Tuesday, September 9, 2008

News - 09/09/08...

The Links of September

Now with tasty Add On.

Before Bolt, before Madagascar II, there will be Igor, an animated feature that has been gestating awhile. Film composer talks about producing music for the film:

"When I originally presented the opening of this movie as a piece of music it was quite a dark thing, and I felt that it need more action in it so I gave it some rhythm. But Tony [director Anthony Leondis] described music from Bulgaria and said, "I'm looking for something that's got a slightly eastern feel." ...

I don't think there is a great deal of difference at all [between composing for live action and composing for animation.] I have a huge respect for animation; I've always been a massive fan of it. In fact, the first film I ever went to see a film by myself, as a 14-year old, was
"Fantasia." I was always fascinated by that picture, because it's an homage to music and drama in the form of animation. So, I treat live action, whether it be "Shakespeare" or "Harry Potter," I treat it in exactly the same way. I give it the same respect, the same reverence as I would to William Shakespeare. It's all about character, it's all about heightening the drama and capturing character image.

Miyazaki isn't the only Japanese animation director strutting his stuff at the Venice Film Festival:

Up against [Hayao Miyazaki's "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,"] in the 21-film competition is Mamoru Oshii, whose bleak yet spectacular "The Sky Crawlers" has received mixed reviews and, according to trade press, fallen well behind Miyazaki in domestic ticket sales over the summer.

"The Sky Crawlers," humanoids are genetically designed to live forever as teenaged pilots until they are shot dead in fierce air battles ...

The Times of India gives us a critical overview of the Indian animation industry:

... The demand for professional animators from India is high, points out Deepak Bhanushali, producer of My Friend Ganesha and Kaboom. But then, the quality of Indian animated films doesn’t make the cut, adds Deepak. “People enter the business to make quick money, but produce low-cost and low-quality stuff. Indian production houses inking deals with international companies must train and retain employees. While international animation houses find India attractive because of the lower labour cost, our companies must remember that if they pay peanuts, they’re going to get nothing,” explains Deepak.

Recently, the US-based Turner Entertainment Networks tied up with three Indian production houses to produce local CG animated feature films and a TV series. The demand for professional animators from India is high, points out Deepak Bhanushali, producer of
My Friend Ganesha and Kaboom. But then, the quality of Indian animated films doesn’t make the cut, adds Deepak. “People enter the business to make quick money, but produce low-cost and low-quality stuff. Indian production houses inking deals with international companies must train and retain employees. While international animation houses find India attractive because of the lower labour cost, our companies must remember that if they pay peanuts, they’re going to get nothing,” explains Deepak.

Industry insiders agree that lack of research and funds result in bad work. Says Anil Kumar, conceptual artist who worked on
Luv Kush, “When you go semi-realistic, it’ll tend to look unnatural. You must put in a lot of research so that the characters don’t look like cartoons. It takes three years to make a marginally good animation movie. But we do it in months.”

Agrees Ankit Sharma, lighting artiste in an animation production house,
“A scene in Wall-E took nearly one year of research, but if we had to do the same in India, we’d have wrapped it in a week. Animators who were working on Kung Fu Panda were asked to learn kung fu before creating the graphics. If we follow the right procedure, we’ve the potential to go beyond Hollywood.”

History, animation and otherwise, is written by the winners:

Pixar co-founder Edwin Catmull remembered talking to people at Disney's animation group about the potential of computer animation ...

"Frank Thomas was intrigued, but the animators didn't know what it meant," said Catmull. "Our color images were fairly crude, and they definitely weren't up to the standards there." Computer animation's boosters understood that the software was always improving, and their computers were getting faster every year, but most people, Catmull realized, "didn't measure the technology against the arc that it was on." They didn't understand how fast it was progressing, and so they dismissed it as a science fair project ...

A 'toonland acting gig for Tom Cruise?

After his hilarious turn in Tropic Thunder, Tom Cruise’s comedic strategy for revitalizing his image seems to be on track. Next step in crafting Tom’s new public persona may be doing a little something for your kids, by voicing a character in Shrek 4.

