Tuesday, September 30, 2008

News - 09/30/08...

Iron Man Flies to DVD

After racking up more than $574 million at the box office worldwide this summer, Marvel Studios’ and Paramount Pictures’ superhero smash hit Iron Man rockets to the home video market Tuesday. The movie debuts as a single DVD and Ultimate Edition two-disc sets on both DVD and Blu-ray.

Based on the long-running Marvel comic book series, Iron Man stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, a billionaire industrialist who endures a near-fatal encounter with terrorists and becomes an iron-clad superhero. Directed by Jon Favreau (Zathura: A Space Adventure, Elf), the film also stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark's personal assistant, Virginia "Pepper" Potts; Terrence Howard as Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes, Stark’s best friend and a decorated military pilot; and Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, Stark’s close business associate who has devious plans for Stark Industries. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) served as the principle visual effects house.

The Iron Man Ultimate Edition two-disc sets come loaded with hours of bonus features, including a six-part exploration of the character titled The Invincible Iron Man. There is also be a seven-part behind-the-scenes look at the movie dubbed I Am Iron Man, a revealing documentary on the visual effects, Robert Downey Jr.'s original screen test, deleted and extended scenes, a photo gallery of concept art and behind-the-scenes images and more.

The Blu-ray version also features “Hall of Armor,” which allows fans to enter the Stark database to zoom in on any of the three Iron Man suits and activate the digital 3D schematics to check out every weapon through high-definition renders. Also included is the “Iron Man IQ” web-based activity that lets users create and share new multiple choice quizzes based on clips from the film. Fans can also download other users' challenges via BD-Live.

Marvel, Paramount Ink Distribution Deal

Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures today announced an agreement under which Paramount will distribute Marvel's next five self-produced feature films worldwide. An extension of the original agreement made by Brad Grey when he arrived as CEO and chairman of Viacom-owned Paramount, the deal includes theatrical distribution in foreign territories previously serviced by Marvel through local distribution entities. These include Japan, Germany, France, Spain and Australia/New Zealand. Paramount distributed Iron Man, which has grossed roughly $574 million worldwide since kicking off the summer movie season.

The highly anticipated superhero pics slated for release through Paramount include Iron Man 2 (May 7, 2010), Thor (July 16, 2010), The First Avenger: Captain America (May 6, 2011) and The Avengers (July 15, 2011). The distribution agreement also includes the inevitable Iron Man 3. Jon Favreau will return to the director’s chair for Iron Man 2, and word has it that actor/director Kenneth Branagh (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Henry V) is in talks to helm Thor.

“Coming off of Iron Man's incredible success this summer, we could not be more excited about extending our relationship with Marvel,” saus Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures. “Marvel's iconic brand, its popular characters and its proven ability to create compelling and visually spellbinding films complement Paramount's great history of filmmaking. We look forward to a long and successful run together.”

“Paramount is an excellent partner and an outstanding global distributor,” adds David Maisel, chairman of Marvel Studios. “Through our experience on Iron Man, Paramount has demonstrated a passion and ability to release Marvel properties theatrically, allowing us to focus on making great movies for the largest audience possible.”

Iron Man will debut on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday. Based on the long-running Marvel comic book series, the movie stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, a billionaire industrialist who changes his ways after a near-fatal encounter with terrorists and becomes an iron-clad superhero. Directed by Jon Favreau (Zathura: A Space Adventure, Elf), the film also stars Gwyneth Paltrow,Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) served as the principle visual effects house.

Click & Clack, Alan Moore on Disc

The guys from the popular, long-running NPR radio program Car Talk get animated with Click & Clack: As the Wrench Turns, a toon sitcom revolving around the Tappet Brothers, the alter-egos of real-life siblings Tom and Ray Magliozzi. The PBS series makes its home video debut Tuesday, along with The Mindscape of Alan Moore, a documentary on the celebrated author of such bestselling graphic novels as Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell and The League of Exraordinary Gentlemen.

PBS’ first primetime animated series for a general audience, Click & Clack is based largely in a fictional Cambridge, Massachusetts garage and focuses on the off-air escapades of the Magliozzi brothers (known to their listeners as Click and Clack) as they try to fix cars, fend off disgruntled customers and seek out ways to do less and less work. Tom Sito (Shrek, The Lion King) serves as director of animation for the series, and animation is produced by Karen Johnson, founder and CEO of Aha! Studios. Exec producer of animation is Bill Kroyer, an Academy Award-nominated animation director who helmed the feature film Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and animated the light-cycle sequence in Disney's Tron. Paramount Home Entertainment has packaged entire first season in a two-disc set that lists for $34.99.

Even those outside of the comic-book world are familiar with Moore’s creations through movies based on his books. The latest to make the leap to the big screen is the Hugo Award-winning Watchmen, which Warner Bros. and director Zack Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead) are readying for a March 6, 2009 release. Press materials say The Mindscape of Alan Moore presents a “portrait of the artist as contemporary shaman—someone with the power to transform consciousness by means of manipulating language, symbols and images.” The award-winning documentary from director DeZ Vylenz leads the audience through Moore ’s world with the writer himself as guide. Beginning with his childhood, the narrative follows the evolution of his career and explores his immersion in a magical worldview where science, spirituality and society are part of the same universe.

The two-disc collector’s set features a 20-page book and more than three hours of extras that dig deeper into the mind of Moore. These include interviews with artists Melinda Gebbie (Lost Girls), Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), David Lloyd (V for Vendetta), Kevin O’Neill (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and Jose Villarubia (Promethia, Mirror of Love). There is a making-of featurette, an introduction to Moore’s work by Paul Gravett, selected scene analysis with director’s commentary, and interviews with the director, composer and special make-up fx artist.

Recipient of the Special Recognition Award for Creative Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking at the San Francisco World Film Festival, The Mindscape of Alan Moore has been featured at film festivals and trade shows around the world. The film is available through The Disinformation Co. ltd. for the suggested retail price of $29.95.

More Mr. Men Show On Order

Fans will be seeing more of Chorion’s The Mr. Men Show, an animated children’s series that debuted earlier this year on Cartoon Network in the U.S. and Five in the U.K. The broadcasters have committed to a second season of the sketch comedy show. Chorion and animation studio Renegade Animation will deliver another 52 11-minute installments for 2009, bringing the total number of available episodes to 104.

Based on the original Mr. Men and Little Miss books created by Roger Hargreaves, The Mr. Men Show offers a blend of fast-paced, physical humor, verbal wit and colorful characters. Directed by Mark Risley, the show is exec produced by Chorion’s Diana Manson and Kurt Mueller, Renegade Animation’s Ashley Postlewaite and Darrell Van Citters, and head writers Kate Boutilier and Eryk Casemiro, the duo behind global hits Rugrats, The Wild Thornberries and Rugrats in Paris. Producers are Adam Idelson, Karen Ialacci and Peggy Regan.

Chorion is also doing well internationally with the first season of the series, securing broadcast deals with YTV in Canada, MEDIACORP in Singapore and KTV in South Africa. The initial slate of episodes has already begun airing on France 5, ABC Australia and HOP! in Israel, and are scheduled to begin airing on Tiji in France before the end of the year. Chorion hopes to land a raft of new broadcast deals at next month’s MIPCOM in Cannes.

The Mr. Men Show’s extensive merchandising program has apparel, toy, publishing and DVD partners in place. Master toy licensee Fisher Price is set to launch toys in the U.K. and Australia this fall. The line includes collectible plush, playsets and feature plush. Global DVD partner Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will begin its international roll-out in the U.K. and France during the fourth quarter of this year. A tie-in publishing program is also in the works with Penguin Group in the U.S. and Egmont in the U.K. Hachette in France will also launch a new series of books in 2009.

Porchlight Nabs Ricky Sprocket for DVD

Porchlight Home Entertainment (PHE) has picked up U.S. DVD rights to Bejuba! Ent.’s animated series Ricky Sprocket – Showbiz Boy. The show airs seven days a week on Nicktoons in the U.S., and is also seen on TELETOON in Canada and various international Nickelodeon channels. The exploits of the child superstar are enjoyed by young viewers in more than 150 countries worldwide.

Created by Academy Award-winners Alison Snowden and David Fine, Ricky Sprocket – Showbiz Boy is a co-production of their Snowden Fine Animation and Vancouver-based Studio B Prods. Inc., in association with Bejuba! Ent. The Flash animation is completed by Studio B, while backgrounds, layouts and in-between animation are done by Top Draw Animation in the Philippines.

