Monday, July 28, 2008

News - 07/28/08...

The Dark Knight Reaches a Record $314.2M in 10 Days!

Warner Bros. Pictures' The Dark Knight earned an estimated $75.6 million from 4,366 theaters in its second weekend, surpassing Shrek 2's $72.2 million for biggest second weekend ever.

Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins follow-up has reached $314.2 million in just 10 days, another record. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest held the previous record in the amount of days it took to cross the $300 million mark - it needed 16 days to do so. On Monday, The Dark Knight will surpass Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to become the biggest movie of 2008 domestically.

The film is already up to #23 on the all-time domestic blockbuster list and has a good shot at surpassing Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope's $460.998 million (not counting inflation) to become the second-biggest domestic earner of all-time, trailing only Titanic's $600.788 million.

The Dark Knight, budgeted at $185 million, stars Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.

Meanwhile, Columbia Pictures' Hancock took in $8.2 million in its fourth weekend in sixth place, sending the $150 million Will Smith superhero film over the $200 million mark with $206.4 million.

Universal's Hellboy II: The Golden Army dropped down to eighth place. It made $4.9 million in its third weekend for a total of $65.9 million.

Ponyo on the Cliff tops box-office in Japan

Variety reports that Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea grossed $14.8 million over the three-day weekend of July 19-21 in Japan. Studio Ghibli’s last feature Tales from Earthsea had grossed $8.4 million in its opening frame in 2006. Ponyo’s opening box-office gross was 96.6 percent of the similar three-day holiday bow of Miyazaki’s Spirited Away in 2001. This also compares with $13.9 million for the opening weekend of Hayao Miyazaki’s previous film Howl’s Moving Castle in 2004.

CSI Boards The Mystery Machine

The College University team of Mike and Andy Parker gave us a cereal-themed Flash-animation earlier this summer. They created that short for, and now they’re back with another animated spoof. CSI: Scooby Doo merges two crime-fighting series into one two-minute short.

2008 Winsor McCay Award Winners

This just in: ASIFA-Hollywood announced its 2008 Winsor McCay Lifetime Achievement Award recipients during their Comic-Con party Friday night at the Gaslight Marriott in San Diego. This year’s Winsor McCay recipients are: Mike Judge, John Lasseter and Nick Park. The award recipients will claim their trophies at the 36th Annual Annie Awards, Friday, January 30, 2009, at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles, California.

(thanks cartoonbrew)

From the Animation Guild Blog:

Those At the Top

This from comments below:

Nearly all of the the greatest artists of the industry are those who bucked the system, whether its Brad Bird storming out of Disney or Nick Park washing his hands of Katzenberg's meddling and walking out to pursue his own vision (the man has garnered more Academy Awards than the entire Dreamworks studio).

And it got me pondering. It's true that big talents sometimes rise to the top ... but it's equally true that many don't ...

So why is that the gifted, the special, and the very good don't always end up running their own studios or directing their own films or becoming the Big Cheeses (just look at the various people who are. Do all of them rate as geniuses? Half? I don't think so).

It isn't just talent and hard work that cause people to rise through the ranks of other talented hard-working creatives and reach the pinnacle of success. There's also ambition, drive and the right circumstances (otherwise known as luck).

Take for instance an artist I've blathered about before: Vance Gerry. Vance could do a lot of things well. He could storyboard, he could write, he could design. He could draw layouts with the best of them and work in color. Years back I watched him board a first story pass for The Black Cauldron that was lilting, imaginative, and funny. But little of anything he did for BC found its way into the final picture.

Most everything Vance created in those early months of development got swallowed up in a tug of war between the picture's directors and the story crew. And Vance, never one to fight, yell and scream, went off to work on personal projects outside the studio.

I've seen other examples of tall talent that didn't reach the highest crest, and it's nothing new. Mark Twain wrote about it in "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven" over a century ago, when he had an angel explain the pure meritocracy for the deserving that waited up beyond the Pearly Gates:

... "That is the heavenly justice of it. They warn't rewarded according to their deserts, on earth. But here they get their rightful rank. That tailor ... from Tennessee wrote poetry that Homer and Shakespeare couldn't come up to; but nobody would print it, nobody would read it but his neighbors, an ignorant lot.

Whenever the village had a drunken frolic and a dance, they would drag him in and crown him with cabbage leaves, and pretend to bow down to him; and one night when he was sick and nearly starved to death, they had him out and crowned him and then they rode him on a rail about the village, and everybody followed along, beating tin pans and yelling.

Well, he died before morning. He wasn't ever expecting to go to heaven, much less any fuss made over him, so I reckon he was a good deal surprised when the reception broke on him."

Some talented souls -- such as Brad Bird and Joe Ranft -- reach artistic heaven on this temporal plane, but others, equally talented, often miss the Golden Door by a country mile. Maybe they're not in the right place at the right time, or maybe they don't have the bulldog tenacity or political skill to land at the top of the studio heap. Whatever the magic ingredient is, they lack it.

Planet Earth, unlike Mark Twain's Heaven, does not necessarily lift up only the pure-of-heart and deserving.

From the Animation Guild Blog:

Don't Take It All Too Seriously

A year or so ago, my sister-in-law turned me on to the individual above -- Randy Pausch -- and his now-famous Last Lecture.

Noting Pausch's departure here is appropriate, since he was a computer science guy who worked (briefly) for Disney and Electronic Arts. And sent many other computer scientists out into the entertainment world. I had learned the lesson that Randy Pausch taught two or three times before in my life, but it's always good to have the important lessons repeated. Because we tend to forget them when they're not ...

Randy Pausch died on Friday at age forty-seven. He wrestled pancreatic cancer for a long time by most measures; the cancer, as expected, won the last match. But in the meanwhile, Dr. Paush dispensed bits of wisdom he had picked up in his his forty-seven years, among them:

1) Enjoy your life and have a good time.
2) Don't bog yourself down with jobs and activities you hate.
3) Being successful doesn't make you manage yur time well; managing your time well makes you successful.
4) Don't do things right; do the right things.
5) Become more organized and efficient with work time to gain a better work-life balance ("Going home at 5:00 and being with the people that you love.")
6) Do the ugliest task first.
7) Do the unimportant things last ... or not at all.
8) Learn the art of saying "no."
9) Use speaker phones to counter stress.
10) Use two (maybe three) computer screens to increase efficiency.

There's more, but no point in making this post too horribly long. You've got enough to get the idea. (I've attempted to prioritize the list, with the more important items toward the top).

What Dr. Pausch showed me is, wear your time on the planet lightly; be joyous rather than dour; have a sense of humor. (When I think of the idiotic things I believed to be Really Big Deals at age twenty-eight, I want to vomit).

And don't sweat the small stuff. Because the older you get, the more you realize that 95.4% of it's small stuff.

Toon Zone Presents "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" Trailer

In conjunction with Warner Brothers Animation, Toon Zone is proud to host this video preview of the upcoming series Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

You can also right-click on either of the following links (control-click on a Mac) to save the QuickTime files to your computer, if the embedded video above does not play or you want to view the larger version of the video:
Small Version (432x240, 30 MB)
Large Version (864x486, 40 MB)

Toon Zone's "Brave & the Bold:" James Tucker, Michael Jelenic, & Linda M. Steiner

In conjunction with Warner Brothers Animation, Toon Zone got the chance to interview the talent behind the upcoming Batman: The Brave and the Bold TV series.

Over the years, James Tucker has grown from a storyboard artist on The New Batman Adventures to becoming one of the top producers at the studio, moving into the producer's chair starting with the second season of Justice League and for both seasons of Legion of Super Heroes. He is now running his third show with Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Linda M. Steiner is another veteran of Warner Brothers Animation, with producer credits on Justice League, Duck Dodgers, Krypto the Superdog, Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans, and The Batman under her belt. Steiner can now add one more producer credit to her resume with Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Story editor Michael Jelenic began his career at Warner Brothers Animation writing for The Batman, eventually moving up to story editor for that show. He has also written scripts for Jackie Chan Adventures, Ben 10, and Legion of Super Heroes, and was also the story editor for the Batman vs. Dracula animated movie. He is also currently working as the writer for the Wonder Woman direct-to-video movie.

Tucker and Jelenic will be at the San Diego Comic Con this year hosting a panel about The Brave and the Bold, but for those fans who aren't able to make it to San Diego, Toon Zone News was able to interview this power trio over the phone about the new show.

TOON ZONE NEWS: The first question I have is one that you guys are probably answering a lot: "Why another Batman show?"

I have to say, "Why not another Batman show?" There's an appetite for Batman that you just can't get enough of. Truly there's always an audience for Batman.

