Thursday, September 4, 2008

News - 09/04/08...

Peanuts Animator Bill Melendez Dies

Bill Melendez, the Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning animator best known for bringing Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts characters to life, died on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 2 at St. John’s hospital in Santa Monica. His career in the entertainment business spanned more than 70 years and gave us such classics as A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. He was to celebrate his 92nd birthday in November.

Melendez began his career at Walt Disney Studios, where he worked as animator on Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Dumbo and various Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons. Years later, he moved to Warner Bros. to animate cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, among others.

Melendez left Warner Bros. In 1948 and spent the next decade and a half as a director and producer on more than 1,000 commercials and films for United Productions of America (UPA), Playhouse Pictures and John Sutherland Prods. It was at UPA that Melendez started doing work for New York-based J. Walter Thompson ad agency, whose client included Ford Motor Co. The carmaker expressed interest in using Peanuts characters to sell its cars on television. In 1959, Melendez showed his animation work to Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, starting a partnership and friendship that would yield more than 63 half-hour specials, five hour-long specials, four feature films and more than 372 commercials featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang. Melendez also provided the voices for Snoopy and Woodstock.

Melendez also animated Garfield on the Town, Cathy, Babar Comes to America, and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, among others. His work earned him 17 Emmy nominations and eight Emmy wins, one Oscar nomination, two Peabody Awards, one Clio, three National Cartoonist Society Awards, and more than 150 Advertising Awards.

Under the leadership of Melendez’s son and other trusted execs, Bill Melendez Prods., Inc., sister studio Melendez Films in London and Sopwith Prods. (Melendez’s art distribution unit) will continue to animate, direct and produce features and commercials.

Melendez is survived by his wife of 68 years, Helen, two sons: Steven Melendez and (Ret.) Navy Rear Admiral Rodrigo Melendez, six grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. A memorial service will be held for family only. Donations can be made in Bill Melendez's name to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

4Kids Announces Saturday Lineups

4Kids Ent. today unveiled its lineup of fall programs to air on Saturday mornings on FOX and The CW Network. Both blocks will kick off the new season on Sept. 13, featuring new animated series and returning favorites. The five-hour TheCW4Kids block will debut Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Back to the Sewer and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, while the four-hour 4KidsTV lineup premieres Chaotic: M'Arrillian Invasion. Other shows joining the 4Kids schedules later in the season include Huntik, Rollbots and GOGORIKI.

On September 12 at 4:30 p.m. (ET), The CW will offer kids an exclusive first look at the lineup of shows with TheCW4Kids Brand Spankin' New Spectacular Saturday Sneak Peek Party. The half-hour special will include a preview the new comedy GOGORIKI, which is expected to join the fall schedule on Sept. 27.

The 2008-2009 run marks 4Kids' seventh consecutive season on FOX and its inaugural season on The CW Network. 4Kids Prods. is involved in the development, production, adaptation and/or post-production of ten of the series airing this season. In addition to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Back to the Sewer, original 4Kids productions include Chaotic, Viva Piñata, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward and Chaotic: M'Arillion Invasion. The entity also adapts the anime shows Dinosaur King and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, and the new Russian show GOGORIKI (SMESHARIKI) for American audiences. Al Kahn, chairman and CEO of 4Kids Ent., and Norman Grossfeld, president of 4Kids Prods., oversee the company's network television operations.

In Back to the Sewer, the Teenage Mutant Ninja 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.

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, the latest entry in the internationally successful anime series, takes place in the new Domino City. Once the playground of legendary duelist Yugi Moto, this sprawling metropolis has since been transformed into a futuristic society where dueling has been kicked into overdrive. Now the winners and losers aren't just separated by skill and strength, but by speed as well. For five special duelists, it's not just about winning or losing anymore—it's about survival.

Chaotic: M'Arrillian Invasion finds Tom and Kaz delving deeper into Chaotic and confronting new creatures, uncovering strange new locations and scanning awesome new BattleGear and Mugic. Their games take a shocking , however, when a mysterious new tribe is accidentally unleashed. Will the force of their mega-mental powers let them conquer the Tribes and rule Perim?

GOGORIKI involves a circle of best friends who live in a safe and peaceful world where stories revolve around characters and comedy rather than conflict. The GOGORIKI are animal-like beings, each with a cute round shape, a unique personality and infectious charm. Each half-hour installment consists of three 6 1/2 minute stories. The show was created with the aid of Russia’s Ministry of Culture and animated at Peterburg animation studio in the region. It first premiered in Russia in March of 2003.

TheCW4Kids block airs Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon on The CW Network, while 4KidsTV runs 8 a.m. to noon on FOX. Kids can also watch full episodes of 4Kids TV favorites online at and The web destinations also offer kid-friendly activities ranging from branded TV show areas for every series in the lineups to a weekly-replenished library of more than 150 games.

Animated Short Walks Tight Rope

Magnolia Pictures’ documentary Man on Wire will be accompanied in select theaters by Michael Sporn’s 2005 animated short film The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, reports Daily Variety. Based on the Caldecott Award-winning children's book by Mordicai Gerstein and narrated by actor Jake Gyllenhaal, the short is intended to attract more family audiences to the doc. Sporn’s film won the Best Short Animation Made for Children award at the 2006 Ottawa International Animation Festival.

The animated film, like the feature, deals with French thrill seeker Philippe Petit’s death-defying 1974 high-wire walk between the World Trade Center’s twin towers. After dreaming about the towers for more than six year, Petit and his accomplices somehow managed to smuggle heavy cables and other gear into the world trade center and illegally secure the wire between the two skyscrapers. Petit spent nearly an hour on the tight rope high above New York City before he was arrested and taken in for psychological evaluation.

Director James Marsh’s documentary brings the extraordinary feat to the screen through the testimony of Petit and some of his team members. The pic has earned more than $1.5 million at the box office. Starting Friday, moviegoers can see Sporn’s ten-minute, hand-drawn short after the feature at the Landmark Theater in Los Angeles and Landmark's Sunshine Cinema in New York City.

Image Metrics Puts Face on Operation Flashpoint 2

Image Metrics is creating facial animation for key characters appearing in cinematic sequences for Codemasters’ upcoming video game Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising. Slated for release across major gaming platforms in 2009, the title is the much-anticipated sequel to the military conflict simulator released in 2001.

Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising will simulate an immense conflict between advanced forces and will allow players to choose between a broad range of military disciplines, vehicles and equipment. Codemasters is using Image Metrics’ facial animation solutions in the cut scenes in order to enhance the range of human emotions expressed in the chaos of war.

Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising will take players closer to war then they’ve ever come before,” says Brant Nicholas, senior producer for Codemasters Studios. “To achieve that end, we turned to Image Metrics’ facial animation solutions because of their unique ability to perfectly capture the range of emotions that soldiers experience in combat.”

For the game, Image Metrics will develop 57 shots, totaling 262 seconds of animation, in about one month. The rapid delivery will rely on Image Metrics’ automated, performance-driven facial animation solution. Without markers or makeup, the solution captures an actor’s entire facial performance, analyzes it pixel-by-pixel, and then transfers it onto the computer generated character model.

Developed over the past seven years, Image Metric’s facial animation system has been adopted by such industry-leading studios as Digital Domain, Activision, EA, Rhythm and Hues, Rockstar Games and Sony Imageworks. The company is located in Santa Monica, Calif., with R&D headquarters in Manchester, U.K.

Happy Tree Friends Explode with Ka-Pow!

Mondo Media to day introduced Ka-Pow!, a new series based on its animated web sensation Happy Tree Friends. The property’s millions of fans can now meet new accident-prone characters and revisit franchise favorites including Flippy,Buddhist Monkey and Splendid at Animation is produced by Ghostbot Animation, which worked on the previous Buddhist Monkey episodes “False Alarm” and “Stealing the Spotlight,” as well as a few other Mondo projects.

Today’s debut episode, “W.A. R. Journal,” unlocks the secrets of Flippy’s flack-riddled past. The installment follows Happy Tree Friend’s favorite psychotic bear deep into the War Zone with a group of all-new commando co-stars. Fans will learn the grisly truths about Flippy’s bloodthirsty band of brothers’as they execute their missions.

On Sept. 23, Happy Tree Friends cult hero Buddhist Monkey gets his own episode with a kung fu free-for all. Not content to simply battle ninjas, the Simian Supreme will face the weirdest foes he has ever encountered. Nov. 4 will then mark the debut of an all-new adventure with superhero squirrel Splendi as he faces the deadliest challenge of his life.

“These new shows are a play on superheroes, comics and pop-culture,” says John Evershed, co-founder and CEO of Mondo Media. “It involves new characters, new designs, a new look and feel with edgier, sharper storylines and a lot more action. Our fans have been begging for more and have asked about certain characters. These first episodes should answer some questions our fans have had about some of our characters. Most importantly, they are a lot of fun and entertaining.”

Kenn Navarro, co-creator of Happy Tree Friends and Ka-Pow!, adds, “I’ve been dying to take the characters in new directions. I’ve always been passionate about comics, Saturday morning cartoons, superheroes, and action adventure. We’ve done some episodes in the past where we’ve incorporated some of the elements that we are using on these new episodes, and they’ve been some of our most popular to date.”

The Happy Tree Friends cartoons have racked up more than 500 million online views since its launch, and lays claim to having the 3rd most-viewed channel on YouTube. Also available in the iTunes store, the shorts have spawned a TV series, a PC and Xbox video game, a line of home video releases and a global licensing business.

Watchmen Trial Set for January

The fate of one of the most highly anticipated big-screen comic-book adaptations hangs in the balance as 20th Century Fox gets its day in court. Daily Variety reports that a Los Angeles federal judge has set Jan. 6 for the start of trial in Fox’s lawsuit against Warner Bros. over film rights to the Watchmen graphic novel from author Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons. If Fox get its way, the movie may never be released, though it’s already in the can and has a March 6, 2009 release date.

Warner Bros. suffered a setback two weeks ago when its motion to dismiss the case was rejected by judge Gary Allen Feess. Lawyers on both sides will have the rest of the year for discovery and deposition proceedings. Once the trial gets underway, a speedy resolve is expected.

Fox acquired movie rights to Watchmen and screenplays by Charles McKeown and Sam Hamm between 1986 and 1990. The studio, which had $1 million wrapped up in development, then assigned certain rights to Largo International, providing that the studio held exclusive rights to distribute the first Watchmen film. Largo eventually folded and rights reverted to producer Lawrence Gordon, who, according to Fox, failed to pay the studio a buy-out price when he took the project to Warner Bros.

Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead-2004), Watchmen is a unique take on the superhero genre that stars Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino and Malin Akerman. The trailer can be accessed at the official website,

Henson’s Blue Elephant Charges to Disc

Once known for The Muppets and other puppet creations, The Jim Henson Co. continues its push into animation with The Blue Elephant, a new CG-animated feature film that hits retail today. Also released on home video are episodes of Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and the Playhouse Disney series My Friends Tigger & Pooh.

The Blue Elephant is the story of Khan, a little elephant with big dreams of becoming a hero. When he gets separated from his herd, he'll need the help of his new friends and a whole lot of bravery to find his family and fulfill his royal destiny. Actors Martin Short, Carl Reiner and Miranda Cosgrove lend their voices to the production and help deliver the uplifting message about the power of courage. The Weinstein Co./Genius Products release carries a suggested retail price of $19.97.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's Storybook Surprises offers four episodes of the preschool series: “Minnie's Mystery,” “Donald the Frog Prince,” “Minnie Red Riding Hood” and “Sleeping Minnie.” Listing at $19.99, the disc also includes an interactive storytelling game titled Tales From Toodles.

Joining the growing list of Halloween releases is My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Hundred Acre Wood Haunt. The disc features three episodes of the series, which airs during the Playhouse Disney block. Installments “Piglet's Lightening Frightening,” “Rabbit's Prized Pumpkin” and “Eeyore's Trip to the Moon” are joined by an interactive game dubbed Sleuth Fall Harvest Festival. The Disney release can be had for $19.99 or less.

Renaissance Producer Spawns Prodigies

Aton Soumache, producer of Christian Volker’s 2006 Annecy award-winning animated feature Renaissance, is producing another major French CG feature. According to Daily Variety, he and his Onyx Films shingle have joined forces with with French company Fidelite to make Prodigies, a $40 million motion-capture film from director Antoine Charreyron. Victor Antonov, who designed the visuals for the bestselling video game Half-Life 2, is lending his talents as artistic director. He and Charreyron are also developing a game based on the film.

