Tuesday, September 16, 2008

News - 09/16/08...

DreamWorks' Katzenberg: 2-D Films to Become "a Thing of the Past"

At the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam on Sunday, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg predicted that all movies will be filmed in 3-D within "a reasonable period of time," and that traditional 2-D movies would be "a thing of the past." In his presentation (which was also the first live transatlantic high-definition telecast in digital 3-D), Katzenberg stated that DreamWorks is working with eyeglass firms Luxottica and Oakley to produce lenses that will transition to 3-D glasses in movie theaters, stating that, "I think from a fashion standpoint and a coolness standpoint people will want to have their own glasses," and that 3-D would spread to other media such as the Internet, handheld devices, computers, and laptops.

Emmys for South Park, Simpsons

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored Comedy Central’s South Park and FOX’s The Simpsons, among other animated and vfx-intensive programs, at Saturday night’s the 2008 Creative Arts Awards ceremony. Held in conjunction with the 60th Annual Emmy Awards, the event took place at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Other big winners include Cartoon Network’s Camp Lazlo, HBO’s Classical Baby, SCI FI Channel’s Battlestar Galactica and HBO’s John Adams.

The Simpsons picked up its 10th win for Outstanding Animated Program (less than one hour). Now entering its 20th season, the show has picked up the Emmy half of the years it’s been on the air. Emmy voters first singled out the program in 1990, the year after it debuted and took primetime television by storm.

Seth MacFarlane and the crew of FOX’s hit toon Family Guy missed out on two fronts. The show wasn’t eligible for contention for Outstanding Animated Program (less than one hour) because producers instead ventured to put it up against its live-action counterparts in the run for Best Comedy Series. The show failed to land a nomination there, but MacFarlane had hedged his bet by entering the Star Wars spoof Family Guy: Blue Harvest in the Animated Program (one hour or more) category. In that heat, it ended up losing to South Park’s three-part “Imaginationland” story arc.

Also picking up awards during the ceremony were previously announced winners of juried categories. These include Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation recipients Ben Balistreri
for character design for Cartoon Network’s Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends (“Mondo Coco”), and Teresa Drilling for animation on CBS’ Creature Comforts America (“Self Image, Winging It, Art”)

The 2008 Creative Arts Emmy Winners for animation and vfx categories follow. A complete list of winners can be found at /www.emmys.org/awards/primetimeawards.php.

Outstanding Animated Program (One Hour or More)
South Park “Imaginationland”
Comedy Central
Trey Parker, Executive Producer/Writer/Director
Matt Stone, Executive Producer
Anne Garefino, Executive Producer
Frank Agnone II, Supervising Producer
Kyle McCulloch, Producer
Eric Stough, Producer
Bruce Howell, Producer
Adrien Beard, Producer
Vernon Chatman, Producer
Erica Rivinoja, Producer
Pam Brady, Producer
Ryan Quincy, Director of Animation

Outstanding Animated Program (Less Than One Hour)
The Simpsons “Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind”
James L. Brooks, executive producer
Matt Groening, executive producer
Al Jean, executive producer
Ian Maxtone-Graham, executive producer
Matt Selman, executive producer
Tim Long, executive producer
John Frink, co-executive producer
Kevin Curran, co-executive producer
Michael Price, co-executive producer
Bill Odenkirk, co-executive producer
Marc Wilmore, co-executive producer
Joel H. Cohen, co-executive producer
Ron Hauge, co-executive producer
Rob Lazebnik, co-executive producer
Laurie Biernacki, animation producer
Rick Polizzi, animation producer
J. Stewart Burns, writer
Chuck Sheetz, director
Mark Kirkland, supervising director
Jess Espanola, assistant director
Patricia Shinagawa, animation timer

Outstanding Children’s Program
Classical Baby (I’m Grown Up Now) “The Poetry Show”
Sheila Nevins, executive producer
Dolores Morris, supervising producer
Amy Schatz, producer
Beth Aala, producer

Nick News With Linda EllerbeeThe Untouchable Kids of India”
Linda Ellerbee, Executive Producer
Rolfe Tessem, Executive Producer
Josh Veselka, Producer
Mark Lyons, Producer
Wally Berger, Supervising Producer

