Wednesday, August 13, 2008

News - 08/13/08...

Coraline preview

Everything I see from Henry Selick’s new film Coraline looks terrific. Rotten Tomatoes is posting a new, different behind-the-scenes video each day this week. It looks to be shaping up to be something very special. Coraline is scheduled for release next February. I can’t wait.

(thanks cartoonbrew)

Joss Whedon Talks About His ‘Batman’ Movie That Never Was
Never let it be said that superstar writer/director/rabid fanboy Joss Whedon was the type to rest on his laurels. Clearly not content with his work on such fan-favorite franchises like “Buffy”, "Angel", “Serenity” and the upcoming “Dollhouse,” Whedon regaled MTV News with the details of his proposed plan to reboot the “Batman” film franchise before Director Christopher Nolan got the gig.

“Well, I actually did pitch a ‘Batman’ film when [Warner Bros. began developing "Batman Begins"], and it wasn’t what they did but the vibe was very similar,” said Whedon. “Mine was a bit less epic. It was more about the progression of him and it was more in Gotham City. He didn’t go to Tibet and meet cool people, but it was very similar in vibe [to Nolan's "Batman Begins"].”

After a little prodding, Whedon opened up a bit about his “Batman” idea, even going into detail about what villain he planned on using…or not using.

“In my version, there was actually a new [villain], it wasn’t one of the classics — which is probably why they didn’t use it,” he laughed. “It was more of a ‘Hannibal Lector’ type — he was somebody already in Arkham Asylum that Bruce went and sort of studied with. It was a whole thing — I get very emotional about it, I still love the story. Maybe I’ll get to do it as a comic one day [ed. note: HINT HINT, DC Comics... ].”

Despite losing out to Nolan, Whedon has no hard feelings, and gave nothing but praise to the Director Who Can Do No Wrong. “I just love the respect [Nolan has] for the character and the world,” he said. “I thought Christopher Nolan’s done an amazing job of bringing out the comic book, and I see a lot of movies [coughs “HULK”] — sorry, I had a Hulk stuck in my throat — that don’t really have the aesthetic or the pathos or really get why the comic book works.”

'Dark Knight' DVDs planned for Christmas

A Hollywood Reporter article comparing and contrasting the box office legs of 'The Dark Knight' vs all-time champ 'Titanic' posits there's one reason why the batfilm won't outlast the romantic disaster: DVDs.

According to the report, Warner plans on pushing 'Dark Knight' discs into stores during the lucrative holiday buying frenzy. For the movie to outlast 'Titanic', it would still have to be drawing box office ticket sales in December. Would people go see the movie when they can watch it on DVD?

How To Reboot The Superman Movie Franchise — Comic Writers Chime In

On the one hand, you’ve got “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight.” On the other, “Superman Returns.” So if you’re Warner Bros., what do you do to revitalize your other superhero? MTVNews asked a few comic book writers who know the Man of Steel best.

“‘Superman Returns’ didn’t work for a lot of reasons,” Grant Morrison said.

“I so wanted that movie to work,” said Mark Waid, “but every choice they made in that movie was wrong. If you’re making the movie in a vacuum, and there will be no other Superman movies ever again, go ahead and give him a son. But otherwise, that’s a staggeringly awful idea. What are you going to do next? Either the kid has to be a part of his life, or get superpowers, which no one wants to see. I want to go to them and say, ‘What were you thinking?’”

“The idea was to make an American Christ figure, but what they centered on was his weakness,” Morrison said. “They made him more a lamb of God, rather than give us a real powerful Superman. They had too many scenes where he’s being kicked to the floor, and that’s not Superman. Superman would get up and fight.”

So these comics book writers are getting up and fighting too. Both Morrison and Geoff Johns have pitched the film studio on how to reboot Superman — properly reboot him, as if “Superman Returns” didn’t even happen.

“I told them, it’s not that bad,” Morrison said. “Just treat ‘Superman Returns’ as the Ang Lee ‘Hulk.’

“‘The Hulk’ has proven the audience will forgive you and let you redo the franchise,” Waid said. “You can reboot from scratch.”

Morrison’s idea was a more “tight and concise” take on his “All-Star Superman,” so you’d see Superman address his mortality. And Waid suggests they take a look at his hard reboot, “Superman: Birthright.” But Brad Meltzer also has an idea that could work as the basis for the character, based on research for his upcoming “Book of Lies.”

“Superman is a character more recognizable than Abraham Lincoln or Mickey Mouse,” Meltzer said. “But no one knows crap about Mickey Mouse. He’s a symbol. Understanding a soul is much harder. So don’t treat him like a walking American flag.”

To understand Superman, Meltzer says, you have to know why Superman was created in the first place — because a young Jerry Siegel’s father was shot and killed in 1932 (a fact first uncovered by Gerard Jones in “Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book”).

