Friday, October 31, 2008

News - 10/31/08...

Film Roman -- NOT For Sale

The last few weeks, rumors have been rampant that Starz Media was putting Film Roman -- their animation studio -- on the sales block. When I wandered FR's halls, any of number of artists said "The company is definitely selling us" ... "There are four bidders" ... etc.

Today a highly placed Romanian told me:

"Starz took the "For Sale" sign for Film Roman down last week. Execs here plan to do some interesting new things with the studio, and it won't be going to any bidders anytime soon ..."

This is great news, I think. But it points up the fact that all that scuttlebutt I heard? About Starz selling the place?

Apparently true.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

King of the Hill Shuts Down

After an impressive 13-season run, FOX’s animated family comedy King of the Hill is apparently ending its run on the network. Daily Variety reports that the show’s producers will wrap production at the end of the current season. Fans, however, can take the news with a grain of salt since FOX cancelled the series once before, only to pick it back up for two more seasons.

Created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels, King of the Hill debuted in 1997 and has become one of the longest-running animated primetime series, second only to FOX’s The Simpsons. The shows are also the longest-running comedies in TV history.

King of the Hill became a hit with Sunday-night viewers by presenting a more realistic depiction of a middle-class family than previously seen in animation. Judge lends his voice to propane salesman and family man Hank Hill, who lives in a Texas suburb with wife Peggy (Kathy Najimy) and son Bobby (Pamela Adlon). Though the show could have easily been made in live-action, its characters manage to come across as being more real than those in most sit-coms starring live actors.

Family Guy and Futurama are proof that animated FOX shows are hard to kill. The former was brought back to life years after its cancellation and is now one of the network’s highest-rated programs. Futurama has returned as a series of direct-to-video features that later air on Comedy Central. There’s a good chance that King of the Hill may also come back in one form or another if DVD sales are brisk enough to demonstrate a demand for more back-alley beers with Hank and the gang.

Nick’s Naked Brothers Get Animated

The Naked Brothers Band on Nickelodeon is getting tooned up for its first-ever animated special. Titled “The Supetastic 6,” the half-hour installment produced by digital entertainment studio Worldwide Biggies will offer ’tween fans a look at their favorite adolescent rockers as they’ve never seen them before on Wednesday, Nov. 26, at 8:30 p.m. (ET/PT). Brothers Nat and Alex Wolff also star in a new hour-long, live-action movie titled Operation Mojo, which debuts on Saturday, Nov. 22 at 9 p.m.

The Supetastic 6 involves a jazz-playing criminal genius who is jealous of the band's success and threatens to steal the world's hair supply. The Naked Brothers know that the only ones who can stop Global Balding are their superhero alter egos, The Supetastic 6.

“We're excited to premiere The Naked Brothers Band's first animated special, which showcases their humor in a fun, new, fantasy-filled format,” comments Marjorie Cohn, exec VP of development and original programming for Nickelodeon Networks. “This season fans can experience The Naked Brothers Band in a variety of ways with the new movie, animated special and Nat and Alex's upcoming live national tour.”

The Naked Brothers hit the road for their very first music tour, “Nat & Alex Wolff: Fully Clothed & On Tour,” which kicks off at the world-famous Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. on Saturday, Nov. 1. The cross-country campaign will hit multiple cities across the country and feature the brothers performing songs from their first and second albums. Tickets can be purchased at

This season of The Naked Brothers Band follows the fortunes of the band as they make their first motion picture, from shooting to the red carpet premiere. Filled with special guests and all-new music written and performed by Nat Wolff and Alex Wolff, upcoming episodes feature a star-studded celebrity line-up including Whoopi Goldberg, David Attell and Nickelodeon's own Victoria Justice, star of the upcoming television movie Spectacular. Also making appearances are recording artists Natasha Bedingfield, ?uestlove (The Roots), David Desrosiers (Simple Plan), Simon Kirke (Bad Company), Tobin Esperance (Papa Roach) and Leon Thomas.

