Friday, August 1, 2008

News - 08/01/08...

New Up character images, concept art

Several images of characters and sets from Up can be viewed at The Pixar Blog. A new piece of concept art can also be seen on the site, which depicts the film’s protagonists dragging a floating house through a dense jungle. Up hits theaters on May 29, 2009.

Titanic's Been Unsinkable...Until Dark Knight?

Ten years after sailing off with $600.8 million, Titanic remains the top-grossing movie of all-time, a title which, up until The Dark Knight onslaught, hasn't been seriously challenged.


Statistically speaking, says Jeffrey Simonoff, borrowing a famous line from screenwriter William Goldman, "Nobody knows."

"Many people have noted if the stock market is a high-risk market, the movies is far riskier," says Simonoff, professor of statistics at New York University's Stern School of Business.

Huge opening weekends and great buzz certainly increase a movie's odds of making lots and lots of money, but beyond that, Simonoff argues, it's all guesswork.

"What Titanic had was the amazing word of mouth that just kept growing and growing," Simonoff says. "[But] it wasn't like after the second weekend people could say this is going to be the No. 1 movie for the next three months."

Actually, Titanic was the No. 1 movie at the weekend box office for about three-and-a-half months, or 15 weeks, the second-longest run in the top spot after E.T., which logged 16 weeks there in 1982.

To Vicki Kunkel, author of upcoming Instant Appeal: The 8 Primal Factors That Create Blockbuster Success, movies that play on and on and on, like Titanic, are the cinematic equivalent of potato chips—one viewing is not enough.

"Titanic pretty much had all the elements that light up the endorphins on the brain," says Kunkel. "Anything that makes us feel good is addictive."

If all blockbuster movies contain like elements, Kunkel points out, then Titanic had all the right elements, including a love story (see: Leonardo DiCaprio's Jack and Kate Winslet's Rose), a self-sacrificing heroine (see: Rose spurn her rich fiancé, Billy Zane's Cal, for poor Jack) and a clear-cut battle between good and bad (see: Jack take on Cal).

Kunkel finds a couple of these key elements, especially the conflict between good and evil, at play in The Dark Knight. She doesn't, however, foresee another bag of potato chips. Or, more precisely, a bigger bag of potato chips.

"We relate more to real people than we do to superheroes," Kunkel says. "And that's when the real addictiveness happens, when we have a deep primal connection."

Christopher Sharrett, professor of communications and film studies at Seton Hall University, thinks there could be a different kind of connection going on between the seriously dark Dark Knight and today's moviegoers.

"It's ripped out of the headlines," Sharrett says. "It's something that appeals to a cynicism of the population."

More than that, Sharrett thinks the untimely death of Heath Ledger, so prominent in The Dark Knight as iconic villain The Joker, is the film's X factor—the something different that, as he sees it, distinguishes the superhero-action movie from all the other recent superhero-action movies.

But does that add up to The Dark Knight moving from $400 million, its certain next stop, all the way to Titanic's $600 million neighborhood?

"For what it's worth," Simonoff says, "I would certainly say it wouldn't be surprising given the way things look like now."

Then again, he says, it wouldn't be surprising if it fell $100 million short.

Says Simonoff: "You can never know for sure."

Up until its release, after all, Titanic was considered a $200 million gamble. Until it paid off. And off. And off.

Raimi and Disney Developing Transplants

Walt Disney Pictures has picked up The Transplants, an action-adventure pitch from screenwriters Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson for Sam Raimi ("Spider-Man" films) to produce via the Stars Road Entertainment production company he runs with partner Josh Donen.

The Hollywood Reporter says the parties are keeping a tight lid on the high-concept project, though it is described as a "four-quadrant ensemble superhero story with a comedic bent".

Epstein and Jacobson, best known for Not Another Teen Movie, were planning to execute their idea via a comic book, but Disney executive Kristin Burr was so keen on it that the company pre-emptively picked up "Transplants."

Sony Eyeing Spider-Man Spinoff

Sony is moving forward with Venom, a potential "Spider-Man" spinoff, says The Hollywood Reporter.

The trade says the studio is developing the project, based on the villain who appeared in Spider-Man 3 and is hoping the character could serve as an antidote to the aging "Spider-Man" franchise in the way that Fox has used Wolverine to add longevity to its "X-Men" franchise.

The studio had commissioned a draft of the script from Jacob Estes (Mean Creek), but the studio is considering going in a different direction from Estes' script and is seeking writers for a new draft.

Casting also is no simple matter. Topher Grace played the character in the film, but agents have been eyeing the role for their clients, as Sony is not yet convinced the actor can carry a tentpole picture.

The Hollywood Reporter adds that neither Sony nor Marvel would comment for the story.

Sony is also still developing a fourth "Spider-Man" film for 2011.

Empire Watches The Watchmen

Empire Online is debuting two new covers featuring characters from the Watchmen movie as well as three new photos.

The Zack Snyder-directed graphic novel adaptation stars Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Matthew Goode, Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Carla Gugino, Stephen McHattie and Matt Frewer.

