Friday, August 8, 2008

News - 08/08/08...

"The Animator's Survival Kit", by Richard Williams

A promo for the Richard Williams video series.

This has commenced doing the rounds on the intertubes, and we would be remiss for not mentioning it again here.

Mr. Williams gives several lectures that include

* Timing and Spacing
* Building Walks
* Sneaks, Runs and Animal Action
* Takes
* Dialogue
* Giving the Performance
* Putting it All Together

And if you don't know who Richard Williams is, go here or here for short primers.

Our thanks to Carl Bell (Disney old-timer) for bringing this video lecture series to our attention. There will be sixteen DVDs in all, and they won't be cheap. But for any student of animation, they will no doubt be highly necessary viewing.

We're informed that "The Animator's Survival Kit – Animated" will be ready for sale late in the Fall.

(thanks Animation Guild Blog)

The Dark Knight Surpasses Spider-Man

Warner Bros. Pictures' The Dark Knight climbed to 7th place on the all-time domestic blockbuster list on Tuesday, surpassing the first Spider-Man to become the biggest comic book movie of all-time in North America.

The Christopher Nolan-directed Batman Begins follow-up added $5.67 million on Tuesday to bring its massive total to $405.7 million after just 19 days. Spider-Man reached $403.7 million domestically during its entire run in 2002.

The movie will next target Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which sits at #6 with $423.3 million.

Lyn Kroeger, 1930-2008

Assistant animator Lyn Kroeger passed away March 29 at the age of seventy-seven.

Kroeger started as an inbetweener at Disney in 1954 on Lady and the Tramp. The above John Sparey caricature shows Kroeger as Snow White with (from left to right) Bill Mahood, Osvaldo Franca, Sparey, Gary Mooney, Bob Carr, Dick Hoffman and Wes Herschensohn as the seven dwarves.

Kroeger resigned from Disney after Lady and went on to work at Quartet, Melendez, Murakami/Wolf, Haboush, Levitow-Hansen, Duck Soup and Hanna-Barbera, until she left the industry in 1984.

Below, a Sparey portrait of five women at Disney (from left to right): Nancy Stapp, Ruth Kissane, Janie McIntosh, Kroeger and Eva Schneider.

(thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Gary Mooney 1930 - 2008

The Cartoon Brew weblog is reporting that animator Gary Mooney passed away on August 5, 2008, at the age of 78 due to cancer. Mooney's career stretched for decades, with his work appearing in Disney's Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty, the original George of the Jungle TV series, Underdog, and the Taarna sequence of the movie Heavy Metal.

Time Magazine Examines Islamic Superheroes "The 99"

Time magazine has taken a look at the Islamic superhero team comic book The 99, which takes Islamic mythology to create 99 heroes, each of whom personifies one of the 99 traits that the Koran attributes to Allah. The comic is the brainchild of Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, and the title has been successful enough in the Middle East, and a new wave of expansion will include a theme park in Kuwait scheduled to open in October and an animated TV show that Mutawa hopes to have on the air by late 2010.

"Metalocalypse: Season One" to DVD on December 2, 2008

Warner Home Video has announced that Adult Swim's Metalocalypse: Season One will be released on December 2, 2008. The 2-disc set will include 18 episodes and carry a suggested retail price of $29.98. The episodes on the disc will be:


Artwork and special features are not available at this time.

The Knaufs bring The Phantom to Sci Fi

From Newsarama:

As costumed crusaders become further entrenched in mainstream entertainment, Sci-Fi Network is hoping to update one of the oldest comic heroes, The Phantom, for television.

Created even before Superman in comic strips of the '30s, the Phantom is being translated for TV by screenwriters Daniel Knauf (of HBO's Carnivale) and his son, Charles Knauf. The writers said they've turned in a script for a four-hour Phantom movie that is waiting to be greenlit, with the hopes of an eventual series for Sci-Fi.

"Sci-Fi's saying, you know, let's take another look at this Phantom guy," Daniel Knauf told Newsarama during this weekend's San Diego Comic-Con. "A lot of people are responding to superheroes, obviously. Just look at Comic-Con. And Phantom was one of the first costumed superheroes. He's a little bit more hardcore than other superheroes in that he packs guns and has martial arts training to kill, military style."

