Monday, November 3, 2008

News - 11/03/08...

Smaller Studio Walk Around

Today was my Universal Cartoon Studio day, high up in the Black Tower on Lankershim.

The main dish cooking at U.C.S. right now is Curious George. The series is now in its fourth season, and bopping right along. As one of the crew said:

"Our ratings are good, we've won some awards, and PBS seems to be happy. Maybe we can be like Sesame Street, and be on for twenty years ..."

In today's glorious economic environment, nobody is looking to jump from studio to studio chasing an extra $26.50 per week. Twenty years working on one series, or even seven years, is more than fine.

And Universal Cartoons is still working on the Curious George direct-to-video feature. This baby has been in work a while, and is now in the retake stage. Although the series is solid, I'm informed that the company isn't looking to greenlight another video George feature until this one rolls out and the suits see how it performs.

And yesterday at Warners Animation, I learned that storyboard work on Public Enemy (a Superman/Batman direct-to-video feature) is wrapping up, and work continues on Batman The Brave and the Bold:

"I've seen the first episode of The Brave and the Bold, and it looks really good. And the script's good. Second one's nice, too. I just wish that somebody at Time-Warner would crack Cartoon Network and Warners Animation on the head and get them to support each other. I walk around and see Warners characters everywhere, and I know T-W should be doing more with them. Makes me crazy that they're not."

The above is a long-time WA employee talking.

Warners, like Universal, doesn't have a lot of product in work just now. Both have items in development, but the low-hanging cupboards are mostly bare.

Warners does have a Scooby Doo direct-to-video feature poised to go into work (for you can never have too much Scooby Doo.)

Warners is now ginning up a raft of new projects; hopefully some of these will make it to series and video features and a new era of booming employment will happen at Warners.

In the meantime, there is Scooby Doo!

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Open Season 2 trailer

Trick or treat? Here’s a peek at the direct-to-video sequel to Open Season:

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Disney’s Archive Series: Story

The first volume in the Disney Archive Series is coming out in a few weeks. I saw the galleys for this a while back and it’s a real treat if you’re looking for a collection of beautiful story artwork. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon for $31.50. Here is the book description:

With an introduction by John Lasseter-and very little else in the way of words-this first book in The Artist Series lavishly showcases the most brilliant story artwork created by such luminaries as Bill Peet, Don DaGradi, Joe Rinaldi, Roy Williams, Ub Iwerks, Burny Mattinson, and Vance Gerry for such films as Steamboat Willie and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Alice in Wonderland and 101 Dalmatians. The art will be displayed in its full glory with all the notes, flaws, and hole punches that were so much a part of the story development process. Featuring the best examples-many never published before-as well as some pieces by unidentified artists, Story will be the must-have art book for collectors, artists, and Disney fans.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Bunny Mooning?

The controversy over California’s Proposition 8 is nothing compared to one Japanese fanboy’s campaign to marry cartoon characters. To be specific, this is aimed more toward winning a manga girl, not an anime babe. A coo-coo otaku named Taichi Takashita has launched an online petition which he plans to present to his government to establish a law on marriages with cartoon characters. Within a week, he has gathered more than 1,000 signatures through the Internet.

As a Comic Con veteran of over 30 years, none of this surprises me. If anything, I’m surprised how many news sources have posted this story.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Pulitzer Prize Winner David Lindsay-Abaire To Write ‘Spider-Man 4′

If anyone still doubts that comic book movies are coming up in the world, look no further than this item in The Hollywood Reporter: Apparently, “Spider-Man 4” has landed one heck of a screenwriter in Pulitzer Prize winner and playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. What this means for James Vanderbilt’s previous draft is anyone’s guess, particularly since plot details remain under tight wraps. But since Lindsay-Abaire’s plays focus on (in his own words) “outsiders in search of clarity,” the choice suggests that Columbia wants a return to a character-driven “Spider-Man,” and a Peter Parker who struggles with his heroic powers.