News : Casting Call for Shyamalan's newie

If any of you don't have what it takes to play freaky mutated Children of the Corn kids, maybe you've got what it takes to play a tyke in the new M. Night Shywhateverhisf'innameis's new film "The Last Airbender"?

[ AANG ]
12-15 years-old, Male, Caucasian or any other ethnicity. We are looking for a young man to play the lead role in a motion picture franchise. He must be athletic and graceful with an ability in Martial Arts (not necessarily extensive experience, but at least an aptitude for it). Kids with experience in gymnastics, dance, or sports could also be good. He is a young adventurer and should seem like the type of young man who will grow up to be heroic.

14-17 years-old, Female, Caucasian or any other ethnicity. She is Sokka's younger sister. She is a headstrong and determined girl with a real sense of idealism. She believes in herself and feels that she can play on the same team as the boys. She is beautiful, intelligent, passionate, feisty, and has a real sense of adventure.

16-20 years-old, Male, Caucasian or any other ethnicity. He is Katara¹s older brother. He is intelligent but awkward, and very funny (although not necessarily intentionally so). He aspires to greatness, but he tends to doubt himself. He is always one to be swayed by a pretty girl.

[ ZUKO ]
16-20 years-old, Male, Caucasian or any other ethnicity. He is a brooding, intense young man who wrestles - not always successfully - with being good. Regaining his honor is a driving impetus for him. He is extremely handsome and is the type of dangerous boy every girl falls in love with. Athletic and/or martial arts experience is a plus.

Star Wars Revisits Clone War

Catherine Winder, producer of the upcoming animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie, told SCI FI Wire that the movie tells a story that fits between the events of Episodes II and III.

"It's something that [Star Wars creator] George [Lucas] has been thinking about for many, many years, and, as you know, he's a real storyteller, and he had lots of ideas and stories that he wanted to tell during this time frame between Episodes II and III," Winder said in a group interview at Comic-Con International over the weekend. "And he didn't have the time to do it before, working on all the other movies, so finally he decided that this was the time."

The Clone Wars centers on the Jedi Knights as they struggle to maintain order and restore peace. Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan learner Ahsoka Tano find themselves on a mission with far-reaching consequences, one that brings them face-to-face with crime lord Jabba the Hutt. But Count Dooku and his sinister agents, including the nefarious Asajj Ventress, will stop at nothing to ensure that Anakin and Ahsoka fail at their quest. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda lead the massive clone army in a valiant effort to resist the forces of the dark side.

Lucas had at one point said he was finished making Star Wars movies. But that changed, Winder said. "He was ready to tell the stories," she said. "And it's amazing how he can just start riffing on some of these characters that you may have only seen for a brief moment in one of the live-action films. And all of the stuff that will come out from him. He just knows this inside and out."

And for fans who worry that the computer-animated film will retread familiar territory, Winder said, "it's not just about the Clone Wars as much as it's personal stories. It's dramatic, and there's comedy. ... It's all kinds of stories mixed into one, which is what Star Wars is all about. And the characters that [the writers] wanted to delve into exist at that point in the Star Wars universe and galaxy." Star Wars: The Clone Wars is slated to open Aug. 15.

How Has LaBeouf's Injury Affected Transformers?

Variety reports that Shia LaBeouf's hand injury--from a car accident that led to the actor's arrest Sunday for DUI (he was not the guilty party in the accident itself, however)--has thrown a monkey wrench into the production schedule for DreamWorks/Paramount's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

LeBeouf is recovering from hand surgery and will return to the set within a month. While there will be no work stoppage, rescheduling has proven to be a logistical headache. Scenes featuring co-star Josh Duhamel had to be moved to this week to work around LaBeouf's absence.

The project reportedly lost two days of filming because of the accident.

From the Animation Guild Blog:


At last night's membership meeting, we discussed that as more and more of us find ourselves working at minimum scale (or less), it's important for members to know what the union minimum is for their category -- yes, even if they're making overscale. Three weeks ago, I posted about our CBA minimums that are going up effective this coming Sunday.

A number of years ago, I was privy to a discussion with a member who was bragging that he was the highest-paid animator at Miracle Pictures* -- why, he was making $1,000 per week! Whereupon Bud Hester informed the fellow that the journey minimum for animators at Miracle Pictures was over $1,000, and had been for the past year-and-a-half.

It seems he had negotiated his overscale rate several years previously, when he may well have been the highest-paid at his studio. But his rate had stayed the same while the minimums had gone up. (We filed a grievance, and the employer coughed up the back monies.)

Another example: for a number of years now, the going rate for half-hour TV scripts (inclusive of outline and teleplay) has been $6,500. When that standard was set, the Guild minimum was much less. But a year ago the minimum passed $6,500, and as of next week it's $6,766.67. We've filed (and won) grievances over writers paid less than the half-hour minimum.

Of course, Guild employers are supposed to make sure no one is making less than minimum scale, but (intentionally or otherwise) they often don't until they're reminded. And remember, the Guild doesn't get reports of the amount of people's weekly checks. So it's up to us to police our own rates.