Tonight I got an email from one of our regular sources at DreamWorks, whispering in my ear to let you know that Tom Cruise is being considered to voice one of the villains in
Shrek Goes Fourth

Although they have played out their strings stateside, Kung Fu Panda and Wall-E are still collecting coins in foreign lands:

... DreamWorks Animation/Paramount's
"Kung Fu Panda" ... collected $6.3 million from 2,922 screens in 64 territories to hoist its international gross to $397 million ... Pixar/Disney's animated "WALL-E"
registered No. 1 openings in Sweden and Finland and $6.2 million overall from 3,375 situations in 36 markets. It has grossed $402.5 million so far worldwide, of which $184.5 million comes from overseas.

Danny Antonucci, godfather of Ed, Edd and Eddy is on his way to a San Francisco animation studio:

Wildbrain, the entertainment shingle behind hit kids series "Yo Gabba Gabba" and merchandising line Kidrobot, has sealed an overall deal with animation vet Danny Antonucci.

Antonucci was the creator behind
"Ed, Edd n Eddy," one of the longest-running and top-rated series on Cartoon Network. At Wildbrain, he'll develop TV series, feature film projects and new-media properties, all geared toward both kids and adults ...

(As long as we're on the subject of Wildbrain, the company is also hiring longtime animation exec Marge Dean.)

Add On: ASIFA Hollywood puts up a mess of model sheets from the Disney Shorts Department -- circa way back ...

("Don't Bogart that Joint, My Friend ...")

Have a glorious workweek ... or if "glorious" is out of the question, have at least an adequate one.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Clone Wars series trailer

A new trailer for the Clone Wars animated series has appeared on the official website for the show. The Star Wars spin off will air on Cartoon Network on October 3rd at 9:00 PM.

Avatar Set Picture And James Cameron Interview

The Edmonton Sun has an interview with James Cameron who says his newest film Avatar is his greatest production ever:

But as the director heads to Canada for this weekend's Walk of Fame celebrations, he boasts that his watery 1997 blockbuster starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet pales in comparison to his latest project, Avatar.

"It makes Titanic look like a picnic," Cameron said recently during an interview from Los Angeles, where he is working furiously on the new film.

Even Cameron, 54, finds it hard to describe the hugely ambitious
Avatar, which is being made in stereoscopic 3-D and combines live action and computer animation.

"It's simultaneously the most vexing and the most rewarding type of production that I've done yet," Cameron says of the project, due in theaters Dec. 18, 2009.

This however, is my favorite part of the article:

After the success of The Terminator, Cameron helmed True Lies and The Abyss, all the while developing a reputation as a visionary filmmaker with a legendary temper (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is rumoured to have burst into tears on the set of The Abyss after Cameron suggested extras urinate into their wetsuits to save time).

I don't see what the big deal is. I piss my pants all the time if I'm in a rush or I don't want to miss any part of the movie I'm seeing in the theater. It'll dry after a while. Click HERE to read the rest of the article.

And Marketsaw has a thorough breakdown of a set visit picture they acquired from the Avatar shoot. Are those horses? Click HERE to check out two other pictures and a complete detailing of what is shown on set.

Keaton is Ken in Toy Story 3

Actor Michael Keaton has reportedly joined the voice cast for the upcoming Disney/Pixar sequel Toy Story 3. Keaton will lend his voice to the role of Ken, the clean-cut, plastic companion of Barbie. The leggy blonde doll will be voiced again by Jodi Benson (Enchanted), who worked on the second film in the series. Benson made mention of Keaton’s casting during an interview with IESB.net.

Keaton voiced the role of Chick Hicks in Disney/Pixar’s Cars, as well as the video game based on the movie. He’s also the voice of Noah in Promenade Pictures’ upcoming animated theatrical release Noah’s Ark: The New Beginning. Promenade released last year’s CG-animated telling of The Ten Commandments. Both films are part of a 12-pic series titled Epic Stories of the Bible.