Columbia has a tradition of hiring top-notch writers for the “Spider-Man” franchise — if he signs on, Lindsay-Abaire will follow in the skilled footsteps of Alvin Sargent and Michael Chabon. Of course, as “Spider-Man 3″ proved, having a fantastic writer like Sargent doesn’t always mean a crowd- or critic-pleasing movie.

This will be Lindsay-Abaire’s first time writing for a superhero — his previous Hollywood efforts include the upcoming “Inkheart,” “Robots,” a film adaptation of his play, “Rabbit Hole,” and the Broadway musical adaptation of “Shrek.”

Hopes are pretty high for the fourth “Spider-Man.” It’s certainly easy to start geeking out when a Pulitzer winner comes aboard, but I’m holding out judgment until they announce the villain. Knowing who Spidey is going to grapple with can be the surest indication as to what kind of movie we’ll be getting.

In yet another attempt to make what's old, new again...

Remake Of Forbidden Planet Gets New Robotic Life.

From the trades comes exciting news for people who grew up with the original black and white Robby the Robot classic:

J. Michael Straczynski, the writer of the Clint Eastwood-directed "Changeling," is penning a long-in-the-works update of sci-fi classic "Forbidden Planet" for Warner Bros. Joel Silver is producing via Silver Pictures.

Warners picked up the project on the down-low earlier this year. As late as last year, it was set up at DreamWorks with David Twohy attached to direct. Prior to that, New Line had it. James Cameron, Nelson Gidding and Stirling Silliphant have been associated with the remake over the years.

Released in 1956, "Planet" told the tale of an expedition sent from Earth to check on a colony of scientists on a far-off planet. They find two members, a man who has found alien technology that doubled his intellect, Dr. Morbius, and his daughter, both of whom have managed to survive an unseen monster roaming the planet.

The movie, directed by Fred Wilcox, starred Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen, but is perhaps best known for the character Robby the Robot.

Matt Reilly is overseeing for the studio.

While CAA-repped Straczynski is generating some heat for "Changeling," he is better known for his sci-fi and comic book work. He created TV shows "Babylon 5" and "Jeremiah," and worked on "Ninja Assassin" for Silver and the Wachowski Brothers.

Straczynski also has feature projects "The Flickering Light" and "Lensman" with Ron Howard at Imagine Entertainment, and "They Marched Into Sunlight,"
with Paul Greengrass directing, at Playtone and Universal.

Exclusive Images From "Batman: The Complete Animated Series" DVD Release

The World's Finest has exclusive images from the upcoming Batman: The Complete Animated Series DVD box set release.

To view exclusive images of the packaging for the Batman: The Complete Animated Series box set release, click on the thumbnails below.

Click here for further packaging shots and to read a review of the Batman: The Complete Animated Series release.

The Batman: The Complete Animated Series DVD box set, collecting the entire animated series into one collection, is set to hit shelves on November 4th, 2008. There is currently no word on a Blu-ray release for Batman: The Animated Series, but Warner Home Video is actively looking into the possibility of releasing the series on Blu-ray in the future.

"Waltz With Bashir" up for Int'l Documentary Award

The animated Israeli-German production "Waltz With Bashir" is one of five nominees for Distinguished Documentary Achievement in the feature category of the IDA Documentary Awards, it was announced Tuesday.

The International Documentary Association described Waltz With Bashir as "an unprecedented animated documentary examining the consequences of war by unraveling the memories of Ari Folman and other Israeli soldiers who fought in the 1982 Lebanon conflict."

Also competing in the IDA's feature category are live-action films Kassim the Dream, Man on Wire, Stranded: I Have Come From a Plane That Crashed On the Mountains and Young - Heart.

Winners will be feted December 5 at the Directors Guild in Los Angeles in a ceremony hosted by Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker and star Morgan Spurlock.

The five nominated short films are Kick Like a Girl, La Corona, Redemption Stone, Smile Pinki and Tongzhi in Love.

This year's IDA Career Achievement honoree, to be celebrated during December's event, was previously announced as Encounters at the End of the World and Grizzly Man director Werner Herzog.

