Friday, September 19, 2008

News - 09/19/08...

Igor opens today

The animated horror-spoof Igor, which tells the story of a lab-assistant who dreams of becoming a mad scientist, opens in about 2,300 theaters today. The film is not faring overly well with critics, only earning 27% so far on Rotten Tomatoes. Sean Axmaker of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer calls the movie “… a haphazard collection of spare movie parts cobbled together in a pale imitation of better-animated comedies.” There are a few positive reviews, however, with Nell Minow describing Igor as “cheerily macabre”. Box office predictions are also coming in, with Box Office Guru guessing an $8 million opening for the film.

'Iron Man' spy photo feud continues on DVD

Remember that first spy photo of 'Iron Man' in red and gold armor? It's caused a whole domino effect including atrocious behavior on the part of the jack-booted lawyers at Paramount and a lawsuit by the spy who took the photo. The latest development? The movie has been altered for the DVD release of the film.

Check out Collider's recollection of the Case of the Iron Man Spy Photo.

Mind Your Business: When is a Bad Movie Good for the Industry?

In this month's column, Mark Simon explains why the deficiencies of Journey to the Center of the Earth bode well for the animation industry.

How can a disastrous failure of a movie like Journey to the Center of the Earth be good for the future of the industry? © MMVII New Line Productions, Inc. and Walden Media, LLC.

We've all struggled through terrible movies. You know the kind. They are so awful it is literally painful to sit and watch.
I saw one like that recently. Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3-D is one of the worst movies I've seen since City of Joy with Patrick Swayze back in 1992.

I'm a huge fan of movies. I love action films, fantasy films, monster movies, dramas, comedies and of course animations.
fits many of these categories, but one category in which it doesn't fit is good.

I'm also a big fan of star Brendan Fraser, but I couldn't find anything I liked about his acting or this movie. The script was terrible and illogical (not a surprise when you see how many names were listed as writers). The effects were cheesy (every obvious "in your face" shot was used). The directing was amateurish. (Director Eric Brevig, previously a visual effects supervisor, must have forgotten his trade in this movie and hopefully will not be asked to direct another.) The acting was pitiful. It looked like Fraser didn't care at all about being in this movie (maybe he didn't realize anyone would actually see it). Even my wife, who loves to drool over him, was left cold this time.

We also took my eight-year-old twins to see the movie. They enjoyed the monsters and action, but even they kept asking me what was going on and why certain things were happening. They left the theater telling me how bad the movie was. It's pretty bad when kids who love to watch Power Rangers are bored by a feature that costs between $45 and $60 million (according to IMDbPro and Box Office Mojo respectively).

3-D stereoscopic has been played with a number of times in movies over the years. For the most part they have been lousy movies with poor 3-D effects that relied on cheap spiders-and-spears-in-your-face effects. They also hurt your eyes after viewing an entire movie.

Luckily, the technology now is much better and watching new stereographic films is quite comfortable. Okay, that brings up one good thing about Journey -- it didn't hurt my eyes to watch it. Well... maybe a little, but not because of the glasses.

The good news is that all of this is a great sign for the future of our industry.

What? How can a disastrous failure of a movie be a good sign?

3-D stereoscopic couldn't save Fly Me to the Moon from its disappointing box-office take. © 2008 nWave Pictures nv.

It's a good sign because even though the movie was bad, it made a lot of money. Domestic box office gross is almost $100 million and worldwide is over $150 million ( Plus, it did this with a limited number of digital stereoscopic projection screens. Even with such terrible reviews and word of mouth, people kept going to see it. Journey attained blockbuster status due largely to the new stereoscopic technology.

3-D stereoscopic alone is not enough, as is evidenced by the disastrous box-office take of Fly Me to the Moon. Every movie needs good design and an exciting trailer. Journey was a terrible movie, but at least the trailer looked interesting (an obvious case of false advertising). Fly Me had a boring trailer, lame design and poor animation. Even the draw of being stereoscopic was not enough to overcome such large obstacles, as it has barely made $10 million domestically.

3-D stereoscopic has been championed by some of our best filmmakers, including James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis and Jeffrey Katzenberg. They are pushing the technology and they are pushing great storytelling, the perfect combination.

Facial Expressions: Babies to Teens by Mark Simon.

