Monday, October 6, 2008

News - 10/06/08...

The Jealous Among Us

When I was a lad working what turned out to be my final six months at the Mouse House, I one day fell into conversation with an executive secretary in the studio commissary. She told me:

"You know these new execs over from Paramount? They're rich, but they are like really jealous of the Bass brothers*. Because all the execs have are millions, and what they really want are the Basses' billions."

Which encapsulate the Hollywood ethos perfectly.

There is never enough. There is always somebody farther up the food chain, with lots more money, to envy and hate ...

Happily, that jealousy thing is just now helping animation:

It looks like Hollywood has chipmunk envy.

The surprise success of 20th Century Fox's
"Alvin and the Chipmunks" last Christmas has studios sifting through their vaults looking for classic characters to bring to life. ... projects in the works include:

* Warners is developing
"Yogi Bear" with Donald De Line for Ash Brannon ("Surf's Up") to direct a digital Yogi and Boo Boo in a real life Yellowstone, er Jellystone.

* Imagi Entertainment and Warner Bros. are considering a new live-action version of
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" after a feature-length toon in 2007 earned $95 million worldwide. The turtles and other characters would be CG, rather than men in suits, as seen in three previous pics during the 1990s.

* Sony Pictures Animation is looking to turn
"The Smurfs" into its first hybrid pic.

* Nickelodeon Movies intends to feature Kidrobot's collectible Munny, Dunny and Labit figures, with the creatures running around live-action settings as CGI characters.

* Even Jerry Bruckheimer is getting in on the act with
"G-Force," an actioner featuring a hamster and guinea pig as spies, that Disney will distribute next year.:

And of course there are new Yellow Family features from 20th Century Fox in the offing.

The point of all this is, Tinsel Town and it's avaricious execs are always on the hunt for Big Bucks (and I'm not talking about deers with antlers.) There's going to be a spate of animated theatrical projects over the next few years, but it's not because the humble, gentle folk laboring in those big corner ofices have some everlasting love for animation.

It's because animation makes money, and lots of it.

* The Bass brothers, well-known Texas billionaires, held a large chunk of Disney stock in the early eighties and were key players in bringing Messrs Eisner, Wells and Katzenberg into the House of Mouse.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)


Artist James Cauty has a new art show opening in London entitled Splatter. The exhibition, produced by Cauty and his 15 year old son, opens next week at the Aquarium L-13 Gallery. According to the press release:

The Cautys’ new project employs hijacked popular cartoon characters and liberated animations, to violent, shocking and entertaining ends, all of which will be part of their own specialist cartoon art gift shop. The Cauty animated collection will be degraded, overlaid & looped, fractured, and repeated on multiple LCD screens, presenting the viewer with unrelenting acts of bloody, cartoon violence, which, in cartoon law, ultimately cannot cause fatal injury. This show by jCauty&Son warrants laugher, discomfort and aims to provoke thought on violence and our media saturated culture. THE AQUARIUM L-13 will produce a vast array of merchandise to support and fund this project, including original draft collages and drawings, life size models, limited edition animation cells and prints, badges, balloons and fake blood. Everything will be for sale and 25% of all profits will be donated to Amnesty International.

The opening reception is next Thursday October 9th and the show will run for a month. More more information and images from Splatter, click here.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Anime DVD Set Coming Soon: 'Elemental Gelade'

Pirates, Airships and Adventure

For a young adventurer named Cou, there isn't much more to being a sky pirate than hijacking airships with his grizzled pals and scavenging for lost or rare treasures that might fetch a fancy price on one of many foreign markets. At the center of the anime television series Elemental Gelade, Cou's curiosity soon pulls him into one adventure that will surely change the way he sees the world as he edges into adulthood. When the young man encounters a mysterious girl, whose supernatural ability to bond with individuals and form a dangerous weapon of sorts, both she and Cou will be forced to bond and mature physically and emotionally in order to survive an increasingly dangerous world.

An anime series once distributed by title licensing and distribution group Geneon Entertainment (now defunct), Elemental Gelade is a shounen action-adventure program that genially absorbs viewer interest in one kid whose life is turned on its head with one chance meeting. During a typical air raid on your typical rich folk, Cou rummages through the cargo bay of an airship and comes up on a dark-colored casket. What he finds inside is a girl, called an Edel Raid, named Ren, who happens to be a not-so-human being of phenomenal power... however soft-spoken and humble she may be.

Edel Raids are weapons, but usually take the form of human beings. When they make the decision to bond with their handler, their physical and psychological essence merges with their handler and take on a more spiritual form.

For Cou, the meek little Ren is an Edel Raid of legendary destiny, and their relationship must mature if Cou is going to pursue his greatest adventure yet: bonding with Ren, and learning more about the mystery behind the Edel Raids altogether.

Elemental Gelade is a boys' comedy and adventure anime up for a re-release courtesy of new license holder FUNimation Entertainment, whom has since acquired the rights to market the new title earlier this year . Guided by a couple of allies with their own adventure in the form of a tough, but short, gun-toting gal named Cisqua and her combat ready pals Rowen and Keua; Cou must learn to control a new and profound power source, understand the difficulties that arise betwixt an emerging war and social unrest, and ultimately uncover the truth behind what it means be an adult.

Back in print and on sale as a complete DVD box set this coming October 7th, 2008 for $69.98, Elemental Gelade is built through six DVDs and the set contains 680 minutes. Directed by Shigeru Ueda, the television anime features music from noted composer Yuki Kajiura, whose previous work includes the phenomenal supernatural OVA Le Portrait de Petite Cossette, the fantastical drama .hack//SIGN, and more recently, Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE.

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.

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows Preview!

The new "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows" video game will make a gamer feel so much like they've really stepped into the suit of Marvel Comics' famous web-slinger, they could debate the finer points of wall-crawling with Tobey Maguire.

Superhero Hype! got an early look at Activision's latest foray into Spidey's world and it's a major thriller, allowing the player an astounding level of control and seemingly endless options as they venture free-roaming into an expansive, stunningly rendered three-dimensional New York City – and not just any NYC, but one set squarely in the Marvel Universe – with an invasion by Venom-style symbiotes overtaking the population – and smack in the midst of a Kingpin-ordered crime wave.

Yeah, there's THAT much going on, and Spidey has to combat it all at a breathtaking, breakneck pace, taking unprecedented advantage of all of his powers and both of his costumes in every level of the city – on the street, on rooftops, scaling walls and swinging from building to building and pirouetting from bad guy to bad guy. And the hero has a little bit of help here and there – do the words "SNIKT!" and "Sweet Christmas" mean anything to you?

Professional gamers guided us through an Xbox demo of the new game and we were stunned at the level of action and detail that's been rendered in "Web of Shadows." Not only does Spidey move through the game with all the speed, strength and agility as the real deal certainly would, it also cleverly uses his Spider-sense to ID and target threats and enemies, and gives him startling and dynamic levels of wall-crawling and web-slinging skills in an enormous playing field that makes the player feel like they're smack in the middle of the New York cityscape where the action can literally go anywhere. It's as if the player has been dropped in the middle of the most enormous action scene any of Sam Raimi's movies could come up with. And throughout the relentless battles, Spider-Man retains that classic Peter Parker sense of humor, spouting a running series of quips and one-liners conceived by comic book writer Brian Reed.

