Friday, July 25, 2008

News - 07/25/08...

Going Up?

/Film has posted images of an Up-themed elevator in a San Diego hotel. The entire elevator is covered with cloud print, complete with a new poster from Pixar’s upcoming film. Up hits theaters on June 29, 2009.

2 kids' animated films make world debut in Toronto

A pair of European animated feature films will have their world premieres at this year's Sprockets Family Zone, part of the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival, which runs from September 4 through 13.

Intended for fans seven years of age or older, the Sprockets Family Zone is presented by the Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children. Its complete lineup was announced Wednesday.

Featuring exquisite painterly animation, Mia et le Migou, a French-Italian co-production by Jacques-Rémy Girerd, weaves a message of environmental responsibility into an imaginative world filled with fantastic creatures and one brave little girl.

When her father becomes trapped in a tunnel on a construction site far from home, Mia decides to leave her village to look for him. Trekking through the vast and mysterious forest, Mia finds herself face to face with the Migou, a large, unusual species charged with protecting a powerful and important tree -- a tree threatened by the same construction site that has endangered the life of her father.

In French with English subtitles, Mia et le Migou is recommended for ages nine and up.

Also having its world premiere in Toronto is Sunshine Barry & the Disco Worms, a Danish-German co-production by Thomas Borch Nielsen.

It's not easy being Barry. An earthworm gets no respect. He's at the bottom of the food chain, with a dead-end job at the compost plant.

Barry's lot is a dull, dark existence. But one day, an old disco record turns his life upside down. Barry suddenly sees the light: he will star in the world's greatest disco band, Sunshine Barry & the Disco Worms, and play that funky music to stardom. True, he's got no rhythm, no band and no arms, but, as Barry says, "we'll do it anyway!"

In English, Sunshine Barry & the Disco Worms is recommended for ages seven and up.

The Family Package at this year's Sprockets Family Zone is available for $76.72 (prices do not include GST, building fund fee and service charges). Purchase online at, by phone at (416) 968-FILM or 1-877-968-FILM, or in person at the festival box office at Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor Street West (main floor, north entrance). Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

The Dark Knight: Did anyone read Joker his Miranda rights?

If you're one of the 22 million or so people who saw "The Dark Knight" this weekend, you probably noticed that the movie had some Serious Themes alongside the bombs, slick stunts, and brilliant performances. (And if you haven't read it yet, don't read on, and consider this your spoiler alert.) Sure, "Iron Man" had brown guys being blown up to a hard rock soundtrack, and American arms killing Americans. And at least the editorial board thought "The Hulk" could be considered an allegory for the war on drugs. But Christopher Nolan's latest addition to the Batman canon is the most explicit and thought-provoking with its post-9/11-ness, starting with bursting skyscrapers in its first few minutes and at various points taking up torture (I think the sound of ringing steel is still in my head from Batman's slamming Joker's head onto a table), surveillance (complete with heavy-handed speechifying on privacy by Lucius Fox) and even directly calling the Joker a terrorist a handful of times (he does nearly knife privacy advocate and one-time anthrax target Sen. Patrick Leahy, who has a cameo). Read more HERE.

Afro Samurai Returns to Spike

Samuel L. Jackson is back for more anime awesomeness as the voice of Spike TV's Afro Samurai in Afro Samurai: Resurrection, an original movie set to premiere in January. Emmy Award-nominated actress Lucy Liu (Kung Fu Panda, Kill Bill) joins the fun this time, and The RZA is back on board to provide the original score for the movie, produced by Japanese studio GONZO in association with GDH K.K. FUNimation Ent. Recently acquired the home video, master toy and merchandising rights.

Created by manga artist Takashi Okazaki, Afro Samurai is the story of a black samurai's quest for revenge and justice for his murdered father. In Resurrection, the antihero is forced to pick up his sword again take on an army of deadly foes when his father’s body is stolen from the grave. Liu voices the role of Sio, a beautiful, seductive and sadistic mastermind plotting to destroy Afro Samurai. Other cast members include Mark Hamill (Star Wars) as Bin, Sio's manservant and protector, and Yuri Lowenthal as Kuma, the teddy bear-headed warrior from the original Afro Samurai series. and will air a sneak peek of the trailer for Afro Samurai: Resurrection starting Thursday, July 24 at 8:15 p.m. (ET), immediately following its world premiere debut at Comic-Con in San Diego. The franchise is also going interactive with a video game set for release in 2009 from Namco Bandai Games America Inc. The title will be available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation3. For more information on the TV series and game, go to and

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows Site Update

Activision has updated the official website for the video game "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows," which will be released in stores on October 21. At the site, you can learn more about the game, read about the characters, see the vote results, watch the "Reveal Trailer" and the "Combat Redefined" featurette, get downloads (wallpapers, icons), and more.

Click here to check it out!

Exclusive: Edgar Wright's Ant-Man & Scott Pilgrim

Director Edgar Wright is doing a mini-tour of the United States along with Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson in support of their new DVD Spaced: The Complete Series, released Tuesday on DVD in the United States for the first time. had a chance to sit down and talk with him, an interview which you can read here, but they also had a chance to talk with him a bit about Marvel Studios' Ant-Man and Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, both of which Wright is adapting as movies.

CS: What's been going on since you finished promoting "Hot Fuzz" last year? I know you've been always juggling a couple different projects including "Ant-Man" and "Scott Pilgrim."

We're in between two different strikes. I don't think anybody really knows what's happening with the (actors strike). Yeah, I've just been writing. I wrote the first draft of "Ant-Man." I wrote two drafts of "Scott Pilgrim." I started to work on a solo project and also me and Simon are… (starts to pause as not to reveal too much.)

CS: It already leaked what you two were doing together.

Oh, no, there's two. There's one that's me and there's one that's me and Simon. Yeah, that one there was a trade announcement about it and that's sort of the third in this trilogy but we need to start writing that in between everything else that's going on .

CS: The interesting thing about "Ant-Man" is that after "Iron Man" opened so big, there was this huge Marvel Studios bells and whistles announcement of their movies for the next three years and "Ant-Man" wasn't mentioned.

I think having spoken to Kevin Feige, the "Ant-Man" film I have in mind is a bit more stand-alone, and that's kind of what I wanted to do in a way. I think my take on it is something that may or may not fit into what "The Avengers" would eventually do, but they're very keen on it and they've even talked a release date with me in very vague terms. It looks likely that I will do "Scott Pilgrim" next and then "Ant-Man" straight afterwards.