“Superman was created not because America is the greatest country on earth, not because Moses came to save us from Krypton, but because a little boy lost his father,” Meltzer said. “In his first appearances, he couldn’t fly. He didn’t have X-ray vision. He was only bulletproof. So Superman’s not a character built out of strength, but out of loss.”

“When you hear that, it puts on a whole new spin on Superman and his origins,” Waid said. “The understanding was that Batman was born out of tragedy and Superman out of hope and aspiration, and it turns out that it’s about not wanting to lose your loved ones. That’s critical, and it means that we can connect with him. He’s not an untouchable character. Bad things still happen to him. His father passes away, and his powers can’t save him.”

And even if Superman still seems like too much of a Boy Scout, we’re supposed to be identifying with Clark Kent anyway. “Everybody knows what it’s like to see the pretty girl and think, ‘If only she could see me for who I really was,’” Waid said. “Past the glasses and acne or whatever. But he has to hide, and half his co-workers don’t even know his name. That’s a critical part, too.”

“It is so much deeper than, ‘He’s an alien with superpowers,’” Meltzer said. “I never wanted to write a Superman movie before, but I do now. I understand what Superman is now.”

Paris Hilton Gets Animated For Stan Lee-Created Superhero Spoof

Can Stan Lee do for Paris Hilton what he did for Pamela “Stripperella” Anderson? Word leaked out last year that the dynamic duo were working with MTV on a mutant-geared animated series for the heiress, so what’s the latest?

“We’re developing that right now and just going over scripts and drawing my character,” Hilton told us. “I fight crime.”

The infamous party girl will soon be seen in the upcoming twisted musical “Repo! The Genetic Opera” where she lampoons beauty-obsessed celebrities as a plastic surgery-addicted brat, and Hilton proclaimed her next target will be the capes-and-cowls crowd.

“It’s not like your typical superhero,” she promised of her Lee-created character. “It’s me basically as a superhero, so kind of using makeup and compacts as weapons. It’s kind of like a spoof on a superhero.”

Night at the Museum and Transformers Sequels Locked for IMAX has confirmed today that 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks/Paramount will release Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, respectively, in both conventional theaters and IMAX.

Opening May 22, 2009,
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
is again directed by Shawn Levy and stars Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Christopher Guest, Jon Bernthal, Bill Hader, Alain Chabat, Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon.

Michael Bay's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will be released on June 26, 2009 and stars Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, Isabel Lucas, Rainn Wilson and Jennifer Alden.

The first Transformers originally hit conventional theaters on July 2, 2007 and then was released in IMAX on September 21, 2007.

Seth Green To Play NBC Comic-Book Nerd In HEROES??

The great Seth Green, of “Austin Powers,” “Buffy” and “Robot Chicken” fame, is nearing a deal to joining the cast of “Heroes.” He’s expected to play a comic book nerd alongside Breckin Meyer (the human in the “Garfield” movies).

Read all of Mike Ausiello’s exclusive for Entertainment Weekly here.

The Gang at Cartoon Network

It's quieter and less crowded than in days of yore, but there are projects stirring and series being done .

Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is wrapping up its six year run, completing its 78 episodes toward the end of the year. (If my spies are correct, animation wraps up October, the rest a couple of months after) ...

That will leave Chowder, Flapjack and Ben 10, Alien Force as the series-in-work at the CN Burbank studio (shown above under crystalline Burbank skies). But there are other things happening on First Street. A production person informed me:

"We have one new series that might be greenlit soon. And there's seven new shorts greenlit for production. We've taken one hundred pitches for other shorts, and approved twenty-five boards for development in the shorts program ..."

Which isn't to say that this will bring the studio back up to its former speed. As I walked out the door, an exec said to me: "We need to get more shows going."

I told him he would get no arguments on that subject from me.

(thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Wage Minimums In The Recent and Distant Past

When I was but a lad, I found myself working at Walt Disney Productions in the Animation Story Department. I was a "Trainee", and I made a princely $130 per week. It seems like a pittance now, but in the mid 1970s I was living on it ... with folding money left over.

That was TAG's "Minimum Rate" at the time. Most studios made it policy to pay most employees close to negotiated minimums, and the Mouse House was no exception. You made forty or a hundred bucks over your rate, you were a Major Player. (More than that, and you were one of the Nine Old Men).

But it got me to thinking about Minimum Rates in general, because -- except for the go-go nineties -- M.R.s have been the main signpost for a lot of animation employees in the six-plus decades L.A. animation has been unionized. So let us now take a brief trip down Memory Lane ...

What follows are the contract minimums for a journey artist working as an animator ... or layout artist ... or storyboarder ... or writer. (A television Production Board Artist would get a 15% add-on). Because old contracts have shifting start and end dates for salary bumps, the numbers are generalized a little.

1976 -- $351.56.
1977 -- $393.76
1978 -- $441.00
1979-80 -- $501.48
1980-81 -- $537.58

By the early eighties, inflation was roaring and for the 1982-1985 contract, wages increased every six months for its first two years. The telescoped minimums looked like this:

August 1, 1982 -- $612.12
August 1, 1984 -- $728.84

Sizable jumps, but inflation was over 10% per year, so studios and unions adapted. By 1985, the rates had returned to annual increases instead of semi-annual increases. (At times they went up on a percentage formula, sometimes a dollar formula. The dollar-per-hour jumps ended up providing smaller gains).

