Thursday, August 7, 2008

News - 08/07/08...

Eric Goldberg Gets Writer's Cramp

Or should have, with the number of books he signed Wednesday night at the Samuel French Theatre and Book Store in Studio City.

The lines were long from the time the doors opened until the whistle blew at 9:00 p.m. and Eric took a break from drawing and writing in a jillion different copies of his book, "Character Animation Crash Course".

Kudos to the Samuel French Theatre and Creative Talent Network (topkicked by animation veteran Tina Price) for throwing the event in the first place.

(thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Animation World Magazine on Animated Sequences in "American Teen"

Animation World Magazine has taken a look at the use of animated sequences in her documentary American Teen, which centers on the lives of several high school teenagers in Warsaw, Indiana. Director Nanette Burstein enlisted New York's Psyop studio for the sequences, utilizing a variety of animation techniques from hand-drawn, CGI, and paper-cut animation to match the fantasies of each of the teenagers.

Bender’s Game Set for November

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release the new animated feature Futurama: Bender’s Game on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on Nov. 4. The third of four new Futurama adventures, the movie will come loaded with bonus materials including Dungeons & Dragons & Futurama, in which co-creator David X. Cohen explores the influence of the classic role-playing fantasy game on the animated franchise.

With fuel prices skyrocketing, the Planet Express crew sets off on a dangerous mission to infiltrate the world's only dark-matter mine, source of all spaceship fuel. But deep beneath the surface, they discover a far stranger place... a medieval land of dragons and sorcery and intoxicated knights who look suspiciously like Bender. Joining the cast are guest stars George Takei from Star Trek and Heroes, and comic impressionist Rich Little.

Other special features include outtakes, cast commentary, a featurette titled How To Draw Futurama In 83 Easy Steps, a 3D models featurette with animator discussion, a storyboard animatic, an anti-piracy message from Bender, an interactive Futurama Genetics Laboratory and a sneak peek at the next Futurama epic, Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder. The DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $29.98. The Blu-ray version will list for $39.98 and will includes the wide screen version of the film, plus picture-in-picture capabilities.

Animax Rocks LaMB with Simple Plan, Click Five

Animax Asia, an anime and youth cable channel owned by Sony Pictures Ent., has announced that its first original animated movie produced in HD, LaMB, will feature songs written and performed by popular French-Canadian pop punk band Simple Plan and American rock band The Click Five out of Boston. In addition to being heard in the soundtrack, members of Simple Plan will appear as an animated band in the film, and The Click Five's album will be showcased in the story.

LaMB, a multiplatform, multimedia project, marks each band’s first involvement in an Asian production. Headlining the soundtrack for the TV, mobile and online release is the Simple Plan single “I Can Wait Forever” from their self-titled 2008 album Simple Plan. Animax Asia and Peach Blossom Media will produce an animated music video for the song to premiere in December on Animax channels across Asia and on the web.

The Click Five's single, “Summertime,” from their 2007 album Modern Minds and Pastimes will also feature in the LaMB TV, online and mobile properties. The album art will be featured in the movie, and characters will make references to the band and song. Animax will be producing a live-action music video for “Summertime,” which will include action sequences from LaMB.

The project marks Simple Plan’s second foray into animation. The band previously performed the theme song for Hanna-Barbera Prods.’ television series What's New, Scooby-Doo? and provided songs for various episodes of the show.

Katzenberg Goes to IBC in 3-D

This year’s IBC exhibition and conference in Amsterdam will feature a live interview with DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. Promoted as the first-ever transatlantic telecast in high-definition 3-D, the interview will be broadcast live from Los Angeles and transmitted to the IBC audience on Sunday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Elizabeth Daley, professor and Dean of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts will conduct the interview in a session that will explore Katzenberg’s view of motion picture production in the age of diverse distribution channels, as well as the impact of 3-D technology in theatres, in the home and across other platforms. DreamWorks is dedicated to making all of its animated features in stereoscopic 3-D starting with next year’s Monsters Vs. Aliens. (You can find a leaked trailer for the animated feature on youtube this week!)

The live 3D stereoscopic HD broadcast will be delivered to the IBC big screen using 3Ality Digital’s 3D image capture and transmission encoder/decoder technology. Communication specialist Arqiva will provide the high bandwidth HD satellite circuit to Amsterdam, and Christie and RealD will provide the stereoscopic images projected at the conference.

IBC is a major event for professionals involved in the creation, management and delivery of entertainment content. Attracting more than 46,000 attendees from more than 130 countries worldwide, the confab will feature more than 1,300 exhibitors including the world's key technology suppliers. For more information go to

Troopers, Garfield, Ben 10 on DVD

The third chapter in the Starship Troopers series arrives on home video today, putting Johnny Rico and fellow Federation soldiers up against more menacing, computer-generated alien bugs. Also debuting on disc are a new feature-length animated movie title Garfield’s Fun Fest, the entire fourth season of Ben 10, an eighth volume of Charlie & Lola and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Volume Three.