CS: You have a great cast that's been announced for "Scott Pilgrim" so far.

There's some more interesting people buzzing around as well. It's going to be a big ensemble, that film, and there's a lot of fun people we've already been talking to, so there's more to come with that.

CS: Brian O'Malley still has a couple more issues of the story to finish, so have you talked to him about where the story is going to go so you can include some of that in the movie?

The only book that isn't written is the sixth, but our film takes on a slightly different trajectory after the second book and it includes elements from books three, four and five. In some cases, Brian has used lines in his books from our first draft of the screenplay (chuckles) which is like strange performance-style transference, and it's been brilliant being able to pick his brains throughout this. On one hand, it's a very very faithful adaptation and on the other hand, it definitely molds events from those books into a three-act movie structure, so that's been interesting.

CS: And you know that Mike Cera has this insane fanbase of women, which you might have seen at Comic-Con last year, but it's gotten even bigger since "Superbad" came out. Essentially, every single woman wants him.

Michael Cera? Yeah. I know he's got a lot of growing up he can do if he wanted to.

CS: Once you figure out if the strike is happening, do you know where you'll shoot the movie? Would you go back to the U.K. for it or do it here?

No, it wouldn't be in the U.K. It'll either be here or Toronto. It would be really crucial to kind of shoot in Toronto, so that's what I'm aiming to do.

CS: I want to ask some more "Ant-Man" stuff because besides the release date, there's been a lot of chatter and speculation about what that movie might be like, whether it's a straight comedy or not. Did you look at any specific issues or stories to based the movie on?

It doesn't really have elements of an entire strand or series, because Ant-Man is a character that over forty years, he's kind of cropped up in various different guises, and it's always interesting to me what elements of the character people latch onto. Everyone seems to latch onto the wife-beater elements. I'm not even sure if I read that particular story. I maybe read parts of it. You know, the only thing is that parts of it touch upon is the whole mythos, and basically, it's the story about Hank Pym and Scott Lang. Our big spin on it is an origin tale for one of them and kind of like a swan song for the other.

CS: Are you going to be able to get the Wasp in there at all?

In a very roundabout way. We want to sort of leave some things for some future visions or spin-off things as well. It's difficult to tell forty years of Avengers history in one film, and I'd rather concentrate on two or three great characters.

CS: Ant-Man also had the worst villains in the Marvel Universe.

Living Eraser…

CS: Egghead…

Like The Protractor… it always seemed like for the first 12 issues of "Ant-Man," it was just the contents of a pencil case.

CS: You could probably make up a villain and it would be better than any of the villains in the comic books.

I don't think there's any villains from the original comics, I mean Ant-Man standalone, that are like famous enough to… I mean, in a way, one of the things that was sort of a high concept of characters so much is that you don't need to have a Marvel super-villain in the film. Ant-Man is enough in an otherwise kind of real world.

CS: The good thing is that the character doesn't have that many diehard fans, at least not that I know of, although maybe they'll come out of the woodwork when you're at Comic-Con talking about the movie.

"Hey, you didn't beat his wife enough!"

CS: (laughs) No, no, he really didn't beat his wife at all when he was Ant-Man. That was like later when he had five different personalities.

I think you got the sense with the original. I had lunch with Stan Lee and it was very interesting talking to him about Ant-Man because he said to me that he always felt like Ant-Man was a character that should have been bigger, and like they made mistakes, even just in the artwork, that sort of prevented him from doing that. It's kind of interesting. He said that he always felt that Ant-Man was a character that had more potential than it ever really delivered on. I like that Cold War stuff, it's great. Ant-Man taking on the Russkies single-handedly, it's funny.

Spaced: The Complete Series is out now on DVD which you can get in all the finer stores that sell cool cult TV show DVD collections, including Amazon. If you'll be in San Diego for Comic-Con International, try to stop by Room 6A on Friday at 12:30pm where Edgar, Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson will be doing a Q 'n' A panel about the show. (Yes, we know it's opposite the Watchmen panel, but you probably won't be able to get into it, so why bother even trying?) Then on Friday night at 10:15, same time, they'll screen three episodes of the show as chosen by you, the fans.

Journey To The East

Journey To The East, an animated sequence advertising the upcoming Olympic games in China, can now be viewed on BBC Sport. The commercial is based on the Chinese novel Journey To The West, and was produced by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, also responsible for the virtual band Gorillaz. Journey To The East will be broadcast on BBC television in the UK starting today.

Also, there’s a new interview with Hewlett in the Guardian in which he talks a bit about working on this Olympics piece:
‘It looks wonderful and I’m really thrilled by it,’ says Hewlett. ‘It’s gone through so many changes because there are so many departments at the BBC, and the Olympics is their biggest gig of the year. Damon [Albarn] and I are used to having the luxury of doing exactly what we want, and we understand that this whole idea of using animated ancient Chinese characters is quite a wild-card for them. But somebody at the BBC had seen the Monkey opera and they put our name into the mix. And I think we’ve managed to keep the BBC happy, to tick every box, without ruining the original idea. I mean, the characters aren’t wearing running vests!’

Academy Tunes Up For Animation Weekend

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will feature a weekend of public events and exhibitions spotlighting the art and science of animation -- "The Sound behind the Image II: Now Hear This!," "Normand Roger on The Animation Soundtrack" and "Frederic Back: A Life's Drawings" -- beginning on Friday, August 8, and continuing through Sunday, August 10, in Beverly Hills and Hollywood.

On August 8 "Now Hear This!," presented by the Academy's Science and Technology Council, will explore sound in animation from its beginning through the current digital age. The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Hosted by Academy Award nominee Mark Mangini (STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME, ALADDIN, THE FIFTH ELEMENT), "Now Hear This!" will include discussions with Oscar-winning sound editor David E. Stone (BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA) and Disney Imagineering media designer Joe Herrington, who will examine the work of early sound effects masters Treg Brown and Jimmy MacDonald. The presentation will incorporate a live demonstration of many of MacDonald's actual props.

Foley artist John Roesch will demonstrate foley techniques, and sound designer Randy Thom, a 14-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner (THE RIGHT STUFF, THE INCREDIBLES), will explain how new technologies have changed the way sound is created for animated motion pictures today.

The program will also trace the evolution of sound in animation with clips from STEAMBOAT WILLIE (1928), CLOCK CLEANERS (1937), THE RELUCTANT DRAGON (1941), ZOOM AND BORED (1957), NOW HEAR THIS (1962), BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991), THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004) and THE INCREDIBLES (2004).