Almost always TAG follows the pay-raise formula of the IATSE and the Basic agreement -- which follows the pattern of the other entertainment unions and guilds. (Funy how that works):

1985 -- $764.84
1986 -- $804.84
1988 -- $848.84
1990 -- $900.56
1993 -- $1043.44
1995 -- $1,074.76
1998 -- $1,140.20
2000 -- $1,209.64
2002 -- $1,283.28
2004 -- $1,375.32
2006 -- $,1,446.56
2008 -- $1,534.64

A dozen years ago, lots of folks regarded minimum rates with sneering disdain: "Who needs them?" ... "I make my own deals." ..."The minimums are worthless."

Of course, at the time, the industry was roaring, with an abundance of jobs chasing a minimum of qualified artists. Supply has long-since caught up with demand, and those "sky is the limit" attitude have gone away. Now, more often than not, I get: "Man, I'm glad the rates are there."

Times they do change. But then, change is the only constant anybody can rely on.

(thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Autodesk Unveils Maya 2009

In celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the popular Maya modeling, animation and rendering software package, Autodesk announced Autodesk Maya 2009 at SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles, Calif. Maya 2009 includes a host of advancements in modeling, animation, rendering and effects application designed maximize productivity, optimize workflows and provide new creative possibilities. SIGGRAPH attendees can get a first look at the Autodesk booth (#501) this week.

“We are celebrating the work done with Autodesk Maya over the past 10 years by many artists and creative visionaries in film, television production and games, as well as in industrial design and architecture,” says Marc Petit, Autodesk's Media & Entertainment senior vice president. “We designed Maya 2009 as a tribute to creative innovation and production efficiency. The new release will allow artists to raise the bar and deliver even more ground-breaking computer graphics work.”

Highlights of Autodesk Maya 2009 include a new Maya Assets toolset and other new tools for managing the complexity and size of scenes, a new Render Proxy feature in mental ray, additional multi-threading work and algorithmic speedups, accelerated modeling workflow and collaborative, iterative projects and pipelines. The software has a new animation layering paradigm that provides animators with increased non-destructive flexibility, as well as an updated Render Pass toolset that offers precise control over render output and optimizes integration with Autodesk Toxik procedural compositing software.

Maya 2009 also offers an innovative Maya nParticles dynamic simulation module and an extensive Maya Muscle feature set. nParticles is part of the Maya Nucleus Unified Simulation Framework, a new approach to creating complex physics simulations that interact directly with each other. Furthermore, to help studios capitalize on the growing popularity of stereoscopic 3-D films, the new version offers a flexible new stereo camera rig, complete with in-viewport stereo viewing.

Autodesk anticipates that Maya 2009 will be available in English in October. The release will be supported on the Windows and Linux operating systems (64-bit and 32-bit versions), as well as Mac OS X for Intel-based Macintosh and PowerPC computers (32-bit version only). The suggested retail price is $1,995 for Maya Complete 2009 (Standalone) and $4,995 for Maya Unlimited 2009 (Standalone). The upgrade price from Maya Complete 2008 to Maya Complete 2009 is $899, and the upgrade from Maya Unlimited 2008 to Maya Unlimited 2009 is $1,249. For a complete list of new features and enhancements in Maya 2009, visit

Massive 3.5 Debuts at SIGGRAPH

Massive Software unveiled Massive 3.5, the latest upgrade to the artificial intelligence-driven animation system widely used in film, television and video games. Originally designed by Stephen Regelous to populate the screen with thousands of combatants for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, the software allows artists to create and direct realistic performances in everything from CG humanoids to birds, animals cars and more. Massive “agents” are 3D characters that use sight, sound and touch to interpret and react autonomously to the world around them. New features of Massive 3.5 include Agent Fields, improved integration and hair and fur dynamics.

"The release of Massive 3.5 improves on many of the most-requested features from Massive users, including extended support for FBX files and Python scripts,” comments Regelous. “And with Agent Fields, Massive users can easily and efficiently handle local interactions between large numbers of agents. Agent Fields can be applied with the simplicity of particle-based simulators, without losing the flexibility extensibility of Massive.”

Other new features in Massive 3.5 include Maya particle file support, improved dynamic hair and fur support the Mental Ray hair shader for high-quality hair and fur renderings without writing custom shaders, and a ready-to-run car agents that come complete with animation, brain, geometry, textures and shaders, and include enough variation to populate large scenes.
Massive 3.5 is now available for Windows and Linux and is priced at $17,999 per license. Massive Jet 3.5, delivering out-of-the-box functionality, is available for $5,999 per license. For more information on the release, go to

Madden NFL 09 Hits Stores

Today is the day all fans of sports video games look forward to every year, the day when the latest edition of Madden NFL debuts at retail. Rabbid franchise fanatics lined up at select stores across North America on Monday night to be the first to get their hands on Madden NFL 09 as it went on sale at midnight. Recently named Best Sports Game of E3 in the official Game Critics Best of Show Awards, the title marks the 20 anniversary of the best-selling franchise and lays claim to being the first sports game that adapts to you while by accessing your skills and adjusting gameplay accordingly.