If a waste of celluloid like Journey can become a box office blockbuster, truly good stereoscopic movies will have incredible success. Since we have such great, large, hi-definition TVs in our homes, going to movies has to be more of an event, something we can't see at home. Stereoscopic movies and stale popcorn make going to the movies an event again. Even with the current economic problems, people want to be entertained.

With Cameron's Avatar and DreamWork's Monsters vs. Aliens coming out in 2009, there is a lot more good news in the near future for the movie industry. And the movie industry will be in your face about it... literally.

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation producer/director and speaker. Mark has released two new editions of Facial Expressions, his popular photo reference books for artists Babies to Teens and the Companion E-Book, Volume 3. He may be reached at

Fear(s) of the Dark Trailer Online

Yahoo has posted a trailer for the award-winning French animated feature film Peur(s) du noir, which is being released in North America by IFC Ent. under the English title Fear(s) of the Dark. The pic will hit select theaters in New York on Oct. 24, and in Los Angeles on Oct. 31. A complete release schedule can be found here:

The animation for Fear(s) of the Dark is inspired by artwork from six world renown comic-book artists and cartoonists. Produced predominantly in black-and-white, the film examines childhood nightmares as recalled by a diverse group of artists made up of The New Yorker contributors Richard McGuire and Lorenzo Mattotti, Strasbourg-born Blutch (Christian Hinker), American illustrator Charles Burns, and France’s Marie Caillou and Pierre Di Sciullo.

Canal Plus art director Etienne Robial served as artistic director on the project, which was produced by Valerie Schermann and Christophe Jankovic’s Prima Linea Prods. (U, Alice in the City). Fear(s) made its world premiere last October at the second annual Rome Film Festival and later played Sundance. Catch the trailer at

Flight Before Christmas Scheduled

Genius Products and The Weinstein Co. will release the CG-animated holiday feature The Flight Before Christmas on DVD this fall. Featuring the voices of Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew, Aquamarine) and comedian Norm MacDonald (The Norm Show, Saturday Night Live), the movie about a young reindeer with ambitions of becoming an expert flyer like his father will hit retail on Oct. 28.

When Niko sneaks out beyond the safety of Home Valley to practice his flying, he unwittingly endangers the herd as the notoriously mean Black Wolf follows him home. Before it's too late, Niko must join forces with his forest animal friends to save Santa and the reindeer from the Black Wolf and become a Christmas hero, just like his father, who he believes is a member of Santa's famous Flying Forces. The heartwarming yuletide tale is rated G and will carry a suggested retail price of $19.97.

Bejuba!, Skaramoosh, CVM Conduct Spooky Investigations

Bejuba! Ent. has partnered with Skaramoosh London Ltd. and Creative Visual Media to develop Spooky Investigations, a new half-hour animated series based on the popular Spooky Sisters shorts produced by Skaramoosh for Disney U.K. Bejuba! will serve as exec producer and distributor of the series, in addition to seeking co-production partners and securing financing for the production of 52 11-minute episodes slated to begin airing in 2010.

The half-hour series promises to retain all the comic hallmarks of the original shorts as it follows the adventures of intrepid siblings Amelia and Cecelia Spooky, founders of a self-styled paranormal investigation agency for kids. Together with their cousin Boris, a 200-year-old teenage vampire who turns into a bat, the sisters will investigate any spooky mystery which grownups consider too farfetched to believe.

Spooky Sisters was the beginning of an exciting new franchise,” says Bejuba! president Tatiana Kober. “While the series of shorts concentrated on the fighting power of the sisters, the new long-form series will focus on the paranormal, the mysteries and the fun—three things kids love.”

The Spooky Sisters series of shorts enjoyed successful runs on ABC in Australia and on, a U.K.-based children’s online entertainment platform that boasts more than 850,000 visitors per month. These shorts will be available for screening at MIPCOM Jr.

Nick Adds Fanboy, Team Umizoomi

With all the live action creeping into animation channels, it’s heartening to hear that Nickelodeon is increasing its animated output by 50% this year. The network’s latest toon pick-ups are Fanboy and Chum Chum, a spinoff of Nicktoons Network's Random! Cartoons, and an interactive preschool show titled Team Umizoomi from the creators of Blue’s Clues.