Benson recently gave voice to the title character in Disney’s direct-to-video animated prequel The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning. She and Keaton will be joined in the Toy Story 3 cast by such series regulars as Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, John Ratzenberger, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Joan Cusack and Wallace Shawn. The film is slated tobe released in stereoscopic 3-D on June 18, 2010.

Madagascar 2’s IMAX Run Extended

IMAX Corp. and DreamWorks Animation today announced that the IMAX release of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa has been extended through the Thanksgiving holiday and into December. Digitally re-mastered for the IMAX experience, the film with hit screens in conventional theaters, IMAX venues and 35 new IMAX Digital theatres on Nov. 7.

Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, Gloria the hippo, King Julien, Maurice, the penguins and many other popular characters are back in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Left marooned on the distant shores of Madagascar, the New Yorkers hatch a plan so crazy it just might work. With military precision, the penguins have repaired an old crashed plane and they get off the ground just long enough to make it to the vast plains of Africa. Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric The Entertainer and Andy Richter all return to their original roles. The film is produced by Mireille Soria and Mark Swift, and co-directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath.

DreamWorks Animation has IMAX release plans to release its first three stereoscopic 3-D titles, Monsters vs. Aliens (March 2009), How to Train Your Dragon (March 2010) and Shrek Goes Fourth (May 2010). These releases will benefit from the debut of more IMAX Digital theaters as IMAX Corp. continues to out its 70mm film projection technology.

IMAX also announced today that it will debut 20th Century Fox’s remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still on Dec. 12, the same day the film hits conventional theaters. Directed by Scott Dickerson, the pic stars Keanu Reeves as a man from another planet who commands the attention of the world with a message of great importance. The cast also includes Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, John Cleese and Jaden Smith.

NBC Having A Muppets Christmas

The NBC television network is cuddling up with some popular puppets this winter. The Hollywood Reporter brings word that a new special titled Letters to Santa: A Muppets Christmas will join the network’s lineup of holiday offerings.

When Kermit and his pals accidentally stop some letters from being delivered to the North Pole, they set out on a race against time to make sure three kids have a merry Christmas after all. Joining the felt-and-foam cast are live actors Whoopi Goldberg, Sopranos favorites Tony Sirico and Steve Schirripa, Harry Potter regular Richard Griffiths and child actor Madison Pettis (The Game Plan). Paul Williams, who penned songs for The Muppet Movie, has also written tunes for this latest adventure.

Sirico and Schirripa were featured in last year’s Elmo's Christmas Countdown, which also boasted appearances by Ben Stiller and Alicia Keys. That special aired on Disney-owned ABC. Disney also owns the Muppets property, which makes the NBC pick-up a curios move.

9 Story Takes Fugget About It to MIPCOM

Toronto-based production and distribution company 9 Story Ent. will introduce its first prime-time animated project at next month’s MIPCOM. Buyers will get their first look at the mob comedy Fugget About It at the market, which gets under way on Oct. 13 in Cannes.

Fugget About It follows the misadventures of a powerful former New York mob boss and his family, who go into the witness protection program and are relocated to a sleepy Canadian town. Used to always getting his way and helping himself to anything he wants, Jimmy Falcone finds it tough to get along with his new neighbors. The locals also have to put up with his wife, Cookie, his bombshell oldest daughter, Theresa, his intellectual Birkenstock-wearing son, Anthony, his tough-as-nails 10-year-old daughter, Gina, and his half-crazy uncle, Cheech.

A co-production with Darius Films, the series is co-created by Darius Films’ Willem Wennekers (Weirdsville) and Nicholas Tabarrok (The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico). Tabarrok also serves as exec producer, along with 9 Story Ent.'s Vince Commisso. The pilot has been commissioned for The Detour, TELETOON’s late-night programming block for teens and adult.

CMG Bites Into Killer Bean

Cinema Management Group (CMG) has acquired worldwide rights to the recently completed animated feature film Killer Bean Forever. Directed and produced by vfx industry veteran Jeff Lew, the movie is a follow-up to the popular short Killer Bean 2: The Party, which got nearly 2 million hits after hitting the web on iFilm in 2000.