On August 10 the Academy will present "Normand Roger on The Animation Soundtrack" at 7:30 p.m. at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. Moderated by Academy Award-nominated composer Michael Giacchino (RATATOUILLE), the program will feature an onstage conversation with Roger, who has composed scores and designed sound effects for more than 300 films, discussing his creative approach to the animation soundtrack. They will be joined by two-time Oscar-winning animator Frederic Back, with whom Roger collaborated on six films.

Four Oscar-winning animated short films featuring Roger's scores and sound design work will be screened -- EVERY CHILD (1979, directed by Eugene Fedorenko), CRAC (1981, directed by Back), THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (1999, directed by Alexander Petrov) and FATHER AND DAUGHTER (2000, directed by Michael Dudok de Wit).

Also on August 10, the Academy will open a new exhibition, "Frederic Back: A Life's Drawings" in the lobby of the Linwood Dunn Theater. The exhibition will showcase drawings, illustrations and sketches created by Back using colored pencils on frosted cels as well as spotlight his commitment to environmental issues. In addition to CRAC, Back won an Academy Award for THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES (1987).

"A Life's Drawings" will have special viewing hours on August 10, from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. The exhibition will be open to the public through November 1 on Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m., and whenever Academy public programs are hosted at the Dunn Theater. Admission is free.

"Frederic Back: A Life's Drawings" is presented with the support of the governments of Quebec and Canada, Societe Radio-Canada, Pixar Animation Studios and SIGGRAPH.

The Academy's ongoing summer exhibition, "Ink & Paint: The Art of Hand-Drawn Animation," will be open throughout the weekend. Showcasing more than 125 hand-drawn works encompassing all stages of the filmmaking process, the exhibition presents paintings, drawings, sketches and cels from the 1950s through the 1990s, including examples from such animated favorites as ALICE IN WONDERLAND, LADY AND THE TRAMP, SLEEPING BEAUTY, GAY PURR-EE, PINK PANTHER, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, THE IRON GIANT and THE LION KING.

"Ink & Paint" is presented in the Academy's Grand Lobby Gallery, located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, noon to 6 p.m. Those who attend "Now Hear This!" will also be able to see the exhibition following the event. The exhibition will remain on display through Sunday, August 24. Admission is free.

Tickets to "Now Hear This!" are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets are available for purchase by mail, at the Academy box office, or online at Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved. The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For additional information, visit or call (310) 247-3600.

Tickets to "Normand Roger on The Animation Soundtrack" are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets are available for purchase by mail, at the Academy box office, or online at Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved. The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood. Free parking is available through the entrance on Homewood Avenue (one block north of Fountain Avenue).

For additional information, visit or call (310) 247-3600.

American Greetings and Cookie Jar Sign $193.5M Deal for DIC Merger

The Hollywood Reporter is stating that American Greetings and Cookie Jar Entertainment have signed a $193.5 million deal for Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears, clearing the way for Cookie Jar to merge with DIC Entertainment Holdings. The litigation that American Greetings brought against Cookie Jar to block the merger has been dismissed, and Cookie Jar will also pick up Sushi Pack, another property co-produced by American Greetings and DIC.

'Hancock''s Peter Berg to helm Radical 'Hercules'

From a press release

Peter Berg, fresh off his blockbuster hit, Hancock, is attached to produce and develop to direct Hercules: The Thracian Wars, based on the Radical Publishing 5 issue miniseries of the same title, written by Steve Moore. Hercules will be a co-production of Spyglass Entertainment, Berg's Film 44 and Radical Pictures. Ryan Condal, recently hired to adapt Warren Ellis' graphic novel titled Ocean for Nick Wechsler and Hollywood Gang Productions, will write the script with the film to be co-financed by Spyglass and Universal. Spyglass' Jonathan Glickman, Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber will produce with Berg and his Film 44 partner Sarah Aubrey, with Barry Levine producing for Radical. Jesse Berger will exec produce.

“We are very excited by the opportunity to explore a new chapter in the Hercules mythology” states Sarah Aubrey. “Barry and everyone at Radical did an amazing job taking a big story and grounding it in a complex and unique character. We've never seen this Hercules before."

Barry Levine explains “When I first read the treatment for Hercules, what drove me to want to publish this was the tremendous set pieces, but they were more or less backdrops to who our character is. Hercules' band of mercenaries each have their own burden to bear and hidden demons that are consuming them. One of the most interesting aspects of the comic book series is not only how they deal with these conflicts, but how they persevere and fight for a cause that is greater than themselves. This is not just another sword and sorcery kind of film. This is truly a character driven piece. As a comic book publisher we know that you really have to buy into the characters before you can buy into the universe.”

Radical Publishing, Radical Pictures, Barry Levine, and Jesse Berger are represented by Alexis Garcia and Adam Levine with Endeavor Talent Agency and managed by David Schiff with The Schiff Company.

Peter Berg & Film 44 are represented by Endeavor Talent Agency.

SDCC: Hasbro's G.I. Joe Panel

Hasbro Toys just hosted a San Diego Comic-Con panel to talk about their plans for the upcoming year. Hasbro, of course, had a major summer last year with Michael Bay's Transformers moving to the big screen right from their toyline. In addition to next summer's Transformers sequel, Hasbro looks to repeat their success by launching their another major property as a live-action film with G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.

Before talking about the feature film, footage was screened from an upcoming animated web-series inspired by the '80s cartoon series and the long-running Marvel comics. Tilted "G.I. Joe: Resolute," the series is planned as a 60-minute movie, split into five-minute segments to air first on the web and to later be collected on DVD.

Written by comic book legend Warren Ellis, the series' look and feel is an update on the '80s designs with a definite anime quality (producer Joaquim De Santos said that "Ghost in the Shell" was a major influence). Ellis, who wasn't able to attend, sent the audience a message via De Santos that he's in England, sitting in his living room, naked, collecting all of Hasbro's money.

The footage -- the same footage screened last week at Joe-Con -- showed a jungle attack and some decidedly PG-13 violence courtesy of Snake Eyes. When one of the Joes exclaims, "I didn't know we had a ninja," the screen flashed G.I. Joe's trademark, "NOW YOU KNOW".

Moving on to the live-action Joe, film consultant Larry Hama (who also has a cameo as a General) talked about how he came onboard to maintain the feeling of his famous comic book run. Of Hama's involvement, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura laughed saying, "We wanted to have Snake Eyes say one line. He made sure we didn't." This, of course, was met with much applause from the audience.

