Thursday, September 25, 2008

News - 09/25/08...

The Art and Technology of Bolt

Disney Insider peers into the soul of its soon-to-be-released animated feature Bolt and finds technological advancements only enhancing the fine art nature of its animated films. “Taking cues from the art world, Disney animators have captured the essence of Edward Hopper’s visual poetry by giving Bolt a lush, painterly feel reminiscent of Disney greats Pinocchio and Bambi.” and Now Offering Free Streaming Anime and have announced that starting today they will both be offering free subtitled and dubbed anime for streaming viewing online. Joost will be adding additional titles from Viz to their current lineup of Viz, Sony and Gong Productions shows. The new offerings including Death Note, Naruto and Bleach, all uncut in Japanese with English subtitles and a TV-14 rating. will be featuring titles from Viz including
Naruto, Death Note in Japanese with English subtitles, and the English-dubbed Mushi-Shi. In the future, new titles from FUNimation will be added, including Basilisk and Peach Girl
among others.

Both services plan to add new episodes regularly.

Read more about Joost in the VIZ Media press release
Source for Hulu details:

Filling You In on the Fun: Chris Yost Talks "Next Avengers"

To celebrate the release of Next Avengers: Heroes Of Tomorrow, the Marvel Animation Age/Toon Zone News sat down with screen writer Chris Yost via email to talk about his work on the film and offer a few glimpses to his other future projects.

Marvel Animation Age/Toon Zone News: How did you come to work on Next Avengers: Heroes Of Tomorrow?

CHRIS YOST: Writer Greg Johnson, who wrote the first four Marvel animated films, developed Next Avengers with Craig Kyle, but by the time it was ready to script, Greg was hip-deep into the currently airing Wolverine and the X-Men series. So I was luckily able to step in and lend a hand.

MAA/TZN: How did the concept of Next Avengers come together? Was it a case of wanting younger Avengers or showing what happened to the older ones?

The first four movies - Ultimate Avengers, Ultimate Avengers 2, Invincible Iron Man, and Dr. Strange - were geared more toward older audiences, and fans. So with the fifth movie, they wanted something for the younger audiences, something kid focused and PG rated.

Marvel's got a history of 'next generation' Avengers properties, like Avengers Next and Young Avengers, but we decided to go with original characters, in part to make them even younger, and also to make them the actual children of the Avengers... to give them the legacy in name, spirit, and in their genes.

MAA/TZN: What made you decide which Avenger's kids made the cut and how did you the figure out the logistics of them all?

Those decisions were made in the development phase, which I missed out on unfortunately. But part of the decision was to base them on the characters we saw in Ultimate Avengers 1 & 2, and while Next Avengers isn't a direct sequel for obvious reasons, if you're familiar with those films, you'd be familiar with those Avengers.

MAA/TZN: Other DTVs have seemingly been aimed at an adult demographic. Is it fair to say that the primary audience for this one is children and teens? What caused the shift?

It's absolutely something for kids and teens... this is a movie that can hopefully bring in a new generation of Avengers and Marvel fans. Like I said earlier, Marvel had just done four movies for the older fans... this time, we went younger. The next movie, Hulk Vs. definitely skews much older, even moreso than Ultimate Avengers.

MAA/TZN: What made you decide to use Ultron as the villain?

The classic Avengers have a handful of marquee villains... Ultron is one of the best. Hugely powerful, evil, immortal (after a fashion), he also fit the bill for the futuristic setting.

MAA/TZN: Which character did you find was your favourite to write?

I personally leaned toward Hawkeye, but Pym was very easy to write. I like the jokes.

MAA/TZN: Flip question – which aspect of the feature did you find the most difficult to write?

Stark as a parent was a little tricky, because the Tony Stark we know and love is the farthest thing from a father figure. But it was fun to think about how he changed and evolved during his years with the kids. Like a boot camp for parenting. But you know he had to be a pretty fun and cool 'dad' at times.

MAA/TZN: You are perhaps better known for your comedic work, such as the criminally underrated Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes. Did working with the younger characters give you more of an incentive to go down the funny route or do you see this as an action piece?

I think kids lend themselves to humor, and finding the humor in some pretty tough circumstances. But for me, personally, action comedy is my thing. I love to blow something up and then have a good laugh about it.

MAA/TZN: What do you consider to be the advantages and disadvantages of working on a feature length project rather than a weekly television series? Which do you ultimately prefer?

Depending on the series, you can really develop characters over arcs. Some shows, like Fantastic Four, were designed to be 'done-in-one' series, where there are no overreaching arcs. Other shows choose to do more of a serial thing.

Doing the feature lengths is great, because you get to tell a bigger longer story in one shot... but for me, I always want more. I want the story to continue. So in that regard, I like the series better.