Killer Bean Forever takes place in Beantown, a crime-infested world inhabited by coffee beans. The story revolves around star assassin Killer Bean and continues his pursuit of mobster Cappuccino and his gang. Director Lew describes it as a gritty action movie with a quirky sense of humor.

This is the first feature directorial effort for Lew, who has served as lead animator on The Matrix Reloaded, X-Men, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, the Spider-Man Universal Studios ride film, The Simpsons Universal Studios ride film and the upcoming DreamWorks/Paramount sequel Transformers 2. After the success of the Killer Bean short, he formed an independent studio dubbed Killer Bean Studios LLC, which specializes in the production of CG-animated feature films.

Killer Bean Forever voice cast includes video-game regulars Vegas E. Trip (Sam & Max) and Bryan Session (Syphon Filter 2 and 3). Also lending their voices to the project are David S.J. Guilmette, who has appeared on History Channel’s Man, Moment, Machine, and Matthew Tyler, who has been seen on the daytime soaps All My Children and As The World Turns.

Killer Bean Forever is now being shown to buyers at the Toronto Film Festival will make the rounds at AFM in Santa Monica, Calif. this fall. CMG president Edward Noeltner is taking a new CG-animated feature titled Zambezia to Toronto for all rights pre-sales. For more information on CMG, go to www.CinemaManagementGroup.com. Watch the trailer for Killer Bean Forever below.

Smith's Revenge: Gay Superman?

In an ironic bit of revenge, director Kevin Smith admitted to SCI FI Wire that he got a little bit of satisfaction by turning Superman Returns star Brandon Routh into a gay male porn star in his upcoming film Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

Science fiction fans may know that Smith 's dream project was to revive the Superman franchise right after his hit
Chasing Amy in 1997 and that he wrote multiple versions of a script and hoped to direct the movie at one point. That never happened, and for a long time Smith was a bitter about it. Bryan Singer wound up helming 2006's Superman Returns, which starred Routh as the Man of Steel.

When it came time for Smith to cast the role of high-school heartthrob jock Bobby Long in
Zack and Miri, Smith got a chance for his revenge.

Long comes to his reunion with his jealous male lover.
Zack star Seth Rogen said during the casting process: "We need a real salt-of-the-earth type, someone like a Superman." Smith said, "Why don't we get the latest Superman?"

Speaking at the Toronto International Film Festival, Smith said that he wasn't sure Routh would take the role, which required the character to talk explicitly about sex before being outed as gay by his boyfriend, played by Justin Long.
"I thought he'd never do it, but we asked him, and he totally loved it and did it," Smith said.

After shooting Routh's scenes, Smith asked Routh if the gay role would cause him problems in any upcoming
Superman movies. "I did ask Brandon, of course, after we were done shooting, whether he had a morals clause in his contract that may prevent him from playing a role like this, and he said as long as he didn't play another superhero, Warner Brothers did not care."

Was this a way of Smith giving the finger to the studio? Smith smiled.
"I guess I could kind of look at it that way, as if 'Here's my revenge!'" he said. "I think it was total coincidence, but it really works. Wouldn't that movie be awesome if Superman was out as gay?"

Smith said that he's not concerned about Warner's being insulted by his hiring Routh.
"They don't care," he said. "They've got The Dark Knight."

Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which also stars Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson and Jason Mewes, is scheduled for release on Oct. 31.

PBS Animation 'WordGirl' Returns with New Episodes

Word Up -- WordGirl Emerges with New Eps. this September

In a world where poor grammar, inadequate diction and capricious wordplay are the most dangerous form of weaponry from some of the most notorious criminals, a pristine beacon of articulation remains: WordGirl. A production of Scholastic Media and PBS, The Adventures of WordGirl personifies the educational/informational tag that parents and/or caretakers of children keep an eye out for when observing television animation. Following a young girl who doubles as a superhero with a focus on cleaning up the world's bad grammar and poor vocabulary, WordGirl is fun, relevant and educational. Whenever there is a cry for help, WordGirl is there.