JAMES TUCKER: Pragmatically, there's a new movie coming out, and because the movie is going in a certain direction, consumer products needs something that's a little more child friendly and a cartoon show filled the bill. The only thing that hasn't been done with Batman has been Brave and the Bold. I think you're going to get the darkest Batman you've ever seen in The Dark Knight movie, so this show is designed to appeal to the entry-level Batman fans -- which are kids, whether we like it or not. It's broad-based entertainment, but you need a cartoon that generates some toys, and Dark Knight is definitely skewed older. That's the pragmatic reality of it.

TZN: Would you say that this show skews even younger than The Batman?

I don't know, I think it's probably about the exact level The Batman is, but it's just visually different. I mean, The Batman was designed for 6 to 11, and this is designed for 6 to 11.

MICHAEL JELENIC: A lot of people are saying on the Internet that it's geared towards pre-schoolers.

TUCKER: Bruce Timm was mis-quoted for that, by the way.

JELENIC: Yeah, that's not the case. I mean, pre-schoolers could probably enjoy the show, but at the same time, I'm fairly confident that adults can find as much charm out of the show as, you know, as the 4-year olds.

TZN: Is there going to be larger story arc to the first season, or will it all be individual, stand-alone episodes?

There will be recurring characters that will have arcs that we pick up whenever they re-appear, but overall, there isn't a broad, over-arching arc that's going to dominate the first season. We kind of want to play with the toys and see how things work out before we decide on committing to a full, intense, chronological arc, as it were.

TZN: A lot of the design cues from the art we've seen so far seems to come from the Dick Sprang Batman comics. Is that where you're going to be taking story cues from as well?

TUCKER: Our story cues come from the wealth of Batman history. It's not just a particular era. The design cues are inspired by the Dick Sprang comics, but it's not a literal translation of them. It's got a little bit of Kirby, it's got a little bit of Dick Sprang, a little Alex Toth, but the stories are going to encompass different aspects of the DC universe from old school stuff and newer things.

JELENIC: Stories basically take their cues usually from the villain that's going to be in the episode or the hero that Batman's going to be teamed up with. With Aquaman we're going to do stories that you might have seen in Aquaman comics. Those are basically where we're getting our cues from.

TZN: What other heroes are going to be appearing with Batman?

I can rattle off a few: Plastic Man, Jonah Hex, Deadman, Blue Beetle, Adam Strange, Kamandi...basically anybody DC will let us have (laughs). Black Canary, because I know people are going to wonder about if there are girls in the show. Huntress, Fire...

JELENIC: Bat-hound!

TUCKER: (laughs) Bat-hound. (Yes!! -- ed) So, like I said, we're taking our cue from the broad spectrum of Batman's history, not just the last 10 years of it. There will be things for fans with a more intimate knowledge of Batman and his long history, and there will be stuff for fans who are coming new to the franchise.

TZN: Did you just say that Deadman is going to be appearing on the show?


TZN: On a show for kids 6 to 11?

Um...they know about dead. (all laugh)

JELENIC: The tone from episode to episode varies quite a bit. Some episodes are romps and rely more on humor, but we do have more than a few that are pretty serious and definitely skew older. I think the Deadman story is one of those. I think we have a pretty cool Green Lantern Corps story that skews older, so I think we have a little bit of everything, storywise. It's not just to service the 6 to 11 crowd. And the humor is not goofy humor. I think people are going to watch the show, and the adults are going to appreciate the humor more than the kids. I think a lot of adults will tune into the show for the humor, while the kids will tune in for the visuals and the action.

TUCKER: And by humor, we mean there will be nods to comic book fans. There will be inside jokes, and...

JELENIC: Character relationships.

TUCKER: Yeah, and that's mainly the difference is that Batman is almost like he was in the very early Batman the Animated Series, where he was a little bit more approachable. Through the years, he kind of got colder and colder and colder. His personality in this show hearkens back to kind of the way he was in the very first season of BTAS, where he was a little more...not friendly, but he wasn't as shut off. Because I remember we did Justice League...or actually Gotham Adventures, and people were remarking that Batman had started to become very cold, and it was something that they didn't like. So this is bringing Batman back to a more approachable, if you want to use the word, personality.

JELENIC: The different heroes all bring out a different aspect of Batman's personality. So, with the heroes like Plastic Man, Batman may be a little firmer and more annoyed, and other heroes he's more competitive with, so you get a pretty broad range of his personality. It's not the same Batman that we're completely familiar with.

TUCKER: I mean, another thing about this show is Batman is a part of it, but it's not totally a Batman show. It is literally The Brave and the Bold. Batman is the constant, but the guest stars are featured prominently, and their stories will be the ones that we focus on as much as Batman's. It's truly a team show, a buddy movie every week type of thing. It's not strictly just a Batman show, so I don't even think that comparing it to the shows that have gone before is very relevant, because it's Batman outside of his own environment. It's how Batman deals with being in other people's stages and other people's environments.

TZN: In that case, will the villains will be a mix of Batman villains and villains from his guest stars?

Yeah, we have access to a certain range of DC villains, and any villain can show up. It's not necessarily that we have to tie the villain to who the guest star hero is, so we're mixing and matching and having fun with it. There will be a certain percentage of Batman villains showing up, but they won't be the default villain for every show. This isn't like The Batman season 5, because it was pretty much heroes and villains showing up to Gotham City and dealing with them on his turf. This is truly The Brave and the Bold, where Batman can show up anywhere. He can be in Atlantis, he can be in Timbuktu, he can be on another planet. It's very open-ended. The thing I liked about the old Brave and the Bold comic is that the first page would start out, and you'd have to figure out where Batman was in the book at that point, or in the world. He wasn't always just in Gotham City. So the idea of this show is really to translate the energy of the Brave and the Bold, where it can be Batman anywhere, anytime, any place, and it keeps you guessing. It's very global and intergalactic and trans-dimensional, even.

JELENIC: And it also allows us to not retell the same stories we've seen in the last two series. Batman in Gotham tends to lead to certain types of stories, especially when you put him up with his usual rogue's gallery, and we wanted to avoid that as much as possible and bring some fresh Batman stories and stuff that people haven't seen or maybe wouldn't expect to see Batman in. We have a pretty broad playground to put him in.

TZN: You just said that Plastic Man would be showing up. If I remember correctly, you wanted to use him for Justice League, but couldn't. Is that true?

TUCKER: Yes, that's true. Well, the deal was that we could only use him for a one-time appearance, and we just didn't come up with a story that really would merit a one-time only thing, so it just never happened with Justice League. The thing with the heroes is that the rights issues change pretty much on a monthly basis (laughs), so if someone has an option out on a hero, then we can't touch them, and that's just the reality of the business. It's not anything we can control, so we do what we can. So for Justice League, we couldn't use him, or at least we didn't want to use him under the conditions we were able to use him. Those conditions are not the same now, so we're able to use him more.

TZN: The new Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle on the show has gotten a lot of attention. Was that something that you guys chose to do, or did DC say, "If you want to use Blue Beetle, you have to use the current one?"

TUCKER: It was a mutual agreement. Like I said, this Batman isn't set in the 1950's. It's taking cues from the 50's, but we're able to use whatever different versions of the character that could suit the story. We wanted a neophyte character who Batman could take under his wing, and kind of school him. We didn't want Robin because that's been done, and everyone's seen that. So, it was like, "Who's the newest young superhero that would be appealing?" And we like this new Blue Beetle. Comic book fans are always on the fence about anything new, but I think this character has a lot of fans, and he's a real strong character, so I had no problem using him.

TZN: Did you guys work with Keith Giffen and John Rogers, the guys who wrote the comic?

We took some cues from the comic, obviously, but we didn't have any direct contact with those two.

TUCKER: Sometimes that seems like the logical step, but it's not always ...

STEINER: Practical...

TUCKER: Practical, or the time schedule doesn't allow for it.

TZN: You just mentioned your reason why you're not going to be using Robin on the show...

Oh, I meant for that role. I didn't say that Robin won't appear.

TZN: Oh, OK, because I was going to ask about two superhero names that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere yet. One is Robin, and the other one is Superman. Are there any plans for either one to appear on the show?

Superman's not slated to appear right now. If you look, history has a precedent for this because he didn't appear in The Brave & the Bold hardly ever. Don't quote me on this...well, you'll quote me (laughs), but I think the last issue of the Brave and the Bold comic before it was restarted was the only issue where Superman appeared. So there is comic book precedent for that. The other reason is his rights are tied up right now, so we're not using him. I don't know that we would.

JELENIC: That story has been told so many different ways.

