Monday, July 21, 2008

News - 07/21/08...

'Dark Knight' sets weekend record with $155.34M

Batman has sent Spidey packing as king of Hollywood's box-office superheroes.

"The Dark Knight" took in a record $155.34 million in its first weekend, topping the previous best of $151.1 million for "Spider-Man 3" in May 2007 and pacing Hollywood to its biggest weekend ever, according to studio estimates Sunday.

"We knew it would be big, but we never expected to dominate the marketplace like we did," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., which released "The Dark Knight." The movie should shoot past the $200 million mark by the end of the week, he said.

Hollywood set an overall revenue record of $253 million for a three-day weekend, beating the $218.4 million haul over the weekend of July 7, 2006, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

"This weekend is such a juggernaut," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal, whose musical "Mamma Mia!" debuted at No. 2 with $27.6 million.

Factoring in higher admission prices, "Spider-Man 3" may have sold slightly more tickets than "The Dark Knight."

At 2007's average price of $6.88, "Spider-Man 3" sold 21.96 million tickets over opening weekend. Media By Numbers estimates today's average movie prices at $7.08, which means "The Dark Knight" would have sold 21.94 million tickets.

Revenue totals for "The Dark Knight" could change when final numbers are released Monday.

The movie's release was preceded by months of buzz and speculation over the performance of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker, Batman's nemesis. Ledger, who died in January from an accidental prescription-drug overdose, played the Joker as a demonic presence, his performance prompting predictions that the role might earn him a posthumous Academy Award nomination.

"The average opening gross of the last five `Batman' movies is $47 million. This tripled that, and for a reason," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers. "A big part of that was the Heath Ledger mystique and a phenomenal performance that absolutely deserves the excitement surrounding it."

"The Dark Knight" reunites director Christopher Nolan with his "Batman Begins" star Christian Bale, whose vigilante crime-fighter is taunted and tested by Ledger's Joker as the villain unleashes violence and chaos on the city of Gotham.

Overseas, "The Dark Knight" added $40 million in 20 countries where it began opening Wednesday, including Australia, Mexico and Brazil. The film opens in Great Britain this weekend and rolls out to most of the rest of the world over the next few weeks.

"The Dark Knight," which cost $185 million to make, also broke the "Spider-Man 3" record for best debut in IMAX large-screen theaters with $6.2 million. "Spider-Man 3" opened with $4.7 million in IMAX cinemas.

"Every single show is sold out," said Greg Foster, IMAX chairman and president. "We're adding shows as much as we can, but we're at 100 percent capacity."

On opening day Friday, "The Dark Knight" also took in more money than previously counted, Fellman said. The film pulled in a record $67.85 million, up nearly $1.5 million from the studio's estimates a day earlier.

The previous opening-day record also had been held by "Spider-Man 3" with $59.8 million.

Women accounted for most of the audience for "Mamma Mia!", which Universal opened as counter-programming to the male-dominated audience for "The Dark Knight."

"With the crowded summer, we knew we would have to find the right weekend, and this seemed like the perfect one considering three-quarters of our audience was female," Rocco said.

Based on the stage musical set to the tunes of ABBA, "Mamma Mia!" features Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski.

The weekend's other new wide release, 20th Century Fox's animated family flick "Space Chimps," opened at No. 7 with $7.4 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "The Dark Knight," $155.34 million.

2. "Mamma Mia!", $27.6 million.

3. "Hancock," $14 million.

4. "Journey to the Center of the Earth," $11.9 million.

5. "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," $10 million.

6. "WALL-E," $9.8 million.

7. "Space Chimps," $7.4 million.

8. "Wanted," $5.1 million.

9. "Get Smart," $4.1 million.

10. "Kung Fu Panda,"
$1.8 million.

From AWN, An Interview with Peter Chung

From Bakshi and Disney to Riddick and beyond, the cutting-edge animator continues to do things his own way.

Peter Chung was given a great deal of freedom on Matriculated, his episode in the Animatrix series, based on the feature The Matrix.

For almost three decades, Peter Chung has been carving out a unique place for himself in the field of animation. An artist with an instantly recognizable visual style, his work has ranged from storyboards and characters designs for television shows like Transformers, Rugrats, Phantom 2040 and Reign: The Conqueror (aka Alexander) to creating the MTV series Aeon Flux, writing and directing the short Matriculated for The Animatrix and directing the OVA The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury.

Chung's interest in animation began when he saw a screening of student films from CalArts at an animation festival when he was in high school. Soon he was making his own animated films in Super 8. "At that point," he says, "I knew that was what I wanted to do. CalArts was the only school that I applied to. I just knew that I was going to get in." He did, attending CalArts from 1979 to 1981, and that's also where we began our interview.

Craig J. Clark: What was it like for you when you got to CalArts?

Peter Chung:
I applied to be in the character animation department and after my first year there my teachers suggested that I switch to experimental animation. They didn't seem to think that my style, my sensibility was what they were looking for. It's changed a lot since then, but at the time the department was run by ex-Disney artists, so they were very rigid about what they were looking for.

CJC: And the experimental side gave you more freedom?

It did, but it was kind of like they didn't provide any useful instruction at all. I felt like after my second year I'd gotten everything I was going to get out of being at CalArts. I was eager to start working in the industry.

CJC: And one of your earliest jobs was on Ralph Bakshi's Fire and Ice. Was Bakshi one of your influences?

Yeah, more so than Disney at the time. I was 20 years old and my interest in animation was making the kinds of films that I wanted to see at that age. For the most part that didn't mean Disney fairy tale-type movies. It was more like R-rated films like what Bakshi was making, and Fire and Ice was perfect for me because I was a big fan of [Frank] Frazetta as well. Frazetta at the time was a big influence on me. The chance to work with both of them was hard to resist.