Airing daily on PBS Kids Go programming,
WordGirl returns with new episodes in the middle of September 2008, offering kid audiences another chance to challenge themselves in the English studies. Becky Botsford is a mild-mannered fifth grader who, at the call of duty, transforms into WordGirl, a caped heroine of justice (among many other things), who takes the liberty of teaching the bad guys a lesson or two about proper language use. The cartoon is designed to enrich children's vocabulary, instill a love of language and foster better reading comprehension.

"The response to WordGirl from audiences and critics alike has been overwhelmingly positive," Deborah Forte, President of Scholastic Media and Executive Vice President of Scholastic Inc., stated.

"Scholastic Media and the entire production team at Soup2Nuts is thrilled to be delivering new episodes with the quality writing, animation, and stories that kids and parents have come to enjoy."

Often teaming up with her monkey sidekick, Captain Huggy Face, WordGirl frequently comes to blows with villains such as Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy, the Butcher, and Lady Redundant Woman.

If it wasn't bad enough that these guys rob banks and cause havoc around the city, they wreak havoc on the English language as well.

When this is the case, WordGirl, as her namesake implies, steps in to right wrongs and takes on the challenge of pursuing better vocabulary for all. Teaching viewers as many as three or four new words and terms in each episode, the
WordGirl animated television series provides children with easy to engage, award-winning content.

Kicking off a new string of 18 episodes this fall, premiering on
September 12th, 2008 (air time dependant upon region); The Adventures of WordGirl will spotlight a new set of baddies, such as Professor Tubing, the Masked Meat Marauder, a Mouse-Zilla robot, and more. Having enjoyed a great deal of success since its debut approximately one year ago, WordGirl uses humor and contextual examples to expose young viewers to meaningful new dictionary terms. The property will make its way to print, as a series of books are scheduled for publication in Spring 2009.

on Scholastic Media: Scholastic Media, the entertainment and media division of Scholastic, is a leading producer of quality, family-oriented content across multiple platforms, including feature films, television programming, videos, interactive and audio products, and websites, and is a major developer and marketer of children's brands worldwide.

on PBS KIDS and PBS KIDS GO!: PBS KIDS, for preschoolers, and PBS KIDS GO!, for early elementary school kids, are committed to providing the highest quality non-commercial content and learning environment for children across the country. Providing age-appropriate, diverse programming for kids, PBS KIDS and PBS KIDS GO! programs consistently earn more prestigious awards than any other broadcast or cable network.

Is Will Smith The New "Captain America"?

How do you sell a character as anachronistic as Captain America to a modern audience? Get the one actor so wide-appealing that he can sell anything to a global audience.

Out doing press for Spike Lee's
"Miracle at St. Anna", actor Derek Luke let slip an interesting casting rumor he heard on the grapevine.

"I heard they offered Will Smith ‘Captain America'...just shows you how times have changed" the young thesp told MTV News. Luke himself said he is keen on certain roles - "I would love to jump into Green Lantern. There are a lot of stories I’m into… [like] Black Panther."

Of course Smith's schedule is highly in demand this report is little more than second-hand gossip for now, but it does bring up some interesting possibilities.

Depp & Hoffman In For Next "Batman"?

While Chris Nolan is still on break and hasn't begun considering a third "Batman" flick, Warner Bros. Pictures execs may have already got the next film's villains and who they want to play them in mind it would seem.

Talking with
MTV News, Michael Caine revealed that he not only heard the rumors of the various villain casting choices for the next film floating throughout the media, but that he brought up the topic with a Warner executive who seems to have confirmed that some of them were right.

Caine says
"When Christopher [Nolan] said we were going to do ‘The Dark Knight’ next, I didn’t know what that meant in Batman terms. I said, ‘What’s the story?’ and he said The Joker. I said, ‘Oh, s–t! How are you going to top Jack [Nicholson]?’ He said, ‘Well, I’ve cast Heath Ledger. And I went ‘Ha! I couldn’t top Jack, but if anyone could, maybe Heath could.’ And he did."

He then added
"I was with [a Warner Bros.] executive and I said, ‘Are we going to make another one?’ They said yeah. I said, ‘How the hell are we going to top Heath? And he says ‘I’ll tell you how you top Heath — Johnny Depp as The Riddler and Philip Seymour Hoffman as The Penguin.’ I said, ‘S–t, they’ve done it again!."