The comedy series follows the adventures of child actor Ricky Sprocket as he tries to balance family, friends and school with the pressures of his showbiz life. He may live in a Hollywood mansion and have throngs of adoring fans, but he still has to put up with his sister driving him crazy and doing household chores like taking out the garbage. The first title to be released on DVD, Ricky Sprocket – Showbiz Boy has a pre-order date of Dec. 10 and a street date of Jan. 13, 2009. Suggested retail price is $16.98.

Walt Disney to be subject of Philip Glass opera

The last months of cartoon great Walt Disney will be the theme of an opera by famed American contemporary composer Philip Glass.

Glass has been commissioned to compose the new work for the New York City Opera. The commission is one of the first acts by soon-to-be general manager Gérard Mortier, who's now the director of the Opéra National de Paris.

Based on The Perfect American, a story by writer Peter Stephan Gluck, the Disney work is scheduled to be performed in the 2012-13 season in honor of Glass's 75th birthday.

Jungk is an American novelist who lives in Paris and writes in German.

The Perfect American looks at Disney's final months as seen by a fictional Austrian cartoonist who once worked for Disney in the 1940s and 1950s.

Examining the American dream, the book displays both admiration and resentment for the founder of Disney Studios.

Messy Despereaux Business

I alluded in an earlier Brew story that Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) wasn’t happy with his short-lived directing stint on Universal’s upcoming Tales of Despereaux. He was fired from the project shortly after the film received a production greenlight. An article in this weekend’s NY Times includes a lot of nasty allegations from Chomet, including the assertion by him that the film’s producer Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) wanted to direct the film “but because he can’t draw, he had to use me in order to get the green light.” Chomet also says that after he was fired from the film, “these bodyguards, big nasty-looking guys in suits, showed up; they took everything out of the studio and nailed doors shut so we couldn’t have access to it.” But the article’s most colorful Chomet quote is this one:

“We’re making a film for kids, a film that has a moral, and behind it is such aggressive action about lawyers and legal things — there are no human relationships. I felt like a lemon; they got the juice out of me and threw me away.”

Based on everything I’ve read and heard about Chomet, he doesn’t necessarily sound like the most easy person to work for, but it’s difficult not to admire a director who stands up for what he believes in and demands that films be filtered through his personal point of view. Directors, like Chomet, who aren’t afraid to speak their minds and actually have something to say are a rare breed in animation, and if anything, we need more artists like him.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Academy posts Animation highlights

If you couldn’t make it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills this year for their record number of animation exhibits and programs, the Academy has just posted a review and gallery online, as well as a video podcast with highlights narrated by Academy president Sid Ganis. Academy animation programs this year included Drawing on the Future: Mentorship in Animation with James Baxter, Andreas Deja, Pete Docter and Eric Goldberg; the gallery exhibit Ink & Paint: The Art of Hand-Drawn Animation; The Sound behind the Image II: Now Hear This!; Canadian animation with composer Normand Roger and animator Frédéric Back, as well as the current exhibition Frédéric Back: A Life’s Drawings. The Academy is preparing further video highlights from each of these events.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

'Green Lantern' to fly in spring?

FirstShowing.net spoke with 'Green Lantern' producer Donald De Line, wo said that the movie is "gearing up to start shooting early spring." Greg Berlanti is still on board to direct.

That seems ambitious but De Line said, "it's coming together and I'm excited about it. Hopefully we'll make it to start gate. We're really close - really close."

Video: 'Iron Man' behind the scenes

Paramount has released a number of new behind-the-scenes clips from today's release of 'Iron Man' on DVD.

Check 'em out:

ILM Iron Man Test
ILM Iron Man Test

Visual Effects of Iron Man
Visual Effects of Iron Man

Video: 'Iron Man' deleted scenes

Paramount has released a number of new clips from today's release of 'Iron Man' on DVD.

Check out these fun, extended and deleted scenes:

Iron Man Extended Scene - Fun on the Plane
Iron Man Extended Scene - Fun on the Plane

Iron Man Deleted Scene – Pepper and Tony in Dubai
Iron Man Deleted Scene – Pepper and Tony in Dubai

Iron Man Deleted Scene – Tony Comes Home
Iron Man Deleted Scene – Tony Comes Home

CN's Great Cloney Hope

The big players in TeeVee Toonland have been looking for a hot new series to kick the television cartoon marketplace to a higher level. Fox has its primetime animated lineup. Disney has its live-action franchises. For Cartoon Network, this week George Lucas rockets to the rescue:

Turner Broadcasting’s Cartoon Network, now running third behind Nickelodeon and Disney Channel in the kids market, sees “Clone Wars” as a game-changer, Mr. O’Hara said.

“This is the most significant programming event on Cartoon Network in our history,” he said. “It’s a significant property with significant interest beyond just our core demographic. So that’s a great opportunity for us and a great opportunity for our marketing partners.” ...

The animated feature carved from the series has done less than spectacular business, but as a big-screen advertisement for the half-hours that Cartoon Network premieres this week, it probably served its purpose.

"This is the most significant programming event on Cartoon Network in our history,” [John O’Hara, executive VP of ad sales and marketing for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim], said. “It’s a significant property with significant interest beyond just our core demographic. So that’s a great opportunity for us and a great opportunity for our marketing partners.”

I'd say. The Time-Warner family appears to be marketing this franchise hard. And why not? Cartoon Network has been lagging in third-place for awhile. It perceives Clone Wars as its best bet for eclipsing Disney and Nick.

Naturally, I hope it gives the network a large boost. More eyeballs mean more money. More money means more series get made, and more artists go to work.

Kind of a recurring theme around here.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Akira Blu-ray to be Released in U.S.

Bandai Entertainment Inc. announced that it will release the Akira Blu-ray under the “Honneamise” label on February 24, 2009 for at the SRP of $49.98.

The AKIRA Blu-ray will feature visuals from a new Hi-Def transfer made from original materials and include English and Japanese audio and with optional English and Japanese subtitles. In an industry first, the disc will also contain a 192 KHz 24 bit audio stream.

Additional specs are as follows (subject to change):

--Blu-ray Disc /Color/124 min. / Japanese & English audio tracks* / Japanese & English subtitles
*Japanese audio for main feature only will be 192 kHz 24bit
--Dolby True HD (5.1ch), Linear PCM (Dolby Surround) / AVC/BD50G / 16:9 <1080p>
--Bonus Material:
Teaser No.1, Teaser No.2, TV Commercial, Trailer No.1, Trailer No.2,
--Bonus Item:
Special 20p Booklet

The Business

Via Anime News Network
Radix mobanimation file a law suit against production company Micott & Basara for unpaid projection costs on Appleseed Genesis. Radix states that Micott & Basara ordered a halt in the production at the beginning of July without explanation or payment.

The overall profits of Japanese satellite channel WOWOW has fallen $39% in the current fiscal versus the previous one, due to weakness of the dollar against the yen.

Overall profits fell 39% to US$19.8 million (2.1 billion yen) in overall profits and a 45% drop in operating profits to US$28.3 million (3 billion yen) .

WOWOW has focused on mature audience anime, including Afro Samurai, Cowboy Bebop and Paranoia Agent.

Via Animation Insider
Toei Animation Co., Ltd. issued a report on that reveled that the production group also earned a substantially less net profit through Fiscal Year 2008, which ended in March 2008, in comparison to it's results for FY2007.

From  Animation Insider’s coverage

The company reportedly recorded revenues of JPY ¥21.148 billion, for FY2008, a gain of +4.9% over the 2007-year. Although sources have cited Toei as having revised their earnings forecast both last fall as well as just this past spring (for the rest of 2008, into FY2009); the anime production company's emphasized interaction with international broadcasters beyond domestic, consolidated efforts may or may not prove helpful in the immediate future. Over the past year and a half, the group has sold millions of shares to corporate partners, some domestic, some of them international, and often in great bulk of several hundred thousands.

Additionally, the cartoon producer's difference between revenue and the costs of operations -- operating profit -- for this past fiscal year, was estimated at JPY ¥2.726 billion; a sizeable decrease of -17.6%, in a fiscal year to fiscal year comparison, according to Dataminor. Toei's "ordinary income" -- the highest amount of taxed profit -- saw a drop of -22.1%, to JPY ¥2.938 billion.

There was however, an even heavier of a difference with Toei Animation Co., Ltd.'s final, net profit, post-deductions -- "net income" -- which was recorded at JPY ¥1.685 billion; a decrease of more than half, of -54.1%, in comparison to the previous year. Total assets were down -03.1% to JPY ¥32.758 billion; while net assets, as shareholders' equity, was down -03.7% to JPY ¥27.231 billion.

Worth Checking Out...