Available on DVD, Blu-ray and UMD for PSP, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder finds a team of elite soldiers on a secret mission to rescue a small crew of fellow troopers stranded on the remote planet of OM-1. Battling a variety of extraterrestrial bugs, the crew turns to the Marauder advanced weapons technology as its only hope against a treasonous element operating within the Federation itself. But the insects have a secret weapon of their own that could destroy humanity. Capser Van Dien returns from the first film to lead a cast that includes Jolene Blalock (Stargate SG-1), Amanda Donohoe (Lair of the White Worm), Boris Kodjoe (Madea's Family Reunion), Marnette Patterson (Charmed) and Catherine Oxenberg (Dynasty). Making his directorial debut on the pic is Ed Neumeier, screenwriter and co-producer of Starship Troopers and RoboCop. Visual effects were overseen by Academy Award-winning vfx supervisor Robert Skotak (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Aliens, X2: X-Men United).

The DVD and Blu-ray discs offer the featurettes Evolution: The Bugs of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and Enlist: Marauders Mobile Infantry. Other bonus features include commentary by the filmmakers and cast, and an all-new extended version of the music video “It’s a Good Day to Die.” Exclusive to the Blu-ray version is a interactive feature titled Put Yourself in the Film: Join the Fight! Viewers will be able to upload a photo and insert themselves into key scenes in the film. There will also be a Marauder Mode picture-in-picture feature, which employs graphics, text and pop-up video to provide insight into the film’s characters and story while expanding on the general mythology of the Starship Troopers universe. The DVD version will include a bonus digital copy of the film that consumers can unlock and play on their PCs and/or PSPs. Watch the trailer for the movie on AniMagTV.

Garfield’s FunFest is a CG-animated movie that revolves around a annual talent competition for the funniest comic strip in Cartoon World, which Garfield wins every year. This year there is a new contender named Ramone, a tall, handsome and talented competitor who jus might unseat Garfield as king of the comic strip. The movie is 70 minutes long and includes an exclusive comic booklet by Garfield creator Jim Davis. Fans can pick up the DVD for $19.98 or less.

Ben 10 Season 4 is a to-disc set offering all episodes from the hit Cartoon Network series’ fourth season. The half-hour series follows the adventures of 10-year-old Ben Tennyson, whose life is changed when he comes across the Omnitrix, an out-of-this-world wristwatch. With the extraterrestrial gizmo, Ben can transform into any one of ten alien beings, each with their own fantastic superpowers that help him battle the evil Viglax, who will stop at nothing to get the Omnitrix. The show is created by Man of Action (the collective name for Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau and Steve Seagle), and produced by Cartoon Network Studios in Burbank, Calif. The DVD lists for $19.98.

Charlie and Lola, Vol. 8: I Am Collecting a Collection is a single disc that lists for $14.98. A production of London-based Tiger Aspect Prods., the show is based on the award-winning children's book series by Lauren Child, whose other creations include Clarice Bean and Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton Trent. Charlie and Lola has 7-year-old Charlie patiently helping his feisty, but endearing, 4-year-old sister with such things as keeping a clean room, handling new friendships and overcoming a fear of the dark.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Volume Three is a three-disc set with 13 episodes chronicling the final battle between good and evil in the 2002 revival of the classic ’80s cartoon series. The BCI/Eclipse release retails for $26.98 and includes such extras as the original "Morals" segment for episodes 27 through 39, the never-before-seen episode 40, five commentaries, extended video commentary, interviews with toy line designers and marketers from Mattel and The Four Horsemen, three image galleries featuring previously unseen production sketches, complete animatics for three episodes and two collectible art cards.

Mischel Oversees Animation for Technicolor

Former Mainframe CEO Rick Mischel has joined Technicolor Content Services as exec VP of animation and interactive services. The unit combines Technicolor’s games division and its growing animation division co-located in Burbank and at Bangalore, India-based Paprikaas Studio. Recent projects include high-end cinematics for Midway and Epic, audio work for Activision and Microsoft, and animation production services for the Back at the Barnyard CG television series airing on Nickelodeon.

Mischel most recently founded and served as president of Reach Games, located in Vancouver, British Columbia. During his tenure at Mainframe, he served as exec producer on numerous projects including the upcoming CG-animated feature Escape From Planet Earth, a new computer-animated version of The Nutty Professor; and the recent DVD feature Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom Sabotage.

Before joining Mainframe, Mischel served president and COO of Harvey Entertainment Co., the rights-holder to such properties as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Wendy the Witch. He was also senior VP of acquisitions and production for Live (Artisan) Ent. He began his career as an entertainment attorney at O’Melveny & Myers.

Technicolor’s animation operation in India recently announced a strategic alliance with DreamWorks Animation to build a world-class animation facility there. Paprikaas was recently recognized at the Australian Effects & Animation Festival (AEAF) in Sydney, Australia, for its contribution to FARMkids, which won Best TV Series.