Outstanding Special Class – Short-Format Animated Program
Camp Lazlo “Lazlo’s First Crush”
Cartoon Network
Joe Murray, executive producer
Brian A. Miller, executive producer
Mark O’Hare, supervising producer
Jennifer Pelphrey, supervising producer
Janet Dimon, producer
Brian Sheesley, supervising director/director
Won Dong Kun, animation director
John Infantino, storyboard director/writer
Piero Piluso, writer
Merriweather Williams, story
Kaz Prapuolenis, story
Steve Little, story

Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series
Battlestar Galactica “He That Believeth In Me”
SCI FI Channel
Gary Hutzel, visual effects supervisor
Michael Gibson, visual effects producer
David Takemura, visual effects coordinator
Doug Drexler, cgi supervisor
Kyle Toucher, cg artist
Sean Jackson, cg artist
Pierre Drolet, cg modeler
Aurore de Blois, senior compositor
Derek Ledbetter, compositor

Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or Special
John Adams “Join Or Die”
Erik Henry, visual effects supervisor
Jeff Goldman, visual effects supervisor
Paul Graff, visual effects supervisor
Steve Kullback, visual effects producer
Christina Graff, visual effects producer
David Van Dyke, visual effects producer
Robert Stromberg, visual effects designer
Edwardo Mendez, compositing supervisor
Ken Gorrell, special effects coordinator

MacFarlane, Bakshi, Woo Move to Main Street

Seth MacFarlane, John Woo and Ralph Bakshi are among the content creators collaborating with Main Street Pictures Inc. to produce animated features and Internet-based productions. Main Street is also working with Warner Bros. on a series of animated shorts to be released later this year in Kenya, Africa.

Main Street is producing Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy for Media Rights Capital (MRC). MRC will distibute the shorts on the Internet using different web based outlets and sponsors. The project features animation by Digital eMation in Korea and original scoring by Walter Murphy. Main Street started the production process in late 2007 and says the ambitious undertaking came in on time and on budget.

Cavalcade was an amazing experience, one of the most exciting, collaborative and challenging projects in my life,” says producer Andrew Egiziano, a co-founder of Main Street Pictures. “Seth and a small team of insanely funny writers laid out the idea, 50 individual shorts, up to two minutes in length, created specifically with the web in mind.”

Warrior Princess (working title) is John Woo’s feature-length animated sequel to his live-action historical drama Red Cliff, which is garnering praise at film festivals around the world. Produced by Lion Rock Prods. with Terrance Chang and Lori Tilkin, the toon is adapted from the Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms and continues the legendary tale of warrior princess Lady Sun.

On the development front, Main Street is working on a sequel to Ralph Bakshi’s 1977 cult-favorite animated feature Wizards. The new pic is being produced by Mark Bakshi and Main Street co-founder and producer Aaron Parry. Also in development is Brain Drain by Dustin Ellis. The project tells the story of two teenagers who get trapped in the brain of their mad scientist uncle.

Main Street Pictures Inc. was formed in 2006 by producing partners Aaron Parry, Andrew Egiziano and Nicholisa Contis. Collectively, the principals boast more than 45 years of experience in 2D animation, CG and live-action production. More information on the company is available at www.mainstreetpictures.com.

EA Gives Up On Take-Two Acquisition

Electronic Arts (EA) announced that it has terminated acquisition discussions with Take-Two Interactive, the publisher behind Rockstar Games’ hugely successful Grand Theft Auto franchise and the recent hit sci-fi shooter Bioshock. In February, Take-Two rejected EA’s $2 billion buy out offer, claiming that EA undervalued its assets.

Strauss Zelnick, chairman of the board of Take-Two, had this to say in response to the EA announcement: “We remain focused on creating value for our stockholders and our consumers. This has been our goal since EA launched its conditional and unsolicited bid six months ago, a bid which was repeatedly rejected by our stockholders. As part of that commitment, we remain actively engaged in discussions with other parties in the context of our formal process to consider strategic alternatives.”

EA CEO John Riccitiello says the company has enough going for itself without Take-Two's properties under its umbrella. “EA is tracking toward a record-breaking year,” he comments. “We’re launching 15 new games including award-winners like SPORE, Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge, great new titles from the Sims, new family titles with Hasbro, and the highest quality slate of EA SPORTS titles on this generation of consoles. We’re also expanding beyond our core business with a series of direct-to-consumer launches including Warhammer Online.”

Take-Two’s Grand Theft Auto IV hit stores in May and smashed the record for day-one grosses generated by a video game, or any entertainment product for that matter. The game sold approximately 3.6 million units on its first day at retail to earn $310 million in one day. The title is featured in The Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008, the first Guinness world records book devoted solely to the world of gaming.

