Friday, August 29, 2008

News - 08/29/08...

The Weak Television Sector

Following on the heels of employment charts below, the question arises: So why is employment for teevee animation so sucky?

I think there are several answers, and I'll start with the recent and specific:

1) The Time-Warner animation companies (Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. Animation) have cratered in terms of employment, and they now have way fewer projects going than in earlier years. (There are bright spots. Fred Seibert informs us that "We're just about to start Adventure Time at Cartoon Network, started Fanboy & Chum Chum at Nick" ...)

2) Universal Cartoon Studio has only one series, and that series employs a limited number of people.

3) Nickelodeon, while somewhat busy, is down from previous employment highs.

4) Animation aimed at 'tweens and teens is close to non-existent. At the moment, most animation series target the pre-school and early elementary set. The older demographics are enfolded by live-action, due to Disney's success with Miley Cyrus and the "high school musical" franchise.

5) Business models have morphed as licensing fees shrink. Every studio is tight with a dollar.


We've traveled a version of this road before. Shortly before I started this job, television employment was also sucky.

Warners Animation was tiny; the Spielberg animation franchise -- Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain -- was yet to happen. Filmation had just imploded, taking 160 jobs with it. Disney Television Animation was in its infancy, and still a small boutique studio. Mighty Hanna-Barbera was past its peak and employing way fewer people.

There was a grand total of 530 people working in the unionized wing of television animation in L.A. County, which then as now was most of it.

Sound familiar at all?

The point to be made here is that television animation has expanded and contracted for half a century, reacting to market forces, technological and distriburtion changes, and shifting audience tastes. A few examples:

In 1960-61, the rapid expansion of L.A. television animation lifted southern California's cartoon community out of an employment trough created by Disney huge layoffs, commercial animation work drying up, and M-G-M's animation division closing its doors. By 1962 employment had dropped as various series failed.

Through the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, television animation production revolved around the three major network's broadcast seasons. If you worked in the teevee patch, you worked seven months on and five months off, year after year.

In the 1980s, Filmation -- for years almost a "house studio" for CBS -- pioneered the concept of syndicated animated series designed as platforms to sell toys (He-Man, She-Ra). Large episodic orders and year-round employment became the norm.

The business model of syndicated animation marketing dolls and action figures was soon taken to the next level by Disney Television Animation.

In the 1990s, syndicated blocks of animation proved highly lucrative with the likes of "The Disney Afternoon" and Warners' lineup. Television animation employment climbed to new heights. A few years later, cable channels dedicated to animation came into existence (Nick, Disney, Cartoon Network) and employment in television animation enjoyed another growth spurt.

Today, unfortunately, technology and demographics drive work levels in a different direction. Young eyeballs now have video games and the internet to occupy them, and the competition from live-action product has also been problematical. Disney's Phineas and Ferb has gotten traction with older kids, but it's mostly the younger-skewing 'toons Dora the Explorer, Mickey's Clubhouse, and Mi-Hao Kai-Lan that are being made. As always, producers look for ways to make the product faster and cheaper, since few companies want to deficit finance and amortize half-hour shows over several years.

We are in, as best I can judge, a spiral of shrinking budgets and demos that will only change when the Next Big Hit arrives in animation, and studios crank up production on imitations and spin-offs in the pursuit of heavy coin. Sooner or later, it always happens.

Lastly, it's important to note there is a bright spot in television. Prime time is going great guns. Not only are The Simpsons still marching along, but Family Guy, American Dad, and King of the Hill are being joined by The Cleveland Show, Sit Down, Shut Up, and The Goode Family. There is, quite frankly, more prime time animation going on right now than at any time in television history.

So, as tight as things are, this is at least one bright sliver edging the gray cloud now hanging over television 'toonland.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)







Jetix Europe Toons Come to iTunes

Jetix Europe today announced that selections from its catalog of classic kids programming are now available for download and purchase in the U.K. iTunes Store (www.apple.com/uk/itunes). Initial offerings include Sonic X, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Additional shows, including Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four, will be added over the coming months.

“We are thrilled to bring our programming to the iTunes Store in the U.K. and pleased to be able to offer kids some of their favourite shows, as well as classic animation, on such a popular platform,” comments Chiara Cipriani, director of Jetix Europe’s Digital Media Group.

Also currently available on iTunes are animated offerings from leading producers, distributors and broadcast networks including Disney, Aardman Animations, Cartoon Network, Nickelodoen, FUNimation and Starz.






DECODE’s Bo Still on the Go

DECODE Ent., the distribution subsidiary of DHX Media Ltd., has announced further international sales of Halifax Film’s preschool series Bo on the GO! In addition, CBC in Canada has commissioned a third season of the show, which is one of the broadcaster’s highest rated preschool offerings.

The first season of Bo has been sold to Rai Sat, and season two has gone to the Disney Channel in Spain. MNET/KTV in South Africa and TG4 have snagged TV rights for both seasons, and Prava I Prevodi has acquired home video and broadcast rights for both seasons for Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. These deals follow on the heels of a recent sale of both seasons to France 5, Cartoon Network (India, Taiwan and the Philippines), DIGITURK JOJO (Channel 66), Al Jazeera Children’s Channel (Arab speaking version), Finland’s YLE and KidsTalkTalk in Korea.

Bo on the GO! is produced in CG using motion capture technology. The show follows the adventures of Bo, a positive, energetic and inquisitive young heroine, and her young friend Dezadore dragon. ‘Dezzy’ encourages children at home to go on amazing adventures by actively joining in a variety of movements that assist the pair on their weekly quest.

DECODE Ent. represents all television and home video rights to Bo on the GO!, as well as other Halifax Film preschool properties including POKO. Halifax Film is a production subsidiary of DHX Media.





More Dinosaur King Stomping to MIP

4Kids Ent. will offer 26 new half-hour episodes of the hit animated action show Dinosaur King at MIPCOM 2008. A video game, a trading card game and an extensive toy line based on the series are also expected to roll out in the Spring 2009.

Based on the internationally successful arcade and collectable card game from Sega, Dinosaur King employs a mix of 2D and 3D animation to chronicle the adventures of Max, Rex and Zoe (a.k.a. the “D Team”) as they race around the world to uncover secrets that bring dinosaurs back to life. They are able to transport themselves anywhere in the world in their quest to find all the dinosaur cards that have been lost by the time-traveling Dr. Z and his bumbling team of bad guys.

The series airs Saturday mornings in the 4KidsTV block on FOX. Other broadcast partners include Mediaset in Italy, RTL2 in Germany, France 3 and Canal J in France, TV2 in Denmark, TV4 in Sweden, MTV 3 in Finland, TVI in Portugal, LNK in Lithuania, Neljas in Estonia, Jetix in the U.K., Scandinavia, Spain and Latin America, MNET in South Africa and YTV in Canada. New markets expected to close at MIPCOM include Ireland, Australia and a number of central European countries.

Shout! Factory and 4Kids Ent. recently signed an agreement to bring Dinosaur King to home entertainment. The multi-year deal makes Shout! the exclusive home entertainment distributor for the title in the U.S. Multiple DVD releases of the show’s initial 49 half-hour episodes will begin rolling out to retailers later this year.