Featuring quarterback Brett Farvre sporting a Packers uniform on the cover, Madden NFL 09 introduces more than 85 new features and enhancements, including a new broadcast presentation package featuring Cris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond, online leagues, and the most realistic graphics in franchise history. There’s also a Virtual Training Center which establishes a player’s gameplay difficulty. The interactive tutorial mode is set in a holographic environment and aims to teach gamers fundamental concepts of football strategy and how to use the controls in quick, fun and stylized drills. After players complete these drills, a Madden IQ score is given and the player’s “My Skills” difficulty settings are automatically set based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Developed by EA Tiburon in Orlando, Fla., Madden NFL 09 also features EA SPORTS BackTrack, a new replay learning tool imbedded within the game that dissects plays and shows the player what they should have done in certain circumstances. When a mistake is made, Collinsworth will breakdown where the user went wrong and how it could have been avoided. Te release also gives gamers the ability to create online leagues of up to 32 teams. Online league play will feature in-depth stat tracking, player trades and a flexible scheduling option.

Due to the trade of Favre to the New York Jets, new packaging featuring a first look at Favre in a Jets uniform is now available on A roster update with Favre as the Jets’ starting quarterback is also now available. Offline users will find Favre on an all-time greats team in the final packaged version of the game and can place him on whichever team they choose.

Madden NFL 09 is rated E by the ESRB and isbavailable for Xbox 360, PlayStation2, PlayStation3, Wii, Nintendo DS and PSP. A 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition will ship on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3. For more information, go to

Hahn Serves Up Alchemy of Animation

Veteran Disney producer Don Hahn (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) has informed us that he has a new book coming out on Oct. 7. The Alchemy of Animation aims to give readers a comprehensive look at the process of making animation at Disney in the modern age. Hahn’s first book in nearly seven years, this one is aimed at a slightly older audience than his acclaimed Animation Magic.

The Alchemy of Animation will feature never-before-seen art from Disney and Pixar films through the ages, including a few sneak peeks at art from upcoming projects such as Bolt and The Princess and the Frog. Readers will get an overview of the animation process across three mediums—hand-drawn, stop-motion and computer-generated(CG)—as executed in such Disney classics as Dumbo, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Toy Story, among others.

Don Hahn has been producing at The Walt Disney Studios for more than 30 years. His other films include The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and the 2006 short The Little Matchgirl, which earned him his second Oscar nomination. He is currently developing the stop-motion animated feature Frankenweenie with director Tim Burton, and directing and producing several documentary projects.

Creators Talk Animated "Wonder Woman"

"Wonder Woman" comes to DVD in February, 2009

Fans of Wonder Woman have been waiting for a feature film starring the Amazon princess since Lynda Carter wore the bracelets and tiara on TV back in the late '70s. This February their wishes will come true, in animated form, with the release of the direct-to-DVD film "Wonder Woman," from DC Universe Original Animated Movies.

The film is the fourth in the company's direct-to-DVD line following the extremely successful "Superman/Doomsday," "Justice League: The New Frontier" and "Batman: Gotham Knight" features. "Wonder Woman" also boasts an all-star cast of voices including Keri Russell ("Mission: Impossible III") as Wonder Woman, Nathan Fillion ("Serenity") as Steve Trevor, Alfred Molina ("Spider-Man 2") as Ares, Rosario Dawson ("Sin City") as Artemis, Virginia Madsen ("Sideways") as Hippolyta and Oliver Platt ("Flatliners") as Hades.

Last month at Comic-Con International in San Diego, CBR News had the opportunity to speak with some of the people who are responsible for these fan-favorite films. On hand were Producer Bruce Timm, Executive Producer and Senior Vice President of Creative Affairs for DC Comics Gregory Noveck, Casting Director Andrea Romano and Director Laura Montgomery.

"Wonder Woman is in the very top tier of DC characters that we haven't over-explored yet in animation," explained Timm when asked why DC and Warner Brothers decided to make this their next direct-to-DVD animated film. "There was a lot of interest in the direct-to-DVD department in doing a Wonder Woman long-form, theatrical-type experience as early as we could, so this was our opportunity and we took it."

Unlike the first two films in the series, "Wonder Woman" is not based on any particular comic, but instead is an original story, similar to what was done with "Batman: Gotham Knight." "We cherry-picked from lots of different versions of Wonder Woman. It's not specifically based on any one version. It has a lot of Golden Age elements, it's a got a little of the Perez revamp, and it's even got some stuff from the Lynda Carter version. So it's an amalgamation of all the different things that we love about Wonder Woman," said Timm.

