Friday, August 15, 2008

News - 08/15/08...

"Ariel's Beginning" is a polished, professional & perfectly pleasant prequel to "The Little Mermaid." But ...

Jim Hill caught an advance screening of this new DisneyToon Studios production last month at Comic-Con. And he now shares his thoughts on this somewhat disappointing home premiere

Let's start with the good news: "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning" isn't nearly as awful as "The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea" was. This prequel to "The Little Mermaid" is a polished, professional piece of work with terrific production values. In fact, I'd dare to say that a good portion of the animation that you'll see in this DisneyToon Studios home premiere is actually technically superior to a lot of the stuff that you saw in the original film.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

But that said, "Ariel's Beginning" is still something of a disappointment. Mostly because this new "Little Mermaid" movie lacks a truly strong villain.

Okay. I know. It would be damned near impossible to top Ursula the sea witch. Which is DisneyToon brought back Pat Carroll to voice Morgana, Ursula's sister in "Return to the Sea." But Marina Del Rey, Ariel's ambitious governess? That's the best that Disney could come up with for a villain in "Ariel's Beginning" ?

Marina Del Rey confers with King Triton in "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning," a DisneyToon Studios home premiere which goes on sale August 26th.
Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Don't get me wrong. As voiced by two time Academy Award winner Sally Field, Marina certainly is an amusing bundle of neuroses. Particularly when she's kibitzing with her much-put-upon manatee manservant, Benjamin (voiced by Jeff Bennett). But Ms. Del Rey is still no match for Ursula.

Though -- if you keep your eyes peeled toward the end of Marina's "I Want" song, "Just One Mistake" -- you will see, in a neat tip-of-the-hat to the sea witch, that this film's animators do briefly put this ambitious governess in an outfit that's very reminiscent of the preliminary designs that Disney animators initially cooked up for Ursula.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

But without a strong villain, some credible threat that this film's central characters then have to deal with, "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning" lacks urgency and true emotional weight. Which ultimately makes this DisneyToon Studios Home Premiere a pretty lightweight piece of entertainment.

Mind you, this prequel's storyline does answer a certain number of questions that TLM fans have asked over the years (i.e. What became of Ariel's mother? And why does King Triton hate humans so much?). And "Ariel's Beginning" does give lots of screen time to the Little Mermaid's six sisters: Aquatta, Attina, Adrina, Alana, Arista, and Adella. Which should please the 4-to-8-year-old girls in the audience.

Atlantica's music lovers secretly cut up at the Catfish Club.
Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Likewise the four songs that Jeanine Tesori contributed to the proceedings are staged with great panache by Peggy Holmes. Which -- again -- makes "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning" a perfectly pleasant if not all that memorable animated feature.

To be honest, the most memorable thing about that advance screening of
"Ariel's Beginning" that I attended last month at Comic-Con was how paranoid Walt Disney Studios obviously was. Mouse House officials were so concerned that someone might videotape a portion of this "Little Mermaid"
prequel and then post that footage on the Web that they had a dozen or more volunteers standing around the perimeter of Hall 6B.

All eyes were on the Little Mermaid at last month's advance screening of this DisneyToon Studios home premiere at the 2008 Comic-Con International.
Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

And these folks weren't watching the movie. Oh no. They were watching the audience that was watching this advance screening of "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginnings." These Comic-Con volunteers kept a close eye on everyone in Hall 6B, ever watchful should a handheld camera suddenly pop up out of the crowd.

But no footage like that ever emerged from this year's Comic-Con International. However, if you'd now like to take a look at
"The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning,"
then I suggest that you head on over to the official webpage for this DisneyToon Studios home premiere. Where you'll find a number of clips from the finished film.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

So what do you folks think? Will you be picking up a copy of this "Little Mermaid" prequel when it hits store shelves on August 26th? Or have you or your family already kind of had your fill of these films?

A closer look at The Art of Ponyo

GhibliWorld takes a closer look at the upcoming book The Art of Ponyo on the Cliff, based on Hayao Miyazaki’s film of the same name. The book, which contains a variety of sketches, storyboards, background information, and cel reproductions with backgrounds, hits stands in Japan on August 2.