MAA/TZN: What do you consider the highlight of your career so far?

YOST: The fact that I have one. Seeing my name on screen for my first X-Men: Evolution was a pretty big thrill. Honestly, I know it sounds cliche, but to be involved with Marvel is a dream job. It's a job, a hard job, but even the hard stuff is a joy.

MAA/TZN: Many fans have been sceptical about the release since it was initially announced. Any final comments to make them change their mind and pick up the release?

It's the best reviewed Marvel DTV yet. You should have seen the audience at Comic-Con. Mostly adults. All cheering, laughing, gasping, and loving it. Scratch the earlier answer, that screening may have been the highlight of my career.

MAA: You’re serving as the story editor on Iron Man: Animated Adventures. What else can you tease us with before it debuts on Nicktoons in January?

It's a big series, and like I was mentioning with the whole overreaching arcs... Iron Man: Armored Adventures has them. It's definitely more serial in nature than Fantastic Four, and more like the X-Men: Evolution version of Iron Man. It's young Tony Stark, but with the same high stakes and huge action that you'd expect from the adult version. A revamped rogues' gallery, guest stars... and a lot of armor.

The Marvel Animation Age/Toon Zone News would like to thank Chris for once again taking the time to talk to us. Cheers Chris!

TELETOON Announces 2008 Animation Scholarship Winners

TELETOON has announced the winners of the 2008 TELETOON Animation Scholarship, recognizing the talents of young animators across Canada at the high-school/CEGEP level, current animation students, and graduating animation students. The winning animations will be available for viewing on the TELETOON web site starting on September 29, 2008.

The winners this year are:

Entrance (Graduating high school students or CEGEP students.)

First Place: Azim Ahmed , John Fraser Secondary School, Mississauga, ON
My Mom - A music video chronicling the true story of a mother’s sad story and a father’s deceit.

Second Place: Kristen Dingman, South Central High School, Oyen, AB
Just a Game - A fatal game of chess between an angel and a devil has a grave effect on the lives of fragile mortals.

Third Place: Janie Grenier, l’Académie les Estacades, Trois-Rivières, QC
Mr. Fish - A bored gold fish comes up with an idea to entertain himself.

Continuing(Students currently studying animation at the post-secondary level.)

First Place: Jonathan Ng, Concordia University, Montreal, QC
Just Another Floor Kids Battle - Two dancers square off in an old school B-Boy battle.

Second Place: Raechel Dickey, Max the Mutt Animation School, Toronto, ON
Aviation - Two aviators attempt to find the root of the problem with their bi-plane.

Third Place: Yuriy Sivers, Sheridan College, Oakville, ON
Cousin Tony - When a sting operation goes wrong, a stray cat is disguised as the cousin of the Don.

Most Promising (Students graduating from a post-secondary animation program.)

First Place: Vladimir Kooperman, Sheridan College, Oakville, ON
C Block - A canine separated from his favourite chew toy goes on a fantastic and frustrating journey to get it back.

Second Place: James Higuchi, Sheridan College, Oakville, ON
Parental Guidance – The influence of sex, drugs and alcohol is explored in this short film. Higuchi received the third place award in the continuing category in the 2007 TELETOON Animation Scholarship.

Third Place: Nat Dart, Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver, BC
The Nature of Battle - A dramatic solution to the act of warfare is explored.

Voters Choice Award

Entrance: Janie Grenier, l’Académie les Estacades, Trois-Rivières, QC
Mr. Fish - A bored gold fish comes up with an idea to entertain himself.

Continuing: Kelly Turnbull, Sheridan College, Oakville, ON
The Celestial Ox - A heavenly party animal, the Celestial Ox is charged with providing food for all mankind.

Most Promising: Mike Brodie, Sheridan College, Oakville, ON
Meet the Porcupine and the Balloon - A rock ‘n’ roll adventure of a porcupine and his birthday balloon

Uh-Oh! Disney Princess Spaghettios?

Eat your heart out, Andy Warhol! I saw this ad (click thumbnail below) in the Sunday newspaper coupon section (yes, I clip coupons). I don’t know exactly why, but this product just seems wrong. Yeah they’ve had Dora, Cars and Danny Phantom shaped Spaghettios and Chicken Soup for years, and that never bothered me. But these labels — advertising Cinderella, Ariel and Belle as “shapes” — feels demeaning and is possibly sexist. Or am I being too sensitive? Maybe I’ll just stick with my Chef Boyardee Smurf Beefaroni.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Upcoming in Japan

According to GhibliWiki, VAP announced that the Castle of Cagliostro Blu-ray edition of Hayao Miyazaki's Lupin III action anime will be released on December 3. Lupin the 3rd: BD Boxset of the 1st and 2nd TV series will be released on December 12.