Lorenzo went through images of the cast (the same images we've seen on the posters) and talked a little about each character, going into their personal history. When the film begins, none of the characters are Joes and are enlisted through the course of the plot.

Duke and Baroness were paired together on-screen as their history is one of the major relationships of the film. Once engaged, Duke left the Baroness at the altar and they now find themselves on opposite sides of the battle.

Marlon Wayans (who was cast because of his performance in Requiem for a Dream) has a humorous relationship with Scarlett who is completely oblivious to his advances. Lorenzo stressed, though, that it was important to have a dramatic side as well, especially since it becomes a triangle with Snake Eyes.

Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes are featured in the film early-on as ten-year old kids, exploring their rivalry from a very early age.

A few stills were shown, including one of the epic-looking MARS base set in the arctic. Lorenzo promised action on a global scale as the film has a larger budget than the first Transformers. De Santos explained that there are only four big action scenes but that we'll all be blown away by exactly how big they are.

Though no footage was screened, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner promised a lot of great references and sequences inspired directly from the toys including "a car chase where one person's not even in the car."

SDCC: Torchwood Star Up for Captain America?

John Barrowman, the star of "Torchwood," was just asked moments ago at the San Diego Comic-Con panel if there was any possibility that he would be playing Captain America in the upcoming feature film.

He smiled and gave the stock answer that he'd love to play the character and that Captain America has always been his favorite comic book superhero. Clearly, though, the notion did not take him by surprise and he ended up admitting there had been discussions with his agents and meetings on that very issue.

What do you think? Though maybe not the star-power that the studio might be looking for, Barrowman certainly fits the bill. We'll bring you more news as it develops.

The First Avenger: Captain America is currently scheduled for a May 6, 2011 release.

SDCC '08 - Marvel's Craig Kyle Talks Future of Animation

Newsarama has posted part 1 of an interview with Craig Kyle, VP of Marvel Animation, about the future of the group with TV shows like The Spectacular Spider-Man and direct-to-video projects like the upcoming Next Avengers.

Over the next couple of days, all those going to the San Diego Comic-Con are going to be presented with an opportunity to see the future of Marvel Animation. Craig Kyle, VP of this rapidly growing group, is going to be the presenter, and he is acting remarkably confident about it all.

Then again, he might have something.

After all, the TV series Spectacular Spider-Man, which in a way might mark the beginning of this new phase, has done remarkably well. It ended up the top program on the now departed KidsWB and maintains that slot with its new incarnation. Later this summer, the Next Avengers direct-to-DVD will be hitting the market...and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Before this interview was done, we had Kyle not only talk about the webslinger and this new team of young heroes, but also what’s going down with Wolverine & the X-Men, Hulk Vs and the upcoming Iron Man TV series. From there, Denys Cowan took about 20 minutes of his very precious time to talk up his network’s [BET] upcoming Black Panther series.

In other words, and suffice to say, by the time this weekend is done, you’ll have a very complete vision of all the animated projects Marvel will be involved in for the next year.

So, with no further ado, let’s get started with Mr. Kyle. Being Next Avengers is so imminent, we decided to concentrate on that first. Here’s what he had to say:

NEWSARAMA: Craig, so who is the director of Next Avengers? I heard it was Frank Paur.

This is actually Gary Hartle. He’s worked with us on a bunch of projects. For instance, with us, he actually boarded the entire Hulk fight in Ultimate Avengers I. So all that kick-ass action between Cap, Iron Man, and Hulk, whipping the Avengers single handedly, that was all Gary Hartle. He’s a really tremendous director and board artist.

What’s funny is he boarded about 25% more of that fight than we can use. Still, it wounded up being 7 ½ minutes and is the most remembered sequence in the entire film.

Gary is also real old school animation. He’s been around a long time. He’s one of the guys that when he came on board, and a slot opened for a producer/director, we gave it to him. Also, we are planning to hold on to him. We just don’t want to lose him or Frank Paur. They are the best we’ve got right now. Like Frank Paur, he’s considered one of the greats. Even better, they’ve worked on a lot of the same projects.

I think what really matters is not only are these guys great artists, but they are also great storytellers. They big their best to whatever project we put them on.

NRAMA: So would you say you’re trying to be, for lack of a better name, a Marvel Animation Team much the same as, for lack of a better name, the Dirty Competition?

[Laughs]. Absolutely! In this business if you can hire these great talents, you want to do your best to hold on to them. There’s too much great work out there, which means us there are too many opportunities to lose these guys. So you constantly want to put projects in front of them and keep them excited and want to stay. So far, we’ve been very fortunate in doing that.

NRAMA: Okay. So how did Invincible Iron Man do, especially since the release of the Jon Favreau’s movie?

Invincible Iron Man did very well. I won’t give you the exact numbers, but it has become our #2 seller, behind Ultimate Avengers 1 [editor's note —when we interviewed Ed Rollman last year, that D2D sold 850,000 copies at that time]. Invincible Iron Man has edged out Ultimate Avengers 2, and thanks to all the support from the feature film its begun to sell very well again. It really did get an additional kick from the Favreau movie. Lionsgate told me recently that there has been a lot of increased sales over the last couple of months.

NRAMA: So that leads to, and let’s be real, we are people who can look at a TV series like Spaced and relate all too well to it. We know who the Avengers are. Do you think their name is ingrained into the buying public well enough to sell, but not with the original team but with their kids? Or do you think it’s going to move because of the Iron Man and Hulk connection?

There’s no question that when we go out there we will let people know that those two characters are going to be in the film. It would be foolish to ignore them. What’s funny is their inclusion is it just made good sense for the story. It just happened to have worked out very well that their live action movies were released so close to Next Avengers.

As you watch the movie, you’ll see there’s a real reason behind it being Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, the playboy and ladies man as well as the tortured scientist and put them in the parental role. You’ll see they’ve transformed Tony into a loving father due to certain events in the film. Call it The Unforgiven aspect in the Hulk’s character, where Bruce Banner is forced into a situation where he has to put on the guns, if you will. We did that for story sense and it worked out really well.

NRAMA: So how long has this story been in development?

It usually takes a few months. Actually, the last four movies are part of a series of eight. What differentiates the first four is that’s where we really found ourselves. We were learning to work on the strength of the story, and getting the animation done with the right studio in Japan. With Next Avengers, this is by far the best looking film we’ve done to date.

