Monday, August 4, 2008

News - 08/04/08...

Buffy Cartoon Presentation Online!

Oodles after it was first pitched to the network, Joss Whedon's four-minute tease for a potential "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" cartoon series has finally hit the InterWebs.

I'm not sure who has uploaded it, and whether or not Mr Whedon even agrees to it being 'out there' (can't see what it's going to hurt, myself), so be quick - just in case Lenny Legal squishes the potentially illegal link by morning.

For what it's worth, this would've been a fun toon!

Dark Knight Leaves The Mummy "In-2-mbed"

It was touch and go for a day or so, but according to estimates, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) has won the weekend, narrowly defeating the third installment of the "Mummy" franchise, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Universal) starring Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello.

Racking up its third weekend at #1,
The Dark Knight added an estimated $43.8 million to its staggering $395 million take after just seventeen days, putting it in line to cross the $400 million mark tomorrow, the first movie to ever make that amount in just 18 days. (Shrek 2 was previously the fastest movie to hit $400 million, which it grossed in 43 days, so Dark Knight did the same two and a half times faster.) Currently, The Dark Knight is the eighth highest grossing movie of all time and Warner Bros' top grossing movie, but by this time next weekend, it's likely to be the fifth or sixth highest grossing movie domestically as it starts targeting Star Wars: Episode I and E. T.: The Extraterrestrial. From there, it's only $70 million away from becoming only the second movie in over 80 years of filmmaking to gross $500 million domestically, not accounting for inflation.

Directed by new helmer Rob Cohen,
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor brought in an estimated $42.5 million in its opening weekend in 3,759 theaters, an average of $11,300 per site. To put those numbers in perspective, the third "Mummy" movie grossed less its opening weekend than the original movie in 1999, while The Dark Knight made more in its THIRD weekend than Tim Burton's Batman made its opening weekend 19 years ago.

The Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly comedy
Step Brothers (Sony) dropped 47% in its second weekend to bring in $16.3 million for third place with a gross of $63 million after ten days.

Universal Pictures' musical
Mamma Mia!, starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, continues to do well, making $13.1 million in its third weekend, an insignificant drop of 26%, to bring its total to $88 million over a production budget of $52 million.

Brendan Fraser's other big budget action/FX movie
Journey to the Center of the Earth (New Line/Warner Bros.) dropped to fifth place with $6.9 million and a four-week gross of $73 million, putting it ahead of Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which it opened against three weeks prior.

Kevin Costner's political comedy
Swing Vote (Touchstone Pictures) failed to find Costner's regular audience, opening in sixth place with an estimated $6.3 million in 2,213 theatres, an average of just $2,847 per location. It is Costner's weakest opening since The Postman over ten years ago. (Costner's romantic comedy Rumor Has It
with Jennifer Aniston opened on Christmas Sunday, giving it a single day opening weekend.)

On the other hand, Disney/Pixar's WALL•E crossed the $200 million mark in its sixth weekend in theaters, adding another $4.5 million as it dropped one notch to eighth place. At #7, Will Smith's superhero flick Hancock brought in $5.2 million taking its own gross to $216 million.

The sequel The X-Files: I Want to Believe (20th Century Fox) plummeted 66%, dropping from #4 to #9 in its second weekend after an unimpressive opening gross. The Top 10 was rounded off by 20th Century Fox's animated movie Space Chimps with $2.8 million bringing its total to $22.1 million.

Bakshi at Comic Con

The Asifa-Hollywood Animation Archive posted this nice clip of Ralph Bakshi advising animators from the San Diego Comic Con last week.

(thanks cartoonbrew)

Monday Movie Buzz: Bale's Batman voice too much?

Though "The Dark Knight" has been a bona fide cultural event, boasting rave reviews and boffo box office, it hasn't been immune to criticism. Some have quibbled with its political undercurrents, and others have criticized a muddled theme.

But here's the critique most widely held: Why does Batman talk like the offspring of Clint Eastwood and a grizzly bear?

Donning the costume for the second time, Christian Bale has delved deeper into the lower registers. As Bruce Wayne, his voice is as smooth as his finely pressed suits. But once he puts the cape on, the transformation of his vocal chords is just as dramatic as his costume change.

Particularly when his rage boils over, Bale's Batman growls in an almost beastly fashion, reflecting how close he teeters between do-gooder and vengeance-crazed crusader.