WALL•E Desktop Available from Hyperdesk

Hyperdesk has debuted its Wall•E Hypersuite, a package that allows kids and fans of all ages to customize their computers with a Windows theme, custom icons, dynamic widgets and other features based on the latest hit animated feature from Disney and Pixar.

The WALL•E Hypersuite features two stylized hyperthemes featuring WALL•E and EVE (and two variant editions), two sets of desktop icons, wallpapers featuring scenes from the movie and new artwork, a Windows Media Player 11 video skin for each style, and a hybrid audio remote widget that controls both iTunes and Windows Media Player 11. In addition, the WALL•E Windows XP desktop theme from The Skins Factory brings more of the movie’s fun to Windows XP desktops.

The package is now available for $14.95 at www.Hyperdesk.com. Users will need to download the free Yahoo! Widgets application to use the audio remote.





Pixar once again opens its doors for the Cartoon Art Museum's annual benefit

Ever dream of going over the WALL-E in Emeryville? The crew at the Cartoon Art Museum can make your dream come true

It's that time of year again, folks. That rarified moment when Willy Wonka allows a lucky few to enter the Wonka Works ... er ... I mean when John Lasseter opens the gates in Emeryville, allowing a limited number of people to come visit Pixar Animation Studios.

Mind you, you won't need a Golden Ticket to gain entrance to the Pixar campus. But you will need to pony up some dough.

You see, the folks at Pixar only allow the public into their studio once a year because they're huge fans of the Cartoon Art Museum. Which is the only museum in the western United States dedicated to the celebration of all forms of cartoons and comics. Which is why -- for five years running now -- Pixar has held a benefit at their Emeryville campus for this San Francisco-based operation.











Copyright Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

And this year's event -- which will be held on Saturday, October 11th -- promises to be a particularly fun evening. The festivities will start with a reception inside of Pixar's cavernous lobby area, from which the guests will then be able to explore the studio's 2nd floor gallery space. Which will be filled with pre-production artwork from "WALL-E" as well as other fine artworks created by Pixar employees.

From there, event attendees will then be escorted into the Emeryville campus' state-of-the-art 235-seat theater. Where they will then hear stories from Pixar insiders, gain insight into this award-winning animation studio's unique movie-making process as well as get a glimpse behind-the-scenes at the making of "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles," "Ratatouille" and "WALL-E." After this presentation, the guests will then get the chance to chat with some of the presenters. Which will include Jeremy Lasky, the director of photography on the highly anticipated "Toy Story 3."

The festivities officially kick off at 5:30 p.m. with the serving of wine & hors d'oeuvres in the lobby and art exhibition area. The presentation in the main theater will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m. and will include a peek at Pixar's next short. Afterwards, guests will be invited back into the lobby to enjoy dessert & coffee as well as quiz various studio insiders who will be taking part in this event.











Copyright Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Sounds like a great way to spend an evening, don't you think. Now comes the hard part: Tickets for Pixar's 5th annual benefit for the Cartoon Art Museum are $200 per person (Though CMA members can purchase their tickets for the somewhat reduced rate of $150 per person). The Museum has also set aside a certain number of tickets for larger groups. Though those reserved-rows-of-ten are going for $2,000 apiece.

Which I know sounds like an awfully large amount of dough. But trust me, folks. This money is all going to a very good cause. The Cartoon Art Museum regularly presents all sort of stunning Disney-related shows (Take -- for example -- last year's great "The Art and Flair of Mary Blair" exhibit). More to the point, when you buy a ticket to this event, you actually get to wander around inside Pixar. Which is a pretty thrilling place for any animation fan to visit.

Having had the chance to explore the Emeryville campus once myself, I can truthfully tell you that this is one opportunity that you really don't want to miss out on. And given that tickets to this annual Cartoon Art Museum benefit typically sell out very quickly ... You don't to dither around here.

So if you're interested in attending this year's open house at Pixar Animation Studios, call 415-227-8666, ext. 300 today. You can thank me later.





Official Artwork And Details For New "Superman Doomsday" DVD And Blu-Ray

Warner Home Video has provided The World's Finest with the artwork and first official details on the upcoming Superman Doomsday: Special Edition release on both DVD and Blu-ray.

Warner Home Video has released official details on the new DVD and Blu-ray Superman Doomsday: Two-Disc Special Edition release, set to hit shelves November 25th, 2008. The new release will feature the following exclusive bonus materials, as seen below.

-All-New Featurette "When Heroes Die: The Making of Superman: Doomsday"
-Audio Commentary from the
Superman Doomsday creative team
-All-New Featurette "The Clash of the Juggernauts"
-4 Bonus Episodes of Superman: The Animated Series (hand picked favorites by animation legend Bruce Timm)
-"Requiem and Rebirth: Superman Lives!"
-Superman: Doomsday 'Behind The Voices' Featurette
-Justice League: New Frontier Featurette
-Wonder Woman Sneak Peak Featurette


Warner Home Video has also released the cover art and a promotional flyer for the new Superman Doomsday release, both of which can be seen below.






























Superman Doomsday: Two-Disc Special Edition will hit shelves November 25th, 2008. Stay tuned for further updates.





Bill Morrison on "Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror" Comics

Comicon.com's PULSE News has interviewed Bongo Comics' Bill Morrison about this year's Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror comic book outing, which will include contributions from creators such as Gilbert Hernandez, Steve Niles, and Glenn Fabry. Morrison discusses some past Treehouse of Horror issues, and also goes into some details about this year's contributions, which include a Simpsonized version of 30 Days of Night by Niles and Fabry and a parody of the popular anime and manga series Death Note.





Amazon.com is Selling "Family Guy: The Total World Domination Collection"

Tvshowsondvd.com reports that the same Family Guy - Freakin' Sweet Party Pack collection will be in a special collection called Family Guy: The Total World Domination Collection.

The special collection will contain all 22 discs featuring every Family Guy DVD released (so far), including Family Guy Presents: Stewie Griffin - The Untold Story, and the Star Wars Spoof "Blue Harvest". Also in the set is volume 1 of American Dad. The speical collection is packaged in the shape of Stewie's head. Now here's the catch, folks. This special set will not contain the ping pong and poker set, and secondly; this box set will be sold exclusively on Amazon.com.

The box set will be out on October 21st, the same day as Family Guy: Volume 6 and the Family Guy - Freakin' Sweet Party Pack.

You can pre-order the limited Stewie head set here.





Newsarama Interviews Gary Hartle on Directing "Next Avengers"

Newsarama's Animated Shorts has interviewed Gary Hartle, director of the upcoming Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow direct-to-video movie. The new movie centers on the children of Marvel's iconic Avengers and the old threat that they must face down. Hartle discusses how he got the job to direct the DTV, how he approached several of the characters and the storyline, and the prospects of a second Next Avengers movie. The article contains spoilers for the movie.





'Avengers' assembling at new Toronto studio?

Hollywood North Report posted some photos from the ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of Toronto’s new, state-of-the-art, $60 million full-service production studio, Filmport,.

The site also reports that rumor are circulating that Marvel will shoot 'The Avengers' at the new facility. No source or additional information is given.