Created by Eric Robles (Ni Hau Kai Lan, The X's, Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy), Fanboy follows the misadventures of a 10-year-old comic-book enthusiast named Fanboy (David Hornsby) and his highly imaginative sidekick, Chum Chum (Nika Futterman). For Fanboy, there is nothing more normal than living life in tights and a cape, and the concept of an ordinary day is one where anything and everything can happen. Nickelodeon has ordered 26 episodes of the CG-animated show, which features the voices of Jamie Kennedy, Josh Duhamel and Estelle Harris. Robles is exec producing the series with Steve Tompkins and Fred Seibert.

Also on order are 20 episodes of the math-oriented Team Umizoomi. Scheduled to premiere next year during Nick Jr. block, the show offers a mix of 2D and 3D animation set to a pop-rock soundtrack as miniature action heroes help preschoolers solve everyday problems by using arithmetic. The series is created by Blue's Clues team members Jennifer Twomey, Soo Kim and Michael T. Smith.

Baby, Plankton, Mouk Make Impressions at Cartoon Forum

Cartoon Forum celebrates it's 20th anniversary this year and our president, Jean Thoren, is there checking out all the great European animated productions making their debut. Since1988, Cartoon,with the sponsorship of MEDIA, has organized 18 editions of the Forum, which have generated investments in European animation totaling more than a billion euros. Thoren says this year's event, currently taking place in the German city of Ludwigsburg, kicked off with a slate of diverse projects from veterans and newcomers alike.

Thoren says one of the standouts at the market is Xilam’s Mr Baby, which we recently wrote about here: This series of 50 four-minute episodes will be coming soon on France 3. It’s a Family sitcom about a 15-month-old baby who speaks with the sharpened mind of a 50-year-old misanthrope. Perched atop his highchair, he is the only one in the family with enough perspective to sort out the little dramas of everyone‘s daily life.

Also drawing attention is the web series Plankton Invasion (, a Belgium and French co-pro from Jan Goossen of Tinkertree, Teamto and Nexus factory's Serge de Poucques. The team is developing a television series based on the online toon that offers a comedic look at the serious issue of global warming by presenting it from the point of view of plankton who want to sabotage human efforts to correct the problem in order to take over the world. Once the melting ice raises the sea level and covers the land, the world wil be one big ocean that they will rule.

Thoren adds that the Millimages project Mouk’s World Tour received a warm reception from the capacity crowd assembled at the event. Adapted from the best selling Le Tour du Monde de Mouk books, the show looks to be another hit by a studio that has ultimately produced 11 series out of the 14 they have pitched over the years at the forum. More info on the company and its properties can be found at

Imagi raises $30 million in subscription financing

Imagi International Holdings, Limited, a Hong Kong- and Los Angeles-based animation company, announced Tuesday that it has raised $30 million in financing through two separate subscription agreements.

The first agreement, the terms of which were originally announced to the stock exchange September 3, is with a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shui On Holdings Limited. The subscriber will invest $10 million for approximately 90.6 million new shares.

The second agreement, announced to the stock exchange September 12, has been made with Mehta-Imagi LLC, which will invest $20 million for approximately 181.2 million new shares, representing a premium of about 69% to Imagi's closing price on September 4.

Sunni has agreed to transfer an additional 140 million gift shares to Mehta-Imagi LLC, bringing the total shares owned by Mehta-Imagi LLC to 321.2 million, representing a 17% ownership stake in Imagi as enlarged by the $30 million subscription shares.

Both agreements are expected to be completed later this month, once regulatory procedures have been completed.

"Investors have been visiting our studios to see firsthand the quality and commercial potential of the films Imagi has in production. This investment round marks a major vote of confidence that our films will compete successfully with the best that Hollywood has to offer," said Imagi CEO Douglas Glen.

"Imagi has put together a truly exciting package, including world-class filmmakers, superior production economics, and the ability to reach both the traditional Hollywood market and the emerging Asian market. They have a real shot at becoming the next Pixar or DreamWorks Animation," Jeff Joseph said on behalf of Prescient Advisors, LLC, the managing member of Mehta-Imagi, LLC.

The proceeds of the two transactions will be used to develop four feature-length CG imagery animation movies, including Astro Boy and Gatchaman, which are scheduled to be released in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Earlier this year, Imagi announced that it had entered into a global alliance with Summit Entertainment, whereby Summit will distribute Astro Boy worldwide, except for Imagi's reserved territories of Japan, Hong Kong and China.

