Thursday, October 9, 2008

News - 10/09/08...

Marvel Announces Cartoon ‘Avengers’

With a slate of films planned that lead up to a massive superhero team-up, it’s no surprise that Marvel is putting its full effort behind the “Avengers” agenda. Today the publisher announced that a new cartoon series featuring animated versions of many of the characters with live-action films in the works will debut in 2011.

“The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” will feature the film-friendly lineup of Captain America, Iron Man, Ant Man, Hulk, Thor and Wasp, and will consist of 26 half-hour episodes produced by Film Roman (”Simpsons”). The “Avengers” animated series is the latest in a heap o’ cartoon projects scheduled to debut over the next few years from Marvel Animation, including “Marvel Super Hero Squad” and “The Black Panther” (debuting at some point next year), as well as “Wolverine and the X-Men” and “Iron Man: Armored Adventures” (debuting on Nicktoons in 2009).

In the official press release announcing the series, Marvel’s President of Animation, Eric Rollman, acknowledged the live-action tie-in component of the animated series.

“The addition of ‘The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ to our quickly expanding animation slate continues our plan to complement each of our tentpole live action features with an animated series,” said Rollman. “This new ensemble series tracks perfectly with our highly anticipated ‘Road to the Avengers’ strategy which includes some of Marvel’s biggest and most beloved characters, and which kicks off with two Avengers-themed feature films in summer 2011.”

It’s also worth noting that, if the lineup of the cartoon series does indeed mirror the intended lineup of the live-action film, this would confirm the presence of Wasp on the team — the only character without her own live-action feature. Previously, photos of Eva Longoria leaving Marvel HQ with a stack of “Avengers” comics kick-started a rumor that she might be up for the role of Wasp or one of the other female members of the Avengers.

The PR for the “Avengers” cartoon provides the following synopsis of the series: “When the planet is threatened by Super Villains, time traveling conquerors, alien invaders, mythical monsters and mad robots bent on the total destruction of humanity, when forces of evil are so overwhelming that no single hero has the power to save the world, when there is no hope left…the Avengers assemble!”

Check out the promotional art for the series below:

Tom Heads To Warner Bros.

Hot on the heels of their plans to bring Yogi Bear to the big screen, Warners have also announced their involvement in a ‘’Tom Thumb’’ movie. "Enchanted" director Kevin Lima will helm the film. Like the “Yogi” flick, “Thumb” will be a CGI/live-action hybrid with the title character expected to be computer animated.

The movie, which could be fast-tracked by the studio, is said to be a fresh take that will explore the character's origin story; the comedy-adventure is based on an original screenplay by "Saving Private Ryan" scribe Robert Rodat and will look at the heroism that a knight must summon after he is reduced to a pint size.

Tom Thumb is a British legend that dates as far back as the 1500s; the minuscule hero is known for getting himself into mischief in his parents' home and eventually winding up in the castle of King Arthur.

There have been a number of big screen takes on the character over the years, including a live-action musical from MGM in 1958 and a darker animated BBC film in 1993.

The Hollywood Reporter has all the details.

UK Green Party Spot Remixes Classic Animation

Brew reader Graeme Edgeler points out an appealing Green Party animated spot created for elections in the UK earlier this year. Not only is the commercial inspired by Fifties animation design, it also seamlessly integrates animation and characters from two 1950s public domain industrial films: It’s Everybody’s Business and Stop Driving Us Crazy. It’d be cool to see more mashups between classic cartoons and new animation, just like how older songs are sampled and remixed by contemporary musicians.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Murray on Mr. Fox

ComingSoon currently features an interview with actor Bill Murray on several of his most recent and upcoming films. In the article, Murray shortly discusses his role in the stop-motion flick The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which opens in theaters on November 6, 2009. Murray is set to voice a badger character in the animated movie.

$9.99 Gets Oscar-Qualifying Run

The independently produced stop-motion feature $9.99 will get a limited theatrical engagement to qualify for Academy Award consideration. Released by Regency, the Israeli-Australian co-production will open on Dec. 12 at the Music Hall in Los Angeles. It premiered at the Toronto Festival in September.

$9.99 marks the feature debut of Israeli-born director/animator Tatiana Rosenthal, whose short A Buck's Worth played at Sundance in 2005. Rosenthal has worked as an animator on such TV series such as Blue's Clues and The Wonder Pets!.

Co-financed by the Israeli Film Fund, $9.99 is based on a collection of macabre short stories by Etgar Keret (Wristcutters: A Love Story, Jellyfish). Australian actors Geoffrey Rush and Anthony LaPaglia provide voices for the production, which revolves around a group of characters living in an apartment complex in Sidney, each searching for meaning in their lives. The film is an expansion of A Buck’s Worth, a Sundance Lab project.

Little Bird Sells Novel’s Horrid Henry

Little Bird Rights has secured a number of new international broadcast deals for Novel Ent.’s animated series Horrid Henry. In the run up to MIPCOM ’08, the 52x11 show has been picked up by MNet in South Africa, RTP Portugal, Digiturk in Turkey and SVT Sweden. Little Bird holds worldwide television rights to the property outside of the U.K. and Germany.

Commissioned by CITV in the U.K., Horrid Henry centers on a headstrong boy constantly raging against the tyranny of adults, his irritating brother, Peter Perfect, and infuriating girls like Moody Margaret next door. The show is based on the set books written by Francesca Simon and illustrated by Tony Ross. Publisher Orion Children's Books has sold more than 11.5 million books in the U.K. alone. The tomes are available in 27 countries worldwide, including the U.S., and has been translated into 22 languages.