Via Anime News Network -

The second anime series adapting Peach-Pit's magical girl Shugo Chara! will be titled Shugo Chara!! Doki and run on Japanese TV starting October 4th.

Aoi Nakamura of idol group Morning Musume will star in a live-action television adaptation of Motohiro Katou's detective manga Q.E.D.

AnimeNation notes that Madhouse’s adaptation of Hiromoto Sin-Ichi's horror comedy Hells Angels, will be a movie rather than an OVA. The feature will premier at the 21st annual Tokyo International Film Festival next month.

Trailers/previews -
Michiko to Hatchin has its own YouTube Channel
Lucky Star OVA
Macademi Wasshoi!
Switch OVA

Worth Checking Out

Via Robot Japan

Designer Nagi Noda's (Honey and Clover opening) final music video

More of her work here

Devil Man fan art

Ghost in the Shell, Warhammer 40k: Batou and the Major/a>

Matt Thorn posted early Japanese animation

Takadanobaba Train Station's Tezuka mural

Anime News Network looks at the significance of Taro Aso taking of the office of Japan's Prime Minister from an anime/manga perspective here
Through Otaku Eyes looks at Taro Aso's otaku cred

Brigid Alverson weighs in on TOKYOPOP's revamped Manga Pilots

Emmy Rossum on playing Dragon Ball's Bulma

AniPages Dailys talks Asian animation

Otaku USA on Tagro's Weird World

Strange isn’t new to Morning 2. They have gay cooking comics, hard-boiled Yuri dramas and are also the people who brought you Jesus and Buddha together in a Tokyo apartment. But with HenZemi they cross a line of that even makes the industry take notice… How often does anything with the word hentai attached to it do that?

Patrick Macias liveblogged from Individual Fashion Expo IV

Production I.G presents The Making of Asience 5 part II: Kazuto Nakazawa (Director)

The Gurren Lagann compilation movie reviews

Andrew Osmond on X-rated manga

A recording of Helen McCarthy's Osamu Tezuka film fest talk

Matt Thorn on The Rise and Fall of “Shôjo”

Subatomic Brainfreeze on Cartoon Network's handling of anime and the fan reaction here

Ogiue Maniax proposes Let’s Generate a Fetish

A preview of 46 anime from the fall season

Anime Masterpieces Preview

On September 27th, the Anime Masterpieces program will premiere their Grave of the Fireflies presentation at the UC Berkeley Pacific Film Archive.

Panelists at the event include:
Roland Kelts: author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the US, Lecturer at the University of Tokyo and the University of the Sacred Heart Tokyo, an editor of A Public Space literary journal, and a columnist for The Daily Yomiuri

Susan J. Napier: Professor of Japanese Studies at Tufts University, author of The Fantastic in Japanese Literature: The Subversion of Modernity, Anime from Akira to Howl's Moving Castle, and, most recently, From Impressionism to Anime: Japan as Fantasy and Fan Cult in the Mind of the West

Frederik L. Schodt: author of Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga and The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution

Ian Condry: Foreign Languages and Literatures at MIT, author of Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization


Grave of the Fireflies ©1988 Akiyuki Nosaka/Shinchosha Co. All rights reserved.

Grave of the Fireflies is Isao Takahata's adaptation of Akiyuki Nosaka's semi-autobiographic novella concerning a pair of orphans in the wake of America's 1945 firebombing of Kobe, Japan.

While Takahata's renown is eclipsed by Hayao Miyazaki's on the international stage, Takahata was never the less a vital partner throughout the history of Studio Ghibli, and Grave of the Fireflies marked his transition from directing Toei Doga adventures to the realist or reminiscing works that he would produce at Ghibli. The 1988 anime film was initially released in Japan as a double feature with Miyazaki's buoyant fable of two sisters encountering a fuzzy forest spirit, "My Neighbor Totoro." While Totoro would go on to become Ghibli's mascot, the rationale for pairing Takahata's animated requiem with Miyazaki's soon to be beloved pastoral was the commercial uncertainty surrounding Miyazaki's idea.

The contrast between My Neighbor Totoro, in which the difficulties of real family dynamics are able to be glimpsed, but largely obscured beneath the wonder, and Grave of the Fireflies’ irresistible insistence on facing reality is stark. As the Anime Masterpieces study guide states "Takahata has noted in interviews that the story in Grave of the Fireflies is brutally simple: two orphaned siblings try and fail to survive in postwar Japan."

To quote quoting Takahata on the Central Park Media DVD release of Grave of the Fireflies. (CPM is largely dormant in terms of marketing/distributing anime, so while the DVD is not hard to find, it is getting scarcer)

The film was very well received from the start because of its themes, of course. People thought it was a very meaningful work. It was a little awkward in a way, because it was double-featured with My Neighbor Totoro. The response was different depending on which film was shown first. My Neighbor Totoro would make them happy, then this Grave of the Fireflies... Those who saw Totoro first didn't want to see Fireflies to the end. Those who saw Fireflies first didn't have that problem, and stayed to the end. The double featuring was a problem, I'd say.