Based on French Author Bernard Lenteric’s 1981 cult novel La Nuit des enfants rois, Prodigies revolves around five young geniuses who must be hunted when they use their collective talents to unleash a crime spree in New York City. Character designs are being created by Marvel comic-book artists Humberto Ramos and Francesco Herriera. The film is being animated in color to attract the teenage audience, which Soumache thinks was turned off by the stark black-and-white visuals of the futuristic noir thriller Renaissance.

Soumache has also optioned Antoine de Saint Exupery’s 1943 children’s book The Little Prince and plans to produce a film and television series through Onyx sister company Method Animation.The entity will also produce a Little Prince video game through MKO Games, a joint venture with MK2 Films.

Delgo Finally Gets Release Date

We first became aware of the independently produced CG animated feature film Delgo in 2003, but haven’t heard much from the production since the initial casting news. Now The Hollywood Reporter brings word that Freestyle Releasing will open the film in theaters on Dec. 12. The feature was also screened at the Red Sticks festival in Baton Rouge and at the Annecy festival this year.

Delgo is a fantasy adventure film that takes place in a magical land where two civilizations are brought together by an outlawed romance and the heroics of some unlikely friends. The star-studded voice cast includes Freddie Prinze Jr. (Scooby-Doo), Jennifer Love Hewitt (Garfield: The Movie) Anne Bancroft (The Graduate), Val Kilmer (Batman Forever), Chris Kattan (Monkeybone), Kelly Ripa (Fly Me to the Moon), Eric Idle (Monty Python’s Flying Circus), Michael Clarke Duncan (Planet of the Apes), Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek: Generations), Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights) and Lou Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman)

Directed by Jason Maurer and Marc F. Adler from a screenplay by Maurer, Scott Biear, Patrick Cowan, Carl Dream and Jennifer A. Jones, Delgo is the first feature film from Atlanta, Georgia-based toon shop Fathom Studios, which is known primarily for commercial work. Work on Delgo began in 1998. Learn more about the movie and watch the trailer at

Country musician and actor Jerry Reed dead at 71

Country singer, songwriter and actor Jerry Reed, famed for his hits "When You're Hot, You're Hot" and "Lord, Mr. Ford," has died at 71.

He had suffered from emphysema and was in hospice care.

Reed died at 12:15 a.m. Sunday, fingerstyle guitarist Paul Yandell said Monday on, Chet Atkins' official Web site. His passing was confirmed Tuesday by the Nashville Tennessean.

Well-known as Burt Reynolds' truck-driving buddy Cledus Snow ("The Snowman") in the Smokey and the Bandit movie trilogy, Reed guested as himself in The Phantom Of The Country Music Hall, a 1972 episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies.

In the Scooby-Doo episode, a night at The Grand Old Opry turns out to be a haunting experience for Scooby and his pals when they search for their friend Reed in The Grand Old Country Music Hall in Nashville. In guiding the gang to him, Reed sings "Pretty Mary Sunlight," a remake of the song first heard in the original 1970 Scooby-Doo Where Are You! episode "Don't Fool With A Phantom."

Reed's performance of "East Bound And Down," which he wrote with Dick Feller, was on the soundtrack of the 2005 Family Guy direct-to-video movie Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story.

Born Jerry Reed Hubbard in Atlanta on March 20, 1937, he grew up on country music and rockabilly. He began making music professionally at 18 after working in a cotton mill and learning to play the guitar. His first single, uneventful in sales, was "If the Good Lord's Willin' and The Creeks Don't Rise."

He continued making records with not much success until 1958, when Gene Vincent took his song "Crazy Legs" to hit status. Then, while he served in the United States Army, Brenda Lee, the pre-teen pop singer of the late '50s and early '60s, made his "That's All You Got To Do" in 1960. Leaving the Army after his two-year tour of duty, those successes helped Reed fashion a career as session player and songwriter.

He had single success with "Goodnight Irene" and "Hully Gully Guitar," and those tunes pushed his career forward when they were heard and liked by Atkins, himself a popular guitarist and record company executive. He produced Reed's 1965 "If I Don't Live Up To It."

In 1967, Reed had his first charted hit with "Guitar Man," a tune covered by Elvis Presley. Presley subsequently covered another Reed song, "U.S. Male," and Reed responded by recording a Presley tribute, "Tupelo Mississippi Flash," his first effort in the Top 20 charts.

Reed also wrote songs recorded by Porter Wagoner and Johnny Cash. In the 1970s, he continued his relationship with Atkins (who died in 2001) by recording a pair of duet albums with the ace guitarist. By this time, he was a regular on television, specifically the Glen Campbell Show.

In 1971, he released his biggest hit, "When You're Hot, You're Hot," which hit No. 1 and resulted in his initial solo same-titled album.

By the mid-1970s, Reed's career was moving onto the film set. Having made friends with Reynolds, he was signed to act in W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings, and while he never stopped recording, he became most visible acting in a humorous, caricature-like Southerner image, most always with pal Reynolds. He was in Gator in 1976, High Ballin in 1978 and Hot Stuff in 1979, and was also a co-star in the three Reynolds Smokey and the Bandit films.

Continuing his musical career, Reed had a No. 2 hit with "Eastbound and Down," from the first "Smokey and the Bandit" film.

Reed also appeared with Adam Sandler in the 1998 movie The Waterboy.

He continued recording into the '80s, including a 1981 tribute to Jim Croce, and in 1982 again hit the top with the novelty "She Got the Gold Mine (I Got the Shaft)." He began touring after those successes, but his recordings began to fizzle out and he stayed on the road into 1992, when he reunited with Atkins for an album, Sneakin' Around.

The Essential Jerry Reed, released in 1995, was his reissue of many hits.

Reed received Grammys in 1971 and 1993, both for Best Country Instrumental Performance. In 1979, he won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture Supporting Actor.

Asked by interviewer Frank Goodman which part of the music business he preferred -- songwriter, solo guitarist, session man or entertainer -- Reed said, "Hey, that's like trying to pick out your favorite leg."

"There's nothing on earth as powerful as music, period," he told Goodman. "I mean, it's pretty hard to fight and hate and be angry when you're making music, isn't it?"