Legend of Sasquatch Stomping to DVD

Image Ent. will release Gorilla Pictures’ CG-animated family film The Legend of Sasquatch on DVD on Oct. 21. Featuring the voices of Oscar Winner William Hurt (The Incredible Hulk), John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones trilogies) and Jewel Restaneo (Easter Sunday), the movie tells the story of a family that moves to a secluded log cabin and discover a Bigfoot family hiding nearby.

Marking the directorial debut of visual effects supervisior Thomas Callicoat (Soft Target, Sci-Fighter), Legend of Sasquatch centers on a little girl who discovers that sasquatch aren't the scary monsters they’re made out to be, but rather friendly and gentle creatures. When a new dam threatens to flood thier cave home, the sasquatch turn to their human friends for help in preserving their ancient, secret way of life.

Winner of the award for Best Feature Film–Animation at the 2007 International Family Film Festival, the movie was written by Callicoat and exec produced by Bill J. Gottlieb. William Hurt serves as co-producer. Associate producers are Jonathan Freeman, Kyle Lemire, John Rhys-Davies and Matthew Scott Weiner.

Special DVD features will include audio commentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, a Legend of Sasquatch quiz and special collector’s packaging featuring faux sasquatch fur. The disc will carry a suggested retail price of $27.98.

Aardman Uses Blackmagic on Timmy

Blackmagic Design Inc. has announced that its Blackmagic Design capture cards are being used with Stop Motion Pro software to produce Aardman Animations' latest children's TV series, Timmy Time. Set to premiere in 2009, the series of 52 10-minute adventures has been pre-sold to Disney Channels Worldwide, including the U.S., as well as CBeebies in the U.K.

Featuring character designs based on sketches by Academy Award-winning Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park, Timmy Time is a spin-off of Aardman’s hit children’s series Shaun the Sheep, which is a spin-off of the Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit short A Close Shave. Timmy centers on a charming, three-year-old sheep who lives over the hill and down the lane from Shaun's farm and has a lot to learn about his world.

Blackmagic says the DeckLink HD Extreme and Intensity Pro cards being used by Aardman are the only HD capture cards that work with Stop Motion Pro. The Blackmagic and Stop Motion Pro workflow allows Aardman animators to work in HD using uncompressed video, while being able to get instant on-set feedback with such features as onionskinning.

“Filming stop motion animation with HD video cameras means the animators can see what they are filming in very high quality, and this speeds up the animation process enormously,” says Ian Fleming, head of production technology at Aardman. “With the integration of Stop Motion Pro and Blackmagic technology, we are able to roll out a common standard of animation production across the company. Our animators can move between productions, using either digital SLR cameras or HD video cameras.”

“Integrating Blackmagic Design technology means we can provide an uncompressed, HD video capture solution that fits the fast workflow requirements in current and future stop-motion animation productions,” adds Paul Howell, co-founder of Stop Motion Pro. “We are proud to be working on such an exciting production, creating world-leading technology that will benefit the stop-motion animation industry.”

Global rights to Timmy Time have been acquired by Disney Channel programmers in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. The show will air on Playhouse Disney channels and programming blocks around the world. HIT Ent. is handling consumer products for the property.

Briefly: Indian Animated Feature Film Updates

* Maya Entertainment has announced an animated feature film adaptation of the Indian epic The Ramayana, scheduled to be released early next year. [Business of Cinema]

* Another upcoming Indian animated feature film is Cheenti Cheenti Bang Bang, scheduled for release on October 10, 2008. The movie is about feuding ant tribes and, despite similarities in the title, the film has nothing to do with the classic book and Hollywood movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. [Indiantelevision.com]

Behind the Scenes of Disney's Bolt

Meet Bolt. He's the canine star who gives the title to Disney's latest animation; one that boasts an unprecedented 3-D experience and one for which new techniques had to be invented by the studio's ever-resourceful artists. With production just wrapping up, Disney gave ComingSoon.net the chance to go behind the scenes and experience firsthand the incredible level of detail that goes into a project as ambitious as Bolt.

The story of Bolt begins in Hollywood, CA where an American White Shepherd (voiced by John Travolta) has spent his entire life as the super-powered lead in a popular television series. Alongside his young owner, Penny (Miley Cyrus), Bolt appears on TV sets across the nation, saving the day and ridding the world of evil. For Bolt, however, there's no line between fiction and reality and he doesn't realize that the powers and abilities he has on the show don't carry over into real life.