George Miller to direct 'Green Lantern' movie? takes a look at the script for the 'Green Lantern' movie and offers up this rumor: George Miller is no longer attached to direct the 'Justice League' movie, but may take the reins of this one instead.

The site laid hands on a draft of the script by Greg Berlanti (who has been attached to direct), Marc Guggenheim and Michael Green and liked it quite a bit.

"From the first major beat of the story - that is sure to bring a tear - to the revelations at the end of the movie that easily set up prequels as well as sequels this script has it all. Also, unlike other recent superhero movies, this Green Lantern story has science fiction elements such as visiting other planets and major space battles," writes IESB chief Robert Sanchez.

He goes on to report that Warner Bros. loves the screenplay. However, it may be too ambitious a movie for Berlanti, with only one feature film credit on his directing resume.

This is where George Miller comes in. Supposedly the studio is quietly letting the 'Justice League' movie fade and Miller has already been released from that project. According to IESB, the studio may now be looking for him to come on board 'Green Lantern' and deliver the ambitious adventure move.

Special Report: A Look At "Clone Wars"

An all new Star Wars adventure hits screens this week in animated form. Star Wars: The Clone Wars takes place in-between episodes II and III and serves as the pilot for the new 100-episode animated series. In fact, the Clone Wars movie was initially slated to debut on television but Lucas and director Dave Filoni felt the feature was simply too spectacular not to debut on the big screen.

Dark Horizons got the unique opportunity to fly up to George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in Marin County just outside of San Francisco recently and talk to the iconic George Lucas in the flesh. There was also a chance for a brief tour of the facilities as weItalicll as the Lucasfilm and Lucasarts offices in the Presidio. All were lined with George's impressive collection of classic movie posters as well as life size statues of Boba Fett and Darth Vader. Outside of both facilities, a Yoda statues welcome visitors.

The first question starts the interview off on an amusing note. What do the characters of the Star Wars universe do for fun? Lucas laughs before responding: "They like pod races, they like gambling, they like card games. They go out and shoot at wamp rats in the canyons. There is an entertainment industry, but you won't find that out until we get to the live action show in a few years."

The characters of Clone Wars have a very stylized look to them. We asked Lucas why this choice was made rather that giving the characters a more realistic look. "Photo-realistic is what live action movies are," Lucas said. "Animation is an art. You either like photo-realistic art and you hang that in the Museum of Modern Art or you like something that tries to find the truth behind the realism. Animation is all about design, style. I've been making photo real movies all my life."

Setting the series in the Clone War period between Episodes II and III was an obvious choice for Lucas, who saw the time period as one of the great unexplored areas of the film series. "On Revenge of the Sith, I lamented the fact that I had to jump over the Clone Wars because it had nothing to do with Anakin Skywalker. He's just another player. It's too bad because it's like World War II, it's a huge canvas there to be [explored]. So we decided we would do a little five-minute animation series for Cartoon Network. That sort of got me into thinking we could do a regular TV show. I got to fill in a blank and go around in a universe that is a little bit more lighthearted."

As it moved along, Lucas decided the best way to launch the series would be the same way all the other Star Wars movies debuted -- in the theater. "When the first few shots came back, I looked at them and said, 'This is fantastic. This is better than I ever imagined it could be, so I said 'Why don't we make a feature? Why don't we just make a feature that introduces Ahsoka, one of our main new characters.'"

"I wanted to develop a character that would help Anakin settle down,"
Lucas says of Ahsoka. "At the end of Episode II he's kind of a wild child and he and Obi-Wan aren't getting along. So the idea was to see how they become friends, how they become partners, how they become a team. One of the ways to do that is that when you become a teacher you have to become more responsible. What I wanted to do was take Anakin and force him into this [thinking] 'Now I have to teach somebody, now I have to be more responsible.' It was that juxtaposition. I happen to have a couple daughters, so I have a lot of experience with that particular situation."