Should Superman Go Dark? We Ask Kevin Smith, Jeph Loeb And Other Comic Creators

Last week, Warner Bros. announced that they would be making some major changes with their film franchises based on the rampant success of “The Dark Knight.” However, despite mentions of “Batman 3” and the possibility of at least two new franchises starting up, the one topic that seems to be on everyone’s minds is “Superman,” and how Warner Bros. not only plans to reboot the franchise after the disappointing box office from “Superman Returns,” but to give the film a much darker tone and feel.

Immediately, fan reaction ran the gamut of those who were thrilled to hear about a “Dark Knight”-influenced Superman to those who equate a meaner, nastier Superman as sacrilege. And these reactions certainly weren’t limited to the fan-fueled message boards — comic book writers and artists were also quick to voice their opinions on the new directive.

“”How stupid is that?” exclaimed “Hellboy” and “Buffy” writer Christopher Golden. “That announcement made my head spin. ‘Iron Man’ isn’t dark. ‘Iron Man’ worked because Favreau brought in all the best Iron Man creators and had them read the script and asked them, ‘Tell me what we did wrong?’ — and it worked because it had all the best things about Iron Man boiled down into the best movie they could make. ‘The Dark Knight’ was really good because it had all the best things about ‘Batman’ boiled down into the best movie they could make. Making a dark and gritty Superman movie because Dark Knight made a ton of money is incredibly stupid.”

While he wasn’t as direct as Golden, fan-favorite writer/director Kevin Smith also had reservations on a newer, darker Man of Steel. “You always have to always keep Superman very distinct from Batman,” he related. “Batman can be brooding and bleak and dark but Superman — if you want to take a realistic approach to him that’s fine, but I don’t think you can turn him into an angry character. Superman is about the hope in people, the good in people, whereas Batman is about the more driven, hungry for justice angry side of us. [So] I don’t know if doing a dark Superman is the approach, but I’m all for a reboot.”

“Superman, the character, inspires hope, as opposed to Batman, who inspires fear,” elaborated Jeph Loeb, who added that his “Superman for All Seasons” (which he created with frequent collaborator Tim Sale) could be a proper approach for a possible revamp of the franchise. ‘Superman For All Seasons’ is about Clark Kent trying to deal with the fact that he has this incredible power and responsibility, and that was an interesting concept to me. And one of the other things that I find interesting is that he’s set out to perform a job that will never finish, a never-ending battle. Is that dark? I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, Steven T. Seagle — who’s groundbreaking graphic novel “It’s a Bird…” took a unique look at Superman through the eyes of a comic book writer — feels that Superman has been a “dark” character all along. “Heroic struggles are basically all dark in tone. The idea of ‘villains’ implies something bad happening to good people most of the time, and that’s dark. Heroes look brighter emerging from dire consequence successfully,” said Seagle.

Longtime DC Comics scribe Mark Waid tended to agree with that assessment. “I [focused] on the part where they’ll make the films as dark as the characters allow us to go,” he said. “Hopefully they realize that Superman is not a dark character, but that doesn’t mean the story can’t be darker or more threatening. What makes Superman hard to write in the 21st century is that he’s a creature of hope and he lives in a brighter, more optimistic world than, say, Batman.”

However, Seagle seemed to sum up the announcement best with a point both sides of the argument could agree on. “‘Dark?’ ‘Light?’ Whatever. ‘Good’ is the main thing we’re looking for when we plunk down our ten bucks.”





News via Latino Review...
Exclusive: We Know Who Is Directing Voltron!!


So last week we got the official word that VOLTRON was put into turnaround, that Relativity picked it up to make it on the cheap, ala 300, and that a director was going to be announced within a week.

Well, guess what?

Here he is…

MAX MAKOWSKI

“Huh? Who the f*@! is that?!” you just said? So did I.

Folks know that I’m very fond of Voltron. It’s a script I like very much regardless of THE ROAD post apocalyptic inspired creative license that some folks have issues with. My 25 year old diesel Voltron/Lionbot toy that I got in Chinatown back in the day, is on my desk looking right at me. I got all 5 tins of the re-mastered cartoon on dvd. It’s also worth mentioning that the two-volume GOLION dvd (the original 1981Voltron Japanese anime) was released recently and worth a look. I’m also checking out the origin story comic that Josh Blaylock got going on over at Devil’s Due.

Voltron fanboyness aside, sources tell me he's actually a great choice. I honestly hope so and I at least give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I’m told he's on every studio's hot list these days because of some Sundance movie he made a few years ago about warring assassins called ONE LAST DANCE. Anybody seen it or can get me a copy? Email me. mayimbe@latinoreview.com I was also told it's like having Zach Snyder do 300. Max is supposed to have a great visual style that's very specific and all his own.

We shall see.










Here is a little bio…

Max Makowski was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil but has lived all over the world in countries such as England, the Philippines, Peru, Bahrain, the U.S.A, Germany, Cuba, and Hong Kong where he became a director, producer, writer, editor, and cameraman for Salon Films as well as CNBC and NBC Asia - where he also produced the TODAY SHOW for the Asian market. Max's credits include the movies The Pigeon Egg Strategy (premiered at The Sundance Film Festival in 1998), One Last Dance (premiered at The Sundance Film Festival in 2006 and went on to Cannes), and television series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (2003) and The Agency (2005). He is also working on writing and directing a Universal film based on the Japanese movie Shinobi, a Studio Canal film based on Le Professionnel, and he has rewritten the screenplay for the bigscreen version of Hawaii Five-O. Max also will direct the bigscreen adaptation of the 1970s TV series Kung Fu which revolved around a Shaolin monk forced to flee to the Wild West, where he used his martial arts skills to fend off various evildoers.

All I know is that he better not 'f' it up because the jury is still out. Directing five diva style mavens on QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT is way different than directing five robot lion pilots. Different set of egos.

I’m just the messenger folks.

So there you have it, the secret of VOLTRON is now in the hands of Makowski.





Mr. Beaks Rolls Out An Interview With Optimus Prime Himself, Peter Cullen!

Though Michael Bay didn't exactly go out of his way to placate the TransFans during the production of the first TRANSFORMERS, he did make one very wise concession: he brought back the inimitable Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime. Regardless of what Bay and his team did to the design of the character (I had no qualms with any of their alterations), it would've been wrong to hear anything but Cullen's baritone rumbling forth from the leader of the Autobots.

I didn't get to chat with Cullen prior to the theatrical release of TRANSFORMERS last year, so it's nice to catch up with the veteran voice actor as he makes the press rounds in support of the Blu-ray (which hits shelves on September 2nd). Cullen's got a reputation as one of the nicer guys you'll ever interview, and he certainly lived up to it as he spoke warmly and enthusiastically of the fans' tireless support, the enduring appeal of the animated show, and what we might be able to expect from the second film. Though Cullen's enjoyed a long, successful career as a voice actor (stretching back to his days as an the announcer on THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR), he's especially proud of his work as Optimus Prime. The fans are lucky to have a class act like Cullen.


Here's the MVP of the TRANSFORMERS universe...

Beaks: The fans played a huge part in getting you in the film. Are you still sensing an appreciation from them now that the film has been made?

Peter Cullen:
Oh, absolutely! To tell you the truth, Jeremy, I was knocked out by it. It gave me a whole new perspective on the work that we all did. I tried to let that fan base know that I was extremely grateful for their lobbying efforts, and that I didn't want to disappoint them or have them be disappointed in any way.