Australian educators name animated film finalists

Fourteen finalists in three animation categories were announced Tuesday for this year's ATOM Awards, staged by the Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM), a professional organisation of media educators and industry professionals.

The awards, now in their 26th year, recognize excellence in over 30 categories of animation, film, TV and multimedia (including video games) from Australia and New Zealand.

Culture Shock, directed by Mei-Lynn Wilkinson of Narrabundah College in Australian Capital Territory, is one of five finalists for Best Animation -- and one of four for Best Secondary Animation.

In the Best Animation category, the other finalists are Mutt (Glen Hunwick and Beth Frey, Circe Films/Glen Art Productions, Victoria), Ephemeral (Tony Radevski and Jongsu Oh, Runtime Pictures, New South Wales), Father (Sebastian Danta, Second Sight Productions, New South Wales) and Chainsaw (Dennis, Jungle Pictures, Victoria).

Finalists for Best Tertiary Animation are Animal Instincts (Cameron Edser, Bond University/GooRoo Animation, South Australia), Crooked (Tali Gal-On, Victorian College of the Arts), Lucille (Tali Gal-On, Victorian College of the Arts), Paper City Architects (Daniel Agdag, Victorian College of the Arts School of Film and Television) and Nocturne (Rie Takeshima, Holmesglen TAFE, Victoria).

For Best Secondary Animation, the other finalists are Rut (Sarah McConnell, Firbank Grammar School, Victoria), The Lands of Good and Bad (Elise Cassar, Brentwood Secondary College, Victoria) and Creative Creatures (Guy Verge, Wallace, New South Wales).

“It almost sounds cliché, but we are bowled over each year by the calibre and quantity of entries that we get from all around Australia and New Zealand. It’s always a tough call to come up with the list of finalists, as some categories are particularly close, so I can only emphasize that our 2008 finalists should be incredibly proud of their achievement, as should all those who entered their work in this year’s awards program,” commented Julie-Anne Smith, executive officer of this year's EnhanceTV ATOM Awards.

The 2008 EnhanceTV ATOM Awards will be presented October 24 at a gala presentation ceremony in the Plaza Ballroom of Melbourne's Regent Theatre.

The awards are funded by Screen Australia, South Australian Film Corporation, the New South Wales Film and Television Office and Film Victoria.

Unknowns Voice Clone Wars

When Star Wars: The Clone Wars debuts next week, there will be a lot of familiar (albeit computer-animated) faces. And the voices will sound familiar. But they're not all who you think they are.

Only Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) reprise their characters from George Lucas' live-action Star Wars films; the rest are played by relative unknowns, taking over for their more famous counterparts.

Matt Lanter takes on the voice of Anakin Skywalker, a role played by Hayden Christensen in the live-action movies. James Arnold Taylor voices Obi-Wan Kenobi, played as a young man by Ewan McGregor in the other films. Tom Kane voices Yoda, taking over from Frank Oz.

The reasons? Star Wars: The Clone Wars started out as a television film and the first installment of the upcoming animated TV series. The producers told a news conference at Lucasfilm Animation's Big Rock Ranch in San Rafael, Calif., on Aug. 4 that the actors needed to be available. And they also needed to work for less money.

"When we started the project, it was, as George said, initially a television series, and we needed to be able to work at a pace [that] was pretty rapid," producer Catherine Winder said. "And the way that we write this is we rewrite, we change it, and we need to be able to access our actors pretty regularly. So it was hard to get all the actors that would be off on set because this pace is pretty intense."

"You need people available every week," Lucas, Clone Wars's executive producer, added. "And you can't really afford, you know, multimillion-dollar actors to do a television series. ... The license fee on your average television series is about $200,000. You know, it's nothing. So those guys make more during their coffee break."

