available to the general public.

"Few cinemas have had the opportunity to host a premiere of a `Star Wars' movie, and we are tremendously excited that the historic Egyptian will soon be one of them," said Barbara Smith, director of the American Cinematheque.

"The Clone Wars" will be followed by an animated TV series of the same name debuting this fall on the Cartoon Network and TNT.

The movie and TV show are set between the action of the second and third chapters of Lucas' prequel trilogy, "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith."

The film centers on a galactic civil war, with Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker — the future villain Darth Vader — embarking on a mission that pits him and his apprentice against crime boss Jabba the Hutt.

The voice cast includes some veteran "Star Wars" performers, including Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, Christopher Lee as Count Dooku and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO.

Among other key voice cast members are Matt Lander as Anakin, Ashley Eckstein as his apprentice Ahsoka Tano and James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Lucas served as executive producer on "The Clone Wars" movie, which was directed by Dave Filoni.

Standard CBA minimums going up on August 3

From the Animation Guild Blog:

At the end of this month the Animation Guild's standard collective bargaining agreement enters its third year, and the minimum rates of pay will be going up by three percent.

And here's a summary of some of the journey minimums, effective August 3, 2008:

HOURLY/WEEKLY SALARIES (per forty-hour week):

Production Board [staff]: $1,764.84 per 40-hour week

Animator, Background, Layout, Model Designer, Animation Writer, Visual Development, CGI Animator/Modeler, Production Technical Director [I]: $38.366 per hour; $1,534.64 per 40-hour week

Key Assistant Animator, Key Assistant CGI Animator/Modeler [II], Production Technical Director [II]: $36.768 per hour; $1,470.72 per 40-hour week

Assistant Animator, Assistant Background, Assistant Layout, Assistant Model Designer, Animation Checker, Color Key, Assistant CGI Animator/Modeler [III], Production Technical Director [III], Digital Check: $32.833 per hour; $1,313.32 per 40-hour week


7-15 minutes

Synopsis and Outline: $842.64; 35 health and pension hours

Storyboard Only: $1,402.31 38 health and pension hours

Teleplay or Screenplay: $2,748.39; 115 health and pension hours

Full Script* (outline plus screenplay): $3,591.03; 150 health and pension hours

Half-hour subjects

Synopsis and Outline: $1,499.01; 68 health and pension hours

Storyboard Only: $2,662,94; 75 health and pension hours

Teleplay or Screenplay: $5,267.66; 232 health and pension hours

Full Script* (outline plus screenplay): $6,766.67; 300 health and pension hours

One hour or more

Synopsis and Outline: $2,230.80; 70 health and pension hours

Storyboard Only: $3,971.96; 113 health and pension hours

Teleplay or Screenplay: $7,924.11; 230 health and pension hours

Full Script* (outline plus screenplay): $10,154.91; 300 health and pension hours
* reflects the Synopsis and Outline minimum plus the Teleplay or Screenplay minimum.

This summary only reflects the rates in our standard CBA, and it is not inclusive of all job categories or non-journey levels. Nor does it reflect the minimums in IATSE contracts with Disney/TTL, Sony Pictures Animation or ImageMovers Digital. For all the CBA minimums, go to our website and click on the Contracts tab.

The Shooting of Dan McGrew

Jerry has posted a super-rare gem on YouTube: the 1965 short The Shooting of Dan McGrew directed by Ed Graham, Jr. I was so excited about seeing the film online that I asked him to let me post about it. When I first encountered this short about five years ago, the thing that popped out to me was the striking background color design of Walt Peregoy, who is most famously the color stylist of 101 Dalmatians. Unfortunately, this copy on YouTube doesn’t do justice to his color work and gives only a vague taste of what an actual print looks like.

The film was created in the spirit of earlier UPA shorts like The Unicorn in the Garden and The Tell-Tale Heart which adapted classic pieces of literature to the animation medium. In this case, the inspiration came from Robert Service’s poem of the same name.

In addition to Peregoy’s contributions, the film also has character designs by George Cannata, Jr. and background layout by UPA veteran Bob Dranko. The animation was directed by another younger design-oriented animator, George Singer, and the primary animators were Golden Age veterans Manny Gould and Amby Paliwoda. Also worth noting: the music is credited to jazz great George Shearing. This is his only animation score as far as I’m aware.