CJC: So were you drawn to his kind of individualist vision?

Yeah, what I liked about Bakshi was I felt his films came from a personality, an individual, whereas I felt Disney films -- as technically polished as they are -- just didn't seem like works of personal expression. They seemed to be products of tradition, and they are products of a group effort. I never got a sense of the personality behind them like I did with Ralph's work.

CJC: After that you did a lot of storyboard work and design work on various TV shows.

Before I did that I actually got hired at Disney, funnily enough. I left Bakshi to go work at Disney for about two years. It's strange thinking back on it. It was a very vague kind of job where I came up with ideas that they would use or they wouldn't use. They did that a lot at the time at Disney. They would hire animators straight out of school and put them in development, hoping to see what they would come up with.

I worked on a live-action movie about Einstein, designing visual effects sequences, and after that I was asked to develop a feature film idea. I wrote an original story for a live-action film with computer-animated effects, kind of as a follow-up to Tron. At the time they had high hopes for Tron. When that wasn't a success, my project was canceled. Eventually, I got frustrated after two years of working on projects that didn't get produced.

So I decided to go and get as much experience as possible. I started doing storyboards for TV, Transformers, and then I did character design. I did a bit of everything. I did some animation, layout. I tried to get a lot of experience in a lot of different areas as a way of working my way towards becoming a director, which was what I wanted to do.

CJC: So by the time you were actually developing your own show, you had this array of skills. And obviously the process of putting a show like Aeon Flux together is not linear...

Peter Chung.

PC: My personal experience in this industry is a little unusual, I think, because when I was working on Transformers, a lot of the TV work was starting to be sent overseas and I actually enjoyed going overseas to work. Maybe it's because I'm Korean-American and a lot of the work was being sent to Korea. And seeing how they worked, and developing a lot of close relationships with Korean animators, I really saw the potential [for producing] a show with overseas studios in a way that allowed for more participation on the part of the Korean animators. I thought that an enormous amount of talent was not being tapped, not being allowed to contribute. I saw it on both sides. I saw it in terms of the American studios, that they were always feeling frustrated by having to work with people overseas, getting their instructions misinterpreted. And then on the Korean side I would see the animators being very, very frustrated by having everything dictated to them. Apart from the creative ideas behind Aeon Flux, I was also trying to work within that production system in a way that felt more organic.

CJC: When you're doing a show where you're creating a world from the ground up, where do you start that process? Do you start with the characters? Do you start with the writing?

PC: Since I've done a lot of character design work, I don't need to do a lot of drawing when I write a story because I can picture exactly what it's going to look like as I'm writing it. I always like to focus on the ideas and the script first. I make sure everything is nailed down in script form and I write very detailed scripts. Even the earliest Aeon Flux shorts, which didn't contain any dialogue, they were very detailed scripts. Every single little thing that happened was written out. I would eventually make changes when I went to storyboard, but at least it gave me a framework.

I've seen what happens when a lot of visual development gets done without a script. A lot of work gets wasted. I experienced a lot of that while working at Disney. Tons of great artwork was being thrown out because it didn't fit in with the story that they finally settled on.

CJC: So you're very much about getting all the details right so there's no wasted effort.

I think about the end result. The process is not important to me. Maybe I'm a little unusual in this sense because most of the animators, most of the people in the industry that I know, they're so focused on the process and about enjoying the process, in a way you could say the result is just the pretext for them to be involved in a process. For me it's the other way. I really don't enjoy the process that much. It's all about the result, so I think about what the audience is going to take away from the final result when they finally see it. What that means in most cases to the general public is story and ideas and characters, more so than visuals.

A lot of artists tend to focus on the visual aspect of it, but in the end I think audiences care about that less or they take it for granted, and what they take away from it is what it's given them to think about or the feelings it left them with. So that's what I try to focus on, that's what I try to nail down from the very beginning. The visual elements are just a vehicle, a way of conveying those emotions and those ideas. It's really the ideas that drive everything.

CJC: How different is the process when you're adapting somebody else's work, say with The Animatrix or The Chronicles of Riddick? How much freedom do you have in those cases?

Well, with The Animatrix, my part was something that I created. I wrote the story for that and all the characters were mine, even though it's based on a basic idea from the Matrix movie. They gave me a lot of freedom. It was funny; they prevented us from knowing anything about the sequels. All we had to work from was the first movie. With the Riddick project, it was a case of being given a script and being a director for hire, but I did make changes in the script. I cut out a lot of dialogue that I thought was unnecessary. That's a big part of the process for me, trying as much as possible to reduce the amount of dialogue and trying to convey what's going on with the characters through their actions and not what they're saying.

Last year, Chung created storyboards for the feature version of Astro Boy, based on the anime and manga. The feature is set to be released in 2009. © Sony Pictures Television.

CJC: And you also worked on the character design for that. How does that work when you're dealing with characters that have already been cast for you?

In a way it frees you up because you're not wasting time going down a lot of blind alleys trying to look for the characters because the characters are right there. So for the main characters it gave me a good head start. The hardest character to design on that project was the female villain. I must have spent weeks trying to design that character since it didn't have any live-action counterpart.

I'd worked on commercials where I was interpreting some known character like Cindy Crawford or Charles Barkley or somebody like that, so I'd had a lot of practice adapting a real person into animation.

CJC: Between Reign and The Animatrix, you did several years of commercial work. How satisfying is that on a professional level?

Well, it gives you a chance to work with a lot of different styles. I enjoy commercials because it lets you work with a schedule and a budget that is much more generous than what I'm used to on TV. As a director, it forces you to focus on the essentials and cutting it down to communicating in the way that has the most impact in the shortest amount of time, and that's always a challenge. It's a good exercise. They're mostly 30-second spots, but usually the amount of animation in them is like 20 seconds or sometimes less.