Patrick Macias' Podcast: Hot Tears of Shame - Episode Twenty-Eight

Matt Thorn quantifies Just how much do those Japanese read manga?

Production I.G presents A Golden Light in the Dark: The Making of Reideen CG Animation (2)

Toonami Jetstream features an interview with the creative directors who originated Toonami, Sean Akins and Jason DeMarco. An older interview with DeMarco can be read here

Vertical had interesting things to say at NYAF, making ANN and a geek by any other name's reports worth reading.

The Advocate talks about yaoi and yuri

Viz's Mike Montesa on Black Lagoon manga

Roland Kelts on SOFT POWER, HARD TRUTHS / Japan's global power: soft or wilted?

ADV spoke to Publishers Weekly on the impact of Hurricane Ike

The question is being raised again, what's the resolution for NewType USA/PiQ conscribes who had subscriptions when the magazine was shuttered?
Mecha Mecha Media
Comics Worth Reading

DC's Minx label looked like a reaction to the success of shoujo graphic novel collections. Now, it's been cancelled.

Christopher Butcher weighs in

Round-ups of perspectives on
Comics 212


Comics Worth Reading

The Beat

Worries for DC's CMX label

4Kids never managed to do anything with their licensed of Pretty Cure. Ogiue Maniax on what this means.

Anime Alminac compares Yen Plus to the defunct anthology Raijin

741.5 Comics analyses Dororo

IVC2 has posted a four-part interview with Gonzalo Ferreyra, Viz Media Vice President of Sales and Product Marketing here, here, here and here

Episode 76 of Right Stuf's Anime Today podcast features an interview with om Flinn, ICv2.com’s vice president of content.

A long-time industry observer who writes the regular “Anime on American TV” column for the ICv2 Guide to Anime and Manga, Flinn provides a historical perspective on the effect television has had on the North American anime industry. Also, Flinn discusses the impact television trends have had on “Region 1” licensing decisions and the introduction of new fans to anime. And he shares his thoughts about the current state of anime on television, the most recent programming trends, who is driving these trends, and how fans can constructively voice their opinions to decision makers.

Part 4 of Patrick Macias' look at Individual Fashion Expo

Fall '08 anime season preview in haiku

On the non-anime animation front, via Cartoon Brew, Seth McFarlane's work dissected.

Only the moving pieces in McFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon

I’d offer this contrast, when anime was cell animated....

Check out Ralph Niese's awarding winning Vampirella ReVamp

The Street Fighter IV animation is surprisingly lifeless

Kazuo Umezu Orochi shirt here and here

Speaking of the Same hat! side of things, Same Hat! Same Hat! looks at spacecoyote's Death Note/Simpsons parody.

An Urasawa monument of sorts

For those who remember when caring around Megatron could get you shot by a copy

Otaku USA reports from the NinjaTown preview at Double Punch

via Awesome Engine

Gasaraki and Noh

Alt Japan posts terrifying Star Wars karuta

Harlock rumors

The Onion invokes Voltron

Wanna be an Annie Judge?

ASIFA-Hollywood is seeking a few good men and women interested in serving on nomination committees for the 36th Annual Annie Awards. Nomination judging will be taking place on Saturday, November 15, 2008, at Woodbury University, in Burbank, California. Judges may also be required to do some additional judging within the following days, or participate in pre-selection activities, via email, prior to the judging sessions. Applications must be received no later than Friday, October 17, 2008. Individuals who are selected to serve on a nomination committee, shall receive a pair of complementary VIP tickets to the Annie Awards ceremony, on January 30th at UCLA’s Royce Hall. To apply click here.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

No new scenes for Toy Story 3D re-releases

Collider reports that the re-releases of Toy Story films in 3D will not feature any new shots and nothing will be changed in the films when they return to cinemas next year. Jim Morris, producer of WALL-E, adds, “We’re not changing a thing in the movies. We’re doing it that completely preserves the original movie in terms of everything about the story. There’s no new shots. There’s no new nothing. It’s exactly the same movie you saw before.” The article also suggests that Pixar plans to release the first movie on October 2nd, 2009 and the second on February 12, 2010 to get people ready for the third Toy Story film which opens in theaters June 18th, 2010.

Best-reviewed animated films of all time

RottenTomatoes have come up with their list of 50 best-reviewed animated films of all time. Features on the list include Disney classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Studio Ghibli’s anime classic Spirited Away, Aardman’s stop motion smash Chicken Run, acclaimed and surreal foreign entries such as The Triplets of Belleville, and most of the CGI works from Pixar, with Toy Story 2 topping the list.

Supernatural Anime 'Hell Girl' on IFC

IFC Makes Covenant with FUNimation Anime

Life rarely goes the way one plans. In fact, some would say that life never goes the way one plans it. For those living in the world in which the Hell Girl inhabits, this is more than a passing thought; it feels more like a long-summoned inevitability. When life gives you circumstances in which things become unbearable; gossiping neighbors, bullying teachers, a betrayal of personal relations; people whose mind is on the edge sometimes use the ultimate alternative: the Hell Correspondence. If unable to enact their own revenge, troubled individuals now have the option to turn to the Hell Girl, who will bear their tormenters to the depths of Hades... but only for a price of equal value...

Distributed by FUNimation Entertainment and scheduled to start airing on the Independent Film Channel this week, as was announced at the end of the previous year, the anime television series Hell Girl is a horror title that makes sure that its episodic journey into the lives of people with worst of luck is worth remembering. Whenever someone--a schoolgirl, a journalist, a legendary artist--encounters a moment in their life that feels unbearable, they go to the much talked about website for the Hell Correspondence. The website, only on-line and activated at the stroke of Midnight, is a direct line to the Hell Girl, whom with her supernatural denizens of the underworld take the liberty of taking the souls of those deserving hell.

But if you contact the Hell Girl in order to send someone to the depths of hell, there is a price to pay. As the beautiful little girl with the beguiling smile, Hell Girl, meets the grieved, she hands them a doll made of straw with a red string tied around its neck.

Should the knot on this string be undone, then a covenant is made between the aggrieved and Hell Girl: the wrong-doer will be ferried into the depths of hell for all eternity.

However, when the covenant-bearer comes to the end of his life, however many years that may be after the covenant was first sealed, they too will go to hell.

An exquisitely designed and at times, thoroughly dramatic clash between the netherworld and the real world, Hell Girl posits to viewers what they would do if every personal, social and emotional connection they had with the world began to break down all at the same time. The anime is scheduled to premiere on Tuesday, September 30th at 8:00pm (ET).

Evolving into a television animation that tracks even the thinking process of the Hell Girl as she considers the pleas of many a person, pondering the hell-on-earth mentality of some while still hoping to understand the no way out attitude of others. There are some humans who care not for redemption while staring down the gateway to hell, and there are others who are determined to fight the supernatural until the very end; all of them are forced to meet Hell Girl.

on FUNimation Entertainment: FUNimation Entertainment, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Navarre Corporation, is a brand management company and one of the nation's leading independent home video entertainment companies. The company has a proven formula for launching and advancing brands, and manages a full spectrum of rights with its brands including broadcasting, licensing, production, internet, and home video sales and distribution.

NYAF2008: "State of the Anime Industry" Panel Report

More from Toon Zone News' coverage of the New York Anime Festival...

The annual "State of the Anime Industry" panel was held on Sunday afternoon at the 2008 New York Anime Festival. In attendance were Ken Iyadomi, President and CEO of Bandai Entertainment; Christopher Macdonald, owner and Editor-in-Chief of Anime News Network; Kevin McKeever, Marketing Coordinator for Harmony Gold; and Adam Sheehan, Senior Events Manager for FUNimation Entertainment. The panel was moderated by Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica, who opened the panel by joking, "What's the difference between the state of the anime industry and the state of the financial industry? $700 billion."

It's no secret that CD and DVD sales in the United States have been dropping of late, and Kelts pointed out that anime has been especially hard-hit by the loss in sales. However, anime's popularity has been rising, with conventions breaking attendance records almost every weekend -- a fact reinforced by Sheehan, who said that 25% of the attendees of the FUNimation panel said it was their first anime convention. Kelts began the panel by asking the participants what they were doing in response to the loss of home video sales. Iyadomi pointed out that anime companies spent years developing a market for selling anime TV series on single-volume DVDs, only to be undermined when American companies started selling entire seasons of TV shows on DVD. This left them caught between a market that was rejecting single-volume discs for season sets and licensors who are still highly resistant to the idea of selling entire seasons of TV at once. Bandai has been trying to balance between price point and content that can still be profitable, like shipping 13-episode products in 2 disc sets.