The Sixties was an interesting time for theatrical shorts in the US. As studio animation was dying out, many of the major studios offered independently-produced one-shots like this one, which was released by Universal. There are plenty of other Sixties one-shots that are currently owned by major studios and deserve to be made available to animation fans. These include two films by John and Faith Hubley that are owned by Paramount—A Windy Day and Oscar-winning Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature—as well as Ernie Pintoff’s Oscar-winning The Critic, Ken Mundie’s The Door, Format Films’ Icarus Montgolfier Wright, and Chuck Menville and Len Janson’s Stop Look and Listen and Blaze Glory.

(thanks cartoonbrew)

Exclusive: Hellboy II Interview With Creature Effects Shop Spectral Motion!

Mike Elizalde from Spectral Motion discusses with Latino Review working on Hellboy II, Land of the Lost, Hobbit news and working with Guillermo del Toro.

Back in early May I had the pleasure of visiting creature effects shop Spectral Motion located in the Burbank/Glendale area right by the DreamWorks campus. I spoke with Mike Elizalde, the founder and CEO of one of the most respected creature shops in Hollywood.

Before taking a tour of the facility, Mike sat with me and discussed how he got started in the business, the difficulties in creature design and his future projects. Mike talks about Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, working with Guillermo del Toro, designing creatures for the upcoming Will Ferrell comedy The Land of the Lost, and possibly working on the Hobbit.

This was a really cool experience for me because most people never get to see the makings of a creature for film. I wish I could have taken pictures of some of the things they were working on, but I couldn't. I do have some great pics though of some of the creatures and artwork they had scattered around the studio. Spectral Motion's website even has a really cool behind the scenes video showing how they make and design their creatures. I saw some artwork they were working on for future Hollywood films and it's amazing how talented these artists are.

I'd like to personally thank Mike and his wife Mary for their time. Mike is a very nice and gracious person and one of the coolest people I have ever met in the business. I hope to one day visit their studios again and learn even more about the process behind creature design. I threw in some pictures i was able to take during my visit throughout the article. But enough of my babbling, let's get to the interview!

Founder and CEO Mike Elizalde

So what would be the best thing about working with Guillermo [del Toro]?

The thing that I really love about working with him is that unlike a lot of other people in his position he has a very strong sense of the artistic picture, of the overall aesthetic of what he's looking for. He keeps these little books. I don't know if you've ever seen one of his little leather bound books. They're notebooks that are just filled with notes and drawings and things that he remembers from his childhood that he imagined. All this stuff is drawn in these books and that's what he draws from. This is the wealth of the artistic knowledge that we benefit from. He always comes to us with these crazy ideas. It's stuff that you really don't expect. For example, the Angel of Death, you probably saw that in the film, but that's a character – Guillermo has this thing about characters without eyes where they belong, but eyes somewhere else.

Yes. It was very 'Pan's Labyrinth' when I saw that.

Yeah, and this is a character that I had been introduced to many years ago when Guillermo first offered me a script that was called 'Spanky'. It was about a creature who had wings with eyes on them and so he's always had this in his mind, this visual where the wings unfurl and its eyes blink and move around and it's just really eerie. It's beautiful, but it's frightening at the same time. So its things like that we really enjoy.

So for like, Sammael from the first Hellboy, did he just have a conceptual drawing that you worked from?

He had several ideas. That character went through many incarnations before it actually became a final creature, but it was definitely all Guillermo. He kept hacking away at this design and kept telling us what he wanted and kept changing certain things and making them different. Finally he came up with that final character and it was our task to bring it to life. While were on that character I should mention this, and this is one of the things that I mentioned before about how we always have something very special pulled out of us when we work with Guillermo because he wanted this character to not only be a unique looking demon but he also wanted it to have practical special FX attributes to it. The eyes for example are the most complicated eye makeup that you'll ever see. The eyes not only move left and right inside of the head, but they also have this kind of hamburger type membrane that covers them.

The actual Sammael used in Hellboy

Like a cat?

No. It's more like a sphincter. There's really no other word for it. it's like this meaty membrane that covers the entire eyeball and they eyeball emerges from this meaty membrane. It pops out of there and looks around. The pupils dilate and constrict and then there's like a membrane that closes over the eye. So there's all this stuff going on in the eyeball and there are three of them. There's one eye on one side and then two on the other.

How is that operated?

It was all done with RC, radio control that made everything move and operate inside and the operators were operating it remotely via radio control. The other thing that we had to build that was very unusual were the tentacles on the head. He wanted them to writhe and move around all independently and without a bundle of cables coming out of the character. So we had to come up with a whole new way of making tentacles and our designer, Mark Setrakian, designed what is basically a string of motors, a string of servos inside of each tentacle. Then there's a card inside that talks to all the servos, telling them how to move in sequence and sort of sequentially and sort of independent of one another. So we had a head full of writhing eels.

