Thursday, August 21, 2008

News - 08/21/08...

Remembering Ollie Johnston

Tuesday night at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood, industry people and family members gathered to remember the last of the Nine Old Men.

... I'll ... never forget Ollie's enthusiasm and encouragement when I left Disney to pursue computer animation at Lucasfilm Ltd. I invited him (and Frank) to speak to our small group of pioneers. The principles of animation that I learned from them gave me an edge in this new frontier, and were 100% responsible for our success there and later at Pixar. Competitors would ask what software was I using to make my computer animation so funny. Ollie taught us that it's not the tools that make something entertaining; it's how you use them ...
-- John Lasseter

I worked with Ollie in the late seventies. Not only was he a terrific animator and artist, he was one of the gentlest, nicest human beings who ever lived. If he ever had mean or vindictive words to say about anyone, he must have uttered them in the dark of night in a small, empty room. Because I never heard, and never knew anyone who heard, any kind of snark coming from Ollie Johnston.

Even at the end of his animating career, his greatest joy was sitting in his first floor office creating animation. As one veteran of the time told me: "Ollie does eight, nine, ten feet a week, every week. And it's great stuff. I don't know how he keeps it up."

But he did keep it up, year after year, picture after picture. And for that we should all be grateful.

Photographs copyright Mark Kirkland.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Animation Website 4mations Goes Live

Created by Aardman, Channel 4 and Lupus Films, 4mations is a new YouTube like site allowing animators to submit their work. For more information, visit the site here.

Fox would rather kill 'Watchmen' than settle?

On the heels of Nikki Finke's scoop that the 20th Century Fox vs Warner Bros 'Watchmen' battle would continue, comes a report from Variety that reveals the situation for the film may be more dire than what we reported yesterday.

To recap: on Friday U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess found that Fox's assertion (that it holds some claim on the film rights of the graphic novel) is valid and refused to throw the claim out of court. This paves the way for Fox to seek an injunction against Warner Bros preventing the release of the film, which is planned for March 2009.

We speculated that Fox was likely seeking a settlement and the ruling and subsequent court proceedings would give them leverage over Warner Bros, who is beyond the point of no return with the film.

However, Variety's report says that Fox may not be willing to settle and may aggressively persue that injunction.

Fox issued a statement that reads:

Warner Bros.’ production and anticipated release of ‘The Watchmen’ motion picture violates 20th Century Fox’s long-standing motion picture rights in ‘The Watchmen’ [sic] property.

We will be asking the court to enforce Fox’s copyright interests in ‘The Watchmen’ [sic] and enjoin the release of the Warner Bros. film and any related ‘Watchmen’ media that violate our copyright interests in that property.

In addition, Variety also cites an unnamed source "close to the litigation" who claims that Fox, who invested a reported $1 million in the project, will not be settling the case.

"When you have copyright infringement, there are some damages you never recover," said the source.

It's hard to believe that the 'Watchmen' movie and its spin-off movies (the 'Black Freighter' animated film and the 'Under The Hood' faux documentary, not to mention the currently released "motion comic") will be put on mothballs. Today that seems like a possible outcome.

Patrick Star impersonator charged with sex assault

A Ukrainian street performer was dressed as SpongeBob SquarePants' best bud Patrick Star when he fondled a teenage girl's buttocks, according to Ocean City, Maryland police.

The 16-year-old girl told officers that the man felt her last Friday on the Boardwalk when she posed with him for a photo.

Police say that Andrii Mokrishcev was dressed as Patrick the starfish at the time of the alleged assault. They add that he and a man dressed as SpongeBob often pose for pictures with tourists in exchange for donations, the Salisbury, Maryland Daily Times reported Tuesday.

Mokrischev was charged with second-degree assault and fourth-degree sex offense. He was released after posting $3,500 bond, said police.

Joker prank lands terrorism charges against teens

It appears a prank inspired by 'The Dark Knight' has landed two Virginia teens in jail, facing serious chargers.

Justin Colby Dirico and Bryan Eugene Stafford, both 18, have been charged with conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism after placing Joker cards with hand-written, and potentially threatening messages, at various locations in and near Pembroke, VA, according to an article in the Roanoke Times.

The article does not say what was specifically written on the cards, other than the word "Joker", but alludes to the fact that the date of August 15th was prevalent in the messages.