Jackson, Lee and Daniels signed on after the decision was made to produce the first bit of The Clone Wars as a full-fledged feature film, Lucas added. "We went back to the [original] actors and we said, 'OK.' We told them we were doing the TV series, just so they knew, as a courtesy. But then we said, 'Look, we're doing a feature. Would you like to do the voice in the feature?' And some of them said yes. Some of them were off doing [other] features. Because this all was, again, done fairly rapidly. It wasn't like we said, 'OK, next June we're going to do this.' It was like, 'Could you come in in a month, in four weeks, and do this? Could we have two days?'"

Lucas confessed that big-name actors would have contributed more than the current ones mainly for their press value. "They simply use them--they have two days in the studio or three days in the studio, and then they have, like, three weeks doing press," Lucas said. "So they're mainly paid for the press stuff, they're not really paid for doing the movie." Star Wars: The Clone Wars opens Aug. 15.

Wire's Top 10 Brilliant But Canceled

It's the sad fate of every science fiction fan to fall in love with amazing, creative television shows only to see them struggle in the ratings and eventually disappear into the land of repeats and DVD box sets ("Own the complete series for just $24.95!").

It happened just this spring for Jericho fans, who got a mini-reprieve of seven episodes thanks to a whole lot of nuts (the kind you eat, not the fans themselves), but they too would eventually see their show ride off into the sunset like so many others before it. For too many of these on-the-bubble shows, the bubble popped before the rest of the world caught on to the genius that went into them. Fortunately, they live on in the memories of fans, including those at SCI FI Wire.

We now present a list of the top 10 brilliant-but-canceled SF&F shows, as determined by SCI FI Wire's news editor and contributors. For the purposes of this list, the selections were made based on quality network shows that were not renewed after their first season. Bonus fan points (and sympathy hugs) if you remember them all.

10. Eerie, Indiana, created by Jose Rivera and Karl Schaefer. NBC. Original run: September 1991 to April 1992. Number of episodes: 19

Although it may not have featured big-name stars, this semi-anthology series engaged the few viewers it attracted with the story of a boy (Omri Kats) who moves to the titular town and becomes best friends with the only other normal kid on his block (Justin Shenkarow). Together, they investigate a series of strange phenomenon in their neighborhood, including a Tupperware lady who seals her kids up in large tubs every night to keep them immortal and a pack of intelligent dogs who scheme to take over the world. The show's bizarre plots and offbeat tone helped keep it in the public consciousness, inspiring the creators to continue the storyline in a series of books.

9. Nowhere Man, created by Lawrence Hertzog. UPN. Original run: August 1995 to May 1996. Number of episodes: 25

One of the most frustrating things that can happen when a show is yanked before its time is a denial of answers to a big, over-arching mystery. That's what happened in the case of Nowhere Man, about a photographer (played by Bruce Greenwood), who takes a controversial picture in a South American war zone and suddenly finds his identity erased by a covert, possibly governmental, organization. Nowhere Man incorporated elements of The Fugitive and The Prisoner, but unlike those shows, it never got an epic final episode, leaving fans (dozens of them) to wonder forever (or for a few weeks at least) about the significance of that fateful photograph.

8. Jake 2.0, created by Silvio Horta. UPN. Original run: September 2003 to February 2003. Number of episodes produced: 16

NBC seems to have a hit on its hands with Chuck, but it's a safe bet that few of the show's viewers realize that the exact premise was already done in a little-seen show called Jake 2.0. Like its successor, Jake dealt with an affable, lovelorn geek (Ugly Betty's Christopher Gorham) who receives a computer upgrade to his brain (thanks to nanobots, in this case) and is recruited by the government as a spy. This was back in the early days of UPN, when the network was still trying to find its identity and looking for a breakout hit to complement Enterprise. This didn't turn out to be it.

7. American Gothic, created by Shaun Cassidy. CBS. Original run: September 1995 to July 1996. Number of episodes: 22

Moody, atmospheric and sinister, this show from creator Cassidy and executive producer Sam Raimi was the epitome of subtle, character-driven horror. Featuring career-making performances by Gary Cole and Lucas Black, the series centered on a boy (Black) whose soul is desperately sought by the competing forces of good--represented by a small-town doctor and the ghost of the boy's dead sister--and evil--represented by Cole as the demonic Sheriff Buck. Notable veterans of this promising, terminated-before-its-time show also include Battlestar Galactica's David Eick and Oscar winner Stephen Gaghan (Traffic).