Miyazaki and Takahata would cross trajectories at times during their careers. Miyazaki's Nausicaa manga would start with one of his undauntable female heroines swooping through danger as she glides into the fungal forests of a post apocalyptic world. When he finally completed the manga 14 years later, the character's defining heroism had turned from her bright eyes, open heart and quick thinking and become her ability to move forward no matter how much she wanted to weep for what she saw. Meanwhile, Takahata's works developed a fantastic resignation, as in the Que Será, Será closing musical number in My Neighbors the Yamadas or the final push as the shape changing tanuki lose their natural habitat in Pom Poko. Wikipedia notes that on Ghibli's Otsuka Yasuo no Ugokasu Yorokobi, the great animation director Yasuo Otsuka (Castle of Cagliostro) stated "Miyazaki gets his sense of social responsibility from Takahata and that without Takahata, Miyazaki would probably just be interested in comic book stuff."

Part of the greatness of Grave of the Fireflies is that despite its origins as a personal story, it is also universal.

The recent film The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas adapts John Boyne's novel of a boy who is the son of the commander general of Auschwitz.

Speaking of the novel, Boyne wrote

"For me, a 34-year-old Irish writer, it seemed that the only respectful way to approach the subject was through innocence, with a fable told from the point of view of a rather naive child who couldn't possibly understand the horrors of what he was caught up in. I believe that this naivety is as close as someone of my generation can get to the dreadfulness of that period."

It's critical to note that Akiyuki Nosaka was not removed from the experience of post war Japan as depicted in Grave of the Fireflies and neither was Takahata. (Hayao Miyazaki was born into a family that made airplane parts and his experiences in the post war year informed a My Neighbor Totoro rather than a Grave of the Fireflies.) While Grave of the Fireflies was written and adapted from the perspective of personal experience, by artfully and convincingly relating its story through the vantage of children, Grave of the Fireflies can speak to an American audience a decade into the 21st century.

Unlike the majority of anime,
Grave of the Fireflies
is not escapist entertainment. Works of its emotional impact often require extra motivation to seek out. Given that it is probably a fair generalization that the last thing most people gravitate to is a cause for lingering sadness, this is one of those DVDs that are libel to sit on a shelf unopened. Hopefully, the opportunity to hear from topical authorities offered by Anime Masterpieces will be a compelling factor that draws audiences to this important film.

Especially since its boom in the late 90's it's more or less always been an interesting time to follow anime. Depending on the vantage, it currently looks like watching a collapse. Hardly short on company these days, its economic woes are extensive. Long time distributors have struggled, gone dormant or gone out of business. The number of new productions to be licensed for distribution in North America has drastically shrunk, while the idea of releasing older anime is now largely viewed as an untenable proposition. Unauthorized digital distribution has replaced the recently cancelled Cartoon Network Toonami programming block as a primary channel for introducing to anime content.

In contrast to the problems that anime production and distribution face in remaining viable, commercial enterprises, there is apparently no shortage of interest. One of the more noteworthy expressions of this enthusiasm is the continuing expansion and diversification of anime focused events.

Recent or upcoming events include:

UK's Barbican Film retrospective on Osamu Tezuka, marking the 80th anniversary of his birth

Anime Weekend Atlanta (September 19-21) the 14th iteration of an anime convention with a reputation for attracting long standing, informed anime fans

The annual "Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits" (SGMS) workshop at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) (September 26 - September 28), hosting speakers including Yoshitoshi ABe (Serial Experiments Lain, Haibane Renmei)

The New York Anime Festival, (September 26 - September 28) a convention featuring a unique range of guests

Yaoi-Con (September 26 - September 28), a special interest event dedicated to yaoi anime/manga

NYTFGP2008 Festival Part One, (starting September 28th), showing Studio 4.C and the live action Grave of the Fireflies

Providence Anime Conference (October 3-5), an experiment in tailoring the anime convention to a 21+ audience

Anime After Dark (October 18th) in Somerville Massaschusetts, screening 12 hours of anime, including Grave of the Fireflies, Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society, Project A-Ko, Tekkon Kinkreet and Millenium Actress

Along with other assorted events

As this list demonstrates, while the ability to sell anime DVDs might be dwindling, the ways in which interested media consumers can celebrate or explore anime are expanding.