He told interviewer Calvin Gilbert in 2005: "Every dream I ever dreamed came true in my life. I got to write hit songs… And I got to be on phonograph records… I'm a cotton mill boy, and I got to go to Hollywood. Can you imagine that? Why, yeah, my goodness gracious. Go figure."

Jerry Reed is survived by singer Priscilla "Prissy" Mitchell, his wife since 1959, and by two daughters.

At Reed's request, his family planned a private service Tuesday, Yandell said.

"The Necktie" wins two awards at Montreal festival

Jean-François Lévesque's animated National Film Board of Canada short "Le noeud cravate" ("The Necktie") received the first prize for short films at the Montreal World Film Festival, also winning the award for best Canadian short film.

Awards were handed out Sunday during the 11-day festival's closing ceremonies.

The wordless, 12 and a half-minute "Le noeud cravate" is the story of the disillusioned Valentin, a model employee in a dead-end job. When he rediscovers an old accordion hidden in a closet, he regains the joy of life.

Lévesque takes a critical but human look at the alienating world of work in this 2008 film, which was produced by Michèle Bélanger and Julie Roy.

Meanwhile, the affiliated 39th Canadian Student Film Festival gave its award for best animation production to C Block, by Vladimir Kooperman of Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario.

In the three and a half-minute C Block, a dog embarks on a futuristic journey to get his teddy bear back.

Canadian film composer Eldon Rathburn dies at 92

Eldon Rathburn, known unofficially as the "dean of Canadian film composers" during his three decades at the National Film Board of Canada, died over the weekend at 92.

While working for the NFB in Ottawa, he wrote music for hundreds of films between 1949 and 1992, including over 30 animated shorts. He scored 250 short and feature films during his career.

Rathburn's works included 1952's The Romance Of Transportation In Canada. Directed by Colin Low, it was the first NFB animated film nominated for an Oscar, as well as the NFB's first cartoon produced entirely on cels, with no paper backgrounds.

Rathburn wrote music for Christmas Cracker (1962) and The Family That Dwelt Apart (1973), which were also nominated for Academy Awards for best short animated film.

His odder works for the NFB included 1956's animated short Fish Spoilage Control and the live-action Hog Family Supreme (1948).

Rathburn was himself the subject of a 1995 NFB documentary, Eldon Rathburn: They Shoot… He Scores.

Born in Queenstown, New Brunswick on April 21, 1916, Eldon Davis Rathburn later moved to Saint John. A music lover since childhood, he used to go to the movies at the city's Nickel Theatre in the 1920s, just to hear the piano music accompanying the silent pictures.

As a young man in Saint John, he played piano in Don Messer's country band in the 1930s, long before the fiddling bandleader gained fame on Canadian TV.

He briefly studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg, who highly regarded his student compositions.

He was a pianist in dance bands, a church organist and a radio arranger in Saint John from 1939 to 1947.

Rathburn began working for the National Film Board in 1947, remaining as an accredited composer until 1976. He composed the soundtrack for the 1977 feature film adaptation of W.O. Mitchell's novel Who Has Seen the Wind.

From 1972 to 1976, while still at the NFB, he taught composition technique for film at the University of Ottawa.

Rathburn continued to compose after his retirement. He was a railroad aficionado, and railway themes were found in several of the numerous concert pieces that he wrote.

He composed for the giant-screen IMAX production Momentum and for the 1957 documentary City of Gold, which was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Palme d'or for best short film at the Cannes Film Festival.

Rathburn became a member of the Order of Canada in 1998.

In Eldon Rathburn: They Shoot... He Scores!, he declared: "Composing film music is one of the most exciting musical activities of the present day."

$10M lawsuit against Cinar and affiliates begins

Quebec cartoonist Claude Robinson's long-delayed plagiarism suit against Cinar Films Inc. and its affiliates for over $10 million in compensation has begin in Montreal.

Although Robinson launched the lawsuit in 1996, a court date had been postponed for decades due to the Quebec production company's unrelated legal problems, including a 2000 tax fraud accusation.

Charging that Cinar stole his creation based on English castaway hero Robinson Crusoe, the cartoonist has sued Cinar and broadcasters France Animation, the British Broadcasting Corporation and Ravensburger.

According to Robinson, he submitted an idea in 1986 for a cartoon series to Cinar that centered around one "Robinson Curiosité." In 1995, the children's animation company produced the TV series Robinson Sucroë, which aired worldwide.

Robinson said that Cinar's series was very similar to his idea.

"After 13 years, I am still revolted. Now, I finally have the chance to say it to a judge," he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's French-language service on Tuesday.

Cinar's animated series includes the well-known children's shows Arthur and Caillou. In 2003, Cinar was sold to a group led by the founder of the Nelvana film company for $143.9 million and renamed Cookie Jar Entertainment.

Cinar has defended Robinson Sucroe, saying that any resemblance with Robinson's would-be series stems from their both being based on Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe.

Don LaFontaine, "The Voice of God," dead at 68

In a world where just about everybody thought they could do voicovers, Don LaFontaine had no peer.

Known as the "King of Voiceovers," "King of the Movie Trailers" and "The Voice of God," LaFontaine died Monday afternoon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The announcer on the Walt Disney Television Animation series Disney's Fillmore!, LaFontaine was 68.

The official cause of death has not been released. However, LaFontaine's agent, Vanessa Gilbert, told Entertainment Tonight that he died following complications from pneumothorax, the presence of air or gas in the pleural cavity, which results from a collapsed lung.

He had been admitted to hospital August 23 in critical condition after his wife took him in for shortness of breath. He had been fighting for his life when a blood clot lodged in his lung, his wife said.

The highest-paid trailer narrator in Hollywood, LaFontaine had done voiceover work for over 40 years. At last count, he had worked on nearly 5,000 films, including appearances as the in-show announcer for the Screen Actors Guild and Academy Awards. He had recorded as many as 25 voiceover sessions in a single day, and over 100 separate spots in one day.

At times, the 5'8½" LaFontaine made fun of himself in cartoons. He voiced the FOX announcer in the Family Guy episodes "Screwed the Pooch" (2001), "Road to Europe" (2002), and "Brian Sings & Swings" and "Stewie B. Goode" (both 2006), as well as the direct-to-video Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (2005).

He narrated the 1997 animated TV special Santa vs. the Snowman and the 2002 IMAX short Santa vs. the Snowman 3D. Though uncredited, he narrated Ark (2004), an animated American-South Korean science-fiction feature that was released theatrically. The film won the Golden Reel Award in 2006 for Best Sound Editing - Direct to Video.