6. The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., created by Jeffrey Boam and Carlton Cuse. Fox. Original run: August 1993 to May 1994. Number of episodes: 27

Clever writing, great production values and a brilliant turn in the title role by the one and only Bruce Campbell made this genre-bending SF-western-comedy a pleasure for those who were hip to its self-referential humor, witty dialogue and memorable performances. Unfortunately, that didn't include most of the viewing audience. Fox scheduled the show on Friday nights, a timeslot notorious for low ratings, with the exception of The X-Files, which just happened to premiere the same year. Seems that the network could only afford to take a chance on one low-rated show, and we all know how that turned out, so they're probably not regretting their decision (though they may be regretting that second movie right about now).

5. Space: Above and Beyond, created by Glen Morgan and James Wong. Fox. Original run: September 1995 to June 1996. Number of episodes: 24

This futuristic war drama followed a squadron of marines known as the Wildcards aboard the USS Saratoga, the space-faring equivalent of an aircraft carrier. In addition to an alien threat and rebel AI mercenaries, the soldiers also faced conflicts closer to home, with the introduction of artificially bred humans and a potential government conspiracy. The show's dark tone, desaturated look, military backdrop and exploration of complex topics such as the moral ambiguity of war make this a predecessor of sorts to the more successful Battlestar Galactica. But back in 1995, the public wasn't quite ready for this kind of series, and the show failed to attract an audience wide enough to justify renewal.

4. Alien Nation, created by Kenneth Johnson. Fox. Original run: September 1989 to May 1990. Number of episodes: 22

The not-so-subtle pun in the title gives some indication of the allegorical themes at work in this series, based on the film of the same name. Picking up where the film left off, the show is set in a world where an alien slave ship has crashed on Earth and left its passengers stranded. Forced to assimilate into human society, they encounter the same kinds of struggles as any every other immigrant group throughout history. Except that they get drunk on sour milk and require three partners to procreate. Through the mixed-species partnership of a pair of police detectives--one human, one alien--the show explored issues of immigration, racism and cultural identity. Although canceled after one season due to budgetary pressures, Fox did bring it back in a series of five television movies.

3. Now and Again, created by Glenn Gordon Caron. CBS. Original run: September 1999 to May 2000. Number of episodes produced: 22

Why CBS chose not to renew this inventive, funny, sad, well-cast, new-fangled take on The Six Million Dollar Man is no mystery. Despite the intriguing concept of a man who is hit by a subway train and wakes up in a perfect, government-built body, the ratings for this show were not exactly stellar. Stars Eric Close (Without a Trace) and Dennis Haysbert (24) have since gone on to more high-profile gigs, but once upon a time they had great chemistry together as the restless, super-powered secret agent and his by-the-book handler.

2. Wonderfalls, created by Bryan Fuller and Todd Holland. Fox. Original run: March 2004 to December 2004. Number of episodes produced: 14

Before Pushing Daisies on ABC, Bryan Fuller teamed up with Todd Holland (Malcolm in the Middle) and Tim Minear (Angel, Firefly) to create this quirky series, about a cynical twentysomething souvenir-store clerk (Caroline Dhavernas) in Niagara Falls. When she begins hearing the voices of talking animal figures, she finds herself forced to actually care about helping others. The show expertly blended dry wit, unpredictable plots, a sharp cast and an unsentimental approach to sentimental material. Unfortunately, it got lost in a season of shows with similar concepts (like Joan of Arcadia, which lasted one season longer). Considering the network never really had any idea what it had, let alone how to properly promote it, the writing was probably on the wall from the beginning for this lost gem.