Noveck explained the company's decision to base "Wonder Woman" on an original story. "When we first started talking about doing the DC Universe animated movies, the idea was to adapt directly from source material and give the fans the stories that they've always wanted to see on the screen. We want to keep finding those stories from the comics that we can just adapt directly and we do have some of those in the hopper," said Noveck. "But what we tend to find, like with Wonder Woman for example, [is that] there are great scenes here that are very cinematic, she has great moments and a core story. But is there a core storyline that says, 'This is the movie that not only appeals to the fans but is also not so inside-baseball that it is going to alienate people.' Then you start saying, 'Lets change this and lets move that. Well why base it on that then? Lets just do an original story that has the spirit of it.'"

The film is a retelling of Wonder Woman's origin story, but it takes place in the present day. Timm explained that, due to time, when he was working on "Justice League," they had to do a revised, shorter version of her origin story. He said fans had complained that it didn't contain certain classic elements, such as her winning the contest to bear the Wonder Woman mantle on Paradise Island.

"This was our chance to do all of that. It's her origin story and her first mission into man's world and it has lots and lots of fighting," said Timm of the new movie.

Bruce Timm at CCI

Timm talked about the challenges of making a movie like this. "To a degree, we're always our own worst enemies. We set ourselves up with unrealistic expectations of what these movies should be. We always say, 'This isn't going to be a Wonder Woman movie, it's going to be the Wonder Woman movie,'" said Timm.

"We look at these movies and say, if we were going to do a live action Wonder Woman movie, only in 70 minutes, what would it be? So you want to include as many of the iconic parts of the original source material as possible," continued Timm. "Who's the arch-villain? Who are the supporting characters? You want to get all that stuff in it so when long time Wonder Woman fans go to see it they say, 'Oh, there's Steve Trevor!' Or 'Hey, there's Etta Candy and hey, there's Ares!' So that's the rough blueprint, these elements have to be in there. Then we have to come up with a story for those guys, and that's when it gets tough."

When asked if Wonder Woman's archenemy, The Cheetah, would be in the film, Timm paused and said, "I'm not saying," indicating that perhaps the feline villain may appear.

Romano, who has been working on DC animated projects since "The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians" in the mid '80s, talked about why she wanted to work on "Wonder Woman."

"I wanted so much to do a project that had a lot of women in it. So many of the DC properties are male orientated, and I wanted to do something that was a female driven show. That's what was lovely about this one, that it was different in that way," said Romano.

The film's director Laura Montgomery shared Romano's excitement to work on a film full of strong female characters. "It's great, I can't begin to say how awesome it is! I've always preferred working with female characters because they have a much wider range of emotions you can address," explained Montgomery. "If you have Batman crying in a corner, people are going to look at it a little odd. But with Wonder Woman, she can cry and that's okay, and she can kick ass and that's okay, too. So any female character for me is just better."

She went onto talk about the effect she hopes "Wonder Woman" will have on young girls who watch the DVD. "Basically we're showing Wonder Woman as a strong, independent, female force. If girls can see that and be inspired by that, in the same way that any little boy can watch Superman and be inspired, then that's awesome," said Montgomery.

Romano spoke about the casting of the film and how she found her leads. "The casting was kind of a no-brainer as far as Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor go. I had recently seen "Waitress" with Kerri Russell and Nathan Fillion and thought that they had some nice chemistry there." Romano also talked about the pressure she feels to cast known actors in these roles. "The guys who sign my checks tell me I have to bring in celebrities," laughed the casting director.

"Wonder Woman" promotional artwork

Noveck talked about the goal of DC Universe Animated Movies. "We want to make really good movies with really good stories and if anything, inspire the theatrical division who are working really hard on their end. If they're having a problem adapting some of these characters like Wonder Woman or Flash, we can say, here's a way in. Imagine what you could do with your resources."

Timm, who has been working on DC animated projects for almost twenty years, dating back to his work on the critically acclaimed "Batman: The Animated Series," said that after working on so many Batman and Superman projects, he would like to work on something with some of the other characters in the DCU. "Personally, I'm much more interested in getting deeper into the back-log of really odd-ball characters like The Question, The New Gods or Jonah Hex. Hopefully, this series will continue to sell well and we'll get there eventually."

Timm wouldn't say what projects that they are working on beyond '09's "Wonder Woman," but he did say that the next film is already in the storyboard stage and that there are three to four other scripts in active development.

When asked if the long rumored "Teen Titans: The Judas Contract" was still in development Timm had this to say. "It's on hold still, currently. We're still evaluating where the market place is and if there is enough interest and demand for it. We hope there will be, and we hope to get back to it someday."

Noveck had this to add about "Teen Titans: The Judas Contract." "Teen Titans is a tricky one. The script is in pretty good shape. The issue there is that we want to give the fans what they want. But every time we do research after a premiere of one of our films and we ask (the fans) what they want they always say, Superman and Batman. Teen Titans is always last on the list. So until the fans we ask put it at the top of the list, it'll be a harder one to do."