SDCC2008: "Spectacular Spider-Man" Panel Report

A panel dedicated to the new hit show The Spectacular Spider-Man convened on Friday afternoon at the San Diego Comic-Con. The panel attendees were supervising producer Greg Weisman, supervising producer/director Vic Cook, character designer Sean "Cheeks" Galloway, voice director Jamie Thomason, and voice actors Josh Keaton, Vanessa Marshall, Ben Diskin, and Robert Englund. The panel was moderated by Michael Vogel of Sony Pictures Television.

New and returning villains in Season 2 will include Mysterio, Kraven, Venom, Vulture, Dr. Octopus, the Master Planner, the Sinister Six, Molten Man and a few surprises. At this time, they have no plans for hero crossovers, saying they are content to play in their own universe for now.

In keeping with his tradition of doing cameo appearances in the live-action movies, Stan Lee did a voice in the first episode of Season 2, and the character design will resemble the man himself.

The first DVD of Season 1 will be released this September. The release of the following two volumes will coincide with the start of Season 2. A fourth DVD to finish off season 1 will be released, though no date was confirmed in the panel. A full season box set is also planned.

SDCC2008: "The Saga Continues - Star Wars 2008" Panel Report

Toon Zone sat in on the Star Wars panel focusing on the upcoming CGI Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie. In attendance were director Dave Filoni, producer Catherine Winder, co-writer Henry Gilroy, and editor Jason Tucker. The panel was moderated by Steve Sansweet, Lucasfilm's Director of Content Management and Head of Fan Relations.

Steve began the panel questioning with Catherine Winder. As one of the earliest members of the team, he asked her to discuss how she approached the running of the Clone Wars operation. One of her first tasks was to pull together a creative team for such an important project. She spent a lot of time searching for the right people and mentioned that she was very fortunate in coming across Dave, Henry and Jason. Once they started working together, she felt they were going to make something special.

Dave Filoni is not the only fan of Star Wars on the team. Steve asked him what the biggest difference was between being a fan and being an integral part of the creative process. Dave said that he didn't believe there was much of a difference, though he felt it was very important that the entire crew felt the same way he did about Star Wars. They grew up with and believed in Star Wars and it inspired him creatively.

Sansweet picked up on Filoni's mention of the different opinions of fans on the Star Wars franchise. Dave continued the thought, saying each episode of Star Wars was very different; a lot could be told about a person by which movie they most connected with. Steve followed this by asking if the team discussed the deeper philosophical meanings and whatnot. Dave revealed one of the most recent team arguments was whether or not a light saber could cut Superman. He believed the answer involved the blade being infused with kryptonite and the super hero's proximity to a yellow sun.

Steve moved on to Henry, establishing for the audience that Gilroy had written for Star Wars prior to this project. Sansweet asked him to talk about some of the projects he had worked on and how it relates to what he's working on now. Henry had worked on the comic book movie adaptations for Episodes I and II for Dark Horse, as well as several Star Wars Tales stories. Having written for the property so often brought about a familiarity with that universe that he equated with writing about "home."

Next, Sansweet spoke with Jason Tucker. Jason had been very nervous going into this project, as he had heard Lucas' favorite part of the film-making process was editing. He was put at ease when he learned how much respect George had for it. He noted that the most important lesson he took from working with George was the clarity editing brings to the storytelling process. He was often amazed how all suggestions from George really helped enhance whatever scene they were working on at the time.

Steve then asked Catherine what the expectations for the series were. She said it was unclear as to how much George would participate in the project. As they began developing the project and he saw the material they were producing, Lucas became increasingly excited and more involved because he was having fun. Winder made special note of one of the "eureka" moments involving a short animation test involving Yoda walking across a room, in their new "painterly style." George saw it and went "crazy" when he saw that it was beginning to achieve the unique look he was going for.

Filoni asked her if she remembered what exactly what Lucas had said at that meeting. She did, but wanted him to tell the audience. He further described the the test as an atmospheric shot with Yoda walking across Chancellor Palpatine's office from shadow to light. George stopped the frame and told them they weren't making television. They were making cinema. He went on to say that they were looking to make something beyond your typical animated show and to stay true to the films cinematically.

Sansweet asked Filoni what he gained from the Padawan/Master relationship of working with Lucas himself. Past his newfound ability "to Force choke his editor," he spoke of it as both a privilege and nerve-wracking experience to work with the man who created THX-1138 and American Graffiti. He felt Lucas was ready to take a group of people and pass on what's he has learned. As one of the first projects George had created during his time at USC (University of Southern California) was an animated film, Filoni felt this project was a natural extension.

Steve asked Dave to introduce a clip from the film. A large battle from the beginning of the film was shown, involving Obi-Wan and Anakin stranded in the Outer Rim.

Sansweet asked Winder how and why the decision was made to go from a weekly television series to kick Clone Wars off as a full-fledged animated feature, with the follow-up being the weekly series. The call had been made by Lucas after reviewing some of the early studio material's potential with Catherine and Dave. He told them to put a plan together.