Eden FX Puts CG Chills in Ghost Whisperer

Hollywood-based visual effects studio Eden FX helped to create the most vfx-laden episode of the hit CBS TV series Ghost Whisperer. For the installment “Ghost in the Machine,” which aired on Oct. 17, the sole visual effects provider created an entire CG virtual world comprised of a major urban exterior environment which included street scenes and a live arcade.

In the episode, series star Jennifer Love Hewitt becomes a digital avatar in a virtual social networking environment to hunt down a predator who is targeting young girls on the web. The CG work was added to live-action footage shot against an enormous green screen measuring 30 feet high by 150 feet long on a soundstage at Universal Studios.

“Eden FX was brilliant in its execution of our avatar world,” says Ghost Whisperer exec producer Ian Sander. “Because the parallel universe Eden digitally created was unrivaled in network television, there has been a great and tremendous amount of buzz about the ‘Ghost in the Machine’ episode—our viewers loved it!” Eden FX co-founders John Gross and Mark Miller made the announcement.

Software used by Eden for this project included Digital Fusion, After Effects and LightWave. The producers referenced other futuristic worlds created for such films as
Blade Runner
and Metropolis.

Episode director Steve Robman explains, “There is a huge amount of green screen work in this episode, and very large physical areas of green screen that we were trying to create. We had to map out, in advance, where the ends of buildings were going to be, and doorways and benches, so that when we shot against the green screen and those things weren’t inside our viewfinder, they would work out correctly when the CG images were transplanted on top of it.”

Ghost Whisperer
is produced by Sander/Moses Prods. in association with ABC Studios and CBS Paramount Network Television. The show airs on Fridays at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Watch a behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the “Ghost in the Machine”
episode below.

Fear(s) Grips L.A., Other Cities

Following last week’s opening in New York, the new French animated feature Fear(s) of the Dark (Peur(s) du noir) opens a bit wider today, just in time for Halloween. Distributed by IFC Ent., the critically acclaimed festival favorite debuts in Los Angeles, Calif.; San Francisco, Calif.; Berleky, Calif; Seattle, Wash.; Chicago, Ill.; Washington D.C.; and Cambridge. Mass. The creepy cartoon will roll into other cities over the next two months.

Produced predominantly in black-and-white,
Fear(s) examines childhood terrors as recalled by a diverse group of artists made up of The New Yorker contributors Richard McGuire and Lorenzo Mattotti, Strasbourg-born Blutch (Christian Hinker), American illustrator Charles Burns, and France’s Marie Caillou and Pierre Di Sciullo. Canal Plus art director Etienne Robial served as artistic director on the project.

Fear(s) of the Dark is produced by Valerie Schermann and Christophe Jankovic’s Prima Linea Prods. (U, Alice in the City
). Celluloid Dreams is handling sales. Diaphana Distribution put the pic out in France in February.

Los Angles moviegoers can also check out a special Mystery Science Theater 3000 presentation of Ed Wood's infamous Plan Nine from Outer Space on Sunday. Fans of the B-movie skewering puppet show can look forward to live appearances by stars Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett.

The complete U.S. release schedule for Fear(s) of the Dark:


Berkeley, CA
Shattuck Cinemas, Landmark

Los Angeles, CA
Nuart Theatre, Landmark

San Francisco, CA
Embarcadero Center Cinema, Landmark

Santa Rosa, CA
Lakeside Rialto, ESP

San Diego, CA
Ken Cinema, Landmark

Santa Cruz, CA
Nickelodeon, Independent


Denver, CO
Mayan Theatre, Landmark


Washington, DC
E Street Cinema, Landmark


Atlanta, GA
Midtown Art Cinema, Landmark


Chicago, IL
Century Centre Cinema, Landmark


Indianapolis, IN
Keystone Art Cinema, Landmark


Des Moines, IA
Fleur Cinema


Cambridge, MA
Kendall Square, Landmark


Detroit, MI
Maple Art Theatre, Landmark


Minneapolis, MN
Lagoon Cinema, Landmark


Kansas City, MO
Tivoli Manor Square, PFR

St. Louis, MO
Tivoli Theatre, Landmark


New York, NY
IFC Center, independent


Cleveland, OH
Cedar Lee Theatre, PFR

Columbus, OH
Gateway Theater, Landmark


Philadelphia, PA
Ritz at the Bourse, Landmark


Dallas, TX
The Magnolia, Landmark

Austin, TX
Dobie Theatre, Landmark


Seattle, WA
Egyptian Theatre, Landmark

Atari Brings Back Riddick

It’s likely that we’ll never again see actor Vin Diesel as futuristic anti-hero Richard B. Riddick on the big screen again, but the character is far from dead. Atari announced that it is developing The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, a first-person shooter to debut in the spring of 2009. The title is being produced in conjunction with Universal Pictures Digital Platforms Group, Diesel’s Tigon Studios and acclaimed developer Starbreeze Studios for Xbox 360, PlayStation3 and Windows PC.

A re-imagining of the 2004 game
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, Assault on Dark Athena will offer a new, full-length campaign for a whole new audience, and an entirely new chapter in the Riddick saga featuring online multiplayer combat. The game casts the player as Riddick, who must use stealth and brawn to overcome the merciless crew of the predatory Merc-ship Dark Athena, which awaits its prey in the dark reaches of space.

The Riddick character was introduced in the cult-favorite 2000 sci-fi flick
Pitch Black and returned in Universal’s The Chronicles of Riddick, which spawned a 30-minute direct-to-DVD animated movie directed by Peter Chung (Aeon Flux). Diesel reprised the role for the toon, and his also lending his voice to the title character in BET Animation’s upcoming animated series Hannibal the Conqueror

Nolan Says There Are No Superheroes In His Batman Universe

Part three of the LA Times interview with Christopher Nolan is up. In this part of the interview, he talks about how his Batman and Gotham wouldn't work in a Justice League setting and how an Oscar would be icing on the cake for Ledger's performance as The Joker.

Here's a bit from the interview:

GB: Chris, this summer, "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk" signaled the true start of the "crossover era" in comic-book films with Marvel Studios putting an emphasis on the fact that their heroes coexist in the same world. DC and Warner Bros. may embrace a similar strategy, especially if the Justice League film project is revived. Does that concern you? Your Gotham doesn't seem suited to that.

I don’t think our Batman, our Gotham, lends itself to that kind of cross-fertilization. It goes back to one of the first things we wrangled with when we first started putting the story together: Is this a world in which comic books already exist? Is this a world in which superheroes already exist? If you think of "Batman Begins" and you think of the philosophy of this character trying to reinvent himself as a symbol, we took the position -- we didn’t address it directly in the film, but we did take the position philosophically -- that superheroes simply don’t exist. If they did, if Bruce knew of Superman or even of comic books, then that’s a completely different decision that he’s making when he puts on a costume in an attempt to become a symbol. It’s a paradox and a conundrum, but what we did is go back to the very original concept and idea of the character. In his first appearances, he invents himself as a totally original creation.

Click HERE to read the rest of the interview.

Year Of The Dragon Remake

In "you have GOT to be kidding" news....

Sam 'The Man' Jackson is set to star in a remake of the 1985 action-classic "The Last Dragon".

Jackson will play Sho'nuff, the Shogun of Harlem, a role played in the original by the late Julius Carry, whose spiel included asking ego-driven questions like "Am I the baddest mofo lowdown around this town?" Each time his gang of thugs answered, "Sho 'nuff!"

The updated plot will be along the same lines of the original, centering on young martial arts student Leroy Green in his quest through the streets of New York to achieve the highest level of martial arts accomplishment, known as the Last Dragon. Those who achieve the high ranking possess "the Glow", making them the greatest fighter alive.