1. Firefly, created by Joss Whedon. Fox. Original run: September 2002 to August 2003. Number of episodes produced: 14

Joss Whedon's high-concept space western was a difficult sell to mainstream audiences, television critics and even its own network, but it inspired a group of dedicated fans (called Browncoats, after the show's rebel fighters), who are still active today (as evidenced by their booth at this year's Comic-Con). Through their active campaigning, the Browncoats got more than some fans do. The 2005 feature film Serenity brought back the characters, resolved the relationships and tied up loose narrative ends. And it continues to live on in comic books, novels and games. Still, we can only imagine where they crew would have gone, say, in season six or seven.

Linda Hamilton Returning As Sarah Connor!?

Big ''Terminator Salvation'' news this morning, folks. Seems Linda Hamilton may be returning to her trademark role as Sarah Connor!

Or is she? said Hamilton will film flashback scenes for her gun-toting mama character. Unfortunately, Hamilton's reps knowing nothing about it.

Still, doesn't mean it's not true.

Hopefully this one is on the money - Though Hamilton always said she wouldn't do another Terminator movie unless her ex-hubby, Jim Cameron, was directing it. You'll recall she passed on "Terminator 3 : Rise of the Machines" for that very reason.

Cameron Talks "Avatar" Technology

James Cameron talked about "Avatar" with The Hollywood Reporter this week and revealed some key facts about the much anticipated sci-fi epic.

Most important is that he doesn't plan to go the way of George Lucas - "You have to make a good film that would be a good film under any circumstances. You have to put the narrative first. The reality is no matter how many (3-D) screens we get, you are still going to have a large number of people -- possibly the majority of people -- who see the film in a 2-D environment."

Cameron claims "Avatar" will be about 60% CG-animated/40% live-action, with a lot of visual effects throughout and is "the most challenging film I've ever made".

The full interview can be found here.


Tom Kenny is providing the voice of Plastic Man in Cartoon Network's upcoming Batman: The Brave and the Bold, but it's not the first time he's voiced the character.

During a brief interview with
The Continuum at Comic-Con International, Kenny -- whose many credits include SpongeBob SquarePants and The Batman's Penguin -- explained his history with and passion for Plastic Man, as well as how the character will be presented in the new Batman series.

The Continuum: So you actually have a history with this character?

Yeah, it was really fun to do Plastic Man again in The Brave and the Bold. For one thing, he's my favorite super-hero character of all time. I have a Plastic Man obsession. I love Jack Cole, the 40's one. And Andy Suriano, an animator/designer, and myself did a seven-minute pilot for Warner Bros. a couple of years ago, that they didn't pick up. And I voiced Plastic Man in that.

So I thought, "Well, that's the last that I'll be voicing Plastic Man in my life." And then they brought him back in Brave and the Bold and they brought me into do the voice. I didn't even have to audition. It was great. I didn't even have to try it out.

The Continuum: And now you get to officially be seen as the character...

Yeah. The Warner Bros. lawyers don't like it, but our Plastic Man cartoon has a way of popping up on YouTube once in a while.

The Continuum: What do you like about The Brave and the Bold incarnation?

It's great. They capture his craziness and his malleability very well. You know, I never really understood that 80s Plastic Man cartoon series, the Ruby-Spears one, because the most kinetic character ever done in extremely limited animation seems like kind of a dumb idea.

But this Plastic Man is very fun. One change that they made is that they've done a thing with Batman to be instrumental to Plastic Man's origin. He kind of winds up being his de facto parole officer. Because, as all of us comics fans know, Plastic Man used to be a bad guy.

That's what I always found fascinating about him. He was this gangster who had this accident and came close to death. He kind of had this ephipany, where he says, "I've been on the wrong side. I don't want to be a sleazebag any more. I can stretch. I'm going to have fun and be on the good guys' side."

I always thought that set him apart. He seems to be having a lot more fun than most other comic-book super-heroes. I've had it with nihilism and angst.

Toon Disney Becomes Disney XD

As live-action continues to creep into outlets traditionally dedicated to animation, Disney has announced that it will re-brand its Toon Disney television and online platforms in the U.S. as Disney XD. The 24-hour, advertiser-supported network’s programming will consist of a mix of live-action and animated programming for kids 6-14, “hyper-targeting” boys. The transformation will be seen in February of 2009 on television, web, mobile and VOD platforms.