There is a notion of an "anime convention" as a calcified format, in which fans run discussions of popular topics and present their costumes and edited music videos, distribution companies promote their upcoming releases and retailers sell their wares. And many prominent events adhere to this framework, while differentiating themselves with the guests that they host or musical acts that they book. The limitation to the format, or at least how it has been widely implemented, is that it has become the domain of younger fans. At a large anime convention it is difficult to feel comfortable if you are older than legal drinking age and difficult to attract an audience for a panel on a topic like urban vinyls or black and white anime. To this young audience, anime itself and socializing at an anime themed event, is the new or exciting territory. As such, there is little motivation for horizon expansion.

Anime Masterpieces is a program that will offer a format for exploring anime outside either a strictly academic or strictly fan focused context.

As Roland Kelts explained

"One of the things that attracts me to this project is an attempt to bridge the world of anime expos, anime festivals and so on, which are wonderful, but are often a combination of trade fair and fan celebration, with the academic or university based study of anime, which tend to proceed with academic conferences that are not necessarily accessible to the common fan. Academics, authorities and writers can reach out to audience directly rather than just talking amongst themselves."

The program is comprised of three components:
A screening of the subject work - when possible this will be done with a film print, as intended for a theatrical run, rather than a projected video.

A Seminar - lectures an panel discussions in which groups of topical authorities can speak to audiences outside a strictly academic format.

A study guide - a collection of essays from academics and authorities providing a broader context to the subject by examining it through cultural, historical and academic lenses. For example, the 20 page Grave of the Fireflies study guide features essays by Kelts, Ian Condry, Susan J. Napier, Brian Ruh (Stray Dog of Anime: The Film of Mamoru Oshii), Frederik L. Schodt and Charles Solomon (Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation). The guide also offers questions that educators, professors, and teachers can raise in the classroom for further discussion. Instructor's guides are on the program's agenda for future expansion.

Host institutions will have an opportunity to select subsets of the components to fit their own anime programming or curriculums. Kelts notes that some universities have put in orders for the study guide exclusively, rather than immediately plan a screening.


Anime Masterpieces aims to engage a diverse range of audiences including academics and student, anime fans, or the simply curious. While that sounds like too many intentions to carry out in a single initiative, the Grave of the Fireflies study guide is a convincing demonstration of the widecast strategy's potential for success. Rather than supposing that the reader is approaching the program in with set of knowledge or interests, it just supposes that the reader is engaged.

Editor in-chief Kelts' essay/introduction and overview "God is in the Details: The Subtleties of War" begins on the macro level, placing Grave of the Fireflies within context of intertwines histories of anime and manga, and the framework for these media as established by Osamu Tezuka. After laying out an overview of the other essays, Kelts transitions into giving the movie a power, personal context, ensuring that the reader the remembers that Grave of the Fireflies is a reflection of situations and events that did happen and did shape the lives of the survivors.

Among probably almost any relevant topic in manga, Schodt is an authority on manga's adaptation into anime, especially as it pertains to the work of Tezuka. Here, he applies that understanding of process and the way that the thinking of the adapter may or may not overlap with that of the initial author to Takahata's adaptation of Nosaka's novella. Solomon addresses how Grave of the Fireflies fits within and stands out from the traditions of animated films in North American and Japan. These narratives that Schodt and Solomon relate should interest any appreciator of a major work of any medium

Napier's discussion of postwar themes of emasculation in the movie and Condry's links between the movie and emakimono picture scrolls from the 12 century offer more scholastic avenues on which to discuss Grave of the Fireflies.

Finally, Ruh's "Anime Perspectives: Transforming the Real" is an invitation to consider where Grave of the Fireflies fits into the scheme of anime. One of the defining characteristics of otaku/geeks is an obsession with categorization, and Ruh's essay opens up a number of gateways to that debate.

Though it is possible to best-fit these essays to specific audiences in this way, the discussions do complement each other. Likewise, it is possible to foresee these threads cross-pollinated in a panel discussion. For example, it would be interesting to consider applying the gender studies questions raised in Napier's essay with considerations of categorizing anime raised in Ruh's.

Print is only a facet of Anime Masterpieces, but it is telling how the program differentiates itself in that arena. It is possible to fill a shelf or two with scholarly anime books. While these are comprehensible to a lay person, they generally spend more time speaking about the enthusiasts than to them. Conversely, there are a host of anime fan, print resources, but these often approach anime through buyers guides or promotion/advocacy. At their best, these are insightful (Manga: the Complete Guide, various features in Otaku USA or Protoculture Addicts), but they are essentially special interest works.

The books that are in-depth, approachable examinations of topics in anime, such as Ruh's Stray Dog of Anime and Andrew Osmond's Spirited Away (BFI Films Classics) have been rare. Yet, along those lines, the Grave of the Fireflies study guide succeeds in bringing together perspectives that could inform a range of audiences, whether they are academic, enthusiast or curious.