And then there are the suits. As Spidey, the player can choose between either of his famed superhero suits – the classic red-and-blue look and the more menacing black symbiote suit – at ANY moment during the game in a split-second, with each offering a different set of options to suit a specific battle: the classic uniform is big on speed, agility and acrobatics suitable for clashes high above the cityscape, while the black suit is useful when pure strength and power come into play and cars are needed to be tossed at forebidding opponents (and make sure when yanking a baddie out of a robot suit that he's fully down for the count, or he might climb right back inside). And in keeping with the character's "patented Parker luck," there's a price to pay for donning the darker threads, which makes our hero more volatile and reckless, strikes fear in the hearts of the civilians he's saving and, as the game wears on, may take an even greater toll on Spider-Man's soul.

As the citizenry is increasingly overtaken by the invading symbiotes, Spidey also has to face down against the Kingpin's high-tech minions – armed in everything from giant robotic suits to high-flying Goblin-esque gliders – who are in the midst of a major crime spree just as the Venom invasion goes down. There are also encounters with some familiar characters from Spider-Man's rogue's gallery, including smacking down the The Vuture soaring in between skyscrapers and chasing down the sultry, slinky (and bodaciously endowed) Black Cat, given voice with a sexy purr by "Battlestar Galactica's" Tricia Helfer during their string of amusing banter. The demo players treated us to an especially entertaining sequence between Spidey and his alluring enemy, showing just how tough and slippery an opponent she is during game play highlighted by character-driven story sequences that brought the two characters to convincing life.

That's one of the most fun and engaging elements of "Web of Shadows": this is Spidey swinging squarely through the Marvel Universe, past buildings labeled with the logos of Iron Man's Stark Industries, the notorious Roxxon Corporation and Wilson "The Kingpin" Fisk's various holdings (we didn't spot the landmark Baxter Building, but we wouldn't be surprised if that's in there, too). And when Spidey's in a jam, other Marvel heroes are also on hand to help repel the Venom invasion as well. During our demo, Luke Cage stepped in to help the wall-crawler throw down with a heavily armed gang of the Kingpin's thugs, and we caught more than a few glimpses of the X-Men's most famous anti-hero popping his claws in another intense battle sequence which left us wondering: are the superheroes of the Marvel U as susceptible to symbiote control as the general populace, and how each character will react to Spidey depending on whether he's in red-and-blue hero mode or savage black-suited vigilante style.

Not to put too fine a point on it - we were blown away by the sheer game-playing diversity on display in "Web of Shadows." The controllability and dynamic abilities of the Spider-Man avatar was stunning, complete with an array of customization that makes game experience utterly unique, and the vast, sweeping landscape of NYC is incredibly impressive, as Spidey's battles can go from block to block, building to building and ground floor to rooftop as fast as the player can maneuver. The animation and camera moves were as advanced as could be, and every step of the way the game remains dedicated to conveying the character of Spider-Man and the Marvel U.

We also got a demonstration of the portable DS version of "Web of Shadows," a 2-D playing system that's no less clever and compelling in its action and storytelling, complete with mini-games and exclusive cameos from characters NOT seem in the more tricked out version: The X-Men's Nightcrawler "BAMFs" into the action, and there's another familiar figure from Spidey's rogue's gallery that pumpkin-bombs his way into the invasion – but is he friend or foe?

Any Spidey fan with a taste for gaming will find themselves fully immersed in any iteration of the game and become a True Believer. Faithful to the fun-loving and angst-ridden spirit of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and as overflowing with endless action as any of Sam Raimi's big screen adaptations, "Web of Shadows" earns the adjective "Amazing." 'Nuff said.

"Spider-Man: Web of Shadows" will be released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PC, Nintendo DS and Wii on Oct. 21.

Click here to view more game screenshots!

LAST REIGN continues Boom! comic-to-film charge

MTV Splash Page previews a new comic from Hollywood based BOOM! Studios which promises to extend their movie crossover cachet.

'Van Wilder' director Walt Becker launches 'Last Reign: Kings of War' October 29th as a four-issue miniseries.

The book, described as an "Arthurian tale", takes place in a bleak, war-torn future where the armored rulers of Earth's eight kingdoms unite against the orchestrator of the apocalypse for the future of mankind.

Like many of BOOM's offerings, this may very likely to go into development as a feature film, with Becker at the helm. For know the creator envisions it spinning of into new media first.

"Film is definitely something that could happen," said Becker. "The idea of post-apocalyptic feudal knights doing battle with men and genetically-engineered monsters also lends itself into making a fantastic game.

"Right now, 'Last Reign' is a comic book and that's something I'm really excited about and proud of," said Becker.

THOR writer approves of Branagh

Last week came the news that Kenneth Branagh was the favored contender to direct Marvel's 'Thor' movie. MTV Splash Page checked in with writer J. Michael Straczynski, currently revitalizing the character in comics, to get his opinion of the potential helmer.

"Honestly, I can't imagine anyone better suited to this," said Straczynski. "‘Thor,' at his best, has always had a classical bent to the character in terms of his history, the way he speaks, and the often Shakespearean intrigues and dramas that surround him. That kind of dialogue and character needs the hand of someone who comes from a theatrical/classically trained background in order for it not to sound forced or artificial. Branagh is absolutely the perfect choice."

While I'm definitely on board for a Branagh-directed 'Thor' (I said so to E! last week) but is Straczynski being a little over-effusive? He can't imagine anyone better suited? Verily, Branagh's mastery of the Shakespearean classics on film are a major plus, but there's a complete lack of any "event movie" on his resume.

And there are directors out there who have made huge movies with a classic feel (Peter Jackson being the most obvious that springs to mind).

Conceptual Artist Gives Glimpse Of ‘Magneto’ Origins

It all depends on Wolverine — but the movie spin-off of Magneto should be next in the “X-Men” series of films, said character designer Aaron Sims.

“Unfortunately, because of the writers strike, it got pushed off,” Sims said. “But they’re now back to the rewrites.”

Since “X Men Origins: Magneto” is still in conceptual form, it’s too soon to say much about it, except that obviously, like Wolverine , it will be an origin story — “where he started, where he got his powers, the very beginning.”

“Remember the scene [from 'X-Men'] in the concentration camp where you see Magneto as a young boy? It just continues from there,” Sims said. “Some people thought that might be too dark, but I really like that. It’s a lot of death and mayhem.”

Magneto won’t be the only mutant — just like in “Wolverine”, there will be new mutants aplenty to keep Sims busy coming up with something to please and yet surprise the fans. “The fan base has a vision of what they should look like, and that’s always the challenge,” Sims said. “It was the same with ‘The Hulk.’

But since director David Goyer is still finishing “The Unborn” and also has several other movies on his plate (from “The Invisible Man” to “Super Max” to “Baltimore”), Sims doesn’t have to realize his character designs too quickly, which is a good thing, since he’s also in the middle of designs for “The Invisible Man,” “The Clash of the Titans,” “Paradise Lost,” and “Green Lantern” — for which he did the suit and Kilowog. (This, after finishing matte paintings for “The Spirit” and designs for the robot and the spaceship in “The Day The Earth Stood Still”).

“David’s like me,” Sims laughed. “He works nonstop. He’s not one of those kinds of writers or directors who ever stops. I’m surprised he has any time at all. But I’m fortunate to work with directors like him who I admire. I can’t say no to him.”

Live-Action ‘Sheena, Queen of the Jungle’ Looks Like Jessica Alba, Acts Like Arnold Schwarzenegger

With a new print series on the way from Devil’s Due Publishing and plans in the works to bring her back to movie screens, Golden Age heroine “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle,” has been pretty active lately thanks to “Die Hard” screenwriter Steven de Souza. In fact, the award-winning writer has made it his mission to bring the Will Eisner character back to the big screen like so many of her peers.

De Souza told MTV News that a movie based on the “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle” character is “absolutely our intention” now that he’s co-writing her adventures for Devil’s Due. Although he sees the “Sheena” comics he’s writing as a necessary foundation for the property, he didn’t hesitate to throw out a name when asked who he believes should don the ol’ leopard-skin bikini in a live-action “Sheena” feature film.