Bottom line: the employers can't be reminded unless we do the reminding. If you don't know your minimum rate, check the previous post or contact me at the Guild.

'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' footage back online

Trailer Addict and Malgal3000 have posted the X-Men Origins: Wolverine footage shown during Comic-Con here.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa full trailer

Movie-list has posted links to the full trailer for Dreamworks’ upcoming feature Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, the film opens on November 7, 2008.

Briefly: Classic Nick on iTunes; Dentsu's Big American Adventure

* Nickelodeon has added several of their classic shows to the Apple iTunes Store, including Rugrats, Rocko's Modern Life, Aaahhh! Real Monsters, and The Wild Thornberries. [Broadcasting and Cable]

* Japanese advertising giant Dentsu has launched an American division, DCI Los Angeles, and is seeking partners to develop new series starting with Deltora Quest, a series already airing on TV Tokyo. [World Screen]

Monsters, Inc. sequel in the works?

MTVMoviesBlog reports that in an interview to MTV, director Pete Docter hinted at the possibility for a sequel to Pixar’s hit Monsters, Inc. UpcomingPixar’s take on the story can be found here.

Princess and the Frog Teaser Online

Disney will see if traditional animation can draw a crowd when it releases The Princess and the Frog, a 2D family film from Walt Disney Feature Animation that could mark the triumphant return of hand-drawn musicals next year. The movie is slated to hit theaters during the 2009 holiday frame. A sneak peek at the classical goodness can now be seen on the web here...

Set in New Orleans, The Princess and the Frog will introduce the newest Disney princess, a young African-American girl living in the French Quarter. The story also involves a soulful singing crocodile, voodoo spells and lots of Cajun charm. Dreamgirls actress Anika Noni Rose voices the role of Princess Tiana, and the movie’s songs and score are written by Oscar-winning songwriter/composer and New Orleans native Randy Newman, who previously contributed to the Toy Story Films and fellow Pixar hits A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc. and Cars.

The story for Princess was conceived by John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules), who are directing the pic. Disney animation vet Peter Del Vecho (Chicken Little) is producing.

Wonder Pets! Musicians Get Contract

The American Federation of Musicians, Local 802, has reached an agreement with Little Airplane Prods., producers of the Emmy-winning animated preschool series The Wonder Pets! Earlier this week, the union filed unfair labor charges against the production company when it replaced musicians who demanded a union contract.

The Wonder Pets! musicians will now enjoy the benefits and protections of a union contract. The agreement also extends to Hootenanny, the company that engages the musicians for The Wonder Pets!

“The AFM, Local 802 is satisfied with the agreement and we look forward to moving ahead,” says Mary Landolfi, president of AFM, Local 802.

Josh Selig, president of Little Airplane Prods., comments, “We are pleased to put this issue behind us and we look forward to continuing to do what we do best – making great pre-school television with the most talented and most creative artists in the business.”

According to the union, the musicians employed by Little Airplane requested last summer in writing that their employer negotiate a contract with the union. A negotiation session was held on May 14 at Local 802 headquarters on West 48th Street to clarify a number of economic proposals currently on the table. The musicians, members of the American Federation of Musicians, say they were then replaced without notice. Local 802 planned to file further charges if Little Airplane didn’t return to the negotiating table.

VES to Fete Kennedy, Marshall

After honoring such household names as James Cameron, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in past years, the Visual Effects Society (VES) will bestow its 2009 lifetime achievement award upon producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall of The Kennedy/Marshall Co. The two began their professional collaboration in 1981 with Raiders of the Lost Ark and produced the three Indiana Jones sequels. Marshall is credited with producing more than fifty films, and Kennedy’s credits include the blockbusters E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park and The Sixth Sense.

“Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall have set the gold standard for storytelling by combining true creative artistry along with the latest advances in technology to bring their stories to the screen,” says VES exec director Eric Roth. “Over the past few decades they’ve proven to be great collaborators with both above- and below-the-line talent which has shone a bright light on the incredible uses of visual effects to not only tell a story more creatively, but also to have a more positive impact on the all important bottom line.”

“We have always valued the work of visual effects artists, and those whose creativity continually develops new ways to push the boundaries of possibility,” Kennedy remarks. “We are grateful to be recognized as contributors to this process”.

Founded in 1992, The Kennedy/Marshall Co. has produced such successful films such as Seabiscuit and the Bourne Trilogy. Their films have garnered dozens of Academy Award nominations, including six nods for The Sixth Sense and seven for Seabiscuit. David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is their latest project. The film employs vfx technology to age star Brad Pitt to depict the character’s story over the course of a lifetime.

Kennedy and Marshall are in good company as VES honorees. In addition to Cameron, Lucas and Spielberg, past recipients have included vfx guru Dennis Muren and Oscar-wining filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (Beowulf, The Polar Express, Forrest Gump).

The seventh annual VES Awards will be presented at the Century Plaza Hotel in Beverly Hills on Saturday, Feb. 21. The annual event honors the most outstanding visual effects in film, television, commercials and video games. This year’s edition is expected to attract more than 800 celebrities, visual effects and animation artists and other members of the film, television and games industries.

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