When an accident has Bolt shipped from Hollywood to New York City, he sets off across America to be reunited with Penny. Convinced that his odyssey is the fault of on-screen villain Doctor Calico (Malcolm McDowell), Bolt captures a streetwise alley cat named Mittens (Susie Essman) whom he mistakes for one of the Doctor's minions. Herself convinced that Bolt is insane, Mittens still has no choice but to join the young pup in his quest. The triad of traveling house pets is soon complete when the pair is joined by Rhino (Mark Walton), a hamster who, having spent his entire life in a plastic ball in front of a television set, is as convinced as Bolt that the dog is every bit a superhero.

Helming the project is the directorial team of Chris Williams and Byron Howard. Though it's the first time directing for both of them, Williams' time at Disney goes back to Mulan and Howard's to Pocahontas. Together, they've worked out a clear look for Bolt from a variety of inspirations.

Williams and Howard showed off two scenes from Bolt. Though they were the same two scenes that were shown earlier this year to Comic-Con goers, this was the first time the footage had been screened with full 3-D effects. Both Williams and Howard were extremely proud of the 3-D in Bolt, explaining that, for the first time, Disney was developing the 3-D throughout production, rather than adding it after the fact. This allowed for 3-D to be used to help tell the story instead of inserting it after the fact.

The first scene was from an episode of the ficitional-within-a-fiction episode of Bolt where Penny and Bolt are chased through the streets of San Francisco by masked motorcycling ninja henchmen (click new photo above for bigger version!) and enormous black helicopters. The directors were offered a challenge by Executive Producer John Lasseter: Make the "Bolt" TV show so exciting that a network would actually want to show it. To that end, the look and feel of the sequence apes Michael Bay's artificially stylized action. Never, though, does it venture into parody and instead offers an interesting contrast to the "real world" rest of the film.

In the second clip, we're well into the story; Mittens has been captured by animal control and locked in an animal shelter. Bolt and Rhino work out a plan to save her, springing a nighttime jailbreak against unsuspecting guards. It's very interesting to see the differences in art direction here, not just of the look and feel of the 2-D environment but of the 3-D one as well. In the same way that the action sequence can go for extreme angles and rapid cutting, this sequence offers a more muted (but still action-packed) look at Bolt's world. There's a lot more subtlety to some of the effects including a rather impressive 3-D lens flare.

The look of Bolt's American journey was largely inspired by both the paintings of Edward Hopper and the cinematography of Vilmos Zsigmond (especially his work in Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller). To this end, new software was created that allowed 3-D environments to be painted as though by brushstroke. Mimicking Hopper, detail is planned to drop off from the foreground to the background, capturing the painterly look and feel. To a similar end, Art Director Paul Felix and Director of Lighting Adolph Lusinksy took to the road, moving across the United States to find appropriate looks and area-specific details to add to the film.

Robert Neuman, the Stereographic Supervisor, was ultimately responsible for the 3-D in the film and utilized a "3-D Score" to chart the emotional intensity of each shot. Mapped out exactly like a shooting script or storyboard, the 3-D Score examined every frame and determined how intensely the 3-D should effect the viewer. The key, Neuman explained, was creating a balance between "comfort and immersion." More important than pulling off an effect for effect's sake, the viewer needs to be pulled in to the 3-D world and to just accept it as part of the storytelling.

The biggest problem to overcome, Neuman explained, was something called "window violations" which is a problem that exists uniquely in transforming 2-D to 3-D. In a normal film, the viewer's vision is limited by the confines of the theater screen. In Bolt, though, some objects projected right to the edge should -- in a 3-D environment -- be visible on beyond the end of the screen. A number of creative tricks are employed to trick the viewer's eye including one known as a "floating window"; an artificial screen, slightly smaller than the actual one, is simulated within the 3-D, allowing for objects to drop right off the edge.

Taken downstairs to the recording studio, I was given the chance to see how the voicing process worked and got to, myself, take on the role of Bolt for a practice scene. Mark Walton, who provides the voice of Rhino the hamster, has worked for Disney for years as an animator. It's a common process for animators to step in and voice characters for temporary tracks and -- every now and then -- the voice fits so well that the actor sticks. Walton was rather doubtful that he'd ever win the role but kept his fingers crossed until, one day, he was brought in for a recording session and given a script that included the line, "...and Mark Walton is the voice of Rhino!"