“In my mind, the character as reconceived is a multi-ethnic Latina,” said de Souza. “Somebody like Jessica Alba would be the perfect type.”

While the character’s return to the comics world has been warmly received thus far, de Souza admitted that bringing her back to the big screen could be a tougher sell, given the missteps of the past. When de Souza’s pal Paul Aratow first acquired the rights to Sheena around 25 years ago, he was a “young, naive man who was just interested in growing better arugula,” according to de Souza, “so the deals he made weren’t that great.”

“There was a Sheena movie made about 25 years ago that he set up, but he really cringed at the premiere,” continued de Souza. “Paul was able to get the rights back to Sheena a few years ago and we decided to make a fresh start — and this time, put her back in her home turf in comic books on her way to the motion picture screen again.”

Among those cringe-worthy Sheena projects was an early 2000 television series starring “Baywatch” actress Gena Lee Nolin — no stranger to running around in skimpy clothes — and featuring a Sheena that could transform into animals while fighting injustice.

“I don’t know what they were smoking when they put that on the air,” said de Souza. “They gave her superpowers. It was like making Batman an alien.”

The “Commando” screenwriter told MTV his writing style for Sheena is similar to that of another tough solo act he’s scripted: former actor and current California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“It feels like some of the movies I did for Schwarzenegger, because when I write for Sheena I write the same way I did for Schwarzenegger: a very no-nonsense, practical, tough protagonist who speaks English as a second language,” laughed de Souza. “So I’m just writing Arnold Schwarzenegger dialogue for Sheena. It’s so great coming out of that figure and those pouting lips.”

As for Sheena’s future in film, de Souza said readers of the Devil’s Due series will find ample hints thrown their way regarding elements of the film, in much the same way other characters’ print adventures have fueled their big-screen counterparts.

“If you follow the fascinating, almost Darwinian evolution of characters from the page to the stage, then you’ll recognize in ‘Iron Man’ they had the Ring of Ten, and they had Ironmonger, and in the first Batman movie [Christopher] Nolan did, you had ‘Batman: Year One’ combined with the origin of Ra’s Al Ghul,” said de Souza. “There’s this thing in issue #3 of ‘Sheena’ that we liked, and we have about 2/3 of the Lego pieces for the movie in there.”

“I just had a meeting about the picture the other day,” he added, “and I said, ‘If you read this issue and this issue, that will give you a sense of what the half the movie will be, and I’ll cover the other half.’”

The Green Hornet to be Released in 4K Digital reports that The Green Hornet is one of the films that Sony Pictures Entertainment will make and release using 4K digital technology:

Sony Pictures has already released the summer blockbuster Hancock in 4K, with the motion picture grossing more than $600 million at the worldwide box office to date. Movies released in 4K can play in theaters with either 4K or 2K projectors. Among the next motion pictures to be digitally imaged in 4K by Sony Pictures, and available for 4K distribution, are expected to be 2012, Salt, and The Green Hornet, with more titles to be announced.

To read more on the technology, click here.

Homer vs. Electronic Voting Machines in Upcoming "Simpsons" Episode; Groening in NYC

The New York Times reports that Homer Simpson will have a run-in with an electronic voting machine on the Nov. 2, 2008, episode of The Simpsons. The sequence "emerged on the Internet" this week, immediately drawing praise and criticism from political partisans, despite the producers' claims that they were not attempting to make a political statement as much as a satirical one.

In a related story, Matt Groening will be appearing at the New Yorker Festival on Saturday, October 4, 2008, at 4:00 PM, where he may or may not make statements ready to be misinterpreted or distorted for political purposes. Visit the New Yorker Festival website for more information.

Japanese OVA 'Strait Jacket' Coming Soon

On How to Restraint the Beast Within

Sorcery and the demons it births through illicit and oftentimes disgusting misuse are indeed more the norm than the mere coexistence of scientific thought and the fantastical, for the supernatural anime, Strait Jacket. A recently produced Original Video Animation that brings viewers deep into a world where magic spells and contemporary greed intersect to represent humankind's ugliest gasp for more power, Strait Jacket finds one man, an assassin, caught in the middle of it all. Hoping to blend sci-fi and fantasy in an engaging way, the anime Strait Jacket is ready for home video release from FUNimation Entertainment.

Leiot Steinberg is an unlicensed magic user whose role and function in a decrepit society is as ill informed and undefined as it gets. Using magic in this anime is no blessing; in fact, because spellcasting is so risky and energy consuming, it's more of a risk than anything else. The more an individual uses magic, the larger the propensity for them to abuse it. It is with this increase chance for abuse that humans are transformed into unthinking and uncontrollable monsters, killing and destroying everything in sight. The only persons that stand between what fragments of a civilized society remain and the destructive force of these demons are "the Strait Jacket," tactical sorcerers whose protective gear supposedly grant them more power (and more risk) than even the demons they stare down.

In Strait Jacket, a battle between monsters who were once humans, and humans whom drift toward devolving into monsters, emerges. The Sorcery Management Bureau consistently enlists individuals trained in various weaponry and spellcasting to defend the public against the treachery of these demons, but prevailing concerns over the sinful secrets that lay in waiting for these dark heroes of civilization could pose a far greater risk than any monster.

Directed by Ichiro Sakaki and featuring character designs from Yoshinori Yumoto, who contributed to popular Japanese animated titles such as Fullmetal Alchemist and Planetes, the three episode OVA Strait Jacket will be available on October 7th, 2008 for only $19.97 from FUNimation Entertainment.

Just as Leiot Steinberg runs the risk of being dismembered by these beasts that were once called people, so must he naturally run the risk of becoming a demon himself, through forbidden chants and dangerous magic. Facing the horrors of a world bathed in the sin of the irresponsible makes Steinberg's lone-wolf mentality all the more precarious, for danger is everywhere.

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.

Teletoon Schedules "The Batman Versus Dracula" Feature In October 2008

The Canadian channel Teletoon will be airing The Batman Versus Dracula later this month during their special Halloween programming.

The animated feature is scheduled to air October 25th, 2008 at 3pm (ET) on Teletoon. Below is the official synopsis for the feature.

The Batman Versus Dracula
Cartoon Network, Saturday, October 25th, 2008, at 3pm (ET)
Gotham City is terrorized not only by recent escapees Joker and Penguin, but by the original creature of the night, Dracula! Can Batman stop the ruthless vampire before he turns everyone in the city, including the aforementioned super villains into his mindless minions? With supernatural strength, speed and mind control Dracula might prove to powerful for the Dark Knight. The movie also stars tenacious reporter Vicky Vale and favourite bad guys The Joker and The Penguin.

SAG gives award to James Earl Jones for his voice

James Earl Jones' role as Mufasa in Disney's The Lion King was cited Thursday by the Screen Actors Guild as an aspect of his "iconic" voice that will gain him its Life Achievement Award.

Jones will be given the award for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment, presented annually to an actor who fosters the "finest ideals of the acting profession," at the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, which premieres live January 25 on TNT and TBS.

"James Earl Jones' distinguished career on stage, in film, on television, in commercials and as a vocal presence without peer commands our admiration and respect. His long and quiet devotion to advancing literacy, the arts and humanities on a national and local scale deserves our appreciation," said SAG president Alan Rosenberg. "It is our honor to bestow the Guild's highest tribute on this extraordinary actor."

Jones' career also includes a wide range of television work. He has provided voices for three episodes of The Simpsons, including his narration of the show's take on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven."