Police Chief J.C. Martin commented on the case saying that the two young men, "were real remorseful. They said they never had any intentions of harming anybody."

The police Chief also concluded that August 15th date had little significance and the stunt appeared to be "a prank that kind of got out of hand."

Regardless Dirico and Stafford are being held at the New River Regional Jail without bond.

How Batman became cinema's top trump

Christian Bale as Batman and Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight

Every decade or so, a film passes from box-office hit to cultural phenomenon. That’s what is happening with The Dark Knight, the latest installment in the Batman franchise. Even in Hollywood, nobody can quite believe how big a hit the $180m film, the second Batman movie to be directed by Christopher Nolan and to star Christian Bale as the superhero, has become. “It’s a film that is rewriting the record books every day, redefining our notions of what a blockbuster can be,” says Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office tracker Media by Numbers.

This weekend, The Dark Knight will overtake the $461m the original Star Wars made in North America to become the second-highest-grossing movie there of all time. Its distributor, Warner Bros, is tamping down the possibility that it might pass the $600m made by Titanic. The studio has been keen to highlight the part played by its secret six-month, multimillion-dollar anti-piracy campaign to ensure digital copies of the film didn’t leak out before it opened. Warners counts it a triumph that the first pirated copy didn’t appear on the internet until 38 hours after the film was released. “The first weekend, there was this huge, pent-up demand and eagerness by audiences to see this movie,” Dergarabedian says.

Its box-office numbers have certainly been boosted by the usual adolescent fan boys returning to see it three, four, five times. Fan girls going repeatedly to worship at the celluloid shrine of Heath Ledger can’t be discounted, either: the movie is being seen by almost as many women as men, and by as many people over 25 as under.

Why has The Dark Knight, exceedingly bleak and violent, touched such a cultural nerve? Some believe it was the intense and to some extent morbid interest generated by Ledger’s untimely death. Warner Bros capitalised on this by featuring his leering, paint-smeared face on almost all the movie’s advertising. And his mesmerising performance as the Joker justifies the marketing hype.

That doesn’t, however, fully explain why the film has become such an extraordinary cultural phenomenon. Some commentators in America believe the film has become a touchstone, beguiling audiences with what appears to be popular, comic-book entertainment, but explores some of the most critical social and ethical issues we face today — in particular, the issues being wrestled with by countries, notably America, fighting the “war on terror”. As those who have seen it will know, The Dark Knight explicitly examines how far it is permissible for individuals and society to go in the fight against “evil”.

“Nolan turns the Manichean morality of comic books — pure good vs pure evil — into a bleak post-9/11 allegory about how terror (and, make no mistake, Ledger’s Joker is a terrorist) breaks down those reassuring moral categories,” writes Dana Stevens in the online magazine Slate. If the references weren’t obvious enough, the Time magazine critic Richard Corliss calls the Joker “the Bin Laden of movie villains”.

Both conservatives and liberals have been rushing to claim that The Dark Knight has become such a phenomenon because it validates their beliefs about the ethical issues at the heart of the war on terror. “There seems to me no question that The Dark Knight is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W Bush in this time of terror and war,” the conservative novelist Andrew Klavan writes in The Wall Street Journal. “Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.”

Kyle Smith, film critic for the New York Post, takes this allegory an amusing — and perhaps disturbing — step further. “Batman is not charming,” he writes. “He isn’t popular, partly because he’s a zealot and partly because he doesn’t bother to explain himself to the press. He is independently wealthy, having spent years as the head of an industrial company. His methods are disturbing, his operations bathed in darkness. He is misunderstood, mistrusted, endlessly pursued by the attack dogs of the night. . . And he lives in an undisclosed location. Isn’t it obvious? Batman is Dick Cheney with hair.”

Commentators on the left appear to have seen a completely different film. The Dark Knight “takes the viewer on a sometimes traumatic but ultimately redemptive and humanistic journey towards a post-9/11 ethic”, writes Michael Dudley, of the Institute of Urban Studies, on the left-wing website AlterNet. Dudley believes that when Batman does use extra-legal methods — “the dark side”, as Cheney once put it — it backfires on him and the city he is trying to protect. Batman beats up the Joker in jail, a scene reminiscent of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA on terrorist suspects, and uses a computerized tracking system to plug into every mobile phone in the fictional city of Gotham, much like the “Total Information Awareness” wiretapping program espoused by the Bush administration.