"I'm a huge fan of the original and look forward to bringing Sho'Nuff into the 21st century," Jackson said.

More at The Hollywood Reporter.

Wonder Woman Teaser site

An e-mail is going around pointing to this seeming Wonder Woman teaser site with a slowly revealing poster.

nockFORCE Halloween Quickie

The yearly quest to find the ultimate Halloween costume has begun again. The fellas at nockFORCE unveil their version of this search in Quickie #54: Halloween Costumes.

More Milk a Must For Prado

The BC Dairy Foundation created a campaign to promote milk - it’s at Pratt Institute grad Isam Prado then created this little Flash-animated take on the campaign, titled Apples! Apples! We’re not sure this is exactly sanctioned by the BC Dairy gang, and if its not, we think it should be.

Yogi Bear’s Healthy Italian Picnic

Working in the Italian department at Cartoon Network’s London office, Giulia Barbera (what an appropriate name, right?) and Jacopo Lanza have resurrected Yogi Bear, Boo Boo and Ranger Smith. In this series of 6 mini-episodes, the Italian Boomerang network utilizes the Jellystone park gang to promote healthy eating. Federico Parodi handled the background layouts. All six of the Flash-animated shorts are featured in this assembly below, and you may notice that the 4th one has no audio.

Spanish Team Imagines New Pilot

Spain-based Machango Studio has released the 5-minute pilot episode of a new series aimed at teens and adults titled Jonas - The Animated Series. The Flash-animated show follows Jonas, an only child with limited possessions and an abundant imagination. The pilot is titled Jonas and the Bathtub.

Gnomes and Trolls: The Secret Chamber

How could Sweden, a country that is synonymous with tasteful and elegant design, turn out an animated feature that is so decrepit-looking and painful on the eyes? The trailer for Gnome and Trolls: The Secret Chamber is so pitiful that it almost plays like a parody of a children’s animated movie. A sequel called Gnomes and Trolls: The Forest Trial is already in production.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Rocket Jo by Julien Charles

It’s plenty refreshing to see a CG character that is designed with a sense of caricature in both his appearance and physical movement. Rocket Jo is a series of 52 one-minute shorts created by French animator Julien Charles for French TV network France 3. The shorts, produced by Millimages and 2d3d Animations, are slated for premiere in January. Julien explains that the series focuses on a single character, Rocket Jo, who makes his own jetpacks and attempts to fly in each episode. He writes that he’s trying, “to put the focus on storytelling and animation with just with one character, no speaking and a blue gradient for the set.” He has set up a production blog about the show, and one of the episodes can be viewed on this page (click on the “Play” button).

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Walt & El Grupo Website and Review

The documentary Walt & El Grupo, directed by Ted Thomas, son of animator Frank Thomas, now has a website at The film documents the goodwill tour of South America that Walt Disney and select members of his staff took during 1941. The trip was taken at a turbulent time in history, just as America was entering WWII and smack-dab in the middle of the infamous Disney studio strike. It ultimately helped inspire the studio’s Latin America compilation features: Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.

We’d previously posted a review of the film by Karl Cohen on Cartoon Brew. Yesterday, I ran across a new review by Scott Kirsner of the Cinematech blog. It’s a mixed critique: Kirsner appreciates the film’s “jaunty Latin American soundtrack and its sense of context” but says it ends up “feeling too much like an itinerary-based family slide show.” He adds that “the film suffers from a major personality void,” because none of the eighteen Disney personnel who went on the trip are interviewed in the film (owing to the fact that they’re all deceased). Needless to say, I’m still really looking forward to seeing the film.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Briefly: Top-Earning Dead Celebrities; Animation in Xinjiang; People Marrying 'Toons