Today, Jones' voice is known by people of all ages and walks of life: the Star Wars fans who know him as the voice of Darth Vader, those who hear him intone "This is CNN" while watching the news, and the countless people who use Verizon phone services, for which he was the exclusive spokesperson for many years.

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has honored him with three Emmys: in 1991 for his performance as Junius Johnson in the TNT telefilm Heat Wave and his portrayal of title character Gabriel Bird in the ABC series Gabriel's Fire, and in 2000 for the children's special Summer's End. He also earned six nominations for the telefilm By Dawn's Early Light and his guest roles on Frasier, Everwood, Under One Roof, Picket Fences and East Side/West Side.

He is the recipient of two CableACEs and a 1976 Grammy for Great American Documents. He has been honored with two NAACP Image Awards and induction into the Image Awards Hall of Fame.

Based on his success in the theater, Jones began to be cast in small television roles. In the 1960s, he was one of the first African-American actors to appear regularly in daytime soap operas (playing a doctor in both The Guiding Light and As the World Turns). He made his film debut in 1964 in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Jones spent his childhood as a virtual mute because of a severe stuttering problem. With the help of an outstanding high school teacher, Donald Crouch, Jones overcame his stutter and transformed his weakness into his greatest strength.

"In my family, we say the love of reading and book learning is in our bone memory," Jones says about the significance that reading has had in his life.

"We would never think of not learning to read and getting an education. My great-great grandparents secretly learned to read when they were slaves and indentured servants. They passed on their love of reading to my great-grandfather who, as a free man, amassed a modest library and encouraged his family to read his books and revere them.”

He continued: "Growing up, I was mute to the outside world, but there were hundreds of conversations in my head. And that is the beauty of reading that exists for people to discover. For me, reading was a key to self-possession… a treasure that gave me the ability to be my own person. Through a love of reading, I was able to overcome my muteness and pursue a career in which my voice would be my most prominent asset.”

Jones has been married since March 1982 to actress Cecilia Hart. Their son Flynn is 25.

Sita Sings The Blues

Attention Angelenos! Nina Paley’s incredibly wonderful full length feature film Sita Sings The Blues will have its Los Angeles Premiere in glorious 35mm at the RedCat Theatre (within the Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown) on Monday night October 13th at 8:30pm. For details and tickets click here.

I saw the film, twice, in Ottawa and I’m absolutely wild about it. And here’s why: It’s a perfectly realized, solid piece of work. Visually beautiful, extremely entertaining, it has so much going for it I really can’t think of anything I’d change about it.

The film tells the story of Nina’s ill-fated long distance relationship (and eventual break-up) to a boyfriend who was transfered to India on business. This part of the film is animated and drawn in Nina’s comic-strip, bigfoot style (above). She intercuts this story with the Indian legend of Ramayana - this told by three off-screen Indian contemporaries who hilariously try to remember all the little details. This part is animated in a paper cut-out collage style, using all manner of Hindu commercial imagery and iconography — not unlike Ward Kimball’s pop-art educationals (Music, Space, Birds, etc.). Within the Ramayana sections, Paley re-imagines certain plot points as elaborate musical-fantasy sequences, animated with Max-Fleischer-meets-UPA designs (see image below) set to a soundtrack of vintage 1929-era Annette Hanshaw recordings. Imagine Betty Boop in a Bollywood musical and you are close the mood Paley achieves.

And it all works. It works as a full length feature - It’s not a short stretched to fill over an hour. The film has a simple but strong personal story narrative, which many can relate to. It’s so clearly an independent film, not the tired product of a factory made, committee driven studio. Did I mention this film was made by one person, over a five year period, on her home computer? That fact alone makes Nina’s achievement here even more incredible - and refreshing.

Above it all, it’s fun. The film seems so effortlessly enjoyable in that same way all classic animation feels. I urge you to see the film when you can (in L.A. that means Oct. 13th at RedCat) and support Nina’s efforts to recoup her production expenses and find distribution. Sita Sings The Blues is an accomplishment to be celebrated by all who love animation.

“That’s all.”

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

On Set with "Coraline": A Tour Through Laika Animation

Toon Zone News goes behind the scenes of "Coraline", Henry Selick's latest stop-motion feature -

The building that housed upwards of 57 active sets in tandem for a stop-motion animated film (a new record, by the way) is an inconspicuous-looking building several miles outside of Portland, Oregon. There's nothing so ostentatious as the kind of studios you'd find in Hollywood, be it a Warner Bros watertower or a massive gate with the studio name. It's rather appropriate to the project and the artists behind it, because there's a crucial need for privacy and focus in stop-motion animation, which has so many elements that need to be controlled and monitored to prevent mistakes or amateurish effect. So it was an undeniable privilege to be able to tour Coraline's sets and departments at Laika Animation, seeing the remarkable amount of skills and supplies necessary to pull a film like this off.

The atmosphere at Laika was much more relaxed than one might have expected, but that can be explained by the fact that they're ramping down to the end of their production schedule. There's far less work to do at this point than there was at the apex of the shoot's activity. Ergo, we were free to more fully examine the areas we got to see and ask our questions without too much worry of wasting the artists' time.

What most amazed me, in my chance to look up close and personal at every aspect of Coraline's artistic elements, is the remarkable amount of specialized detail that every bit of the film required. The metal framework skeletons within each of the puppets is a good example of this. The head of puppets, Georgina Haynes, explained that the parts for these skeletons are so small that they literally cannot be purchased anywhere, and have to be special ordered from engineers. It's fantastic to consider the requirements of such microscopic construction, especially given how many of these stop-motion puppets have to be made. Some of the puppets are made at 200% and 300% size, to serve for close-up shots. However, the nature of Henry Selick's filming choices made it necessary to make even the normal 100% size puppets as perfectly detailed as the bigger models, as the camera might start from far back but then eventually move in for the close-up without ever breaking the shot. That means that everything has to be camera-ready to every degree, and capable of all the necessary amount of movement and manipulation.

Another fascinating thing that you fans of the technical side of animation might want to know is that Coraline is a combination of two different stop-motion techniques: replacement and mechanical. The former is the hallmark of films like The Nightmare Before Christmas, where replacement heads are used for all the characters to simulate their shifting emotions and different mouth shapes, allowing the characters to both act and talk. Mechanical animation was used in Corpse Bride, where the puppets themselves were very complicated technical achievements with a series of joints and gears within the bodies and faces of the characters, allowing the animators to simply push the body parts and facial expressions into whatever form they wanted without a lot of replacement supplies to keep track of. Mechanical puppetry allows for greater detail and complexity in the puppet's design, but replacement puppetry allows for a far greater range of possible emotion from the puppet in performance. Coraline's crew has artists that worked on either or both films, and so Coraline is using both techniques. The main characters are replacement-based, as they do the bulk of the acting; the more colorful and curious side characters are mechanical, allowing their standalone features to be especially interesting.

At the costuming department, most of the costumes are actually made of real cloth and textured material. My question to them was, doesn't that make for an automatic danger in stop-motion? After all, cloth doesn't automatically stand still for the frame-by-frame process; not to mention, they have to make multiple versions of the same costume for the multiple versions of the puppets. For my first proposed problem, the costumes get wired so that they will hold their basic form as they animate the puppets; for my second, they use computers to analyze the pattern on the costumes and make sure that the cut of the fabric matches every single other version of that cut.

Next, we were able to visit some of the live sets still animating in this last leg of production. These ranged from things as simple as sets where Coraline is just skipping down the steps of her house, to a complicated horizontal tableau where an animator has spent several weeks chipping slowly away at a clay horizon-like environment so that it looks like it's dissipating upwards (the camera sits above it, shooting down). One curious thing I learned was what stop-motion animation uses for its "pencil tests": rehearsal. The animator rehearses the animation at a simpler pace, posing the characters for every fourth frame or so. This allows the animators, and Selick, to monitor the way the animation works so that they can be sure that the animation works for the shot, and then they graph it out frame by frame. After that, they'll actually get to the real animation shooting, knowing for certain which poses and alterations they need to make to the puppet for each frame.