The other new character in Clone Wars, the evil Asajj Ventress, draws her origins from the early planning of Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Director Dave Filoni discusses the wicked new character: "Ventress was a character that was actually developed for early concept art of Attack of the Clones. There was this idea that the Sith Apprentice after Darth Maul would be a girl. That got abandoned eventually in favor of Count Dooku but the concept art existed. The comics books and novels on the Clone Wars that were done before had utilized that new character. When it came time to develop the series, we [realized] that was a big fan favorite, so let's draw her out."

The show will have the chance to showcase the Star Wars universe in a way fans haven't seen before, with characters living their daily lives. "This is more episodic," says Lucas. "It's more like Indiana Jones actually. You have themes and things. This is bigger. We get to go more places. The fun part about animation especially is that we're allowed to go and do stories about clones. We get to know them and find out what they do for recreation and find out what Jabba the Hut's family is all about and do all kinds of things that don't have anything to do with the main character."

Only a few of the original actors from the features (Anthony Daniels, Christopher Lee and Samuel L. Jackson) reprise their roles for the new movie. Why didn't others return as well such as Ewan McGregor or Natalie Portman? "When we started the project it was initially a television series," Lucas said. "We needed to be able to work at a pace that was pretty rapid. It was hard to get all the actors that would be off on a set. You need people available every week. You can't really afford multi-million dollar actors to do a television series. Those guys make more during their coffee break."

"To be very honest with you, I don't really think I need to hire a big movie star to publicize my movie. If you like it, that's fine. I don't need Angelina Jolie here. That's what it comes down to in the end. They have two days in the studio and then they have like two weeks doing press. They are mainly paid for the press stuff."

For years, Lucas has been quoted as saying that he hopes to one day return to the smaller, art house fair of his origins. One journalist brought this up, stating that it would seem Lucas could do just about anything he wants at this point in his career. "I don't have time," Lucas said after a pause. "Again, opportunities present themselves. I wanted to do the TV series. I've got about maybe 15 projects sitting here and I have to say, 'Well which one works now? It makes sense for me to do these TV things so I'm doing some television. This is one of them."

The long-awaited fourth Indiana Jones movie was met with mixed reactions earlier this summer, but considering it still made a bundle of money, will there be another? "That's one of those things," Lucas said in trademark vague fashion. "It's on the shelf there, one of 50 projects and if I can come up with a story -- it's very hard to come up with a story for that thing. It's really impossible. It has to be real, it has to be something that actually happens and it has to be something people know about. It's a really difficult research project. They're researching now and last time it took us 14 years."

First look: Haley under the Rorschach mask

Apparently while we were away at Comic-Con a few weeks back, G4 via JoBlo, ran their behind-the-scenes footage of 'Watchmen'. Contained with in are your first look at Jackie Earle Haley, in makeup as Walter Kovacs, the man beneath the morphing Rorschach mask:

Mass Animation Project On Facebook

Intel Corporation will sponsor collaborative animation project to produce a computer-generated animated short film for theatrical release. The Mass Animation Project will be open to established and aspiring animators.

Intel is sponsoring the development and promotion of a Facebook Page where animators will be able access a collaboration application built on the Facebook Platform, and will work together to create the animated short film. Starting this fall, artists around the world will be able to contribute by animating small pieces of a five-minute, professional-quality animated short film. The start date will be announced soon.

The Mass Animation project will be produced and directed by industry veteran Yair Landau, former vice chairman of Sony Pictures Ent. and president of Sony Pictures Digital.

The tools that animators need to collaborate on this project will be provided. Participating animators will be able to download an evaluation version of Autodesk Maya Unlimited software to layout and animate sections of the script. Reel FX Ent. animation studio will then use proprietary tools to convert the selected videos to final quality animation frames for posting and sharing on the Facebook page. Aniboom brings its experience in supporting a community of animators from more than 70 countries around the world and its content management infrastructure to help manage the community element of the project.

For more information, including how to receive a notice when collaboration begins, visit and become a fan of the page. People who are not yet Facebook members can also register at

CBR on New "Clone Wars" Comics

Comic Book Resources has spoken with scripter Henry Gilroy about the new comic books from Dark Horse based on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the CGI animated continuation of the Star Wars saga which hits theaters on August 15, 2008, and will then become a series on Cartoon Network. Gilroy discusses the story that he will be covering in the first six-issue arc, and how he coordinated with the animated series.