The upstairs offices are decked out with a full Bolt theme. Every production is allowed to, early on, design the look and feel of their workspace. This one included a number of tributes to Hopper-esque Americana, including a diner-styled (and fully operational) cereal bar.

In addition to images from the film, the walls included a number of interesting bulletin boards; On one, everyone in the office had pinned up photographs of their own pets across from one of "Production Babies," featuring 37 babies born during the film's production. Another, down the hall, charted a "Beard Off" the male crew members underwent to see how long they could grow their facial hair during the production process.

The office was also home to Doink!, a crew hamster who provided MAYA animators with a reference to Rhino's movements. Animal movements, that is, crossed with human facial expressions. For that, the office houses a special room where crew can record themselves doing the same lines and grab the expressions they like to translate over to Rhino.

It's clear that all around, Disney is embracing 3-D technology in a major way and that, very soon, the Bolt offices will make room for the studio's next production. (In fact, there was a door with a small poster for Pixar's 2012 Phillip K. Dick adaptation, King of the Elves which, sadly, had to remain closed for now) But if the level of care and creativity that has gone into Bolt can come close to being matched in future projects, animation fans are definitely in for some treats.

Bolt opens in theaters on November 21.

UPDATE: 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.

In anticipation of this being true, or just curiosity, someone put this together and posted this:

How Transformers 2 Ups The Ante

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, the sequel to Michael Bay's giant-robot hit, will go in an entirely new direction: courtroom drama.

"We're doing the trial of Optimus Prime," said co-writer Roberto Orci. "It's actually a legal battle."

Added Orci's partner, Alex Kurtzman: "Actually, we started with My Dinner with Optimus Prime, and then that felt like [that was] a little too small, so then we felt like courtroom would be a great way to [go]."

Orci: "When Megatron comes in as a surprise witness at the end, you're just going to die."

Kurtzman: "You're not going to believe it."

OK, so they're kidding. (At least I hope they're kidding.)

Seriously, Orci and Kurtzman, who drafted the sequel with Ehren Kruger, said they are trying to emulate the sequels they love.

"We loved Superman II, we loved Empire, we loved Aliens," Kurtzman said. "And those were all movies that felt like they truly stood apart from what had come before them in great, great ways."

Orci: "And even though they were bigger, per se, it was not just about that. There really was something else going on."

Transformers 2 will bring back many of the first film's characters while introducing some new ones and raising the stakes for all.

"I think the serious answer to your question is, obviously, people will say, 'Look, the explosions are going to be bigger,' but I think Bob and I felt that it was our job--and continues to be our job--to say, 'It's not really about that, because those things in a way are a given,'" Kurtzman said.

Orci added: "Yeah, those things are the easy part."

Kurtzman: "What it's about is making sure the emotional stakes feel like they are at a new place and that this movie has a reason to tell itself beyond just the studio wants another Transformers movie. And a lot of that has to do with 'How do you make this movie more emotional? How does this movie stand out from the first one?'"

Orci: "And now that the Transformers are characters, how do you bring them to life some more?"

Transformers 2 is about a month away from the end of principal photography, the writers said. It's slated to open on June 26, 2009.

Heroes' Bell To Get Backstory

Kristen Bell, who plays Elle Bishop on NBC's Heroes, told SCI FI Wire that her character will be undergoing plenty of development this season--and that she may have previously unknown connections to the others.

"I actually like where [the writers have] taken the whole storyline this year for everybody, including Elle," said Bell, who will reprise the character, first introduced last season, for 13 more episodes.

Elle is a mysterious young woman who possesses electrical powers and is the daughter of Robert Bishop (Stephen Tobolowsky), the head of the Company, which tracks down people with powers. Because she was left in seclusion for years, Elle appears to be mentally unstable and antisocial.

"They're showing more of her human side," Bell said. "She's this vaguely barbaric, unfeeling, antisocial adaptive killer who's coy. However, she's had some tough decisions to make [over the years, and the writers are] giving her more depth. There are flashback scenes showing that she's intricately woven into people's lives before you met her. She met a lot of [the characters] before she was introduced on the show."

A fan of Heroes since her days as the title character on The CW's Veronica Mars, Bell said that she believes the show appeals to people because they "enjoy being challenged rather than [sitting] in front of the TV semi-sedated. It keeps you guessing. It's highly dramatic and fiercely unrealistic, yet presented in a way you can believe. It grabs your attention and won't let go."