The Dark Knight, Dudley concludes, “warns against abandoning our principles out of fear, grief and hatred, as well as abdicating our moral agency to external authorities — both of which comprised the hallmark moral syndrome of the years following 9/11”. Nolan has not hidden his desire to explore these key ethical issues. “What Batman is doing is heroic, but it can be seen as vigilantism, as a dark force outside the law,” he says. “That’s a very, very dangerous road to go down. He’s always riding a knife edge in moral terms.”

While commentators on the right and left slug it out, in the Joker Nolan has, I suspect, touched a rawer nerve in all of us by confronting his own deepest psychological fears. In a number of interviews, the British director has said that what really frightens him is not so much terrorism on behalf of a different world view, but a force for evil much less explicable: “Anarchy and chaos — even the threat of anarchy and chaos — are the most frightening things society faces, especially in this day and age,” In the film, the Joker explicitly defines himself: “I’m an agent of chaos.”

It is initially hard to see where Nolan’s deep-seated fear of social “chaos” comes from. He lives a quiet family life in West Hollywood, which is almost crime-free. He’s very rich. He works in a controlled, close-knit environment, with his brother Jonathan as scriptwriter and his wife, Emma Thomas, as producer. People who meet Nolan, who had a public-school education at Haileybury, are struck by his meticulous, deliberately old-fashioned, almost Edwardian demeanour. He invariably dresses in either a dark suit or a blazer, and often wears a waistcoat, with a crisply ironed white shirt and cuff links — clothes that seem to externalise his psychological need for order and control. In an interview not long ago, he admitted: “It’s definitely something I have a fear of — not being in control of your own life.” A reporter for Newsweek was astonished to discover that, at all times, in case of some kind of unspecified existential calamity, Nolan keeps on him two passports, his British one and his American one.

Beneath this outward desire for order, it’s possible that, with the Joker, Nolan is exploring his own most radical fear (and, it seems from the film’s success, ours, too): the fear of psychological chaos, of madness, the unravelling of firm mental grounding, the complete loss of psychological control. Read in this way, the Joker represents nothing as banal as Bin Laden, but the id, “the dark, inaccessible part of our personality”, as Freud put it, the base human instincts, unconscious, amoral and utterly selfish. “We call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations,” Freud wrote. Nolan calls it the Joker. And the director has, apparently, found a multimillion-dollar way to tap our darkest anxieties and have the last laugh.

The Many Worlds of Jonas Moore Coming to TV

MGM Domestic Television Distribution has optioned U.K.-based online graphic novel "The Many Worlds of Jonas Moore" for development as a series, reports Variety.

The studio aims to develop "Jonas" into an action-drama, with a U.S.-U.K. co-production deal a possibility, according to Chris Ottinger, executive VP of worldwide TV for MGM. Film Collective's Ruth Vitale is attached to the project as an executive producer.

"Jonas" revolves around a fugitive video game player in a futuristic world where the British empire still reigns supreme and America is just one of thousands of virtual worlds in a global game network.

Howard Webster created and produced the graphic novel for his London-based Factory Publishing imprint and Triumph Motorcycles.

MGM is shopping for a writer to adapt the novel for TV. Ottinger hopes to have a script commissioned in the fall so the series is ready to go next year.

You can find out more at the graphic novel's official website.

Jackson Commits to Hobbit

Daily Variety reports that Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and screenwriting collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have officially announced their participation in New Line Cinema’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Rings prequel, The Hobbit. Jackson will be working with fellow filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Pan’s Labyrinth) on two Hobbit films tentatively slated to begin production in 2009 for releases in 2011 and 2012.

The Hobbit tells the story of a young Bilbo Baggins, who is recruited by the wizard Gandalf to recover a lost treasure and eventually takes the ring of lore from Gollum. New Line’s sequel will reportedly focus on the 60-year period between the events portrayed in The Hobbit and the first Lord of the Rings installment, The Fellowship of the Ring. New Line, now a subsidiary of Warner Bros., and MGM will co-produce and co-finance both films.