Stan Winston’s Legacy Celebrated at SIGGRAPH

Hundreds of fans of the late special effects legend Stan Winston filled the house at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles to pay tribute to his life and achievements last night. Part of SIGGRAPH 2008’s Studio Nights events, the tribute was presented by Sony Pictures Imageworks, and featured warm remembrances by director James Cameron who worked closely with Winston on Terminator 2, vfx supervisors Shane Mahan and John Nelson (Iron Man), and Winston’s son, actor Matt Winston. The panel was moderated by Cinefex magazine’s Jody Duncan who wrote the 2006 book, The Winston Effect: The Art and History of Stan Winston Studio. The evening also included a High-Def Blu-ray master of T2.

Sony Pictures Imageworks creative director, Oscar-winning vfx supervisor Ken Ralston, introduced the program and praised Winston’s ability to create so many memorable images on the big screen that stay with audiences forever.

Winston biographer Duncan pointed out that Winston’s achievements were featured in 30 out of 115 total issues of Cinefex. She shared an amusing anecdote about the time Winston created a bronze sculpture of Arnold Schwarzenegger chomping on a cigar as a 50th birthday gift for the actor. “Schwarzenegger’s wife Maria seemed surprise and told Stan, ‘I didn’t know you were an artist!’ and Stan told her, “Yeah! What did you think I was doing all these years?”

Matt Winston got a lot of laughs from the audience by sharing childhood memories of the many times his father scared the living daylight out of him by dressing up as ghouls and werewolves. “He got to practice on me,” he said. “He made me up as a 90-year-old gnome one year for Halloween.” Winston added that his father loved doing what he did. “He believed that life should be about pursuing what you love to do. It should be about play … and despite all of his career achievements, he was also about keeping our family together.”

Mahan, who worked closely with Winston at Stan Winston Studio, praised Winston’s personal involvement in their numerous projects together, his eye for details and passionate energy. He told the audience that he and partners at the Winston Studio are forming a new studio which will be named Legacy Effects in honor of the late master’s legacy and lifelong achievements. The studio’s upcoming projects include Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, G.I. Joe and Cameron’s highly anticipated project, Avatar.

It was Oscar-winning director Cameron who painted some of the more intimate pictures of the Winston experience. He discussed the tight schedule for the seminal 1991 feature Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and how the film set a new standard for the way it featured a central CG character. “It was so critical to have some real tangible scenes to inform the CG,” said Cameron. “Out of the film’s 150 effects shows, 43 were cutting-edge digital shots. There’s a certain charisma required to calm down the nervous directors and producers on a project like this, and Stan had it all. I call it the duck principle—calm on top and paddling like hell underneath!”

Cameron, who co-founded Digital Domain with Winston and Scott Ross in 1994, also raved about how Winston was able to balance his playful nature with his business side, and how he embraced digital effects along with creature works as they became the dominating force in the industry. “When he was scaring [his son] Matt, he was a seven-year-old kid, but he turned into a clan elder at board meetings and managed to get everyone in the room smiling,” noted Cameron. “He never wanted to do something he had done before. My last conversation with him was two days before he died, and he sounded perky. We were reminiscing about the dragons we had slain together. He believed that it was so important to be the first, and to throw yourself at new projects one hundred percent. It should always be a gamble—studios hate to hear that, but it should never be a slam-dunk. I learned a lot of lessons from him for 25 years, and so happy to see so many people fill the room tonight to honor his life and legacy.”

Rough Draft Enrolled in Sit Down, Shut Up!

Indie animation house Rough Draft Studios will be producing animation for the upcoming animated FOX series Sit Down, Shut Up! The network has ordered 13 half-hour episodes of the irreverent comedy from Arrested Development creator, Mitch Hurwitz and Sony Pictures Television. Hurwitz is writing the toon adaptation and is also exec producing along with Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein and Eric and Kim Tannenbaum. The show is slated to debut sometime in 2009.