CJC: Is there any one thing apart from money that is preventing you from doing the kinds of personal projects that you would prefer to do?

Well, that's a tough question because, in a way, I'm not interested in making anything that's purely personal, like an independent festival film that only gets seen by a few people. I'm really interested in working to a mass audience and having my work function in a marketplace, yet remaining somehow personal. For me, that's the greatest challenge there is. I have no interest in working on a project I have no artistic investment in, either. That's probably kept me from being more prolific, actually. If I don't feel a personal connection or passion about what I'm doing, I just can't get motivated to do it. As I said, I don't enjoy the process, so it has to be something in the content that gets me motivated.

CJC: Can you tell us anything about what you've been working on recently?

Well, I had been working on an animated Aeon Flux for a while because we were trying to revive that. For various reasons, we decided not to go ahead with that.

CJC: Was this before or after the live-action adaptation?

It was during and after. Trying to redo Aeon Flux now, over ten years since the last time I worked on it, I realized that my own interests are very different. My own take on the character is very different from what it was originally. I almost get the feeling that trying to adapt the character to the ideas and themes that interest me now would require reinventing the character altogether and at that point why do Aeon Flux? Why not just create something else? So that's really the direction I want to go in.

One of the things that I'm working on now is an adaptation of Cyborg 009, which is a Japanese comic book character and an animation series from the '60s, which I grew up with. Japanese animation is very popular all over the world, so a lot of it is being adapted into animated features.

CJC: Is this one that you're adapting yourself?

Yeah, I've written a story and redesigned the characters. It's funny, late last year I worked on the Astro Boy movie -- I did storyboards on that -- and I'm working on an adaptation of Wicked City. With a lot of those projects, I guess I end up getting involved because they were such a big source of inspiration for me. But those are adaptations. My original feature project, which has been planned for a while, I had kind of put on hold while working on Aeon Flux; but since Aeon Flux isn't happening right now, I'm going to get back to working on it. I can't really say very much about it.

CJC: I look forward to seeing it.

Craig J. Clark is an occasional contributor to AWN. He writes an online comic strip called Dada.

Mind Your Business: Adam Sandler Can Make Us Better Animators

In this month's Animation World Magazine column, Mark Simon messes with the Zohan and finds inspiration for pushing the animation envelope.

Christian Bale on the next 'Batman' and 'Terminator Salvation'

In comics2film's interview with Christian Bale star of 'The Dark Knight', the actor talks candidly about his profession and continuing the Batman franchise for a third installment. He also gives us the scoop on his latest venture, reinventing the character John Connor in 'Terminator: Salvation'.

"What we do for a living is completely ridiculous," says Bale. "We call ourselves grown men who are pretending to be other people for a living and the more ridiculous I view what I do, the more I love it and the more I appreciate and am able to do this for a living. The more seriously I take it and it sounds paradoxical, but the more serious and more dramatic a role gets in any genre, the more ridiculous you have made it."

Bale praised not only Ledger's work in Dark Knight, but also all of his cast members. "We have a damn good cast straight throughout this movie. It becomes that much easier to create great scenes."

Does Bale see a sequel to the 'Dark Knight' on the horizon?

"You have to ask Chris that. Look I see that in finishing the movie, I want to know what happens? What is going to happen? It is completely in the hands of Chris of whether he desires to do that or not. I will bet a lot of money that he hasn't made any indication of whether that was going to happen or not, but it's completely his decision."

Bale sees two main challenges if Nolan were to create another Batman movie.

"I think that there is a great challenge to it for two reasons. One is there have been a number of sequels that have surpassed the first movie. You look at 'Godfather 2'; 'Empire Strikes Back' in my personal opinion surpass the first one. There have not been many times that you get a third in a trilogy that manage to be the best and I see that as a good enough reason to want to tackle it. There is also another challenge, which is Heath has done such a superb job with this, how do you create a superior villain to that?"

When asked about Nolan, Bale can't seem to imagine continuing on in the franchise without the director's involvement.

"He's created this. This is his. No matter how much there are great performances or how much there is a great cast; everything comes down to the director. He casts those people. He is responsible for picking the right people for the right parts. He's responsible for the whole damn thing.

"If the movie works it's all due to Chris. If the movie fails, it's all due to Chris. The director should take the credit and all the blame whether a movie works or not. He should because he is the one that's making all the decisions. I am just the one providing a piece to the puzzle, but he's picked me to provide that piece. So if I'm not doing it well ok I'm to blame for not bringing that up, but he's to blame for casting me in the first place."

This is now Bale's third time working with the director, in 'Batman Begins', 'The Prestige' and now 'The Dark Knight'. What sort of working environment does Nolan create on set?

"Well I can speak for myself, but I have a great trust in his abilities and he's going to be making a very smart and engaging movie," Bale said, but adds. "It never stops me from questioning him because everyone should have people questioning. It doesn't benefit to have yes men around the place, but I have yet to come up with a question that he hasn't considered before I've asked it and I hope he would be able to feel the same about me.

"He does know I am the kind of actor that can arrive and without having him tell me anything, I have my own opinion of how I think a scene should be shot and I will present it to him. Then a collaboration begins of him telling me, ‘what the hell was that? What are you doing, you're missing the point?' or ‘Bang on that was it, we're moving on.' So I hope he has the same trust in me that I have in him.

Bale seems to enjoy franchises. Up next for the actor is tackling the fourth 'Terminator' movie, subtitled 'Salvation'.

Christian Bale as John Connor in 'Terminator: Salvation'

"That was actually something I questioned greatly, do I want to do that again? What I saw with 'Terminator' was what I saw with 'Batman Begins'. 'Batman Begins' was clearly an origin story and we were in many ways ignoring any of the movies, which came before. This won't be the case with 'The Terminator'. We certainly will be staying true to the mythology, certainly one and two more so than three."

