Wednesday, October 8, 2008

News - 10/08/08...

Briefly: FatKat Gets Partner; "Kung Fu Panda" Sequel Signal; "Watchmen" Motion Comics

* The two-person Black Willow Digital animation company has moved to Miramichi to work with FatKat Animation Studios to assist on in-house freelance work on Three Delivery. [Miramichi Leader]

* In the wake of the announcement of a sequel to Kung Fu Panda in 2011, Variety comments on how the announcement reflects strains between DreamWorks Animation and their distributor Paramount Pictures.

* Artist Dave Gibbons discusses the Watchmen Motion Comics released by Warner Brothers, discussing what he thinks of them and the work he's had to do to adapt his work to the semi-animated format. [Newsarama]

YTV Announces Halloween-Themed Programming for October 2008

Canada's YTV has announced its slate of Halloween-themed programming for October 2008. Included are It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, SpongeBob SquarePants: Ghost House, and Edgar & Ellen: Trick or Twins.

Walt Disney Presents Streaming Video Clips from "Sleeping Beauty"

The last of the Toon Zone News' bonus content from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment's Sleeping Beauty DVD and Blu-ray release are the following six streaming video clips. Go HERE to see the clips.

At the Big Diz

Today was Disney Animation Studio day, and I hit three floors of the hat building in my never-ending quest to spread joy and goodwill wherever I go.

A few cryptic comments about the imploding financial system and stock markets ("I'm afraid to look at my retirement accounts...") but other than that minor hiccup, smiles were sunny ...

One of the survivors of the recent round of Bolt layoffs told me:

"The last two scenes of the doggie picture are at the render farm, and we're waiting for work on the next project."

Story work on Princess and the Frog is in the End Times, meaning that when revised panels from the last screening are complete, the boarding part of the flick is pretty close to complete. (Of course, you understand that most with most animated features, tweaks go on like forever ... or until a month before the epic is in theatres.)

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Shyamalan Unveils Airbender Secrets

Director M. Night Shyamalan said he is on track for a July 2010 release of his live-action version of The Last Airbender.

"It's going to be really cool," the director said about the Paramount picture on which he is now working. "I'm at the stage where we have [pre-visualized] about the last act of the movie. And because of my normal approach to filmmaking is almost like I'm making an animated movie to some extent, I think out every shot and analyze everything. It kind of lays out really nicely for a big CGI movie."

Speaking in a conference call last week with reporters, Shyamalan added, "Basically, I feel like I'm making the movie right now, like I'm editing it and all that stuff, because I'm doing the [pre-visualizations]. Like, if you were here, I could show you the last 30 minutes of The Last Airbender in animatic form, and it is an amazing and emotional experience just to watch that. I'm like, 'Oh, this is so exciting.' It gives you such safety, because it's such a different kind of movie then I'm used to making. But yet, as we all were, we all came kind of born out of Star Wars, and somewhere in there is the desire to return to fantasy on that level."

Expect a lot more colors, the director of The Happening said. "This fantasy movie may seem as if it's coming out of nowhere, but it's not," he said. "You'll see the seeds of it in Unbreakable and in Lady [in the Water] and in Signs, all of them a little piece of this and that, and the formality of The Village and the things in it should all go, 'Oh, I get it, these are all the colors of his personality.' As opposed to, 'I don't get these other ones, how they relate.' Do you know what I mean? It should be more of an honest palette."

Shyamalan said that Airbender, which is based on the Nickelodeon animated TV series Avatar: the Last Airbender, is very spiritual. "And sometimes in my movies, like Signs, they're more overt, but sometimes--like in The Happening--they're more about faith and not necessarily religious faith. So when he steps outside, it's really just a holy moment."

Director M. Night Shyamalan on the set of his last SF movie, The Happening.

Shyamalan said Airbender is slated for release over the Independence Day weekend of 2010. After that, he said that he will think about his next project. "There are scripts," he said. "I cannot tell you anything about them. But there are three that I'm struggling with in my head right now, trying to decide. They are very different tonalities, so I'm trying to decide what to do. It's hard to guess where you're going to be. I mean a little bit of it is like going on a date for two years. So it's like, do you really want to go skydiving for two years? Do you really want to [go] rock climbing for two years? So you've got to think about it really carefully. And I have no idea how I'm going to feel, post ... Airbender, as I'm about to start the next one. But I do have a couple of ideas."