Another thing is with the first four films, we had worked with four classic Marvel characters or teams. We are thinking about what if we broaden the demo to now include younger fans? We wanted to do one for all the other kids on the couch who are watching it with their older siblings and parents. We also wanted to do a story that still would appeal to the older fans, too. Lastly, we wanted to use language and actions that wouldn’t necessarily go on TV, stuff standards and practices wouldn’t let us do. In other words, we wanted to treat this new generation of Avengers like real kids. Give them the edge on the schoolyard. I think people will see that although it’s a PG film, it has the guts or edge our core fan base expects.
NRAMA: So who did right the story on this?

Greg Johnson sat down initially and broke the story. Then Greg got tied up working on Wolverine & the X-Men, so we had Chris Yost come in from the Fantastic Four series and banged out the script. Chris really has a great handle on fun, young dialog. He really got the kids to live on the page.

NRAMA: So being this really is a new phase for Marvel Animation...

It really is an experiment. It’s the first of two, and I’m really happy with the way it came out.

NRAMA: So do you personally feel excited about Next Avengers? Are you nervous?

Well, later this week I’m going to San Diego where I’m going to be standing up there and taking all those questions about this film. I know the fanboy backlash is going to happen. It’s stuff they didn’t read in the books. They don’t know these characters. They're going to ask why we just didn’t do another Avengers movie. I understand.

NRAMA: But in this industry you are always going to get trolls who are wondering if you’re delusional.

Yeah. But in the end you have to understand that you can’t please everyone. I mean there is a lot of great competition out there. I mean I already have Gotham Knight and it is extraordinary. I’m a huge Batman and Bruce Timm fan, and his work is exceptional.

NRAMA: Yet when I wrote about Gotham Knight there were people who called it garbage.

That’s why I say if the fans give us 20 minutes, get through the new characters they don’t know, give them a chance to be on screen for a little while, get acclimated. That’s all I ask for. You will see we are very plugged into the classics. We treat our material, especially Tony, with extreme respect. The same with Banner. In fact, this is my favorite Banner. He’s at the end of his life almost, and he’s incredibly believable. So I tell the fans to just hang out for 20 minutes and I guarantee they won’t forget about it.

NRAMA: Now what about the kids? I mean some are obvious, like the sons of T’Challa and Storm and the Pyms. It also seemed to make sense that if any woman was going to have a child from Captain America, it would be Black Widow.

That’s the fun thing about James. He’s got both the blood of a soldier and a superspy. He wants to be the good kid, but there’s a fire inside of him he can’t quite get his head around. He has a real love for the world of danger. In fact, you can see that in all the kids. It makes for an extraordinary journey.

NRAMA: What I was leading to though is how would you describe Torin, the daughter of Thor?

Torin’s fantastic. She’s the most self-assured. She knows exactly what she is and who she is. She sees herself as better and above just about everybody because her father is a god. It’s only later in the film that what she believes may not exactly be true and her faith is really tested. We really kind of tear her down during the course of the movie. She’ll have to go through a major rebirth. By the end of the film I think she’ll also give us one of the most memorable moments.

NRAMA: What about Azari? He’s the son of a goddess and a king.

Azari’s a real interesting character. Again, you have two conflicting personalities in him. He tries to be the prim and proper, respectful one. Yet at the same time he feels the need to be more wild and stretch out. He’s also going to be forced to go beyond his boundaries. Otherwise he literally will die out there. He’ll have to learn to not play it safe. Get his hands dirty.

NRAMA: So, to be inclusive, what about the son of Giant Man and the Wasp?

Pym is loosest and the silliest of the kids, but he’s also the most ingenious. After all, he’s got the brains of two incredible scientists in him. So he’s really hyper-intelligent. Yes, he’s also more comic relief but in the end he does come through and shows just how powerful he really is in combat.

NRAMA: So is James the natural leader?

He struggles to find his place, but in the end these kids are really a team. As we have said in the promotional material, this film is about how they do come together as a team. They are the children of the great heroes in the Marvel universe. Now we’ve tied them to some of the great guns of the past, so they have a shot.

NRAMA: So if everything goes well, do you see this as the possibility of a franchise?

Absolutely. I can see how we can easily get another movie out of this. I also would say a series would be another great outcome. When you see what we’ve done you’ll know the battle’s been won, but the War will continue.

If we find that the people who watch it with their kids find that this is a show they all can watch, that will make it happen.

In part 2 we complete our conversation with Craig with topics that include X-Men, Spidey, Hulk and Iron Man plus a little more Next Avengers and the future of Marvel Animation. Then it’s Mr. Cowan’s turn.

BSR! EXCLUSIVE: Ben Jones Interview (Director of Batman: Brave and the Bold)

The Big Shiny Robot website has interviewed director Ben Jones about his work directing the upcoming TV series Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Jones discusses his past work on cartoons like Transformers Animated, Teen Titans, and The Iron Giant before digging into Brave and the Bold, detailing how he started working on the show, as well as some of the guest stars and voice actors who will appear.

(Pictured above is an early look at the new Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoon. Obviously, it’s Batman and Aquaman fighting Black Manta)

Ben Jones isn’t a name we all know, though it probably should be. For some reason, animation directors don’t get the amount of attention comic-book artists or writers do (and they get far too little as it is.) But Ben Jones has storyboarded and/or directed some of our favorite moments in DC comics animation (JLU, Teen Titans, Legion of Superheroes, New Frontier) as well as worked as an animator on pretty much one of the best films of all time: The Iron Giant.

The man deserves a lot of respect and credit and, in between his busy work schedule and a Comic-Con appearance this week, he took time out to talk to Big Shiny Robot about his new show Batman: Brave and the Bold as well as his other works (including Tenacious D’s “Fuck Her Gently” music video and the new Transformers cartoon.)

So, without further ado:

Big Shiny Robot!: So, how did you find your way into animation?

Ben Jones:
I always drew as a kid, but I honestly don’t remember making the decision to get into animation. I really wanted to be a comic book artist. But at some point in my late teens, I apparently decided to apply to the animation program at Sheridan College instead, because that’s what I did. I happened to graduate from there just as the first Chuck Jones Film Production internship program started, which brought me down to California. I’ve been bouncing around from animation job to animation job since then.

BSR!: What was it like, taking the jump from Storyboard artist to director?

Pretty smooth, all things considered. I guess I was lucky to make the jump on Teen Titans, because the style of the show was a little looser, and there was a sort of safety net in that we had done two seasons already, so we knew what we were doing a little bit by then. Plus it’s hard to screw up too badly with Glen Murakami looking over your shoulder.