Beaks: It's very rare that a voice actor gets to feel that kind of connection with their audience. You do your work in relative isolation, and it goes out into the world, and you know it connects with people in one way or another. But this is kind of unprecedented.

Cullen:
It took me by surprise, I must admit. Of the conventions that I have been to, the amount of people is another surprise; to think that anyone can muster that from the voiceover world... it's strange and wonderful.

Beaks: Have you ever had a moment where you're... I don't know, ordering a coffee or something, and someone recognizes your voice?

Cullen:
No, not really. (Laughs) But I have had serious reactions from some people who've been told in my company, "Oh, he does Optimus Prime." They'll do a double-take, and, and because I know what's taking place, I'll immediately respond (in Optimus's voice), "Cool it!"

Beaks: (Laughing) That's great.

Cullen:
I'll give them a look, and say (as Optimus again), "Calm down! Not here! Not now!" And they'll go, "Oh, my god! That's so great!" That is a real gift. If you can receive anything in your life that's bigger than that, I couldn't conceive it. That kind of feeling that you get from people appreciating something you've done is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Beaks: As a working voice actor, I can't imagine that you know, one show to the next, whether your work is going to make a deep imprint in the popular culture. Was there any inkling when you took on the role of Optimus Prime that this character was going to leave a deeper groove than the others?

Cullen:
I think so. When I saw the character breakdown, I said, "This is indeed a real hero. This is not like any hero we've ever seen before." He penetrated different zones. There was a sense of him. He wasn't just muscle and strength. He went beyond that. There was dignity and courage, and a soft spoken honor and integrity about him. Very well written. So to apply those traits... they weren't necessarily implicated in the script; I just did an impression of my brother Larry, who served in the Marine Corps, and lowered the voice. I think we nailed it. The scripts were wonderfully written, and there was so much to absorb in a half-hour. Don't forget, Jeremy, that was how many years ago? 1984? '85? Gee whiz, I was just a child! (Laughs)

Beaks: I was in grade school at the time. Transformers hit right at the right time for me. The toys and the cartoon came out when I was in fourth grade, and the animated movie was released in the summer of '86. That was right before I entered junior high, so it was the perfect sendoff. You couldn't have toys or be watching cartoons like that in 7th grade.

Cullen:
In this day and age, with the electronic stuff you can get off of DVDs and the internet. And now the Blu-ray. Have you heard about that?

Beaks: Oh, yeah.

Cullen:
Oh, yeah! I went down and saw it, and it's incredible. You don't have to buy toys anymore. Just buy the Blu-ray, and there's about a hundred toys right there on your screen.

Beaks: I think about all of the options that kids have available to them now. If I would've had some bells-and-whistles Blu-ray when I was twelve, I probably would've never left the house.

Cullen:
It's huge.

Beaks: And the Blu-ray is only going to stoke more anticipation for TRANSFORMERS 2, which is shooting right now. Have you had the opportunity to visit the set, see any footage or chat with Michael Bay?

Cullen:
I've had one work day with Michael. We did the opening. But I didn't have the opportunity to see any real footage - until I was leaving. I hate to use the word over and over "knocked out", but I was stopped in my tracks. "Whoa! Can I see that again!?!?" It's going to be huge.

Beaks: Just when you thought they couldn't top the spectacle of the first movie?

Cullen:
No question. He's excited, too. Bay is really excited. He's animated. He's such a creative guy and a perfectionist. He's got a high energy level that's really cool.

Beaks: He gets a bit like a little kid when he's working.

Cullen:
You can see his brain working. What goes on in that head of his is indescribable. (Laughs) He's amazing.

Beaks: How much of a connection have you been able to form with the human actors? Now that the first film was a hit and you know you'll be making more, have you had the opportunity to interact with Shia or Megan?

Cullen:
Nope. None of the above. I have not met anyone. I know Charlie Adler [the voice of Starscream], but aside from the voiceover people... I didn't even meet Hugo Weaving. I admired his work, but... I haven't had an opportunity to be with the real actors. During this year, I'm sure there will be a time where I'll be able to go to the studio and see some of that. I'm looking forward to that.

Beaks: It's amusing how you can go from the epitome of a strong leader in Optimus Prime to doing the voice of Eeyore. That's a compliment to your range as an actor, I would say.

Cullen:
(Laughs) Well, thank god they're in the same vocal area. I just apply the baritone. Eeyore requires a lot more air; he's actually deeper in another way. It's a chest resonance more than anything else. He never yells, and he doesn't laugh. Neither one of them laughs. Optimus doesn't laugh. They chuckle, but they don't laugh.

Beaks: But I watching TRANSFORMERS over the weekend on HBO, and I was noticing how you subtly changed your vocal performance from the cartoon. You gave Optimus a little more lightness. We get to see a funnier side.

Cullen:
Right. I think you'll see more of that. His relationship with humans demands that he be more human. When he's one-on-one with Sam or the other characters, there's an opportunity for more humor and sensitivity, not just stone-cold metal. Coming into that human element... it's different; it's a little challenging because you have to be more conversational without stepping out of his character or losing any of his ingredients. We'll see more of that, I think. I don't want to speculate, but it seems to be going that way.

Beaks: Well, I don't need Michael Bay's ninjas breaking my windows again, so let's not talk about things that we're not supposed to talk about.

And there ya have it! You'll be able to show off your home theater setup with the Blu-ray of TRANSFORMERS starting September 2nd.





Next Avengers: Concept Art Gallery

Marvel.com have posted a gallery of concept art from the upcoming 'Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow'.

Check out this sampling of early designs, some of which are radically different from what ended up on the DVD, or view the entire gallery.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

News - 08/28/08...

Ollie Johnston: In Remembrance

Animation World Network now sports a collection of remembrances by many in the animation industry (including Don Hahn, Glen Keane, Gene Deitch, Chuck Williams, Chris Wedge, John Lasseter, and Jeffrey Katzenberg) of recently passed Disney animator Ollie Johnston.





Mass Animation Project Pays








Some happy news to report today. The Mass Animation project that we mentioned here last week released a new set of details today on their Facebook page. Notably among those details is that every artist whose work is used for the short will be compensated financially. Granted that the project is still structured like a contest and there’s a chance that the work you create won’t be used in the film (hence no compensation), but at least the artists whose work wins approval will receive something for their effort. Exploring new production models based on online collaboration is a worthy cause as long as it’s not done on the backs of artists, and I’m glad that we can now show some support behind a contest like Mass Animation.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)





Barbie vs. Bratz Victory for Mattel

For nearly two years now, Mattel and MGA Ent. have been locked in a heated battle over copyright infringement claims filed by the maker of the iconic Barbie line of toys and animated features. A jury has finally ruled in favor of Mattel, though the damages to be paid are still unclear. Reports of $100 million came in yesterday, but MGA claims that Mattel was only awarded $20 million in the ruling. Barbie sales have reportedly dipped 15% since the Bratz came onto the scene.

MGA said that the jury made its award pursuant to a variety of legal claims, each based on the same damages theory, and subject to the court's instruction not to be concerned about duplicative damages. The company behind the Bratz dolls also pointed out that, during the trial, Mattel even conceded that the damages it sought were overlapping and duplicative.