TUCKER: When we have a really good story to tell, we'll go back to the well and see if we'll be able to use him. The other thing about this show is that I didn't want to go back and retread ground that we did in Justice League Unlimited, so the whole World's Finest team is a kind of thing that I think we did a lot of and did really well. I wanted to dig deeper into the DC archives and also deal with characters we may have only did a little bit in Justice League and go a little deeper into them.

TZN: What about Robin, then?

He'll appear. That's pretty much all I want to say about that.

TZN: Moving on to casting, Diedrich Bader has been cast as Batman. This show is supposed to have a bit more humor than the earlier Batman shows. Did that drive your decision to cast someone who's best known as a comedian as Batman?

Not really. Diedrich Bader is an actor, first and foremost. He's not a stand-up comedian. He just happens to be known for comedies, but he's capable of doing other things. He was just the best guy to audition.

JELENIC: And as far as the comedy goes, Batman really is our straight man in this series. He's usually not the one we're getting laughs from, especially never at his expense. He's the Batman people know in that regard, so Diedrich is not cracking jokes or anything.

TUCKER: It's not Adam West.

JELENIC: There is some humor coming from him. It's usually sort of dry.

TUCKER: It's more of his reactions.

JELENIC: Yeah, he's reacting to something that Plastic Man does. That's as far as we're pushing comedy coming from Batman.

TUCKER: Totally, for Toon Zone fans, the touchstones that this show is kind of like would be Michael's "Team Penguin" episode of The Batman. The level of humor...when it gets to that level, is "Team Penguin." Or, for me from Justice League, it's "The Greatest Story Never Told," it's "This Little Piggy." It's not humor that takes advantage of the character or makes the character look bad. It's maybe just having a sense of humor in the show, but it's not a comedy. It's not a comedy. I want to stress that. There's humor in the show, and that's the level we're shooting for. It also gets very dark in other places.

TZN: Will Bruce Wayne appear very much in this show, or will it be focusing purely on Batman?

He is, in a way, and that's all I'll say about it (laughs). It's a cool way, I think, but I don't know if the fans will catch it right off the bat. But we'll see.

TZN: All 3 of you have worked on solo-oriented shows and on team-based ensemble shows. Do you guys feel that there's a big difference between producing those two different types of shows?

Well, sure. Practically, there's just the sheer amount of stuff you have to do for a team show, as far as drawings, settings, the different backgrounds you have to generate. There's more volume to the work you have to do to pull off on a team show than there is to a single character-type show.

TZN: Which one does Brave and the Bold feel more like?

JELENIC: This show is sort of not a team show, and it's not a solo show either, because unlike most other shows that we've seen, there really isn't a recurring cast for the most part. Batman is the only character that you're going to see from episode to episode. We're not really using Alfred or Gordon. We don't have those characters around that he forms relationships with throughout the series, so we're relying each week on having a pretty strong relationship between Batman and the guest star, and we have to come up with that for every episode. What's the new relationship? And we have to start from scratch, usually, every episode. So that's the challenge of this show.

TUCKER: It's unlike any show I've ever worked on, because even with Justice League, which was a team show, it always generally started with the Watchtower. We don't have a stock setting where we start from. Batman is always in the middle of wherever he's at, and that setting is very rarely Gotham City. Gotham isn't always in every episode in this series. It's a different setting every week, so it's a different challenge. I don't think I've ever worked on any show just like this.

TZN: How do you three divide the labor for the show? Do you do it by episode, or by task or the job that needs to be done, or do you make it up as you go?

James runs the show, really (laughs).

TUCKER: (laughs) Well, I'm basically the show runner, which means I kind of oversee all the aspects. Linda is the executive producer, so she facilitates the things between DC and the media and all that stuff. "Executive" says it right there, she handles "executive" duties. Michael is the story editor/producer so he deals with the writing, the scripts, and that aspect. I deal with the art, and I deal with (voice director) Andrea Romano, and basically everything else. It's a 3-way split, but overall, I'm the guy that has to show up EVERY day (all laugh).

TZN: James, you've gone on record as being a pretty long-time comic book reader. What about Michael and Linda? Are you guys the same way, or did you fall into it from your work on the Warner Animation projects?

STEINER: I definitely fell into it more. I didn't grow up a comic book fan, but (DC Comics Senior VP - Executive Editor) Dan Didio is my very best friend, and I learned through Dan how to understand comic books. I really just started following them about 11 years ago, just from working on these shows, and then became a fan.

JELENIC: I'm sort of in the same boat. My brother was a pretty big comic book fan, so I would sort of read some of his comics. Mainly, it was the Batman comics. I was not familiar with really the extended DC universe. Ever since The Batman, it's like every day I come in and I learn about a new character that I had not known about. Especially on the Brave and the Bold, since we're using such obscure characters, I'm getting a pretty good education on DC Comics' world.

TUCKER: I prefer working with someone who doesn't know the ins and outs of comics, because they bring different ideas that may not occur to me, because I'm just coming from comic books. The whole purpose of a show is not just to retread what is already in print. Nobody does comics like comic books, you know? You want something that translates to a broader audience and has entertainment value beyond just...not that there's anything wrong with comics, but television and animation is a totally different medium. Only comics can do what comics do, so you need someone who has fresh eyes and can look at it from a different angle, so I don't think it's mandatory that my co-workers be as big comic book fans as I am.

TZN: Can you give an example of that?

It's not a broad-based thing, it's just...I'm going to have to be general because it happens so much that I couldn't pick one place. You can get bogged down by the....

STEINER: Mythology?

TUCKER: ...yeah, mythology of comics, and that limits you somehow.

JELENIC: It's kind of interesting, because I'll come up with an idea or a take on a character, and a couple of months later, I'll come across more of the history of the character, and I'll say, "If had known that when I came up with the take, I probably wouldn't have gone in that direction." The direction is often just as valid, and I don't try to destroy the background of the characters. I try to stay true to the characters. At the same time, the more I do all these things, I acquire a library of knowledge on the characters, so that all comes into play as we continue to develop them.

TZN: There still seems to be a general belief among the general population that cartoons are for kids. How do you feel about that?

Well, from a literal, pragmatic standpoint, they are. I used to think like, "Well, why is animation only for kids?" and when you actually get into animation, you realize how things are paid for and the actual mechanics it takes to get a cartoon on, and it IS for kids. Whether that's a failing of the American system of television, it's just that's the way it is, and the way we make that a plus is that we make broad-based entertainment. So we don't make it literally just for kids. There are shows that do that and they do well, but we always go into it with "What's entertainment?" There was a time where entertainment was for adults and kids. You could watch a TV show and adults would enjoy it as much as the kid would, and the adult wouldn't feel like he had to hide the kid away. No one's calling The Munsters a child's show, or The Addams Family a kid's show, or even the original Batman. It's not considered literally a kid's show. So we go in thinking this is entertainment for a family, or for an adult and for a child, so if they're both in the room, they should both be able to enjoy it, and that's the way we operate when we do these things. Because you kind of have to. In order to make any money on these things, you can't appeal to just a niche. That's what the DVDs are for. That's why they were created, to appeal to the finer points of fandom and for smaller market shares and things. For television, unil things change, that's kind of what we have to work with. And I don't think anything's wrong with that.

I mean, I understand where the fans are coming from on that because before I got into animation and got into the ins and outs of it, I was just like everyone else, and always asked those questions and wondered why and railed against how stupid executives are as far as blah-blah-blah. The reality of it is that that's the way it is right now, and there's nothing wrong with it.

TZN: That being said, there are some fans, like me, who have been watching these DC superhero cartoons for 15 years. Some of the kids who grew up with this are now college graduates or have kids of their own now, and it always seems that no matter where the target demographic is for your shows, you always seem to pull in a pretty significant adult audience. How much does that affect what you do?

TUCKER: Again, there's a pre-school audience and there's a certain alchemy for making a good pre-school show, which is actually harder, I think, than making a broad-based entertainment show.

STEINER: Oh, definitely. Totally.

TUCKER: I mean, you have a whole list of challenges to do that. I don't think I could do a pre-school show. but the history of television is based on shows that appeal to a broad base of people. If we talked about only skewing to adults, most of television wouldn't be on the air. You have to pay for the show, you have to appeal to a broad base. But anyway, our whole standpoint at Warners is just to make a good show, and we don't go out of our way to be especially dark, and we don't go out of our way to be especially kid-ified. We just do what is entertainment. What is broad-based entertainment.

TZN: James, we spoke with you on Toon Zone about 3 years ago right at the end of Justice League Unlimited, and you had mentioned that your dream projects were either a Dick Tracy cartoon or a Wonder Woman cartoon.

Right. Well, we know Wonder Woman's not happening! (laughs)

TZN: Did you take a crack at the direct-to-video when you knew about it?