Steve asked Filoni how he went about accomplishing this without simply taking a few episodes and sewing them together. As it so happened, the first story arc worked well for the transition from the multi-episode to movie format. The introduction of Anakin's new Padawan, Ahsoka Tano worked well for the plot of the movie. Filoni mentioned the surprise of the fans by this development in the mythology of Star Wars.

Sansweet asked how the development of a continuing weekly series differs from that of a movie. Dave took this question, say that a series allowed them the opportunity to attack unique issues and different scenarios, whereas the movie was one complete idea that introduces a new main character and certain situations.

One example he gave involved spending twenty-two minutes with the ground troops on the front lines and the clones. They could take obscure characters from the background of the movies and comics and explore what they were like, what they sounded like and how they interacted with their troops. As they explored this idea, they found that the Jedis' personalities were rubbing off on the their soldiers. This affected the clones,as it would human soldiers, in how they paint their helmets and gunships because they're real people. He also noted that they were able to explore other ideas, such as Padmé Amidala's interactions with the Senate. Jason Tucker added the opportunity to tell stories beyond those involving war and including mystery, romance and horror.

When asked whether the retro, signature Star Wars edits and transitions, such as the inter-cutting of scenes and wipes would be in place, Tucker confirmed they would be.

Gilroy was asked to touch on how far they went in conceptualizing ideas for the movie and series. Henry said always tried to tune into the same things that inspired Lucas and described Star Wars as, "this great big stew of awesome cinema", with elements from the Flash Gordon serials of the 30's, westerns and Warner Bros. cartoons of the 40's, samurai films of the 50's, and war epics from the 60's, along with a fairy tale theme we can all relate to. George would assign Tucker and Gilroy movies to watch each week that they believed he had been influenced by, such as Battle of the Bulge. Their story ideas weren't often shot down. They were usually encouraged to be more ambitious and make their stories bigger in scope.

The panelists also touched on the expansion of characters that had not previously had significant roles in the Star Wars universe, including the use of Asajj Ventress as a major villain. They said that George is a fan of the comics and would make note of visually interesting characters and tell them that he'd like to see that character. There's a few they think the fans of the comics are going to love seeing realized. They also mentioned going to Leland Chee, their Continuity Editor and "The Holocron", whenever they ran into potential "Boba Fett" situations.

Sansweet asked Gilroy how his background in writing for animation helped or hindered him. Henry had worked on Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Bionicle for Miramax and the Lilo and Stitch television series. Star Wars has all of those elements and has able to take every tool he used on those and bring it to this project.

Act One from the episode, "Look of Darkness," involving Luminara Unduli and Ahsoka Tano was then shown.

Steve asked the panelists to tell the audience what, over the last three years, they found the biggest satisfaction to be. Tucker said his was the collaboration. Gilroy echoed the same sentiment. He further mentioned adding to the Star Wars saga had been a pleasure. Winder found having had the opportunity to see the project from a blank piece of paper to the final product made her proud and honored to be a part of the project. After 2005's Revenge of the Sith, Filoni was unsure as to what the future held for Star Wars. He was happy to be a part of keeping Star Wars alive and moving the story forward. He added that he was proud of the crew and being excited about the live-action television series Lucas wants to do. He called the Clone Wars experience, "humbling" and said he was glad he could give something back. During the course of the panel, all of the panelists had expressed an enormous sense of responsibility in approaching their respective roles on this project.

As the panel concluded, Steve asked the audience to give a big hand for the panelists and thanked the fans for their support over the years.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated feature films hits the theaters on August 15th, 2008. The animated series premieres this fall on Cartoon Network and TNT.

VENTURE BROS. Boss Gets Laughs At Comic Con!! ‘I'm Sorry The Creator Of The Show Interrupted You And Your Important Question!!’

I gather there's a lot of whining in talkback about AICN posting too much Comic Con coverage subsequent to the event every year -- but I assume those who carp constitute only a vocal angry virgin minority. I put it to you, talkbackers: would you really prefer we stopped with this stuff?

While you decide, get the straight dope on Sheila Monarch’s knitting, fan hatred of Kevin & Tim-Tom, plans to again clone the title characters and the return of Werner Underbeit -- in the video of Comic Con's “Venture Bros.” panel featuring predictably hilarious series creator Jackson Publick and the fellow who plays Dean.

Check out how many girls asked questions!

Learn that "Don't make the boys so super-gay-ass" was one of the notes Cartoon Network execs sent down!

Find it here!

SDCC2008: Bill Plympton "Idiots and Angels" Screening Report

The Idiots and Angels screening took place on Thursday, July 24, 2008. Bill thanked the audience for their applause and told them he was very happy to be there to present some of his new work and a clip of satisfying length from his brand-neItalicw animated feature film. It opened in the Tribeca Film Festival and is currently doing the festival circuit. The first local San Diego screening will take place at the AFM Film Market. While Plympton's group does not have a U.S. distribution deal yet, they are talking to two or three different groups.