"The Dark Knight" hauled in $43.8 million to rank as Hollywood's top movie for the third straight weekend, fending off "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," which opened a close second with $42.5 million. It has earned $394.9 million in just 17 days, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Though much of the voice effect is Bale's own doing, under the guidance of director Christopher Nolan and supervising sound editor Richard King, the frequency of his Batman voice was modulated to exaggerate the effect.

Critics and fans have noticed.

"His Batman rasps his lines in a voice that's deeper and hammier than ever," said NPR's David Edelstein.

The New Yorker's David Denby praised the urgency of Bale's Batman, but lamented that he "delivers his lines in a hoarse voice with an unvarying inflection."

Reviewing the film for MSNBC, Alonso Duralde wrote that Bale's Batman in "Batman Begins" "sounded absurdly deep, like a 10-year-old putting on an `adult' voice to make prank phone calls. This time, Bale affects an eerie rasp, somewhat akin to Brenda Vaccaro doing a Miles Davis impression."

Before the similes run too far afield, it's worth considering where the concept of a throaty Batman comes from.

In his portrayal on the `60s "Batman" TV series, Adam West didn't alter his voice between Bruce Wayne and Batman. Decades later when Tim Burton brought "Batman" to the big screen in a much darker incarnation, Michael Keaton's inflection was notably — but not considerably — different from one to the other.

But it was a lesser-known actor who, a few years after Burton's film, made perhaps the most distinct imprint on Batman's voice. Kevin Conroy, as the voice of the animated Batman in various projects from 1992's "Batman: The Animated Series" right up until this year's "Batman: Gotham Knight," brought a darker, raspier vocalization to Batman.

Conroy has inhabited the role longer than anyone else and though animated voice-over work doesn't have the same cachet as feature film acting, there are quarters where Conroy is viewed as the best Batman of them all — certainly superior to Val Kilmer or George Clooney.

The animated series are notable because they drew on the DC Comics of Batman as envisioned by Frank Miller, whose work heavily informs "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." (Bale and Nolan were unavailable to comment for this story.)

As Batman has gotten darker, his voice has gotten deeper. As some critics suggest, Bale and "The Dark Knight" may have reached a threshold, at least audibly.

Newport Beach Film Festival Animation Showcase 2008

This coming Thursday night, August 7 at 8:00pm, the Newport Beach Film Festival will be holding its annual Animation Showcase at the Orange County Museum of Art. This program will feature “a unique collection of short animated films, including hand-drawn and computer-generated works created by cutting-edge and traditional animators from around the globe” shown throughout the regular run of the festival this past April.

All-new Live-Action 'Scooby Doo' Prequel Movie coming to Cartoon Network, DVD

Cartoon Network and Warner premiere have announced they will begin production of Scooby-Doo: In The Beginning on August 4, 2008. The movie, a live-action production, will debut on CN in Fall 2009 along with a DVD release.

The movie is set before the two theatrically released live-action Scooby movies, Scooby Doo and Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, and takes places during the Mystery Inc. gang's time in high school.

Brian Levant (Are We There Yet?, Snow Dogs, Jingle All The Way) is set to direct, with Brian Gilbert (Wrong Turn, Skinwalkers, The Deaths of Ian Stone) producing and the Altiere Brothers (Dr. Dolittle Goin' Hollywood) writing.

The movie will star Rob Amell (
Life With Derek, Cheaper By The Dozen 2) as Freddy along with relative newcomers Kaitlyn Melton as Daphne, Hayley Alcroft as Velma and Nick Palatas as Shaggy. Scooby will be fully-CG and voiced by voice actor Frank Welker, the original voice of Freddy in Scooby Doo, Where Are You?

Troubled ex-WB voice actor Greg Burson dead at 59

Voice actor Greg Burson, once considered the "natural heir" to Hanna-Barbera roles created by Daws Butler, died July 22 at 59.

His death was attributed to complications due to diabetes and arteriosclerosis. However, "obviously, drinking had a lot to do with it," Mark Evanier, who directed Burson in three TV series, said Friday on his "News From Me" Web site.

The cartoon actor was once the main replacement voice of Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn, Pepe LePew and many of other characters voiced by Mel Blanc. He also voiced Mr. Magoo in cartoons after Jim Backus died. And after Butler's death in 1988, Burson provided the voices of Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss and Quick Draw McGraw.

Burson's career came to a total end following his May 2004 arrest after barricading himself for six hours inside his Tujunga, California home. Armed SWAT teams joined the standoff, which ended when an apparently drunk Burson surrendered.

Two women had called police claiming that he was holding his roommate against her will. All three women had been living with Burson.

Police later discovered a collection of guns in his home. The women were unharmed.