Imagi's principal business is the development and production of computer graphics animated theatrical feature films. Imagi's first theatrical movie, TMNT, was released in March 2007, opening at #1 in United States box office revenue. It was only the third time in history that an Asian-made film has achieved that honor.

Imagi has development operations in Los Angeles and CG production studios at its Chai Wan, Hong Kong headquarters.

Prosecutors' warning boosts South Park in Russia

Interest in the network that broadcasts "South Park" in Russia has skyrocketed since prosecutors warned the company about the adult cartoon's content, the firm's head said Monday.

"We are getting calls from a lot of cable operators with connection requests. They are really interested in the programs and now they all want us," Russia's RIA Novosti news agency quoted Roman Sarkisov as saying. The complaints have served as "excellent promotion," added Sarkisov, who runs the 2x2 channel.

Earlier this month, Russian prosecutors issued the company with a warning, upholding a religious group's complaint against 2x2, which airs South Park and other adult-oriented cartoons, for their "overt propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia." The case was referred to court.

By showing such cartoons, the channel is promoting "violence, brutality and pornography," along with suicide and antisocial behavior, prosecutors said last week.

"The content of these cartoons fails to comply with laws protecting the moral and psychological development of children," a statement read. The cartoon violated international law and the rights of children, it added.

The TV company received a letter September 10 from Russia's media watchdog describing complaints, especially from the Family charitable fund. The letter pointed out that 2x2's broadcasting license is up for renewal October 17, and that viewers' opinions will be considered when the relicensing process gets underway.

This isn't the first time that 2x2 has run into complaints. In March, Russian Protestant leaders sent the Prosecutor General's Office a request that the company's license be revoked on the grounds that the cartoon channel "promotes immorality and violence."

Paddington Bear Marmite ads

A new series of British TV spots, featuring Paddington Bear for Marmite, are quite refreshing. They mimic the cartoon series from the 70’s and are made the old fashioned way - animated by hand, using stop motion, 2D and cut-out animation techniques. Here’s a short making-of video:

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Speed Racer Gas and Go-Go-Go!

We may have a Felix Chevrolet dealer in Southern California, but Ben at the Japanese Nostalgic Car blog reports on a new chain of Speed Racer themed gas stations in Japan.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

The Boutique Studio

There are few small, independent* cartoon studios around Los Angeles these days, and of the big independents, there is exactly one: DreamWorks Animation, specializing in theatrical blockbusters.

Today, if you're an "independent," you are most likely a for-hire studio that provides services for one of our fine, entertainment conglomerates. Think of Starz Media/Film Roman, think of Rough Draft.

Yesterday I visited a little studio that falls into a slightly different niche ...

Sabella-Dern Entertainment has been around for a half-dozen years. S-D was launched after Paul Sabella and Jonathan Dern departed MGM Animation after a lengthy run and set up their own shop.

SDE is headquartered in the West Valley, where Warner Bros. used to shoot its Westerns and cavalry pictures, back in those halcyon days when the San Fernando Valley was a collection of orchards and truck farms ... before the heavy asphalt-covered hand of urbanization reached out from Los Angeles.

Today, Sabella-Dern has a fair amount of production. The company is doing three Care Bears direct-to-video features, a My Little Pony direct-to-video, and sixty-six episodes of the PBS series Angelina Ballerina. They also have another project they hope will soon be in production.

A lot of S-D's creative work is done off-site, but the studio is planning a move to a larger location where more artistic staff can work in-house.

* I here define "independent" as a stand-alone cartoon company that creates and owns its product.

Before the Feds allowed the entertainment business to become vertically integrated, there were several of these, with Hanna-Barbera being the most prominent and successful example in the teevee age. Now, of course, they don't exist.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Are fans ready for a 'Watchmen' sequel?

MTV Splash Page reports that Warner Bros is leaving the door open for a 'Watchmen' least as far as the contractual obligations of the talent are concerned.

Actor Patrick Wilson, who plays Nite Owl in the movie, said there is a clause in his contract that could recall him for a future film.

"It's all been talked about," Wilson told MTV. "Financially, they like to do that. But all of us, [director] Zack [Snyder] included, all go, ‘How on Earth could you do a sequel or prequel?'

"Certainly, artistically, I can’t fathom how it would happen," said Wilson. "But hey, if Alan Moore writes it, I’d love to read it."

Could it be coming in 2011: 'Watchmen II: V for Vacation'?