Broadcast deals had already been secured with Disney Channel in France, ZDF Germany, RTE Eire, RUV Iceland, NRK Norway and YLE Finland. CITV has commissioned a second season, bringing the number of episodes to 104. The second set of 52 installments is slated for delivery in the Spring of 2009. Novel has also signed a DVD distribution deal for the second season with Abbey Home Media Group, and has launched a touring Henry stage show with Watershed Prods., in association with Sheffield Theatres.

Lance Bass Joins Handy Manny Cast

After making young girls scream as part of the pre-fab pop group NSync and putting his moves to the test as a current contestant on Dancing with the Stars, Lance Bass is getting animated for a hit Disney Channel preschool show. The tabloid headline–making vocalist has signed on to voice a recurring guest role on Handy Manny, which stars Wilmer Valderrama (That ’70s Show) as the voice of the title character.

Bass plays the role of a klutzy, good-natured surfer dude named Elliot. In the episode premiering Friday, Oct. 10 at 9 a.m. (ET/PT), Elliot's new rooster, Milton, is crowing and waking up everyone in town. Manny must find a way to control Milton's crowing so that the neighbors are happy and Elliot can keep his pet.

Created by Roger Bollen, Marilyn Sadler and Emmy-wining writer and producer Rick Gitelson, Handy Manny follows the adventures of Manny Garcia, a bilingual Hispanic handyman with set of talking tools. The animation is produced by Toronto-based Nelvana.

Past Handy Manny guest stars have included Kurtwood Smith (That ’70s Show), Shelley Morrison (General Hospital), Fred Willard (WALL•E), Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller and rapper Snoop Dogg.

Josh Brolin is Jonah Hex?

Hollywood Elsewhere reports that Josh Brolin, who can be seen in next week's W., has signed on to star in Warner Bros. Pictures' Jonah Hex. This has yet to be confirmed by the studio, so stay tuned.

From Crank writers/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the film is based on the DC Comics title in which Hex, known for having the right side of his face disfigured and wearing a Confederate army uniform, was a rough-and-tumble gunslinger and part-time bounty hunter whose adventures always ended in blood.

"Jonah Hex," created by by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga, first appeared in the early 1970s in the issues of "All-Star Western" before graduating to his own series in 1977 that ran for about 10 years. A new series was launched in 2005. The character also had a run in the 1990s that combined the Western genre with supernatural elements.

Producer Lauren Shuler Donner Teases Wolverine... and Deadpool?

The secrets behind the origins of Marvel Comics' most popular mutant Wolverine remained murky and mysterious in the comic books for decades, and the filmmakers behind X-Men Origins: Wolverine have also been working furiously to keep the curtain drawn on Logan's cinematic beginnings before the movie bows next May.

But Hype! had a red carpet encounter with the film's producer, Lauren Shuler Donner (who also oversaw the "X-Men" films as well as a diverse assortment of features, from Pretty in Pink to Free Willy to You've Got Mail to the upcoming The Secret Life of Bees), and with a minor pop of the claws in her direction she gave up a few details on Logan's first solo outing on the big screen – and a possible spin-off for the "Merc with a Mouth," Deadpool.

CS/SHH!: What's the latest you can tell us about "Wolverine"?

Lauren Schuler Donner: May 1st, 2009
! I guess it's closer to the first "X-Men" in tone because it's a little darker, but there's a lot of action. It's his origin story. It's really good. I've been in the editing room the last couple of weeks and I think that it's good and that audiences are going to like it. But it's a little darker.

CS/SHH!: How is Hugh Jackman's interpretation of the character different or new, compared to what we've seen in the "X-Men" films?

Schuler Donner:
Well, you haven't seen this side of him. It's darker and sadder and it's kick-ass. There's a ton of action. It's really kick-ass.

CS/SHH!: How was working with Gavin Hood as the director?

Schuler Donner:
It was fun. It was good. I like taking someone out of the indie world and bringing someone into the action world because it grounds the movie. It gives it a reality. It gives it an emotional core, and then you can have as much fun and action in it as you want.

CS/SHH!: This was Gavin's first time playing with really big cinematic toys. Was there a learning curve on that for him?

Schuler Donner:
Yeah. He had a learning curve, but the thing basically for the director, honestly, it's sort of like, "Here's what I want..." and then the visual FX guys create that. Then it's like, "No. I want it more like this or like that." A director doesn't have to know how to do it. They have to know about lighting and shooting someone against green screen and that sort of stuff, but in terms of actually creating it, we do that.

CS/SHH!: And Ryan Reynolds is playing Deadpool.

Schuler Donner:
Yes. Ryan Reynolds is playing Deadpool... he plays Wade Wilson.

CS/SHH!: Is that in hopes of a "Deadpool" spin-off film?

Schuler Donner:
I hope so. I really hope so. He's so good at it.

CS/SHH!: Are there any comic book storylines in particular that the movie is drawing from?

Schuler Donner:
There's an "X-Men: Origins" that some of it is pulled from, and then it's sort of an amalgamation of some of them. But "X-Men: Origins" sort of goes back into his young, young past, and we started there. [Note: Schuler Donner is referring to the 2001 Origin miniseries by Bill Jemas, Joe Quesada, Paul Jenkins, Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove].

CS/SHH!: And is the Stan Lee cameo obligatory at this point, even though he didn't personally create Wolverine?

Schuler Donner:
Well, we shot in Australia, and so we don't have a Stan.

CS/SHH!: Oh no... Maybe he can get placed in the background digitally?

Schuler Donner:
Yeah, I know. Oh, you know what, we're doing some additional shooting in January and that's a good idea. I love Stan!

CS/SHH!: And on a personal note... you're about to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

Schuler Donner:
Yes, I am. I'm so excited.