Shyamalan's follow-up film could be very different. "I don't even know if fantasy is the correct word," he said. "I don't even know what to call it, but it has some really amazing quasi-martial-arts stuff. I mean, probably, when I saw The Matrix, it struck me, because that came out in '99, I think, and I remember when it came out I was, like, 'I've always wanted to make a signature martial-arts movie that's different than anything that's ever come before it.' So I was totally in awe of those guys when they made that movie. And so this has a lot of those interests of mine, because I took martial arts for a long time. And so all those kinds of interests, they're all coming out."

Shyamalan offered this much about possible new films. "One is straight-up scary," he said. "One is more light-head scary, more in the Signs vein, that tin-foil helmet thing, which I had a great time doing that, having that light end on it. And then one is gothic. But I'm always in that world when I'm thinking about the original idea."

The DVD of Shyamalan's last film, The Happening, drops on Oct. 7.

Shyamalan Mulls Unbreakable Sequel

M. Night Shyamalan said he is considering working on a sequel to his hit Unbreakable, a superhero tale about a man (Bruce Willis) who finds that he is impervious to harm and is called to become a savior.

"I'm a strange creature," the writer/director said in a conference call with reporters last week. "When Unbreakable came out, I was like, 'God, man I'm so excited.' I thought [it] was like comic books. No one has really done comic books like this: reality-based comic books. I really think this is a metaphor for things that people can go crazy over."

Though the film was eventually a hit, the initial reaction was mixed. "When the reaction was mixed, kind of a disappointment, I was pettily hurt, and I was like, 'God, I took so many incredible risks and things like that,'"
Shyamalan said.

Because of that, Shyamalan's excitement about a sequel to the movie was muted. "I felt really hurt, and I couldn't bring myself to write," he said. "It's literally like a relationship I have with the audience. ... And then, over the years, as it just grew and grew and grew, and people were like, 'You know, I really like that. That's actually my favorite movie, and I watch that all the time,' and on and on. I'll be on the street, and some kid will run across traffic with it in his backpack--he just is carrying it in his backpack--and he'll be running [saying], 'I can't believe it's you!' Will you sign my Unbreakable DVD?' And quoting the thing and all that stuff."

As a result, Shyamalan said that the sequel idea now haunts him. "How bizarre,"
he said. "I want to write it right now, but I want to write it for the right reasons. I want a story to pop into my head that is organic and expressive of who I am. You know, these are all kind of journals of where I am emotionally, so it's kind of hard. I'm kind of trying to go back to the journal that existed in 1999 for me. But I know me: As soon as I give up on it is when the idea will come to me. It's just I need to go into therapy; I guess that's the end of that answer to this."

The DVD of Shyamalan's last film, The Happening, drops on Oct. 7.

Bruce Willis played a reluctant superhero in M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable.

Why Bridges returned to Tron

I was lucky enough to have a friend working for Jeff Bridges a few years back. And I remember him telling me that Bridges was offered a "Tron" sequel every few weeks - but didn't want a bar of it. The actor would take meetings with those that were interested in developing a sequel, but he'd essentially tell them up front that he didn't really want to be a part of it. He was still very interested in what they had to say, and their ideas, because he was a huge fan of the original movie, but he didn't think he could bring much to the movie. Either that or he didn't want to waste a year doing a popcorn movie.

I'm thinking Bridges' experience on ‘'Iron Man'' changed his mind. I'm suspecting he never wanted in on that "Tron" sequel because he was more into ‘good' flicks - not necessarily high-paying blockbusters, and at the time, the two didn't really go hand-in-hand. "Iron Man" was both those though and it's really changed the climate for popcorn movies. ‘The Dude' has obviously realized that - and thank god! Could you imagine a "Tron 2" without him!?

Bridges tells The Guardian that he's participating in the ‘'Tron'' sequel because it sounded too fun to turn down.