MGA intends to appeal any amount of awarded damages. Still, the company’s leadership is relieved that the battle is nearing an end.

“We are pleased to have this trial behind us,” says MGA Ent. CEO Isaac Larian. “We can now concentrate all of our energies on what we do best—providing dolls and other toys that are the consumers’ first choice.”

Headquartered in Van Nuys, California, MGA manufactures toys, games, consumer electronics, home d├ęcor, stationery, sporting goods and other consumer products based on Bratz and other properties including Yummi-land, Storytime Collection, Rescue Pets, Miuchiz and Little Tikes. It also oversees production on an animated Bratz series and a number of direct-to-video Bratz toon features, which are now being distributed by Lionsgate. Lionsgate has also released a live-action Bratz feature film, and recently picked up MGA’s Little Tykes for North American distribution and initially plans to release four animated movies on home video this fall. More information on MGA is available at www.mgae.com.





Charlie Brown Elected to DVD

Obama and McCain aren’t the only candidates hitting the campaign trail this fall. Charles Schulz’ iconic comic-strip creation is out to snag consumer’ votes as the classic animated televsision special You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown hits retail with a re-mastered, deluxe edition slated to debut on Oct. 7. The Warner Home Video release will feature new extras, including the brand-new bonus episode He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown.

In You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown, Charlie wants to be student body president, but polling information gathered by Lucy doesn’t look good for his chances. He decides instead to back Linus, who runs on a pro-recess, anti-homework platform. He’s looking like a shoo-in, until he starts talking about the Great Pumpkin.

Included on the disc is a behind-the-scenes featurette titled The Polls Don’t Lie: The Making of You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown. The feature offers viewers an in-depth look at the eighth Peanuts television special, and explores the political leanings (or lack thereof) of its producers as they set out to create a politically-themed piece within the realm of Peanuts. The DVD will carry a suggested retail price of $19.98.

The Peanuts Characters will also be active in the real presidential campaign with “It’s Time to Vote, Charlie Brown,” the property’s first partnership with Rock the Vote. The program allows fans to cat their ballots in an online Peanuts election at www.peanutsrocksthevote.com, and aims to encourage young people to register to vote in the actual 2008 presidential election using Rock the Vote’s custom online voter registration tools.






Imira to Debut Myo & Ga at Cartoon Forum

Spainish producer and distributor Imira Ent. will introduce its quirky new 3D animated comedy series, Myo & Ga, at this year’s edition of Cartoon Forum. Aimed at kids six and up, the show is a co-production with Korea’s VOOZ Character Systems, creator of the Pucca property, and leading Korean animation channel Tooniverse.

Set in the animal kingdom, the series of 78 seven-minute-long episodes is packed with slapstick comedy and martial arts action. Myo & Ga are heroes whose quest is to track down the mysterious Dragon Pearl of Wong and save the natural world from destruction. The trouble is, Myo’s a rabbit, Ga is a turtle, their best friend is a chicken, and they have no idea where to start! The show features manga-inspired animation, Matrix-style fight sequences and video game sound effects.

Imira has a history of collaborating with Korean companies. In addition to selling various shows to broadcasters in the region, the company currently distributes several Korean-produced series such as the Iconix-produced Pororo in Spain.

Cartoon Forum is an annual confab designed to support the co-production, financing and distribution of European animation for television and new media platforms. This year’s event will take place Sept. 16-19 in Ludwigsburg, Germany. Produtions from all over Europe will be competing for the Cartoon d’Or awards, supported by the EU MEDIA Programme.






Gnomes and Trolls Invade Europe

Gnomes and Trolls: The Secret Chamber, a new animated children’s movie from Swedish production company Whiteshark Films, is building an audience across Europe and other parts of the world. According to Daily Variety, the English-language fantasy feature has sold to 69 countries.

Directed by Robert Rhodin and produced by Rhodin and Carl Johan Merner, Gnomes and Trolls: The Secret Chamber is an action-adventure comedic fairy tale in which a teenage gnome named Junior wants nothing more than to invent gizmos and gadgets in his tree-house laboratory. However, Junior’s father, Jalle, the head gnome of the forest, would prefer his son to follow in his footsteps and one day be in charge of his own forest. On the eve of the first winter storm, Junior helps Jalle distribute food rations to the soon-to-be-hibernating animals. At the same time, troll brothers Face and Slim hatch their evil father’s plan to steal the food from the gnome secret food chamber. It’s up to Junior and his best friend, Sneaky, a paranoid neurotic crow, to journey to the depths of the troll cave and retrieve the stolen food.

The movie premiered over the weekend at the Norwegian Film Festival in Haugesund. Sales are being handled by NonStop Sales, which has reportedly sold the film to distributors in Latin and South America, the whole Middle East and several Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Iran. The film has yet to sell to the U.S., the U.K., France, Italy and Germany, which are major targets in NonStop’s strategy. Buyers will be able to catch a screening at the American Film Market (AFM) in Santa Monica, Calif. this November. A television version will also debut at MIPCOM in Cannes in October.

Gnomes and Trolls is the first animated feature from Whiteshark. Junior the gnome will return in Gnomes and Trolls II: The Forest Trial, a sequel currently in the works. Whiteshark is also developing an animated fantasy titled Astrid Silverlock. Watch the trailer for Gnomes and Trolls at www.gnomesandtrolls.com.





Sleeping Beauty Returns to Hollywood

The El Capitan theater in Hollywood is bringing back the Disney animated classic Sleeping Beauty for a special 50th anniversary limited engagement running Aug. 28 through Sept. 18. The screenings is being held in conjunction with the Oct. 7 DVD and Blu-ray special edition re-release of the family favorite.

Hosted by award-winning veteran Disney producer Don Hahn (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King), the film’s opening night screening will take place at 7 p.m. on the 28th. The film will be preceded by a filmmakers’ panel that will include Mary Costa (voice of Princess Aurora), animator/Disney Legend Blaine Gibson, background artist Frank Armitage, acclaimed Hollywood journalist/author Bob Thomas (Walt Disney The Art of Animation), and renowned Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter.





"Sweet Blackberry Presents" up for Humanitas Prize

"Sweet Blackberry Presents," a set of two HBO specials, is among the nominees in the children's animation category for this year's Humanitas Prize.

Through animation and a wide variety of music, the Sweet Blackberry Presents specials tell lesser-known stories about historical African-Americans in order to promote the culture and give children new heroes to identify with. A group of children listen to the stories as told by Alfre Woodard and Queen Latifah.

Other nominees for children's animation are the TV series My Friends Tigger & Pooh and Toddworld.

Recent Humanitas winners in the category include Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends, Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks and Little Bill.

Founded in 1974, the Humanitas Prize is an annual screenwriter's award presented by the Human Family Educational and Cultural Institute in Los Angeles to "stories that affirm the dignity of the human person, probe the meaning of life and enlighten the use of human freedom." The winners are given both a trophy and a cash award. This year, $115,000 in prize money is being handed out, including $25,000 in the children's animation category.

Humanitas' annual luncheon is moving this year from the Hilton Universal to the Beverly Hills Hotel for its September 17 awards celebration.