Anime Masterpiece's second program will look at Studio 4°C's adaptation of TekkonKinkreet.

The study guide features essayw by Pulitzer Prize historian, John W. Dower (author of Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II), Susan J. Napier, and Roland Kelts, with additional commentary from Frederick L. Schodt and Charles Solomon as well as director Michael Arias, screenwriter Anthony Weintraub, and Japanese producer Tanaka Eiko.

With TekkonKinkreet, Anime Masterpieces hopes to include the artists and creators if host institutions are interested.

It takes two points to plot a line, and from a number of standpoints, the pairing of Grave of the Fireflies with TekkonKinkreet looks like the beginning of a course of progression for Anime Masterpieces.

In terms of expanding the scope, it is an opportunity to delve into anime's sibling medium, manga. Unlike
Grave of the Fireflies, TekkonKinkreet is based on manga, and as such, a discussion of how a serialized manga was adapted into a 110 minute movie should offer Anime Masterpiece a deep vein to mine.

In reinforcing what
Grave of the Fireflies
says of the medium, the pair of movies have the ability to reach out to academic audiences , unfamiliar with anime's diversity and potential.

Back when Osamu Tezuka opened Mushi Productions and started the industry of Japanese animation for television, he recognized that the work needed to be produced quickly and cheaply. By necessity, anime has largely been created as a product. That is not to say that it is devoid of artistic merit, but producing animation is seldom inexpensive or easy, as such, anime production often needs to concede to economics and market pressures. This is an important aspect of the story of anime and according to Roland Kelts, Anime Masterpieces hopes to address conventional anime television series with future discussion panels and screenings.

Yet, both Grave of the Fireflies and TekkonKinkreet are exceptions in the anime tradition. If as hoped, Anime Masterpieces can run a double feature or weekend presentation of the two movies, the juxtaposition should prove fascinating. Hold up a still of Grave of the Fireflies, where the lineage of Disney and Fleischer is still evident, next to a still of TekkonKinkreet, which looks to the unidealized caricatures of Taiymo Matsumoto's manga, and an eyeball reaction would suggest that they couldn't be more different. Look at them from the philosophical angle, and the parallels begin emerging. They are movies in a tradition that has flourished with its serialized TV. As Kelt notes, both are "aesthetically challenging" works concerning "orphan kids fending for themselves in post apocalyptic, transforming worlds." Takahata with Studio Ghibli and Arias with Studio 4°C push the boundaries of anime and their own bodies of work with this pair of movies.

Responding to questions as to whether Anime Masterpieces will address the potential for art in anime and how its chosen subject speak to that potential, Roland Kelts stated

The medium can be discussed as an art form and as a reflection of historical moments. One of the reasons that Professor John Dower is getting involved is that he has a career as an authority on Japanese history and Japanese visual representations, but his knowledge stops at anime and manga. He wanted to learn more about what these specific visual representations tell us about Japanese post war history, Japan's images of itself and the world, and what these images tell us about Japan's images of the future.


To reach out to those academics who may not be acquainted with anime and manga, [Anime Masterpieces] starts with a title like Grave of the Fireflies where there is so much that can be discussed... so much related to academic disciplines such as the study of history, the study of war, the study of cultural expectations in sociology and anthropology...

Even among the media junkie crowd of people who watch anime or are keenly aware of it, these conversations on the artistic dimension of anime, raised by Anime Masterpieces are far from settled issues.

On one hand, anime comes in for some eye rolling among fans of other spheres of geek media. For example, in a recent video game podcast, a commentator had to quickly preface his statement with a disclaimer that he wasn't an anime fan before crediting Grave of the Fireflies as a movie that made him cry.

On the other, neither Grave of the Fireflies nor TekkonKinkreet is a beacon for fan enthusiasm in the manner of a lot of popular anime. TekkonKinkreet specifically was the subject of a remarkable amount of ambivalence and criticism within dedicated anime outlets (among user submitted reactions at Anime News Network, the movie is ranked 283 with a Bayesian estimate of 7.84046 out of 10; site founder Justin Sevakis New York Anime Festival September 28th and at The Clark Museum in Williamstown, MA on October 2nd.

Kelts will also be conversing with Yomiuri Prize winning novelist Haruki Murakami following Murakami's reading at Berkley's Zellerbach Hall October 11th.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost the Thompson Twins in 'Tintin'?

A profile on actor Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) in the TimesOnline reveals that Steven Spielberg has offered the role of the Thomson Twins in the 'Tintin' movie to he and frequent co-star Nick Frost.

...he gets a call saying Steven Spielberg would like to meet him...

So he trots over to the motion-capture set for the 'E.T.' director’s latest project - the first in a trilogy of 'Tintin' movies. Motion-capture sets are bizarre, empty places. The event has been shot and is held in a computerized camera, which allows the director to swoop around the scene. As a result, there is only a computer guy and Spielberg sitting there.