"That's another unique, wild experience that was too good to turn down. Engaging in that world again feels just like it did all that time ago. Basically, I'm still a child, I love being childlike, and here was another chance to play with these crazy toys. And the cutting-edge technology makes it exciting. Doing the teaser trailer for Comic-Con, I had my first experience of motion capture. And that's turning the industry on its head. It's amazing being part of that".

Bridges says this'll be a much more contemporary film - obviously - than the original 1982 film.

"Well, when we made Tron there was no internet, no cellphones. But now we have motion capture, so I think we'll get a far more successful version of the story, which is someone literally getting sucked into a video game. When we did King Kong in the 70s, one minute you'd have a shot of Rick Baker in this big suit and then you'd cut to this 80ft stiff model, and they looked nothing alike. Compare to that Peter Jackson's King Kong the technology is there and they did a wonderful job. I thought they created a beautiful Kong. So I hope that'll be the same for Tron."

Meantime, Aint it Cool News caught up with the film's director, Joseph Kosinski, this past weekend who let drop some titbits on the film - including it's proposed release date of late 2010.


Tutenstein animated feature coming

An article in today's Hollywood Reporter details upcoming fare from L.A. based producers Porchlight Entertainment.

While the primary topic of the article are the films 'Fireball' and 'A Martian Christmas', there's also a minor mention of a new project based on Jay Stephens' comic 'Tutenstein'.

The article makes mention of a feature film called 'Tutenstein: Clash of the Titans'. Porchlight previously created am Emmy Award winning animated series which ran for four years on Discover Kids.

The show and comics tell the story of a brash boy mummy who awakesn in a present day museum and has adventures with Cleo, a contemporary girl, and Luxor an enchanted cat.

The article provides no other details about the film.

Stephens has created many independent comics of note, including the charming 'Jetcat'. He's also the mastermind behind the new Cartoon Network series 'Secret Saturdays'.

Hathaway, Bonham Carter for Burton’s Alice

The Hollywood Reporter today confirms that Anne Hathaway has accepted the role of the White Queen, a benevolent monarch who is deposed and banished by her sister and needs Alice to slay a creature known as the Bandersnatch, in Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland. Burton’s partner and frequent leading lady Helena Bonham Carter also has joined the film and is set to scream the well-known “Off with their heads!” as the Red Queen. They’ll play alongside another Burton collaborator, Johnny Depp, as the Mad Hatter in the Disney produced film, which will be a combination of live-action and performance-capture technology.

Briefly: Gilchrist's Artist's Academy; Singapore Air CN Tie-in

* Nancy newspaper comic strip artist Guy Gilchrist's Cartoonist's Academy has announced a new after-school program for aspiring artists, including several animation-related tracks. [Press Release]

* Singapore Airlines will offer special Cartoon Network-themed lunchboxes for children's meals on flights lasting longer than 7 hours, with characters like the Powerpuff Girls and Ben 10 appearing on the boxes and drink cups. []

Matt Lucas Joins Astro Boy Voice Cast

Matt Lucas has joined the cast of Imagi Studios' CG-animated motion picture Astro Boy, it was announced by Erin Corbett, President of Imagi Studios U.S. Previously announced for the all-star cast were Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy and Eugene Levy with Freddie Highmore in the title role.

Actor-writer Matt Lucas, winner of multiple BAFTA Awards for the popular BBC comedy series "Little Britain," has appeared widely on the stage as well as in feature films and television, most recently starring in HBO's "Little Britain USA" series.

David Bowers (Flushed Away) is directing Astro Boy from a screenplay written by Timothy Harris (Trading Places, Kindergarten Cop), with Maryann Garger producing.

The iconic character Astro Boy has found global popularity since his creation in the early 1950s by Japan's Osamu Tezuka, known as the "god of manga" and "father of anime," and has been the hero of three acclaimed animated television series aired around the world.

Set in the future, Imagi Studio's Astro Boy is a classic superhero origin story about a young robot with incredible powers and his adventure-filled journey in search of his identity and destiny, taking him into a netherworld of robot gladiators before he returns to save Metro City.

Astro Boy, slated for domestic release on October 23, 2009, is being distributed worldwide by Summit Entertainment except for Imagi's reserved territories of Japan, Hong Kong and China.