Bale isn't looking to simply rehash what's already been done so well by James Cameron, who created the franchise but is no longer involved with it.

"It's the opportunity and the chance to reinvent and revitalize that. There's no point in making it otherwise. That's my aim and that's why I finally decided. It took a long time to consider and why I finally decided yes I wanted to try this. That's the responsibility that we have as filmmakers and that's what I'm aiming to achieve."

So how has the film been going so far? "'The Terminator' is going well. It's a tall order. It really is and I recognize that. We have a lot of work to do and I just started as I just finished 'Public Enemy' a couple weeks back."

Far before 'Terminator: Salvation' comes out, you can check out Bale as Batman in 'The Dark Knight', now in theaters!

Should Robin Appear In A Batman Movie? Comic Legend Jeph Loeb Defends The Boy Wonder

The Internet fan community is in agreement: Do not, under any circumstances, put Robin anywhere near Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe, a world grounded in reality, where the laws of physics apply to hero and villain alike, where bullets wound and punches bruise. An acrobatic little kid in tights? Do it and I walk, Christian Bale even reportedly said recently.

Which is a little ironic, considering that one of Bale’s favorite Batman comics is “Dark Victory,” by fan-favorite creators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. And who do you think appears as a critical character in “Dark Victory”? (Hint: He wears a red and yellow costume.)

So how do you reconcile the two disparate viewpoints?

“Take the time to tell the story properly,” Loeb told MTV News. “There is a story of Dick Grayson and how he becomes Robin that is extremely moving and very helpful.”

In the events of Loeb’s “The Long Halloween,” which preceded “Dark Victory” and served as a partial inspiration for “The Dark Knight,” the main characters are all left alienated and alone, bereft of even a little hope. It’s Robin’s presence that can change that for Bruce, Loeb argues, creating a father/son dynamic that can mirror Wayne’s relationship with his own dad. In short, Robin can teach Bruce how to be more human, Loeb insisted.

“It’s all about building the relationship between Bruce and Dick. Dick hates Bruce. He doesn’t understand why it is that he needs to do this and Bruce doesn’t understand why he’s doing it either because he’s not a parent. He doesn’t know how to be a parent,” Loeb said. “And together, they make each other better people. So that for me would be the next step.”

But for all the fans already crying out in horror just at the thought of it, Loeb isn’t actually talking so much about Robin as he is about Dick Grayson. In fact, the best Robin story might not actually have “Robin” at all.

“I wouldn’t let him become Robin until the third act, if that. I think that’s the other problem when you tell that story is that there’s this rush to put him in a costume by the end of the first 20 minutes and in that case I think it’s a disaster,” Loeb said. “So if you look at ‘Dark Victory’ Tim and I went nine out of twelve chapters before you even started to talk about putting him in a costume and he doesn’t put the costume on until the last chapter of that book.”

MTV Rough Cut: Meet The Batmen

Here, Adam West, Michael Keaton, George Clooney, Val Kilmer and Christian Bale talk about their iconic character.

Hi-Res Watchmen Photos

Warner Bros. Pictures has now provided us with Hi-Res versions of the new Watchmen photos that are featured in Entertainment Weekly. Opening March 6, 2009, the Zack Snyder-directed graphic novel adaptation stars Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Matthew Goode, Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Carla Gugino, Stephen McHattie and Matt Frewer.

You can view the photos here!

New trailer for Ponyo on the Cliff unveiled, Miyazaki talks

A brand new and final trailer for Hayao Miyazaki’’s upcoming film Ponyo on the Cliff was shown on Japanese television just one day before its theatrical release. FPSMagazine has made available the trailer online. Ponyo on the Cliff tells the tale of Ponyo, a goldfish princess who wishes to become human and in the process, befriends a 5 year old boy, Sosuke. The look of the movie is heavily based on the many pre-production watercolours and hand drawn artworks done by Miyazaki. Also, no CGI has been used in the movie. Ponyo opens in theatres across Japan on July 19.

The NHK's Ohayou Nippon has interviewed director Hayao Miyazaki about Ponyo on the Cliff, his latest animated feature film that will be released in Japan on July 19, 2008. has a translated summary of the interview, wherein he shares his thoughts on the film which was done all by hand, without the use of any CGI. As Miyazaki himself puts it, “We have drawn with pencils for a long time, so then we thought we should do it with pencils only. That is our advantage. Even we ourselves felt fresh to see the completed film.”

(via, which also notes that the Ponyo theme song is currently the top seller on Japan's iTunes Store.)

Studio Ghibli's Next Animated Film!

On the eve of Ponyo's premiere in Japan, Studio Ghibli president Hoshino Koji let's slip plans for their next release - a new Isao Takahata film!

"Ever since Hohokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun (ホーホケキョとなりの山田くん, My Neighbors the Yamadas) in 1999, Takahata hasn't produced anymore films. In fact, his new movie is now being prepared. We can’t tell the details, though it has been more crystallized than it was some years ago. He hasn't produced movie in these 10 years, but was busy on writing or lecturing. If Miyazaki is the one who gathers attention under the sun, Takahata is the type who quietly cruises underwater. If they have any common point, then they both have amazingly deep fountain of creation. Takahata is now very fine. Please, expect his next film. Goro is also preparing his new film."

Want to Work for Studio Ghibli? Here's Your Chance!

I guess it's Ghibli Day. Aptly so, on the eve of Ponyo's release to Japanese cinemas.

If you've ever dreamed of working side-by-side with Miyazki-San and Takahata-San, this may turn out to be a dream come true! Details are up on (in Japanese, of course) of a recruitment drive for the studio.