Macdonald pointed out that the anime industry is a lot more than just DVDs. He thinks that boxed home media will never be as big as it was in the 1990's, and that a shrinking DVD market can also mean a growing market elsewhere, but at the moment, growth outside of the DVD market is not overcoming the shrink in DVD sales. The day before, ANN had announced that they had a project in the works to become an Internet broadcaster in addition to being a news site, with the goal of producing profit for licensors, media companies, and themselves without charging the customers directly for content. He did say that everybody has to try lots of new things, and that companies have to start looking more seriously outside of DVD sales.

Sheehan said that FUNimation has been lucky, since their sales have increased in the past few years despite the downturn in the market. FUNimation is definitely keeping an eye on the non-DVD market, pushing their products in many different markets and formats, including season sets, iTunes/Xbox Live, and Blu-ray. Sheehan said that FUNimation is aware that fans want to try before they buy, and that pushing iTunes and other digital formats was the way FUNimation was trying to do that. He said that One Piece is the most downloaded anime in the world, with FUNimation taking down 10,000 streams a week, and that if only 1% of the viewers of those illegal videos bought DVDs, that would be a major boost to their sales.

The panelists agreed that an entire generation of fans were growing up watching videos on the Internet, to the point where that's the norm regardless of the legalities. Kelts repeated some statements by Russell Solomon, former head of Tower Records, who faulted his own industry for failing to teach a younger generation of the joys of record shopping. Solomon had said that the $2 45 rpm single was the entry point for kids to buy music, which gradually led to buying purchasing LP records and becoming regular music shoppers. With the changeover to CDs, that entry point was largely lost, and was indirectly responsible for the losses in retail music sales. To some extent, Internet distribution mechanisms like iTunes can serve this purpose for anime.

From there, Kelts asked how you can monetize free streaming content. One audience member joked, "Pizza Hut in-show advertising!" but Macdonald actually said that was basically the answer. He pointed out that most of the comparisons between the United States and Japan over DVD prices and sales aren't really valid, with no single comparison really geting it right. North American fans may complain that anime DVDs are too expensive, but the counter that Japanese fans pay 2-3 times as much isn't really valid because the Japanese audience was able to watch the shows on TV originally at a much more affordable rate. The DVD market is thus targeted more at the hardcore collector, while in America, the DVDs can be the only way to watch the anime. "Free" for the consumer almost always means advertising, which is how Anime News Network can give away their content. At the moment, the best way to get content in front of new viewers for free or for very little money is via the Internet, which was a point Iyadomi agreed with. Iyadomi cited another fundamental change in business models, since animation in American was only for kid's TV and licensing in the 1970's, but a decade later, animation for teenagers sold on VHS videotapes became a viable business model. He said that Bandai's goal now is just to at least break even, since many productions lose money because they can't even make back the packaging costs.

Sheehan said that FUNimation is a public company and their shareholders definitely like profits, but that it was understood that giving away a little can lead to a lot. He touched on the demise of the Toonami block on Cartoon Network, but added that he's hoping Cartoon Network continues to want anime on the channel (including One Piece -- yes, they're still working on it), and that there are more outlets seeking out anime now such as SciFi, IFC, and Starz, as well as the many competing alternatives on the Internet. On the last point, McKeever added that the major media companies can't figure out how to make money on the Internet, either, so the anime companies shouldn't be surprised, but he did say that anime companies needed to figure out more and different distribution methods, including limited theatrical releases, film festivals, and other places where people would normally say, "Anime wouldn't go there!"

Riffing off that point, Kelts added that a program called Anime Masterpieces was starting up, screening anime classics like Grave of the Fireflies at museums, festivals, and universities. He also noted that theatrical releases make many anime a fundamentally diferent experience, and that this difference can be the draw for anime fans. Macdonald finished the point by saying that normally, niche markets wait for the mainstream markets to solve problems like monetizing free Internet videos, but in this case, that's not something the anime industry can afford to wait for, even suggesting that the solution for the mainstream entertainment industry may not be workable for anime.

At this point, Kelts opened up the panel for Q&A. The first questioner asked what was being done about the lag time between the Japanese airings and the American ones. Iyadomi stated that there were many discussions at Bandai on how to do this, including an investment in a company that makes subtitling software, but that a lot of things still have to be changed within Japanese TV stations before this can become a reality. Macdonald also pointed out that contracts are a huge hurdle to clear for things like simultaneous international broadcast, and that the consortiums that produce anime in Japan may be composed of up to 15 different companies, and that all of the companies in the consortium need to agree to a simultaneous release, but that this will almost never happen in real-life.

Related to that point, one audience member asked about contextual advertising on Internet video, to which Macdonald replied that "contextual advertising" as it's commonly used is just a quick-fix solution when a provider doesn't want to work with a real advertising and sales team, since the best way to make money advertising is to know your audience well in the first place. On a related point about the niches within the anime niche market, Sheehan described the workings of FUNimation's marketing department, with intensive research on the show and its target audience ultimately leading to a one-sheet that then determines branding, marketing, advertising, and packaging of their releases.

The panel was asked about their feelings about the demise of Geneon as an anime licensor in the United States and of the Toonami block on Cartoon Network. Iyadomi said he felt sad about the loss of Toonami, but that the business model clearly wasn't working for Cartoon Network. Macdonald agreed, pointing out that the block hasn't been an anime block for a long time, and that it was also always a demographic block rather than one focused on Japanese animtion. McKeever provided some perspective by saying that the first time anime was broadcast in this country, it was through daily syndication. That petered out before Toonami replaced it, and there are already other avenues that are replacing Toonami. They were all saddened to see Geneon disappear, with Sheehan saying that markets do better when there is competition, and that he always valued the worthy competition that Geneon gave them. He was happy to complete some partially finished Geneon series, although he said he wanted to avoid looking like vultures on a corpse, especially since getting too many titles at once will make all their properties suffer.

NYAF2008: Digging into Anime's American Success with "Japanamerica"

The "Japanamerica" panel was one of the last of the 2008 New York Anime Festival on Sunday afternoon. The description said that author Roland Kelts would "share the raw experiences that were the basis for his book, Japanamerica," but the end result stretched well beyond that. When time was up, the small but rapt audience had to be all but thrown out of the room by the Javits Center staff. Kelts was joined on stage by two special guests: Anthony Weintraub, screenwriter and producer for Tekkonkinkreet, and Clyde Adams III, head of NYC-Anime.com and prominent figure in New York City-area anime fandom. By the end of the panel, the audience had been treated into a look at anime's past in North America and analyzed some ominous changes in anime's future both in North America and in its native land of Japan.

Kelts began by describing the prominent anti-Japanese sentiment that prevailed in the United States a little more than 20 years ago, when prominent public figures and private citizens would happily smash Japanese cars on the TV news and anxieties ran high over Japan's rapid economic growth. Today, Japanese culture has infiltrated food, fashion, and entertainment, with sushi next to roasted chickens in supermarkets across the country, Hayao Miyazaki movies in prominent places on parents' DVD shelves, and, of course, anime in general exploding in popularity among an entire generation of young people. The goal of Japanamerica was to make sense of such a radical change in attitudes, as well as telling stories about Japanese pop culture -- how is it made, who makes it, and why is it distinctly Japanese (if, in fact, it is -- Kelts relayed that his uncle told him that anime was "not serious Japanese culture").

Kelts began his discussions with the Pokémon phenomenon, when the game and cartoon exploded on the American consciousness in 1996. He also briefly digressed to relay the tale of how 4Kids' Al Kahn managed to get the Japanese owners of Pokémon to sign over subsidiary rights in return for a paltry $10 million, mostly because Pokémon's Japanese owners at Shogakukan had no legal team on staff to process the thick contract and didn't understand what they were signing away. Kelts related that Shogakukan's Masakazu Kubo told him, "That was our fault. If you do business with another country, you have to learn how that other country does business," even though this simple mistake ultimately cost them millions of dollars.

In Kelts' view, Pokémon introduced a American children to a distinct style of animated storytelling that had several easily identifiable characteristics. The first was that illustrations were based on line, rather than shading or depth-perception. Kelts noted that this distinctive sense of space is rooted in old Japanese painting traditions, and that this is not the first time that Japanese art has seized hold of Western imaginations, since "Japonisme" was all the rage in Europe during the 1860's.