CS/SHH!: What's it like getting THAT phone call?

Schuler Donner:
I was literally jumping up and down. I'm from Ohio and who gets a star, really?

CS/SHH!: You expect people in your movies to get them, but...

Schuler Donner:
Oh, of course. I went to Halle Berry's and that was cool, but me? It's great. And my husband ["Superman" director Richard Donner] is getting one and they're going to be next to each other. It's so great. I'm so excited.

Bell Flies With Astro Boy

Heroes' Kristen Bell has joined the voice cast of the upcoming computer-animated Astro Boy movie, from Hong Kong-based Imagi Studios. Variety reported.

The movie previously announced that Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland and Freddie Highmore had been cast.

The tale of a boy robot is an adaptation of the classic comic-book story created by manga author Osamu Tezuka and is slated for U.S. release Oct. 23, 2009.

Hulk DVD's New Scene--And Cameo?

The upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release of The Incredible Hulk will feature an alternate opening sequence that required new visual-effects work, VF/X supervisor Kurt Williams told a group of journalists on Oct. 8. But will it include a cameo by another famous Marvel superhero?

"It takes place on an arctic shell," Williams said in a group interview at the visual-effects house Rhythm & Hues in Marina del Rey, Calif. "Banner [Edward Norton] is desperate. He's on the run, which is in keeping with some of the original themes from not only the comic books but the TV series. We wanted to put him in a stark place where basically he was at the end of the world. At that point, he wanted to try and end his life. The frustration comes when he can't even end his life, because he Hulks out instead."

The alternate opening sequence is a DVD/Blu-ray bonus feature, which will give fans another glimpse of their favorite green monster. Williams said the sequence required more F/X work than simply the Hulk.

"We shot up in Bella Coola, north of Vancouver, just a little bit," Williams said. "We actually went up on the glacier with Edward and shot the majority of the scene there. The rest of it was an environment that we created from photos and other materials that we received from up there. So not only do we have a partial Hulk-out to deal with out there, we also had the entire environment, including falling snow."

The conditions in northern Canada were little better than the actual Arctic, so Williams and his digital wizards had to compensate for elements Mother Nature would not allow them to shoot in camera.

"It was a very inhospitable place to shoot," Williams said. "Oftentimes there'd be a storm coming in, and we would all have to jump into the helicopters and evacuate. That really caused us to create this environment. [We created a] cloud. We had to put the sun in a particular spot, because we couldn't shoot at the right time."

As for the rumors that Captain America had a cameo in the alternate opening sequence, Williams remained mum. "I can neither confirm nor deny that," he said. The Incredible Hulk DVD and Blu-ray drop on Oct. 21.

Director talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" airs in the U.S. on Friday nights on Cartoon Network

It had been three years since the final live-action “Star Wars” film, “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” was released in cinemas, so when it was announced that Lucasfilm was working on a CG-animated feature film called “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” that would in 2008 finally depict the oft-referenced Clone Wars saga, fans’ interests were piqued. However, when the film was released this past summer, “The Clone Wars” was met with mixed reactions from both critics and fans alike.

On the heels of the modest success of the film, Cartoon Network and Lusanfilm is launching a 22-episode weekly series — also called called “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” -- that continues the saga where the film left off. The show premiered its first two episodes last week, and airs new episodes every Friday night on America’s Cartoon Network.

“The Clone Wars” will feature such “Star Wars” mainstays Anakin, Padame, Obi-Wan and Yoda, as well as new or lesser known characters such as Jedi Master Plo Koon, General Rex, the evil Asajj Ventress and Ahsoka Tano, the little known Padawan of Anakin Skywalker. The show also boasts a voice cast that includes film star Samuel L. Jackson (“Iron Man,” “Jumper”) as Mace Windu, Seth Green (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” ”Robot Chicken”) as Jedi Master Kit Fisto and “Star Wars” legend Anthony Daniels reprising his role as the iconic C-3PO.

CBR News had the opportunity to talk to series Supervising Producer David Filoni, who also directed the recent film. Filoni spoke to us about the fans’ reactions to “The Clone Wars,” the new series, Anakin’s Padawan, and what it’s like to work with the Jedi Master, George Lucas himself.

CBR: George Lucas has stated that all the ideas for Star Wars are essentially “in his head,” rather than written down in a kind of series bible. As such, how much freedom do you have to come up with your own, fresh stories?

David Filoni:
It’s true. It’s a really interesting collaboration. In the beginning [writer] Henry Gilroy and I came up with a whole bunch of premises for stories that we might like seeing in The Clone Wars period. We sent those all to George and he either said yes or no. That’s where we got a lot of the early story. I think as George saw what we were doing with an animated series called “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” the level of detail and what we can do visually, he got more interested and came up with more story ideas of his own. He was also finishing “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” when we started. Literally, my first week working on the project that movie was in theaters, to give you a sense of the time-line of when we started working on this.

Scene from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" television series

I think George needed to cool down from the big media event of that release and that’s when we got him really interested in this. He’s very involved with all the stories and coming up with the ideas. But if I said, hey, I’d like to do an episode like this based on this other movie, he’ll always consider it and come back to me with ideas based on that. It’s turned out to be a really interesting collaboration over the years.

As a longtime fan, what is it like to grow up and work with George Lucas developing the saga and the Star Wars Universe?

It’s pretty bizarre, I got to say. It’s not anything I ever thought would happen. It wasn’t going to happen until George crated an animation division. I was in the right place at the right time and I was really fortunate to have the opportunity. It’s been a great experience. George is a really good teacher and I think he really wants to pass on a lot of the knowledge he has about filmmaking, not just to me but to a lot of people we have here working in animation. It’s been a really big plus for all of us. His editorial technique and the way he puts a film together, I can’t say how valuable that knowledge is to me and how it’s changed what I do for the better.