BSR!: A lot of people describe directing animation like they were directing in slow-motion. What do you say to people who ask you about this?

From my perspective, it seems like the opposite is true. I’ve passed by more than a few live-action sets as they’re filming, and it seems to me like it takes forever to set the damn lights up for even the briefest take, whereas I can just draw whatever’s in my head in a minute or two.

I mean, I know that animation takes longer than live-action. On my end, though, I just sign off on the storyboard and watch it go overseas for the really laborious stages. Even when I was animating, I’d just get stuff handed to me, already laid out, and then I’d hand it off to the next guy in line. The only time I ever really saw a project through from Step One to Step Finished was for the Tenacious D video (see question below!), but that was a rush job. So maybe my perspective is skewed.

BSR!: You were the storyboard artist for the Spumco produced video for Tenacious D’s “Fuck Her Gently” music video. What was the experience like there?

That was a rare joy. We got the job right around the time we were spending all day all listening to Ray Morelli’s bootleg Tenacious D tapes, so we were pretty psyched just to be involved in any capacity. We only had 6 weeks to do the whole thing, but we did everything from premise to finished animation with no interference or censorship from anyone. So we had a little story meeting where we gathered everyone up and came up with three premises. We discarded the one with animals and the one with children in favor of the Devil idea, because we noticed the whole Satan angle as a recurring theme in the D’s HBO series.

Just to make sure the credit goes where it’s due (and that’s not easy - even the DVD just says “Animation by Spümcø”), I really only boarded the last chunk of the video. Gabe Swarr, Matt Danner and Ray Morelli boarded the rest of it. But we all did mutliple jobs, so I also did some layout (along with Gabe, Matt, Ray, Fred Osmond and Derrick Wyatt)) and then spent a whole week animating the scene where the devil melts. His skin melting off was animated traditionally, but his skeleton was composed in Flash and painstakingly disassembled by Eric Pringle. Then after the video was done, we got to meet JB and Kage backstage after a show, so that was a sweet wrapup to the whole thing.

BSR!: What has been your experience to the response on the new Transformers Animated show? There seems to be a rift between jaded fans of the old show and kids who love this one.

Honestly, I loved that there was controversy. After Teen Titans and Legion of Superheroes (and The Batman, peripherally), I’ve come to expect the fans of the original material to hate the first artwork they see, then slowly come around as the shows air. I think most of them have come around by now - at least my entry in the Transformers wikia seems pretty friendly.

BSR!: You’ve been working with a lot of superheroes (Teen Titans, Justice League, Legion of Superheroes, Brave and the Bold, etc.) Which hero is your favorite to work with and/or draw, for whatever reason?

BJ: My favorite superhero, hands down, is the Red Tornado. I grew up with the satellite League, and he was, to me, the heart and soul of that team. Professionally, though, he’s been a little frustrating - I got to draw him for a JLU episode (”Panic in the Sky”), and James Tucker refused to let me blow him up. Maybe some day.

Professionally, I usually end up enjoying drawing characters I didn’t really care all that much about in their comic book incarnations, like Starfire, Triplicate Girl, Starfinger or Kid Flash. I don’t know why that is.

I also really enjoyed some of the new characters, like See-More, Control Freak and Mumbo. With See-More, it was just fun coming up with disgusting eyeball gags. Control Freak and Mumbo were fun mostly because of Derrick Wyatt’s infectious enjoyment.

On Brave and the Bold, my favorite so far has been this one particular Green Lantern that I can’t name yet. He’s barrels of fun to storyboard, because he has such an amusing interaction with Batman.

BSR!: We have to say, one of our favorite episodes of Teen Titans is Mad Mod, it’s got a really distinct visual style and it’s just dripping with it. Can you talk about how you approached that episode?

Ciro Nieli is the one who directed Mad Mod, I was just a storyboard artist on that one. The thing with Titans was that we were always eager to try new things with each episode, so for Mad Mod, we watched Yellow Submarine and The Thief and the Cobbler to get that psychedelic 60’s flavor. And of course, once we knew Malcolm McDowell was doing Mad Mod’s voice, we dug out Clockwork Orange. Ciro had a book of Moiré patterns too, and that seemed to fit with the Thief and the Cobbler stuff, so we experimented with that as well. We even took the checker pattern from the top of the DC Comics of the 60s as an influence as well.

I also remember Mad Mod as the episode where I set my own personal record for overnighters - I boarded most of the chase sequence in one 53 hour work session. A lot of fans ask what drugs we were abusing for that show, and the answer, for me at least, is nothing more than good old fashioned sleep deprivation. Cheap and legal!

When we finally finished boarding it (and got some sleep), we started worrying about what we were going to get back from overseas - we didn’t know if the Moiré patterns would read on television, or if Dongwoo would get the optical illusions right, or if the story still made any sense to anyone but us. But they did a stellar job on it. I haven’t seen as perfect a translation from board to finished show as Mad Mod, before or since.

BSR!: You were an animator on what is probably one of the greatest films of all time… That’s right, The Iron Giant. Could you talk about what you animated in that movie and what that experience was like?

I was the last animator hired on Iron Giant, so mostly I did little fill-in scenes. If there’s a scene where Hogarth is really tiny, or a scene with a half dozen soldiers running around in the BG, that’s probably me. Even so, there was a feeling on that crew, from top to bottom, that the film was something special. It was obvious just from the animatic that the film was going to be a milestone.

Plus it was great working for Brad Bird - he had a knack for finding ways to improve the scene that was being animated just by tweaking the timing, instead of sending you back to your desk to redraw the whole thing. Maybe that was driven by our tiny tiny budget, but for me it was a valuable lesson in the importance of timing.

BSR!: Moving on to Brave and the Bold, how long have you been working on Brave and the Bold and how did you get the directing gig?

I’ve been working on it since last November - I’m guessing I got the gig because I worked for James on Legion a couple years ago, and he must have decided that I didn’t screw that up too badly, so he could use me on B:B&B too. I think Sam Register put in a good word for me too.

BSR!: What has been the reasoning for the DC animated universe to move away from the Bruce Timm style? I’m not saying this as a good or bad thing, I’m just curious how that decision is made.