"Wonder Woman" is scheduled for release on DVD in February 2009.

"Star Wars" director calls job a dream come true

Director Dave Filoni grew up playing "Star Wars" in his yard with a large collection of movie toys, but he never imagined he would one day help create the series' first animated film, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."

Filoni says that since he was a kid he has dreamt about the space adventures of characters such as Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi and working on the new "Star Wars" with creator George Lucas was beyond anything he could have imagined.

But this new tale represents a shift in the stories that in six films, starting with 1977's "Star Wars," have raked in more than $4.3 billion at global box offices. It is expected to keep the "Star Wars" franchise flying into the future, and Filoni, 34, is the man with his hands on the spaceship's rudder.

For starters, "Clone Wars" is computer animated so actors such as Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) are not in the movie, and the film is meant to launch interest for an upcoming "Star Wars" television show on cable TV's TNT and Cartoon Network.

More important for fans, the story is not a repeat or sequel of any of the previous films that ended with 2005's "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith."

"It's part of the story we know, but it's been in the background until now," said Filoni.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars," tells of the galaxy-changing events that took place between 2002's "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" and "Episode III - Revenge of the Sith."


While the previous movies focused on the evolution of the Skywalker family -- Anakin and his son Luke -- the new animated film focuses on the three-year conflict between a Clone army and separatist group led by villain Count Dooku, Filoni said.

That conflict was only referenced in the earlier films, but ultimately leads to freedom for the galaxy after many battles among Jedi Knights, clone soldiers and androids.

"Clone Wars" also explores the people and political machinations of the time, and the plot sets up further conflict for the TV series, of which Filoni is a supervising director.

"You'll have individual episodes about different Jedi, specific events, different areas of the war, from the front lines with the soldiers," Filoni said about the TV series.

Both the film and TV shows will include favorite "Star Wars" heroes, such as Padme Amidala. The film also introduces Anakin's Padawan apprentice, the teenager Ahsoka, who breaks through Anakin's tough-guy facade, Filoni said.

The relationship between Anakin and Ahsoka shows a different side of the Jedi, who once was a good man much like his son, before he eventually became a dark knight.

Dooku, Chancellor Palpatine and General Grievous round out the cast of sinister villains poised to rule the galaxy.

A few actors from the movies are providing voices for the animated film including Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, Christopher Lee as Dooku and Anthony Daniels as C3PO.

Filoni, a veteran of TV series "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and other cartoons, said the new, animated approach brings a fresh visual style to the "Star Wars" series.

Filoni said he drew upon original "Star Wars" for inspiration, as well as Japanese Anime and 1960s marionette TV series, "Thunderbirds."

Early reviews are mixed with critic Todd McCarthy of show business newspaper Daily Variety saying "This isn't the 'Star Wars' we've always known and at least sometimes loved."

More Catwoman nonsense featuring Angelina Jole and a porn star!

OK, just to be clear: Christopher Nolan has NOT committed to doing a sequel to 'The Dark Knight' yet. When he does, they'll start developing a story and making decisions about who the next villain will be. Until then, any talk of the baddie in the next Batman movie is just speculation.

With that disclaimer in place we offer you this amusing bit of nonsense, fueling the unconfirmed rumor that Angelina Jolie is chasing after the role of Catwoman in the next film.

New York Post's Page Six gossip column claims that Jolie has been consulting with porn star Tera Patrick about how she should play the role.

"They are friends and keep in touch via e-mail," said an unnamed source. "She and Angie have a girl-talk thing going. After seeing reports that she'll land the lead role, Jolie asked Patrick what she thought. Tera had such insights into the role that Jolie cracked, 'You should do it!' "

Page Six could not confirm the story with Jolie's rep.

'Blood +' Volume 3 comes home in October

Fans of the 'Blood +' series will be able to add to their collections with 'Blood +: Volume Three', debuting October 21 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. This is the third volume of the Blood + series to be released on DVD in a five-episode single disc format, a popular option among anime collectors. Blood +, the dark and visually impressive Adult Swim series from The Cartoon Network, is based on the anime movie 'Blood: The Last Vampire'. 'Blood +: Volume Three' will be available for $24.96 SRP.


Saya Otonashi, a seemingly normal high school student, suffers from amnesia and can't remember the past year of her life. One day, after a man appears and gives her a katana sword, her destiny changes forever. Soon Saya finds herself fighting the latest threat to humanity – Chiropterans, ravenous immortal creatures that can change form and disguise themselves as human beings. An organization known as the Red Shield has been waging a private war to wipe them out and now, with Saya’s help, the struggle has grown.

DVD Special Features Include:

Full Screen Presentations
Audio: English, original Japanese
Subtitles: English, French
Closed Captioned

Blood +: Volume Three Episodes Include:

After the Dance
Lured by the White Mist
Jungle Paradise
The Last Sunday
I Want to Pursue!