Del Toro will be directing the pics back to back. Jackson, Walsh and Boyens will handle writing duties and serve as producers. The trio collaborated on the screenplays for all three of the
Lord of the Rings movies, winning an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Return of the King. Jackson is currently directing The Lovely Bones, the adaptation of the popular novel by Alice Sebold, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon, Rachel Weisz and Saoirse Ronan, set for a fall 2009 release. He is also producing the Spielberg-directed Tintin and Halo
, also 2009 releases.

New Ninja Turtles Debuts at MIPCOM

4Kids Ent. has announced that it will introduce the new animated series TMNT: Back to the Sewer to global broadcasters at this year’s MIPCOM, taking place in October in Cannes, France. The half-hour series is expected to hit the airwaves in 2009, a year that marks the 25th Anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand.

In Back to the Sewer, the turtles return to present-day New York City, but are shell-shocked to find that Master Splinter didn’t make the trip back through time—at least not all in one piece. During the harrowing leap, their beloved Father was digitally decompiled into hundreds of tiny data bits, which were then scattered through the vast nether regions of cyberspace. To save Master Splinter and make him whole again, the Turtles must enter cyberspace and collect all of his lost data bits. Along the way, they encounter various megabyte baddies lurking around every encoded corner.

cITV in the U.K. has already acquired the initial 13 episodes of the series, and 4Kids has also secured broadcast deals with such leading programmers as Alter in Greece, DRTV in Denmark), MTV3 in Finland, Children's Channel via UCOI in Israel, Indosiar in Indonesia and RTE in Ireland.

Created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were born in May of 1984 in an independent comic book published and distributed by Mirage Studios. A hit animated TV series and three successful live-action theatrical films followed. In 2003, the property was revived with a new TV series, a theatrically released CG-animated feature film from Imagi and new merchandising program.

For the property’s 25 Anniversary “Shell-ebration,” 4Kids Ent. will be initiating international consumer activities that will include competitions, cross-promotions with licensees, and in-store promotions, displays and meet-and-greets. In London, England, 4Kids will work with the Animation Art Gallery at County Hall to put on an exhibition of the original Turtles comic artwork from creators Laird and Eastman.

Craig, Dench Accept Bond Game Assignments

Activision’s video game based on the upcoming James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, will feature the voices and animated likenesses of franchise stars Daniel Craig and Dame Judy Dench. Also on board for the interactive adventure are French actor Mathieu Amalric, who plays villain Dominic Greene in the film, and Ukrainian actress Olga Kurylenko, one of the new Bond girls.

Developed under license from EON Prods. Ltd, Sony Pictures Ent. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, the game will incorporate elements from both Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale as it allows gamers to become a more lethal, gritty and cunningly efficient Bond. Franchise fans may also recognize the voices of Eva Green as Vesper Lynd and Mads Mikkelsen as the villainous Le Chiffre

Quantum of Solace promises intense first-person action and a unique third-person cover combat system that requires stealth, precision shooting and lethal combat skills to progress through missions. Based on the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare game engine with systems specifically engineered to immerse players in the Bond universe, the game is set high-definition graphics, reactive AI and rich environments inspired by locations from the films.

The title is being developed by Treyarch for Xbox 360, and PlayStation3, while Eurocom works on the PlayStation2 offering. Beenox Studios is developing the Wii and Windows versions, and Vicarious Visions is bringing it to Nintendo DS. The game has been rated “T” for Teen by the ESRB and is scheduled to release worldwide concurrently with the film, which hits U.S. theaters on Nov. 7. For more information, go to

McAvoy, Blunt Mull Gnomeo Voice Work

Once in development by Walt Disney Feature Animation, the CG-animated feature film Gnomeo and Juliet is now in the works at Miramax and Elton John's Rocket Pictures, and may have some high-caliber Hollywood talent lined up for its voice cast. According to The Hollywood Reporter, James McAvoy (Wanted) and Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) are in negotiations to play the film’s leads. Kate Winslet (Titanic) was previously attached to voice Juliet, but had to leave the project due to scheduling conflicts.

Featuring a number of classic Elton John tunes, Gnomeo and Juliet will offer an animated twist on Shakespeare’s classic love story by setting it in the world of tacky garden gnomes. The project is being shepherded by Miramax president Daniel Battsek and Rocket Pictures producing partners David Furnish and Steve Hamilton Shaw. John is producing alongside partner David Furnish, Baker Bloodworth and Steve Hamilton Shaw.