Is that a technology that can be used daily or is it so complex that it's kind of a crap shoot, that you might only get a few uses of it before you have to repair it again?

We shot with it daily, but the caveat is that it was a prototype and it was invented for that purpose. Therefore it did have bugs that needed to be worked out. Everyday at the end of shooting we had to remove the tentacle array – we had two of them. One was a backup and one was the hero. We'd have to take the tentacle array back to the workshop and Mark Setrakian would spend hours working on it and repairing it, fine tuning it again for the next day of shooting. So it was a very, very taxing experience for Mark in that sense. But on film it works very well.

Is that the most complicated creature that you think you guys did?

Well, they're all complicated in their own way. But that was definitely one of the most challenging because of those elements that were unusual and completely unique to that character that we'd never designed before and had to figure out for that character specifically. So that did make it very complicated.

How did you get started in doing creature FX?

Like everyone else in the business and in the field who loves monsters I was a little kid glued to the TV watching 'Frankenstein' and 'Wolfman'. The Universal monsters were my favorites when I was a kid. So I was really into that stuff and I never really figured out that I could do it for a living until later in life, but ever since that age I was watching very closely to see what the monsters really looked like. Instead of being there and being frightened by them I was always trying to analyze how they made a person look like that. I was in the military for eight years and during those eight years I began to realize that I wanted to be involved in the movie business. So one day by chance I was looking through books in the library and I found one about makeup FX and I started looking through that book and that was it. There was no turning back from that point. Once I saw how the techniques were actually done I collected the materials that were suggested in the book and I did a couple of makeup designs on myself and my friends and mailed those off to different studios here in town and after my enlistment was up I came out here and got a job in the movie business. That was twenty years ago and I've been doing it ever since.

In the workshop.

What was your first job?

My first job was a movie called 'Arena' that was John Buechler was involved with. He's the guy who did, I think it was 'Ghoulies'. 'Cellar Dweller' was another one of his creature movies that he directed. It's very B movie stuff, but I was in heaven, man. I was like, 'Wow. I'm working on a movie.' Some of the people who were working there were like Steve Lange – these creature designers that I'd been reading about for months. So I learned a lot from that experience and then from that I went on to become a sculptor, painter, and a makeup artist. I did mold making. I did everything. I did the whole gamut. Then finally I sort of focused my energy at becoming an animatronics designer and I designed animatronics for Rick Baker at Stan Winston and a guy named Steve Johnson that I used to work for. When I was working for Steve, Guillermo and I met on 'Blade II'. I designed the animatronic reapers in the movie and did the practical FX on all the internal mechanisms and all of that stuff. That was my design. Guillermo was sufficiently impressed with that work which is when he came to me and showed me that 'Spanky' script, that movie. I went through that thing and broke it down and came up with some prices to do it and then that fell through. Then a few months later he came up to me with Patrick Palmer who is the executive producer on 'Hellboy' with the 'Hellboy' script. He said, 'Let’s try this one. I think this one might take.' I said definitely and the rest is history. We opened up this shop and based on the strength of the work in 'Hellboy' we got a lot of offers. A lot of people came to us and we've done a lot of movies and we're still going strong today.

Sammael artwork

You've done 'X-Men' and 'Fantastic Four' – both of them or just the sequel?

We did both 'Fantastic Four' movies and we did the last 'X-Men' movie which was 'The Last Stand'. So we did some movies with Fox. We did a few movies with Warner Brothers and Paramount. We did a couple of movies with Night Shyamalan. We did 'Lady in the Water' and his most recent one 'The Happening'.

What are you doing for 'The Happening'?

I shouldn't talk about it because it's not out yet and he's very particular about what we talk about before his films are out. So I can't go into it, but we did some FX for it. Right now we're actually winding down on 'Land of the Lost' which is being directed by Brad Silberling which is based on the '70's TV show.

They released some of the pictures of the creatures in 'Land of the Lost'. That was all your design?

That came from our shop. The design was done by Crash McCreery who works with a lot of different production companies prior to them contacting a creature shop. That's one of the dynamics that we work with. The production company will hire a designer first before they talk with anybody. The director will work with that designer and they'll do a bunch of drawings and once the designer and the director have arrived at designs that they like they start looking for a creature FX house to do the work. That's one scenario. Another scenario is that they come directly to us and we share designs from our designer and we work directly with the director from the beginning. In the case of 'Land of the Lost' they had contacted Mark 'Crash' McCreery who we had worked with before on 'Lady in the Water' and he drew the designs based on the original characters really. They haven't deviated too much from the original designs other than there's a budget and there's a big team of people that can make these creature suits now. So that's where the designs were actually generated.