More recently, he was the announcer of the Random! Cartoons episode "Fanboy" (2007) and was in the voice cast of the American Dad! episode "Tearjerker," which aired on January 13 this year.

Born in Duluth, Minnesota on August 26, 1940, LaFontaine narrated such classic trailers as Fatal Attraction ("A look that led to an evening, a mistake he'd regret all his life"), 2001: A Space Odyssey ("A shrieking monolith deliberately buried by an alien intelligence"), The Terminator ("In the 21st century, a weapon would be invented like no other") and Rambo ("They knew he was innocent, and they didn't give a damn"). Other famed films included The Godfather, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Doctor Zhivago, M.A.S.H., The Untouchables, Ghostbusters and Batman.

After graduating from high school, LaFontaine joined the army and eventually was stationed at Fort Meyer, Virginia, outside Washington. D.C. He was assigned to the United States Army Band and Chorus as a recording engineer.

After his discharge from the service, he moved to New York City, where he found work at National Recording Studios as a sound engineer/editor. Late in 1962, he was assigned to a young radio producer named Floyd L. Peterson, who was creating radio commercials for Dr. Strangelove. They worked so well together that, in January 1963, LaFontaine joined Peterson, making it a two-man operation, working out of Peterson's apartment.

Over the next couple of years, the company rapidly grew to employ 30 people and expanded into its own building, a carriage house on West 57th Street. Floyd L. Peterson, Inc. was one of the first companies to work exclusively in motion picture advertising. Prior to that time, most film promotion was done in-house by the studios.

It was during this period that the format for the modern trailer (previews of coming attractions) was developed, and LaFontaine and Peterson were among the first to create the catchphrases that still dominate trailers: "in a world," "a one-man army," "nowhere to run, nowhere to hide and no way out," etc.

LaFontaine became a trailer narrator almost by accident. In 1965, a mixup in scheduling prevented an announcer from making a session, and LaFontaine was forced to create a "scratch" narration for radio spots for the Western Gunfighters Of Casa Grande in order to present something to the client, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. To his surprise, MGM bought his performance, and over the next 16 years, he voiced thousands of spots and hundreds of trailers.

By 1970, LaFontaine, with his strong, booming voice, had become the most imitated trailer narrator in Hollywood.

He spent a number of years as a head of production for Kaleidoscope Films, Ltd., one of the premiere trailer production houses. In 1976, he started his own production company, Don LaFontaine Associates. His first assignment as an independent was The Godfather, Part II.

In 1978, he was asked to join Paramount Pictures, heading up the trailer department. Over the next three years, he became literally the "Voice" of Paramount. In 1980, he was named vice-president, but he missed being involved in active production.

He left Paramount in 1981 and moved from New York to Los Angeles, again as an independent producer. One of his first phone calls was from a young agent named Steve Tisherman, who urged LaFontaine to pursue voiceovers more aggressively. He signed with Tisherman, and never looked back.

Over the past 25 years, LaFontaine cemented his position as the "King of Voiceovers." Aside from his continuing work in the trailer industry, he also was the voice of NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and UPN, in addition to TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network.

By conservative estimates, he voiced hundreds of thousands of television and radio spots, including commercials for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, Budweiser, McDonald's, Coke, and many other corporate sponsors. Based on contracts signed, he has the distinction of being perhaps the single busiest actor in the history of SAG.

"My philosophy is that you have to really believe what you're reading, even if you think the film's a piece of junk," LaFontaine told the pop culture magazine SWINDLE in a recent interview. "Even the worst picture is someone's favorite film, and that someone is the fan I am always talking to."

Don LaFontaine lived in Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife, singer-actress Nita Whitaker, and by children Christine, Skye and Elyse.

Morris F. Sullivan, 91, partnered with Don Bluth

Morris F. Sullivan, co-founder of Sullivan-Bluth Studios and executive producer of "All Dogs Go to Heaven" (1989) and "Rock-A-Doodle" (1991), died peacefully August 24 at his Toluca Lake, California home. He was 91.

In 1984, after a few years of retirement, Sullivan applied his many years of financial expertise to establishing a world-class animation studio with local animators John Pomeroy, Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. Replacing Bluth's operation in a small two-story building in Ventura, California, the studio was located in Van Nuys (in a large building in an industrial area near the airport) and then Dublin, Ireland.

Recalling how he met Bluth, Sullivan said: "One of the fellows I played golf with kept telling me about these animators who had all this talent but no business sense and that I could help them. I was semi-retired and wasn't looking for any more work. But he was very insistent. One day, he opened his car door and said, 'C'mon, it'll only take an hour.'"

In John Cawley's book "The Animated Films of Don Bluth," Sullivan was quoted as saying that he was impressed when Bluth and his colleagues showed him around the studio and screened 1982's "The Secret Of NIMH" for him. "I realized they had tremendous ability... but they had put two companies into bankruptcy, they didn't know how to handle themselves financially."

Sullivan-Bluth Studios produced many successful, feature-length animated films, including "An American Tail" (1986) and "The Land Before Time" (1988). Sullivan was supervising executive of the latter.

He was born on December 8, 1916 to Frank and Pauline Sullivan in Seattle. He divided his early years between Seattle and San Francisco and held those places dear to him throughout his life.

Sullivan attended Seattle College (now Seattle University), majoring in business finance. He married Lillian Rose Manners in 1941 in Seattle. They moved to Southern California in 1948, settling in La Canada-Flintridge to raise their 10 children.

In 1960, he formed M.F. Sullivan and Co., a corporate merger and acquisition firm in downtown Los Angeles.

An avid golfer, Sullivan was a member of Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake for nearly 60 years.

"Morris was a most generous and dapper gentleman, who was quick with a joke and loved animals. He enjoyed his final years surrounded by family and friends," family members said.

He was the patriarch of a large family, including 10 children and nine grandchildren.

Preceded in death by his wife Rose, daughter Maureen and dog Happy, he is survived by his children Dave, Kathleen, Patrick, Mike, Kelly, Mary, Tim, Terry and Dan, and by their families.

He especially cherished his daughter-in-law, Gloria Rosinda Sullivan, who was devoted to caring for him in his final years.