"Steven’s smoking a stogy, cap on head, like he’s always been since I was a baby," Pegg says, shaking his head in wonder. “I shook his hand and chatted about films. He gave me the mo-cap [motion-capture] camera, and I had a play around with it. Then he said, ‘Hey, maybe you and Nick Frost could play the Thompson Twins.’ In Tintin. A Spielberg movie. To work with him is beyond .. . ” He trails off, lost for words.

Foxy Megan Fox fit for 'Fathom'? reports that 'Transformers' babe Megan Fox has signed on to star in the movie adaptation of 'Fathom'.

The film, based on the comics by the late, great Michael Turner had been in and out of development as an animated and then a live action feature for many, many years. With Turner's tragic passing this summer, some may have assumed that interest in the movie would have ceased.

However an unnamed source which is said to be "reliable" by IESB, has said that 20th Century Fox is still working on the project and has recently handed the work off to their burgeoning genre division Fox Atomic.

The studio is looking for writers to rework the script for Megan Fox.

"Batman: Mad Love" Motion Comic Included On Upcoming "The Dark Knight" Release

The Batman: Mad Love Warner Motion Comic is among the bonus features listed in the initial specs for the upcoming The Dark Knight Blu-ray release.

The recent Warner Motion Comic Batman: Mad Love, a comic book one-shot based on Batman: The Animated Series, is slated to be one of the bonus features on the highly-anticipated The Dark Knight Blu-ray release. Available online, the Warner Motion Comic brings stories to life the use of subtle movements, voice-overs, sweeping music scores and stunning comic book artwork. The comic is described as follows, as seen below.

Batman: Mad Love is taken directly from the pages of the Eisner Award-winning single issue graphic novel by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. The story revolves around The Joker's sidekick Harley Quinn who is madly in love with him. She uses crime to demonstrate her love for her "Puddin'" and sets out to commit the ultimate act of love - killing Batman.

An official announcement on the upcoming
The Dark Knight
DVD and Blu-ray release is expected shortly. Stay tuned for further updates.

Cars 2 Moved Up, Oprah Joins Frog Cast

Disney announced Wednesday that the Pixar sequel Cars 2 will race into theaters a year earlier than planned. Originally slated for release during the summer 2012, the pic will instead bow in the summer of 2011. In other News, Oprah Winfrey has joined the voice cast of Walt Disney Feature Animation’s The Princess and the Frog, which marks a return to traditional, 2D animation.

At last reporting, Brad Lewis, producer of
Ratatouille, was attached to direct Cars 2. The sequel will see the return of Lightning McQueen, Mater and other automotive stars of the 2006 hit that grossed roughly $462 million worldwide. The first film was directed by John Lasseter (Toy Story, Toy Story 2), who is busy producing such upcoming Disney and Pixar films as The Princess and the Frog, Up and Toy Story 3. Lasseter announced that Pixar will produce a series of Cars shorts dubbed “Cars Toons,” which will air on Disney Channel and possibly screen in theaters.

The Princess and the Frog, Winfrey will voice the role of Eudora, mother of title character Princess Tiana, a young African-American girl living in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The story also involves a soulful singing crocodile, voodoo spells and heaping helpings of Cajun charm. Dreamgirls actress Anika Noni Rose voices the role of Tiana, lading a cast that includes John Goodman, Angela Bassett, Keith David and Jennifer Lewis. The movie’s songs and score are written by Oscar-winning songwriter/composer and New Orleans native Randy Newman, who previously contributed to the Toy Story Films and fellow Pixar hits A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc. and Cars.

The story for
Princess was conceived by John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules), who are directing the pic. Disney animation vet Peter Del Vecho (Chicken Little)
is producing.

Lilo and Stitch team start training dragons

The Seward Street blog mentions that former Lilo and Stitch teammates Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois have re-teamed as director and writer, respectively, on DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon.

Depp is Burton’s Mad Hatter

Johnny Depp has signed on to perform the role of the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which will be brought to the screen in stereoscopic 3-D via performance-capture animation. The pic is just one of several Disney productions the actor has committed to. He’s also suiting up for a fourth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean saga, and is set to play Tonto in a new Lone Ranger flick. The announcements were made during a preview of upcoming Mouse House productions at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood on Wednesday.

The adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s
Alice in Wonderland is part of a two-picture deal inked between Disney and Burton. Written for the screen by Linda Woolverton (The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast), the movie is being produced by Richard Zanuck, Joe Roth, Suzanne Todd and Jennifer Todd.

We’re told that Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Ken Ralston
(Forrest Gump, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) is on set in London as the senior visual effects supervisor, working with Sony Pictures Imageworks on the animation. David Schaub is the animation supervisor and Sean Phillips and Carey Villegas are visual effects supervisors for Imageworks.