Based on a live-action Australian sit-com of the same name, Sit Down, Shut Up! focuses on the lives of eight self-centered staff members at a high school in a small northeastern fishing town. The voice cast will include Arrested Development alumni Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Henry Winkler. Current Saturday Night Live cast members Kenan Thompson and Will Forte will lend voice to the school’s principal and vice principal, respectively, and other voices will be provided by comedians Cheri Oteri, Tom Kenny, Nick Kroll and Maria Bamford.

Rough Draft has revealed that the show will feature a distinctive blend of 2D animation and live-action backgrounds. Production will be based in the toon shop’s Glendale, Calif. facility. The studio previously collaborated with Oakley and Weinstein on the animated series Futurama, and is currently in production on 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s series of direct-to-DVD Futurama features. The first installment, Bender’s Big Score, was released in November of 2007 and earned Rough Draft an Annie Award for Best Home Entertainment Production. The second feature, The Beast With A Billion Backs, was released in June of this year, and will be followed by Bender’s Game on Nov. 4.

Founded in a garage in Van Nuys, Calif. in 1991, Rough Draft Studios specializes in traditional, character-driven animation blending hand-drawn 2D and computer animation. The Glendale studio houses a staff of directors and artists in its 30,000 sq. ft. production facility, where the company has produced more than 140 half-hours of primetime animation, earning it multiple Emmy, Annie, Hugo, Reuben and Annecy Awards in the process. For more information go to

Happy Tree Friends Go to the Olympics

Lip-syncing and fake fireworks are the least of Chnia’s worries as Mondo Media’s calamity-prone Happy Tree Friends make their way to the Olympic Games in the latest in a series of gory cartoon shorts dubbed “Smoochies.” The video is now available at

The new Smoochie stars Mime, a cute and playful deer who sets out to compete in his first Olympic game, the boomerang throw. He soon finds out that he has actually entered the hammer throw competition. He is given another chance at the hurdles, only to meet with some violent obstacles along the way. Things start to look brighter for Mime in his third and final game, but raising a heavy barbell above his head can only end badly.

The Smoochies are part of the lineup for Mondo Mini Shows, a web channel that features a total of 93 videos and has become a top draw on YouTube. The Happy Tree Friends property in general has generated more than 500 million online views since its launch, and has spawned a TV series, a PC and Xbox video game, a line of home video releases and a global licensing and merchandise business. The Mondo Mini Shows channel is distributed across several major sites and platforms including,, Joost, Babelgum, (mobile) and iTunes podcasts.

Maya Turns 10

Autodesk is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Maya, its widely used modeling, animation and rendering software. The company has dedicated an area of its website to reviewing a decade of Maya accomplishments, starting with the 1998 Chris Landreth short film Bingo the Clown, which is available for viewing at The site also offers a look into Maya 2009 and the numerous awards the software has racked up over the years.

Maya grew out of three 3D software lines: The Advanced Visualizer from Wavefront Technologies in California, Explore from Thomson Digital Image (TDI) in France and Power Animator from Alias in Canada. In 1993, Wavefront purchased TDI, and in 1995 Silicon Graphics Incorporated (SGI) purchased both Alias and Wavefront and combined them into one working company named Alias|Wavefront. Maya 1.0 was released in February of 1998 on the IRIX operating system. A Windows release followed in June of that year.

Alias|Wavefront was renamed Alias Systems in 2003, and sold to investors in 2004. Autodesk acquired Alias in 2006, making Maya a sibling of its once competing software package, 3D Studio Max (3ds Max). Many animation studios, vfx shops and game developers use both Max and Maya in their pipelines.

Israeli-Australian "$9.99" to premiere in Toronto

Featuring the voices of Geoffrey Rush and Anthony LaPaglia, Tatia Rosenthal's stop-action animation $9.99 is one of 19 feature films from 18 countries completing the Discovery lineup at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

An Israeli-Australian co-production, $9.99 will have its world premiere at the festival, which runs from September 4 through 13. The final films in the Discovery showcase were announced Thursday.