One truly amazing setup involves a floor that has turned into a spider web, and so the shot is of Coraline falling down through the center of the web as the camera moves around her. Because the web actually exists and is nearly as delicate as real webbing itself, the crew has set up a complicated two-story set that uses computer-controlled wenches to make the web properly collapse in the right (and assymmetrical) pattern. When we had a chance to see them on-set testing the web, the animators were debating on the best way to be able to access the Coraline puppet in the center of the web without ever touching the fragile set.

I close with a description of the sets themselves. We all had a chance to wander through the "graveyard", which is where previously used and no-longer-needed sets are being stored. Both the active sets and the graveyard sets have utterly remarkable level of detail to them, in construction and in painting. Granted, as I mentioned earlier, Selick is fond of taking the camera straight in to the characters and the world, which requires that everything be detailed enough to be perfect for the camera. But while that may make sense from an intellectual perspective, it means something entirely different to be standing right up against the set, your nose a centimeter away from the surface. The house itself, a significant environment/character of the story in Coraline, has a stippled paint pattern all over its tiny brick surface, mimicking to perfection the kind of texture you find on any brick surface you'd see in reality. Is this something you'd notice on the big screen? Of course not. But you'd notice it if it wasn't there. It's part of animation's great contradiction, the need to create convincing reality out of material that is unrealistic to be moving on its own. What Laika Animation has done, under the peerless guidance of Henry Selick, is a heck of a lot of work that is bound to convince all who view it.

Many thanks to Yannina Diaz and Deette Kearns at Focus Features for all their generosity and passion in getting this press event together, and for my fellow press guys Joe Fordham from Cinefex and Jeff Lester from Newsarama for being good company. And, of course, to Henry Selick and everyone at Laika Animation for their willingness to share their amazing artistry with us, both behind-the-scenes and on the screen.

The Passions of Henry Selick: A "Coraline" Interview

The last stop in Toon Zone News' tour of Laika Animation was to have a sitdown with Henry Selick himself, the great stop-motion animator and the writer/director of this project. Henry's a guarded guy, but he was willing to be open with us and answer our questions with great insight and humor. In this roundtable interview, Henry goes over all of his travails in getting the movie off the ground, and making Gaiman's brilliant and dreamlike novella work as a movie.

There are some spoilers in the following interview, although nothing so big that it would completely ruin the story.

Q: What drew you to the book of Coraline?

HENRY SELICK ("HS"): I was introduced to Neil [Gaiman, the author] before the book was published. He'd been writing it for years. It was always his "side project" while he was doing other things, and he was getting near the end [of it]. I just felt in tune with it immediately. Neil's an incredible writer. He can write about anything and it would draw you in. But I think the main point of the book that I liked is [this]: everyone's imagined a different version of their own lives, so what would you want that to be, and what price would you pay to have that? And I liked that the hero is a kid, who faces really dark, scary things. And wins. There's lots of individual moments and inventions, but underneath it all, that's what did it.

Q: I read that you optioned the book before it had been published. Were the Dave McKean illustrations a part of the book at that point?

They came a little bit later.

Q: Did those influence you visually, or affect how you came about with the style of the film?

It's been an interesting journey. When I got the book, it was practically finished, although there were a few adjustments made later. It felt like I could convince somebody that I should write the screenplay, because it's already written. I just felt like I could make this book [without change] into a movie. But that wasn't entirely true. It's always a journey to get from one place to the other. So, in a similar way, when Dave McKean's sketches came in, I just thought, "Oh, these are great! We'll just do this!" But, y'know, I couldn't even explain, but over time the visual design and the journey took us to a different place. [Dave's] a brilliant artist, and he made his own film; I'm sure he'll be making more. There were never any disagreements. It just took on a life of its own and evolved to where it is today. I loved his stuff and expected to work with him, but we just never did.

Q: How much did you have to do to determine the look of the film? When I read it, I had images of guys like Jan Svankmajer and styles like that. Did you have an immediate take on the look of the film, or was it something you had to struggle to find?

Originally, I took this to Bill Mechanic, the former head of Fox and just started an independent studio, and I brought him this project and tried to convince him to let me do the adaptation. He loved it, but he said, "This is a live-action movie." I said, "No, I want to do it in animation," but he said, "I'll only do it if it's live-action." So I nodded my head and agreed to that, and we even went down that path to some degree, but I was always writing it for animation. So, to directly answer your question, I was in a make-believe period of, "Okay, we're doing this live-action,", and met with various people, but I was also developing what would visually work the best. I love Jan Svankmajer's work. He's a big influence on myself. I've met him; he's brilliant. But that heady Eastern European's powerful stuff and it seems like a perfect fit, but it's not who I am.

I was looking for our own path that wouldn't be repeating Nightmare Before Christmas or James and the Giant Peach. Maybe a little bit more like the short films I've made: Short Bob in the Lower Dimensions. I wanted recognizeable beauty. I didn't want it to be a challenge [on the eyes] all the time, or only for hardcore Gaiman fans. The look and the style has its own journey and path; sometimes, it skewed a little too cartoonish or a little too live-action. I came across the work of Tadehiro Uesugi, who's a famous Japanese illustrator and artist. He's heavily influenced by American magazine illustrations from the late 50s and 60s, and there was something very refreshing and powerful in his work that I realized we could never capture in 3D, but I wanted to try to get it in our sets. He's all about beautiful design, delicate colors, and then there's always one or two elements of very realistic light or reflection of water that takes the whole picture and makes it feel real. So we hired him, and he did a lot of concept art. [If] you look at his concept art, and you look at the movie, you can see some influence.

It's not always about, "Well, if we do this, it'll be better for an audience." The movie takes years to develop, and it goes through a number of processes to get where it is.

Q: So it grows very organically as it goes along?

Yes. We didn't know where we'd end up. I didn't know where we'd end up. I always knew it was going to be animation, and finally the conditions were right in coming up here [to Laika Animation]. Bill was a little reluctant, but he'd rather get the movie made than not, and now he's a big supporter of the film.

Q: When did 3D get into it, and how did you try to use it in a narrative way?

I know a lot about 3D just from geography. I've spent most of my professional life in the San Fransisco area, and got to be friends this guy Lenny Lipton, who's pretty much the modern father of 3D. Stereoscopy, as he prefers calling it. I did a rock video with him twenty years ago in 3D, and I would always check in with him. He was a fan of stop-motion films. So I saw what was happening in cinema, with the comings of these new digital projectors. And simultaneously, I was still looking for our Wizard of Oz device, like going from black-and-white to color. I can't just do that; it's really tired. What can I do [to differentiate] between these worlds? And it was right in front of me: we can use 3D. But let's not go overboard. Let's not only have it perfectly flat in the real world and then HUGE 3D in the Other World. So we use it very subtly, and here and there we crank it up.

The movie is Coraline; it's her point-of-view. The life she has is bland and claustrophobic, so we took the sets - this was a tough concept to get across to people - and literally crushed sets, so that the floors were raked like this. [Henry indicates with his hand an angle of practically 45 degrees.] You shoot it with a little 3D in the cameras, and you think, "It just doesn't feel very comfortable here." And then you go to the Other World, and you build the same set but you build it deep, and you add color and you redress it, and suddenly you can breathe and it has a warmth. It just seemed like a perfect fit for the story, but we also use it for a few effects here and there. Not for stuff coming out at you from the screen, but mainly it's internal. When the Other World goes bad, and it's too much of a good thing, we also crank up the 3D at times to where it goes beyond an effect, and things feel wrong in a powerful way. It's organic; it's not scientifically planned, but there's a script for the 3D-ness of the film. And then, of course, you have to bear in mind that not every screen will be 3D, and so the film will have to work anyway on its own.