Disney XD programming will include series, movies and short-form productions, as well as sports-themed shows developed with ESPN. The channel currently reaches nearly 70 million households via its basic cable affiliates. For the 19 Jetix channels and six Toon Disney channels and programming blocks in all other parts of the world, any potential re-branding decisions will be made on a case by case basis at a later date.

“Disney Channel is a huge business serving kids all around the world, and it's especially successful with girls, and our goal with Disney XD is to have that same success ratio with boys,” says Rich Ross, president of Disney Channels Worldwide. “Disney XD will showcase great stories and empowering characters with Disney's brand credibility and a cool creative factor that will set it apart from the pack.”

New animated properties include the short-form series Hero and Not (working title), produced in Italy by Studio Bozzetto & Co SRL, and RoboDz, a CG-animated and live-action short form comedy series co-produced by Toei Animation Company Ltd. and Walt Disney Television International Japan. Other featured series will included the Disney Channel hit animated comedy Phineas and Ferb, and the superhero cartoons Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man and Iron Man.

The New live-action programs will include
Aaron Stone, an original, single camera adventure series about a teenager who is enlisted to become the real-life version of a legendary, crime fighting online game character. The series is exec produced by Bruce Kalish (Disney Channel's The Famous Jett Jackson) and Suzanne French (Overruled!, Life with Derek), and produced in HD (HD) by Shaftesbury Services II, Inc. Mongoose & Luther
(working title) is a single camera, documentary-style single camera show about two best friends who set their sights on becoming world famous skateboarders. The creators and executive producers are Matt Dearborn and Tom Burkhard (both of Disney Channel's Even Stevens
). Filmed in HD, the series is a production of Turtle Rock Prods., Inc.

Disney XD will be the seventh brand in the kid-driven TV and radio business of The Walt Disney Co. The company’s global portfolio encompasses Playhouse Disney, Disney Channel, Radio Disney, Disney Cinemagic, Toon Disney and Jetix.

TenNapel Animates Sarah Silverman

When our pals at Chiodo Bros. Studios told us they were working with animator/comic-book creator Doug TenNapel on a bit of stop-motion animation for Comedy Central’s The Sarah Silverman Program, we had to go check it out. The strange fruit of their labor can be seen in an upcoming episode set to air during the new season, which kicks off this fall.

In the episode, Sarah Silverman gets pregnant and gives birth to a green, winged demon that wreaks havoc in the delivery room. The show’s producers wanted to get TenNapel involved with the animation, and he in turn brought the project to the Chiodo Bros., who run one of the few shops in Hollywood that specialize in stop-motion and puppetry. Their work can be seen in Jon Favreau’s Elf and Matt Stone’s and Trey Parker’s Team America: World Police.

TenNapel created the 1994 video game Earthworm Jim, which became an animated series as well. He later worked with DreamWorks on the video games The Neverhood and Skullmonkeys. His first comic book, GEAR, was adapted for television as the Nickelodeon comedy Catscratch. TenNapel’s second graphic novel, 2002’s Creature Tech, sparked a bidding war between major studios. Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises are developing a live-action feature film passed on the book. Paramount Pictures and Spider-Man director Sam Raimi have plans for a live-action adaptation of his latest graphic novel, Monster Zoo, and Universal is developing a pic based on his Tommysaurus Rex.

The Chiodo Bros. are close to announcing a deal for a stop-motion animated feature film based on their children’s book,
Alien X-Mas
. Watch some video from our visit to the Sarah Silverman shoot on AniMagTV. TenNapel has also chronicled the creation of “Seth” on YouTube at

Biker Mice Ride Again with 4KIDSTV

The animated children’s series Biker Mice From Mars is back with a new incarnation that premieres Saturday, Aug. 9 at 8:30 a.m. on 4KIDSTV in the U.S. Produced by Criterion, part of The Storyland Group Plc in the U.K., Biker Mice From Mars: The Catalonians successfully launched in the U.K. and Finland in 2006, and will roll out this fall in several major markets including Italy, where a major merchandising campaign has been created by MediaSet to support the launch on Italia 1.