"He was so drunk, we couldn't tell if he was trying to do one of his voices or was just slurring his words," a police officer said at the time. Reportedly, he had been despondent over losing voice work.

Besides his series work, Burson did hundreds of "straight" announcing jobs in commercials, movie trailers and series promos.

"If I ever had the idea that drinking was something a person could just stop doing by choice, it was well-rebutted by watching him battle it," said Evanier. "It was a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle: He lost work because he drank... and that depressed him, so he drank more."

Once represented by the William Morris Agency, the Anaheim, California native voiced Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepe Le Pew and Cupid in Tiny Toon Adventures; Bugs Bunny in The Bugs n' Daffy Show; George Wilson in The All-New Dennis the Menace; Professor Edwin I. Relevant in Channel Umptee--3; and Boo-Boo in Yogi & Co.

Other TV work included Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd in Animaniacs; Barry the Baboon in Catdog; Attila in Mother Goose and Grimm; Huckleberry Hound, QuickDraw McGraw, Snagglepuss and Yogi Bear in Wake, Rattle & Roll; and Yogi Bear in Yo! Yogi. He also did voice work in the Tom and Jerry Kids Show.

In TV episodes, he voiced Mad Dog in "Shadow of the Bat: Parts 1 & 2" (
Batman: The Animated Series), Corbin and Sanderson in "Race against Danger" (The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest), Quick Draw McGraw in "Jack and the Clenches" (Samurai Jack
), and the judge and first otter in "SqOtters" (The Angry Beavers).

Burson provided voices for the animated programs
Droopy Master Detective, Fantastic Max, Garfield and Friends, Smurfs, SuperFriends, Taz-Mania and 2 Stupid Dogs. He did additional voices for Jonny Quest
and The Twisted Adventures of Felix the Cat, as well as the 1993 ABC movie I Yabba-Dabba Do!

In TV specials, Burson was the voice of Porky in
It's a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special (1992); Yogi Bear, the squirrel baby and the squirrel boy in A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith (1999); and Yogi Bear and Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights (1994). He was also in the voice cast of the 1989 TNT special Hanna-Barbera's 50th: A Yabba Dabba Doo Celebration.

Burson voiced Nemo's father and Flap in the 1990 movie
Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland and the moving man in Tom and Jerry: The Movie (1993). In the live-action Jurassic Park (1993), he provided the voice of Mr. DNA.

He provided the voices of Bugs Bunny, Pepe Le Pew as Louie, and Foghorn Leghorn as the radio dispatcher in
Carrotblanca (1995); Bugs Bunny in From Hare to Eternity (1996); Huckleberry Hound, Peter Perfect and Snagglepuss in Cartoon Survivor; of Elmer and Foghorn in the film Space Jam; Bugs Bunny as Jim Hawkins and Pepe Le Pew as Squire Trelawney in Treasure Island: A Looney Tunes Movie; Foghorn Leghorn and Barnyard Dawg in Looney Tunes: Stranger Than Fiction; and Foghorn in Looney Tunes: Reality Check

Burson once said of his cartoon characters: "Yogi came pretty quickly to me. But Bugs is much harder. To get Bugs right took me a year."

Manga cartoonist Fujio Akatsuka dies of pneumonia

Japanese cartoonist Fujio Akatsuka, whose successful comedy mangas were turned into several anime series, died of pneumonia Saturday at a Tokyo hospital, his family said. He was 72.

His first big hit, 1962's Osomatsu-kun manga in Shonen Sunday, was turned into an anime series (also known as Young Sextuplets) in 1966. Co-produced by Fujio Productions and Children's Corner, the TV series was called by the PTA "one of the worst programs ever made," which may have accounted for its great success with children.

In 1988, Studio Pierrot remade the series into 86 episodes. This soon gained a 20% audience rating, and was thus as popular as the original.

Akatsuka's 1967 gag manga Tensai Bakabon was adapted into a 1971 TV series that was also known as Genius Idiot Bakabon and Genius Bakabon. Shown after Star of the Giants in prime time, this TV series, which ran for 40 25-episode episodes, changed with heightened sponsor pressure, with Papa Bakabon getting a respectable job and new characters added to the small cast.

The series returned in 1975 with Original Idiot Bakabon, a name chosen by its creator to show that it corresponded more closely to the original manga. It consisted of 103 25-minute episodes. In 1990, a third series was released: Heisei-era Genius Idiot Bakabon, with a mostly all-new cast. Though still 25 minutes long, this ran for only 10 episodes. In 2000, there was a new version from Studio Pierrot, lasting for 88 10-minute episodes.