A memorial service celebrating Morris F. Sullivan's life will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, September 4 at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 10850 Moorpark Street, North Hollywood.

Don Hertzfeldt Kicks Off US Tour to Premiere New Short Film

Independent animator Don Hertzfeldt has kicked off a tour of North America, which will screen several of his most famous short films and debut his latest short film "I am so proud of you." The tour will travel to the following locations:

September 26, 2008: Santa Barbara, CA
October 3: Eugene, OR
October 4: Portland, OR
October 6: Seattle, WA
October 7: Bellingham, WA
October 18: Austin, TX
October 22: Columbia, MO
October 24: Chicago, IL
October 28: Omaha, NE
November 7: Calgary, AB
November 11: Atlanta, GA
November 13: Allentown, PA
November 15: Rochester, NY
November 19: New York, NY
November 22: Denver, CO
November 30: Los Angeles, CA

For more details and advance ticket purchase details, visit Hertzfeldt's official web site.

Comic Book Creators Team to Save Superman Co-Creator's Childhood Home

Brad Meltzer is leading a coalition of comic book creators to raise money to preserve Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel's childhood home in Cleveland, OH. Meltzer discovered the shoddy state of Siegel's childhood home while doing research for his latest novel The Book of Lies, and is organizing the website, which will sell one-of-a-kind art and memorabilia (as well as more mundane items like T-shirts), aiming first to raise the $50,000 needed to repair the outside of the house.

Some of the prizes to be auctioned off for the charity include a walk-on role in an upcoming episode of NBC's Heroes or comic books by Brian Michael Bendis, Greg Rucka, or Ed Brubaker; a VIP visit to the set of The Colbert Report; and one of six Superman T-shirts signed by Siegel and donated by his family. The official website hosts a complete list of the items being sold.

The childhood home of Superman's other co-creator Joe Shuster was torn down in 1978. Partners with Vuze for On-line Cartoon Channels has partnered with Vuze to deliver animated content to Vuze's 30 million members on-line worldwide. The first channel to be offered via Vuze's BitTorrent environment is MyToons Cartoon Classics, which will present classic cartoons like Popeye and Betty Boop. MyToons Cartoon Classics will also be available at, which will also feature exclusive animated content. Future offerings will include the best of international independent animation and high-definition animation.

For more information, read the press release here.

Kevin Eastman confirms Live-Action 'Ninja Turtles'

Kevin Eastman, creator of the 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' and current publisher of Heavy Metal confirmed for fans on his message boards that a new, live-action Ninja Turtles movie is in the works.

"Yes, it is true. Although the CGI film did well enough to warrent a sequel, there has been much talk between Imagi and Warners to do a better 're-invention' (newest Hollywood buzzword) of the TMNT's [sic], in a live action film," Eastman wrote, continuing, "like what was done with Batman.

"Back to basics, back to the origin and the intro of the Shredder, etc...there have been talks, trips to Northampton to talk to Mr Laird, and discussions with the original 'first' TMNT film director Steve Barron to come back and do it right--but no official word yet...will keep you posted."

Birdman impersonates Hawkman on 'DC Super Heroes: Filmation' DVD has discovered a major glitch with the recently released 'DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures'.

As Hawkman appears on the DVD, Warner Home Video wanted the character to also appear in the DVD menus. Unfortunately, there was some confusion between DC's Hawkman character and Hanna-Barbera's Birdman character guessed it...Birdman appears during several menu screens where Hawkman was intended to be.

Warner has issued an apology for the error:

"Warner Home Video would like to address a mistake made on the menus of the DC Superheroes: The Filmation Adventures DVD sets. While each disc's menu should feature an image of the DC Comics character Hawkman, it instead has an image of the character Birdman. We apologize for the mistake and hope consumers will still see the value in the incredible cartoons featured on the actual DVDs."

Tom Welling takes flight as top choice for next Superman movie

ACTOR Tom Welling is emerging as a strong favorite to play Superman in the next movie.

Welling, 31, plays the teenage Clark Kent in long-running TV show Smallville about the early years of the superhero. The show is about to enter its eighth - and possibly final - season.

The late actor Christopher Reeve, who played what many see as the definitive Superman in the earlier film series, said Welling would be ideal to play the part on the big screen.

Several new petitions are supporting this idea and one poll named Welling as the favorite Superman actor. For many, Welling embodies the character of Superman; for others, he is no more than a TV actor. But with the Welling campaign building momentum, many fans clearly believe he has the superpowers required for the role.

One online petition has 1,482 names calling for Tom Welling to become the next big-screen Superman. But the big question is whether this would lead people to believe the film was a direct continuation of Smallville.

With Warner Bros having announced that the next Superman movie will definitely be a reboot, debate is now intensifying over who will be the next star of the franchise - and the next director.

Clearly, a reboot means that neither Bryan Singer, director of 2006's disappointing Superman Returns, nor Brandon Routh, who played the title role in that film, would return to the franchise.

Many online polls and superhero fans have missed this crucial point. There's no point including Bryan Singer in a poll of possible directors, and no point including Brandon Routh in a poll of possibilities for the next Superman.

Other polls have asked readers to vote on their favorite Superman. But voting on George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain and Brandon Routh - none of whom will be returning to the role - is also pointless. George Reeves died in 1949, Christopher Reeve died in 2004, Cain is now 42, and Routh was in the underwhelming previous Superman movie.

These sorts of polls are trapped in the past in the same way that Superman Returns ended up being an homage to a bygone era of earlier Superman movies. It really is time to move forward. Nostalgic attachments to the Supermen of yesterday isn't helping anyone to select the Man of Tomorrow.

However, while we are looking at polls, one at the Showtime blog site on the fans' favorite Superman showed Welling leading the way with 47 per cent of the vote, followed by Brandon Routh with 28 per cent, Christopher Reeve with 24 per cent, then Dean Cain with 1 per cent.

Aside from Welling, there are other possibilities. Little-known TV actor D.J. Cotrona, aged 28, was due to play the part of Superman in the proposed (and now stalled) Justice League movie.

A leading fan choice for the part is James Caviezel (pictured left, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ) who was keen on the lead role in Singer's Superman Returns.

Nicolas Cage was considered for the title role in the ill-fated Superman Lives movie being developed in 1996-1997, and Ben Affleck was the favoured choice of that project's scribe Kevin Smith. Josh Hartnett was reportedly offered the role of Superman in the shelved Batman vs. Superman project, which had begun development in 2002.