Hartford Courant Talks with "Igor" Producer John Eraklis

The Hartford Courant has interviewed John Eraklis, producer of the upcoming CGI animated feature film Igor. Eraklis discusses how he moved from an actor in Los Angeles to being a producer, his founding of the Exodus Film Group in 2001, Exodus' international production scope, and the projects underway at Exodus at the moment. Igor is the first film to emerge from Exodus, but the firm is also working on The Hero of Color City, as well as animated movies based on Paul Bunyan and on Tyler Perry's Madea character.

NYAV Post and TripWire Production Host Voice Acting Contest at NY Anime Fest

The New York Anime Festival has announced the return of "Who Wants to be a Voice Actor?", a voice acting contest to be hosted by NYAV Post's Michael Sinterniklaas and TripWire Productions founder Tom Wayland. The contest will be held on Sunday, September 28, 2008, from 11:15 AM - 1:15 PM. The winner of the contest will get a chance to be cast in an upcoming animated series. Applications may be downloaded from the NY Anime Festival website.

Happy 30th Anniversary BATTLESTAR GALACTICA!!

Merrick from Aint It Cool News reminisces....

Merrick here...

On a Sunday evening thirty years ago yesterday, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA premiered on ABC.

Opening "somewhere beyond the heavens", the series dramatized a genocidal attack on twelve human homeworlds by "Cylon" aggressors. The human survivors gather a "rag tag" space fleet, and begin an exodus towards Earth...where they believe they'll find long lost brethren.

The series ran for 24 episodes before being canned by the network. Wobbly ratings and, above all, cost overruns during production made a second season undesirable to the network.

Had a second season been put into play, many changes would've been brought to the show - most notably the appointment of Isaac Asimov as the show's creative consultant. More information about the directions a second season might have headed can be found HERE.

The last sequence of the original series was set in one of the Galactica's celestial observation domes...where an Apollo 11 transmission telling us "The Eagle has landed" is received, unnoticed by the crew. This would (somewhat inadvertently) portend the coming of GALACTICA: 1980, a subsequent rethink/relaunch of the concept by original series creator Glen A. Larson and ABC.

In GALACTICA: 1980, the "rag tag" fleet finds Earth, and immediately encounters a s*** load of dicey scripts. Intriguingly, the underlying premise driving G: 1980 didn't altogether suck: the Galacticans find Earth, but are shocked to learn that us Earthlings are nowhere near as developed/advanced as they thought we'd be. This is quite a problem given that the the Cylons have followed them here, and are still bent on destroying all humans.

G: 1980 offered flashes of conceptual smarts that were never supported by the series' overall vibe, style, or budget. For example, one intriguing conceit found the Galacticans considering time travel to seed higher technologies into our past...thus altering our timeline & forcibly evolving Terran tech to a point where we might feasibly fend off the bad guys in the present. Kind of cool, but underplayed and shoddily executed. G: 1980 is mostly remembered for appearances by Wolfman Jack and MEGAFORCE-like flying motorcycles.

Over the decades, various relaunches were attempted, including a Tom DeSanto produced continuation that Bryan Singer was set to direct (details and designs HERE). This spun apart in the wake of 9/11, which caused shifting schedules that made viability wain.

Original series star Richard Hatch also made a noble run at revitalizing the franchise (more details HERE) with BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE SECOND COMING, a lavish, effects-filled trailer he hoped would galvanize a direct continuation of the original series. Despite his best, impassioned efforts, THE SECOND COMING never happened. Although, Hatch was later cast as Tom Zarek, major and recurring character in...

The Sci Fi Channel's BATTLESTAR GALACTICA - a spectacular, bold, and often peculiar "reimagining" of many of Glen Larson's conceits, masterminded by Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Currently at a mid point break (roughly) in its fourth and final season, BG will conclude its run sometime next year. CAPRICA, a spin-off TV movie prequel & backdoor pilot, has already been shot - and a companion movie set parallel to the Eick/Moore series is in production. More stand alone films may follow.

People often knock around the original series...sometimes justifiably so. Although, personally, I have a very warm place in my heart for it. As misguided as it often was, I find myself inexorably drawn to its spirit and spirituality, both of which are interpreted quite differently in the current iteration.