At the same time, it is a job I have to do and I take it very seriously on that level. I know the amount of work and the amount of people I have to lead. It’s important to me in that way. But every now and then, I’ll step back and kind of get that third person view of George and myself standing next to an Avid [digital editing suite] and looking at shots of “Star Wars” and think, that’s pretty cool. It can’t exist there everyday but it’s a lot of fun.

You directed the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” film that was released this summer. Were you surprised by fans’ mixed reactions to it, and how do you think it adds to the over-all “Star Wars” Saga?

Scene from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" television series

I found it really interesting. As a fan of “Star Wars” for so long, I always knew there would be debate. No matter what you do with “Star Wars,” you’re going to have a huge debate about it. I actually think its part of the fun of being a fan; having the big arguments over “I like this” and “I didn’t like that” or “this aspect fit with what I thought” but “this aspect didn’t.” I think one of the greatest things is that people are still talking about “Star Wars.” “Anakin has a Padawan? I’ve never heard of that before?” But now everybody is talking about the fact that Anakin has a Padawan and the movie introduced that idea.

It didn’t just introduce ideas about whom these new characters are but it introduced this whole other look for
“Star Wars.” I think it probably always was going to take people by surprise because it’s CG. It’s kind of a new frontier for the “Star Wars” universe. They’ve dabbled in cartoons before, as far back as “The Star Wars Holiday Special”
and more recently with the previous Cartoon Network “Star Wars: Clone Wars” series, but it’s never been this large a format. George was so heavily involved with the film and wanted it to be a whole new experience for “Star Wars” fans.

My take on it is it’s a really exciting time to be a
“Star Wars” fan. Fans thought after “Revenge Of the Sith” that there wouldn’t be any more “Star Wars.” But even now with the video game, “The Force Unleashed” and talk of the new live-action series, it’s just a good time to be a “Star Wars”

Will fans that haven’t seen the film yet be able to follow along with the series, and can new fans watch the show and understand what’s going on?

Scene from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" television series

Well I think that you can definitely just tune in and watch the series without having seen the film. Like anything, the more you know about the characters the better. The film obviously introduces some of the very new characters like Ahsoka, Anakin’s new Padawan, and shows you the beginning of their relationship as a master and apprentice. The series is very episodic, in that each episode is a very self-contained story. Sometimes the stories build up to little arcs. They’re telling the overall nature of the war, but you can tune in and watch any of them and understand the story and the message of that particular episode. With “Star Wars,” because it’s so well known, you will know some of the characters like Anakin and Obi-Wan, the basics that the casual fan knows are really obvious in the series.

I think that’s something that when we made this I was very aware of. In talking with George, he made it very clear the differences between writing stories that are within the world that kind of only speak to people that know the Star Wars Universe and an audience that just wants to tune in and watch a fantastic story. Some fans forget that when they first saw “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” they had no idea what a TIE Fighter or an X-Wing was. Or where they were built and who designed them. None of that was really important. It’s part of the myth that’s grown up around “Star Wars” now thirty years later.

But when you create these stories, it’s really good to keep your mind set on how we can still be like “A New Hope” and tell a fantastic story and have a Death Star, Wookiees, The Empire, Rebels and things like that. If you don’t have a history book on you, it’ll be okay, you’ll still understand the story. That’s one way to look at it when you write a story about Star Wars.

Do you consider “The Clone Wars” canon or part of the Expanded Universe? Is the old Cartoon Network show canon? How do the two relate and where do the two series fit in the Star Wars Universe?

Scene from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" television series

That’s one of the biggest debates in Star Wars, what counts? The idea of what is canon? When I talk to George, I know that he considers his movies, this series and his live-action series canon. And yet as a fan, I bring him a lot of information that is in the Expanded Universe and say, well this was done and this was done too. I get that information in front of him to see how he wants to use it or review it. I’ll try to add little touches and things that I know that the fans that are well versed in the Expanded Universe will know; what we can work in from the Expanded Universe really does gel.

But there’s never an implicit connection between the micro-series that Cartoon Network did previously and the series that we’re doing now. I personally as a fan never think of it as discrediting any of the other material, it’s just that other material is from a different point of view, a different look at the war and take on the war. It’s an ever-Expanding Universe in a lot of ways.

Will there be episodes done from different points of view, maybe seen through the eyes of the Separatists?

An episode from the Separatist’s point of view, I think, is a great idea and it’s something we’ve played around with. We’ve gotten close to doing that. But we haven’t done one that’s particularly, a day in the life of General Grievous, or everything from a Battle Droid’s point of view, though we’ve discussed it. I think one of the nice things about doing a series is that we can use these different points of view, which I think is important and it really ties in with something Obi-Wan Kenobi always says, “The truth we cling to depends largely on our own point of view.” Well, what is this Separatist’s point of view? Because I always thought as a fan that it was interesting that Dooku claimed that the Senate was corrupt, that his being a separatist is a completely just cause. Well, he’s telling the truth. From a certain point of view, the Senate is corrupt. I think that I’m very open to telling those stories and figuring out the best way to do one like that.

Scene from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" television series

Is it difficult to plan a series when everyone basically already knows the story’s outcome?

As far as knowing what the end is, I think one of the things about the prequels was that we were all just waiting for Anakin to become Darth Vader. I wanted to see him in that suit again and hear that voice. That’s what we wanted more than anything. It is a challenge because we know what happens to Anakin, we know what happens to Obi-Wan. We even know that the Clones betray them all. But I think we’re building up interesting characters within this storyline, within this part of the saga where we don’t know what happens.