This year heralds a brand-new Audience Award, where all IDA members can vote for their favorite documentary from a wide-ranging list of the year's non-fiction features simply by logging on to, where there is also a write-in option for additional titles. The Audience Award winner will be tabulated by votes accumulated on the site lasting over the next several weeks. The winner will be announced the night of the show.

Mind Game gets English Release (in Australia)

Australia's Madman Entertainment will be releasing a 2 DVD set of Studio 4C's gem Mind Game, marking the first time the movie has been released in English region (the Japanese DVD featured English subtitles)

Begin again in a wild and bizarre ride!

Nishi has been in love with Myon since he was 9 years old. They both had feelings for each other, but due to Nishi's cowardice their relationship never became more than friendship. Now, in the present, Nishi is 20 years old and aims to be a great manga artist; but he still loves Myon. After years of being apart they meet again, but she tells him that she's thinking of marrying her boyfriend. Nishi is still a coward so he accepts it and wishes her luck. While they're talking at her older sister's restaurant a pair of yakuza walk in looking for their father. One of the yakuza starts harassing Myon and out of anger Nishi chooses to finally take a stand -- but he is shot and dies. Now, in limbo, he chooses to live again; but will he really live any differently than before?

DVD Special Features -
Animatic Storyboard
Special Interview
Final Sequence Director Commentary
Events and Talks
CG Works
Production Art Gallery
Mindgame Theme Live Performance
Mindgame Music Video

thanks to logboy for passing along the info

Worth Checking Out...

An official, English language site for Shotaro Ishinomori, creator of Kamen Rider, Kikaider, and Cyborg 009


Electric Ant sits down with manga guru Frederik Schodt

Tokyo Damage report spoke to Hiroko Yoda And Matt Alt about Yokai Attack!
Washington Post similarly covers how "Yokai Make for a Scary Halloween in Japan", with more here
(and if you can't get enough yokai)

W. David Marx (aka Marxy) and Otaku USA editor-in-chief Patrick Macias discuss the future of “Cool Japan” over chain teishoku in Akasaka.

Destroy All Podcasts' Lucky Star episode spawns some interesting debate

Episodes 78 of Right Stuf's Anime Today podcast features an interview with Justin Sevakis – Anime News Network’s director of new media – to episode 78 of ANIME TODAY.

In this new interview, Sevakis discusses the video section of the Anime News Network (ANN) site, which currently hosts more than 300 anime trailers, episodes of ANNtv, news features and convention coverage. Sevakis also talks about how the section developed, from concept to execution, and shares ANN’s future online media plans.

J Film Pow-Wow's Top Ten Favorite Films based on Manga

Where to find Imagi's David Bowers Astro Boy interview

Director of Asian Licensing for Dark Horse Michael Gombos offers his 9 Best Manga List's 13 Creepy Ghosts and Zombies Manga

Mecha Mecha Media's Thirteen Horror Manga for Halloween

Comics Worth Reading spoke to Kat and Mouse (TOKYOPOP OEL) creator Alex de Campi

Reverse Thieves talk to Petit Eva's Ryo Moto

eurozine talks Why has manga become a global cultural product?

Feedback on Vertical's Dororo covers. Artist Peter Mendelsund was interviewed here

There's been much a-do about Chip Kidd's Bat-Manga collection (to be written about in the next AICN-Anime column)
Articles of note include
National Post's Chip Kidd's got it covered
Wired's Bat-Manga Documents East-West Batman Bleed
Publishers Weekly's Bat-Manga: Go Go Go!
Media here and here

Call all anime/manga academics for Mechademia 5

A look at Gainax in It Takes a Fanboy

Top 10 Anime Fetishes

let's fall alseep is doing an incredible analysis of Tekkon Kinkreet, covering
Tekkonkinkreet - Manga
Taiyo Matsumoto and Michael Arias - Tekkonkinkreet Influences
Tekkonkinkreet - Anime
Tekkonkinkreet - Adaptation

Bloggers blog on Solanin
Warren Peace!
Jog - The Blog

Colony Drop Talks HikkomoriPlanet Travel Guide: Nakano Broadway, Tokyo

On Haruki Murakami on "The World"

Roland Kelts on SOFT POWER, HARD TRUTHS / Admiring Japan makes U.S. less insular

Looking retro... Let's Anime'sLet's Buy Anime Stuff-- 80S Style!
2008 is 1978: Animage October 10

Morning Two sample (in Japanese)

Suehiro Maruo Tattoo Re-Emerges...