And, I'm sure simple nostalgia plays no small part in my affection for GALACTICAs both old and new. I remember the kid I was back in '78. I remember the excited chatter in my school's lunch room on September 18th, the day after the premiere. Kids were talking about how cool it was that some of the explosions of some space fighters folded in on themselves - "I guess it has something to do with vacuums and decompression and stuff" they postulated. It was awesome that space fighters could fly through the debris clouds of disintegrating enemy craft, which made it "cooler than STAR WARS". It was magical that the laser hand guns emitted a really pretty star burst/pulse effect instead of a regular old ray beam. But all of this is the stiuff starry-eyed kids love. Clearly the show offered more than 'zip-pop-bang', or it would never have endured. Oh, even then, everybody hated Muffy the Daggit. It seems some things never change.

Most of all, I remember the red-faced jealousy of the kid who sat across the lunch table from me when he saw the
lunchbox my mom had gotten me as a surprise. Funny how such small, cosmically insignificant moments resonate through the years.

That kid's name was Paul. He had red hair and freckles, and sometimes I wonder what happened to him. And often I wonder where I put that lunch box...

Interview with Storyboard Supervisor On Disney's Bolt

If you missed my previous articles on the Bolt set visit, just click HERE for my overall impressions and HERE for an interview with lighting supervisor Adolph Lusinsky.

Continuing on with this week's Bolt coverage, we talk to Nathan Greno, the head of the story department on Bolt. When we walked into the brainstorming room (The actual room where the idea of Bolt was conceived), there were pictures of the Bolt film on all four walls. One wall had all three acts laid out in storyboard form. Another wall had an entire sequence that Nathan would act out in front of his co-workers so they got an idea of how the scene should be animated and its tone. This was when feedback would be provided. The other two walls were sketches, artwork and ideas. It was actually really, really cool to be able to sit in the room where ideas for the cartoons are shaped and born.

Check out our interview with Nathan to learn more about the storyboard process and how a guy like Nathan gets to the position he's in today working for the top animation studio in the world.

Greno: I'm head of story on 'Bolt' and so I was going to talk through, this is the actual room where we did the complete story process for the movie. It's much cleaner now than it was then, but we had a group of seven or eight guys at one time as a crew. We worked in this room everyday. We came in and shut the door and worked all day on the thing. On this movie Chris Williams came in to direct the film. He had a vision of what he wanted to do and a sort of basic kind of alignment that he wanted. So as the story team we would come in and work out the structure of the film and develop all the characters, the world, the tone – we kind of do all that stuff. So we'd work out the structure of the movie and try to figure who these characters are and so on. An example of how things constantly evolve and change, Rhino who stands right over there started off as a rat. He wasn't named Rhino. We had a board that had all these named tacked to it and no one ever seemed to like any of them and no one sort of seemed like to Rat Thing either. So we just kept pushing ahead and constantly tried to figure out what this thing should be. Our job is to bring the director's vision to the screen, but at the same time we're not robots and we're here to challenge the director. Like we can try to make the movie even better than what the director wants or whatever, and in this case we had this rat and we kept working and working on this and eventually the idea of a hamster evolved and so everyone really took a shine to that and all got pretty excited about that. The name Rhino, there's actually a big cat named Rhino, a twenty five pound cat. Then finally it was like, 'Well, that worked out.' So like I said things kind of evolve and change as we go. It's the same thing with the structure. We would record temporary scratch dialogue and we'd do screenings for the studio. It's the first time that they're seeing and it's great because you gage what's working and what's not working, things that we thought would be hilarious and would kill and then just lays there flat. It's like, 'Okay. I guess that doesn't work.' Then we'd come back up to this room and try to make it work. So we'd do that for chunks of the film and did that overall for the movie. We'd be writing things up and occasionally someone would have a funny idea and be like, 'We could do it like this –' and the story artists kind of wear two hats. We have our writers cap and our artists caps at the same time too. So there would be drawings. We kind of work out the movie and in the beginning we didn't have a writer and so we'd sit around the room and beat out what the sequence should be, what should be in there. Really, what we're trying to do is entertain ourselves and each other in that room, something that we'd think was fun to watch. If we don't like then why show it to anyone else. So we'd try to figure out who Rhino was. We kept talking him about the kid that watches 'Superman' and ties a towel around his neck and jumps off the roof of his house and we kind of liked that, something pure and innocent, an excited character. For a while he was this lackey, Bolt's lackey and that wasn't really working either. So at some point we cast the sequences. We figure out a chunk of the movie and then I'll go in and I'll think of the crew and it's like in 'Ocean's Eleven' where you've got your guy who's super good at action stuff and a really funny guy and someone who's great with drama, that kind of thing, and Chris who boarded the sequence is great with character. He's great at a lot of different things, but is really good at crafting characters. This is the final version of the thing, but we'd work on this for months and months and months and then six months later we might go back into because we figure out something that happens at the end of the movie, and you're like, 'Whoa, but we need to set that up here.' So you're constantly going back into things especially if you're not into production. It's easier to dive back into things and rework them. But Chris was given the assignment and he did a great job of figuring out who Rhino is and he got pretty close. Again, this has probably been through fifty passes, but he got really close right up front. The idea is to really sell the movie. [doing the voices]. So from this point everyone would give their notes and talk about what's working and what's not working. Maybe Rhino is working well in areas and it's just a really collaborative thing where everyone is throwing out ideas and trying to figure out what's best and then we go down to editorial and go through that whole process. There are things that change, like in the final movie, even when he gets out of the apartment the layout will be different and that kind of thing. Another example of things that change when you get to animation are like the knuckle crack that he does there. In the final movie he kind of cracks his neck and that's funnier. As you get every step along the hope is that everyone is going to out-plus what you did. In the writing there was a lot of changes that happened. There was a point where Mitten's, from the get go thought Bolt was delusional and knew that he didn't have superpowers. So when you figure that out you have to go back in the sequence and say, 'Okay, Mittens doesn't understand what's going on. She's just as confused as everyone else.' So then you take another pass at it. So we might get to a point where this is working really well. If the other sequences change though then this one can change as well. This just keeps going and going until someone tells you stop it because it's in production and you can touch it anymore.