‘The Dark Knight’ Screenwriter David Goyer On ‘Batman 3’ Rumors: ‘It’s All B.S.’

It’s the second most successful movie of all-time, a cultural tour de force that’s reverberated with critics and fans alike, redefining what a summer blockbuster and a comic movie can be capable of.

To paraphrase the Joker himself: It’s changed things. There’s no going back.

But there is, of course, going forward. Three months removed from “The Dark Knight,” and it seems all anybody wants to talk about is “Batman 3” – a new “scoop” coming our way every couple of days.

Yet whether it’s that Chris Nolan has signed on, and will start pre-production early next year, or that Johnny Depp and Philip Seymour Hoffman will play the villains, or that Cher (Cher!) is lining up to wear Catwoman’s claws, there’s one thing that each and every supposed scoop has in common, “Batman Begins” and “Dark Knight” storyman David Goyer told MTV News:

“It’s all B.S.,” he said. “ALL of it.”

That means, no, Nolan has not signed on (yet). No, there is no casting, let alone TALK, of villains, and, no, nobody is certain to return.

“Chris and I haven’t even talked about it. He quite understandably is taking a long, long vacation and wants to purge himself,” Goyer said.

Goyer means they haven’t talked about it “officially,” although, of course, he does admit – as he did when we chatted in July – that they’ve loosely bandied about themes and more.

“We have mused here and there [but] I mean Chris is pretty much a one movie at a time kind of guy,” Goyer said. “I wish I could tell you more. There really isn’t anything to tell.”

So continue to have fun with the speculation, the talk, the great debate fans have argued about back and forth in posts like the above on theme, and others. Goyer himself called the fan speculation “amusing.”

Just know there isn’t anything official. And when there is?

“If and when [Chris is] ready to talk - we’ll talk,” he promised.

Azur and Asmar

Michel Ocelot’s animated feature Azur and Asmar will open October 17th for a one-week run at the IFC Center in New York City. This film, from the director of Kirikou and the Sorceress, was picked up by The Weinstein Company last year and never got a wide theatrical release. GKIDS is presenting the US Premiere engagement of of the film as part of it’s ongoing New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Upcoming festival features include Sita Sings The Blues (with Nina Paley in person) playing Nov. 8th and 9th at the IFC Center, and Lotte from Gagetville (Estonia) January 24th at the Symphony Space. For ticket information click here.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

aniBoom Offers Four New Mini-Series at MIPCOM

aniBoom will present four "ready-for-TV" animated series at MIPCOM 2008, which runs from October 13-17 at the Cannes' Palais des Festivals. The four series are Animal Nation (about five animal roommates), Angry Dog (a dog who "magnifies the distressed overstretched underappreciated worker in all of us"), Snowy the Frostman (a parody of horror movies and holiday specials), and Freestyle (an anthology of the best aniBoom short films).

Volume 2 of "The All New Superfriends Hour" Coming to DVD reports that Warner Bros is releasing The All New Superfriends Hour: Season 1 - Volume 2 on DVD.

Superman, Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Wonder Twins are into action in 32 cartoons on a 2 -disc set, includes bonus features.

The box set will be in stores January 27th.

College Q & A, Part Deux

Last week I spent an afternoon as an animation panelist at Cal State Fullerton, answering questions from young artists, young animators, young computer tyros.

I worked the same venue a year ago, when the questions were weighted toward starting a business and jumping into the land of animation as an owner and captain of your own ship. What a difference a year ... and a different group ... makes.

There was a larger audience of students this year, and the questions centered on contracts, rights under contracts, and what exactly TAG (the union) does. I was happy to briefly review:

* Assisting with Personal Service Contracts.
* Filing grievances when the collective bargaining agreementing -- or state or federal labor law -- is violated.
* Providing legal help.
* Communicating with members about newer job openings.

We spent a lot of time exploring the different ways artists break into the industry. I explained that there's a thousand different entry points, and everybody has a slightly different route for getting in. In today's c.g. world, computer and programming skills are important, also artistic chops. If you don't have them, I said, it's harder to make a career.