Hoffman's name as a British or Russian arms dealer version of
'The Penguin' first floated around in 2006, right after "Batman Begins" but before the villains of "The Dark Knight" were set. Depp's link to 'The Riddler' is more recent but the most talked about of the rumors and Depp himself recently said he'd be open to considering the opportunity.

Of course all of this remains up in the air and depends upon the whim of Christopher Nolan who'll decide whether he wants to do the project and which villains and actors will be involved.

Sony Pictures Licenses Oshii's Sky Crawlers Film

Agreement for distribution in Americas, Australia, New Zealand

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group has licensed the rights to distribute The Sky Crawlers, the latest film from Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor), in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Australia, and New Zealand. The film adapts Hiroshi Mori's military romance novels that are set on an alternate-history world. After the film's Japanese opening last month, the Toronto International Film Festival held the North American premiere last Friday. While The Sky Crawlers was shut out of the juried awards at the Venice Film Festival in Italy this past weekend, it did win the Future Film Festival Digital Award during the event.

Kenya's Homeboyz Entertainment and Tiger Aspect Sign US and UK Animation Deals

Business Daily Africa is reporting that a joint venture between Kenya's Homeboyz and Tiger Aspect production houses have landed deals to produce animated programming for the BBC's CBeebies in the United Kingdom and for Disney's Playhouse Disney in the United States. The 52-episode program will launch with a 10-minute adaptation of an African folktale, "Why the Tortoise has a Broken Shell;" other tales such as "Why the Giraffe has a Long Neck" will follow. The programs will begin airing on CBeebies in Fall 2009.

Russian Religious Groups Hate "South Park" Too

Reuters is reporting on an effort to get Comedy Central's South Park banned from Russian television under a statue that seeks to ban extremism. The Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith filed a complaint against an episode aired on the 2x2 network in January, with spokesperson Konstantin Bendas stating the show "insults the feelings of religious believers and incites religious and national hatred." The specific episode in question is "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics," which aired in the United States in December 1999 and features a variety show of Christmas carols done South Park style.

2D Animated Castle Crashers a Hit

The long-awaited follow-up to
The Behemoth’s side-scroller Alien Hominid has officially launched. Last week Castle Crashers went live on Xbox Live Arcade, and the reviews around the web of this Flash-animated game are resoundingly positive, including this IGN video review below.

Congrats to the gang at
The Behemoth, Dan Paladin and to Tom Fulp, who is also the founder of Newgrounds.com.

Partridge Unveils Terrible Boyfriend

Harry Partridge has entertained us in the past with his shorts Chuck’s New Tux and Jimmy Tickles’ Magic Pickles, and he returns today with perhaps my favorite. Michael The Terrible Boyfriend: A Slice of the Action delivers an oven-fresh box of clever. Harry, who lives in the UK, let us know that he currently has two projects in the oven, and we can only hope that one of those is a second episode.

Holland Animation Festival Announces Web Competition

There are still some retrograde film festivals that penalize filmmakers for putting their films online, but progressive festivals are embracing the Internet as a vital component of their programming strategy. Take, for example, the
Holland Animation Film Festival, which today began accepting entries via YouTube for its newly announced web competition, which allows online audiences to see the entries via YouTube and help choose the winner. Here are the details:

For the first time the Holland Animation Film Festival 2008 launches an international competition for web animations. The web competition will be open for entries from Monday, September 8 onwards. On
HAFFTube you will find a link to the entry form for the web competition. Please read the regulations and note that your film should be uploaded on YouTube before submitting the entry form. HAFFTube will gradually fill up with animated films from all over the world. The Holland Animation Film Festival will rate the films that have been entered for competition. When we have reached our set limit of 50 films, the voting begins. Every week, films will be voted out to make room for the new entries. Deadline for entries: Wednesday October 22. An international jury of filmmakers selects the winner out of the final 50 titles. The winner will be revealed on the opening night of the festival at November 5.