Rocket Pictures brought the project to Disney several years ago and a script was completed by Rob Sprackling and John Smith. The film was then dropped from the studio’s development slate when Pixar creative head John Lasseter took over. A new Gnomeo script has been penned by Kevin Cecil, Andy Riley and Mark Burton.

Currently being storyboarded, Gnomeo and Juliet is directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron) for a planned 2010 release.

Stellar Cast to Command & Conquer

During a press conference at Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany, Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) today announced the ensemble cast to be featured in live-action cinematic sequences in the upcoming game Command & Conquer Red Alert 3. The real-time strategy title will boast a host of award-winning actors, action stars, science-fiction legends, up-and-coming starlets and mixed martial artists.

The cast of Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 includes Bond girl Gemma Atkinson (Quantum of Solace), cartoon veteran Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show), former Playboy Playmate of the Year Jenny McCarthy (Scream 3) and actors Andrew Divoff (Lost), Kelly Hu (X2: X-Men United), Ivana Milicevic (Casino Royale), Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean), J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man trilogy), Autumn Reeser (The OC), Peter Stormare (Prison Break) and George Takei (Star Trek). Also shooting scenes for the game are mixed martial arts stars Randy “The Natural” Couture and Gina “Conviction” Carano.

“This is by far the most exciting cast we have in over 13 years of shooting live-action movies for Command & Conquer,” says Chris Corry, exec producer at EALA. “The caliber of the performances we received, both individually and collectively, have really raised the storytelling bar for the franchise. We are really excited that we will be delivering such a high-quality production that is on par with movies and television shows.”

McCarthy takes a starring role as Allied commando Tanya, the most beloved heroine in the history of the Command & Conquer franchise, and Simmons will show up as the anti-Communist U.S. President Howard T. Ackerman. Fans can get a glimpse of the roles the cast members will be playing by downloading the trailer at

Fans searching for an opportunity to see even more of the talent in Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 can now order the Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 Premier Edition. The limited edition copy of the game includes a bonus DVD with over an hour of exclusive content, including interviews with the talent and a behind-the-scenes look at the shooting of the game’s cinematic sequences. The Premier Edition will also offer additional goodies, including exclusive multiplayer maps, strategy tips from the development team, the official soundtrack and an exclusive beta key to a future Command & Conquer game.

Those who secure the Premier Edition or regular version of Red Alert 3 now via pre-order will also receive a special bonus package including Command & Conquer Red Alert 2, From Fighter to Assassin—a featurette on EliteXC superstar Gina Carano, and a retrospective at Command & Conquer Red Alert, Command & Conquer Red Alert 2 and Command & Conquer: Yuri’s Revenge. There will also be an exclusive multiplayer/skirmish map for Command & Conquer Red Alert 3, desktop wallpapers and exclusive previews of upcoming titles Raising of the Iron Curtain, From Pens to Pixels, Command School and BattleCast Primetime.

Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 is set to ship this fall for PC and Xbox 360. Gamers who want to get a head start on the next entry in the saga can purchase Command & Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath, which includes automatic entry into the Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 beta, happening right now. More information is available at

Academy honors George Pal with Aug. 27 celebration

New prints of Oscar-nominated Puppetoons "Rhythm in the Ranks" (1941) and "John Henry and the Inky Poo" (1946), restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive in cooperation with the Academy Film Archive, will be shown Wednesday, August 27 during George Pal: Discovering the Fantastic, a centennial celebration hosted by director Joe Dante.

Sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, the event will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

Pal's fantasy films as a producer, director and animator featured a wide range of subjects and styles that cleverly bridged artistic imagination with technical ingenuity despite limited budgets. His Hollywood career began with Puppetoons, animated shorts that featured stop-motion wooden puppets in fairy tale worlds, and continued with live-action feature films that created indelible images of "futuristic" space flights, invading Martians, journeying through time, and a one-of-a-kind traveling circus. His pioneering efforts in visual effects spectacles inspired the films that are today's box office blockbusters.