Attorney Paul Husband, the other panelist, talked about agents and managers who represent animation employees. Mr. Husband confided that we're a lengthy marching distance from the glory years of the mid- 1990s, when every animation artist worth his salt had an agent, probably a manager, occasionally a valet, etc. Now it's a case of breaking in, getting production experience, and riding the project--to-project career trajectory.

It was a lively couple of hours. The most telling part of it for me was that students were more interested in the nuts and bolts of the industry, how to get in and stay in, what their rights were, than they were in October of 2007, when the focus was entrepreneurial.

But the times, as they say, are a-changing.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Kung Fu Panda 2D-Animated Sequences in HD

The website Art of the Title has posted the 2D-animated Dream and End Credits sequences from Kung Fu Panda along with production notes from producer Hameed Shaukat. I know we’ve posted about this before on Cartoon Brew, but these new HD QuickTime files are higher quality than anything that has appeared online and merit a second look.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Bashir at Center of Oscar Controversy

As Oscar season heats up, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is being criticized for a change in rules that has made the Israeli animated feature Waltz With Bashir ineligible for competition in the Best Documentary category. According to The Hollywood Reporter, distributors and film festivals are up in arms over the new rule that requires a doc to have a one-week qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles by Aug. 31.

A festival favorite, Bashir has been submitted as Israel’s Best Foreign Language Film entry, and is also eligible for Best Animated Feature. The potential to be the first toon nominated in those two categories and the Best Documentary race was squashed by a decision the Academy claims is aimed at encouraging theatrical distribution of documentaries.

Distributors are reportedly protesting the move because they don’t necessarily want to screen films for media outlets in New York before their official releases. In years past, distribs only had to give their pics a limited engagement in Los Angeles and ten other U.S. cities. The New York Film Festival, along with other fests, is also against the new rule because organizers want to host the New York premiere of each film in competition.

Rather than blowing the chance to be featured in the New York Film Festival, the producers of Bashir opted to skip the Gotham Oscar qualifying run. Sony Pictures Classics will give the movie a limited U.S. theatrical run starting Dec. 25, the same window it gave last year’s foreign animation standout, Persepolis.

Festival organizers and filmmakers are lobbying Academy members to revise the documentary requirements. A petition is being circulated in advance of a late-October meeting of the documentary committee. The compromise being suggested would have screeners submitted by the end of August, but qualifying runs slated for later in the year.

U.K. Toon Shops Go Green for Disney Channel

Playhouse Disney, Disney Channel’s preschool programming block, has recruited six leading U.K. production houses to develop a series of short animated films that help teach preschoolers about the environment. The interstitials created by Bermuda Shorts, Artillery, Mr & Mrs Smith, Fold7, Studio AKA and Partinzan Lab will be part of Playhouse Disney’s ongoing “Playing for the Planet” campaign, which aims to help the next generation of preschoolers to grow up green.

Each production house was asked to take a complex environmental issue and reduce it to a single idea or example that a preschooler could easily understand. The spots empower kids by illustrating the simple actions that they can take by themselves or with their families, and shows them the positive impact they can have on the environment.

Simon Amster, creative director for Disney Channels U.K,. comments, “We encouraged a uniquely collaborative approach to the project by bringing all the production companies together to share creative ideas from the outset. The result is a variety of styles but shared creative visions and high production values. We are delighted with the results.”

Employing a range of techniques from animation to puppetry, the interstitials each focus on a specific environmental theme: saving water, recycling, reducing pollution, preserving nature, saving energy and spreading the green message. This second series of “Playing for the Planet” shorts from Playhouse Disney will air on Disney Channel in November.

marblemedia Brings Nasty Gnomes to MIPCOM

marblemedia today announced the development of a new animated series based on the popular R.L. Stine children’s book Gnasty Gnomes. Aimed at kids 6-9, the property will be introduces to buyers at next’s week’s MIPCOM market in Cannes.

Gnasty Gnomes chronicles the humorous adventures of 8-year-old Wort, his older sister, Juny, and their family of foul, revolting and, above all, “gnasty” Gnomes. Each week, our unlikely heroes and Wort’s pet rat, Catfood, find new and nauseating ways to save their family and friends from being turned into ceramic lawn ornaments by the perfectly refined (and perfectly evil) Gardners.