Kelts also stated that Pokémon, like many other Japanese cartoons, was fundamentally not rooted in a biological reality. No matter how exaggerated they may be, Bugs Bunny is recognizably a rabbit and Mickey Mouse is recognizably a mouse, but the pocket monsters of Pokémon and other Japanese cartoons are divorced from reality entirely. This, in turn, enabled Pokémon to engage in a serialized/never-ending saga that is also firmly rooted in much older Japanese art forms, such as the episodic Genji Monogatari (a candidate for the world's first novel). Ironically, Kelts also noted that this serial storytelling was also part of the reason why anime in America has so many problems with illegal downloading: fans want to have the next episode right away, and simply don't want to wait for the next DVD.

This first generation of kids raised on Pokémon (and other seminal TV shows such as Dragon Ball Z) got addicted to these things, and this in turn led some to explore Japanese culture in great depth. Kelts pointed out that Japan is unique among modern industrialized nations in that it has retained a striking amount of its traditional culture. To American eyes, the culture can look as unfamiliar as that of Harry Potter's Hogwarts or Tolkien's Middle-Earth, but the difference is that manga and anime fans can legitimately study the language and culture and actually visit Japan to see it.

To this, Adams added a number of points about the history of anime fandom, especially the generations that came before Pokémon and laid the groundwork that enabled shows like Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z to really take root in America. Adams pointed out that anime experienced its first real boom during the late 80's within science fiction fandom, as shows like Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers began airing on television. The foreign interest in anime corresponded wth great changes in the anime industry of Japan. Lupin III debuted in 1971, and Macross and Nausicaa came soon afterwards to theaters; all three were the earliest anime that were primarily aimed at adults. In 1983, Megazone 23 became the first OVA in Japan, and was a hit despite being based on a cancelled TV series. OVAs had a tremendous effect on how much anime could be made and seen, and also happened to presage the DTV movement that seems to be taking root in America now. Members of the Armed Forces stationed in Japan were getting exposed to these works and, increasingly, bringing them back to share with other like-minded fans, leading to anime clubs and conventions. The sharing didn't all go in one direction, of course; in addition to appropriating some elements from American movies, Adams pointed out that many Japanese anime fans claim that they learned how to be otaku through the early Star Trek fandom.

Kelts and Weintraub also briefly touched on the changes in American animation, with adult-oriented comedy cartoons taking root due to the combination of The Simpsons, Beavis and Butthead, and South Park. Weintraub described it as saying that the American animation industry still looks down on its audience (which they perceive to be children), while Japanese industry doesn't.

The panelists also discussed some of the challenges facing the Japanese anime industry, which is really rooted in a huge generation gap within the animation industry of Japan. The anime industry is renowned for long, grueling work schedules, and many younger Japanese artists are opting out of the system, since they now have career options like video games, web design, and other new media that simply weren't available to the earlier anime artists. This younger generation has no patience to wait until they are 40 to direct their first animation, especially since other industries give them far more freedom far more quickly. Those in Japan use the word "crisis" quite seriously to describe the situation when nobody in the animation studios seems to be under 40 any more.

The responses to this crisis are varied. Kelts pointed to the increasing outsourcing to South Korea, China, India, and Southeast Asia in the anime industry, which may solve the immediate problem but also leads some in the industry to worry that they are training their own competition. Unfortunately, it seems that few in Japan have any sense of what to really do about this. Kelts also seems to think that some American fans are even more worried about it than Japanese ones, leading Weintraub to mention that nobody in Japan really cared that he and Tekkonkinkreet director Michael Arias weren't Japanese, and that it was only American anime fans that seemed to get upset about it.

That dichotomy between American and Japanese fandom was also explored a bit, with an audience member asking about the flood of shows aimed at specific audiences in Japan to the exclusion of anything else. Weintraub suggested that finding material might require some digging, pointing to the original Tekkonkinkreet manga, which was made by a popular underground manga artist who is almost completely unknown outside of Japan. Kelts also pointed at the growing dichotomy within the Japanese anime industry, such as Studio GONZO's split into one studio geared for the domestic market and the other aimed internationally.

In response to a question about some of the anti-anime backlash among American cartoon fans (and how they can sound disturbingly similar to the anti-Japanese sentiments of the 1980's), Kelts pointed out that much of those attitudes are based on ignorance, and that people with that attitude (or any attitude that dismisses an entire nation's cultural output out of hand) "really aren't worth spending much time on."

The last audience question was about the cancellation of Toonami, which was also pivotal in introducing many current otaku to anime. Weintraub stated that the increasing global exchange means that it's easier to find new material, but much harder to create good material. Kelts and Adams added that the rise of anime in America was a demand-driven event, since the Japanese anime industry was (and, to an extent, still is) apathetic to foreign audiences. Weintraub also linked the rise of Japanese animation in current American pop culture to the earliest generation of anime fans raised on Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets. That generation of children are today's adults, with Hollywood figures such as the Wachowskis, Steven Spielberg, and Leonardo DiCaprio all exploiting their affection for older anime properties in their current projects.

The panel closed with fans coming up to chat informally with the panelists and Kelts signing copies of his book for audience members.

Building the "Iron Man" suit

Superman/Superboy Lawsuit in WB Quarterly Report

If you're looking for the details on the dispute between the Seigels and DC comics over the rights to Superman and Superboy, and how it could effect the Superman movies and 'Smallville', look no further than the company's SEC filings (page 42).

Kirsten Dunst "in" for Spider-Man 4

The recent revelation that Sony Pictures is looking to shoot Spider-Man 4 and Spider-Man 5 at the same time didn't reveal whether Kirsten Dunst would rejoin director Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire for the films.

Now, Dunst has told MTV that she'll be back as Mary Jane Watson:

"I'm in," said the actress matter of factly. However, when pressed to make the announcement official, Dunst quickly changed her tone, and rather cryptically added, "I'm not saying anything, I know there's rumors..."

The studio is targeting a May 2011 release for the fourth pic.

Transformers 2 Gets at Least 3 IMAX Scenes

Variety reports that director Michael Bay will film at least three action set pieces using IMAX cameras for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The trade adds that director Jon Favreau has discussed using IMAX cameras in filming Iron Man 2, while director D.J. Caruso has expressed interest in doing so for future projects such as Y: The Last Man.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opens June 26, 2009, Iron Man 2 on May 7, 2010 and Y: The Last Man has no release date yet.

Monday, September 29, 2008

News - 09/29/08...

Hollywood legend Paul Newman dies at age 83

Actor Paul Newman who, among many other roles including the iconic Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler and his Oscar-winning sequel The Color Of Money, was the voice of Doc Hudson in Disney/Pixar’s Cars, has died from cancer on Saturday at his home in Westport, Connecticut. He was 83. In a career stretching over more than 50 movies, the multi-Oscar lauded (ten nominations, two wins, including an Honorary award) legendary star’s other major films included Hud, The Sting, The Towering Inferno and Road To Perdition, while a humanitarian streak saw him famously donating all proceeds from his Newman’s Own food products to charity. Newman’s serious interest in race driving also propelled him to come second in the 1979 Le Mans grand prix, win the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1995, and led to his final film role in Cars, a sequel to which is planned to come to theaters in 2011. The Internet Movie Database has a full listing of Newman’s cinematic achievements.

"Racing is the best way I know to get away from all the rubbish of Hollywood," he told People magazine in 1979.

But in May 2007, he told ABC's "Good Morning America" he had given up acting, though he intended to remain active in charity projects. "I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to," he said. "You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that's pretty much a closed book for me."

Despite his love of race cars, Newman continued to make movies and continued to pile up Oscar nominations, his looks remarkably intact, his acting becoming more subtle, nothing like the mannered method performances of his early years, when he was sometimes dismissed as a Brando imitator. "It takes a long time for an actor to develop the assurance that the trim, silver-haired Paul Newman has acquired," Pauline Kael wrote of him in the early 1980s.

Newman had a soft spot for underdogs in real life, giving tens of millions to charities through his food company and setting up camps for severely ill children. Passionately opposed to the Vietnam War, and in favor of civil rights, he was so famously liberal that he ended up on President Nixon's "enemies list," one of the actor's proudest achievements, he liked to say.

A screen legend by his mid-40s, he waited a long time for his first competitive Oscar, winning in 1987 for "The Color of Money," a reprise of the role of pool shark "Fast" Eddie Felson, whom Newman portrayed in the 1961 film "The Hustler."

Newman delivered a magnetic performance in "The Hustler," playing a smooth-talking, whiskey-chugging pool shark who takes on Minnesota Fats — played by Jackie Gleason — and becomes entangled with a gambler played by George C. Scott. In the sequel — directed by Scorsese — "Fast Eddie" is no longer the high-stakes hustler he once was, but rather an aging liquor salesman who takes a young pool player (Cruise) under his wing before making a comeback.

He won an honorary Oscar in 1986 "in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft." In 1994, he won a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for his charitable work.