How far in advance do you usually start this process before animation kicks in, what's the timeline of all of it?

I suppose it's different for each movie. On this movie we started, there was that shift that happened. I'm sure you guys heard about the American Dog and the Bolt thing, all that kind of stuff, but I was brought on the movie at the beginning of the last year. Then the shift happened and we only had from January '07. We didn't have much time. Usually you have a couple of years to kind of piece things together and we were on a really hectic schedule. Everyone pulled together on this though to make it work. What you usually have you get a sequence done, you first get a sequence and then have like a week to take your first pass and then a week or a week and a half for a second pass. It's like week to week to week. This was really aggressive, but all the guys lived up to it and got through.

Tell us about your background, how you got started and what else you've worked on?

I started twelve years ago. I worked in Florida at the MGM Florida. I worked there and went to the school in Columbus, Ohio. I had always wanted to work at Disney. That was my goal. For three years I sent my portfolio to Disney and after a few years of school Disney offered me a job. I did clean-up animation, 2-D. I was working on 'Brother Bear'. So that was fine. I was happy that I was at Disney, but I felt that I wasn't being challenged enough for what I would do. I would draw on this dry erase board in the backroom with one of my friend. I was always drying these cartoons and he said, 'You should get into story.' I took a story class in college and I hated it and then I realized that was the instructor and nothing to do with story itself. I said, 'Nah, no. I don't want to get into story.' I don't think that I would care about that, but he kept pushing and pushing. I was like, 'I'll come up with an idea for a test.' I said, 'If I like the test I'll turn it in.' I liked my little test and I turned it in and I started training. There was a short that I worked on for them for a few months and I came out to California and did eight months of training. Then I went back to Florida and I worked on 'Brother Bear' for four years, four plus years. Then I worked on 'Meet the Robinsons' for a long while. I worked on 'Chicken Little'. I worked on 'Rapunzel' and now Princess and the Frog and I'm not sure how long I'll be on that.

How is that coming along?

Great. I know I'm not supposed to talk about that, but it's a really good group and I've only been on that for like a month or so. I've had a lot of fun in there so far. It's good.

How have things changed at Disney in the post Pixar world for you guys?

It's a completely different studio. For the longest time we'd be here saying, 'Did you see what's going on at Pixar. Why can't we have someone like John Lasseter.' Then all of a sudden one day it was like, 'John Lasseter is running –' and we were like, 'What?!' Really, when John came in and slashed down all the kind of middle management positions that were gumming up the works, the way that it was setup around here was crazy. Now the idea is that the directors come in with their own vision. Before there were all these steps, all these creative executive levels, they were developing the movies, but then they'd give them to someone to make. John's great because he doesn't come in and say you have to do this and you have to do that, but comes in and really works with you. He just wants what everyone else wants and it feels like he's part of the crew and not like your boss coming in and saying that he wants to do something different. So things got better.