The evening will featuring a panel discussion with Pal collaborators Bob Baker (Puppetoon animator), Jim Danforth (special effects on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao), Barbara Eden (Greta Heinrich in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and Angela Benedict in 7 Faces of Dr. Lao), Ann Robinson (Sylvia Van Buren in The War of the Worlds), Russ Tamblyn (Tom Thumb in Tom Thumb) and Alan Young (Woody in Tom Thumb and David/James Filby in The Time Machine) will follow.

The evening will conclude with a screening of Pal's science fiction Technicolor classic The War of the Worlds (1953) in its entirety.

Tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets may be purchased online, by mail (, or, or at the Academy during regular business hours.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved.

For additional information, call the Academy at (310) 247-3600.

THIS SATURDAY: Eric Goldberg Signing in Torrance

This Saturday, Eric Goldberg will be signing his new book Character Animation Crash Course! at Stuart Ng Books in Torrance, CA. He’ll be there from 2-4pm. For directions to Stuart’s showroom, visit their website.

Beware when visiting Stuart Ng’s though, because your wallet will be empty when you leave. His collection of comic, cartoon, animation and illustration books is any animator’s wet dream.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Hood and Rothman struggling over 'Wolverine'?

First 'Punisher War Zone'. Then 'Watchmen'. Now a gossip column report suggests 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' may be fostering a controversy of its own.

Jeffrey Wells on Hollywood Elsewhere reports that there is a power struggle brewing on the set of the 20th Century Fox's X-spinoff between director Gavin Hood and studio co-chairman and CEO Tom Rothman.

Unnamed sources claim that Rothman sparked the director's animosity by ordering the repainting a set that was intentionally dressed to be dark and grimy. Rothman's extreme makeover supposedly happened behind the director's back while he was handling location shoots and Hood was, according to the source, "shocked" to see his vision altered.

However, Wells admits that there may not be much more to the "power struggle" than that single incident, and he isn't quite sure if there's been any fallout from the incident beyond Hood being surprised.

WB's Alan Horn Addresses Harry Potter Fans

If you've read the comments on this item, it's not hard to see that "Harry Potter" fans are not too pleased with Warner Bros.' decision to move the nearly-completed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince from November 21 to July 17, 2009.

In that announcement, Warner Bros. President and Chief Operating Officer Alan Horn stated the studio's reasons for moving the film. He said the reasons are twofold: "we know the summer season is an ideal window for a family tent pole release... [and] we are still feeling the repercussions of the writers' strike, which impacted the readiness of scripts for other films—changing the competitive landscape for 2009 and offering new windows of opportunity that we wanted to take advantage of."

It looks like the Warner Bros. Pictures offices were flooded with complaints from the fans, as Horn has now released the following statement to all the fans:

Many of you have written to me to express your disappointment in our moving "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" to Summer 2009.

Please be assured that we share your love for Harry Potter and would certainly never do anything to hurt any of the films. Over the past 10 years, we have nurtured and protected each film, and the integrity of the books upon which they are based, to the best of our ability.

The decision to move "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" was not taken lightly, and was never intended to upset our Harry Potter fans. We know you have built this series into what it is, and we thank you for your ongoing enthusiasm and support.

If I may offer a silver lining: there would have been a two-year gap between "Half-Blood Prince" and the much-anticipated first part of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which opens in November 2010.

So although we have to wait a little longer for "Half-Blood Prince," the wait from that film until "Deathly Hallows" will be less than 18 months. I am sorry to have disappointed you now, but if you hold on a little longer, I believe it will be worth the wait.

Alan Horn
President, Chief Operating Officer
Warner Bros.

According to the poll on Coming Soon's main page, 60.3% of voters say it was a bad move on the studio's part, whereas 29.3% don't care either way, and 10.5% believe it was a good move.

Rome Film Festival honors five animation legends

Five legendary names in Italian animated films will be honored during this year's Rome Film Festival, organizers said Wednesday.

The young festival's third edition runs from October 22 to 31. It released a sneak preview of several of its highlights.

The "Alice nella città" section is presenting a tribute –- consisting of shorts and feature-length films -- to these famed animators:

* Bruno Bozzetto (his West and Soda in 1965 and Allegro non troppo in 1977 both made animation history);

* Giulio Gianini and Emanuele Luzzati, nominated for Oscars for The Thieving Magpie (La Gazza ladra) in 1964 and Pulcinella in 1973;

* Nino Pagot (mainly famous for the creation -- along with his brother Toni -- of the character of Calimero, the little black chick seen on the early Italian TV show Carosello); and

* Leo Lionni, who revolutionized the world of children's illustration with his Piccolo blu e piccolo giallo in 1959.