Translation from the GhibliWiki:

* Duty place is Toyota City, Aichi prefecture not Tokyo.
* Term of the contract is from April 1 2009 to March 31 2011.
* The deadline for document submission is September 17

* Presentation documents:
* A resume with photograph
* Two pieces of artwork (the subject is open)
* Excessive documentation will be ignored by the selection committee
* The entry works will not be returned
* Primary selection: End of September. Notified by letter.
* Second selection: By the end of October. Practical examination and interview at Studio Ghibli.
* Third selection: From October 24 to November 3.
* A training examination of 10 days. Ghibli will supply housing.

Apparently, you also need to know a reasonable amount of Japanese to get the job. Can't say I'm at all surprised.

France’s TeamTO Gets Funding for 3-D Toon

Paris-based production company TeamTO is getting some financial aid in producing its first stereoscopic 3-D animated feature. Daily Variety reports that the entity will receive up to $95,000 from the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC), France’s government-backed film and TV funder, to produce Occho kochoi.

Written by Antoine Barraud and developed by TeamTO founders Guillaume Hellouine and Corinne Kouper, Occho kochoi tells the story of an outcast bird who suddenly finds himself acting as the guide for his flock on their annual migration to Africa. Produced by Kouper, the movie features character designs by Benjamin Renner.

The deal marks France’s first investment in 3-D cinema, a movement that is becoming the standard for theatrically distributed animation in the U.S. The CNC reportedly plans to put up cash for three more stereoscopic films this year, with the funds aiding in getting producers up to speed with the technology. The agency is also forming a research group made up of filmmakers, distributors, exhibitors and technology companies to further push the 3-D initiative.

Last month, TeamTO joined forces with Folimage, La Poudriere and L’Equipe to launch a new production entity called La Cartoucherie. Based in Bourg-Les-Valence, in the Drome region of France’s Rhone-Alpes region, the group is currently working on the animated television series International Hareport, (a co-production with Vivi Films, with the participation of TF1, to be distributed by Cake) and How to Drive Everybody Crazy (a co-pro with France 3 and Cake Ent.). To learn more about TeamTO’s many projects, visit

Spike & Mike Site Launches

For the first time in its 25-year history, The Spike & Mike Sick and Twisted Animation Festival is launching a consumer website at Part of the Mondo Mini Shows Network, the site will offer downloadable short films from up-and-coming animation talent, as well as classics such as Marv Newland’s Bambi Meets Godzilla.

The Spike and Mike Sick and Twisted Animation Festival has served as a launch pad for some of the world’s top animation talent by screening the first shorts of John Lasseter, Tim Burton, Andrew Stanton, Bill Plympton, Danny Anonucci, Eric Fogel, Breehn Burns, Brad Bird, Pete Docter, Chris Wedge, Kenn Navaro, Marv Newland, Mike Judge and many others. Over the years, the fest has featured the theatrical premieres of Beavis and Butthead, the South Park debut short Spirit of Christmas, the first Happy Tree Friends shorts by Mondo Media and Nick Park’s Creature Comforts.

Co-founder Craig “Spike” Decker comments, “A generation of Spike and Mike fans grew up watching the Spike and Mike Film Festivals at midnight screenings at their local theaters. Today, our theatrical tour continues to be a natural magnet for up-and-coming animators that want to reach a wide audience so we’re often the first to secure and promote the best cutting edge animation from around the world. With the addition of our web site we can now present the best material from our archives and showcase the hottest new animation.”

Mike Gribble passed away in August of 1994, but Spike continues to produce touring theatrical festivals of animated short film collections. Spike and Mike screenings are perennial favorites at the Sundance Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, and the Annecy International Festival of Animation. Fans can find the outfit at the San Diego Comic-Con in booth #1536.

Watchmen, Batman Motion Comics Debut

As Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight swoops into theaters, the studio today announced the launch of Warner Premiere’s Motion Comics, a new way for fans to enjoy graphic novels. The initiative kicks off with the debut episode of DC Comics’ Watchmen, which is available for the next two weeks as a free iTunes download exclusively through Entertainment Weekly’s website, Beginning August 2, the installment will be available in the iTunes Store ( for $1.99. In addition, the Eisner Award-winning Batman: Mad Love can be downloaded to own from Xbox Live and will be available on Verizon Wireless’ V CAST Video service starting July 22.

Warner Premiere’s Motion Comics offer a visually engaging experience by bringing subtle movement, voice-overs and sweeping music scores to comic-book artwork. A full list of titles and release dates will be announced shortly after next week’s Comic-Con Int’l in San Diego, Calif.

Set in 1985 at the height of the cold war, The Hugo Award-winning Watchmen from writer Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons presents a world where superheroes are real but have been banned by the government. The murder of one such costumed crusader pulls several of his contemporaries out of retirement and back into action as the fate of mankind hangs in the balance. The story is being made into a major motion picture by 300 director Zack Snyder, and is slated to hit theaters on March 6, 2009.

In the July 18 issue of Entertainment Weekly, fans will find a special link ( that provides access to the episode via iTunes. Additional episodes will be made available for purchase via iTunes and other distribution partners in the coming months leading to the theatrical release of Watchmen.

Batman: Mad Love is taken directly from the pages of the Eisner Award-winning single-issue graphic novel by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. The story revolves around The Joker’s sidekick, Harley Quinn, who is madly in love with him. She uses crime to demonstrate her love and sets out to commit the ultimate act of devotion—killing Batman. In addition to the Xbox Live download and the Verizon Wireless V CAST service, episodes will be available from other distribution partners in the coming months.

To get the latest updates on Warner Bros. activities during Comic-Con, go to Fans can also sign up for text alerts regarding Warner Bros. Ent. events, free downloads and more by sending a text message with the word COMIC to 58671. Standard carrier rates may apply.