The writers of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Juno and Lars and the Real Girl have been named finalists in the feature film category.

In the 60-minute television category, episodes from Boston Legal, John Adams and The Wire are the nominees.

Finalists in the 90-minute category are Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Charlie & Me, A Life Interrupted and Pictures of Hollis Woods. In the 30-minute category, the finalists are The Bill Engvall Show, In Treatment and Scrubs.

Other finalists are Johnny Kapahala, Minutemen and Sheira & Loli's Dittydoodle Works in the children's live action category, and Henry Poole Is Here, A Raisin in the Sun and The Visitor in the Sundance feature film category.





"Waltz With Bashir" screens at Atlantic Film Fest

Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman's animated documentary "Waltz With Bashir," acclaimed as this year's "Persepolis," will be screened as part of the 27th Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Full details of the festival, which runs from September 11 to 22, were announced Wednesday, when tickets first went on sale. There will be a slate of 254 films, including 70 from Atlantic Canada.

Shown as part of the Special Presentations series, the Israeli-German co-production Waltz With Bashir will be shown at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, September 18 at the Oxford Theatre.

Examining events around the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, particularly the infamous massacres at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps, Waltz With Bashir merges the fluidity of memory with shifting animation techniques to question the nature of history. Beginning with a story told to him by a friend who dreams of 26 dogs, Folman -- who was a 20-year-old Israeli defence fighter at the time of the war -- weaves interviews with combat survivors into discussions with some of Beirut' citizens who are involved in the war, piecing together a viable picture of just one of the conflicts that divided the Middle East through the last quarter of the 20th century.

Two separate but parallel tales are intertwined in director Nina Paley's Sita Sings The Blues, a dazzling and hypnotic independent animated film from the United States, to be shown at 9:20 p.m. Wednesday, September 17 at the Empire 8 Park Lane - 8.

Paley employs a bold range of animation styles in the retelling of the traditional Indian national legend Ramayana, alongside the modern tale of a wife who is dumped by her husband via e-mail.

In the film, we follow Sita's amazingly epic historical quest for love and understanding in a colorful and vibrant India, against the mundane modern travails of a couple in crisis, with each story commenting on and complementing the other in unexpected and profound ways.

With a soundtrack that merges electronic and Indian music with songs sung by Annette Hanshaw, a lascivious singing star in the 1920s, this is a truly original vision that will leave you stunned.

Also at the Empire 8 Park Lane - 8, Oscar-winning independent animator and cult favourite Bill Plympton is back with a new feature film.

Arguably his most provocative work to date (which is really saying something), Idiots & Angels is the tale of a boorish businessman who awakens one day to find angel wings growing out of his back. Taken aback by this development, he embarks on a quest to remove them. And much to his chagrin, they are not only cumbersome but actually compel him to perform good deeds.

Along the way, we meet an eccentric cast of shadowy characters in this dialogue-less romp through the recesses of society. Dark, daring and realized in his trademark style, this is another amazing animation that you will not want to miss.

Idiots & Angels screens at 7 p.m. Friday, September 12.

The Atlantic Film Festival has a pair of 90-minute "Frame X Frame" showcases for animated short films. Both will take place Saturday, September 15 at the Empire 8 Park Lane - 7.

Program One, set for 7:05 p.m., offers After School Midnight, B-Boy Bomb Breaking, Dragon, Madame Tutli-Putli, No Room For Gerold, Flighty, Fetch, I Met The Walrus, Paper, Pib and Pog: Peter’s Room, Rocket Science!, The Pearce Sisters, Stop Talking and Ujbaz Izbeneki Has Lost His Soul.

Program Two, scheduled for 9:25 p.m., includes Ark, Good Luck Counting Sheep, Habitat, Shuteye Hotel, Sleeping Betty, The Runt, Doxology, everything will be ok, Golden Cage, Posters, The White Wolf, Tunnel Vision and Usavich.

For ticket information and reservations, visit atlantic.bside.com/2008.





Bolt: Storyboard vs. CG
















AICN recently posted the above two images as part of a preview of Disney’s Bolt. So, as I understand the animation process at Disney, here is how you translate a board drawing into a final CG film frame:

1. Remove all the funny shapes in the character design and turn the character into a nondescript blob.

2. Take out any asymmetry (like the angles on the arms) and even out the pose.

3. Tone down the funny expressions.

4. Just in case there is any appeal still left in the CG model, add flat lighting and excessive texturing so the characters and background mesh into an indistinguishable dark muck.

5. Repeat this process until you have blown $150 million dollars.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)





Briefly: India Needs 'Toon Pre-Production; Rall Animated; NYAF Tix Outlets

* The Financial Express states that the Indian animation industry needs to develop a strong pre-production plan to recover from a recent downturn as hundreds of animators have been left unemployed as studios are shutting down or shifting their business focus.

* Editorial cartoonist Ted Rall will be joining several of his colleagues in producing animated versions of his editorial cartoons, with the first to be posted "in a week or two." [Editor & Publisher]

* The New York Anime Festival has released a list of New York City area retailers who will be selling tickets to this year's festival. Friday tickets are $35, Saturday tickets are $40, Sunday tickets are $35, and Weekend tickets for all three days are $55. [Press Release]





2-Disc Edition of "Superman: Doomsday" Coming to DVD

Tvshowsondvd.com reports that Warner Bros. will release a special 2-disc edition of the hit DC Universe movie Superman: Doomsday on November 25, 2008.

Disc one of the set will contain the film starring Adam Baldwin as Superman, James Marsters as Lex Luthor, and Anne Heche as Lois Lane. The second disc will contain bonus features including 4 episodes of Superman: The Animated Series hand-picked by producer Bruce W. Timm.





NY Times: Disney to Deploy Animated Icons to Sell Blu-ray; 5 Titles Over 2 Years

The New York Times is reporting that Disney will be releasing five "Platinum Editions" of their movies in Blu-ray format over the next 2 years as part of a push to accelerate adoption of the new, high-definition video format. The five titles named were Pinocchio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Fantasia 2000, and Beauty and the Beast. They will join Sleeping Beauty, which will be released on Blu-ray in October this year, and Pixar's first short films collection, Cars, and Ratatouille. The upcoming titles will incorporate the new BD Live technology, which lets viewers interact with others watching the movie at the same time.

In a related story, details are emerging for the upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release of Pixar's WALL-E, scheduled for release on November 18, 2008.





Newsarama Interviews Brooke Burgess on "I Am Legend" and "Hellboy 2" Animated Shorts

Newsarama's Animated Shorts column has interviewed animator Brooke Burgess, who made enough of a splash with his Broken Saints web animation to get a DVD release from Fox. The interview covers how Broken Saints led to his work on four animated short films on the I Am Legend DVD and the Hellboy 2 feature film. An additional Hellboy 2 animated sequence will be included on the DVD, and Burgess also detailed his involvement with a Batman: Black & White animation project.





Korea Times Interviews Pixar's Ralph Eggleston and Andrew Pienaar

The Korea Times has interviewed Pixar's Ralph Eggleston (production director) and Andrew Pienaar (technical director), who were in South Korea to deliver lectures in conjunction with a Pixar exhibition on display at the Seoul Arts Center through September 7, 2008. The pair discuss the working environment at Pixar Animation Studios, noting that it's the Pixar staff that makes the movies as successful as they are, and about the way the pair deal with the stresses of working at the studio.