We know what happens to the Clones but, specifically what happens to Captain Rex? We know what happens to the Jedi but specifically, what happens to Ahsoka Tano? And the fans are already asking those questions. I think that if we play the story correctly, knowing that there is this title-wave of dramatic experience, for both the Clones, the Jedi and the Republic coming at the end, the questions become which of these characters will survive that? Will any of them survive that? Even Asajj Ventress, there’s been a version of what happens to her in the comic books and sometimes there were different versions of what happened to her. So how does she meet her end, if she does?

I think that starting to see the “Star Wars” saga through those characters as opposed to the big classic ones we all know like Yoda, Anakin, and Obi-Wan, though they’re always there, will be compelling and will keep the audience wondering. We also get little pieces of the puzzle along the way that tell you more about Palpatine and tell you more about Anakin’s relationship with him. Things like that that help so that the next time you watch “Revenge of the Sith” you say, “Oh I see; now I understand even better why that occurred”.

Scene from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" television series

And the Battle Droids are interesting. My take on the Battle Droids, personally, is that the standard Battle Droids were built at a time before war. They were built to protect freighter convoys. That lends a bit to their goofiness. They’re not a serious as the world that’s coming, the world of the Empire. I think as we move forward in the war you start to see that the droids start to change. Not necessarily the “Roger, Roger” droids, but the Super Battle Droids are already more menacing than the regular Battle Droids and the Destroyer Droids are more menacing than the Super Battle Droids. And we have more diabolical droids. It’s kind of like as the war goes on, the Jedi don’t realize the serious nature of the Universe being created around them by all of these evil forces. It’s a progressive thing and at the point that we’re at right now, we’re kind of more in the high-time adventure part of The Clone Wars, where maybe it will end in a month or two, at least that the Jedi hope.

Though it's early in the series' run, have you given any thought to how you’ll end the series? How you will make it link up to “Revenge of the Sith?”

It’s actually something I’m constantly working on now. I’ve given how all this wraps up and how do I connect this to “Revenge of the Sith” a lot of thought. I have a nice commute home where I’ve thought about it. I’ve shot it all in my head about five different ways and had different endings and different outcomes for things. I’ve talked to George about it a little bit. But I’m really working out frankly, how it works for me. A lot of time I like to give it to him and then get his thoughts on it. He likes when I come at him with ideas.

Scene from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" television series

Yeah, I’m always working on what the big overall story is. I think especially now that we have a lot of episodes under our belts. We know what we’re doing with the series more clearly and what George wants the series to be. It was a big question, what is a Star Wars television series like and how does that work? We know how some of these stories come out, we know what happens to the Jedi and we know what happens to the clones. We know the Empire gets formed. But how do you create a series and suspend the interest knowing those facts? That’s one of the things that we keep working on. I hit different people up with different questions. It’s exciting and I definitely have an ending to this whole thing that I think is growing and I like very much. I’ll be working on that pretty soon, plotting things out even if it doesn’t happen that way at the end, we’re always working on an idea for the story.

Let’s talk about the voice actors on the show.

With my actors it is a very collaborative process, it’s a lot of fun to work with them. I like discussing the characters with them before we start. I usually give them a big breakdown of what the episode is about and what some of the secondary meanings are. I have a big discussion with Ian Abercrombie (“Army of Darkness,” Birds of Prey”), who plays Chancellor Palpatine, before anything he says because Palpatine has such a duel role. He’s always saying one thing but intending another. Ian will come in with a lot of ideas about that character and we’ll sit down and have a little pow-wow about it. I do the same with a lot of them.

Scene from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" television series

Matt Lanter (“Heroes”), who plays Anakin, always has a lot of questions and ideas. For guys like Matt, James Arnold Taylor (“TMNT”) and Catherine Taber, who are playing three of the big classics in Padame, Anakin and Obi-Wan, it’s important. I told them when we started that while they are playing well-known characters that they really have to be that character in their own right. James can sound remarkably like Ewan McGregor but Ewan was playing Obi-Wan with a hint of Alec Guinness. So for James, sometimes it’s more important that he play Obi-Wan with a hint of Ewan McGregor. It’s still Obi-Wan because he’s defined also through actions, attitude and personality not just the tone of the voice. Many different people have played different versions of Anakin and now Matt is playing our most resent version. It’s an exciting Anakin. He’s different and more of a hero than the darkness we saw in the movies, which is a great aspect of Anakin that we’ll hopefully get to see towards the end.

It’s all how they approach it. If they have a way that they want to say that line that’s better and it sounds more inspired, then I say go for it. Hearing the stories about [“Empire Strikes Back” director Irvin] Kershner on the set with Harrison Ford trying to get that line when Leia says, “I love you” and Han says, “I know” -- how they shot that like ten or fifteen times before they got to “I know.” That’s some of the magic to me that we need to shoot for. It’s all part of the inspiration of making it.

You drew a cover for Dark Horse’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Slaves of the Republic” comic book. Did you enjoy that and will the new series tie-in with the comic?

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" #1 cover by David Filoni

Randy Stradley [Creative Director, Dark Horse Comics] asked if I would do that. Henry Gilroy was writing the comic book and I worked with him on season one of the series. So it was a great opportunity for me to do a comic book cover. It was something that I had never gotten to do and it was the first painting that I really had time to do in like three years. Everything I had worked on up to this show was all hand-drawn animation. So I still draw and doodle a lot every day and will do some quick board studies and stuff for people but to get to do a full out painting is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. That was a real thrill, I loved doing it and I would love doing it again. I got to say I was incredibly rusty when I sat down with a pencil and paper and I was terrified. I thought, “This is going to look terrible.” But I was able to work it out and I was pleased. It was a way to get an image out that I hadn’t been able to get into the actual show.