When asked which of her characters--Elle or Veronica Mars--would win in a fight, Bell laughed.

"In a fair fight, Veronica. In a dirty fight--hands down--Elle," Bell said. "I'm gonna vote for good rather than evil and say Veronica."

The third season of Heroes kicks off on Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Dublin's Jam Media Signs €5M Deal with BBC for "Badly Drawn Roy"

Dublin-based Jam Media has signed a deal with the BBC to produce a new €5M animated series for the BBC. Titled Badly Drawn Roy, the series will combine live-action and animation for the pre-teen market, and is scheduled to debut next March. Jam Media executives will be shopping the show to international broadcasters at the Cartoon Forum in Germany later in September.

“Mickey Mouse must Die!”

Mickey Mouse is “one of Satan’s soldiers” and makes everything he touches impure… or so claims Sheikh Muhammad Munajid during a religious affairs program broadcast on al-Majd TV, as reported in today’s London Telegraph.

The Sheikh warned that depictions of the creature in cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, and Disney’s Mickey Mouse, have taught children that mice were, in fact, loveable. The cleric, a former diplomat at the Saudi embassy in Washington DC, said that under Islamic law, both household mice and their cartoon counterparts must be killed.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Unnatural History of Wall Street

Today is bad news if you work on Wall Street, but it’s good news for folks who want to watch cartoons about Wall Street.

Animator Gary Leib just debuted a timely animated piece on the NY Times website: Unnatural History of Wall Street. It’s one minute of fun, loose and cartoony animation with a jazz score by Mike Hashim. This is Leib’s second piece for the Times website; his first was this history of the Meatpacking District.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

OregonLive on the "Coraline" Movie Gamble

OregonLive has posted a lengthy behind-the-scenes look at the feature film Coraline, Henry Selick's stop-motion animated adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novella. The movie is the first for Laika Entertainment, a new movie studio founded by Nike co-founder and president Phil Knight, and the article notes the risks that Knight is taking with a stop-motion animated movie and its highly uncoventional source material, but notes the need to differentiate from Pixar and DreamWorks animated movies. The feature also goes deep behind the scenes to look at the making of the film, including the painstaking animation process and the approach that Selick is taking in directing the movie.

Coraline is currently scheduled for a February 2009 release.

IDW Reveals Transformers 2 Prequel Comic

ComicNewsi.com has posted a first look at Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen movie prequel "Transformers: Destiny." Here is the description:

The official prequel to next summer's "TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN" film kicks off here! "TRANSFORMERS: DESTINY" is comprised of two four-part stories covering events leading up to the film. In the first chapter of the DESTINY story arc, "ALLIANCE," readers will learn more about what happened to SECTOR SEVEN, what happened to the AUTOBOTS, and why their war on our planet is far from over.

You can view the covers at the link above!

Fox's Feature Business Model Vs. Disney's Feature Business Model (Hand-Drawn Edition)

A commenter below asks some pointed questions regarding Fox's style of feature making on The Simpsons Movie contrasted to Disney's style on Princess and the Frog. I provide my learned answers here (rather than way down in the other thread):

How does "cost plus" and "for hire" explain or excuse Disney's behavior? So the actual business entity is Fox. How does that change the point.

The point of the other comments was that Starz Media media was staffing the film as it saw fit, and Disney supposedly isn't.

I've seen no evidence of that. Disney is staffing Princess the way it is to hold down costs, but that's different than being "forced" to staff in a way different that it wants to.

Most companies don't need excuses to do what they do. They just plow ahead and do them.

Fox, as far as I know, accepted the cost of the film. They didn't say, "the film was too expensive-you hired too many artists."

You have some evidence of this? Because the Fox/Starz/Simpson Movie model is similiar to the Disney/Princess model. Both of them outsource production (for Fox on Simpsons Movie, it was animation, cleanup, digital coloring; For Disney, it's cleanup and digital coloring. The big difference? Disney is doing its animation in-house. Fox did a lot of its animation in Korea at Rough Draft, just as it does for the television show.)

Disney ... seems to be attacking the personnel traditionally employed to get the job done right as an unnecessary extravagance.

Not to be a company tool, but Disney is paying what the market (and the union contract) will bear. It's reported to me that some animators have refused Disney salary offers because they're low, and so aren't working on the project.