Toei’s Digimon, Pretty Cure Found Online

Toei Animation Co. Ltd. and Toei Animation Inc. will debut their two most popular animated series, Digimon Adventure 02 and Pretty Cure, online this month. Each anime show will be available for download on’s Direct2Drive section. Slam Dunk and Fist of the North Star were the first titles to premiere online last month through this new initiative. Other animated titles from Toei’s extensive catalogue will roll out later this year.

Digimon Adventure 02, the second season of the hit animated series, follows the adventures of Daisuke Motomiya and his friends as they battle the evil Digimon Kaiser, who is out to dominate the Digital World. When Digimon Kaiser’s powers prevent other Digimon from Digivolving, a new generation of Digimon hero emerges to save their world

Pretty Cure revolves around Nagisa and Honoka, eighth graders at the Verone Junior High School for girls, who encounter two mysterious creatures that came down from the sky one night. Named Mepple and Mipple, the creatures fled their homeland, known as the Field of Light, in order to escape an attack by the evil forces of Dotsuku Zone. They grant Nagisa and Honoka the power to transform into superheroes dubbed “Cure Black” and “Cure White,” who may be our planet’s only hope in battling the evil Dotsuku Zone.

For more information on these and other Toei shows coming to the web, go to

Wall Street Journal on Mort Walker's National Cartoon Museum

The Wall Street Journal has taken a look at the long and trouble-fraught history of Mort Walker's National Cartoon Museum, which holds more than 200,000 pieces of artwork from comics, cartoons, and animation, but was not able to find a stable location for the museum until recently. Last year, Ohio State University announced that it would merge Walker's collection with their own, preparing a space to put the work on display for the public.

Scary Romulan!! There Are Four STAR TREK Posters In Entertainment Weekly!!

Here they are -

The first official images of Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoë Saldana), and Nero (Eric Bana). By the way, look closely at the eyes.

James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) looking cocky

Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), so logical

Uhura (Zoe Saldana), ready to communicate

…and the villain Nero (Eric Bana), seems angry about something

Put them all together and you get this:

Quick thoughts:

Note the background colors, red, gold, blue correspond to the original uniform colors for Uhura, Kirk and Spock

Nice touch with the reflection of the delta shield logo in the eyes for Kirk, Spock and Uhura. It looks like there is one there for Nero too, but hard to tell.

Spock’s shirt looks very close to original TOS

As we knew it would, Quinto looks perfect as Spock

Pine has the right look of a young, serious, cocky Kirk

Hard to tell for sure, but it looks like Starfleet pointy sideburns are still in style

Zoe’s Uhura = HOT

Nero looks badass, but what is is going on with his ear? He is reportedly a Romulan, did someone chew the tip off?

And as reported before, no TNG era bumpy headed action on the Romulans…with the new twist of tattoos!…Fascinating

Thank you JJ
This is what we have all be asking for…and lets face it…whining about for so long. So a big thank you to JJ Abrams and to your band of brothers (Lindelof, Orci, Kurtzman, and Burk). And thank you Paramount.

Get your own copy in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly arriving on newsstands now.

Early Details On "Batman: The Complete Animated Series" DVD Collection

Warner Home Video has released early details the upcoming Batman: The Complete Animated Series collection for release later this year.

Batman: The Complete Animated Series is arriving November 4th, 2008, and Warner Home Video has provided an early look at the box set collection, as seen below. Click on the thumbnail for a closer look.

The promotional ad stats the following:

-17 Disc Set with all 109 episodes plus a new Special Feature created for this new series collection.
-Contains a 40-page Collector's book with production artwork
-$107.92 SRP

More specific details are expected to follow, so stay tuned for further details. Batman: The Complete Animated Series is hits shelves on November 4th, 2008.

Japanese Dragonball Poster Online

A Japanese poster for 20th Century Fox's Dragonball featuring Justin Chatwin as Goku has been revealed. You can check out a decent version of the poster below.

Opening April 10, 2009, the big screen adaptation is written and directed by James Wong. James Marsters, Jamie Chung, Emmy Rossum, Eriko Tamura, Joon Park, Chow Yun-Fat, Texas Battle, Randall Duk Kim and Ernie Hudson co-star.

Quint from aintitcoolnews follows John Lasseter for a day as he makes his rounds for Disney's Bolt!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. When I went out to New York to see Disney’s unveiling of their animation slate for the next four or more years I ended up having dinner with a pair of publicists from the company.

Over dinner we talked about what I’d do if I were running the studio. Of course, I fully trust John Lasseter on the animation side of things, but I was saying that I would love to see a return to the Disney horror film. I loved movies like Watcher In The Woods and Something Wicked This Way Comes when I was little (and to this day). I think adults forget how much fun it was being scared as a kid. We loved it.

They didn’t laugh me out of the room, thank God, but we did switch topics to Lasseter at Disney and how he has reinvigorated the studio, how his fingers are dipped into every project going on at the moment. Which led us to Bolt, which I had seen some footage of earlier at the big presentation.

Bolt had the feeling of a Disney/Pixar love-child, traits of each parent showing through, but the whole not exactly one or the other. It was here that we really first discussed doing a series of articles on the film here on AICN.

The idea is that I’ll go visit Disney about once a month starting last month, in June, and ending with me seeing the finished film around October/November and with each visit we’ll look at a different aspect of the production ultimately providing a record of the behind the scenes of this project.

At the dinner, they weren’t sure if it would happen. Apparently, they’ve never let anyone cover an in-development project in such detail before, so they didn’t know if it would be approved.

It was and I found myself on the Disney lot last month to start it. And what a way to start.

My task was to meet with John Lasseter and shadow him as he made his rounds, gave notes to the filmmakers, watched a few rough edits of scenes and basically acted as creative foreman for the project.

I was told no less then 4 times (by as many people) that arranging 2 hours with John Lasseter for a report was unprecedented. Let me tell you, I needed every second of it.