Matt Damon was mentioned as the type of actor they were looking for, though he was never approached, with Warner's shortlist - for either the Batman or Superman roles - including Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, James Franco, Jude Law, and Paul Walker.

In the Superman: Flyby movie which entered development in 2002, but was never made, Brett Ratner signed on to direct and approached Josh Hartnett and Jude Law for the lead role. Christopher Reeve joined the project as a consultant and favored Tom Welling as an ideal choice for Superman, although Reeve also added that the chosen actor should be an unknown. However, Welling was at that point still relatively obscure, with Smallville starting about a year previously.

Kutcher tested for the role then turned it down. Paul Walker was also offered the part, and David Boreanaz, Brendan Fraser and Matthew Bomer auditioned. Mutant X actor Victor Webster (pictured left) did a screentest that included costume fittings as Clark Kent and Superman.

Clearly, there is support for Welling to become Superman - even Christopher Reeve thought he was ideal. As I've said before, Smallville has gone almost as far as it can without its Clark Kent finally donning the iconic costume.

Whether Welling has the acting chops for a big Hollywood movie remains to be seen - after seeing him in The Fog remake I'm not entirely convinced.

Now we know for sure it's a restart, we need a new actor in the cape and tights. Who should it be? Is Tom Welling the ideal choice?

Marvel heroes to champion Hollywood tax breaks?

In her Deadline Hollywood column, Nikke Finke reports on Jon Favreau's efforts to help California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger push tax breaks for Hollywood studios who wish to film movies there.

Recent times have seen more and more productions flee the state in favor of incentives offered by other states and other countries. In what's now become a highly-competitive market for film locations it's becoming lest cost-effective for studios to film in town.

Indeed 'Iron Man' filmed primarily in Vancouver, Canada, and 'Incredible Hulk' did most of its filming in Toronto.

You'd think California residents are all in favor of keeping the biz in the town. Indeed, Finke recently reported on 'Ugly Betty' crew and staffers who suddenly found themselves jobless when the TV show moved to tax-friendly New York. But the state's largely liberal population also sees a problem with extendeing tax breaks to giant media corporations who reel in millions of dollars of revenue every month.

Finke says this push by Favreau and Schwarzenegger may succeed largely because of Marvel's involvement in the lobbying effort with regards to their planned slate of films.

"They're willing to make a commitment to keep all four productions ['Iron Man 2', 'Thor', 'First Avenger: Captain America' and 'The Avengers'] here in town. They're looking for existing studio space right now," Favreau told Finke.

Marvel's business alone would mean about $600 million in film budget over the next few years, once again proving it's Marvel's world. We just live in it.

Behold Michael, Lord Of "Bayos"!! Walmart Unleashes A Vid From The 1st Day Of Filming TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN!!

As part of an ongoing promotion for TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (so soon!?), Walmart has posted a few film related videos on a newly unveiled site.

Beyond introducing us to The Bayos Principle, the footage gives you a look at a few new vehicles we'll be seeing in the movie. There's also a funky ILM reel called "Creating Transformers" that's under the site's "Videos" tab,.

You can access said site...


You'll be asked to enter an access code before getting to the material. Try: AllSpark62609 (code per THIS ARTICLE at Transformers Movie Chronicles).

North American Trajectory for Hayao Miyazaki's Latest Confirmed

Anime News Network notes that the Time Magazine piece on the Venice International Film Festival screening of Hayao Miyazaki's latest film, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, confirms what has been expected. The film will be distributed in English by Disney. Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park) will reportedly co-produce the American release, scheduled for next year.

Gake no ue no Ponyo draws from his relationship with his son, Goro to tell the tale of a five year old boy's friendship with a gold fish who wants to become a human, employing a watercolor based look inspired by time that Miyazaki spent on a rental house by sea cliff.

Speaking of Goro Miyazaki, his directorial debut, and the Studio Ghibli feature that proceeded Ponyo, Tales from Earthsea, may have a chance of being distributed in North America after Sci-Fi's right to Ursula K. Le Guin's expire in 2009.

On the Hayao Miyazaki front, the 67 year old director has recently put off retirement again. At Venice, he commented “I think animation is something that needs the pencil, needs man's drawing hand, and that is why I decided to do this work in this way…. I will continue to use my pencil as long as I can." He also suggested that his next feature project is at least three years off.

Anime-Hollywood Updates

New images of the Imagi Astroboy have found their way online.

 lists that the October release of Max Payne will be packaged with a trailer for Fox's live action Dragonball adaptation.

Opening on April 10, Dragonball is written/directed by James Wong and stars Justin Chatwin, James Marsters, Jamie Chung, Emmy Rossum, Eriko Tamura, Joon Park, Chow Yun-Fat, Texas Battle, Randall Duk Kim and Ernie Hudson.

Event News

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time will run in Seattle at the Varsity Landmark Theater August 29-September 4th.

NY Int'l Children's Film Festival announced that the new English language version of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time will screen Sat & Sun, Sept 13 & 14, 11:00 am at IFC CENTER.

Tokyo teenager Mokoto Konno prefers to play baseball with the boys than gossip with the other girls. Stuck at a midpoint between child and adult and with graduation approaching, she's not too sure of what she'd like to do with the rest of her life--that is, until a mysterious accident in the science lab gives Mokoto the ability to leap (literally) back in time. Once she recognizes the life-changing potential of her newfound power, Mokoto's life becomes increasingly chaotic. In a series of breathtaking freeze-frame sequences, she plunges into the past in an attempt to manipulate fate in her favor; yet, it soon becomes painfully clear that she cannot avert the inevitable. More than just a visually stunning anime adventure, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a metaphorical tale of teenage angst: Mokoto's manic time-leaping reflects her deeper fear of growing up--a denial of creeping adulthood, of uncomfortable romantic feelings, uncertainty about her future, and a growing nostalgia for her simple high school life circumscribed by the baseball diamond and her two best friends.

Tickets can be purchased here

To participate in the NYICFF's school fundraising program, see or call 212-349-033

Other upcoming screenings include:

September 19, San Francisco. The Center for Asian American Media co-presents a free outdoor screening of the Japanese language, English subtitled version of the film will take place at 8pm at the Peace Plaza in Japantown Post Street at Buchanan as part of the Cinema Under the Stars series (English language version)

October 6, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. The film will play at 8:00pm in the Griffith Film Theater, in the Bryan Center on Duke University's West Campus. Admission is free and open to the public.