The cast of the series joined Akatsuka's other creations for the 1991 movie parody 3,000 Leagues in Search of Osomatsu's Curry, directed by Akira Saito. This satirized both From the Apennines to the Andes and Journey to the West.

Other manga were adapted into the TV series Môretsu atarô (1969) and Himitsu no Akko-chan (aka Akko's Secret; 1998).

Akatsuka co-wrote the 1978 feature Hoshi No Orpheus, produced by Sanrio Films' short-lived Hollywood animation studio, and variously also known as Metamorphoses, Metamorphoses/Winds Of Change, Star Of Orpheus and Orpheus Of The Stars. This film was originally planned in 70mm. It featured original pop music "starring musical performances by Joan Baez, Mick Jagger & The Rolling Stones, [and] The Pointer Sisters." However, the music rarely matched the images, and audience members were confused by the lack of dialogue accompanying the action. The hero in each story was also played by the same character, making some think that the movie was simply one long story.

Originally released in Los Angeles in May 1978, the film was withdrawn, then recut to 80 minutes with added narration by Peter Ustinov and music by a single composer, and released as Winds of Change.

Akatsuka was born in Manchuria -- then under Japanese rule -- on September 14, 1935. His family moved to Japan after Japan's surrender in the Second World War. He grew up in Niigata and Nara prefectures.

In 1956, he debuted as a cartoonist with Arashi wo Koete (Beyond the Storm). His humorous manga became major hits through the 1960s and 1970s.

He also created several popular catchphrases, such as "Shee" (the interjection for surprise) and the catch phrase "Kore de Ii Noda" ("This is all right").

After undergoing surgery for esophageal cancer in 1998, he continued to contribute to weekly comic magazines between his frequent hospitalizations. During one such stay in April 2002, he underwent an emergency operation after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.

Machiko, his wife since 1987, became his caregiver. She died in June 2006 after developing a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

A memorial service will be held at a date yet to be determined. Fujio Akatsuka's daughter Rieko will represent the family.

Yamato Revival Immanent

Anime News Network notes Space Battleship Yamato producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki announced that he will be attempting to revive the franchise. "Yamato Studio" has opened in Tokyo with the intension of animating a new entry in sci-fi epic, set in 2220. Previous Nishizaki-Yamato revival attempts were derailed by legal disputes with co-creator Leiji Matsumoto, which Nishizaki reports are resolved.

Nishizaki says the new Yamato project will be his last work, one which he hopes will "surpass director Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea." Nishizaki's 55-year-old son Shoji Nishizaki, 80-year-old veteran Yamato chief director Toshio Masuda, and 58-year-old chief animation director Tomonori Kogawa (Casshan: Robot Hunter, Densetsu Kyojin Ideon, Legend of the Galactic Heroes) will lead a staff of about 40 animators in the "Fukkatsu-hen" (Revival Chapter) project.

For more, see here.

Upcoming in Japan

Gunota relays that the cast for the second Gundam - MS IGLOO 2 CG animated series includes:

Ben Barberry - Masaki Terasoma (Kambei Shimada in Samurai 7)

Papa Sydney Lewis - Nobuyuki Hiyama (Shiro Amada in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, Muruta Azrael in Gundam SEED, Mr. 3 in One Piece, Viral in Gurren Lagann)

Michele Corematta - Hiroki Touchi (Abel Nightroad in Trinity Blood)

Kycilia Zabi (character only appearing in voice) - Mami Koyama (Kycilia Zabi in the orignal Gundam, Arale in Dr Slump, Kei in Akira, Talia Gladys in Gundam SEED Destiny)

The first MS IGLOO looked at the One Year War of the original Mobile Suit Gundam from the perspective or the earlier anime's anthology

Via Anime Nation
The sites for the Queen’s Blade and Battle Spirits ~ Shounen Toppa Bashin have gone online.

From Anime News Network
A new Death Note special, Death Note: Rewrite 2: L’s Successors, abridging the final 10 episodes of the anime, will air on NTV on August 22nd.

Martial arts harem comedy Asu no Yoichi! will be adapted into a televised anime series.

Triangle Heart eroge game spin-off Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha will in turn spin-off "Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 1st"

Hanten Okuma and artist Takafumi Adachi have produced a manga adapatation of Kung Fu Panda for Kerokero Ace.

The issue will also premiere sci-fi Slayers spin-off Slayers Light Magic.

Makoto Kobayashi (What's Michael? and Club 9), will launch a "true-story" manga next week about being a manga creator 25 years ago in Kodansha's Weekly Shonen Magazine.