My first impressions of Lasseter were that he was exactly who I thought he was going to be. His enthusiasm is so honest and pure that he couldn’t contain it and our informal meet and greet turned into a 45 minute long bullshitting session about classic Disney animation, what he’s done to make Disney animation more like Pixar and his work on the amusement parks. I would say a safe, conservative estimate on how the conversation broke down between him and me was about 85% Lasseter and 15% me talking.

If I didn’t know better I would have mistaken his enthusiasm for being high as a kite. I guess in a way he was. His love for everything Disney was displayed proudly on his sleeve and I could tell that it meant the world to him to be a creative force there. Eyes wide, he spoke with such force that he would occasionally even smack me in the arm to punctuate his point. Either that or I was being attacked by some crazy mosquito and didn’t know it.

We met outside of his office and he quickly showed me how he has centralized everything. He said that one of the first things he did when he got the job was to force interaction with the employees, just like at Pixar. The bathrooms, the commissary, the screening rooms and water fountains are all centrally located now, so you can’t just skip from your cubical to take a leak and dash back unnoticed. It forces chance meetings, opens up a dialogue. Lasseter said this was a strategy utilized by Steve Jobs and it’s what they do at Pixar.

Apparently it was a bit of a tonal shift when he came onboard, people not used to having access to their bosses on a daily basis. But he was quick to stress that he wasn’t going to turn Disney into Pixar II. He wants Disney Animation to have its own identity, but his goal was to transfer over the feeling, to make it a filmmaker led studio and not an executive led studio.

We sat down in Lasseter’s incredibly cool office. I’ve never been to his office at Pixar, but I’ve seen it on the DVDs. His Disney office isn’t as cluttered with toys from his flicks, but it is definitely the same man occupying both. There is framed Disney production art (reproductions, I’m told… he wouldn’t dare take the originals out of the vault) for Dumbo and tons of other, more obscure, Disney ‘toons on damn near every square inch of wall.

It was the art that started off our conversation and he told me that when he first entered Disney in his Chief Creative Officer role… “You know how as a kid you had Christmas and you thought you had opened all of your presents? Then you look under the tree and way under there is one more present, a big one, and it has your name on it? Remember how exciting that was? That’s what it felt like when I found out that the Animation Research Library, the ARL, which is basically the morgue which houses all the original animation art from the Disney history was under our jurisdiction.”

He then asked if I’d been over there. I told him I hadn’t, then he slapped the table and said, “Done.” I told him that was dangerous since I am a collector of many things, including animation cels, but I’d gladly take him up on it. Looks like my next trip to LA will possibly end with my arrest as I try to sneak out with Pinocchio cels stuffed down my shirt.

The overall conversation hit many points, but the theme was essentially Lasseter’s mantra. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. He said he’s just a geek. People like him and Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton… they’re just geeks doing what they love, which led him to pay AICN an incredibly huge compliment, saying that he sees the same thing the writers on AICN and went so far as to compare AICN with Pixar, saying that it's clear we love movies here and we're doing what we love to be doing.

That’s incredibly flattering, especially coming from John Mother-Fathering Lasseter.

So after this chit-chat, we walked down to the theater for some animation layouts. On the way we bumped into an animator… and I’m terrible that I didn’t get his name… but this guy did the voice for the pigeon you see in the trailer, with a very distinct New York accent.

And that’s his real voice, too, which explains why the pigeon pushes past that stereotypical New York accent… because it’s not someone trying to put one on. The dude was really nice and when Lasseter introduced him he was very humble. I told him the scene played great in New York, getting a lot of laughs from the crowd. Lasseter said, with a smile, “We tried to replace him…” and the animator said, “Ohhhhh, dude! And I was feeling so good!” Lasseter, “I’M JUST KIDDING!” (Caps are for him literally yelling this over everybody laughing.)

We moved on the conversation came in snippets, changing as we’d walk by different art painted on the walls or posted on the walls. I pointed out some blown up pencil roughs for Pinocchio (my favorite Disney animated movie) as well as a display of those great Disney scene recreations, the Annie Leibovitz photo-shoots with Rachel Weisz as Snow White, Scarlett Johansson as Cinderella, etc… Lasseter geeked out about those, too.

When we got to the theater, I was re-introduced to the directors, Byron Howard and Chris Williams, each armed with a pad and pencil.

The sequence they ran was about 2 minutes long, with animation in various stages, but all pretty rough. We’re following Bolt, the TV superstar dog that was never told his life was a TV show, so he thinks he has all these superpowers which don’t exist in the real world, as he races back to LA where he’s sure his human, Penny, is held captive by his arch-nemesis, the evil Cat-controlling Dr. Calico (voiced by Malcolm McDowell in the movie).

Bolt has an over-caffeinated fanboy Hamster as a side-kick (voiced by animator Mark Walton) and a captive cat (voiced by Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Susie Essman) who he believes will lead him to Dr. Calico.

Of course they bond on the road back and the dry sarcasm of the street cat melts a bit. She teaches Bolt to be a dog and what they were going over was that montage.

In the movie they use a fast food placemat as a map. You know those things you get on the trays at fast food joints… very cartoonish version of the US, with giant cacti in Texas and Arizona and oversized landmarks, like the St. Louis Arch?

The animators took that to the next level and during this montage we track their progression across the US Indiana Jones style, except without the red line and dots over a nice old map, it’s over this ridiculous cartoon Fast Food tray version of the US.

But the heart of the scene is the hamster (almost always in his hamster ball) and the cat teaching Bolt to act like a real dog, showing him the proper dog etiquette, I guess. Teaching him how to dig, how to play with other dogs (that funny butt-up in the air, bowing down thing they do), how to enjoy sticking your head out of the window of a moving car, trying to bite water that comes out of a hose, etc.

We watched it all the way through once with no talking, no notes, just letting it play.