That’s kind of the reality of our medium now. There are so many different forms that you can get images out in, comic books, novels, video games or the Internet. That Star Wars is in all of those means I try to communicate with the different groups as best as I can and give them answers as timely as I can. You know, because Henry is involved with the comic book and he knows the series so well, I’m sure that it ties-in pretty well. We do our best to keep all the canon that fans love together and coordinated. It’s a big task, because you have all those outlets you have a lot of areas to cover. And it’s exciting and a great opportunity.

Finally, what should kids take away from this series? Is there a deeper message?

Well, I think we have a variety of messages; again that’s what’s interesting about the series. At the end of the day when you’re telling a story, I think the interesting thing is that you are taking something home. You’re telling a story. When you first saw “A New Hope,” you were in the theatre and Obi-Wan out of nowhere says, “Use the force, Luke.” I mean, that really moved people. I think people forget that. It was amazing. “Wow, he’s alive and that’s inspiring Luke!” Luke has to believe in himself, believe in his own abilities and not rely on a targeting computer. I really took that message home as a kid. I really understood it. I think we can tell a lot of similar folk tales, stories and little tiny myths with what we’re doing in “The Clone Wars.”

Also by David Filoni, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" feature film, on sale on DVD in November

There’s a scene where Yoda is talking to the clones, and the kind of perspective that he’s giving them as someone who’s been around for hundreds of years, someone who had probably been in war a long time ago, before. Someone that’s telling them that their programming, what their told they’re supposed to do isn’t necessarily right. They can look at that in different ways but they need to believe in themselves. I think those are all interesting things and while kids obviously like Lightsabers and the Blasters and the things I liked as a kid, I think they’re going to learn what some of these other Jedi Masters are like. They have their own beliefs. Obi-Wan had great lines like, “Who’s the fool, the fool, or the fool that follows him?” I want to try to bring some of those ideas into the series that were in the classic “Star Wars” scenes for me. Maybe when they play they’ll want to be the good guy more than the bad guy. It seems hard, a lot of kids like Darth Maul. He’s got the cool tattoos and Vader’s got the neat outfit. So it’s hard to beat the villains.

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” continues the saga Friday nights at 9PM (EST) on Cartoon Network.

Beastly Survival Anime 'Jyu Oh Sei' on Sale

to Become the Beast King

For any number of years Japanese animation has not been without its unique and enterprising tales of intergalactic adventure, grisly social hierarchy, and kill-or-be-killed mantra. Such is the enthusiastic release of the action and drama anime Jyu Oh Sei, subtitled as "Planet of the Beast King." When two brothers are exiled to a distant planet, their journey to save themselves as well as their humanity, perhaps lies more in the hands of their treacherous environment than it does in one's mere will to survive alone.

Centuries in the future, a pair of twin brothers are born and raised on a space colony many light years away from Earth. These two brothers, Thor and Rai, are about to be wrenched from their homeland however ill-defined, and thrust into a wild, earthly environment where survival of the strong is all that remains. Upon witnessing the mysterious death of their parents, Thor and Rai are kidnapped and whisked away to an isolated planet usually reserved for the exiling of criminals. As Jyu Oh Sei continues, the young men quickly learn that in order to survive, they must devolve their standard of social norms, and essentially become the beast that mankind once was.

Life is no longer easy for the brothers, for their new home is a hostile planet populated with dangerous men and women whom possess a limited moral code as well as carnivorous plant life that appears just as vicious. The Japanese animated series Jyu Oh Sei thus poses the question to Thor and Rai: If you are to survive, you must not only become a beast in this world… you must become strong enough to rule over all of the beasts of this world.

Chalking up character drama and situational mysteries that hopefully carve out puzzle pieces that allow these characters and others to live the brutality but survive the savagery of this new environment, the anime Jyu Oh Sei has its fare share of adventure.

The anime is already on sale, as a complete series DVD Set for $59.98, containing all eleven episodes, with a runtime of roughly 255 minutes. Jyu Oh Sei is distributed by FUNimation Entertainment (Ghost Hunt, Shounen Onmyouji, Claymore). Bonus features on the complete series home video release include U.S. staff commentary, original TV spots, and other items.

Originally produced in the 2006-year by Studio BONES, Jyu Oh Sei's initial fanbase adored the program for its slick animation, select character development, and altogether compact storytelling. Rightfully, some viewers might be turned off by the survival of the fittest mantra the anime wheels through time and again, but such is often the case when directors tap into the science fiction genre.

Based on the shoujo-targeted sci-fi manga by Natsumi Itsuki, the anime version of this property appears to have indeed taken a grittier, boys-centered approach to detailing the perils of isolation and the trouble with human ethics. The Jyu Oh Sei: Planet of the Beast King anime series was directed by Hiroshi Nishikiori, whose previous projects include the laugh-out-loud comedy Azumanga Daioh as well as the both humrous and intensely dramatic fantasy anime Melody of Oblivion.

on FUNimation Entertainment: FUNimation Entertainment (, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Navarre Corporation, is the leading company for home entertainment sales of Japanese animation in the United States. The company has a proven formula for launching and advancing brands, and manages a full spectrum of rights with its brands including broadcasting, licensing, production, Internet, home video sales and distribution.

New Casshern Anime

From Felix Ip, Creative Director at Imagi and art director on Astroboy, comes this news...

New Casshern anime will release in Oct produced by Madhouse and Tatsunoko. This is one of my favorite superhero when i was young. See the trailer here. I hope the story is good...
official website

Here is the sequence I like the most from the Casshern Live-Action Movie, the art direction is good.