You know, early on before there was a direction settled, Dwayne McDuffie, Bruce Timm, and I actually came up with a pitch. Given the direction that the DVD went, I'm glad they went the way they did. Actually, Michael is the writer on the Wonder Woman direct-to-video, and what I've seen so far is amazing. It's going to blow your socks off.

TZN: Did you work with Michael on the Wonder Woman DVD at all?

TUCKER: No, we were doing Legion at the time, so I was working with him, but...

JELENIC: When I was developing some of the ideas of it, I would talk to James becuase James loves the character.

TUCKER: I would tell him, "Don't do that! Don't do this!" And he'd ignore me (laughs).

JELENIC: I know I took a couple of his ideas, and some of the things he suggested, and that definitely ended up in the screenplay, so he was pretty helpful to me.

TUCKER: I think it's going to be pretty good. Since I didn't get to do it, I'm glad it's still something I want to watch.

TZN: Well, the question to all 3 of you guys is that the doors are open and the budgets are open. What are your dream projects that you would love to be able to do now?

TUCKER: Well, my life is Brave and the Bold right at this point. Actually, that would have been one of my dream projects because Brave and the Bold was one of the first Batman comics I ever read, so I'm saying this is it right now. I would love to do a Question show or a DVD. Wonder Woman would have been nice. Maybe a Wonder Woman series is in the offing if they get a movie done. Other than that, I'm kind of having the best of all worlds working on this show because any character I've ever enjoyed I've pretty much been able to use.

STEINER: I guess for me it would be Green Arrow. I've wanted to do something with Green Arrow.

JELENIC: I don't really care which characters. I find that each new character I come across, there's something interesting about that character, and you find ways to make telling those stories enjoyable, so I'd be up for anything.

TZN: What is the one thing that's happened so far that you really weren't expecting or that you got really surprised by?

STEINER: Blue Beetle really popping has been a pleasant surprise for me. These guys were big believers in it, and he's a great character. James directed that already and its a good surprise.

JELENIC: I would say for me, I'm pleasantly surprised at the quality of both the scripts and the art of the show. Both James and I had worked on previous Batman shows, and we both reached a point, "What else could we possibly do?" And with this show, I think we both took some major risks.

TUCKER: Yeah, we definitely went outside our comfort zone as far as what we're used to doing with Batman.

JELENIC: And I think the result is a show that's completely different from the other 2 Batman shows that we're familiar with. I think people are going to see that it stands on its own. It may take an episode for people to be comfortable with it. It's a huge departure visually and story wise, but I think people will like it.

TUCKER: I think for me, our interpretation of Aquaman is a lot of fun. I know "fun" is a dirty word in fandom (laughs), but he's a lot of fun. We honor the character, but we also open him up a little bit, and I think he'll be a fan favorite, too.

JELENIC: He's the best interpretation of Aquaman EVER.

TUCKER: He's voiced by John DiMaggio...Michael is being sarcastic, I think...

JELENIC: No! I love this character, I think he's going to be the breakout character of the series.

TUCKER: The thing is that the show is a lot of fun, and like I said, "fun" has been a bad word for a long time with Batman, but I say "Have no fear." If you love the Batman character, and if your knowledge of Batman goes beyond The Dark Knight Returns, then you'll know what we're doing and you'll get the show and you'll enjoy the show.

Toon Zone News would like give our thanks James Tucker, Linda M. Steiner, and Michael Jelenic for taking the time to speak with us, and also to James Finch and Annie Chen at Beck Media for making these interviews possible.

SDCC2008: "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" Panel Report

Toon Zone News attended the Batman: The Brave and the Bold panel. The show will rely on Dick Sprang’s artistic style while maintaining the modern standard of fluidity in animation. Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a contrast to the darker renditions of Batman the public eye has grown accustomed to since the mid 1980's. Described as ‘light’ by its creative team, this Batman also juggles keeping in tune with the spirit of the character as a crusading vigilante.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold has given producer James Tucker and his motley crew the opportunity to team the Dark Knight up with heroes other then his sidekick, Robin, and explore the range of reactions the Gotham resident might have to new surroundings and relationships.

The show stars the vocal talent of Diedrich Bader as Batman, James Arnold Taylor as Green Arrow, R. Lee Ermey as Wildcat, Tom Kenny as Plastic Man, and John DiMaggio as Aquaman. Our heroes will face keen foes like the Gentleman Ghost, Gorilla Grodd, Kite Man, and possibly Zebra Man.

Tucker, steward of Batman: The Brave and the Bold claimed his favorite episode is a currently in-production two-parter. The Aquaman episodes were memorable for Michael Jelenic.

The date of the premiere has also been moved up to November 14, 2008, from the March 2009 date that had been announced earlier.

Legendary Helps Turn Gears of War

New Line Cinema’s big-screen adaptation of the bestselling video game Gears of War is getting some financial aid from Legendary Pictures, according to Daily Variety. Having co-produced the Warner Bros. hits The Dark Knight and 300, Legendary will co-finance and co-produce director Len Wiseman’s take on the interactive sensation from Microsoft and Epic Games.

Temple Hill's Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey are producing the sci-fi actioner from a script by Chris Morgan (Wanted, The Fast and the Furious 4). The pic marks Legendary’s first collaboration with New Line, which was absorbed into Warner Bros. a couple months ago.

Gears of War is a third-person tactical action/horror game that has players take on the role of Marcus Fenix, a soldier at war against the immense Locust Horde, a mass of nightmarish creatures that threatens human existence. Most remarkable for its sophisticated next-generation graphics, the game debuted in 2006 and quickly sold more than three million units to become the bestselling game for Xbox 360 and the most popular Xbox Live title. The game also took Game of the Year at the 2007 Game Developers Choice Awards, held in conjunction with the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Epic Games developed Gears of War as a multi-platform entertainment franchise and had already crafted story elements beyond those presented in the game to prepare for film and publishing opportunities. Cliff “CliffyB” Bleszinski, who served as lead designer on the game, will serve as exec producer on the film.

Disney Channel Airs Muppets Special

Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear and the rest of the Muppets gang will be joined by some of the biggest stars with kids and tweens when Disney Channel presents Studio DC: Almost Live next month. Airing on Sunday, Aug. 3 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT), the half-hour musical sketch comedy special will feature Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana), the Jonas Bros. (Camp Rock), Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical), Dylan and Cole Sprouse, Brenda Song and Phill Lewis (The Suite Life of Zack & Cody).

Featuring classic Muppets backstage antics, the special will be hosted by Dylan and Cole Sprouse, with comedy sketches featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley’s country singer father. The junior Cyrus will get to play with the Electric Mayhem Band and Miss Piggy will cast herself as the “Jonas sister” and perform with the famous brothers. Kermit will sing the High School Musical hit single “Bop to the Top” with Ashley Tisdale, then join Miss Piggy and Gonzo in paying a visit to the Tipton Hotel, as seen in the hit series The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.

Created by the Disney-owned Muppets Studio, Studio DC: Almost Live is exec produced by Martin G. Baker.

Disney is also bringing the Muppets back to the big screen with a new movie being written by actor Jason Segel and director Nick Stoller, the driving forces behind the hit comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Stoller will direct the flick, which came about when the duo teamed with The Jim Henson Co. for a puppet scene in Sarah Marshall.

Stan Lee, Disney Team for Time Jumper

What would Comic-Con be without an announcement from comic-book legend Stan Lee? The creator of such iconic Marvel superheroes as Spider-Man, The Hulk and the X-Men is working with Disney to launch a new multi-platform digital comic book titled Time Jumper, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Lee’s POW! Ent. has also extended its first-look deal struck with Disney earlier this year.

Time Jumper involves a new superhero who uses a special cell phone to travel backward and forward through time. Bringing comic-book artwork to life with movement, voice tracks and sound effects, the digital comic is being produced trough the collective efforts of Disney’s home entertainment, online and publishing units.

Henson Taps Ewing to Sell Sid

The Jim Henson Co. has appointed children’s television industry veteran Sam Ewing to handle the international sales of its newest property, a CG-animated preschool TV series titled Sid the Science Kid. The show will debut in the U.S. on Sept. 1 as part of the two-hour morning preschool block PBS KIDS and online at

Most recently, Ewing launched the Cartoon Consultants Group, consulting on productions and distribution for companies including EM.TV Munich, Saban Capital Group and Starz Media/Bolder Media. Prior to that, he served as senior VP of worldwide distribution and VP of development for Cookie Jar Ent. Ewing also served as VP of international co-productions and acquisitions at Saban Int’l. Other previous gigs included stints as Ruby-Spears Prods., Worldvision Ent., Hanna-Barbera Prods. and NBC Ent.