'Conan' film offered to 'X3' director? reports hearing word that Nu Image, the indie studio behind the new 'Conan' movie, may be extending an offer to director Brett Ratner to helm the film.

No further details are provided in the report and no indication is given as to where the word comes from.

However the site is very clear that they think hiring Ratner to sit in the director's chair is a bad move.

Shadows Of The Dark Knight: The History of Batman - Part 2 of 3

This is the second in a 3 part series covering the history of Batman. You can read part one here.

In 1966 Batman was given a shot in the arm by the hit Pop Art inspired television series that is still iconic today. Starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, as well as a wealth of guest stars including Caesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar and even horror icon, Vincent Price, Batman was a show that was watched and treasured by adults and children alike. Bright colours and Dutch angles peppered the show, as well as the thunderous and vivid onomatopoeic cries of “Pow”, “Bam” and “Biff.”

While not overtly true to the original comic book origins, this interpretation of Batman maintained his existence, and would help the persona persevere into the 1970’s. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams transported the caped crusader back into the real world and helped to construct even more iconic scoundrels for our hero to battle - including Ras Al Ghul - who would go on to play an integral part in Christopher Nolan’s franchise re-boot, Batman Begins.

The 1980’s saw Batman become a sinister, ominous character once more. Frank Miller’s seminal work of The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, as well as Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke portrayed a grittier Batman and gave an origin tale for the Joker.

Over the years directors such as Ivan Reitman and Joe Dante took turns at developing a Batman feature, but nobody could achieve the appropriate tone or plot. Actors such as Bill Murray, Charlie Sheen and even future James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan, were considered for the role, but with no feasible script and a non-existent director, it looked like Batman might not make it on to the big screen.

In 1988 director Tim Burton was working on his second feature, Beetlejuice, at Warner Bros, when the director was offered a Batman film. For the first time in a decade, the project gathered real momentum. Bringing along his Beetlejuice star Michael Keaton, Burton’s Batman was the first appropriate big-screen incarnation of The Dark Knight. Furthermore, Jack Nicholson’s legendary Joker seized the limelight, but Keaton’s Batman/Bruce Wayne persona came under a lot of fire even before a trailer was cut. Fans bombarded Warner Bros with letters of protest in the belief that the actor (who was best known for his comic performances) would deliver a character who was similar to Adam West’s crime fighter. After a trailer was rush released for a comic convention to soothe fans’ worries, Batman media hype went into overdrive.

The film was a huge success, and Warner Bros, sought a sequel - giving Burton carte blanche and a phenomenal $80 million budget. What he delivered has to be one of the most astounding summer-blockbusters ever made: grotesque to the extreme, Burton’s Batman Returns was a German expressionist horror with a McDonald’s tie-in. Parent groups and promotional partners were horrified at Danny DeVito’s Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer’s PVC clad Catwoman. Whilst not a strict Batman film in the traditional sense, it is a splendid comic book film in the tradition of Bizarro, or Elseworlds series. The cinematography and the breathtaking Germanic sets, coupled with the wintry setting and haunting Danny Elfman score, make Batman Returns a feast for eyes and ears.

Coming in Part 3 - how Batman survived Joel Schumacher and began again with Chris Nolan.

El Capitan Theatre For Sale

The owner of the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood has put the historic building up for sale for $31 million, per The Associated Press (via Variety).

Disney restored the theater, originally built in 1926 for stage productions, in 1991, and will remain the long-term tenant. Disney showcases one children's film release at a time, with pre-show entertainment.

Owner CUNA Mutual Group, a financial services company, is based in Wisconsin and got the building in 1994 when the previous owner walked away after the Northridge Earthquake.

El Capitan is a designated national landmark just across Hollywood Boulevard from Grauman's Chinese Theatre. The $31 million price tag also includes the six-story office building above the theater where Jimmy Kimmel Live has its studio and offices.

New 'Spirit' photos

There's a new set of photos from 'The Spirit' making the round.

Check out these 9 new images from the film, directed by Frank Miller from the comics by Will Eisner. 'The Spirit' is due in theaters this December from Lionsgate.

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