Unemployed and still living at home at 28 years old, Dave Peck discovers a booklet claiming to answer the meaning of life for the low price of only $9.99. In his struggle to share his amazing find with the world, Dave's surreal path crosses with those of his unusual neighbors, including an old man and his disgruntled guardian angel, a magician in debt, and a bewitching woman who likes her men extra-smooth.

"Discovery is the place at TIFF to find this year's most exciting debuts in cinema," said TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey. "This is your one-stop shop for new filmmaking talent."

All 26 feature-length Discovery titles are eligible for the Diesel Discovery Award, chosen by the festival press corps, which consists of over 1,000 accredited media from around the world.

Purchase Toronto International Film Festival tickets online at, by phone at (416) 968-FILM or 1-877-968-FILM, or in person at the Festival Box Office at Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor Street West (main floor, north entrance). Box Office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow -- Tom Kane

Tom Kane talks to the Comics Continuum about 'Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow'

Even in the far-flung Marvel and Star Wars universes, Tom Kane is keeping it real.

Kane, a veteran voice actor, will be heard as Iron Man and Ultron in Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, Magneto in Wolverine and the X-Men, the Weapon X professor in Hulk vs. and Yoda and Admiral Yularen in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

He said in working with Marvel projects recently, there has been a specific directive.

"They've wanted performances that were cinematic-sounding, that sounded like live-action, and not as cartoony as some things may have been in the past," Kane said, talking about Next Avengers, which reaches stores on Sept. 2. "From my point of view, that was a change in that they were really pushing me direction-wise to sound more real.

"Especially with Iron Man, it's a weird dichotomy because he's Tony Stark and he's Iron Man and we're familiar with the character, but we've never introduced the element where he's also a father. That was an interesting third dimension to Tony Stark/Iron Man that has never happened before. That's something that they were pushing me to do: to retain the angst of Iron Man and Tony Stark, but soften when he was with the kids."

Kane said working in voiceover can result in a wide range of projects.

"You will go from something in this case, where if you close your eyes, it could be a live-action movie. That's the goal anyway," he said. "And on the other hand, then there's something like Powerpuff Girls, which I was on, which is not remotely realistic."

Kane called working on the dramatic parts in Next Avengers "a real treat."

"For rank-and-file voiceovers guys, it's the closest we do get to acting," he said.

Kane isn't based in Los Angeles; he lives in Kansas City. He auditioned for a number of parts in Next Avengers, and the months of lag time between audition and actually recording led to what he called "an impromptu tap dance."

"I don't know whether it was miscommunication on my agent's part or me dealing with the chaos of my life, I thought I was doing Ultron. Period," Kane recalled. "I knew it was a critical part for the movie, obviously, but in terms of just volume of dialogue, as a robot, I didn't say a whole lot. My agent said, 'They want you to fly in to do this.'

"And I'm like, 'Why?' I said, no. And he said, "They think it's really important for you to be there.' So I 'm like, 'OK, they're the boss.'

"So we're sitting there (in the recording session) and I've already turned the script to the first Ultron line, which is about 40 pages into the thing. And he's going on and on about Tony Stark, and I go, 'That's interesting. That's a great backstory.' Not understanding why they're telling me so much about Iron Man and Tony Stark.

And this goes on. And we start going and it's like, 'Line one, take one.' And I'm like, 'What? What are you talking about?' He's like, 'We'll start with Tony.' And I'm like, 'Why?' And he's like, 'You're Iron Man.'

"It was just hysterical."

Kane had to come up with a new voice on the spot.

"There was a major case of flop sweat all of a sudden," he said. "I hadn't read any of the lines for Tony Stark for most of the script. I'm sitting here going, cold, 'Oh God, what do I do? What did I audition with? What did they like?'

"Suddenly, I had to run everything he had just said me through my mind again. Instead of going, 'Why he is telling me this?' Suddenly, I'm like, 'I know why he's telling me this. What did he just tell me?'"

Kane said the voice was understanding Tony Stark vs. Iron Man vs. a father. "We danced around until we found the right balance," he said. "Tony Stark has never been soft and warm and fuzzy and fatherly, and suddenly he is."