TV-Loonland Completes First Season of Raymond

The first season of Raymond, a Flash-animated animated children's comedy fronm TV-Loonland, has been completed. It consists of 26 7-minute episodes.

A second season is in development.

Q&A: Heroes Answers Promised

Tim Kring, executive producer of NBC's Heroes, and star Zachary Quinto (Sylar) promised that many of the lingering questions from the truncated second season will be answered by the end of the third hour of the upcoming third season. The new season will also focus more on the core characters--and expect to see the return of Sylar's alter ego, Gabriel Gray.

When the hit show returns after a prolonged absence on Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, it will also move quickly into an entirely new story arc, Kring promised. Kring and Quinto spoke with reporters in a Sept. 5 conference call about the first 13 episodes of the new season, "Volume 3," subtitled "Villains." The first two hours of the season will consist of the episodes "The Second Coming" and "The Butterfly Effect." Following is an edited version of the conference call.

Tim Kring, the first hour of Volume 3 answers a number of unanswered questions from last year but also leaves a few still dangling and sets up new questions. How deep into the season will it be before we get an understanding of what’s going on?

Some of those questions will linger a little bit, but I think, actually, by the end of the third hour of the show you'll have kind of most of those [answers]. I mean, one of the goals of this season--because we'll have been off the air for nine months--we didn't want to drag a lot of story behind us, and we didn't want to feel like you had to have watched two years of this show to catch up. So we wanted to answer things really quickly so that you could move forward on this volume and have a kind of clean path in front of you.

So there really are not a lot of lingering questions that you carry with you from before. The goal for us from now on with these volumes is to try to answer literally 95 percent of the questions that are posed in the beginning of the volume ... by the end of the volume. This particular volume, "Villains," is 13 episodes long.

Zachary Quinto as a rejuvenated Sylar in Heroes' upcoming third season.

Zachary Quinto, when you signed on to play Sylar, did you have any way of knowing how viewers would just so love and hate this character?

Absolutely not. I don't think there's any way to sort of predict the way that things as powerful as this show have been for all of us involved in it and for our audience. When you get involved in it, it's something that sort of takes you by storm a little bit. This is obviously the biggest example in my experience of that happening, but, yeah, there's really no way to predict it. And, obviously, [I'm] most grateful that it did, but had no way of knowing when I signed on.

Given Heroes and the upcoming Star Trek feature [in which Quinto plays a young Spock], did you always have a sense that you'd have a place in the SF universe, or was it just something that came about?

Yeah, I never imagined my experience would lead me so deeply into the comic-book and science fiction world as it has, but, again, it's something that I'm incredibly grateful for. And [considering his theater training], it makes sense when you look at it from that perspective, because I think there's something very theatrical about those worlds. Obviously, the world of Heroes is incredibly heightened, and there's something very theatrical about it. So while I never really expected it, you know, it doesn't necessarily surprise me now that I have been ensconced in it. And also [it's] like ... it's a really exciting group of fans, so I feel like that's something else that is an added bonus to the whole thing. It's like probably the most ardent group of people that you could ever be working for, in terms of fans and their enthusiasm for the stories that you're telling. So I'm happy to be here. Now that I am, I definitely look forward to sort of exploring other areas of storytelling, but I'm so grateful that this one has led me to a point where I'll be able to do that.

Sylar was the main villain during season one, and he spent a lot of time on the disabled list and recovering during season two. This year, it seems like he's far more involved. Zach, what were your intentions coming into season three, and how satisfied are you with what you've seen so far for the character?

I think that the scripts this season are just more exciting and more action-packed and more dynamic than ever. I think it just keeps getting better, and every time I open a script it's really a thrill. My approach is always the same in whatever I'm working on. It's to serve the text. I think we're really fortunate to work with incredibly creative, imaginative, consistent writers that bring surprise. ... Sometimes when I open the scripts in season three, it's difficult to keep track of exactly where I'm going, because there are so many different aspects of this character to experience this year that are drawn upon. So my approach, really, is just to sort of serve that and to keep track of that at the same time. I think people will see what I mean as the season unfolds.