The second pic Burton is making for Disney is a 3-D stop-motion feature based on his 1984 live-action short film
Frankenweenie. The film will center on a boy named Victor who, to the horror of his neighbors, brings his dead dog back to life. The toon will reportedly go into production after Wonderland
has wrapped.

Comedy Central Tames Futurama’s Beast

Comedy Central will host the world television premiere of the Futurama feature Beast with a Billion Backs starting on Sunday, October 19. Released on DVD over the summer, the new movie based on Matt Groening’s and David X. Cohen’s animated television series will be broken up to air as a four-part story arc.

Futurama: The Beast With A Billion Backs is the second of four new feature-length adventures based on the cancelled FOX series. This latest adventure finds Bender, Fry, Leela and the rest of the crew caught up in a disturbing, yet sensuous, interplanetary love story when they run afoul of a repulsive, planet-sized creature with billions of probing tentacles. Guest stars lending their voices to the film include David Cross (Alvin & The Chipmunks, Arrested Development), Brittany Murphy (King of the Hill, Sin City), Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons) and world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking.

Beast DVD hit retail in June and features commentary from Groening and Cohen, cast members Billy West, John DiMaggio and Maurice LaMarche, director Peter Avanzino and producers Claudia Katz, Lee Supercinski, and Michael Rowe. There’s also an entire 30-minute "lost” Futurama adventure produced for the Futurama video game, featurettes titled Meet Yivo! (behind the scenes with David Cross), storyboard animatics, deleted scenes, bloopers and a sneak peek at the next Futurama epic dubbed Bender’s Game
, which will debut on DVD on Nov. 4.

Futurama aired on FOX from 1999 to 2003 and saw 72 episodes produced. It was nominated for Emmys five conseutive years and won three, including Outstanding Animated Program of 2002. Revived for the home video market and Comedy Central, the show is produced and distributed by 20th Century Fox Television.

Liotta Dives Into SpongeBob Special

Actor Ray Liotta, best known for playing mobster Henry Hill in Goodfellas, is hiding out under the sea in the upcoming SpongeBob SquarePants special “WhoBob WhatPants?”. The half-hour comedic adventure will premiere on Monday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. on Nickelodeon, following a four-hour SpongeBob marathon that kicks off at 4 p.m.

When SpongeBob is struck with amnesia and drifts from Bikini Bottom, his friends fear that they’ve lost their pal forever in this latest sub-surface romp. Our absorbent friend wanders the ocean, a stranger in his own pants, until he encounters the leader of the dangerous Bubble Poppin’ Boys, voiced Liotta, and accidentally becomes a hero.

The broadcast premiere will be complimented by a new Game of the Week on Debuting on Thursday, Oct. 2, SpongeBob SquarePants: WhoBob WhatPants? Will ask players to help a confused SpongeBob as he tries to escape from the Bubble Poppin’ Boys who enforce a strict no-bubble policy. will also feature a custom video player, links to additional SpongeBob games, a special message board thread and a page of downloadable wallpapers, screensaver, printables and buddy icons. In addition, TurboNick will begin offering a sneak-peek of the special and other SpongeBob video content on Oct. 3.

SpongeBob SquarePants: “WhoBob WhatPants?” will be released on DVD on Tuesday, Oct. 14, and will also include five episodes from the show’s fifth season and four original animated shorts.

I Am Legend Prequel Green Lit

It appears that Will Smith will be fighting more CG-animated zombies, even though his character met his demise in the theatrically released version of the Warner Bros. surprise hit I Am Legend. Daily Variety reports that the studio has committed to a Legend prequel that will explore the days leading up to the mass evacuation that left scientist Robert Neville the sole surviving human in New York City.

Francis Lawrence, who helmed the first film, is reportedly on board to direct the followup. A script is being penned by relative newcomer D.B. Weiss, and the film will be produced by Akiva Goldsman through his Weed Road, along with Will Smith’s Overlook Ent. partner, James Lassiter.

Richard Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend, was first brought to the screen in 1964 with the Vincent Price vehicle The Last Man on Earth, followed by the 1971 Charlton Heston cult favorite The Omega Man. The Will Smith version features character animation and other effects by Sony Pictures Imageworks under visual effects supervisor Jim Berney.

Warner Bros. actually shot an alternate ending in which Smith’s character survives, and included it on the DVD release. Many fans prefer the alternate conclusion, not only because it’s a bit more upbeat, but because it preserves the complex pathos of Richardson’s novel. When the film raked in more than $584 million worldwide, Warner execs no doubt wished they had gone with that ending, as they suddenly had a tent pole on their hands and had to think up a way to bring Smith back.

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