Sid the Science Kid is an educational show that uses comedy to promote exploration, discovery and science readiness among preschoolers. The energetic and inquisitive Sid starts each episode with a new question (“Why are my shoes shrinking?” “Why do bananas get mushy?”) and embarks on a fun-filled day of finding answers with the help of family and friends. Sid and his pals also host an interactiveb website at

An initial slate of 40 half-hour episodes are being co-produced by The Jim Henson Co. and KCET/Los Angeles. The animation is created using the Henson Digital Puppetry Studio, a proprietary technology that allows the company's performers to puppeteer and voice digitally animated characters in realtime. The technology was previously used to launch the Henson toon property The Skrumps.

Red Sonja poster

A pair of teaser posters for the new 'Red Sonja' movie were unveiled at Comic-Con Thursday, giving fans their first look at Rose McGowan in a chainmaille bikini.

Studio 4°C Takes Up the Street Fight

Anime News Network notes that the Capcom's San Diego Comic Con panel revealed that Studio 4°C will be animating the in-game footage for Street Fighter IV. Koji Morimoto (Memories' "Magnetic Rose," The Animatrix's "Beyond" short, Genius Party's Dimension Bomb, ) and animator Jiro Kanai (computer graphics in Akira, key animation in "Beyond," Mind Game, The Wings of Honneamise) are involved in the project.

Anime Game News

ICV2 notes that a Search for Vengeance expansion of the Highlander TCG 2nd Edition card game, based on anime movie will be released in late October. The set will be packaged in 10-card Booster Packs ($3.99) and 50-card Starter Decks ($12.99).

1Up features a Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Preview

Super Robot Wars Z
trailer 3
trailer 4

Upcoming in Japan

Anime News Network report that software developer Ryukishi07 (Seventh Expansion) revealed that pyscho thriller mystery Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (aka When They Cry) side stories collection Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Re will be released on DVD December 26 and on Blu-ray in January.

The first of five volumes, "Hajisarashi," will be a gag story set in the municipal swimming pool. The next three volumes, which will be the "Saikoroshi" arc, will be a serious drama involving one of the story's heroines after the resolution of the two previous television series. This arc will be released between February and June of next year. The final volume, "Hirukowashi" on August of 2009, will be a slapstick romantic comedy based on a novel spinoff from the Higurashi Daybreak game, which is being ported to the PSP.

Studio DEEN will be adapating web manga Hetalia - Axis Powers - a "cynical gag" story mainly recounts the era between World War I and World War II starring bishonen (cute guys)

Kara no Kyoukai - the Garden of sinners - five
World Destruction: Sekai Bokumetsu no Rokunin

SDCC ’08: DISNEY ANIMATION STORY PROCESS PANEL's PULSE News covered the Disney Animation Story Process Panel, reporting on the collected wisdom of Paul Briggs (story artist, The Princess and the Frog), Nathan Greno (head of story, Bolt), Don Hall (head of story, The Princess and the Frog), Mark Kennedy (head of story, Rapunzel), Michael LaBash (story artist, Bolt), Joe Mateo (story artist, Bolt) and Josie Trinidad (story artist, The Princess and the Frog).

Slightly later than 11 AM, the Disney Animation Story Process panel convened, as PAUL BRIGGS (story artist, The Princess and the Frog), NATHAN GRENO (head of story, Bolt), DON HALL (head of story, The Princess and the Frog), MARK KENNEDY (head of story, Rapunzel), MICHAEL LaBASH (story artist, Bolt), JOE MATEO (story artist, Bolt) and JOSIE TRINIDAD (story artist, The Princess and the Frog), took their seats and introduced themselves. The artists told a packed house how they came to work in the Story Department at Disney feature animation. The stories were varied, but a few general tips can be gleaned from their stories: be able to draw, have a passion for it, don’t give up even if you have to labor for years in another industry… and go to Cal Arts. And be prepared when you get your shot. Today, they intimated, Disney even has a Talent Development internship program, which at least one panelist utilized to open the door to their current position.

The Panel then began their discussion of the process of how Disney storyboards their animated films – when they receive scripts from the film’s writers. Michael LaBash offered up that storyboarding is a distinct part of animation, and most people can’t realize how much planning, discussion and brainstorming occurs – and how many ideas get thrown out (and thrown back) – before the first drawing begins. The images that make it through are the results of an incredible amount of thought.

Nathan Greno noted that they start with their concept of what will be most entertaining to the audience, and then go beat by beat to figure out the movie. He and LaBash posited (and the panel agreed) that the best Story rooms are the ones where the artists can throw out any idea, no matter how bad or how unlikely, without worrying about the consequences, where they can argue for their concepts and ideas and fight for their points of view without anyone taking it personally. It’s important to be able to socialize and fight civilly, because everyone’s in that room to make the movie better.

Also crucial, said Greno, is the ability to keep an open mind, posing the example that “let’s say we worked for a week on something, and then one person wakes up in the morning and says, “I don’t think that concept makes any sense. The healthy element in a good room, is that if you go against the room, you’ll either wind up changing your mind, or come away even more confident about your opinion and your vision.”

Don Hall estimated that about 75% of what they draw never sees the light of day, and Mark Kennedy added that “you might work for a long time on something, and then they come and say they’re going with another way. You need to be able to let go of stuff.” LaBash bolstered this, saying that while an artist might disagree with the rest of the other artists in the room, it’s not about winning or losing – it’s about making the idea better. And there are times, he assured the audience, “when you’ll walk away and think you’re an idiot.” Greno agreed – you don’t always walk away happy, because the majority rules.

Bearing that in mind, Mateo observed that it’s important to keep one’s enthusiasm for the project and the idea – even if they cut it from the movie; Kennedy agreed, saying that, “we’ve all pitched horrible things over the course of days in the room; you have to love it or you’ll go nuts.” But Hall provided a crucial bit of perspective; “The good thing is, you get paid to draw pictures. No matter how bad it is, you still get to lock yourself in your room and draw pictures.”

Regarding the process of what happens when an individual artist gets to work, Greno said, “you sit and work out what you want to do, and then you get your sequence and you need to think about how to draw it. We’ll think about it with the writers and they’ll write the pages, and you draw it; you have to not drop the ball.” LaBash elaborated, noting that a board artist, as they start to board things out, uses a blend of writing, photography and directing – and it’s important to understand all those disciplines – while also using your instincts. “The amount of thought that goes into even a rough sketch, where you still have to show what a character is thinking in that moment, is deceptive.”

As the panel was running behind, at this point they showed the audience the trailer for the upcoming Disney animated film, BOLT, the story of a dog who stars in a popular action TV show about a super-dog who regularly rescues his young girl owner from danger. The thing is that the eponymous hero dog doesn’t realize that it’s just a show. So when he thinks that she’s lost, the dog breaks out of his movie sound stage and embarks on a quest to rescue her. To that end, he captures a reluctant cat (cats play villain characters or extras in the show within the movie), and is joined willingly by a gung-ho hamster in a plastic exercise ball.

It looks hilarious, by the way.

Following the trailer, they demonstrated how the storyboarding process works for them by breaking down and building a scene, by showing a sequence from BOLT. The first decision that must be made is to assign their sequences, because everyone has different strengths; some are better at comedy; others are better with action. Kennedy took over the lead artist spot for the particular sequence, in which two cats – who are bit players on the show -- have a bit of fun at Bolt’s expense after hours, playing on his belief that the show is actually real life. After getting pages from the writers, Mark took a week to flesh things out before coming back with a finished sequence.

Kennedy presented the sequence as a series of story boards showing the scene that incorporated the points of view of the cats as well as the hero dog character, with dialog pasted beneath the pictures. He stressed that they keep making changes throughout the process, from start to finish; they repitch ideas over and over, eventually creating a “blueprint” for the animators. Kennedy then showed the audience the scene again as an animatic – (a sequence of drawings that nearly animate the movie, showing crucial facial expressions, camera angles, motions and action – this time accompanied by the dialog track recorded by the movie’s actors.

Unfortunately, due to a computer glitch, the sequence cut itself short, so the panel turned to take questions from the audience. The first question asked whether they prefer humor skills to action skills in the artists they might hire; the response was that mainly they look for the ability to convey character, point of view and pacing in a sequential series.

The second question wondered how the script-writing process melds with the story process and the art involved; the consensus was that the writers these board artists enjoy working with most, are egoless, and team-sports types, because they understand the collaborative nature of story-boarding – and because they’re not separate from the story art; “you’re editing the film before you make it.”