(Thanks Felix Ip)

Comic Writers Speak: Bring Back The Bondage For Wonder Woman

If Warner Bros.’ new directive is that the studio’s adaptations of DC characters be even darker, where does that leave Wonder Woman? From the sound of things, the film’s producer isn’t too keen on playing up the powerful sexual metaphors that the superhero represents. But that’s exactly what the filmmakers should play up, argue comic book writers, if they want to make a Wonder Woman who’s not just darker, but also more true to the spirit of the original and yet the most modern version we’ve ever seen.

“Wasn’t the guy who created her a protofeminist?” asked former “Catwoman” writer Ed Brubaker. “He had multiple wives-slash-lovers, and was a crazy character for his time.”

William Moulton Marston actually based Wonder Woman on his wife Elizabeth, who he considered to be pretty liberated — after all, she and he shared a live-in female lover in a polyamarous arrangement. Back in the 1940s, this was radical, and the couple’s ideas about women, love, and sex seeped into his construction of Princess Diana. “There was an awful lot of bondage,” “Sandman” creator Neil Gaiman said. “She’s got a magic lasso that makes people do whatever she wants. You could certainly up that, and make something dark out of that — or at least dead kinky.”

Of course, the comic books and adaptations kept that aspect just bubbling underneath the surface.

“Wonder Woman is really complicated to do right,” said “Kingdom Come” writer Mark Waid. “The idea of sexuality being a force that permeates it — through the bondage, the surrender, the weird S&M scenes — has been disguised pretty nicely. Not everyone was hip to the subtext. The trick is to do it and not be overt in any way so that the people who do the marketing tie-ins — the family meals, the Underoos — don’t freak out. How do you find a way to fold that sense of sexuality into it and still make it wholesome for the whole family?”

Lynda Carter’s TV version is one way — but Waid isn’t sure that “pure and chaste and wholesome” take is the way to go. “Not that she needs to be an overtly sexual creature,” he said, “but you can’t help but look at the failed Wonder Womans, and wonder what’s the missing piece?”

Waid suggests that Wonder Woman’s mission become less American, more global. “Batman can’t wipe out all the crime in Gotham, but he’s trying to minimize the suffering,” he said. “Superman is trying to spread hope on a case-by-case basis. But if Wonder Woman wants to change the world — and good luck with that — call me from Iraq. Without violating the precepts of fantasy, where we don’t want to ask the hard questions, why not have her in the Third World, or a place where it’s not safe for women to be in, in the Middle East? That reboot would be really interesting if they had the guts to take an American icon and make her an international woman. Go wide with it.”

Or, as Joss Whedon was attempting to do , go wide, but also stay small — deal with the domestic drama that she’d be facing by trying to balance work (being a missionary) with home (cue empty-nest mom).

“I’ve love to read the Joss Whedon ‘Wonder Woman’ script,” Gaiman said. “I’d be fascinated to see what he did with it. But if there’s one thing Alan Moore taught us 23 years ago, it’s that there aren’t any bad characters, only writers who don’t explore what makes a character interesting. What’s interesting about Wonder Woman? Whether it’s the idea that she is an Amazon who grew up for the first 20 years of her life without ever encountering male entities in a sort of mythological context, or whether it’s the idea as a woman as the second or third strongest being on the face of the planet, or whether you just love the idea of her jetting around in an invisible plane. Then you make that cool, and you make it powerful. For William Moulton Marston, it was a bit of all that…plus the bondage.”

Gibbons Talks Watchmen's Moore

Who won't be watching the Watchmen? Alan Moore, of course.

Moore and Dave Gibbons co-created the seminal graphic novel on which Zack Snyder has based his upcoming Watchmen film. Gibbons has been a supporter of the project, while Moore, as usual, wants nothing to do with it and has asked that his name be removed from the credits, a wish that will be granted. Sitting next to Snyder during a question-and-answer session following a screening of preview footage in New York this week, Gibbons explained Moore's position. (The footage was the same screened last week in Los Angeles.)

"It' very simple," Gibbons said. "Alan has had experiences in the past that he hasn't enjoyed, and he didn't want to have any more that he possibly might not enjoy. So, starting with V for Vendetta, and with Watchmen, he's asked not to have his name on it and not to be involved with it in any way at all. So there's nothing specific about this production that Alan is anti."

Speaking of his own interest in the Watchmen film, Gibbons said that it was fascinating to see the material translated to another medium.

"I am unique in the world sitting there watching this, because based on what I read in Alan's scripts, I kind of ran a little movie in my head as to how this would work and the moments to pick to design the whole thing," Gibbons said. "So to sit in a darkened theater and see it unfold, it's kind of easy to confuse it with being in my mind's eye, particularly because it is so precisely what I did draw."

Gibbons added, "I mean, Watchmen was conceived as a comic book, and that is Watchmen. But what ... I've seen here--and I've seen much more footage than this--is a really good movie. If it had just been a literal translation of a comic book, it wouldn't have been so good. But I think Zack has taken it by the scruff of the neck and turned it into a really good movie. So I'm thrilled with it." Watchmen opens March 6, 2009.

After ‘Watchmen,’ WB Plans ‘Superman: Red Son’ And ‘Batman: Black & White’ Motion Comics

Following on the heels of the release of the second chapter of the “Watchmen” Motion Comics, Warner Bros. has announced a new pair of titles to get the “motion comic” treatment. As one might expect, the titles will feature Superman and Batman, the company’s most popular characters — but surprisingly, the stories won’t include any of the duo’s in-continuity adventures.