Nitroplus and 5pb.'s Chaos;HEAd computer visual novel, psychological suspense story about a shut-in teen, willl be adapted into a TV anime that will air in Japan this fall.

Koji Matsumoto's supernatural horror manga Higanjima, Ryo Ryumon and Koji Megumi's hacker manga Bloody Monday and Shuji Abe's Elite Yankee Saburow teen dellinquent manga will be adapted into live action.


Gundam 00 Season 2
Via Majoria's News, Casshen-Sins
Linebarrels of Iron

Digitally Distributed Anime

Anime News Network notes Sci Fi Channel is episode one of Gurren Lagann on their anime site.

The first episodes are available on iTunes.

BONES anime Xam'd: Lost Memories was the number one downloaded title on the PlayStation Network's digital content in its premiere weekly. See the official PlayStation blog entry report here.

Worth Checking Out...

Ghibli World features English language coverage of
Extensive Talk With Miyazaki Hayao - Part 1
Part 2

Miyazaki Goro on layouts

Enrico Casarosa On The Totoro Forest Project

Right Stuf and Nozomi Entertainment have launched an official English language site for the recently released Maria Watches Over Us – Season 1 DVD Collection at Right stuf is also collection questions for an interview with the creator of Maria-sama ga Miteru, novelist Oyuki Konno.

Anime News Network spoke with the makers of Gurren Lagann

Alt Japan on Ghost in the Shell 2.0 Shellshock. Also on Lupin III's evolution and significance

Patrick Macias and Matt Alt in Hot Tears of Shame - Episode Twenty-Seven

Anime World Order posted their interview with veteran voice actor ADR director Richard Epcar

Ronald Kelts' piece SOFT POWER, HARD TRUTHS / From black-and-white to dark and gray, talking the root of Astro Boy in Gotham Knight

AniPages daily talks The Solo, "- the solo animator episode, where a single person draws all of the key animation for an entire TV episode."

Mamoru Oshii's English language message concerning The Sky Crawlers

Everything you every wanted to know about Galaxy Angel

"Lost In Translation: Anime, Moral Rights, And Market Failure" in the Boston University Law Review

Same Hat! Same Hat! looks at Vertical's Black Jack sampler

WSJ on Lucky Star tourism

MangaBlog previews the Yen+ anthology

Anime News Network has launched a forum for the New York Anime Festival

A video recording of Otaku USA's Anime Expo Panel

Resident Evil: Degeneration

Jamie Hewlett's (Tank Girl, Gorillaz) Monkey King interpretation for the Olympics

Special Features for "Avatar" Book 3 Boxed Set Revealed has box art for the Avatar: The Last Airbender Complete Book 3 Collection DVD boxed set. As with earlier releases, this collection will include a bonus DVD of special features, and the artwork reveals what they will be for Book 3:

Inside Sozin's Comet: Exclusive four-part audio commentary by creators
The Women of Avatar: The Last Airbender
Book 3 finale pencil test animation
Into the Fire Nation panel at San Diego Comic-Con

The boxed set will be released on September 16, 2008, while the fourth single-disc release was released last Tuesday.

New Gatchaman Concept Art

Imagi Animation's creative director Felix Ip has posted new concept art from Gatchaman, which Warner Bros. Pictures will release in theaters in 2009.

Gatchaman is set in a future world grappling with environmental and technological issues. The story focuses on five reluctant heroes whose remarkable genetic code makes them Earth's only hope of defeating extra-terrestrial invaders.

You can view the art below!

Prince of Persia Pic Pushed

Fans of Ubisoft’s bestselling video game franchise Prince of Persia will have to wait a bit longer to see the property brought to the big screen. Originally slated to debut on June 19, 2009, the action-fantasy flick from Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer will now bow on Memorial Day weekend, 2010. Daily Variety reports that Disney wants to allow more time for post-production, especially the extensive visual effects work. The switch also dodges the June 26, 2009 release of the DreamWorks/Paramount blockbuster sequel Transformers 2, putting the film up against DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek Goes Fourth instead.

Jake Gyllenhaal has been cast in the lead role of Dastan, a prince in sixth-century Persia who teams up with a feisty, exotic princess to prevent a villainous nobleman from possessing the Sands of Time, a gift from the gods that can reverse time and allow its possessor to rule the world. The female lead is being played by Gemma Arterton, the next Bond girl in Quantum of Solace, which comes out this November. Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina are also in Prince of Persia.

Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) is directing from a screenplay by Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard, Boaz Yakin and game creator Jordan Mechner. Shooting is scheduled underway in Morocco and will move on to London.

Inspired by
The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, Mechner teamed with developer Brøderbund to launch the first Prince of Persia Game for PCs and early consoles in 1989. Ubisoft decided to bring the franchise to PlayStation 2, Xbox and Gamecube in 2003 with Sands of Time
, which has spawned six sequels.

Scooby Takes on Goblin King

The Mystery Machine rolls on as Warner Home Video preps the animated movie Scooby-Doo & The Goblin King for release on Sept. 23. The direct-to-DVD feature boasts a star-studded voice cast that includes Heroes star Hayden Panettiere, Tonight Show host Jay Leno, screen icon Lauren Bacall, cartoon vet Tim Curry and Seinfeld favorite Wayne Knight.

Scooby-Doo & The Goblin King has Shaggy and Scooby embarking on a magic quest to save the Mystery Inc. gang from the spell of a wicked warlock. A second-rate carnival magician named the Amazing Krudsky (Knight) hatches a plot to turn everyone into horrible Halloween monsters after he steals the light magic from Princess Fairy Willow (Panettiere). Scooby and Shaggy board the Grim Reaper Railroad, bound for the fantastic world of Halloween land, to retrieve the powerful Goblin scepter from the Goblin King (Curry) before Krudsky can bring his diabolical plan to fruition. Along the way, the meddling kids encounter such enchanting creatures as the infamous Headless Horseman, the helpful Jack O’Lantern and a frisky flying broomstick.

DVD bonus features will include
Scooby-Doo You Believe in Magic? a featurette that offers some cool magic tricks viewers can perform for family and friends. Scooby-Doo & The Goblin King
has also been scheduled for national broadcast this fall on the Cartoon Network. See the trailer for the movie on AniMagTV.

Spore Animation Explored at SIGGRAPH

Gamers around the world have been downloading the Creature Creator and building their own animated characters for the upcoming video game Spore, the latest innovation from SimCity creator Will Wright’s Maxis. Members of the Maxis team will be at SIGGRAPH 2008 to discuss the techniques behind the animation development for the internet-based game that allows users to create a species of creatures, grow them from cellular to full-scale life forms, and share their evolved creatures with other players interactively worldwide. Spore will launch worldwide in September.

As part of the SIGGRAPH 2008 Technical Papers program, Spore experts will present their latest research, Real-Time Motion Retargeting to Highly Varied User-Created Morphologies. The paper presents an inside look behind the animation authoring tool that makes it possible for users to create the Spore creatures and bring them to life.

“As the field of computer graphics matures, we will continue to see graphics practitioners take on novel challenges that were not even considered just a few years ago,” comments Greg Turk, SIGGRAPH 2008 Technical Papers Chair from the Georgia Institute of Technology. “The modeling and animation techniques used in Spore will inspire others to think more creatively about user-created content in computer games.”

The authoring system used in Spore animates characters whose shapes are unknown to the animator since the bodies are user-generated. The authoring tool allows animators to visually describe motion using familiar posing and key-framing methods. It records the data in a body-independent form, preserving both the animation's structural relationships and its stylistic information. During gameplay, this motion information is applied to specific characters to yield body-dependent pose constraints that are supplied to a robust and efficient inverse-kinematics solver.For complete details about this or other Technical Papers presented at SIGGRAPH 2008, visit

SIGGRAPH 2008 will bring an estimated 30,000 computer graphics and interactive technology professionals from six continents to Los Angeles, Calif. for technical and creative programs focused on research, science, art, animation, gaming, interactivity, education and the web. The confab will kick off on Monday, Aug. 11 and will continue through Friday, Aug. 15 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Registration for the conference and exhibition is open to the public. More details are available at

Lionsgate to distribute 'Wolverine and the X-Men'

From a press release

Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF), the premier independent filmed entertainment studio, announced this week that it has acquired the home entertainment distribution rights the new animated series from global entertainment licensing company Marvel Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: MVL) -- 'Wolverine & The X-Men.' Under the terms of the arrangement, Lionsgate retains the United States home distribution rights to all 26 action-packed half-hour episodes of 'Wolverine & The X-Men',(a co-production with Toonz Entertainment Pte Ltd., Singapore and First Serve International Ltd.), a brand new animated series that is scheduled to air on Nicktoons Network beginning in January 2009. The announcement was made by Lionsgate Executive Vice President of Marketing and Family Entertainment Anne Parducci and Marvel Animation President Eric Rollman. The deal was negotiated by Marc Danon, Lionsgate Senior Director of Home Entertainment Acquisitions and Business Development and Sam Wollman, Lionsgate Executive Director of Business & Legal Affairs and Marvel Executives Eric Rollman, David Galluzzi and Josh Silverman.