Content-creation company marblemedia received the 2007 Lions Gate/Maple Pictures Innovative Producer Award and was nominated for Company of the Year by the 2008 CNMA’s. Some of the company’s notable projects include the teen/tween competition series The Adrenaline Project; the hit preschool series This is Daniel Cook and This is Emily Yeung; the first television series and website in American Sign Language,; the mobile short film anthology Shorts in Motion: The Art of Seduction; and Taste Buds, a kids cooking and food adventure series. Upcoming projects for the independent producers include the adult animated series The Dating Guy, being co-produced by Blueprint Ent. for TELETOON Canada. More information is available at

Plastic Wax Expands Globally

Plastic Wax, an Australian digital animation studio specializing in video games and other forms of entertainment, has announced global expansion plans that include extensive talent acquisition, investments in new technology and the opening of an office in San Francisco focused on business development.

Over the past few months, Plastic Wax has welcomed more than 30 members to its team, including producers, animators, lighting leads and rendering leads. The new talent brings a wide range of veteran creative and technical experience from the worlds of video games, feature length films and television commercials.

The company’s serious investment in technology for its studio in Australia brings a state-of-the art, in-house motion-capture studio and onsite audio and video production tools. Plastic Wax has long specialized in pre-rendered CG animation, but claims to have improved its expertise in “in-engine” video-game work in its ongoing efforts to work as collaboratively as possible with developers and integrate seamlessly into their production pipelines.

“We are very proud of our strides forward over the last three years, specifically in video games,” says Plastic Wax CEO Roger Maddams. “It has been an honor to work on premiere titles like Bioshock, Tomb Raider, The Darkness, and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II. At this point we are making strategic moves to make sure the right people and technology are in place so we can continue to offer unmatched CG and motion-capture services to those leading the way in entertainment.”

Plastic Wax’s new office in San Francisco is being headed by Kevin Gill, a video-game industry veteran who was one of the original Brand Managers at Rockstar Games and later oversaw many brands and development projects at Eidos. As managing director of global operations for Plastic Wax, he is directing the company’s expansion. The Bay Area location was opened to act as a convenient point of contact for the game-development, publishing and entertainment communities in California and around the world. For more information, go to

U.S. National Archives salutes NFB of Canada toons

At 7 p.m. Thursday, October 23, the National Archives in Washington, D.C. hosts "A Salute to the National Film Board of Canada," celebrating more than 50 years of Oscar-nominated and winning animated short subjects produced by Canada's public film producer and distributor, established in 1939.

Hosted by animation historian and critic Charles Solomon, the program will feature screenings of such outstanding films as Mail Early (1941), Neighbours (1952), The Sand Castle (1977), Bob's Birthday (1993), Ryan (2004) and The Danish Poet (2006). A panel discussion will include NFB chair and government film commissioner Tom Perlmutter, NFB animation producer Marcy Page, and Torill Kove, Oscar winner for The Danish Poet. The prints are drawn from the collections of the Academy Film Archive and the National Film Board of Canada.

The program is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in partnership with The Charles Guggenheim Center for the Documentary Film and the Foundation for the National Archives. It is one of several programs presented in conjunction with the joint National Archives/Library and Archives Canada exhibition "1783: Subject or Citizen?," focusing on the Treaty of Paris. The exhibition is on display in the National Archives Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery through January 25.

AMPAS president Sid Ganis will offer opening remarks. The program's total running time is 120 minutes.

The program is free and open to the public, and will be held in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives Building, located at Constitution and 7th Street N.W. It's Metro accessible on the Yellow and Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial station.

For more information, call the Public Programs Line at (202) 357-5000, or view the Calendar of Events on the Web at

"The Alchemy of Animation" takes a look inside the modern Mouse Factory

Jim Hill reviews Don Hahn's latest book. Which offers an in-depth look at how some of Disney & Pixar's very best films came together

As I watched last night's debate, I was reminded of that old joke: "People who like sausage and appreciate politics shouldn't watch either one being made."