The final question wondered what they would suggest to someone looking to work on Story; Josie Trinidad finally chimed in, saying that while being a good draftsman is important, they mainly look for the ability to convey character; “your drawing will get better no matter what, but you need to draw quickly, roughly and clearly to convey the idea and the mood, and suggested that instead of an art class, that one observe people and watch movies – because story is everything – it’s acting, staging, directing, etc.”

As the panel broke up, Greno directed would-be artists to contact Disney’s Outreach program, which oversees a talent development program in a number of artistic and technical areas

SDCC2008: "Avatar" Panel Report

Toon Zone sat in on the panel for Nickelodeon's Avatar the Last Airbender, which was dominated by a screening of parts 3 and 4 of the "Sozin's Comet" season finale. In attendance were show co-creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, and director Joaquim Dos Santos. The panel was moderated by Roland Poindexter, VP Original Programming, Animation.

The screening received a standing ovation from the audience, and the panelists noted that 5.6 million people watched the last episode of Avatar. They added that the series will be run in order on Nicktoons very soon, and stated that this is not the last time Avatar will have a panel at Comic-Con. In response to a question, the creators confirmed that the skill learned from the lion turtle can be performed more than once.

They set out to make a show that they wanted to watch and worked for kids, teenagers and adults. The show was also always designed to be a trilogy.

They're working to get a soundtrack to the show released, but there's nothing confirmed yet.

An audience member asked if there was any truth to the rumor that they were signed for six seasons. Bryan confirmed this rumor was false, although there was a parody "Book 4: Air" trailer shown that used badly animated fan art from the Internet.

An audience member asked if they would ever resolve where Zuko's mother is, and was told that they hope to some day.

The live-action movie is also to be a straight re-interpretation of Book 1.

From the Animation Guild Blog...

The Family of Family Guy

I spent a generous portion of the day at Fox Animation on Wilshire. Most staff is back at work after the Writers Guild strike, but many were missing in action ...

"It's really quiet around here. Everybody is down at the Comic Con in San Diego" ...

Including the top brass.

... [Y]ou'll be thrilled to hear what they're doing with The Empire Strikes Back — it's called "Something, Something, Something Dark Side," executive producer Chris Sheridan jokingly revealed in the show's packed Friday afternoon panel at Comic-Con.

Flanked by Guy creator and star Seth MacFarlane, along with Seth Green (voice of Chris), Mike Henry (who spins off his own series,
The Cleveland Show, next year), director Greg Colten, and producers Kara Vallow and Mike Henry, Sheridan was more forthcoming with Fox's take on the new Empire episode, than on the episode, itself. He read from a list of "notes" Fox executives gave the producers, offering guidance like, "Page 68: Han's comment at Lando that he is 'this close to going Michael Richards on your ass,' is in poor taste...." So what did the panel reveal? ...

(That info is here.)

The last couple of months, both Family Guy and American Dad artist have dropped pencils and paper and now use Cintiqs. One story boarder, still climbing the digital learning curve, asked how many studios were doing storyboards on computers now. I said "most of them."

Unlike a lot of cartoon studios, Fox Animation has long-term employment going on, since FG is good for two seasons, and American Dad has a full-season order.

It's nice that somebody has more than four months of work.

SDCC: The Heroes Panel

At the San Diego Comic-Con today, NBC previewed nearly all of the first episode of the third season for "Heroes." SPOILER highlights follow:

Turn back now if you don't want to know!
Still here? Here we go...

- The shooter of Nathan Petrelli from last season was revealed - Peter Petrelli from the future.

- Nathan is revived... and has a vision from God. Believing he's an angel on God's mission, he is set up to be some sort of religious zealot in subsequent episodes.

- Sylar corners Claire in her house. Despite hitting Sylar over the head and stabbing him, she's caught. In a scene that drew gasps and revulsion from the audience, we see Sylar probing her brain as she twitches on a table. Claire, who is conscious, asks, "Are you going to eat it?" Sylar responds, "Eat your brain? Claire, that's disgusting." He then steals her invulnerability, then puts her skull cap with the hair back on her head (to more groans). I think someone in the audience got sick after seeing the scene.

- Suresh develops a serum to give humans powers and injects himself, thus giving him super strength.

- Hiro takes over his father's company and discovers a secret formula in his father's safe... which is promptly stolen by a new speedster character. When Hiro travels to the future to see the results, he sees his future self confronting Ando over the formula... then Ando shocking him with a red bolt of electricity.

- HRG is shown in a prison cell while Nikki is shown as the mistress of a Governor.

- Parkman discovers Peter shot his brother, but Peter then zaps him into a far away desert.

There were a few more details and surprises, but I want to leave something for you to see in the episode! The cast came back out for a short Q&A. A couple of fans dressed as Samurai Hiro and a Sylar victim brought some good laughs to the enthusiastic crowd.

Final verdict? "Heroes" Season 3 puts the show back on track and sets up a lot of fantastic storylines for the season.

SDCC2008: BET Animation Brings "Black Panther" and "Hannibal"

At their panel this morning at the San Diego Comic Con, B.E.T. announced that they are making aggressive moves into TV animation. In attendance were Reginald Hudlin (president, B.E.T.), Denys Cowan (senior V.P., B.E.T. Animation), Cort Lane (Marvel Animation), and John Romita Jr. (Marvel Comics artist).

The Black Panther animated series will debut in early 2009, bringing the Marvel Comics superhero to television in his own series. The show was designed to bring John Romita Jr.’s style to life, and despite some slightly jerky animation, the violent teaser reel shown at the panel proved that the Black Panther team at Titmouse was successful in creating what promises to be an interesting mature animated program.

Hannibal, debuting alongside Black Panther, stars the vocal talents of Vin Diesel. Some gorgeous rough animation was shown, and the more finished footage looks to have fluid animation, great composition, and interesting use of color. There were beheadings during the clip, which fits in with the more adult flavor.

Lastly, audience members expressed pleasure with B.E.T.’s movement towards animation. When asked if they would air animated shows that feature multicultural casts, Reginald Hudlin replied “yes.”

Pixar’s UP teaser out now

The first teaser for the Disney/Pixar’s upcoming feature film UP is now online and can be watched at the official UP site. Up hits theatres on May 29, 2009.

"Delgo" named best feature film at Anima Mundi

Rio de Janeiro's Anima Mundi, one of the world's largest and most prominent animation festivals, has given the long-awaited -- and long-delayed -- Delgo its highest award for best feature film.

Produced by Atlanta-based Fathom Studios, Delgo was announced in 1998; production initially lasted from 2001 to 2006. Fathom initially expected to complete production by the end of 2002, but delays forced the studio to hire numerous outside contractors and consultants.

The all-star voice cast includes Anne Bancroft in her final film. Bancroft, who was given top billing as the voice of Sedessa, died of uterine cancer in June 2005. Melissa McBride served as a voice double for Bancroft in limited sequences after the star's death.

The final cut of Delgo, a fantasy action-adventure of a world's struggle for unity, premiered at the Brazilian animation festival. Other cast members include Freddie Prinze, Jr., Jennifer Love Hewitt, Val Kilmer, Chris Kattan, Malcolm McDowell, Lou Gossett, Jr., Kelly Ripa, Michael Clarke Duncan, Eric Idle, Sally Kellerman and Burt Reynolds.

"After many years of development and production, it's exhilarating to have such a positive reception from audiences," said producer Marc F. Adler, who, with Jasin Maurer, directed the feature film. "Seeing the reactions from festival attendees as they watched our film made all our hard work worthwhile."

The computer-animated Delgo was also selected by Annecy (France) and SICAF (Korea), the world's other two largest animation festivals. A wide domestic theatrical release will be announced shortly.

An audience of 100,000 viewers, rather than a festival jury, determines the award for best feature film. "We believe it's important for film enthusiasts to decide on the winner rather than a panel of jurors or film critics," said Anima Mundi director Cesar Coelho. "Everyone who watches the selected films has an opportunity to voice their opinion."

Winning films at Anima Mundi were selected from thousands of submissions from over 70 countries. The 15-day festival ends today (Sunday, July 27).

In second place for best feature film was Princess, by Anders Morgenthaler of Denmark. Third place went to American director Bill Plympton's Idiots and Angels.

Dossie Re Bordosa by César Cabral took the first prize in two categories: best short subject and best Brazilian animaiton. It also won a special award, the Prêmio Aquisição Canal Brasil.

La Queue de la Souris, directed by Benjamin Renner of France, won first prize for best student film, as well as second prize for best short subject.

Humberto Avelar's Seu Lobo won third prize in the categories of best children's animation and best Brazilian animation.