"As evidenced by the recent success of 'Iron Man' and 'The Incredible Hulk' in theaters, there is nothing hotter in Hollywood than Marvel's amazing lineup of Super Heroes," said Parducci. "We have had tremendous results with our Marvel animated features and this deal reflects the next chapter in our on-going relationship. These series' are based upon proven entities on the big screen and DVD and they will feature a similar animation style to the Marvel DVD's we are currently releasing."

"Lionsgate has an impressive team of executives in the home entertainment division and their passion for Marvel product has been evidenced through their award winning execution on our animated features," said Rollman. "We have developed a very respectful and complimentary relationship which we are thrilled to continue to build on with this important animated series."

Lionsgate was selected as the distribution partner following the tremendous success of its current development, production, and distribution relationship with Marvel for original animated direct-to-DVD features based upon specific characters in the Marvel Universe. Signed in 2004, the companies have currently released the first four titles -- 'Ultimate Avengers 1 & 2','Doctor Strange' and 'The Invincible Iron Man' -- under the agreement. Each of these titles has debuted as the number one children's non-theatrical release for the week and cumulatively they have shipped more than three million units. The next Marvel animated features -- 'Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow' -- will be released on September 2nd.

Additionally, the companies have a theatrical relationship, which began in April 2004 with Lionsgate's release of 'The Punisher' starring Thomas Jane and Rebecca Romijn. Lionsgate will also be releasing 'The Punisher: War Zone', a re-imagining of The Punisher in theaters this December.

The announcement also continues Lionsgate's momentum in the family genre, as it comes on the heels of the studio's recent multiyear agreements with family entertainment leader HIT Entertainment, leading developer of technology-based learning products LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. and leading consumer entertainment products company MGA Entertainment for the ever-popular
Little Tikes brand. With these agreements in place, Lionsgate expects its family home entertainment market share of non-theatrical product to grow to approximately 15%, positioning the Company as one of the three industry leaders in that space. In addition, Lionsgate releases to DVD a virtual who's-who in family entertainment brands, including Speed Racer and Speed Racer: The Next Generation, Marvel Animated Features, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, MGA's Bratz, Scholastic's Clifford the Big Red Dog, American Greetings' The Care Bears,. HIT Entertainment's Thomas & Friends, Bob the Builder, Barney, Angelina Ballerina, Cookie Jar Entertainment's The Doodlebops and Nelvana's Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends

About Wolverine and the X-Men:

An explosive event shatters the lives of the X-Men and takes away their mentor, Professor X. The beaten heroes, including Beast, Storm, Cyclops and Nightcrawler, walk away from it all but then they are given a rare glimpse into the future, where they see a world in utter ruin ... ruled by giant destructive robots. They discover the world has spiraled out of control because the X-Men have given up. So now the most legendary of all X-Men, Wolverine, must take the lead on the ultimate mission -- to prevent the world's destruction -- while fending off enemies Magneto and The Brotherhood.

New Dragonball Promo Photos Surface

A hi-res version of a previously-released photo and three new promo photos have surfaced online for James Wong's Dragonball. The adaptation opens April 10 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.

You can view the below photo in hi-res here, while an additional three photos of Goku, Chi-Chi and Mai can be found here!

Justice League movie to be shot next year?

Aussie newspapers sure do love Megan Gale. Although the 'Justice League' movie project stalled out earlier this year, the Courier Mail has posted yet another article singing the praises of the untested actress.

This latest fluff piece features glowing comments from director George Miller talking about how the supermodel nailed her 2007 screen test for Wonder Woman in the film after only one acting lesson.

Of course, there's been little word if and when the 'Justice League' movie may start production. However, the Courier article points to next year as the film's production start.

Here's hoping the movie actually does film and Gale does hold on to the role, as it'll give the Courier lots more to write about.

Disney assistant animator, artist Jim Snider dies

Assistant animator and clean-up artist Jim Snider, a breakdown animator and inbetween artist for several Disney features, died in January, The Animation Guild announced.

His age was not disclosed.

He was an inbetween artist for the character "Grandmother Willow" in Pocahontas (1993), a breakdown animator for "Frollo" in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1996), a breakdown animator -- credited as Jim Robert Snider -- for "Mushu" in Mulan (1998), a breakdown animator for Clayton in Tarzan (1999), and a breakdown animator for Silver's crew in Treasure Planet (2002).