Is that the only creature that you did for the movie?

We did the Sleestak. We did Chaca which is this little Simian boy that's their little mascot that they meet in 'The Land of the Lost' and we also did a more developed and more involved version of the Sleestak called Enik (sp?) which is the character's name. He's an intellectual being. He has dialogue and talks and he reasons and he's kind of the puppet master of this universe. He's able to manipulate time and space with these crystals that he has in a secret place. So we did do a few different creatures for the movie. On the heels of that we're working on getting a few other projects off the ground right now. There are a couple of low budget projects and one that's a little bit bigger. I usually don't discuss those until something is on paper and so I'll leave it that.

Glove used in Hellboy.

Guillermo wanted us to talk to you about 'Mountains of Madness'. I don't know if he's even doing that now that he's doing 'The Hobbit' or maybe down the line.

Yeah, it probably won't because that's a big commitment. That's four or five years of his time dedicated to that, but we did develop quite a large number of maquettes for 'The Mountains of Madness' because that's like a dream for us because it's all Lovecraft. The thing about Lovecraft creatures is that they're just so far from anything that you can imagine. They're coming from a very bizarre place. It's typical to have a lot of sort of desolate locations so that you feel this sense of isolation and loneliness. It works on your psyche right away even before you see this horrific monster that comes out of Lovecraft's mind.

A lot of Guillermo's monsters and creatures, you almost feel sympathetic for them. That's kind of weird, don’t you think?

It is kind of weird, but at the same time it's the fundamental thing that I think defines a monster. It's someone who's misunderstood in a way, but they're capable of horrible things, these creatures. If you go back to the original 'Frankenstein', that monster was totally misunderstood. He was a creature who was here not by choice, but by the design of a madman. Yet all of the anger and all the loathing and the hatred fell upon him because he was the product of a sick mind and so you did feel sympathy for him because it didn't have a choice. It was there without someone to guide it or give it any love. It just wasn't a loveable thing. So I think that Guillermo feels the same connection that we all do to that sort of grassroots sentiment of what a monster really is. I think it's a good dynamic to have when you have a creature. Otherwise it just becomes this mindless thing that goes around killing and we don't have a connection to it and we don't care about it. It's better to care about it in one way or another, whether you hate it or whether you sympathize with it. I think that's a very critical element in having a successful creature and Guillermo is the man when it comes to that stuff. He knows it inside and out. Any time that you talk to him, and I'm sure you've had a chance to, but his insights are thrilling. He's really studied this stuff.

Hellboy artwork

Has he contacted you at all to do anything for 'The Hobbit' or will that just be done by companies overseas?

: He's definitely brought it up. There's nothing solid or locked down yet. I never like to discuss projects that we don't actually have on paper yet because it's just rhetoric at this point, but the answer to your question is yes. He has mentioned it to us.

Even before they start shooting a film how many months or weeks are you guys working on creatures for a movie?

Anywhere from a year to three months, somewhere in that timeframe. I'm sure that if we became involved in 'The Hobbit' we'd have a long time to build things because there's a lot to do. I would estimate a year before we actually got to shooting.

That's a long time.

It is. Well, 'Hellboy II'

What about Wink, for example?

Wink was in development.

I keep calling him Link, but it's Wink. [stupid video games –Ed.]

Yeah. He looks like a missing link though too. He's Mr. Wink and the reason for that is because Guillermo named the character after, I believe this is character, Selma Blair's dog because her dog is missing an eye. I think her dog's name is Wink. Obviously the character is missing an eye. He's got a cave on the side of his face from some long ago battle. So it's Wink and he was probably in development for I think all of the six months that we were in the build. You see it kind of go that way. The genesis of the character is drawings. Guillermo brings us his drawings and we give them to our designer Constantine. Constantine does several renderings and then Guillermo picks what he likes and then we have one of our sculptors working on a full size maquette, scale model. In this case it was Mario Torrez who did the maquette and then based on that maquette we designed the full sized character and Mario also led the sculpture for that as well the design. We ended up with this design gigantic monster. The suit itself, without Brian Steele in it, weighed a 160lbs.

Do you have it here?

It's here, yeah. I think it's in storage I could show you the head. A 16olbs. Brian Steele trained for months.