Q: Now that you've talked about adapting the book from a visual perspective, how was it adapting the book from a storytelling/writing perspective? What were the major hurdles, and what came easily?

Major hurdles? Well, books have a kind of language with internal dialogue and things like that; how do you bring that to a screen? Ultimately, it resulted in creating another character, this annoying neighbor kid Wybie. It's a dangerous thing to do that to books, but I just could not find another way to flesh out Coraline. Just the cat in the real world? She didn't know he could talk. So it took a long time, but I'd like to think Wybie went from a device to an important character. And he has a backstory that is connected to the house, so it pays off nicely.

Q: So you've integrated him. You've put another Chekhov's gun in there.

[laughs] Yeah. Another condition with Bill, and I wasn't opposed to it because I was more comfortable with it, was setting it in the US. But I wanted to hold onto...well, at least Spink and Forcible. They had to be British. So where was I gonna set that in the whole country? I was living in California at the time and I discovered this well-known Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Oregon, and I thought, "Hmm, it's rainy, miserable there a lot of the year, and they might have moved here thinking they'd get parts." And I set it there, having no idea I'd actually move to Oregon to make the movie! It's a risky thing [to make changes], but I think the fans will be okay. I love the characters and I wanted to hold on to quite a lot of the book, so Spink and Forcible, I think we've captured them pretty well. Bobinski we've made similar, but he's more in-your-face. He's kinda rude, but he's...he's probably never taken a bath. He does those exercises on the roof and he's just like a big spider.

The two most important things in adapting that I wanted to keep was holding onto the essence of Coraline and not making her overly heroic. Not making her Kim Possible, giving her incredible fighting skills. It still had to feel that she's skeptical. She doesn't trust adults. Ultimately resourceful, brave, and tenacious. That was the most important thing to hang onto. The book was written over many years; it was actually inspired by Neil's older daughter, when she was growing up, and then his younger daughter. So she actually seems to change ages in the book. I always liked that, and I think kids can regress, so she can say to her father, "I'm not five years old!" and then act exactly like a five-year-old. Also, the relationship with her real mom. The real mom at the end of the book is not suddenly nice and caring and warm and touchy. She's the same. There's no real lessons learned; she doesn't remember being rescued. It's Coraline who sees everyone in a new way - she appreciates them.

Q: Everybody on the set spoke of your love of doing practical, in-camera effects. What's your take on those kinds of gags or effects?

There's those CGI films, Pixar, Dreamworks, doing CGI effects with great stories, but what I know and I love, and I think the audience does too, is real stuff. When you go out on our sets and you see what you see, it's pretty amazing. It has something the others don't. It really exists. It's not drawings or in a computer. With the effects, every movie needs effects. Fire, and smoke, and mist, and rain. We went outside [to a CGI studio] and got a bid, and it was half the cost of our movie. And these were friends of mine! So I said we're gonna do as much as we can in-house, and we brought in Brian Van't Hul, a great talent, as our visual effects supervisor. He's got an Academy Award from working on The Lord of the Rings and King Kong with Peter Jackson, but he has an appreciation for both kinds of effects. So there's a mix. There's a huge amount of in-camera effects. There's fire that's replacement [the stop-motion technique of switching static pieces from frame to frame], and so you think "That's not real", but it moves and it's beautiful so you just accept it. We have a crude "rain machine" that looks really good. We attached wires to a lot of the trees in the background so they're moving gently. Just worked really hard to get a lot of atmosphere on the sets. We tried to do everything in-camera, but ultimately it was easier to shoot the foreground and then create the sky [later]. We can't build that many 40-foot skies.

Q: We saw the caricature builds of Joe and Jerome Ranft. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Joe, and how you felt in 2005?

As part of the story, there's the moving-in day. Joe and his brother Jerome - they have another brother as well - they're big, strong guys and they got asked to help people move so many times that they got sweatshirts that said, "Ranft Bros. Moving Company". I wanted to put them in the movie, and got permission from Joe's widow to do so.

I knew Joe since he was 19, a huge, overweight, out-of-control maniac, going to punk rock clubs with me at two in the morning. Over the years, I saw him take classes with the Groundlings and study story and get better and better with drawing, and just evolve into one of the world's great storytellers. Someone who, in the animation tradition, told stories through pictures, in storyboards. There's a lot that's been written about him. Personally, he's been a huge part of the films I've worked on - Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach. Two things I can say about Joe. He had this incredible ability...everybody could give up, and he never did. He never stopped; he was able to keep going and going, even if he had to trash a sequence. You edit these movies before you make them, and sometimes you'd do a sequence ten times. You might throw it out, saying it isn't working. It's very disspiriting. And Joe had this incredible ability know, recover one night and go back until it was working. So he had that, and he also had this incredibly dark, twisted side to him that was funny as hell. He did these short stories and illustrations about this maniac kid who'd accidentally electrocute his dad in the bathtub; who had bugs burrowing into his brain and commanding him to do awful things. He had plates made one Christmas of his character, Billy. He was one of the best artists, best talents, and best people I ever worked with.

Also, when Joe Ranft jumped in the mosh pit, you better watch out. He was 6' 6", and at the time 240 lbs., so he cleared a path.

Q: It's funny how even after the pressure of Bill Mechanic to make it live-action, there's all this focus on real textures and real cloth. It's not live-action, but it's sort of a different form of reality.

I wanted to be able to go in for the close-ups and not have it all fall apart. I mean, we had somebody who could do minIature hair. If you can't go in for close-ups in a film, you're always outside looking in. The audience doesn't have a chance to get that direct access that you can get through a close-up. The close-ups led a lot of the detail work.

Q: Ever have any details that you missed, that you regret not catching?

There will be. It'll be hard for me to watch the movie for, about, five years. But what I've learned from Nightmare and James is that those mistakes are what gives a movie its soul and character. Human faces aren't the same on both sides. Assymetry - things are unbalanced. That's part of the process. If you do everything by hand, there'll be mistakes. A lot of them. And honestly, as I've learned from the past, they don't bother me as much.

Q: Is that maybe what the movie Coraline is about? The temptation of perfection?

I don't want to oversimplify it, so I'll answer that this way. This is a new company, Laika Animation, and they're doing CG as well as stop-motion. At one point, we did a test that maybe one world would be stop-motion and one world would be CG. We did a test with the Other World as CG, to let it be more smooth and shiny and liquid and the things that CG could do well. But when we put them side by side, it felt like we were going to this cold place. The life she was trying to escape, which was boring and flat, was more appealing.

So that's sort of the message, a small part. In the book, right away the Other Mother, in addition to buttons for eyes, has long black hair that moves like sea snakes and white pasty skin. And that Coraline would have to be a hardcore Goth to consider staying there. So we decided to gradually do that. She eventually gets there but first she just has buttons, and everything looks exactly the same but better. And over time, that Mother changes into the Beldam, the witch that she truly is.

Q: I'd have imagined the CG/stop-motion mix going the other way around.

We tried it both ways, and it just didn't work for us. A lot of the fans of Neil Gaiman have been worried, seeing images on the Net, that the movie is going to overly Disney-fied, and that it's too bright and colorful. I'll put it this way: the book lives in tones of grey to black. We go lighter, but we also go very dark. We just don't live there as long. I think that if the fans of the book come see the film, they'll realize we fought to hold onto the essence of almost every element in the book. We chose to hold off [on the darkness] when Coraline first goes to the Other World, and the whole movie's that way. There's humor in the film, but it's not gags. We want a lot of people to like it, but I was always thinking of the fans of the book, and that the movie holds on very tightly to all the important elements of it.