Created by Rick Unger, the original
Biker Mice debuted in 1993 and aired for three seasons. Biker Mice From Mars: The Catalonians
offers a comedic blend of action and rock n’ roll attitude as it has fun with iconic business and political figures from around the world. Martian heroes Throttle, Vinnie and Modo return to Earth to save the planet from various villains, including the control-seeking Catatonians, led by Hairball and Cataclysm, who join forces with a U.S.-based, overweight real estate developer with a bad haircut.

Based in London, Criterion is the brand management division of The Storyland Group Plc specialising in handling character-driven entertainment properties. Criterion has considerable experience with producing television and creating publishing programs based on both its own and managed properties, including Untalkative Bunny, Betty Spaghetty, Magic House, Tumble Tots and The Story Store.

Image Metrics Animates “Emily” for SIGGRAPH

Image Metrics, a provider of facial animation solutions for the entertainment industry, partnered with Paul Debevec of the University of Southern California Institut for Creative Technologies (ICT) to create a completely photo-realistic computer-generated animated face. ICT’s facial scanning system was used to create a computer-generated replica of actress Emily O’Brien’s face at high-definition resolution, while Image Metrics brought the CG character to life by capturing, tracking and animating the actress’ exact performance. “Emily” will make her worldwide debut in Image Metrics’ booth (#1229) at SIGGRAPH 2008, taking place Aug. 12-14 in Los Angeles. A behind-the-scenes Tech Talk on Emily’s creation will be given on Aug. 13 at 1 p.m. in Room 2, Hall G.

“Our goal was to create a completely convincing, animated computer-generated face,” explains Image Metrics producer David Barton. “Given the caliber of creative work and talent in our industry, it was a challenging goal, but one we were confident we could accomplish by pairing our technology with the facial scanning system developed by Paul Debevec and his team at ICT. The unmatched level of detail delivered by ICT’s facial scans perfectly complemented the power and accuracy of Image Metrics’ technology to achieve a new level of believability in facial animation.”

ICT employed its high-resolution face scanning process to capture O'Brien in 35 facial poses directed by Image Metrics. This newest process from the ICT Graphics Lab places the actor inside a sphere of LED lights, illuminating the talent with a set of polarized spherical gradient illumination patterns while a pair of high-res digital cameras takes around 15 photographs in under three seconds. The patterns allow the shine of the skin to be photographed independently from the main skin tone so that precise colors and characteristics can be calculated at hundreds of measurements per square millimeter. The resulting CG models provide unprecedented detail down to skin pores and fine wrinkles with perfectly aligned shading information that allows photo-real faces to be rendered under any illumination and viewpoint with standard rendering packages.

“It's exciting to see the results of combining our high-resolution face scanning with the animation pipeline Image Metrics has created," says Debevec, associate director for graphics research at ICT. "This collaborative research project means that, for the first time, we're seeing the realism of our face models truly come alive on screen, with a pipeline that would be straightforward to apply to future projects”

Image Metrics began planning the Emily project in March. After the company developed a script for the animation, the ICT Graphics Lab scanned O’Brien to develop the template for her CG double. A team of eight artists working part-time on the internal project then built a custom rig for the Emily character, captured O’Brien’s performance with video and applied it to the CG character with its proprietary facial animation solution. Once the capture and rigging processes were finalized, the 90-second animation took just one week to complete.

Who Needs to Pitch?

LA Weekly has two articles this week profiling Amy Winfrey and her animated webseries Making Fiends and Stefan Bucher’s Daily Monster video podcast. What do both of these creators have in common? Their ideas started out as independent self-financed Internet projects that gained a popular fan following and were ultimately given TV deals by major companies. Making Fiends is about to debut as an animated series on Nickelodeon, while Daily Monster was collected into book form this year and will also appear as a segment on PBS’s new Electric Company in 2009.