Prior to the preview of Idiots and Angels, Plympton showed some of his recently completed work. He introduced and screened the short film "Hot Dog," his follow-up to "Guard Dog" and "Guide Dog." It’s now playing nationally with the Animation Show. Clips of the aforementioned shorts may be found in the Gallery section of Plympton's site. He’s currently working on a new dog short called, “Horn Dog”, in which the dog falls in love.

Next, Plympton screened a video he animated for the band Parson Brown called Mexican Standoff, which had to be completed in a week. Due to the short time frame, it was completed as half live-action, half-animation. He was unhappy with the way the two blended together. With the completion of Idiots and Angels, Plympton had time to finish it. You can watch the original live-action/animation hybrid on the beta AWNtv.

For the last portion of the screening, Plympton played part of Idiots and Angels. He described the film as much darker than his other works and was, “what David Lynch would do if he did animation.” He continued, saying it was about "this ******* guy who wakes up one morning with wings on his back." The character, Angel, doesn't like the wings because they make him do good things. The other characters in the film are after his wings. The film has no dialogue and features music by Tom Waits and Pink Martini. The film is 78 minutes in length and was animated using colored pencils and on paper.

During the animation of the film, Plympton would listen to music appropriate mood. He happened to be listening to Tom Waits, because most of the film takes place in a bar. He called Jim Jarmusch, with whom Waits has worked with periodically throughout the years. Plympton asked him to watch the film and pass it along to Tom if he thought it was worthwhile. Waits not only watched and enjoyed it, he offered to allow the music to be used for scale. Plympton expressed his gratitude and praised Waits as an artist, in pursuit of interesting projects that worked with his music and not just monetary gain.

He also touched briefly on the use of Pink Martini's music in the film. His brother, Peter Plympton, is the sound engineer for Pink Martini and joked that he had some sway there. Plympton also had worked with Thomas Lauderdale in 1996 on the live-action film, Guns on the Clackamas in 1995, where Lauderdale had a cameo appearance.

During the Q&A portion, one of the audience members asked him how the budget of his film compared to that of a Hollywood film. Bill told him his expenses were much lower because he all of the production himself, with his staff of six doing all of the post-production. Plympton had done some pre-sales for this film in France. This covered 30K, bringing his out-of-pocket expenses down to 120K.

A woman in the audience asked Plympton to talk about his process. In particular, she wanted him to discuss storyboarding in relation to his unique style of animation. Plympton told her he considers storyboarding the most important part of the process. He had the idea of Idiots and Angels three years prior in France, when a kid escorting him at a film festival asked him what his next project was and he came up with the idea off the top of his head. That night, he began jotting down ideas, concepts, story arcs. The storyboards for this project took him a year.

Plympton told the audience that a tight storyboard makes it much easier to make the film and described his as very precise. He places each page of the storyboard on his desk. He goes directly from the first drawing, on the first page and begins animating shot by shot. This film had about 900 or 950 shots. He works ten to twelve hours a day, sometimes seven days a week. He'll draw up to 30 seconds of animation a day and the animation process takes about a year. He called it a passion and obsession.

Plympton told the audience he usually gives everyone a drawing after the screening, but couldn't right then due to the end of the alloted screening time quickly approaching. In what was a rather gracious offer, he said he'd give exiting audience members a card with his booth number and let them know if they come visit him the next day he'd give them a free drawing.

Visit the Idiots & Angels official website for screening times and locations, as well as more information about the film.

Madagascar 2 IMAX poster

ComingSoon currently features an IMAX poster for Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa. The sequel to 2005’s Madagascar will open in traditional theaters as well as IMAX on November 7th.

New Igor poster

A new one-sheet advertising the upcoming CGI film Igor can be found at Internet Movie Poster Awards. The movie, which features a lab-assistant who aspires to become an evil scientist, hits theaters on September 19th.

Exclusive Resident Evil interview

An exclusive interview with the helmers of the CGI direct to video feature Resident Evil: Degeneration can be read at Shock ‘Till You Drop. Producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi and director Makoto Kamiya discuss various aspects of the upcoming film, including the production of the feature as well as new story and character developments. Regarding the prospect of future animated Resident Evil films, Kobayashi states, “If this is financially successful, that’s when we’ll start thinking about the future of the film franchise.” To view the trailer for Resident Evil: Degeneration, click here.

Clone Wars U.S. Premiere Sunday

The American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood will host the U.S. premiere of LucasAnimation’s CG-animated feature film Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Sunday at 4 p.m. The sold-out event will feature a discussion with director Dave Filoni, producer Catherine Winder and others involved with the creation of the movie, which will segue into a television series debuting on Cartoon Network this fall. The movie will arrive in theaters on Aug. 15 and will have another preview screening at SIGGRAPH on Aug. 14.