Many thanks to Yannina Diaz and Deette Kearns at Focus Features for all their generosity and passion in getting this press event together, and for my fellow press guys Joe Fordham from Cinefex and Jeff Lester from Newsarama for being good company. And, of course, to Henry Selick and everyone at Laika Animation for their willingness to share their amazing artistry with us, both behind-the-scenes and on the screen.

Walt Disney Presents "Sleeping Beauty" Downloadable Posters

In conjunction with the upcoming release of Sleeping Beauty on 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD and Blu-ray high-definition disc, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has released three downloadable wallpapers featuring Princess Aurora, Prince Phillip, and the evil Maleficent. Click on the thumbnails below to get a larger image, which you can save to your computer by right-clicking (or control-clicking on a Mac) on the image and selecting the appropriate "Save" option:

Most Profitable Moom Pitchers

If you haven't seen this factoid, take a gander at it now. SNL Kagan has produced a study which finds:

... that animated films have the best average profitability among all genres. Animated films contributed $230.6 million under a major studio deal, Kagan found ...

Remember how it used to be for animation? (You can if you're old enough.) There were Disney animated features, and then there was ... an arid desert broken by Yellow Submarine, Fritz the Cat and a handful of other cartoons. Big studios didn't want to get into the game because the big profits weren't there. Disney had a nameplate, nobody else could compete. That was the received wisdom.

Then came the 1990s and the HUGE profits generated by Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King and Aladdin (If not for the woeful Rescuers Down Under this would be a string of unbroken hits.) The money cascading in to the Mouse House's bank vaults grew so large and deep that other studios had a religious conversion:

"Sweet Jeebus! We can't let this kind of money go by! We have to get into the Church of Animation and make our own Lion Kings!"

And so it came to be. There was Page Master. There was Quest for Camelot. There were Anastasia, Titan A.E. and several others, but in the early to mid 1990s they all crashed and burned. Fox Feature Animation went belly up, as did Warner Bros. Feature Animation. Turner Animation came and went.

But now another decade has slipped by, and the magic of CGI has leveled the playing field. Where nobody could compete against Walt's hand-drawn product, now many reap millions from the pixels found in computer imaging. (Ironically, Walt's direct heirs have been struggling.

Magical! Simply magical! And the chart above proves it.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Superman Sequel To Start Shooting Next Year.

The Independent has an interview with Kevin Spacey where he talks about acting and theater and how he likes to grab dude's asses.

It's not news that he signed on the dotted line for a sequel to Superman Returns, but I guess filming may start sooner than I thought if this is correct:

That may not go down so well with the producers of the follow-up to Superman Returns, who will be paying him big bucks to reprise his role as Lex Luthor next year. "Well, look. If I'm not producing, then I'm an actor for hire. It ends there. That doesn't mean you're not working with a director and other actors and a writer to make the best movie you can, but it's a temporal experience, you'll be together for a couple of weeks or months and then you're done."

So I guess WB isn't putting it on hold and concentrating on the other heroes, they're going forward with Superman as well. But Lex Luthor? Again? Why? I hope it's a really small role because I'm sick of looking at Lex Luthor as the villain. I think a guy called Superman should be fighting other beings that have, you know, super powers. Just give us Doomsday or Brainiac or Bizarro and be done with it.

Click HERE to read the rest.

"Bleach The Movie" in Canada for one night only

"Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody" will screen across Canada for one night only -- Monday, October 20 -- licensing company Viz Media, LLC announced Friday.

Adapted from the wildly popular animated series and best-selling manga series by acclaimed Japanese artist Tite Kujbo, Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody will make its Canadian debut at select Cineplex Entertainment and Empire Theatres locations.

Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody begins as unidentified beings known as "Blanks" start popping up. They are soon followed by a Soul Reaper named Senna who makes them disappear. Puzzled by these unknown beings and the even more mysterious girl, Ichigo and Rukia set out to learn more, but uncover an evil plot when a menacing clan tries to kidnap Senna.

Banished from the Soul Society long ago, the clan's leader has sent sending the World of the Living and the Soul Society on a collision course, and Senna seems to be the key to his diabolical plot for revenge. Can Ichigo and his fellow Soul Reapers save the two worlds from annihilation?

"Cineplex Entertainment is very pleased to present Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody on the big screen to our guests across the country," said Pat Marshall, Cineplex Entertainment's vice-president for communications and investor relations. "Past screenings of animated and manga series movies have become extremely popular with our guests, and we are excited to offer them the ability to be one of the first to see this movie."

"Canadians have long embraced film genres outside of the regular Hollywood fare. Anime and manga properties are no exception, as we have seen with the releases of Death Note and Naruto. We know that there is a huge following for Bleach in Canada and we look forward to serving those fans and introducing this great property to others," said Dean Leland, vice-president of media and studio relations for Empire Theatres.

"We are extremely excited to bring the first Bleach theatrical movie to enthusiastic fans across Canada," says Liza Coppola, Viz Media's senior vice-president for corporate relations and partnerships. "Anticipation has been steadily building for Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody, and this theatrical showing with its non-stop action and exciting plot twists is sure to delight and surprise audiences. This will be a unique opportunity to see one of the hottest animated titles on the big screen, and we look forward to new and old fans coming out in force to enjoy this special one-night-only event."

The Bleach manga series (rated "T" for teens) has been licensed to more than a dozen countries, and it has sold over 50 million copies in Japan alone. In North America, the manga series has been a sales hit, and millions in the United States and Canada view the popular animated series weekly. This success has further spawned an array of related video games, apparel, action figures, trading cards and other merchandise.

For more information on Bleach and Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody, visit the official Bleach website at or

For more information, advance tickets and a complete list of participating theatres, go to or

Top Fox Exec Talks Daredevil Reboot

The guys over at IESB were recently chatting with 20th Century Fox co-chairman, Tim Rothman, and got him to open up about the Daredevil reboot, a project which was proposed earlier this year at Comic Con by Sin City creator Frank Miller and British action star Jason Statham.

According to Rothman, Miller and Statham weren’t just doing some out-loud wishful thinking: a Daredevil reboot is something Fox would definitely be interested in–so long as they could snag a director who would be able to do for the Man Without Fear what Chris Nolan did for Batman Begins.

Check out a few snippets from the interview with Rothman:

IESB: One of the brands that has made Fox a lot of money is Marvel. Recently, there was a reboot of the Hulk, which was alright, but I think it was mainly to get it ready for the Avengers film coming up. But there are two Marvel properties you control amongst others, Daredevil and Elektra. Both films didn’t do too well but…reboot maybe?

Tom Rothman: A Daredevil, to use your words, reboot, is something we are thinking very seriously about.

TR: …I think that the thing the Hulk showed…that if you really do it right the audience will give you a second chance. That it is possible. And I think that you see that when they did Batman Begins, the first Nolan movie…given the proper amount of time and the right creative vision behind it, you can, to use your word, reboot.

Little surprise that 20th Century Fox would want to re-squeeze every penny out of something they already own and ruined once. Hell, if there’s money yet to be made, why NOT ruin something twice?

What is funny to me, however, is a later statement Rothman gave when asked whether the Daredevil reboot would mirror the gritty tone of a movie like The Dark Knight:

“Would it be as dark? I don’t know because what it really needs is, it needs a visionary at the level that Chris Nolan was. It needs someone, it needs a director, honestly, who has a genuine vision. What we wouldn’t do is just do it for the sake of doing it. Right? What we try to do is to get a creative engine for it, that really had a great vision for it, that’s what we would look for.”