Snider was also a breakdown artist for the 2003 DreamWorks feature film Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas.

He was a cleanup artist key for Barley Films' Boys Night Out (2003), which was nominated for an Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Short Subject.

Snider's animation career began in 1992. He also worked for Playhouse, Duck Soup, Kurtz and Friends, and DreamQuest.

Disney, H-B cel painter Etsuko Fujioka dead at 83

Cel painter Etsuko Fujioka, who worked for Duck Soup, Murakami-Wolf, Filmation, Disney and Hanna-Barbera from 1976 until 1994, died April 10 at 83, The Animation Guild announced.

A graphic artist for the 1977 Sanrio Films feature The Mouse And His Child, Fujioka was a painter for the 1989 Disney film The Little Mermaid.

He was also a painter for H-B's Jetsons: The Movie (1990) and Once Upon A Forest (1993), and an ink and paint artist for the 1994 TV special A Flintstones' Christmas Carol.

Cel service employee Rose Di Bucci dies at 93

Rose Di Bucci, who worked in cel service for Hanna-Barbera, Bakshi, Disney and Kroyer from 1977 until her retirement in 1992, died May 28 at 93, The Animation Guild said.

Sometimes billed as Rose DiBucci, she worked on the Disney feature films Oliver & Company (1988) and The Little Mermaid (1989), as well as the 1990 Disney featurette The Prince And The Pauper. As well, she was employed in Hanna-Barbera's Jetsons: The Movie (1990).

Disney profits up despite plunging studio revenue

The Walt Disney Company reported Wednesday a fiscal third-quarter net profit that rose 8.5%, offsetting major troubles at its movie studio division.

The entertainment giant credited one-time gains and strength at its media networks for helping net income rise to $1.28 billion (66 cents per share) from $1.18 billion (57 cents per share) a year earlier. Revenue rose 2% to $9.24 billion. The profit was slightly above analysts' estimates.

But Studio Entertainment division revenue for the quarter ending June 30 fell to $1.4 billion -- 19% less than a year earlier, when Disney released Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Operating income sank 49% to $97 million.

Critical praise and a strong box-office performance for this summer's Disney/Pixar Animation film Wall•E didn't compensate for the lackluster performance of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Helped by strong results at at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort Paris, theme parks showed rises of 5% in revenue and 3% in operating profit. However, at domestic parts, attendance dropped 1%, although average guest spending went up. Hotel occupancy at United States resorts fell to 92% from 93% in the previous year.

Hotel bookings at U.S. parks were flat in the current quarter, but "modestly ahead" of last year in the holiday quarter ending in December, said chief financial officer Tom Staggs.

Spending at Disneyland fell by 2%, while hotel occupancy declined 5% to about 91%. However, hotel revenue rose 5% due to higher room rates, Staggs said.

Although the Disney Channel gained subscribers, the broadcasting division's operating income fell 11% for the quarter to $260 million, partly due to slowing advertising sales at local TV stations. Broadcasting revenue stayed flat at $1.5 billion compared with the same period last year.

At the consumer products unit, quarterly revenue jumped 20% jump to $642 million, partly because of the acquisition of Disney Stores in North America. But slow video game sales caused operating income to fall 4% to $113 million from a year earlier.

The company continues "to be pleased with the level of business activity we have seen... and especially with our long-term market position," CEO Robert Iger said on a conference call with analysts.

The company "overall did really well," said Caris & Company analyst David Miller. He wondered: "When is this economic slowdown going to hit the parks, if at all?"

"I don't think the forward-looking comments they made were discouraging, everything put together," said Standard & Poors Equity Research analyst Tuna Amobi. "I don't share the sentiment that things are going awfully wrong."

In late trading Wednesday, shares of Disney fell 77 cents to $30.90 following the earnings announcement. The stock had risen 75 cents to close at $31.67. Disney shares ended the quarter down 11% from quarterly highs of about $35.

Hi-Res Season Two Promo Image For "The Spectacular Spider-Man"

Sony Television Entertainment has provided Marvel Animation Age with a hi-res version of the The Spectacular Spider-Man season two promo image.

The promo image, which can be seen below by clicking on the thumbnail, was released over the weekend at Comic-Con International. The image provides a first look at Mysterio and Kraven The Hunter.

Hi-Res Watchmen Comic-Con Posters!

Warner Bros. Pictures has provided us with high-resolution versions of the Comic-Con posters for Watchmen. Coming to theaters on March 6, 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.

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