BROADCAST YEAR: 2007 (Adult Swim – Cartoon Network)

'Blood +: Volume Three' has a run time of approximately 120 minutes and is not rated.

Comic Book Vets Team Up for Holocaust Survivor Artist Dina Gottliebova Babbitt

The New York Times is reporting on a six-page comic book to benefit Dina Gottliebova Babbitt, a Holocaust survivor who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp by painting watercolor portraits for Dr. Josef Mengele. Some of Babbitt's artwork survives in the possession of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland, which is refusing to return the art to Babbitt. After the war, Babbitt went on to become an assistant animator for 17 years for many Hollywood animation studios. The comic book will chronicle Babbitt's life, with artwork provided by comic book veterans Neal Adams and Joe Kubert. Stan Lee will also provide an introduction.

Newsarama on "Adventures in Voice Acting"

Newsarama's Animated Shorts has taken a look at the making of the Adventures in Voice Acting DVD, now available from Bang Zoom Entertainment. The column includes lengthy comments from voice actor Steven Blum and Bang Zoom president Eric P. Sherman on why the DVD was made and how it all came together. The first volume is available now, with two more expected to follow.

"Country Doctor" prescribed top award in Hiroshoma

Koji Yamamura's 21-minute film "Franz Kafka's 'A Country Doctor'" won the Grand Prix -- and a million-yen ($9,090) cash award -- at the 12th Hiroshima Animation Festival for shorts, which ended Monday night.

The biennial festival gave its top prize to the Japanese film, released last year by Shochiku Co., Ltd.

In Franz Kafka's "A Country Doctor," a hapless country doctor describes with breathless urgency a night-time summons to attend a young patient. Events soon take on a surreal aspect as "unearthly horses" transport him instantaneously to the bedside.

The doctor, preoccupied with personal distractions and grievances against those he is employed to care for, fails to find what is revealed to be a vile, fatal wound. He is humiliated by the villagers who are "always expecting the impossible from the doctor," and doomed to an endless return trip, losing everything.

La Maison en Petits Cubes, directed by Kunio Kato of Japan and produced by ROBOT Communications Inc., was the winner of both the million-yen Hiroshima Prize and the Audience Prize. It's a story about the memories of an old man who lives inside a house which grows taller and taller as the sea level rises.

The Debut Prize went to France's The Heart is a Metronome (Le Coeur est un Métronome), by Jean-Charles Mbotti Malolo.

In the film, a quick-tempered father argues with his son for the last time. The child decides to leave the family home. Dancing is the high point of the exchanges between the two characters because it is their only means of communication.

Breakfast (Sniadanie), a two-minute Polish-German film by Izabela Plucinska of Clay Traces GbR, won the Renzo Kinoshi-ta Prize.

At the breakfast table a man and a woman don't have anything to say to each other... until a wind blows into the room and turns their lives upside-down.

Also clocking at two minutes, A Little Farther (D'un Peu Plus Loin) by François-Marc Baillet of France received the Rene Laloux Prize.

Special International Jury Prizes went to Madame Tutli-Putli (Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, National Film Board of Canada), KJFG No.5 (Alexey Alekseev; Studio Baestarts Film & Video Ltd., Hungary), Oktapodi (Julien Bocabeille, François Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier and Emud Mokhberi; Gobelins École De L'image, France), Zhiharka (Oleg Uzhinov; Pilot Moscow Animation Studio, Russia), Candid (Cândido) (Zepe; Insectos & Lampadaacesa, Portugal) and Don't Let It All Unravel (Sarah Cox; Arthur Cox Ltd., United Kingdom).

Receiving Special Prizes were John and Karen (Matthew Walker; Arthur Cox Ltd., United Kingdom), Minuscule - The Ladybug (Minuscule - La Coccinelle) (Thomas Szabo; Futurikon, France), Beton (Ariel Belinco and Michael Faust; Bezalel Academiy of Art & Design, Israel), Lapsus (Juan Pablo Zaramella, Argentina), Lavatory-Lovestory (Konstantin Bronzit; Melnitsa Animation Studio, Russia) and Lost in Snow (Zudusi Śniega) (Vladimir Leschiov; JetMedia/Ani Mera AB, Latvia).

During the five-day festival, Chris Williams' Disney film Glago's Guest and Presto, made by Doug Sweetland for Pixar, had their Japanese premieres.

The Preliminary Selection was conducted in May by members of the International Selection Committee. They viewed and scored a total of 1,656 films and videos submitted from 56 countries and regions; 76 works were selected for competition.

South Korean fund benefits animated "Dino Mom"

Computer-animated feature film "Dino Mom" will be the first film to benefit from a 100 billion won (U.S. $98.5 million) investment fund announced Tuesday by the South Korean province of Gyeonggi.

Dino Mom, a 3D film for the international marketplace, is a collaboration between Seoul-based animation company Toiion Inc. and a producer and screenwriters from the United States. The producer was not named before Tuesday's announcement in downtown Los Angeles.