Exec produced by George Lucas, Star Wars: The Clone Wars offers fans a look at the saga as they’ve never seen it before. As civil war rages through the galaxy, Anakin Skywalker and his new apprentice, Ahsoka Tano, find themselves on a mission with far-reaching consequences. But Count Dooku and his sinister agents will stop at nothing to ensure that they fail at their quest. Meanwhile, on the front lines, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Master Yoda lead the massive clone army in a valiant effort to resist the forces of the dark side.

Based in Marin County, Calif., with a studio in Singapore, Lucasfilm Animation has produced more than 30 episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Fans of the franchise can now go to to watch a series of web documentaries that chronicle the development of the new show.

Kabillion Adds Underdog

Emmy-winning kids’ entertainment service Kabillion has acquired the classic 1960s animated TV series Underdog to join its VOD and online platforms on Aug. 7. The premiere also kicks off Kabillion’s series of Olympics-themed programming for August, featuring special episodes of the Taffy Ent. shows Bobby’s World, Code Lyoko, Pet Alien, Mix Master and I Got a Rocket.

Underdog first aired in 1964, introducing audiences to mild-mannered dog named Shoeshine Boy. Whenever there is a call for help, he turns into Underdog, a costumed canine crime fighter who speaks in rhyme. The property was made into a live-action feature film starring the voice of Jason Lee from NBC’s My Name Is Earl. Released last August, the pic grossed a modest $65 million worldwide.

The first episode to debut on Kabillion is “Drawn By the Magnet Men,” in which Olympic athletes begin mysteriously disappearing. When scientists discover the athletes are being pulled away from Earth by a strange planet, Underdog and TV reporter Sweet Polly Purebread visit the planet and are captured by the Magnet Men.

The other themed programs Kabillion has scheduled for the month of August include a Bobby’s World episode in which young Bobby competes in his neighborhood Olympics, a Code Lyoko installment where the evil X.A.N.A. creates a zero-gravity zone on the field just as Ulrich is about to compete in the soccer finals, a Pet Alien adventure in which Tommy and the aliens concoct a plan to help him with the DeSpray Bay MathOlympics, an episode of Mix Master that has the humans and Hench come together for the first time for a Sports Day, and an I Got a Rocket story in which Vinnie decides to purposely lose the interschool genius quiz for fear of looking like a geek.

Now in its second year, Kabillion is part of The MoonScoop Group, a worldwide production, distribution, brand management and entertainment company. The service is owned in part by Taffy Ent., REMIX Ent. Ventures and Germany’s EM.Entertainment, and is available both as a free video on-demand (VOD) channel and a free online broadband site ( Initially launched on Comcast Cable’s Select On Demand across the U.S., the VOD platform is now also available to digital cable subscribers nationwide on Bresnan cable systems.

Barnyard, Code Monkeys on Disc

Among this week’s DVD releases are episodes of the Nickelodeon series Back At the Barnyard and G4’s irreverent animated comedy Code Monkeys. Back at the Barnyard: When No One’s Looking offers a compilation of farm adventures for the younger set, while the first season of Code Monkeys aims to tickle the funny bones of those old enough to fondly recall their 8-bit Nintendo days.

Back at the Barnyard is a CG-animated comedy series that takes a look at what farm animals really do when humans aren’t looking. Based on the hit Nickelodeon Movies feature film Barnyard, the series focuses on Otis, a carefree, party boy cow tossed into a position of responsibility. But unlike his dad before him, he is driven by his insatiable need for fun and frivolity. Otis, along with his barnyard friends Pip, Pig and Freddy, will stop at nothing in the pursuit of a good time, while comically avoiding close calls with humans and other threats to their unconventional way of life. The Paramount Home Entertainment release runs 85 minutes and carries a suggested retail price of $16.99.

Created by Adam de la Pena (Minoriteam, Crank Yankers) and produced by de la Pena's Monkey Wrangler Prods., Code Monkeys is a satire that follows the surreal adventures of an oddball group of 1980s game designers, led by two guys named Dave and Jerry. The series makes references to classic games and even features guest voice spots by iconic technology and gaming personalities including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Atari founder Nolan Bushnell.

Bonus features on the DVD include a behind-the-scenes look, daily pranks, original Barfight and Crosswalk game commercials, gaming tips from G4’s Cheat!, original GameAvision games and downloadable wallpapers and posters. The Shout Factory release is a two-disc set that lists for $19.99.

VIZ Debuts Ultimo from Lee, Takei

Ultimo, a new comic-book property created by industry legend Stan Lee and celebrated manga creator Hiroyuki Takei (Shaman King), has made its North American debut in the September 2008 issue of VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump magazine. The edition hit retail outlets nationwide on Tuesday, featuring the prologue chapter of Ultimo.

The Ultimo saga begins in Farmless City, where citizens are stunned by the sudden appearance of two floating figures that may be human boys, monolithic robots or something much more strange. One is named Vice and appears to be evil, and the other is Ultimo, who appears intent on stopping Vice from wreaking more havoc. A battle ensues between them, bringing destruction and devastation to the hapless city as the population struggles to understand who these figures are and where they came from.