The “Batman: Black & White” anthology and the Elseworlds tale “Superman: Red Son” will be the next two titles to receive the unique animation-over-audio storytelling touch, with the release date for the titles coming in the next few months.

“Batman: Black & White,” published in three volumes during 1996, featured individual stories written and drawn by various notables in the world of comics and animation that included Bruce Timm, Dennis O’Neil and Neil Gaiman.

Posing the question of what would’ve happened if Superman landed in the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War instead of Smallville, Kansas, “Superman: Red Son” was written by Mark Millar (”Wanted”) and featured art by Dave Johnson. The Eisner-nominated story was published in 2003. (Be sure to check out MTV Splashpage's video interview with actor Colin Hanks, who called “Red Son” one of the best Superman stories ever written.)

Exclusive: Green Lantern MAY Have A Notebook!!

News from Latino Review...

Green Lantern casting update

El Mayimbe here…

So yes the word on the Green Lantern is that it is moving along and that rehearsals should start in February for a Spring 2009 shoot.

Earlier, I had received word from someone that the Green Lantern choices have been nailed down and that they were considering Seth Green, Justin Long, and David Boreanaz.

I was like WTF?!

Confused, I went to my guys to get to the bottom of what is going on and to see if it was true.

Thankfully, hell no, not true.

BUT…I did manage to find out something.

You know who the studio wants to wear Abin Sur’s ring and take up the mantle of The Green Lantern?

From my trusted source within the WB, I’m hearing…


Personally, I think a really hot choice! Ryan Gosling is a dope actor and would kill the role. Remember folks that he is an Oscar nominee. Green Lantern/Hal Jordan in the script is 27 and currently Ryan is 27 (his 28th birthday is next month).

Mind you, I don’t know if an offer has been made, and if WB is into it now with Ryan’s people, but once again Gosling is who I’m hearing the WB wants for Hal Jordan.

Hal Jordan is a fictional character, a DC Comics superhero. He is the second Green Lantern and arguably the most famous hero to bear that name. Created by John Broome and Gil Kane, he first appeared in Showcase #22 (October 1959).

Hal Jordan's revamp as the Green Lantern was one of many old DC Comics characters to emerge in the Silver Age of comics. Like many of his contemporaries, Hal Jordan became more identified with his heroic identity than the previous iterations of the characters. Controversy erupted among comic book readers in 1994 when Hal Jordan became supervillain Parallax and Kyle Rayner replaced him as the Green Lantern.

Jordan underwent a number of further changes in the 1990s including dying and later returning as a new incarnation of The Spectre. Hal Jordan returned to the role of Green Lantern in 2004's Green Lantern: Rebirth miniseries and is currently the protagonist of the current volume of Green Lantern.

Links To Believe In

I'm off at a secret location, and handing over the dashboard keys for the next ten days to my sterling assistant, the estimable Jeff Massie. So you'll see fewer posts from me, and more from him. Please play nice while I'm gone.

The Disney Co. has released Sleeping Beauty to Blu-Ray and the internets are abuzz:

BURNY MATTINSON: When we first worked on Sleeping Beauty we were trying to do a more classic approach to our animation. We were trying to be more exacting in the design aspects - that was strongly influenced. We were trying to learn our 'straights' against 'curves' to fit within Eyvind Earle's stylized backgrounds. This was a slow process. Later on we went to a looser approach on 101 Dalmatians, where we could speed up the process but we were also trying to get back into the classic style of animation. Even today, we still try to keep a classic approach - perhaps not as designed as on Sleeping Beauty, but we still try to keep a classic approach to our contemporary titles.

The Wall Street Journal examines adult-themed animations you might not have have heard much about:.

The protagonist of "Berni's Doll" is a loner who retreats to a grimy apartment in the evening after long tedious days at his factory job packing the remains of trapped rats into cat-food cans. Berni wants a girlfriend, and buys one, in various modular parts. It makes for an odd relationship.

Yann Jouette's latest work, short film called
"Berni's Doll," is on view at the Woodstock Film Festival.

It's a challenging role -- not for any actor, but for the animator who drew Berni, Yann Jouette. It's also challenging to find a place to see the short film, which has too much sex, violence and grotesquery for American broadcast or cable television ...

And Japanese film producers plan to produce a c.g.i. animated feature they hope you'll hear something about:

Japanese broadcast major Fuji TV and animation house Production I.G have announced plans to co-produce a wholly CG animated feature film.

With a working title of
Hottarake No Shima: Haruka To Maho No Kagami (Hottarake Island: Haruka And The Magic Mirror), the film will be directed by Shinsuke Sato.

The fantasy follows a female high school student and a fox as they search for the titular mirror in a land created from humans' abandoned possessions.

And Indian animation, even though it hasn't made much of a ripple beyond the sub-continent, is stirring the interest of some Hollywood majors, specifically Disney:

Indian movies for Hollywood, through all these years, are still at the low end of the revenue pie, even with all the languages they are now dubbed in. This, paradoxically, is also the reason why they have headed to Indian shores - some with JVs, some with tie-ups - trying to see if they can tap the right local talent and nurture it to grow as a good, sustainable entertainment business in India ... “Ninety per cent of what we make is made in Burbank and exported," says Andy Bird, president, Walt Disney International. "The way we saw the world evolving, we saw that technology was advancing and changing the very way consumers were taking in entertainment, markets were evolving and fast. We observed that Bollywood captures as much as 97% of the market ..."

Disney Contracts and Correspondence ('30s and '40s style) are offered up at the ASIFA Animation Archive.

Have a glorious week. I plan to.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

And like them, I'm going to take a little time off from blogging, as well... Be back before you know it...

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