Usavich shorts streamed

Bandai Entertainment's Code Geass R2 trailer

Etsuko Shihomi - She's a one woman death squad

New covers for Yasutaka Tsutsui's (author of Paprika and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) Salmonella Men on Planet Porno

In Salacious News...
Cosplay involved in 'Superhero' falls from grace in copyright case
Librarian Fined for Promoting Daughter's OEL Manga

Prefecture Banning Ero-Shoujo Manga as “Harmful”

Japanese man wants to marry Anime character
Also covered here

No time for manga Mr Prime Minister
Momentum builds for putting off dissolution

After the speech, [Prime Minister Taro Aso] attended an event in the area aimed at promoting pop culture and went on a talk show to discuss manga and other elements of Japan's so-called soft power, together with cartoonists Takao Saito and Kenshi Hirokane. During the event, Aso enthusiastically talked about his passion for manga.

Aso is known to be well versed in manga, anime and other aspects of pop culture favored by enthusiasts dubbed otaku.


Later on he focused on the much awaited otaku subjects, stating that he hardly finds any time to read his beloved weekly manga. Even though he finished reading last weeks "Sunday", he was yet to read the current "Young Jump" as well as "Morning".

also here

Macross, The Canned Bread

Partridge vs. Akira

21-year old Harry Partridge has released his spoof of the 26-year old manga property Akira. His short, titled The American Akira, sends up Katsuhiro Otomo’s post-apocalyptic story about a teenage boy with extraordinary powers. With his spoof, Partridge is aluding the upcoming Warner Bros. feature films that set the story in New Manhattan as opposed to Neo-Tokyo.


Here's a tiny bit of bat-news for those of you looking forward to the new animated series 'Batman: The Brave and the Bold'.

Cartoon Network has informed us that the show is now slated to premiere at 8:00pm ET/PT (rather than 7:30pm) on November 14th.

The show is the latest animated incarnation of the Dark Knight that finds him teaming up with other DC Universe heroes each week. If you missed it, Comics2Film at Mania checked out the first episode of the show and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Go here to read the review, and you can also click here for a glimpse of the early list of heroes appearing on the show.

"Tinker Bell" Moves 1M Copies in 2 Days as Lynchpin of Disney Fairies Initiative

The New York Times reports on the importance that the direct-to-video movie Tinker Bell has for the Disney Fairies line of merchandise, which Disney is positioning as a bridge between Disney Princesses and tween/teen fare like High School Musical or Hannah Montana. The report states that the movie sold 668,000 copies on the first day of release, with Target stores reporting double the forecast sales, and adds that it "easily moved one million copies by Wednesday." The same report also notes that Fairies merchandise outsells High School Musical merchandise nearly 3-to-1, although the Fairies estimated $800 million in sales is still dwarfed by the $4 billion that Princesses brings in annually. The article does note analyst apprehension that the line will succeed, given the current tougher economic climate.

"Avatar" Seasons 1 and 2 Streaming Video Available on Veoh

The Veoh on-line video website has begun broadcasting Nickelodeon's Avatar the Last Airbender in streaming video format. Seasons 1 and 2 are available now.

"Glago's Guest" Short Pulled from "Bolt"

According to AWN, Disney's new short film "Glago's Guest" will no longer be shown ahead of Bolt, as originally planned. No explanation was provided. The short attracted no small attention for its technical and storytelling experimentation, and did have a short theatrical run to qualify for a Best Animated Short Film Academy Award for 2008.

Elsewhere, the Wall Street Journal has also taken a look at how Bolt reflects the new post-Pixar merger creative environment at Walt Disney Feature Animation.