The movie is about three kids who step into an egg-shaped time machine and meet a Tyrannosaurus Rex-like dinosaur with maternal instincts.

The fund and comprehensive production support program is intended to promote joint ventures between the Hollywood and Korean entertainment communities.

Hollywood production companies and content creators, especially those working in animation and visual effects, are eligible to apply for the program when partnering with a Korean entity. Selected partners will benefit from a growing investment fund as well as production and post-production support services in "Hallyuwood," an entertainment complex in northern Gyeonggi.

"The U.S. is widely recognized as having the strongest and most robust system for producing and distributing films, broadcast programming and video games to a global audience," said GDCA President Byung Heon Kim. "Our entertainment fund will unite this great Hollywood expertise with Korean creativity and technical knowhow to produce new content for all to enjoy."

Since the late 1990s, there has been a surge of interest in Korean films, television dramas, music and products, called Hallyu (the Korean Wave). Motion pictures such as Old Boy and The Host, broadcast series such as Winter Sonata and musicians such as Rain have experienced success with their high production values and universal themes, Kim said.

The GDCA initiative will build on Hallyu's popularity as well as support its expansion into film and other content created with computer graphics. To encourage CG productions, Gyeonggi has opened a school, Gyeonggi Digital Contents Academy, dedicated to training artists and filmmakers in 2D and 3D.

Oh, bother: Robber in Winnie-the-Pooh suit nabbed

A 20-year-old man -- or was it a bear? -- was arrested Monday on suspicion of beating two men in Tokyo and robbing them of about 18,000 yen ($160) while wearing a Winnie-the-Pooh suit, police officials said.

"I felt annoyed and wanted to terrify them," Masayuki Ishikawa was quoted by the police as telling officers. Ishikawa is a resident of the capital's Kita Ward, where the incident is said to have taken place.

According to police, Ishikawa was hanging out on a street corner after midnight July 27 while sporting the Disney bear wear. Two friends accompanying him were dressed as a mouse and a panther.

"It's uncommon to see people dressed up like this, so the victims were watching them. Then the perpetrator came up and said 'What are you staring at?'" a police spokesman said.

Ishikawa and two boys and a girl, aged 15 to 16, allegedly attacked the pair and took their money. The three teens turned themselves in at a police station the next day, Japan's Kyodo news service said.

Apparently, the group had put on animal attire because they had run out of clean clothes, the police spokesman said.

Hynden Walch Hosts "Animation in the City" Seminar Aug 16-17, 2008

Marla Kirban Voiceover will be hosting actor Hynden Walch as the host for an "Animation in the City" seminar on August 16-17, 2008. Walch provided the voices for Starfire in Teen Titans and Harley Quinn in The Batman, and is also a casting director, writer, and director in her own right. Walch will also be casting for one of her new projects in the seminar.

Those interested in attending the seminar should contact Marla Kirban Voiceover.

New Zealand Finds Its Animation Groove

We blather about overseas animation from time to time, but we seldom say much about what the kiwis are doing:

.... An X-rated 90-second cartoon sex romp created by Auckland-based animator Laban Dickinson became an edgy online viral campaign promoting a men's hair wax product. He isn't certain if it resulted in increased sales of hair wax but he does know that "drawing boobs for a year was pretty fun". The cartoon, which features breasts, nudity and erections, was certainly controversial: one disapproving blogger wrote: "All I see are nasty cartoon people looking like they're doing it." ...

[New Zealand's] animation industry ... is booming. "New Zealand, this year, has got more international product out there in the market than ever before," says Brent Chambers, managing director of Flux Animation Studio and a 20-year veteran of the business. He lists television series such as Jane and the Dragon, Staines Down Drains, Master Raindrop, The Adventures of Bottle Top Bill and Milly, Molly (popular kids' shows made here and screening in several countries, including Australia and the United States) as examples ...

[I]ncreasing numbers of New Zealanders are putting their skills and training as animators to good - and very diverse - use ... Animation is widely applied in New Zealand-made TV advertisements, series and feature films as well as in emerging fields such as viral internet campaigns. Animators and visual effects artists are also key players in the development of cutting-edge video games ...

I remember well visual effects artists, after fifteen years at Warners, Imageworks and Rhythm and Hues, telling me their next gig was at WETA in far-off Wellington, working on King Kong.

They were amazed that there was a sizable visual effects house on a small island in the south Pacific, yet there it was, another example of animation going global. But it didn't surprise me a whole lot. I recalled when I was herding children along a Honolulu Street and a local pointed out a skyscraper that housed a big animation studio.

"They're doing some c.g.i. feature called Final Fantasy. They've got over a hundred people working for them ..."

Turned out it was a Japanese game company moving into animated features; later I found out that several L.A. storyboard artists I knew had been lured from the mainland to work on the project.

Who knows? If the picture hadn't underperformed in a major way, there might still be an animation studio in Honolulu, making yet another Pacific island with an animation industry.

(thanks Animation Guild Blog)

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