The thing is, there’s only one Bruce Timm. If you look at the timeline of when the shows were made, you’ll notice that Bruce is busy on other stuff, either JLU or the DCU videos. So he’s just not available, to begin with. You could, I suppose, try to mimic his style for your show, but that’s kind’ve weird for a variety of reasons, especially when he’s sitting just down the hall. So in the end, you’re generally better off doing your own thing than trying to be a second-rate Bruce Timm.

BSR!: Is there any recurring voice talent from the Justice League or other DCU series’? (I saw you mentioned on your blog that Tom Kenny would be back as Plastic Man, but according to IMDb, Dr. Fate has a different voice.)

At least two others so far, and there are nine shows left to cast yet, so there may be more. But mostly the characters are being played by different actors than in previous versions. A lot of the actors have worked on previous DC shows, but they’re sort of all shuffled around into new roles, with some new faces thrown in (none of which I can reveal yet, but holy crap, I can’t believe we got that one guy we got).

BSR!: How is the decision made whether or not to bring previously established voices back to a character?

Generally, it comes from James [Tucker, Producer] wanting to try something different. But sometimes it stems from a different approach to the character. Our Aquaman’s not as ornery as the one in JLU, for example, so we used John DiMaggio. Sometimes it just stems from budget reasons - we have a sizable cast with all of our guest stars, and a limitation on how many people we can squeeze into our booth, so alot of the time, actors end up pulling double or triple duty. Sometimes it’s about availability - people just aren’t available for one reason or another. But mostly James wanting something different.

BSR!: I guess what I’m getting at is this: Kevin Conroy?

He was awesome in Gotham Knight, wasn’t he? Is that the question?

BSR!: Is that the best no comment you can come up with? And when will we know who is voicing the Batman for the series, Conroy or otherwise?

Sorry, I thought you knew - Batman’s been cast. He’s being voiced by Diedrich Bader.

BSR!: According to all the published information about the show, we’re looking at Batman teaming up with Green Arrow, Blue Beetle, Plastic Man, Black Canary, Huntress, Aquaman, a previously not drawn Green Lantern (Kyle?), and Red Tornado. Is there anyone else you can tell us about here?

Actually, Kyle’s already been in Superman and JLU, so he’s not the “previously not drawn Green Lantern”. Turns out, though, that the guy I was hinting at has already been animated too, although I didn’t know it at the time. Fortunately, there’s still at least one other GL we’re using that I’m fairly certain has never been animated, so I can pretend that I
was really hinting at Driq of Criq the whole time.

So good news, Driq fans (assuming there are any)!

And if I’m wrong about Driq, there’s still Honnu.

BSR!: Anybody else?

Oh right, how about the Atom? Wait, I think he’s been leaked already.

Flash? Wait, James dropped that name in his TV Guide interview.

OK then, there’s also Fire (aka the Green Flame).

And Driq.

BSR!: You’ve mentioned Wil Wheaton as a guest star, is he reprising his Teen Titans role as Aqualad? Or does he have a new mystery part?

I will say he’s not Aqualad, but the part he’s playing is the number one untouchable do-not-reveal super-secret surprise character of the entire first season. So that’s all I can say about that.

I hope I haven’t built it up too much.

BSR!: Can we expect to see Robin at all in the series? If this is about Batman’s teamups, it might make sense to see the Boy Wonder, right?

Well, the thing is, Brave & the Bold is loosely an adaptation of the comic series from the seventies and eighties. At the time, Robin was appearing with Batman in Batman, Detective, Batman Family, and occasionally in World’s Finest. So there wasn’t really much need for him to appear in Brave & the Bold - even when he did, it was usually as a member of the Teen Titans. Besides, we’ve already seen him team up with Batman in the Filmation series, in Superfriends, in B:TAS, in The Batman; even when he guest-stars in Scooby-Doo or Static Shock, there’s Robin. Why not take the opportunity to see Batman team up with new heroes that we haven’t seen him teaming up with in animation before?

On the other hand, it’s Robin. I mean, come on! Robin!

So, maybe?

BSR!: Cartoon Network announced the Friday lineup this will be on and it will play back to back with Clone Wars. The released promo art for Brave and the Bold has a lot of people assuming it’ll be fairly kid-centric, though the Great Bearded One has said that Clone Wars is a definite PG-13. What exactly is the demographic Brave and the Bold is going for?

You’d think that’s something I should know, but it hasn’t really come up yet. I suppose Cartoon Network has a specific demographic in mind (probably Boys 6-11), but really, the secret to making a good cartoon, as passed down from the Legendary Cartoon Gods of Termite Terrace, is just make the show for yourselves. And if that should stray from what Cartoon Network wants, they’ll let us know - but so far, the notes have been minimal, so I guess we’re giving them what they want. We can do some things we couldn’t do in Titans or Legion, like defenestration. So expect lots of that.

As to the “kid-centric” thing, not really. The colors on the costume are brighter, but the fights and action are still intense. Nothing’s been dumbed down or softened for children’s consumption (well, maybe show 16).

Kids know when you’re talking down to them, so it’s better just to make the show you want to make and let the kids decide for themselves if they like it.

BSR!: And finally, name three comics you read?

I finally started picking up Scott Pilgrim, which is even more awesome than people have been saying it is. I’m only on Book 2 so far, so don’t spoil anything. I’ve been reading The Goon from the beginning, though, and it’s consistently entertaining. I like the new direction - it’s good to see the Goon have to work a little harder. And Jack Staff - I was already a Paul Grist fan when he was doing Kane, but Jack Staff presses even more of my nerdly buttons. It’s like the twenty best superhero comics compressed into one title.

Here is an exclusive look at a Batman and Plastic Man from the new Brave and the Bold Cartoon. Click on it to see it full size:

Here is an exclusive look at Ben’s designs for Red Tornado for the new Brave and the Bold Cartoon. Click on them to see them full size:

New Astro Boy poster

Felix IP currently hosts a new poster for the upcoming big-screen adaption of Astro Boy. The film, which was created by the same studio responsible for TMNT, will open in theaters sometime in 2009.

SDCC: First Wolverine Footage Screened!!

Jackman makes a surprise stop in San Diego!

At the end of the 20th Century Fox presentation where they showed new footage from The Day the Earth Stood Still and Max Payne (more on that exciting footage coming soon), the studio who has produced the most Marvel comic book movies so far pulled a surprise on the packed audience by bringing out Hugh Jackman, who had just gotten off a plane from Australia where they had just finished filming X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Written by David Benioff and directed by Oscar-winning director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi), the movie had been cloaked in secrecy except for a few scattered pictures that have leaked out, and Jackman was really excited about debuting some of the first footage at Comic-Con, since they weren't able to bring any of the "X-Men" movies there. He thanked everyone in the audience for helping make comic book movies so big in the past few years as well as going to see the three "X-Men" movies because it's the fans who helped make Jackman's career.