The original Spock, Leonard Nimoy (left), shared a press conference with the new Star Trek's young Spock, Zachary Quinto. 

Kring: I wanted to kind of clarify something, because it's been brought up a couple of times: this idea of season two versus season three versus season one. The truth is what you're referring to as season two was not really our season two. It turned out to be season two because of the writers' strike. It was really sort of like watching a movie and having the projector break 40 minutes into it. So what we're doing now for season three was really going to be contained within the body of season two. So to the extent of a character like Sylar, who spends the first volume of season two without his powers, in the subsequent volumes he would have gotten his powers back and then [gone] on a series of adventures. So I just wanted to clarify that what people are referring to as season two was not by our design; it was really by design of the fact that there was a writers' strike.

Everyone was a protagonist when Heroes started. At what point did you realize that you needed a continuing antagonist like Sylar and that it would be wise for Sylar to stick around rather than have one arc and then disappear?

Well, Sylar was always designed to stay around. And we knew that you really can't have heroes without villains, and so I think it was really built into the premise. Also, what was built into the premise is this idea that these are ordinary people, so to the extent that they make decisions that are based on who they are and what circumstances they find themselves in, that determines whether they will be good or evil. If you're predisposed to be good and you have superpowers, then you'll use it for something good. If you're predisposed to be bad, then you'd use it for something evil. So it was kind of always built into the premise that our core group of people would be tempted by the circumstances they were in.

Are you going to feature any characters more prominently than others this season or make any major changes to the storytelling to help viewers follow the story?

Well, this season we are not really introducing any new characters that have their own storylines. So we are concentrating very much on the core characters that we have had for two seasons now. We have a certain style of storytelling that really is a kind of pastiche of storytelling, where there are multiple characters and multiple stories going on at the same time. The difference in this volume, "Villains," is they are all feeding one big, giant story. So no, we're not really planning anybody anymore than anybody else, I don't think. The audience may feel that way at times, but I think in the aggregate, when they see it put together, certain episodes may lean a little more heavily on one character or another, but by the end it will kind of balance out.

This is a big year for Zach with both Heroes and Star Trek. What’s been your career plan in terms of leveraging the show into film roles, and how did you choose Star Trek as your first hiatus movie project?

Well, I hardly chose it, so to speak. This whole year for me has been such a blur of good fortune that ... Very little of it was by design. I feel like my experience on Heroes and the world in which it's rooted lends itself to the attention that led me to be a part of the movie. I don't really think of it in terms of how I'll use Heroes to get movie roles or how I'll use Heroes to get other jobs. I remain as grateful to remain on Heroes now as I did when I first started. It's so fulfilling creatively and professionally. ... I think you can't get ahead of yourself because no amount of success or exposure or opportunity is going to really matter or be ultimately fulfilling unless you can be totally present in what you're doing right now. ...

We got some of Sylar's background as Gabriel Gray. How much more of his past would you be interested in learning about, and how much darker/more evil would you like see Sylar get?

Well, I'd certainly be interested in learning as much about his background as the writers see fit. I mean, we do go there again this year. At a certain point you'll sort of revisit that character and the shades of that character as you first saw him. As far as how evil I'd want him to get, I feel like Sylar's evil is rooted in a great humanity and in a lot of smallness and a feeling of sort of emptiness. And so I don't really look at it as "how evil can he possibly get?" I sort of look at it as like what he has in front of him and the choices that he makes in order to seize his opportunities or to feel [special]. ... He's constantly, constantly wrestling with the desire to feel special, the desire to feel valid, the desire to feel viable. So I feel like those are the ways I come at it, more than the level of evil that he achieves, because those are really just means to an end.

Kring: Let me just sort of add, Zach has really provided us with [a lot]. ... You can't do a character that's as deep and complex as Sylar without having the actor who can play those colors and that depth. And Zach has really provided the ability to explore this character in really, really deep ways. I see Sylar as someone who is on a very deep existential quest to find out the meaning of his own existence and where he came from and what is driving him, and we will continue to peel the layers off of that onion as long as this character exists on the show.

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