Wow, at least Tommy-boy has that part finally figured out: snagging a good director and letting him do his thing = good $uperhero franchise. Brilliant!

(Studio Executives, for further instruction on how to properly make a superhero movie, please refer to Jon Favreau’s insightful comments about making Iron Man 2.)

In the meantime, are there any directors of “genuine vision” out there looking to take a crack at this Daredevil reboot?

Kevin Smith?

David Fincher?

Wayne Kramer, even?

Please guys, if you’re out there, I really am jonesing for a Daredevil movie done right.

(Thanks Screenrant)

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" to Get Multiple Digital Distributions

Lucasfilm has announced multiple avenues of digital distribution for their new CGI animated TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars:

New episodes will be available at the Apple iTunes Store on the Saturday after their premiere on Cartoon Network, costing $1.99 per episode or $39.99 for a season pass. "Ambush" and "Rising Malevolence" are available now, along with a "making-of" featurette available as a free download. and will offer streaming video of new episodes for free, starting on October 10, 2008. Episodes will be available one week after their broadcast debut, with two episodes available for viewing at any given time.

In addition, a free Clone Wars podcast will be available on iTunes and to provide behind-the-scenes information, and will offer a free online graphic novel that will introduce each new episode of the show.

Former Manga Entertainment CEO Launches Marvin Media Licensing Company

Animation World Network reports that former CEO and co-founder of Manga Entertainment Marvin Gleicher has launched Marvin Media, a new company to develop, produce, and license animated films and television shows. Marvin Media's first film property is Floating Moon, a science-fiction movie with director Keiichi Sato (Karas, Wolf's Rain), screenwriter Manabu Ishikawa (Fullmetal Alchemist), and Hisashi Oguchi; the movie is scheduled to be completed in early 2010. A 26-episode season of an animated TV comedy series called High Def is also in the works with Island Def Jam Music Group, slated to be ready in late 2009.

Walt Disney Presents "Sleeping Beauty" DVD Restoration Sample Images

In advance of the Sleeping Beauty 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD and Blu-ray disc release, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has released eight sample images from the newly remastered DVD, which we've paired off with the comparable frame from the 2003 2-disc Special Edition DVD release for comparison purposes. Click on each thumbnail image to see the uncropped widescreen image; the 2003 release stills are on the top, while the remastered edition stills are on the bottom (NOTE: thumbnail images do not usually reflect the difference between the 2003 release and the Platinum Edition):

Maleficent at Princess Aurora's birth:

Aurora's parents with the newborn princess:

The forest cottage where Princess Aurora is hidden away:

Princess Aurora walks with some friends...

...who ask for a dance:

The goblins dance around a campfire:

Maleficent casts a spell:

True Love's Kiss awakens Princess Aurora:

Guillermo del Toro on The Hobbit and Frankenstein

The filmmaker formally known as Guillermo del Toro, now referred to ubiquitously as Guillermo "I'm making The Motherf****** 'Hobbit'" del Toro, appeared tonight at the Director's Guild of America in midtown Manhattan as part of The New Yorker Festival series of talks. During the conversation with New Yorker staff writer Daniel Zalewski, the director of such modern genre masterpieces as Pan's Labyrinth and the "Hellboy" series talked up some of his future projects, including the aforementioned two-film Tolkien adaptation as well as a new version of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."

Currently at the beginning of pre-production on The Hobbit, del Toro discussed his process of gathering ideas, or "feeding his brain," in order to conceptualize his own vision of Middle Earth unique from where Peter Jackson went in his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy…

"I find you have to discipline yourself to write in the morning, and then watch and read in the afternoons stuff that seems relevant, even in a tangential way. For example, reading or watching World War I documentaries or books that I think inform 'The Hobbit,' strangely enough, because I believe it is a book born out of Tolkien's generation's experience with World War I and the disappointment of being in that field and seeing all those values kind of collapse. I think it's a turning point that you need to familiarize yourself with. I'm starting. Peter Jackson is such a fan of that historical moment and obsessive collector of World War I memorabilia, and he owns several genuine, life-size working reproductions of planes, tanks, cannons, ships! He has the perfect obsessive reproductions of uniforms of that time for armies of about 120 soldiers... each. I asked him which books he recommended… because I wouldn't be watching 'Krull' or 'The Dark Crystal,' I need to find my OWN way into the story. That's the same way I did 'Pan's Labyrinth' or 'Devil's Backbone,' by watching stuff you wouldn't think about.

"All my life I've been fascinated by dragons. I was born under the Chinese sign of The Dragon. All my life I'm collecting dragons. It's such a powerful symbol, and in the context of
'The Hobbit' it is used to cast its shadow through the entire narrative. Essentially, Smaug represents so many things: greed, pride… he's 'the Magnificent,' after all. The way his shadow is cast in the narrative you cannot then show it and have it be one thing, he has to be the embodiment of all those things. He's one of the few dragons that will have enormous scenes with lines. He has some of the most beautiful dialogues in those scenes! The design, I'm pretty sure that will be the last design we will sign off on, and the first design we have attempted. It is certainly a matter of turning every stone before figuring out what he looks like, because what he looks like will tell you what he is."

After he completes his work on the two "Hobbit" films in 2012, the prodigiously optimistic del Toro has a whole slew of projects to keep him occupied until 2017, including a new version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, his long-delayed Lovecraft adaptation At the Mountains of Madness, a just-announced trilogy of vampire novels (the first of which he claims is already written), and his own version of Frankenstein.

Del Toro is an acknowledged fan of "Frankenstein." He has busts of Boris Karloff as the monster in his house. One of his biggest filmic influences, the 1973 Spanish film The Spirit of the Beehive, revolves around a showing of the classic Universal Frankenstein. He has raved about Bernie Wrightson's illustrated version and the original Frank Darabont script eventually filmed as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein by Kenneth Branagh in '94 and all-but-disowned by Darabont. Del Toro's version, however, sounds decidedly different…

"I'm not doing 'Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.' I'm doing an adventure story that involves the creature. I cannot say much, but it's not the central creation story, I'm not worried about that. The fact is I've been dreaming of doing a 'Frankenstein' movie since I was a child. The one thing I can promise is, compared to Kenneth Branagh, I will not appear shirtless in the movie!"

When pressed by a fan during the Q & A regarding the Wargs' appearance in The Hobbit, del Toro seemed like a child dying to spill the big secret he has but forcing himself to show restraint, joking that "Warner Brothers has a sniper right here in the theater."

"There will be different sensibilities involved in this movie than there were in the original trilogy. First of all, because we have the travelogues in 'The Hobbit' which goes to places and variations on races that were not addressed in the trilogy. My belief on the 'Wargs' issue is that the classical incarnation of the demonic wolf in Nordic mythology is not a hyena-shaped creature. It is a wolf. The archetype is a wolf, so we're going to go back to the slender, archetypical wolf that is, I think, the inspiration for Tolkien. Listen… if we were having a drink two years from now I would spill the beans, because I'm a pretty easy guy about spilling the beans, but I can't in this instance I can't because it's three years from now... believe me, I am jumping up-and-down inside this fat body!"

New Posters, Banners for Universal's The Wolfman's managing editor Ryan Rotten attended the Halloween Horror Nights event at Universal Studios Hollywood and returned with photos of five new posters and banners from The Wolfman.

Inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, The Wolfman brings the myth of a cursed man back to its iconic origins. Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, a haunted nobleman lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father (Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins), Talbot sets out to find his brother...and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself.

The Wolfman, directed by Joe Johnston, opens in theaters on April 3, 2009.

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