His most recent academy nod was a supporting actor nomination for the 2002 film "Road to Perdition." One of Newman's nominations was as a producer; the other nine were in acting categories. (Jack Nicholson holds the record among actors for Oscar nominations, with 12; actress Meryl Streep has had 14.)

In 1982, he got his Oscar fifth nomination for his portrayal of an honest businessman persecuted by an irresponsible reporter in "Absence of Malice." The following year, he got his sixth for playing a down-and-out alcoholic attorney in "The Verdict."

Newman, who shunned Hollywood life, was reluctant to give interviews and usually refused to sign autographs because he found the majesty of the act offensive, according to one friend.

He also claimed that he never read reviews of his movies.

"If they're good you get a fat head and if they're bad you're depressed for three weeks," he said.

Off the screen, Newman had a taste for beer and was known for his practical jokes. He once had a Porsche installed in Redford's hallway — crushed and covered with ribbons.

"I think that my sense of humor is the only thing that keeps me sane," he told Newsweek magazine in a 1994 interview.

In 1982, Newman and his Westport neighbor, writer A.E. Hotchner, started a company to market Newman's original oil-and-vinegar dressing. Newman's Own, which began as a joke, grew into a multimillion-dollar business selling popcorn, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and other foods. All of the company's profits are donated to charities. By 2007, the company had donated more than $175 million, according to its Web site.

Hotchner said Newman should have "everybody's admiration."

"For me it's the loss of an adventurous freindship over the past 50 years and it's the loss of a great American citizen," Hotchner told The Associated Press.

In 1988, Newman founded a camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. He went on to establish similar camps in several other states and in Europe.

He and Woodward bought an 18th century farmhouse in Westport, where they raised their three daughters, Elinor "Nell," Melissa and Clea.

Newman had two daughters, Susan and Stephanie, and a son, Scott, from a previous marriage to Jacqueline Witte.

Scott died in 1978 of an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium. After his only son's death, Newman established the Scott Newman Foundation to finance the production of anti-drug films for children.

In December 1994, about a month before his 70th birthday, he told Newsweek magazine he had changed little with age.

"I'm not mellower, I'm not less angry, I'm not less self-critical, I'm not less tenacious," he said. "Maybe the best part is that your liver can't handle those beers at noon anymore," he said.

Newman is survived by his wife, five children, two grandsons and his older brother Arthur.

Pixar's Presto Online

Pixar's Presto, a short directed by Doug Sweetland, about a stage magician's rabbit who gets into a magical onstage brawl against his neglectful guardian with two magic hats, is now online. You can see it on youtube HERE.

Annie Awards Call For Entries

ASIFA-Hollywood is currently accepting entries for consideration for the upcoming 36th Annual Annie Awards. Annie Awards will be presented in the categories of animated theatrical feature, television production, television commercial, short subject and video games, as well as to individuals who have worked on these productions.

Entries submitted for consideration must be from productions that were originally released theatrically, appeared on television, or were exhibited in a film festival between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008. To enter the Annie Awards, please visit www.annieawards.org. The deadline to receive entry forms is Friday, October 10, 2008. The 36th Annual Annie Awards will be held on January 30, 2009, at UCLA’s Royce Hall, in Los Angeles, California. For further information or questions, please email Gretchen Dixon at Gretchen-at-annieawards.org or call (562) 209-9900.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Newsarama Interviews "Superjail" Creators

Newsarama's Animated Shorts has interviewed the creators of Superjail, which debuts on Adult Swim this Sunday, September 28, 2008. Christy Karakas and Stephen Warbrick discuss the critical drubbing the show is receiving in some quarters, how the show is different from the pilot episode aired in 2007, and the characters on the show.

Christmas Carol banner

A new banner promoting A Christmas Carol, which features a painting of a dark and snowy village, has been posted on SlashFilm. A direct link to the image can be found here.

The History of the NBC Peacock

Mike Clark runs a website devoted to the history of Tampa’s Channel 13 (WTVT, a former CBS affiliate, now a Fox station). The site has dozens of interesting articles about the history and local personalities of “Big 13″. However one of his pieces, slightly off his given topic, should be of interest to most Cartoon Brew readers. Clark devotes an illustrated article, running several pages, to John Graham (NBC’s director of design) and the story of the animated NBC peacock logo. He cuts the story just short of the 1993 remakes by the likes of Al Hirshfeld, Peter Max and John Kricfalusi (see below), but it’s fascinating to read the story behind the iconic image we all grew up with.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Schamus calls bulls--- on 'Hulk' perceptions

The Ang Lee directed, James Schamus produced 'Hulk' was a major flop while the lean green 'Incredible Hulk'' was a big success. Right? "Wait a second," cries Schamus.

As has been pointed out in our box office reports several times this summer, the new 'Incredible Hulk' barely out-grossed Ang Lee's 2003 movie and had significantly larger budget.

"In real dollars, if you adjust for inflation, in order to even break even with us it would have had to gross $155 [million]. It grossed about $30 more than that [and] did the same overseas," Schamus told MTV Splash Page.

But, come on, James. Everybody liked the new movie a lot better, right?

"This thing about Ang’s movie being reviled by critics, go on Rotten Tomatoes and the average review is like [62%]," said Schamus. "And the new one that’s supposedly embraced and loved is also getting [62%]. Its like, ‘What planet are we on?’"

Actually the original has settled to 61% while the redo is around 67% but the man's point still stands, the new Hulk is hardly eating the old Hulk's gamma-irradiated lunch in terms of critical reception either.

Not that he's bitter. Schamus admitted to MTV that he liked the new movie quite a bit and thinks one of the wonderful things about the Marvel characters is their flexibility in the face of interpretation.

"These characters are like Shakespeare," he explained. "'Hamlet' you can do with a different actor every summer."

Patrick Wilson again on becoming a NiteOwl

Actor Patrick Wilson talks about his screen test and how he approached becoming NiteOwl in the Watchmen movie. “His physicality I was always completely conscious of,” said Wilson to MTV Splash Page. “The drawing of him looking so sad and very dumpy with slumping shoulders…that’s very informative to me. When the guy takes his shirt off that’s not a fat dude. That’s a big dude who maybe got soft but he’s not just a big tub. It’s funny some people have a different interpretation of that. And I keyed into Alan Moore likening him to a soldier coming back from a war and feeling lost, not knowing his place in society. I was like, that I can dig into.”

Yoda Stars In Clone Premiere

Yoda takes on an entire droid army in the first-season premiere of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the new Cartoon Network animated series, which premieres at 9 p.m. Oct. 3.

In the first episode, "Ambush," Jedi Master Yoda and three clone troopers must face off against Count Dooku's dreaded assassin, Asajj Ventress, and the massive Separatist droid army to prove the Jedi are strong enough to protect a strategic planet and forge a treaty for the Republic.

The episode is directed by David Bullock (Justice League: The New Frontier) from a script by Steve Melching (The Batman). Dave Filoni is supervising director; George Lucas is the series' creator and serves as executive producer, and Catherine Winder is producer.

Yoda wreaks havoc on an army of battle droids in "Ambush," the series premiere of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Bill Murray Agrees To Ghostbusters 3

Bill Murray has always been the least interested about doing another "Ghostbusters" movie but yesterday, speaking at Fantastic Fest, the actor expressed a little more enthusiasm for the project, indicating he's on board.

Aint it Cool News reports that Murray "said that he knew "some writers from The Office" were taking a stab at the script right now (which we already knew) and that he thinks that's a good start. He paused for a few seconds then said that he thinks enough time has passed and that "the wounds from Ghostbusters 2 are healed" and that he would definitely be into doing another Ghostbusters movie, stating that the first 40 minutes of the original film is some of the best stuff he's been associated with and the whole shoot was an amazing amount of fun. He also went on to say that his enthusiasm for Ghostbusters was heightened after recording the voice of Peter Venkman for the video game over the summer. In fact, he said he found himself walking down the street singing the Ghostbusters theme song and then thought people walking around him were going to start yelling at him to "get over yourself, Bill," so he stopped... But the enthusiasm was there."

That's great news - but I personally expected he'd agree to return for no more than a cameo. Slimed by Slimer in the first five minutes of the film or something.

"The Office" co-exec producers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky have been working on a script designed to bring back the original cast - Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson.

George Clooney as the Lone Ranger?

With Johnny Depp announced last week as playing Tonto in "The Lone Ranger" the message boards have been lighting up with conversations about who should be playing the masked man himself.

You can put away the wish-lists, if this rumor at Aint it Cool News is anything to go by, because Disney may already have their man.