Ultimo represents the first manga partnership for Lee, best known for co-creating such iconic superhero properties as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. He sent his initial story idea to Takei, who developed artwork and characters and reworked the plot to fit into the Japanese manga storytelling style.

Takei kicked off his career by winning the coveted Hop Step Award for new manga artists and the Osamu Tezuka Award. After working as an assistant to famed artist Nobuhiro Watsuki (Rurouni Kenshin), he debuted in Weekly Shonen Jump in 1997 with Butsu Zone, an action series based on Buddhist mythology. Shaman King debuted in Japan in 1998 and has been adapted into a popular animated television series.

“Wow! This is just what I’ve been waiting for!” says Lee. “For the very first time I’m able to create superheroes in the fantastic Japanese manga style thanks to my lucky partnership with the great Hiroyuki Takei. What a kick it’ll be to join Hiroyuki-san in offering brand new, action packed stories to an army of readers in both the Eastern and Western worlds!”

The Ultimo prologue chapter recently debuted in Japan in a special standalone issue Jump SQ., the sibling publication of Shueisha’s top-selling Weekly Shonen Jump. For more information on Ultimo, Shonen Jump and VIZ Media, go to or

Heit Joins Experimental Animation at CalArts

Steve Anker, dean of the School of Film/Video at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), announced that Laura Heit will join Paul Vester as a co-director of the school’s Experimental Animation program. Heit is part of a new wave of theater artists and filmmakers who are combining the mediums of puppetry, film and “toy theater.” She creates solo cabaret acts dubbed The Matchbox Shows, in which stories unfold within match boxes and are projected live via video feed.

“Laura Heit is a young artist who brings a fresh perspective to a wide variety of technologies and animation art forms,” Anker comments. “Her art displays a distinctive personal voice and crosses genres from puppetry to a variety of animation techniques including hand-drawn, computer and stop-motion. In less than three years on the faculty, she has helped transform the stop-motion curriculum and production at CalArts into the most active program of its kind in the United States.”

Heit's most recent film, Look for Me, was commissioned by Channel 4 Television and the Arts Council of England. She is an animation director at Slinky Pictures in London and Duck Studios in Los Angeles. Her award-winning experimental animation and puppet films have been screened extensively in the U.S. and abroad at such venues as the Int’l Film Festival Rotterdam, the Annecy Int’l Animated Film Festival, the Hong Kong Int’l Film Festival, the London Int’l Film Festival, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Guggenheim Museum of Art in New York.

The Matchbox Shows have toured the world, appearing recently at the Great Small Works 8th International Toy Theater Festival at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn and at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater) in Los Angeles. The Walt Disney Concert Hall at the Music Center in Los Angeles commissioned Heit to create a new work, The Matchbox Shows: Circus, for the 2008 Toy Theatre Festival .

At CalArts, Heit teaches stop motion animation classes and mentors MFA candidates in the Experimental Animation Program. In the spring of this year, she co-taught the innovative multidisciplinary Guerrilla DAPP (Design, Animation, Performance, Puppetry), a rapid-action art laboratory with links to sound/music, writing, painting, dance and digital/analog technology.

Ghost in the Shell Gets a Makeover

If you're in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo or Nagoya right now, you can catch the original Ghost in the Shell on the big screen—sort of. Bandai Visual has gone all George Lucas over the 1995 Mamoru Oshii classic, updating the digital effects and reuniting the original voice cast for a 6.1 surround-sound recording. (I'm curious to see if the extra effort is as superfluous as in the Star Wars makeovers; so far as I'm concerned, the CG in Ghost in the Shell is still quite watchable.) Check the trailer below for a glimpse of the new look.

Gotta-get-it-first otaku can score the Ghost in the Shell 2.0 Blu-ray box set from Japanese distributors on December 19. The set includes 1080p and MPEG-4 AVC versions of the film (English dubs included), an extras disc, a new music CD, and of course a nifty new booklet.

Who Is Batman's Next Foe?

As the Internet rumor mill heats up about a possible foe for the next Batman film, writer David S. Goyer (who got a story credit for The Dark Knight) told SCI FI Wire that it's possible the villain may not even be one you've ever heard of.

"There's no reason why we necessarily have to use the same three or four that are still around," Goyer said in an interview at Comic-Con International in San Diego last month. "I mean, Batman's got a wide variety, [a] rogues' gallery. Certainly we used two in the first movie that hadn't been in the films before."

Goyer, who wrote the script for Batman Begins with director Christopher Nolan, was referring to Ra's al Ghul (Ken Watanabe and Liam Neeson) and Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy).

The Dark Knight, written by Nolan and his brother, Jonathan Nolan, features Batman's most famous enemy, the Joker (played memorably by the late Heath Ledger), and a second well-known nemesis, Harvey Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart).

And Goyer's comments come as Web sites speculate on which well-known villain (The Riddler? The Penguin? Catwoman?) and which actor (Johnny Depp? Philip Seymour Hoffman? Angelina Jolie?) would play him/her in an inevitable third film in the most recent incarnation of the Batman saga.