New Images From Upcoming "Wolverine And The X-Men" Animated Series

Marvel Animation Age has received two new images from the upcoming Wolverine and The X-Men animated series.

To get a closer look at the images, click on the thumbnails below.















Wolverine and The X-Men is scheduled to premiere on the Nicktoons Network in early 2009. The series will debut in Canada, on the Canadian channel YTV, at 7pm (ET) on September 6th, 2008.





Industry Reactions to Superman Reboot News

In light of the recent announcement from Warner Bros. that the Superman film franchise would be "reintroduced", the Superman Homepage contacted various Superman related identities to get their reaction to the news.

Greg Rucka (writer at DC Comics) said, "Hmm...well, yeah, I think a reboot is a good idea at this point. While there are elements of Returns that I thought worked quite well, the film utterly failed, in my opinion, to demonstrate why Superman is, frankly, the best of the best. And there's the tiny little problem I have with making any kind of Superman movie that you can't bring an 8 year old to see, let alone a 10 year old. Batman? Sure, PG-13 all the way. But Superman, especially as a film, needs to be something that both kids and adults can enjoy -- in many ways, it goes to the core of the character, his universality. So I don't think a reboot is a bad idea -- as long as we don't end up with a take on the material that has Kal getting his power from a special suit, or that turns Doomsday into his long-lost brother."

As for whether Rucka could see himself writing the script for the next Superman movie, "Oh hell yeah! Will it happen? I can't imagine it. But damn, I'd be there in a micro-second, no question."

Jack O'Halloran, who starred as Non in "Superman: The Movie" and "Superman II", says the decision to reboot comes down to money. "Warner's weren't happy with the returns on Superman Returns." As for who he'd like to replace Bryan Singer if the director decides not to continue on with the Man of Steel, O'Halloran says, "I hope if they are rebooting Superman they hand the reins to Richard Donner. It would be the salvation of the series. Dick has such a passion for the series, the fan base would finally get what they have been waiting for someone with the passion to light up the screen."

Comic book writer Mark Waid told SaveSuperman.com that he thought the reboot was necessary but that he has reservations. "I think it's a good idea - though the idea of making Superman "darker" chills me to the bone. Still, what Batman Begins did for Batman gives me confidence. I have enormous respect for Singer, for Routh, and for all the people involved with Returns, I really do - and I'm sorry the sound bites picked up for the MTV piece didn't really reflect that - but as much as I loved Returns, and I really did, I grudgingly accept that the general audience thought of it as a misstep and that a reboot is probably necessary."





Virgin Comics shutters NY office, heads for Hollywood

Variety reports that the shutdown of Virgin Comics' New York offices is less a sign of the company going out of business and more about reorganizing as a Hollywood idea farm.

The comics company produced a number of high-quality books with high-profile creators since its inception a few years back. However, in spite of being inseminated with funds from Richard Branson's media empire, Virgin (like so many publishers before them) found the comics industry to be a rocky place where their seeds could find no purchase.

In spite of the books being non-starters with comics buyers, they did manage to create partnerships with Hollywood players like John Woo, Jenna Jameson, Ed Burns, Jonathan Mostow, Guy Ritchie and fan-fave Nicolas Cage. Several such properties have been optioned as movies.

As such, the company is said to be restructuring and will likely open offices in L.A. to quicken the pace of conversion of their comics into film.

Announced film projects include SCI FI Channels 'The Stranded', Guy Ritchie's 'The Gamekeeper', Hugh Jackman's 'Nowhere Man', Ed Burns' 'Dock Walloper', 'Secrets of the Seven Sounds', 'The Leaves', 'The Sadhu', 'Virulents' and 'The Megas' to name a few.





Downey Jr. and Fey Voicing MasterMind?

Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) and Tina Fey ("30 Rock") are in negotiations to voice characters in DreamWorks Animation's MasterMind, scheduled for a November 5, 2010 release.

Produced by Ben Stiller's production company, Red Hour Films, the film is a satirical send-up of the superhero genre, built around the story of a super villain who must find a new motivation after accidentally killing his archrival, Uberman, in the opening scene of the movie.

MasterMind is based on a script from Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons and will be directed by DreamWorks Animation veterans Cameron Hood and Kyle Jefferson.





Will Christopher Nolan Do a Third Batman?

While the internet is going crazy with casting rumors that aren't true for Christopher Nolan's possible third Batman movie, the director himself is on vacation as The Dark Knight approaches $500 million domestically.

The Hollywood Reporter has published an interesting article about the film's marketing and the deaths of both Heath Ledger and Conway Wickliffe before the film's release. The piece ends with a bit on the third installment.

And Warners and Legendary are both interested in doing a third in the series, but all involved say it will be up to Nolan to come to them with a story and a plan.

"There are a lot of us who emotionally would love to do it," Roven says. "But it's really Chris' call. Chris is the kind of filmmaker who just doesn't think about the next movie before he has completely finished the movie he is working on."

For now, Nolan is taking a well-earned vacation.

Says Roven, "When he comes back, we will see how he feels."


We will be waiting patiently...





Employment and Employment Distribution

The employment stats above (also the ones below the break) tell a complex tale. Work in theatrical feature animation has been large and growing. Television employment? Welll ... not so much. That side of the biz has been smaller, and shrinking, even as overall totals have been growing ...

Since January every large feature studio -- Disney, DreamWorks, and IM Digital up in San Rafael -- have added to staff. (The exceptions are Imagi, which has no changes in staff size, and Sony Pictures Animation, now going through a rough patch as it replaces executives and sheds artists lining up its ducks about SPA's next animated feature. Which looks, as of this writing, like it will be Cloudy with Meatballs.)

Now take a look at "Employment Per Studio: January 2008 -- August 2008." You'll note that most television animation facilities endured declines in staff sizes. Film Roman and Nick had the largest job reductions, and Universal the smallest, but five out of seven teevee 'toon studios shrank rather than expanded.

So artists who've complained about how slow the television wing of animation is, have some basis for their gripes. There's work out in the small-screen marketplace, but it ain't getting bigger, certainly not at the moment. I keep hearing rumors that new shows are in the pipeline, but outside of The Cleveland Show at Fox Animation, I couldn't tell you what they are. (Cartoon Network is greenlighting a number of shorts, and hopefully some of these will generate new series, but we're months away from that possibility.)

The good news is: Union employment is pretty robust, and it's been growing. The bad new is, the growth is uneven.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)





Spielberg And Tintin Still Going To Happen

From the trades comes nail biting Tintin news:

Although Brussels' Herge Studios seems to think otherwise, Steven Spielberg remains committed to directing the first in a planned "Tintin" trilogy for DreamWorks. It will be his next directing effort after this summer's $780 million-worldwide-grossing "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

Herge Studios, which holds the rights to the iconic comic strip character, said Tuesday via a spokesman that Peter Jackson was moving into the director's chair for the first film. But both Jackson's and Spielberg's camps say that Jackson in fact remains attached to direct the sequel, though he will still be a producer on the first.