This is called "negotiating." You don't like the offer, you don't take it. And stay doing whatever you're doing elsewhere.

Robert Iger, I'm informed, wants the animation division heads to restrain salary costs. The division heads are doing that. It's not pretty from an employee perspective, but that's what appears to be going on. (Note: My day job is to represent employee/member interests; my task here is to be reality based and explain, to the best of my ability, what's going on.)

It seems that Disney the corporation is not allowing Disney the animation studio to staff as they see fit. This kind of intrusive demoralizing micro-managing was supposed to leave with Eisner.

I never saw the memo on that, so I really wouldn't know.

But it seems to me that Disney the corporation and Disney the Animation Studio are one and the same. And that Disney the Animation Studio is doing what it deems to be in the best interests of the division, without outside interference (and does Robert Iger giving Ed Catmull and John Lasseter his opinion constitute "outside interference?").

Now. You and I may disagree with the decisions Disney Animation execs are making, but I haven't seen any evidence that they're being arm-twisted by "Disney corporate."

All I can say is, I've walked through the "Princess and the Frog" unit numerous times and have picked up the following:

1) Some of the lead animators aren't happy to be "on call." (Note that Disney gave everyone the option to be on call or not, but most agreed to the new deal.)

2) Many assistants and journey animators are thrilled and happy to be back at the House of Mouse doing a hand-drawn feature.

3) Various people have griped to me that things "aren't the same" as they were in the 1990s, and some don't like the new ways of doing things ... which they think are worse than the old ways.

4) Everybody is aware of the fact that this is a project-length employment deal. The picture ends, they're gone. Nobody much likes it (who would?), but this is the way the business works now.

Bottom line: There are some differences between the Fox/Simpson model and the Disney/Princess model. The biggest differences? Fox was paying some people more, and Disney is doing all its animation in house, which "The Simpsons Movie" did not.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

At the House of Mouse

By the happiest of coincidences (well, not really) I was in the Disney Hat Building today, and got these observations from long-time Diz staffers regarding The Princess and the Frog. Since it fits in with the thread below, I relate it here:

"I think that they're going to hire a lot more artists to get the picture out. I mean, they've hired more people for layout as they've gone along; I think the same thing will happen with other production departments as the picture gets closer to its release date. You ask me, they won't send as much of the work out as people think they will, because they won't be able to."

I floated the a facsimile of the above quote past another Disney veteran who is also working on the picture. He had a different opinion:

"Management wants to get this feature out with a lower budget than the hand-drawn pictures were costing ten years ago. They don't know if they're going to get Aladdin and Lion King grosses, they just can't depend on those kinds of returns, and aren't expecting them. Me, I don't think that kids have the same desire to see hand-drawn features that they used to. They want the 3-D stuff. Just look at the grosses. They've been higher for c.g.i. animation.

"If the company can make money on a moderately budgeted hand-drawn film, it'll make more. If they can't, then they probably won't make more. I don't think they'll make hand-drawn features if they can't make them more inexpensively than they were produced for in the nineties, and have them make money ..."

My take: No company is a charitable organization. Corporations exist to make profits and get a return on equity for their shareholders. Disney, on the advice of John Lasseter, is trying its hand again at a hand-drawn feature. (And I can tell you that the company had no plans to make any more hand-drawn product before Mr. Lasseter's arrival.)

I hope that Princess and the Frog is the first of a long string of new hand-drawn features, since nothing would please me more. But how many pencil-created flicks are in Disney's future hinges, I think, on the success of The Princess and the Frog.

(Personally, I don't think audiences have a big preference for c.g.i. over hand-drawn. I think it's more a matter of the quality of individual films. But the recent history of various animated features' box office performances doesn't necessarily bear me out, so my thinking could be wrong ... and wishful.)

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Coraline set visit

A detailed account of a Coraline set visit can be found at Shock Till You Drop’s website. The article, which makes for quite a hefty read, includes descriptions of the models created for the film, an interview with writer/director Henry Selick, and more. Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel by the same name, Coraline tells the story of a young girl who discovers a doorway into a dark fantasy world parallel to her own. It opens in theaters in February of 2009.

MovieWeb Hosts Advance Look at "Avatar" Complete Book 3 DVD Special Features

MovieWeb.com is hosting an exclusive sneak peek video from the bonus features disc in the Avatar Complete Book 3 DVD collection. The DVD set will be on store shelves today, September 16, 2008.

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