Lasseter brought out his laser pointer and they began again at the beginning, which takes place in a Waffle House parking lot and Lasseter started asking what the geography was, where the characters are in relation to the previous shot, how to make sure the audience knows why they are in relation to what came before, etc. After a couple minutes of discussion, they decided they didn’t need a bridging shot, but they would kind of cheat the top of a truck up a few inches, so that it’s not obscured by the parking lot perimeter wall.

Over the next few shots, Lasseter would pause and playback moments, using the laser pointer to ask questions of the rough animations.

There’s a shot of a truck taking an off ramp (with our guys hitching a ride) that looked fine to me, but Lasseter pointed at the guardrails and said they were too narrow. Once they played it back again everybody saw he was right. It looks like the truck is barely squeezing through it, so they’re going to widen the road a bit (even though I liked one of the directors’ suggestion of keeping it and adding sparks).

There’s another sequence where Bolt and his group are stowing away on the top of a dump truck carrying sand (would that be a sand truck then?) and Bolt is being taught how to dig and bury objects. While he digs, sand is thrown off the back of the moving truck onto the windshield of some poor bastard behind him.

But it was fascinating watching Lasseter making suggestions, small things about camera placement, movement being wrong, ideas for adding layers to these jokes or character moments. I’ve been blessed to have visited many sets in my time at AICN and I’ve seen some master directors working. I’ve seen scenes get better and better take after take as the director fine tunes the performance and I’ve gotten to be able to anticipate how that happens and can see where the progression is going earlier than when I first started.

Here I felt like a newborn. The ideas that Lasseter was having, the problems he was catching and the creative way around them that not only he came up with, but what he inspired in his collaboration with Byron Howard and Chris Williams, were problems I would never have caught until the finished product was before me, let alone figured out how to fix.

My favorite part was actually a piece from the montage… Let me set the scene. You have Bolt in a park with the cat nearby and a dog comes running up, excited… It’s tail is wagging, it runs around him and does the playful puppy-butt-up-in-the-air thing. The cat motions for Bolt to do the same. It’s a cute scene where Bolt for the first time really acts like a dog and gets carried away. He gets playful and chases the dog around and they end up running up a hill with a giant tree on the top, disappearing from view.

It’s a cute scene. Even in this rough form.

Lasseter was untraditionally quiet about it and then made a comment. “I don’t want to… I don’t want the audience to think this… is… a love moment, with Bolt falling in love with a female dog… and then running off…”

There were ideas thrown around, the directors envisioned the other dog a younger male dog, full of puppy-ish enthusiasm, so they talked about how to make it more playful and not so much “romantic.” An idea was formed by all three of them that they could move a swingset from the background of the shot in closer and have Bolt chase the other dog around that, instead of “going off to have sex… under the sex tree.”

Everybody had a laugh over that and then we rewatched the scene and sure enough it plays like flirting. Everybody was quiet and Lasseter said, “Now you can’t watch it, right?”

We watched a few more scenes, then left for a different session, to watch the roughest piece yet, with voice work just recorded and edited to still pencil drawings.

This was from when Bolt gets to LA finally and runs into another set of pigeons. At the beginning of the story he meets the pigeons in New York, being stereotypical New Yorkers and in LA… well, the pigeons speak biz-talk, acting like Hollywood douche-bags trying to pitch Bolt a spin-off. Bolt tricks them into leading him to the studio and the whole way along they’re pitching him the spin-off show (featuring Aliens) in absurd terms (“We open on Ext. Space – Mid-morning…”)

It actually is a really funny sequence, especially if you’ve ever been exposed to that side of Hollywood. Those people do exist.

But this went very much like the rough animation we saw, but was much bigger, with an editor, writer (Dan Fogelman, who worked with Lasseter on Cars). Lots of brainstorming, maybe even more-so here because there wasn’t any animation locked yet. Fogelman was throwing out suggested line changes and different ways of hearing the pitch as Bolt rushes to the studio.

Then Mr. Lasseter had to be pulled away to another meeting and I said my good-byes to Howard and Williams and started walking out. But I didn’t get far before Lasseter found me and apologized for running off without saying good-bye. I wasn’t offended… after all I spent the last bit as a fly on the wall, watching him work, however it was very nice of him to actually come back to say good-bye in person.

He said he was looking forward to having me come back for the next Bolt visit, where it looks like I’ll be following around the Directors as they do their daily job. He stressed one more time that I need to go to the animation morgue and check out the original cels and then said good-bye.

It’s pretty nuts, guys. I haven’t seen enough of the movie to really say if it’ll be a huge success or not, but the creativity that surrounds Lasseter is tangible and infectious. It seemed that inspired creative discussion wherever he went and even if he didn’t have the best idea or the one that everybody agreed with, it was almost always him starting the discussion that led to the solution.

It was an honor following him around and getting some time to B.S. about storytelling, animation and his overall philosophy. Along with “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” there was one I had heard attributed to him and repeated many times, but this time I got to hear it with my own hears from his own mouth, without a speaker in-between us. “Quality is the best business plan.”

Without a doubt Lasseter is deeply invested in how the Disney Animation is going and from what I’ve seen of BOLT (from pencil drawings to fully realized scenes) I think we’re going to find a strange amalgam of traditional Disney style (with the process that allows them to give painterly backgrounds to the computer animation) and Pixar’s unerring level of quality and character humor.

I look forward to seeing how this shakes down as the movie gets closer and closer to completion.

I hope you guys enjoyed reading along with my adventures at Disney and will keep an eye out for the next installment, hitting sometime next month, I believe.

Presto Director Speaks

Spline Doctors, the animation education blog run by Pixar animators, offers up a new audio interview with Doug Sweetland, longtime Pixar animator and director of the studio’s latest short Presto. Part 1 is posted here; the second part is coming soon.

(thanks cartoonbrew)

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