Wink's head

He's got to be a big dude.

He's 6'7". He's not massive, but he's a muscular guy. He's pretty strong. He ran around wearing this rigging vest with weights tied onto it and ankle weights and dumbbells. He would just do that all day, running around for hours, training and training so that he could negotiate the challenges that the suit would bring. He did a great job. He's tremendous. The design is really great and the direction is amazing, but the performer is really what brings it all together. Brian Steele did an awesome job. He's always been a part of our team whenever we've worked with Guillermo. He was in the Sammael suit and also in the Wink suit. He played a couple of other characters in 'Hellboy II'. He played the Bag Lady Troll which is the little lady. He played that character and he was also the crony, the guy in the barber shop giving the guy a shave that Hellboy punches out. I think that's it. He might've played another character. He's a great guy to work with. He's indestructible.

Did you do all the creature designs for the Troll Market?

We did all the creature designs except for, I think, five of them. All the other creatures that were like the peripheral creatures that you see when you're walking by, like the fish vendor, most of the vendors we didn't do. We didn't do any of the vendors.

Did you do the guy who was playing like a baby flute?

Is that the guy who has a baby attached to his body?

Yeah, but also in the background it looks like the flute is attached to a baby that's here and he's actually playing the baby. It's actually the weirdest damn thing ever.

We didn't do that. I would've remembered that one. I should actually go back and correct myself. All the creatures that you saw in the Troll Market were done by other companies in England. The only ones that we did of course were Abe, Hellboy, Wink and the Crony. We did a few others that were scattered around, but I think that most of the little featured vignettes were done by English companies. There was Nigel Booth. I'd have to come back to you with the names of the companies because I don't remember them off the top of my head.

Remember this guy from the first Hellboy? He still works!

So for Hellboy and Abe do you have to change anything as far as costume design from the first film?

We only redid the facial appliances. Everything on the head was redone and the neck, down to the collar bone – we had to redo that. The reason for that is that we didn't have access to the molds for the original. So we had to re-sculpt everything, but we brought Matt Rose and Chad Waters in who did the first sculpture. Matt and Chad re-sculpted it to the best of their ability to match the first one. Guillermo wanted a few little different things done like the cuticles of the horns on the head, he wanted them changed a little bit. The texture also on the skin is, I think, a little neater on this version. It's a little tighter. Beyond that the design is virtually unchanged. For Abe we didn't change too much other than the method, the methodology of putting the suit on him.

He almost looked a little brighter.

The color didn't change very much. It wasn't so much the color. It might've been the timing, the film timing changed a little bit, but we didn't brighten him up as far as the color goes. We kept the same color scheme as in the first film. That was Guillermo's direction. He didn't want us to change very much of what had been established already. We did give Abe a little bit more of a physique, just a little bit more of a swimmer's physique. Whereas in the first one he was muscular, but he wasn't that powerful looking and so in this one we gave him just a little more rip, a little more cut. The suit was designed, since he shot so many days without his shirt on we didn't want to go through the process of pulling appliances that Doug [Jones], all those days, spraying him, his skin for all of those days. So we actually made a suit that was more like a shirt. It had sleeves that came down to here. It was like a one piece.

Like a wetsuit?

Yeah, exactly. So I think in the long run that worked out a little better. As far as time to get him ready it didn't seem to save much time at all, but overall Doug wasn't going home wearing blue paint anywhere. On the first film he volunteered to save time. He said, 'Look, I'll just go home. I'll keep the paint on my legs and my arms and so that way tomorrow all we have to do is touch it up.'

What about The Golden Army itself? They were in the comic and so you had that to go off of?

Yeah. Most of that design was generated by Guillermo's notes and one of our designers here, did the 3-D, the first 3-D pass at it. He did a model of one of the Golden Army soldiers and basically created an egg that would unfold and become one of these soldiers. We gave that design to the visual FX people and they made some changes in it. Again, it was from Guillermo's direction and just made them a little more dynamic.

Did you ever have to physically construct a model?

No, we didn't. They did a couple of models in England, some full sized eggs, but no one ever had to make a full sized robot.

That would be quite a task.

Yeah. They were massive. I think they're about twelve feet tall in the film, about fifteen feet. I think that would've been a little too excessive to try to do that.

They'd be great as miniature windup toys.

Yeah. In fact one of the guys from Hungary whose name is Ivan Parharnuk made little key chains, little egg shaped key chains. It's one of the little robots all folded up into an egg and the face of it is Guillermo's face. He gave those out as gifts which was kind of cool. So that was fun.

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