In the meantime, Jackson will finish postproduction on "The Lovely Bones" for DreamWorks/Paramount before moving on to co-write the two "Hobbit" movies for New Line and MGM.

The first "Tintin" feature will be based on two of the books, "The Secret of the Unicorn" and "Red Rackham's Treasure," written by Tintin creator Herge between 1942 and 1944.

The film, scripted by "Doctor Who" writer Stephen Moffat, will be animated with motion-capture technology and star 18-year-old Thomas Sangster as Tintin and Andy Serkis as his friend Captain Haddock.

I had a lot of the comic books growing up, but not once did I ever hope a movie would be made out of them. Is anyone else excited about a Tintin series of films?





Dragonball Trailer Coming in October

ComingSoon.net has learned that 20th Century Fox will debut the first trailer for Dragonball in theaters on October 17 with the studio's video game adaptation Max Payne, starring Mark Wahlberg. We'll have to wait and see whether Fox will release the trailer online earlier that week.

Opening on April 10, Dragonball is written/directed by James Wong and stars Justin Chatwin, James Marsters, Jamie Chung, Emmy Rossum, Eriko Tamura, Joon Park, Chow Yun-Fat, Texas Battle, Randall Duk Kim and Ernie Hudson.

Dragonball is adapted from the manga created by Akira Toriyama. It was also turned into a Japanese anime series that played all over the world.





CNE Lines Up Softlines: 'Ben 10: Alien Force' & 'Bakugan'

Enterprising Animation

Cartoon Network Enterprises (CNE), capitalizing on their previous business partnerships with apparel manufacturers for their ever growing property Ben 10: Alien Force, has successfully inked a series of soft-line product collections for the action and adventure television animation. Although the cable network has previously worked with designers and manufacturers of shirts and shoes, boards and bikes to promote Ben 10 a few years ago, Cartoon Network Enterprises has recently made it a priority to transition its marketplace relationship to meet the needs of older brother series Ben 10: Alien Force.

In related news, CNE has also successfully inked soft-line deals for Bakugan, a fantasy-adventure animated television series currently supplemented by a toyline from Spin Master, Ltd. Just as the new agreements made for Ben 10: Alien Force number a half-dozen, the agreements for Bakugan up to five (the two properties do share a few partners in select product categories). Soft-lines, often consisting of branded apparel such as t-shirts and long sleeves, also include accessories and footwear.


The launch date for new clothing items from each of the properties is this Fall season, with more merchandise making its way to retailers by the time the holiday season rolls around. The final touches on each of the clothing and merchandise lines should be made by Spring 2009. Of the branding agreements for which
Ben 10: Alien Force and Bakugan share: C-Life, in charge of sunglasses and various swim accessories for Ben 10: Alien Force, and with board shorts and rash guards for Bakugan
; and Accessory Innovations, singing on with Cartoon Network Enterprises to help supply headwear for Ben 10: Alien Force, and a series of nifty messenger bags, backpacks, and lunch bags for Bakugan.

"Ben 10: Alien Force has been a must-watch show for boys since its launch earlier this year and the overall Ben 10 franchise continues to evolve into an evergreen brand, both on-air and on-shelf," Christina Miller, Vice President of Consumer Products, Cartoon Network Enterprises, stated. "As we look to the fall and into 2009, we're excited to continue to work with such strong partners in key softlines categories to introduce a wide range of products that will continue to expand the brand."

Other items on tap for fans of the alien force include apparel from Freeze (t-shirts), SG Footwear (shoes, sneakers, boots, slippers), and AME (sleepwear). Naturally, Bandai America, Inc. continues to produce a large and complex toyline based on the action animation, as indicated over the past few months. With the anticipated launch of a videogame based on Ben 10: Alien Force this coming Fall from D3Publishers, the expansion of the Ben Tennyson series, after only a few months' time, seems never-ending.

Also making its way across all tiers of retail in the near future are other Bakugan-specific deals. CNE has taken on the role of establishing more and more brand representatives for animated productions created outside of Cartoon Network over the past few months, Bakugan being one of them. Soft-lines for this series, which airs weekdays on the network in the mornings, also include a number of shirts and collectibles.

"With the incredible buzz that has surrounded Bakugan since it launched on-air and on-shelf in the U.S., we moved very quickly to sign on key partners that were able to get high quality products to market at a speed that could meet the high demand," Miller commented on the priority of the series. "With this first round of partners, have created a great softlines program that will help expand the brand's presence at retail and continue its incredible momentum."

Hybrid Tees has come on board for t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, and sweatshirts that will feature the characters and images kids familiar with the series will certainly recognize. In time for kids dreading the back-to-school frenzy, Jazwares, a south Florida product development group, has singed on to help create Bakugan-themed novelty stationary.

on Cartoon Network Enterprises: Cartoon Network Enterprises (CNE), the global branding and merchandising arm of Cartoon Network, is charged with building consumer product franchises for Cartoon Network, its brands and characters from the channel's growing library of award-winning original programming. CNE also works to secure and support long-term licensee partnerships across all key merchandising categories.





Briefly: LaFontaine in Critical Condition; Miyazaki Interview; NYAF Hosts Iron Chef

* Famed voice-over performer Don LaFontaine is reported in critical condition, with a blood clot lodged in his lung.

* Nausicaa.net has posted a translated excerpt of an interview with Hayao Miyazaki which was published in the Japanese magazine CUT.

* The NY Anime Festival will host Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto as a Guest of Honor at this year's festival from September 26-28 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. [Press Release]





Vote for the Top New Canadian Animators at TELETOON.com

Canada's TELETOON.com has posted the finalists for the 2008 TELETOON Animation Scholarship, where Canada's finest up-and-coming animators compete for cash prizes and a chance to have their short screened at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Voting is open at the TELETOON web site until September 15, 2008.

For more details, read the press release here.





'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' Trailer on DVD?

The Australian Classification Board have approved a 2 minute video for 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' for an upcoming DVD. The site does not specify the nature or content of the footage, nor what DVD it may be released on, but we can presume it'll run on an upcoming Fox Home Video release.

Perhaps a new 'X-Men' trilogy boxed set is coming?





Friends, Romans, Yellow Family








The morning was spent at Starz Media, where most artists (as previously stated) are back at their Cintiqs and/or light-boards...

In the King of the Hill section of the building, a staffer was happy to be back after the hiatus and optimistic that there could be more than one more season of Hill:

"We're a fairly lean and mean show here compared to The Simpsons. The King of the Hill actors are a whole lot cheaper than the other group, and the audience base is okay. I'm hoping we'll be around awhile."

Speaking of The Simpsons, the question I had for a Wise Old Veteran in the Yellow Family sector was, "How long is Fox going to keep The Simpsons on the air? One season? More than one season? What?" And the answer ...

"We tie the Gunsmoke record for number of seasons this year. I think Fox wants to break that record so we'll go another year. But I think we'll go more than that, because we're all getting Cintiqs and they want to amortize the costs for those over three years..."

Which would indicate to me, math major that I am, that The Simpsons is going to be around two seasons beyond this one.

As for more Simpsons features, Rupert doesn't hire stupid execs. So they won't miss the opportunity commission a couple more Yellow Family feature-length cash cows.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)