The site says George Clooney has expressed interest in playing the legendary cowboy.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars DVD in November

DVDActive reports that Warner Home Video has announced the dvd release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on November 11. Available as a 1-disc, a 2-disc and a Blu-ray edition, extras on the 2-disc set will include “The Clone Wars: The Untold Stories”, “The Voices of The Clone Wars”, “Webdocs: Six making-of featurettes, as seen on StarWars.com”, “Deleted Scenes”, and more.

A unique new look for John Carter of Mars?

SCI-FI Wire reports that Andrew Stanton, the director of Pixar’s upcoming feature John Carter of Mars, with co-writer Mark Andrews will be putting their own spin on the iconic story. The site also shares that, according to a Pixar manager, the film will have a unique look as well. Jim Morris, general manager at Pixar Animation, adds, John Carter is in its very early stages, and there is much to figure out about that, so we’d be premature. We are looking at a variety of different approaches and techniques for that…We’re kind of a bit early in the development of that.”

Ninja Anime 'Naruto' Goes South

Naruto in Latin America

Feverishly popular Japanese animated property Naruto was recently at the center of a brand management agreement guided by western content licensing and production company VIZ, Media, LLC. Anticipating further consumer penetration on television, emerging media outlets, and of course, in retail outlets, VIZ Media has moved forward with a product licensing agreement with the International Merchandising Consultants, whose specialty lay in offering brand visibility throughout South American territories.

The ongoing adventures and comedies of an enterprising preteen, set in a contemporary ninja-congested community, Naruto tracks Naruto, and has benefited from an immense consumer following in North America, where it is routinely broadcast to countless viewers on a weekly basis. Whether in comic, graphic novel, or anime form, Naruto's action-packed martial arts and enduring emotional conflicts have held the attention of many a child or adult. The agreement between VIZ Media and the International Merchandising Consultants will surely hope to capitalize on the property's North American fanfare.

"By forging this agreement with International Merchandising Consultants (IMC), we're partnering with one of the most respected licensing agencies in South America," Andrea Gonzalez, International Licensing Director, VIZ Media, stated.

"We see [IMC] as one of the pioneers of the licensing industry in Argentina and this is critical to introducing a brand like Naruto. As the popularity of the world's favorite ninja continues to spread across Latin America we look forward to opening innovative new retail and product opportunities with IMC."

IMC's talents in marketing guarantees and brand administration are intended to carry the ninja anime into Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Uruguay. To the benefit of VIZ Media, this comprehensive licensing announcement will target tweens and teens throughout Latin America that presently sit beyond the company's current borders.

Accordingly, VIZ Media has pursued broadcast deals for Naruto in various South American territories, covering all of its bases ahead of a largely anticipated, branded consumer products blitz for the property this year and next. Licensed rights to air the adventure animation include Cartoon Network Latin America (Pan-regional), Televen (Venezuela), and Chilevision (Chile). Additional partners for the Naruto broadcast include Televisa (Mexico), SBT (Brazil), City TV Bogota (Colombia), and America TV (Peru), among others.

The manga counterpart, by Misashi Kishimoto, is currently on schedule to be licensed in Argentina to a local publishing house. The first manga volume release of this highly anticipated comics series is expected to be released to the market in the first half of the 2009-year.

on VIZ Media, LLC.: Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, VIZ Media, LLC (www.VIZ.com), is one of the most comprehensive companies in the field of graphic novel publishing, animation and entertainment licensing of Japanese content. The company is owned by three of Japan's largest creators and licensors of manga and animation: Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd.,

Mater Stars in Own Mini-Show on Disney

Mater, the rusty tow truck which befriended Lightning McQueen in the 2005 Pixar feature Cars, will be starring in his own animated three-part short series. Pixar’s Cars Toons will premiere on Disney Channel, Toon Disney and ABC Family beginning Monday, Oct. 27. This news follows yesterday’s announcement that director Brad Lewis’ Cars 2 sequel will now be released in the summer of 2011.

These short animated vignettes are directed by John Lasseter and co-directed by Victor Navone (animator on Cars, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo) and Rob Gibbs (story artist on Cars, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc.) Kori Rae (associate producer on The Incredibles, Monsters Inc.) is the producer. Mater is voiced by Larry the Cable Guy.

Here is a complete list of the shorts premieres on Toon Disney (all times ET/PT) and their official synopsis:

Monday, Oct. 27 (6:56 p.m.)
Rescue Squad Mater. Mater is a fire truck that rescues Lightning McQueen from a burning building. When McQueen is rushed to the hospital, he discovers that Mater is a doctor, too.

Tuesday, Oct. 28 (6:57 p.m.)
Mater the Greater. Mater is a famous daredevil who does all kinds of stunts. And Lightning McQueen becomes an unwilling participant in Mater's greatest stunt ever.

Wednesday, Oct. 29 (6:57 p.m.)
El Materdor. Mater is a famous bulldozer fighter in Spain. He's so good, he's able to fend off multiple bulldozers at once. Lightning McQueen joins Mater in this tall tale just as things are at their worst.

Disney Channel will present all three shorts throughout the day on Saturday, Nov. 1. ABC Family will present the shorts beginning Tuesday, December 23 during the network's annual "25 Days of Christmas" programming.

Disney has also announced the debut of a new Cars Land inspired by the movie at Disney’s California Adventure park in 2012. The new area will increase capacity to the park with two additional immersive family rides, featuring Luigi and Mater from the movie. Disney Interactive Media Group's (DIMG) Disney Online unit will also launch the World of Cars Online (www.WorldOfCars.com) virtual world, which will allow fans of the motion picture to immerse themselves in the online world of Radiator Springs and beyond. In preparation for that 2009 launch, Disney Online will launch a Test Track preview site at WorldofCars.com next month where fans can create their own personalized car and put the pedal to the metal in a single-player racing preview. Vroom, Vroom, indeed.

PorchLight, Caboom Team Up for Beary Boo

Ecological awareness is on the mind of Beary Boo, a new animated series about a green-living brown bear cub, which will be distributed by L.A.-based Porchlight Ent. and produced by Caboom, a production company with offices in L.A. and Dublin. Developed by Caboom, the new toon targets kids 3-6. This deal marks the Irish outfit’s first distribution deal of an original property in the US.

The preschool show follows the adventures of a brown bear cub named Beary who joins the Fuzzy Scouts and marches to the tune of conservation and living green. In the town of Greenly Woods, Beary and his cub pals, Nate, Carlotta, and Growell are dedicated to their Scout motto which is “A clean world is a green world.”

“We are pleased to be working with the talented team at Caboom on Beary Boo,” says Fred Schaefer, PorchLight’s senior VP of animation. “With Beary Boo, Caboom has created an exceptional series that combines great designs, humor, and entertaining stories with messages on conservation, recycling, and other eco-conscious themes.”

Beary Boo is part of a slate of original animated and live-action projects that we are developing and pitching in the US,” notes Caboom’s creative director, Damian Farrell. “We are very excited to partner with the PorchLight team as their knowledge, experience and most importantly their enthusiasm, will be invaluable in helping us bring Beary Boo to life.”

You can find out more info about the two companies at www.caboom.ie and www.porchlight.com.

Milan Fest Moved by House of Small Cubes

Japanese animator Kunio Kato’s beautifully animated and poetic short La maison en petits cubes (The House of Small Cubes) received the prize for best animated picture at the Milan Film Festival last Sunday.

Kato’s 12-minute, traditionally animated short centers on an old widower, who lives in a house which is slowly submerged in sea water. As each level fills up, the man builds another one on top of it. When the old man dives into the waters to collect an old pipe, he recalls different stages of his life while swimming through the lower levels of a house built on memories.

The House of Small Cubes also won the top Cristal at the Annecy Animation Festival in the spring, and also picked up the Junior Jury Award in the short film category. Kato is only the second Japanese filmmaker to win the coveted Annecy Cristal prize. Koji Yamamura won in 2003 for his Atamayama (Mount Head). Kato’s short received top prizes at the Hiroshima Festival in August and was also screened at Brazil’s Anima Mundi and last week’s Ottawa’s Animation Festival.

Kato has won numerous prizes for his animated shorts, which he began to produce while attending Tama Art University’s graphic design course. After graduating in 2001, Kato began work at Robot Communications, where he created various projects for TV, the Internet and CM spots. Since his most recent work has been getting a lot of attention on the festival circuit, it will be qualified for the Animated Shorts category of the Academy Awards this year.