Other awards announced by Anima Mundi:

Best Short Subject
3. Premier Voyage (Grégoire Sivan, France)

Best Student Film
2. Oktapodi (Julien Bocabeille, François Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier and Emud Mokhberi, France)
3. Maman Je T'Aime (Mickael Abensur, Antoine Collet and Damien Dell'omodarme, France)

Best Children's Animation
1. Um Dia de Sol (Gil Alkabetz, Germany)
2. A Maldição de Skull Rock (Ben Smith, United Kingdom)

Best Brazilian Animation
2. Calango Lengo - Vida e Morte Sem Ver Agua (Fernando Miller)

Professional Jury Prizes

Best Soundtrack
KFJG Nº 5 (Alexei Alexeev, Hungary)

Best Script
La Maison en Petits Cubes (Kunio Kato, Japan)

Best Art Direction
Yours Truly (Osbert Parker, United Kingdom)

Best Animation
Madame Tutli-Putli (Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada)

Best Commissioned Film
Sony Bravia "Play-Doh" (Frank Budgen and Darren Walsh, United Kingdom)

Madcap Mecha Anime 'Gurren Lagann' on SCI FI

Journey to the Surface and Beyond

Already available on home video (subtitled only, at present) from Bandai Entertainment is the action anime Gurren Lagann, a frenetic journey to the surface, quite literally, by a group of the most unlikely heroes whose knack for the daring, trouble-making, and skimpy outfits make for one rather interesting ride. From the animation production studio that carved out some of the industry's most memorable titles (Furi Kuri, Neon Genesis Evangelion), Gainax Studios' Gurren Lagann is ready for its western television debut.

Having gained approval by many viewers for its fast-paced giant robot action and characters of an all too familiar quality, Gurren Lagann begins with a subterranean society whose mythical adoration of the surface-world has left many of its residents fearful if not complacent of change.

Simon himself does his duty to drill throughout the caverns, excavating treasures for the underground culture and expanding the caves as is necessary. But one day, he comes upon something rather interesting, a key of some sort.

A close friend of Simon, Kamina has a bit of a rebellious gene in him. Claiming to have been to the surface when he was much younger, Kamina asserts a confidence about himself that attracts adventure-seeking Simon, a younger-brother of sorts to take up arms when a massive earthquake finds a beast of a giant robot to plunge through the village's ceiling. With the aid of a curvaceous stranger named Yoko (and her sniper rifle), and a key to mecha outfits of their own (as Simon would soon find out), the three step up to the challenge of first defending the underground city and later promising to quest to the surface world, where even more strange, dangerous, and unique twists await them.

Gurren Lagann is scheduled to land on SCI FI Channel in the forthcoming weeks, bringing Gainax's fast-paced, giant robot, action-comedy to fans familiar with such fare. Finding humor in the wildly impossible and seeking action through fluid mecha battles whose design and construction stretch the imagination, Gurren Lagann is an anime with personality.

SCI FI Channel, having rededicated itself to Japanese animation programming, is looking to benefit from the program's combination of simple characters, organic visual design, and directorial flair. Gurren Lagann hits the extended cable channel's Ani-Monday programming block today, Monday July 28th, 2008 at 11:00pm (ET).

A bi-lingual DVD release of Gurren Lagann is tentatively scheduled for sometime late 2008, or more likely early in the 2009-year. Bandai Entertainment has intimated that it is quite possible for Gurren Lagann to remain on-air on throughout the rest of the year. SCI FI Channel will treat the full-length animated television series as likely to air two episodes weekly, as such.

SDCC2008: "Ben 10 Alien Force" and "The Secret Saturdays" Panel Report

The "Ben 10: Alien Force and The Secret Saturdays Sneak Peek" Panel yielded up lots of new information about the two new Cartoon Network shows. In attendance were Alien Force producer Glen Murakami and story editor Dwayne McDuffie, along with voice actors Yuri Lowenthal, Ashley Johnson, Greg Cipes, and Dee Bradley Baker; creator Jay Stephens was also on hand to talk about The Secret Saturdays.

On August 31, "Alien X" arrives. Alien X was described by Dwayne McDuffie as one of Ben’s most powerful alien forms, so much so that our hero fears using it. Unfortunately, an intergalactic kidnapping puts the Earth in such a pickle that the risk must be taken and Ben must use the time stopping Alien X to save the day. Additionally, a version of the bounty hunter "SixSix" will appear.

McDuffie also teased a ravenous audience that what the characters think to be the truth is not always so. Work on season two is over with and the third is next on their slate. Additionally, our opinions of the characters will change over the course of the season and into the next.

Another teased element were the secrets behind the alien transformation the Big Chill. The audience responded enthusiastically when it was mentioned that the story of Kevin's transformation back to normal in the null void may be told. McDuffie added that there is a very good reason why he does not use his absorption powers, which will be revealed eventually. Also, the revelation that Gwen is now an energy being may reveal some interesting story possibilities.

Finally, confirmation was given that we will see old and new Plumber kids in future episodes. It was also revealed that there will be no "filler" episodes; every episode will fit into the larger scheme of things.

The Secret Saturdays section of the panel was rather brief, limited to a screening of a clip and repetition of most of the information in the press releases. Some character designs were shown as well, with Stephens pointing out that the characters were based off of the shows in the 1960's, like Jonny Quest and The Herculoids.

SDCC '08 - Lionsgate/ Marvel 'Hulk vs. Wolverine' Panel

Newsarama covered the Lionsgate/Marvel Hulk vs. Wolverine panel, where half of the upcoming DTV was screened for the audience, followed by a Q&A with supervising producer/co-writer Craig Kyle.

Marvel’s not releasing its “Hulk Vs.” animated DVD feature until January, but the fans who filled the massive Hall H to two-thirds capacity got to see one half of the show in its entirety.

Supervising producer and co-writer of the film Craig Kyle introduced the screening of “Hulk vs. Wolverine,” a 40-minute episode that will appear on the DVD along with a similar “Hulk vs. Thor” feature.

The film begins much as Wolverine and Hulk’s very first comic book meeting did, with the Hulk landing in Canadian territory and the military sending Wolverine in to stop him. After a fairly long and bruising battle between the two, the story veers off into Wolverine’s back story with both characters being captured by the rogue Weapon X operation. As in the comics, Weapon X is headed up by The Professor, and Logan has a lengthy flashbacks that effectively recaps the original Barry Windsor-Smith comic story from Marvel Comics Presents #72-84.

When Logan comes to, he finds that Weapon X — whose agents now include Sabretooth, Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, and Deadpool — is looking to reclaim him as an agent while making a weapon of the Hulk as well. After The Professor is killed, the story focuses on Logan escaping the personal vendettas of his foes and ending Weapon X’s operation with the help of the Hulk. The pic was packed with action, with fans enjoying the heavy action and, particularly, the very good one-liners from Deadpool.

After the screening, Kyle returned to the stage with the project’s producer and supervising director Frank Paur, co-writer Christopher Yost and voice actor Fred Tatasciore, who provided the voice of the Hulk in the film.

Kyle says he was glad to see a good response to the appearance of Deadpool, who hadn’t previously been confirmed as being in the film. “These are the kind of films I think we should be making for you guys,” he says.

Tatasciore says the Hulk in this film, who speaks dialogue, is different from the one in “Hulk vs. Thor,” which Kyle described as “huge, ugly monsters destroying gods.” Tatasciore also says voicing the Hulk — a role he played in both “Ultimate Avengers” animated features — forces him to get physical to get into character. “It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a difficult workout.” Tatasciore also played Jarvis in the “Ultimate Avengers,” and will voice Beast on the upcoming “Wolverine and the X-Men” animated TV series, which Kyle adds will feature its own Logan-Hulk battle in its first season.

The animation in the feature had a slightly different look from previous Marvel direct-to-DVD features, with designs by Jeff Matsuda. Again, the look will be quite different for “Hulk vs. Thor.” “It’s really a David Lean approach for Thor and a David Fincher approach for Wolverine,” Kyle says.

Doing these projects on DVD allows them to be a little more violent than what can be done on TV, where the audience is younger and broadcast standards apply. The DVDs allow a lot more creative freedom in the writing, says Yost. “Literally, the only (requirement) was that Hulk to be in it and Wolverine had to be in it,” he says.

He says he thinks “Hulk vs. Wolverine” will contrast nicely with “Hulk vs. Thor.” “It was dark and gritty and ‘Hulk vs. Thor’ is almost the exact opposite,” Yost says. “We really tried to capture the land of the gods and we tried to put the Hulk in the middle of that.”

The idea for the Wolverine episode, Yost says, was to go for the big action comics fans love and to delve a bit into Wolverine’s history. “Everything fans like about the comic book, we tried to put in there,” he says.