In addition, "Alice" will host the world or European premieres of 12 feature films, including the European premiere of Summer by Kenneth Glenaan, starring Robert Carlyle and Rachael Blake, and the world premiere of Lol by Lisa Azuelos, starring Sophie Marceau.

Films selected for this year's "Cinema 2008" program include the world premiere of 8 (Huit), an ambitious project to raise the public's awareness of the United Nations' campaign to halve global poverty. The film is divided into eight segments, directed by Jane Campion, Gael García Bernal, Jan Kounen, Mira Nair, Gaspar Noé, Abderrahmane Sissako, Gus Van Sant and Wim Wenders, respectively.

Seaweed and the Cure for Mildew

Ben Balistreri, currently a storyboard artist at Dreamworks on How to Train Your Dragon, and a character designer and board artist for Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Danny Phantom and many others, recently self published his first graphic novel: Seaweed and the Cure for Mildew.

Man, this guy is good! I saw the book at Comic-Con and couldn’t put it down. The project took six years to complete as Balistreri could only work on it on nights and weekends. Each panel and drawing is exquisite. The book itself is a must-see: it’s a handsome hardcover volume, in full color and printed at a huge 12 by 15 inches! It’s 64 pages, of which 24 are dedicated to roughs, designs, and making-of drawings printed on a different paper than the comic.

The story is crammed with great characters, funny dialogue and gorgeous, dynamic artwork - and it’s an epic of high adventure that cries out to be an animated film (by traditional hand-drawn animation). It’s $29.95 and each order comes with an original sketch. I highly recommend this - it’s a bargain. Order it here.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Diesel Creates Hannibal Toon

Vin Diesel told reporters that it's still his ultimate goal to produce and star in a live-action film based on the life of Hannibal, but that in the meantime he's producing and directing Hannibal the Conqueror, a children's animated series about the third-century B.C. Carthaginian general who rode an elephant across the Alps in order to attack the Roman empire.

"Hannibal, now that's my [dream project]," Diesel said in a group interview on Aug. 19 while promoting his latest film, the SF-action epic Babylon A.D. "Oh, Hannibal. Hannibal, Hannibal, Hannibal, you beast. It's Moby Dick. I'm not going to let it [go]."

Diesel has spoken of making a live-action film about Hannibal for nearly a decade, since he first rose to fame with Pitch Black. Though he's yet to secure financing for what would be a very expensive project, the animated Hannibal the Conqueror will at least fill the void for a while.

"You know my love of animation, you know my love of the [Ralph] Bakshi films and how I was always a fan of that medium," said Diesel, who was the voice of the title character in the animated classic The Iron Giant. "I'm directing an animated Hannibal that will serve as the prequel to the [live-action] film. So it's Hannibal as a boy. So it's like the boy and an elephant. It's for BET, actually, which will be great fun. Great, great voices [including Diesel as Hannibal]." Hannibal the Conqueror will premiere in 2009.

Disney Tuesday

On Tuesday I was in Disney Feature's hat building, shuffling from room to room as I tend to do. And people were talkative:

"We got a heads up at today's 9:30 meeting that most of the Bolt crew has a few weeks, left, and then it's layoff time." ... "How much dismissal pay do we get?" ... "I survived the last four pictures without getting axed, but this time I've brought in my cardboard boxes to clean out the office." ...

I knew they were coming (so did everybody), but the nearness of the Bolt layoffs are now being communicated to the production crew ...

Layoffs are a sad fact of life in the movie business. You're at a studio for a project, then handed a pink slip. But people are frustrated that there's big gaps between pictures in the Disney Feature development cycle, and the longer hiatuses that are a result.

On the other hand, one grizzled Disney vet said: "Bolt is the best feature I've worked on in a long time. Better than the last four or five features, for sure."

Me, I'm hoping that Bolt is a major hit for Disney. Certainly the clips I see in the lobby hallway are funny and witty. With the caveat that clips, however amusing, aren't always guaranteed predictors about how good the overall picture is, they help to make me optimistic. As does the Disney veteran's take on the film.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

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