You can visit Kato’s site at http://kiteretus.robot.co.jp/kunio, and watch his 2006 short The Diary of Tortov Roddle here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLMfMN6zS3o

Olly Dives into New Territories with Universal

Universal Pictures International Entertainment has picked up the environmentally-conscious preschool series Dive Olly Dive! for release on DVD in the U.K., Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal, South Africa, Brazil and other selected territories. The CG show from Taffy Ent. and Mike Young Prods. will hit retail in those areas in 2009.

Created by Andrew and Ian Ross, Dive Olly Dive! follows the underwater escapades of Olly and Beth, two young research submarines-in-training who live in a deep-sea research center known as SURF: the Special Underwater Research Facility. Together, they experience the joys and challenges of life in their underwater world, much in the same way that preschoolers explore life in their world.

Dive Olly Dive! is a co-production of Mike Young Prods. Ltd (MYP), Flying Bark Prods. of Australia, KI.KA, ARD of Germany, Telegael of Ireland and GDC. Produced with the support of the MEDIA Plus Programme of the European Community, the show won the 2008 Parents’ Choice Award and Hugo Television Award (Certificate of Merit), in addition to being nominated for an Emmy Award and the Prix Jeunesse and Best Animated Series awards at the 2008 Annecy Int’l Festival of Animated Film.

Studio B producer Richard Pimm dead at 60

Canadian producer Richard Pimm, of Vancouver animation outfit Studio B Productions, died Wednesday at 60.

Pimm was a producer and production manager on the Studio B series D'Myna Leagues, Yvon of the Yukon and Class of the Titans. He was producing A Side Show Christmas at the time of his death.

Pimm worked for over three decades at such major animation companies as Nelvana, Disney and Lucasfilm. For 12 years, he was an overseas supervisor in Wales, China, Taiwan, Korea and the Philippines, where he was Toon City's general manager.

At Nelvana, he was a checker on the 1979 TV specials Runaway Robots! Romie-O and Julie-8 and Intergalactic Thanksgiving, and was in quality control on Easter Fever (1980). He was an animation camera operator on 1983's Rock & Rule, the first animated theatrical feature film produced entirely in Canada.

Pimm's work at Disney included serving as a production manager on The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000) and Return to Never Land (2002), as well as a unit coordinator on the video Belle's Magical World and the Hercules TV series.

He was a unit manager on the TV series Ewoks, The Care Bears, Babar and Beetlejuice, in addition to 1989's Babar: The Movie.

Pimm was a proud member of the Manila, Philippines-based Mad Dog Motorcycle Club.

"Richard was a great guy who always had a pleasant outlook on life. He will be sadly missed by his many friends at the studio and around the world," said Studio B spokesman Anthony Jiwa.

A viewing will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, September 30 at Burkeview Family Funeral Care, 1340 Dominion Avenue, Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.

Joe Murray Explains it All…

Artist, illustrator and animator Joe Murray is also one of the most successful cartoon show creators working today. Joe has just produced an e-book entitled Crafting A Cartoon, loaded with tips on how to pitch, sell and produce a series in the current marketplace. Says Joe, the book contains:

“…behind the scenes stories, photos and art from the making of Rocko’s Modern Life and Camp Lazlo. Realistic approaches to creating cutting edge, memorable characters for several mediums as well as a guide for fresh storytelling. Inside tips on how to put together pitch materials, contract tips on selling a show, and how to produce the series once it has been picked up. Plus sanity-saving advice on creating win-win relationships with networks - and alternative methods to getting your series out there without the network.”

You can browse the first 14 pages here. To order the whole book, visit Joe Murray’s website.

(thanks cartoonbrew)

Tom & Jerry theme song in Japan

Catchy tune, violent imagery, fun for the whole family! Forget Superjail… click here to see the delightful Japanese opening for Tom and Jerry.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

The Wile E. Coyote Government

I propose all difficult financial concepts be explained with cartoons, like how this video uses Wile E. Coyote to explain the US government’s financial incompetence:

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Wired Weblog on Adapting Steig's "Doctor De Soto" Picturebook for Animation

On the Wired weblog, Kathy Ceceri has written about her memories working in Michael Sporn's animation studio in the mid-1980's on an adaptation of William Steig's Doctor De Soto. Ceceri describes how the studio made an effort to emulate the look of Steig's watercolor illustrations, in comparison to the CGI adaptation of Steig's Shrek. Many of Sporn's films and other Weston Woods animated adaptations are available through the website of New Hampshire Public Television.

Briefly: Japan's Manga-fan PM; Eco-Bunnies Contest; ICv2 VP on Anime on TV

* Taro Aso, the "cool old dude" of Japan's political establishment and self-professed manga fan, has been elected as Japan's 59th Prime Minister. [Daily Yomiuri Online]

* Travelocity is launching a contest to name its animated Eco-Bunny mascots; submissions may be made through November 7, 2008, on the Eco-Bunnies website. [CBS Marketwatch]

* Right Stuf's "Anime Today" podcast this week interviews Tom Flinn, VP at ICv2.com, about the state of anime on TV today. [Press Release]

'The Dark Knight' coming home December 9th

Warner Home Video have officially announced the DVD and Blu-Ray release of 'The Dark Knight' coming home December 9th and revealed artwork for the set.

The Blu-Ray will bear an MSRP of $35.99 while the 2-disc DVD carries an MSRP of $34.99. Packaging shows the Dark Knight's Batpod on an outer sleeve with the Joker on the inner packaging.

Further artwork displayed on DVDActive.com shows the Joker-vandalized back cover for the inner artwork. Also the site reveals a collector's box that will include a scale replica of the Batpod inside.

Check out the images:

Blu-Ray front

Joker vandalized back cover: Blu-Ray

Blu-Ray back

2-Disc special edition, tilted

Blu-Ray sleeve and inner case

Blu-Ray front tilted

2-Disc special edition

Batpod gift-set tilted

Batpod gift-set front

Batpod gift-set back

Iron Man writers to tackle another Marvel hero?

They delivered Marvel a mega-hit in 'Iron Man', yet screenwriters Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby weren't hired to pen the sequel script. What's up with that? It appears that Fergus and Ostby have their sights on other Marvel heroes.

"There are some really juicy [movies] that we are very much talking intensely with Marvel about. We’re like, ‘We’re the right guys for this one,’" Fergus told MTV Splash Page. "We’re interested in working on a bunch of these other Marvel projections and everything in the Marvel canon is fair game. We have a lot of ideas about all this, but until they officially ask us to come do one of these we’ll keep our mouths closed about the actual ideas. It’s moving along nicely but nothing official yet. But, yes, we are planning on working on some of those movies. That much I’ll say."

So the pair are still in the fold, but won't say which movie they're working on.

So Where Will DreamWorks Animation End Up?

Variety tells us that as DreamWorks' live action arm ankles Paramount/Viaco, DreamWorks Animation stays put:.

DreamWorks Studios may be re-launching with a new infusion of cash, but DreamWorks Animation remains in a distribution deal with Par that runs through 2012.

Originally spun into a public company to help investor Paul Allen liquidate his early investments, DreamWorks Animation is now in the unexpected position of having absolutely no business relationship with DreamWorks Studios.

Technically, the live-action studio hasn't been connected to its toon sibling in over two years, but it's no coincidence that the latter signed a seven-year distribution deal with Paramount at the same time the former was acquired by it ...

DWA toons have performed well for the past two years, grossing an average of $441 million worldwide. Overseas B.O. has been particularly strong, with this summer's
"Kung Fu Panda" and last year's "Shrek the Third" grossing $409 million and $476 million, respectively, from foreign markets. Home entertainment perf has also been solid is a slumping market -- "Shrek the Third" has sold more than 20 million units so far.

... DreamWorks Animation stock is up 27% since 2006 ... Meanwhile, Par is getting into the toon biz on its own. The studio just greenlit its first animated feature (save for cheap Nickelodeon spin-offs),
"Rango," which will star Johnny Depp, be directed by Gore Verbinski, and be produced at Industrial Light and Magic.

Insiders say it may be no coincidence that the pic has been scheduled for March 2011 -- perhaps as a sign that Par can do animation on its own, if needed. Katzenberg is rumored to be peeved, since DreamWorks Animation has its own film set to come out that May -- possibly
"Kung Fu Panda 2."

As the only big domestic, stand-alone cartoon house still standing, how much longer will DWA remain on its own? Will it go back to Universal for a new distribution deal? How about getting purchased by General Electric lock, stock and barrel?.

The problem for me is that in a universe of conglomerates, a solitary animation company with no distribution network is a really rugged business model. Two flops in a row and staffs are cut, then desks and hardware start getting sold to pay the bills.

It's been a fabulous high-wire act so far, but how much longer can it go on? (I guess forever ... as long as those hits just keep on a-coming.)

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)