Paur says doing the DVDs allows the animation designs to vary from show to show. “We can do some things that are not cost-conscious on a TV series.” The challenge of creating two different looks for this DVD was another pleasant change, he says.

Kyle says the lineup for Marvel’s upcoming animated DVD features continues with “Next Avengers” in September; followed by “Hulk vs.” in January; then “Tales of Asgard,” featuring early tales of Thor; and an adaptation of the comic book story “Planet Hulk.”

Opening it up to questions, one fan said he loved Deadpool in the series and wanted to know if the character might get his own feature. Kyle replied they try to sneak in as much stuff like as they can — one sequence featured a nod to Kyle and Yost’s X-23 character — but it was up to fans to support the material by buying it.

He continued that he thinks there’s room for features aimed at younger audiences, such as “Power Pack” or “The New Mutants,” as well as titles for older viewers. But sales need to be there and people watching for free on the Internet undermines his efforts to get these made. “Show us you want this, and I will fight for you on our side.”

Your Weekly Linkfest

One more links festival of cartoony goodness:

Animator and director Glen Keane expounds on Disney Animation's Rapunzel:.

"It's a story of the need for each person to become who they are supposed to be and for a parent to set them free so they can become that. It will be a musical and a comedy and have a lot of heart and sincerity ... There’s no photoreal hair. I want luscious hair, and we are inventing new ways of doing that. I want to bring the warmth and intuitive feel of hand-drawn to CGI.”

Matt Groening and Seth McFarlane hold a mutual admiration festival:

"Matt and I get along very well," MacFarlane said. "People want us to hate each other. We get along extremely well. He's a wonderful guy. Seriously." ...

"I wouldn't be sitting here if it wasn't for The Simpsons," MacFarlane said.

And since we're heavy on Family Guy information, there's updates about the oncoming Cleveland Show ...

... perhaps the biggest event coming up on Family Guy is Cleveland's exodus from Quahog. He'll end up losing his house to wife Loretta, then will move back to his hometown in Virginia and hook up with a new girlfriend who has a couple smart-talking kids of her own. MacFarlane described the new series as "the black Brady Bunch," and also promised that the character's new neighborhood will be filled with all sorts of memorable weirdos. Cleveland's new neighbors will include a stupid redneck, as well as a family of bears voiced by MacFarlane.

And if you're in the vicinity of Los Angeles, you might want to visits this exhibit at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:

The Academy’s new exhibition “Ink & Paint” highlights the work of numerous artists who have devoted decades of their lives to creating the characters, storyboards, color keys, backgrounds, layouts, cels and thousands of other process artworks that are needed to assemble a traditional animated film.

“Ink & Paint” also celebrates the artists whose genius spawned the screwball characters of Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes cartoons, the classic fairytale environments of Disney animated features and the Academy Award®-winning shorts of UPA, whose stylized look and simple lines approach modern art.

The New York Times weighs in on Comic Con (I doubt the gray lady would have noticed the Con even existed back in the El Cortez Hotel days ...)

Frank Miller, a revered figure in the comics world, explained how he found the temerity to direct a movie version of “The Spirit,” the signature work of an even more revered figure, Will Eisner.

“If I didn’t do it, somebody else was going to do it, and something very bad could happen,” Mr. Miller told about 6,500 listeners in one of the convention’s big halls ...

Brad Bird, who directed both
“Ratatouille” and “The Incredibles” for Pixar Animation Studios, worked for years on his own version of “The Spirit” after leaving the California Institute of the Arts. Mr. Bird has said in the past that he thought the project best suited to hand-drawn animation, an approach very far from the live-action, computer-assisted, star-driven approach taken by Mr. Miller ...

(Deadline Hollywood has ongoing posts of the Con extravaganza here.)

And as Comic Con was going on in San Diego, animation was being celebrated down in Brazil:

Anima Mundi, one of the largest and most prominent animation festivals in the world, awarded Delgo, the Best Animated Feature of the year.

An audience of 100,000 viewers, rather than a festival jury, determines the award for Best Feature Film. Anima Mundi director, Cesar Coelho, stated,
“We believe it’s important for film enthusiasts to decide on the winner rather than a panel of jurors or film critics. Everyone who watches the selected films has an opportunity to voice their opinion.” ...

We end with George Lucas (you've heard of him, right?) waxing philosophic about the road(s) not chosen:

... “Right at the beginning, I wanted to be an illustrator. Then I wanted to go to art school, to an arts centre in Los Angeles. My father said, ‘No way - you are not going to be an artist. Artists don’t make any money, and I won’t pay for that.’ Knowing I was a lazy underachiever then, he knew I wasn’t going to pursue that seriously. It was hard, but I do believe that, in the end, if I had gone to the arts centre and started to be an illustrator, I would probably have drifted into animation, and would probably have moved into Star Wars, just like I did." ...

(thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Terminator Salvation Previewed

McG, director of the upcoming franchise reboot film Terminator Salvation, screened new footage for screaming fans at Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 26, including new dialogue scenes between John Connor (Christian Bale) and a new character, Marcus (Sam Worthington).

Anyway, McG comes out to a stage already dominated by the above T-600 and paraded out names to appease the audience. He talked about speaking with James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the writer is Jonathan Nolan who co-wrote The Dark Knight. Then he said Stan Winston’s designs are all over the movie. In essence… “Please like it and don’t boo me.”

Before the footage screened, McG offered a few bits of news: The film will be dedicated to late special-effects artist Stan Winston; it will be shot with an eye to an R rating; the T-800, as famously played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be "part of the mythology of Terminator"; Howard's character, Kate (first played by Claire Danes), will be married to Bale's John. Later, in a news conference, McG offered that the film--the first of an envisioned trilogy--ends on a cliffhanger note.

The footage was screened before a panel that included most of the sequel film's cast, which included Australian actor Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard and Common.

He addressed the rating, and said there are only two people who would want the film to be PG-13 and they told him to make the picture and if it’s R-rated, it’s R-rated. There might be some wiggle room there.

Then he called Christian Bale’s cell… straight to voicemail and held it up, saying that he made a promise to Bale that if we didn’t cheer loud enough he wasn’t going to show any footage, so everybody screamed for Bale’s voicemail and the footage rolled.

The footage played very light… in that the aesthetic isn’t dark like in the flashbacks. This takes place a full 10 years before what we glimpse in T1 and T2 and the machines are in their early stages.

The first shot was a high shot, looking down at a crashed chopper, with Bale lying on the ground. He sits up, sees the T-600 crushed under the chopper (we later see him aim his gun down, like the still that was released, and put a single bullet in the head as the lights go out in its eyes) and try to raise someone on a CB. He gets someone and is asked “How many survivors?” “One,” he responds. “Repeat?” Then he says it sharper, louder: “One!”

He steps over a dead endoskeleton and walks into the deserty sunset.

We’re introduced to Worthington, who seems like a good guy, but there’s a later scene with him chained up and Bale looking him in the eye saying “You killed my father, you tried to kill my mother and you’re not going to kill me.” Maybe I’m not up on what’s current with the flick, but is Worthington a terminator?

Worthington sees a human shape in what looks like a broken down garden and calls out. It, of course, is a T-600 and shoots at him with machine guns attached underneath its arms. Worthington is tackled before he’s hit and Anton Yelchin sits up and says, “Come with me if you want to live,” with a smile.

By the way, there was a couple of interesting glimpses: One, a shadowed T-600 overlooking a pen filled with humans, like a concentration camp and the other was a closer look at a T-600 with his face looking skull-like... not metal endo-skeleton skull, but human skull... kinda like the original Giger alien. Maybe that was a trick of the light, but something was different... maybe it was just some of the "fake rubbery skin" that the early Terminators are supposed to have that I'm mistaking for a skull.

Then we got a lot of Road Warrior-ish chase scenes through a desert landscape, broken down cars… being chased by something we don’t see. The truck the humans use is a reinforced tow truck.

There’s a voice-over from, I assume, Bryce Dallas Howard, where she says “If you saved us once in another future you can save us in this one.”

One of the last shots was John Conner pinned to the ground, a close up as he screams out “YOU SON OF A BITCH!” and a Terminator hand comes into frame, looking like it’s going to touch his cheek. They cut to profile as it drags down his face as he screams. Is this the origin of the scar?

That’s pretty much the footage…

Afterward the footage screened, Howard summed things up for the more than 6,500 fans attending the panel presentation: "I think MCG spoke so accurately when he said this really is a reinvention," she said, adding: "We're starting over. ... It's after Judgment Day, and it's a completely different thing. I think what's been wonderful for all of us is we get to really invent what were creating, and a lot of that has to do with all of you, what you're asking for, what you're craving, and we really listen to that." Terminator Salvation is slated to open May 22, 2009.

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