But there are plenty of others: Villains that Batman has faced in the DC Comics alone include such familiar and obscure names as Anarky, Bane, Batzarro, Black Mask, Blockbuster, Calendar Man, Catman, Clayface, Cluemaster, Deadshot, Firefly, Hush, Killer Croc, Killer Moth, the Mad Hatter, Man-Bat, Maxie Zeus, Mr. Freeze, Mr. Zsasz, Poison Ivy, Hugo Strange, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Ventriloquist and Scarface, according to Wikipedia.

No decision has been made yet on whether to move forward with a third Batman movie, though it's likely one will come together eventually. "It's really up to Chris to decide, and he has not decided whether or not he wants to go back to the well again," Goyer said. "And if he does, I, you know, would be honored to work with him."

McFarlane Talks About The Venom Movie

McFarlane gives his thoughts on why a villainous Venom movie may not be the best idea:

"You don't want to scare the kids, because the kids love the character," McFarlane said of Venom, echoing the sentiment of those in Hollywood who maintain superhero movies must be PG or PG-13 to succeed because they need young audiences. "But I think you could add a little bit of a creep factor. I mean, it never bugged me to watch Frankenstein as a kid, so you could have a little bit of it, as long as you have a good story backing it up."

He said that although "smart people can make things happen in other ways," he doesn't think Venom can make an audience care about him if he's still a villain. McFarlane said that Don Corleone and the Sopranos are examples of characters who were able to entice viewer sympathy despite their villainy, "but they were human. Can you bring that mentality to Venom and make it work? Or do you make him all bad?

"You're trying to give something to people when they leave. I don't know if you can have a movie about a guy who goes out there and maims everybody and wins all the time," he said. "I don't know what their mindset is and how they can get there other than adding too much niceness to him, but we'll see."

Click HERE for the entire article. It's a good read.

But c'mon Todd. Do you honestly think SONY would ever screw up a super hero property? I mean, Spider-Man 3 wasn't so bad, was it?

Oh, wait. It was total crap. Maybe Todd is onto something here...

Update On "DC Animation" DVD Sales And Comic Book Sales

DVD sales for Batman: Gotham Knight hold strong while Justice League Unlimited sees a slight increase as the final issue of the comic series is released.

The DVD release of Batman: Gotham Knight continues to hold strong in its third week or release, accumulating another 39,288 copies sold, bringing it's total to almost 350,000 in sales. The title, which sold 80,515 copies in the second week of release, continues to be a strong performer thanks to the direct-to-video animated feature's tie-in status with the theatrical hit The Dark Knight. Keep in mind the number does not take into account rental numbers, OnDemand numbers, or legal download numbers. Batman: Gotham Knight is expected to sell consistently throughout the remainder of the year, and receive additional sales interest when The Dark Knight arrives on Blu-Ray and DVD in December 2008.

Meanwhile, the final issue of the comic series Justice League Unlimited, issue #46, saw a slight increase in sales along with The Batman Strikes and Legion of Super Heroes In The 31st Century. Justice League Unlimited is the latest "DC Animated" comic series to come to an end, but not the last. Both The Batman Strikes! and Legion of Super Heroes In The 31st Century will be ending later this year. Below are the total estimated sales numbers for the animated comics that shipped in June 2008.

Justice League Unlimited #45 - 8,434
The Batman Strikes! #45 - 7,118
Legion of Super Heroes In The 31st Century
#14 - 6,565

Sales of the "DC Animation" comics are expected to dwindle for the remainder of the year due to multiple series cancellations. The Batman Strikes is scheduled to end with issue #50 in October 2008, with Legion of Super Heroes In The 31st Century following right behind it, ending with issue #20 in November 2008. DC Comics has no plans to currently revisit these titles in the near future, with the exception of possible collection releases.

The Dark Knight is Too Violent for Wussy Brit Youths

Our American kids love violence, especially when it comes in movie form. And the awesome violence of the PG-13 rated mega-super-ultra-blockbuster The Dark Knight is maybe the best movie violence ever! Loving, American parents appreciate that. But a wicked plot to deprive the little lads and lasses of funny little England of the magic of violence is underway. "The age rating given in Britain to the U.S. blockbuster movie "The Dark Knight" is inaccurate given its violence, a growing number of complaints contend. In addition to 70 complaints delivered to the British Board of Film Classification regarding the newest Batman film, Member of Parliament Keith Vaz criticized the government board for allowing young children to see it."

"The BBFC should realize there are scenes of gratuitous violence in 'The Dark Knight' to which I would certainly not take my 11-year-old daughter," Vaz said of the movie's 12A certificate, which means it is suitable for those age 12 and above. "It should be a 15 classification."

The board has acknowledged it came close to restricting the movie to those 15 and older. It also details the film's violent nature on its Web site.

The Times notes "Knight" received a PG-13 rating, while in Ireland and Scandinavia it was given a 15 rating in order to keep those 14 years and younger from seeing it without supervision. [UPI]

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