November 24, 26, 28, 29, Philadelphia area premiere, at The Colonial Theater, 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, PA.

VIZ Pictures, an affiliate of VIZ Media, LLC that focuses on Japanese live-action film distribution, announced that the live-action adapation of Death Note will make its Canadian debut as a special event in approximately 60 Cineplex Entertainment and Empire Theatres locations across Canada on Monday, September 15 at 9:00pm local time.

A special DVD advance ticket bundle has also been announced that goes on-sale August 29th. The bundle will include a ticket to the theatrical screening as well as the DVD of the live action film (the DVD can also be purchased separately on-site immediately after the screening).

The special theatrical event will also include an 20-minute feature on how the manga translates to live action as well as a interview with director Shusuke Kaneko.

For details, see, or

DEATH NOTE is based on the hit supernatural action mystery manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. The live-action film was released in Japan in 2006 and mirrors the manga's story of Light Yagami, an ace student with great prospects who is bored out of his mind. All of that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god named Ryuk. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and now Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But when criminals mysteriously begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective L to investigate, and he is soon hot on the trail of Light, who must now reevaluate his one noble goal. Both Light and L believe themselves to be on the side of justice, and the two match wits trying to show exactly which of them is "good" and which of them is "evil."

NCM FATHOM will present a special two-night, multi-city event of Death Note II: The Last Name on October 15 and 16 at 7:30pm local time.

Advance ticket online purchase opens exclusively to SHONEN JUMP Newsletter Subscribers on August 29th and then to the general public on September 5th at here.

The theatre event will also feature an exclusive behind-the-scenes at the film, an in-depth interview with director Shusuke Kaneko, who also directed DEATH NOTE, and a unique profile of the cast.


The New York Anime Festival announced that Chef Masaharu Morimoto -- star of Iron Chef and Iron Chef America -- will attend its 2008 event as a Guest of Honor. The New York Anime Festival takes place September 26th through the 28th at the Jacob Javits Center in New York, NY.


Otakon released a statement concerning a former staffer who was fraudulently selling convention memberships. The organization later commented

The con also featured a controversy where, allegedly, one artist group bought up large blocks of tables in artist's alley.


21+ anime event Providence Anime Conference has radically revamped their registration policies.

Mark Millar's Proposed Superman Trilogy

Mark Millar (Wanted) talked to G4 about his proposed Superman movie project which has a mysterious American director attached. They pitched the idea to Warner Bros. Pictures and hope to get word over the next few weeks. If the studio decides to go with their version, they'd like to be shooting by next summer:

"I've had this plan for like 10 years for a big three-picture Superman thing, like a Lord of the Rings epic, starting over from scratch again with a seven-hour Superman story. One to be released each year." Millar said.

You can watch the video interview using the player below!

The Dark Knight Reaches $921.7M Worldwide has posted the box office estimates for the four-day Labor Day weekend and The Dark Knight is still going strong:

After four weeks at #1 before dropping down to fourth place last week, Christopher Nolan's action-thriller The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) not only crossed the $500 million mark domestically yesterday, a feat only accomplished once before by James Cameron's Titanic, but it also moved back up a notch to third place with $11 million over the extended weekend for a total of $504.7 million. Internationally, The Dark Knight added $19.2 million for an overseas gross of $417 million. Combined, it has earned a massive $921.7 million worldwide and has climbed to the 9th spot on the all-time worldwide blockbuster list.

You can read the full box office rundown here.

Warner Bros. Animation Planning Multiple Animated Batman Projects

Batman: The Brave and The Bold is one of many animated Batman projects, and DC Animation projects, currently in the works.

Sources have confirmed for The World's Finest that fans can expect to see many different animated projects focusing on Batman over the next few years. Outside of Batman: The Brave and The Bold, premiering in November 2008, at least one new solo Batman direct-to-video animated feature is in the works, as well as a possible series based on the upcoming Lego Batman: The Videogame console release. Despite the recent cultural popularity of the comic book icon, it will likely be late-2008 at the earliest before any official announcements will be made on these assorted Batman projects.

Working off the high pre-release buzz, a computer-animated spin-off based on the upcoming Lego Batman: The Videogame console release is currently being developed as a single 20-minute animated program, with the possibility for future installments on a regular basis. Whether this will be a direct-to-video release or a televised or web-based premiere remain to be seen. A specific animation studio has yet to be confirmed and no further details are expected at this time.

Warner Bros. Animation, currently working on the initial 26-episode order of Batman: The Brave and Bold, is also working on the next slate of releases under the DC Universe Animated Original Movie banner. This includes wrapping post-production on Wonder Woman, slated for a February 2009 released, and continuing work on the next two in-production titles in the line, Green Lantern (working title) and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (working title). Early pre-production work on the first of two possible direct-to-video solo Batman features has also begun, with no further details available at this time. The first official confirmation on these upcoming titles is expected either toward the end of 2008 or early 2009.

On a related note, Warner Bros. Animation also continues to work on an online Plastic Man animated series, with a premiere date that is expected to be announced soon.

Sticking to Hand-Drawn

There's one animation icon who isn't going the pixel route:

Revered Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki has no intention of swapping his pencil for computer graphics and will keep hand drawing his films for as long as he can, he said on Sunday.

Miyazaki's new animation
"Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea", already a big box office success in his home country, is vying for top prize at the Venice film festival.

The way it works is, you can make any film you want as long as your box office holds up. Make your distributor a mint, and your distributor will cater to your every whim. Produce a bomb, and the company soon stops humoring you.

It also helps when you can keep your labor costs down:

... 90% of [Japanese] animators and directors are freelancers, and those who have trouble making ends meet are expected to face increasing hardships as they grow older. In particular, there are veteran creators in their 40s and 50s who are getting by on ... $30,000 (US) a year ...

So march on, Miyazaki, and keep the hand-drawn torch alive.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

'Green Lantern' Concept Art!

On his official website, illustrator Brian Murray has posted a number of images that he created for 'Green Lantern' screenwriter and (potential) director Greg Berlanti. The images were part of the presentation package Murray created for Berlanti Television which won them the 'Green Lantern' feature.

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