Mind you, those of us who have been following "Bolt" 's production have sometimes wondered if -- just like with politics & sausage -- it might be a mistake to know too much about this particular Walt Disney Animation Studios release. That being aware of all of the behind-the-scenes drama involved with this project might make it that much harder to just let go & enjoy the finished film.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Of course, to hear Don Hahn talk, there's no such thing as a trouble-free animated feature. That -- from "Snow White" going forward -- every single feature length cartoon that Disney has been involved with has hit some sort of production snag. Which explains the outline below that Don created. Which humorously walks you through the various phases of animated film production. Where you ...

Screen (a rough cut of your movie).
Discuss it.
Get that sinking feeling that you don't know what you're doing.
Weep openly.
Tear it apart.
Correct it.
Reboard it.
Rebuild it.
Screen it again
Repeat as necessary.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Which (I know) sounds like a rather flip way to explain the whole animation process. But trust me, folks. Don knows of what he speaks. After all, he's the veteran producer behind such hit Disney movies as "The Lion King" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." Which is why it's so exciting that Hahn has finally decided to share his insights on the animation process as part of a brand-new book, "The Alchemy of Animation: Making an Animated Film in the Modern Age" (Disney Editions, October 2008).

Because (Let's be honest here, folks) the process has changed since 1937 since Walt first served up "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." (Though -- as Don points out -- even 71 years ago, Walt Disney Studios was using performers in character costumes to help sell its motion pictures).

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Now please note that the sub-title of this book is "Making an Animated Film in the Modern Age." So you shouldn't open up this 144-page paperback and then expect to find a detailed look at how the Nine Old Men did things. (Though -- that said -- Hahn did make a point of including some fascinating stuff from that era at Disney Studios. Including this nifty chart that shows the various stages in Maleficent's transformation from evil fairy to fire-breathing dragon.)

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

No, Don is more interested in giving his readers a sense of how the modern era of Disney animation actually came about. He does this by directing your attention to key sequences in movies that help launch the careers of individual animators. Like Glen Keane's masterful work in "The Fox and the Hound" 's bear attack scene.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Hahn also reveals how some of your favorite animated films came into being. Like -- for example -- that children's storybook that Chris Sanders created to sell Disney executives on the idea of making "Lilo & Stitch."

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

But mostly, "The Alchemy of Animation" gives you a nuts-and-bolts look at how a modern animated film comes together. Don talks about the roles of the various members of the production team ("The associate producer has three things -- three big things -- to worry about: people, time and money"), how a film's designers & animators create plausible worlds for their characters to wander around in (Take a look at this bird's eye view of Radiator Springs. Which the people of Pixar used while they were mapping out the action for "Cars") ...

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... as well as trying to get us to expand what our definition of what a modern animated film might be. Take -- for example -- Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. Though (as the photo below shows) live actors in performance capture suits did appear on set during the production of "Dead Man's Chest" to portray Davy Jones' crew, once the visual effects team got through with "plussing" all of that footage, those characters were animated. These flesh-and-blood performers had been replaced by fantastical CG stand-ins.

Copyright 2006 Disney / Jerry Bruckheimer Productions. All Rights Reserved

The end result is a profusely illustrated book that takes a detailed look at the animation process in three separate mediums -- hand-drawn, stop-motion and computer-generated. Hahn even gives us a glimpse at some future projects for Walt Disney Animation Studios. "The Alchemy of Animation" includes a gorgeous piece of pre-production art for "The Princess and the Frog" as well as an image from Don's next project. Which is a feature length stop motion version of Tim Burton's 1984 featurette, "Frankenweenie."

Copyright 1984 Disney. All Rights Reserved

In short, picking up a copy of "The Alchemy of Animation: Making an Animated Film in the Modern Age" is the next best thing to being taken on a tour of the Sorcerer Mickey building. So if you've ever wondered what's going on inside of the Mouse Factory these days, you should definitely pick up a copy of Don Hahn's latest book.

Walt Disney Presents Pre-Production Artwork of Maleficent for "Sleeping Beauty"

In conjunction with the release of Sleeping Beauty in a 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD and Blu-ray disc, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has made the following artwork available of pre-production artwork for Maleficent, the evil fairy queen who remains one of Disney's most memorable screen villains:

There are also several images of video reference of Maleficent's voice actress, Eleanor Audley:

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