Jackman introduced Len Wein, the creator of Wolverine, who was in the audience, but that wasn't enough for Jackman, as he jumped off the stage and ran over shake Wein's hand and thank him for creating such a great character. Once he was back on stage, Jackman gave a really heart-felt speech to Wein saying, "I waited a long time to thank you personally and I wanted to shake your hand, mate. It's one of the best comic book characters ever created and as an actor, it's a challenge to play and I've just done it for the fourth time, and I still feel there's more to find out and that's down to you, from your great mind and heart creating a great character."

Jackman promised that the movie is "big, action-packed and bad-ass" and that we'll see a lot of "berzerker rage" in it, before showing the footage that was cut together especially for Comic-Con, even though he promised that it would look even better when the movie comes out next May.

The footage went by so fast that it was impossible to catch everything the first time--and they only showed it once unfortunately--but it begins with Jackman's Logan and Liev Schreiber's Victor Creed dressed in military gear in a detention cell where they're being interrogated by the younger Major William Stryker, played by Danny Huston. He says, "You were sentenced to death for decapitating a senior officer. Your sentence was to be carried out by a firing squad at 1000 hours. How'd that go?" Then Wolverine said, "It tickled." We see the two of them put in front of a firing squad who shoots at them, but they escape and we see Logan walking away as the building explodes behind them.

Stryker continues asking them if they're tired of running and denying their true nature and tells them he's putting together a "special team with special privileges" referring to the early stages of Weapon X or Alpha Flight. As he says this, we see brief glimpses of all the other characters in the movie, including Taylor Kitsch's Gambit, who looked amazing in action, Lynn Collins as Silverfox, Kevin Durand as The Blob, and even a short glimpse of Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool.

Most of the non-action scenes in the footage were dialogue sequences between Jackman and Schreiber with them talking over whether to take up Stryker's offer, and this is obviously what's going to lead to the long-time friends having a difference of opinions that leads to their age-old conflict. Logan says to Creed something about wanting to make a difference and asks how he'd like to get started, at which Creed tells Logan, "We didn't sign up for this. Who do you think you are? This is what we do! Become the animal."

From there, we get a few scenes of the experiments done to Logan to turn him into Wolverine, which looks like it was designed after the classic origin tale told in Barry Windsor-Smith's "Weapon X" story with him bursting out of the vat with the adamantium spikes coming out of skin. There was also a brief glimpse of Logan as a boy in a kimono with his claws extended which harks back to images from "Origins" and Frank Miller's take on the character's roots in Japan.

We see a few quick bits of Wolverine fighting some of the characters, including the Blob and Gambit, but the best moments are when he's taking on Sabretooth (of course)--sorry, Tyler Mane, but I think Liev Schreiber is going to make a lot better Victor Creed--and the clip reel ended with Wolverine hanging from the top of the helicopter while it's flying through the air.

Even though the usual claims were that this was unfinished footage, it looked good enough to make a pretty kick-ass trailer and fans of the character should be happy if the movie delivers on what we were shown.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine opens on May 1, 2009, and Jackman mentioned that they'll be presenting more footage and have a full panel for the movie at Wonder-Con in February.

Aronofsky and Self Confirmed for RoboCop

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM) has signed Darren Aronofsky to direct and David Self to write a new installment for its "RoboCop" franchise. Aronofsky, the director of The Fountain, and Self, the writer of Road to Perdition, make a formidable creative team, fast tracking the RoboCop motion picture and spotlighting it as one of the most anticipated new films for 2010.

The announcement was made today by Mary Parent, Chairman, Worldwide Motion Picture Group, MGM.

In making the announcement Parent said: "Darren is undeniably one of the most talented, original and visceral film makers, and David is one of the greatest writers in Hollywood. All of us at MGM couldn't be more excited."

Phoenix Pictures' Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, Brad Fischer and David Thwaites will produce "RoboCop." Cale Boyter, Executive Vice President Production at MGM will oversee the project for the studio.

Phoenix Pictures' Chairman and CEO Mike Medavoy said: "After making the first 'RoboCop' at Orion more than 20 years ago, I'm thrilled to be helping to return this character to the screen with our partners at MGM and through the eyes of Darren Aronofsky and David Self."

Phoenix co-presidents Brad Fischer and David Thwaites added: "With a filmmaker of Darren Aronofsky's vision and imagination and a writer of David Self's caliber, we are poised to bring to the screen an entertaining and provocative film, which will now be under the creative guidance of two of the best storytellers working in our industry today."

The original RoboCop, which premiered in 1987, was "part man, part machine and all cop." The film's storyline focused on the future of law enforcement as a terminally wounded cop returns to the police force as a powerful cyborg haunted by submerged memories. The original film was nominated for two Academy Awards -- Best Film Editing and Best Sound.

SDCC: Tron 2 Footage Screened!

Disney surprised Con-goers in San Diego on Thursday with debut footage of its highly anticipated sequel to 1982's Tron. The footage began with an update of the popular lightcycle duel from the original film.

A blue figure – obviously on the run – is being tracked down by a yellow figure on a cycle. The blue figure dives forward with a bar in hand. Around the bar – and figure – a super sleek blue lightcycle forms and the chase in on.

The figures are cool updates of the 1982 warriors. Gone are the glowing blue/red/yellow faces, now replaced by helmets with clear facemasks housing what looks like holographs of human faces.

The cycles dip and dodge through a translucent, multi-level track that appears both digital and organic. The blue cycle is forced down a narrow crevasse between two ledges while the yellow bike takes the high road. The blue cycle emerges at the end of the path only to be cut off by the yellow bike's 'laser trail'. The blue bike smashes into a million pieces sending the blue rider flying in slow motion and flipping through the air. He lands and skids to a halt.

All of this activity is being observed from a high, cliff-side structure by a human figure – an older, bearded Kevin Flynn! Played again by Jeff Bridges, a very serene looking Flynn appeared first in a meditative position in the center of a large room. He arises, then walks to the window and peers down onto the action below.

The yellow figure 'retracts' his lightcycle walks over to the downed blue figure... and finishes the job.

The footage ended with a '2' appearing in the traditional Tron font and the TR2N emerging around it. The TRN faded away leaving the 2 alone on the screen again.

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