* Peanuts creator Charles Schulz landed at #2 on Forbes magazine's "Top-Earning Dead Celebrities" list with earnings of $33 million, partially based on DVD sales of the Peanuts animated specials. Dr. Seuss comes in at #6 with $12 million for Horton Hears a Who in both the original and new editions. [Forbes]

* Xidan University has signed a contract with the Urumqi Economic and Technological Development Zone to construct a cartoon and animation park in Xinjiang. [English People's Daily Online]

* A Japanese man has launched an on-line petition to allow marriages between people and cartoon characters, which has gathered more than 1,000 signatures within one week. []

"Dinosaur King" Weekends at the Paris Science Museum

The Paris Science Museum will be teaming up with 4Kids Entertainment, Sega, Upper Deck, and France 3 to sponsor Dinosaur King-themed weekends during the half-term school break. The exhibits will include displays of educational material based on the animated series, including a sandpit where kids can excavate fossils for prizes, alongside demos of the video games and screenings of the show.

The Incredible Hulk Smashes the Competition

Universal's The Incredible Hulk debuted at No. 1 on all three charts last week.

The summer theatrical hit bumped the previous week's winner, Paramount's
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, to the No. 2 position on all three charts.

"Hulk" handily took the top spot on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart for the week ending Oct. 26, selling more than four times as many copies as the next-highest-ranked debutante, The Strangers, also from Universal, which bowed at No. 3.

also topped Home Media Magazine's video rental chart for the week ending Oct. 26, though in rental stores it only generated about twice as many transactions as did "Strangers," which also bowed at No. 3.

scored its third win on the Nielsen VideoScan Blu-ray Disc chart.

New ‘Fanboys’ Poster Hits The Web

Cinematical got their hands on an exclusive first look at the new theatrical poster and a whole mess of photos for the upcoming film, “Fanboys,” and from the looks of things, the much-delayed film is dipping into every conceivable geek reservoir it can find.

The film tells the story of a group of, well, fanboys, who prior to the release of “Star Wars: Episode I,” decide to break into George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch to steal a copy of the film to show to a friend who’s dying of cancer. While the premise of the film is a bit dated by now (and can you imagine “Episode I” being the last movie you ever see?!), it does promise to have Kristin Bell in a Slave Leia costume, so take that for what it’s worth.

After the jump, check out the poster in full. And maybe it’s just us, but we think it’s implying something about us fanboys skills with the ladies…

Brandon Routh on a Darker Superman caught up with Superman Returns star Brandon Routh, who has a role in Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and asked about the "Dylan Dog" comic book adaptation Dead of Night (Routh says they start filming in mid-January) and possibly making the next "Superman" film darker. Here's a clip on the latter:

I don't know, I don't think the character necessarily has to be darker, I think he is kind of dark in a sense, emotional dark, in Superman Returns, and the movie as a whole was slightly dark, they could have had more prowess in it I suppose, and I think that's one thing that can be done in the sequel, so I don't know how much darker you want to make it necessarily. You make the stakes higher, you make the villain darker, I think that's a way to do it. But I don't think Superman himself needs to be darker. He definitely has to struggle, how does Superman be a part of the world? And does he have to make sacrifices to be a part of that world? To fit in and what purpose does he really play in the world? Those are all kind of dark places to explore. But, I don't think Superman should ever be dark and brooding, that's not is nature. And that's now what people what to see. Like Brainiac or something like that, a situation when the villain is...

You can read the full interview here!

Bert and Harry Piels Commercials

Some of the most influential and popular TV commercials of the 1950s were the Bert and Harry Piels Beer spots created by UPA (and later on animated by Terrytoons). Much of their popularity was due to the great dialogue tracks provided by Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding (aka Bob and Ray) and the appealing animation directed by Gene Deitch. If you’ve been wondering where you could see these, Asifa-Hollywood has just posted a whole slew of the early ones on their Animation Archive blog. Go there now!

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Happy Halloween!

Attack of the Giant Vegetable Monsters by Ken Tucker.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

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