Winners of FJORG! animation competition announced

Winners of FJORG!, the second annual "iron-animator" style competition, were announced during SIGGRAPH 2008, the premier conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques taking place this week in Los Angeles.

Team Grojf, comprised of Jacob Patrick, John Nguyen, and Kevin Rucker, was chosen as the FJORG! winner for its animated reel The Red Truck.

The winners were chosen from a field of 16 three-member teams that competed for 32 straight hours to create character-driven animations under extreme pressure and multiple staged distractions.

As overall winners, Team Grojf will receive an exclusive chauffeured tour through Walt Disney Animation Studios and DreamWorks Animation Studios, as well as other recognition and prizes.

Adhering to this year's required theme (The Saddest Story Ever Told), The Mexicutioners and The Fjantastic Fjorgers tied for second place, with Honorable Mentions awarded to teams Mouthful of Cookies and Trikings. These teams will also receive trophies and prizes.

"The support and enthusiasm for this year's event from the animation community has been absolutely amazing," stated FJORG! 2008 chair Patricia Beckmann-Wells of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

"The quality was top-notch -- making the content extremely difficult to judge. Team Grojf executed their animation reel flawlessly. It was truly a special experience from start to finish. The bonds formed during FJORG! should last for years."

All FJORG! teams were provided with limited supplies of animation hardware and software from some of today's top firms, music, and a series of sound bites to create their 15-second reels. FJORG! judges included Team MoCap, winners of FJORG! 2007, as well as several industry experts, including Julien Bocabeille, Co-Director of Oktapodi, Best of Show Award Nominee, SIGGRAPH 2008 Computer Animation Festival; Bill Kroyer, Senior Animation Director, Rhythm & Hues; Maggie Malone, Director of Creative Development for Walt Disney Animation Studios; Dan Sarto, Co-Founder and Publisher, Animation World Network; and Simon J. Smith, Director of Bee Movie for DreamWorks Animation Studios.

To view the winning reel The Red Truck from FJORG! 2008, visit

FJORG! 2008 winners Team Grojf: (left to right) Jacob Patrick, John Nguyen and Kevin Rucker (Photo: Business Wire)

"The RIGHT Way"

Not long ago I was jawing with a story artist at a great metropolitan animation studio. He talked to me about the frustrations of being a long time on a project:

"We've been kind of meandering through the woods for awhile, trying different things. Management wasn't really paying close attention because we didn't have any looming deadlines.

"But now other projects are out of the way and they're focused on us. And they're asking: 'What are you guys doing? We've got a deadline now. You've got to stop the exploring and do the story the right way.' See, they're kind of nervous. They want a hit, and they think there's one right way to do the story, and we've got to do it the single right way."

As he talked, I thought about what animator Charlie Downs had once told me about Ward Kimball's view of this right way thing. Kimball didn't think there was a "right way," but rather "ways that worked" ...

"I showed him a scene I had animated. He said, "Not the way I'd do it," then he looked at me and said, 'That doesn't mean anything. Five guys will do the scene five different ways, and they'll all work.'"

Which is another way of saying that art is not science, and there is no single, correct approach. Or single solution. You can take five creative roads and all the roads can get you to a good artistic place. Or otherwise.

When a production has a lot of time and there's no deadline looming, creators tend to dawdle. Explore. Travel down side alleys. As C. Northcote Parkinson wrote long ago: "Work expands to fill the alotted time." If you've got five weeks to pull the movie together, you take five weeks. If it's five months, then five months is how long you spend. (Sixteen years ago, Jeffrey Katzenberg gave a Disney story crew three weeks to overhaul the middle of Aladdin. They did.)

And then there's science fiction writer Robert Heinlein's dictum: Write it, and write it right the first time. How often does that happen? Like hardly never..

The above is, I guess, a long-winded way of saying that there's never a single, correct way to go with anything, but only better solutions and worse solutions. The bitch of it is, even worse solutions can, on occasion, lead to big box office results.

How big of a bitch is that?

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

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