The paths that both of these properties have taken offer a view into how new TV animation ideas will be discovered in the future. The dysfunctional system of pitching and development in TV animation still exists, but it is on the wane and being dismantled by the Internet. As Winfrey and Bucher have demonstrated, creators are no longer beholden to clueless and sheltered development execs who don’t have the foggiest about what their audiences want to watch. Today an artist can create an uncompromised piece of animation independently, post it online, and attract a significant audience without any assistance from broadcasters. The cherry on top is that if your idea is successful, major companies will be knocking at your door to pay you money to produce more episodes.

(thanks cartoonbrew)

Comic Con Trailer for 'Wolf Man' Finally Hits the Web

I was nearly so distracted by the quality of this bootlegged trailer for The Wolf Man that I almost forgot to pay attention to what was in the trailer. Upon further review, that's two-and-a-half jam packed minutes. I mean, you get story, you get action, you get character development, you get a little payoff. It's a damn fine piece of work.

The trailer was, of course, captured by an amateur at Comic Con and it has since found its way online. I don't know if the project overall has the panache of a lot of this year's big Comic Con movies, but it has tremendous potential, in my opinion.

When it first came together, I thought the combination of Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, make-up master Rick Baker, and director Mark Romanek was a terrific team, and quite a coup for Universal, the studio digging into its archives of classic monster movies for this remake.

However, Romanek is off the project, replaced by Joe Johnston, and I didn't like the swap initially. But based on this trailer, there's a lot to like already. See, my fear was Universal would want to go more gory in the age of bloodletting horror movies but Johnston appears to be going a lot deeper, using blood only when he has to in order to ratchet up the internal dilemma for Hopkins and Del Toro.

That's a lot to pick up on in two-and-a-half minutes, but what can I say: This trailer tells the story, highlights the cast, and is every bit the preview it should be without giving anything away.

Bert and Ernie get claymated

As reported by Animation Insider the longtime Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie will soon be starring in their own claymation program as part of Sesame Street’s 39th season on television. The educational intent behind the program, made up of five-minute segments, will be to take children beyond counting to building math and computational skills. “According to Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind the memorable brand, research shows that while all young children have knowledge about everyday arithmetic, language skills can be a barrier for them to explain their mathematical thinking. It is here where Sesame Street looks to become a bridge for youth suffering from a mathematical language deficit, establishing strong mathematical reasoning skills, in a variety of easy to understand formats, for its viewers.”

Green Lantern Movie on Fast Track? Justice League Back in Development?

Production Weekly’s current issue has updated Warner Bros’ adaptation of DC Comic’s The Green Lantern as being in active development:

STATUS - Development
PRODUCER: Donald De Line - Andrew Haas WRITER: Greg Berlanti - Marc Guggenheim - Michael J Green
DC COMICS 1700 Broadway New York, NY 10019
WARNER BROS. PICTURES 4000 Warner Blvd. Burbank, CA 91522-0001

Each sector of space is protected by a Green Lantern, possessing a power ring that uses a powerful green energy to do anything within the limits of the user’s imagination and will power. When the Green Lantern assigned to this sector of space finds himself dying on planet Earth, he tells the ring to find a suitable successor. The chosen replacement, hot-shot test pilot Hal Jordan, finds himself with a new job he never expected.

No director is mentioned in the above update, although Greg Berlanti (Everwood, Eli Stone) was attached to the project last year.


I also noticed that rapper-turned-actor Common told Entertainment Weekly at Comic Con that if he had to dress up for the convention, he would be dressed as The Green Lantern. Common, of course, was originally signed on to play Lantern in the now defunct Justice League movie. Could this just be an inside joke to fans in the know or could Common still be in line to play the character in a stand alone big screen film? The plot synopsis from production weekly lists Hal Jordan and not John Stewart as the wearer of the ring, which if accurate, would probably mean Common won’t be starring in this film.

Justice League

Also, about that Justice League movie… Unfortunately, I’m hearing it might be back on. Seems like after the success of Marvel Entertainment’s Iron Man, DC is hot to get some projects on the fast track. I haven’t been able to confirm this with a second source, but it looks like the project might not be as dead as everyone first believed. And if so, is George Miller still in line to helm the project or did Warner Bros reach out to another SUPER director? I just wish this project would die the death it deserves. Either that or get a director to completely overhaul everything, because right now it smells like bad goods.

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