Atlanta SuperCon Features Animation Guests Galore

Coming to downtown Atlanta, GA on November 21-23, 2008, the Atlanta SuperCon boasts an impressive guest list from current and vintage animated fan favorites, including:

Aqua Teen Hunger Force/Squidbillies cast and crew members Dana Snyder, Carey Means, and Jay Edwards.

70-30 Productions: the artists and animators who helped produce
Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo.

Voice actor Gregg Berger, voice of
G1 Transformers Grimlock, and a host of other animated toons such as Duckman, Garfield & Friends, and G.I. Joe.

Voice actor Brittney Karbowski, dub artist involved with a number of anime titles.

Voice actor Larry Kenney, voice of
Thundercats leader Lion-O.

Voice actor/musician Samantha Newark, voice of Jem from
JEM! and The Holograms.

Actor Brian O'Halloran, aka Dante Hicks from the
Clerks films and animated series.

Voice actor Spike Spencer, dub artist of such popular anime titles as
Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bleach, and Nadesico.

Voice actor James Urbaniak, voice of
Venture Bros regulars Dr. Thaddeus Venture, Jonas Jr., and Phantom Limb.

Visit the convention website at for more details.

Update 10.31.08: Venture Bros' co-writer, editor, and voice actor Doc Hammer (voice of Dr. Mrs. The Monarch/Doctor Girlfriend, Henchman #21, and Master Billy Quizboy) has been added to the con guest list.

And in related news, downtown Miami, FL is being invaded Halloween weekend by the Anime Supercon which includes cast and crew guests from Adult Swim's Aqua Teen Hunger Force, voice of Halo's Master Chief Steve Downes, and Anime voice actors Yuri Lowenthal, Richard Epcar, Ellyn Stern, Spike Spencer, and Tara Platt.

Adult Swim's Dave Willis Interviewed

The Broward Palm Beach New Times has an extensive interview with [adult swim] shows co-creator, writer, director, producer, and voice talent Dave Willis.

Willis will be a guest at Anime Supercon in downtown Miami, FL during Halloween weekend, and will also appear with fellow ATHF cast and crew members Dana Snyder, Carey Means, and Jay Edwards at the upcoming Atlanta Supercon on November 21-23.

AWN Talks to "Fear(s) of the Dark" Creators

AWN has published a feature on the French animated horror Fear(s) of the Dark in which the movie's creators discuss the process of making the film.

Daily Yomiuri on the Japanese Animation Veterans of G9+1

Japan's Daily Yomiuri covers an exhibition of the work of Animation Seisaku Shudan G9+1 (Animators Group G9+1) at the Suginami Animation Museum in Tokyo. The group is composed of 10 veterans of the Japanese animation industry, the youngest of which is the 42-year old Toshikatsu Wada, who have been the anthology films Tokyo Fantasia and Junin Toiro no Animation (Various Colors of Animation).

On-line Preview of "Black Jack" Manga Tale "Teratoid Cystoma"

Heidi MacDonald's The Beat weblog has posted a full story from Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack Volume 1, newly published in English by Vertical. Black Jack follows the exploits of Japan's greatest physician, whose medical skills are outstripped only by his ego and who can heal any medical condition, but at great price. The manga was adapted into an anime series in 1996, followed by a follow-up series and two live-action adaptations.

Disney pushes WALL-E for best picture nomination

/Film reports that Disney has launched a campaign to get WALL-E nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, an award never won by an animated film. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast remains the only animated film ever nominated in the Best Picture category. In addition, the website also shares the first advertisement featuring Disney’s campaign to push WALL-E for a nomination in both, Best Animated Feature and Best Picture categories.

Mary Poppins: 45th Anniversary Edition DVD in January

UltimateDisney reports that Walt Disney Home Entertainment has announced Mary Poppins: 45th Anniversary Edition DVD release on January 27, 2009. The two-disc set will include all bonus features from 40th Anniversary Edition DVD from 2004 and also add four new featurettes on the running Broadway musical.

Emmy-winning animation producer John Ahern dies

Animator, director and producer John Ahern, winner of a 1988 Daytime Emmy Award for Muppet Babies, died Wednesday at 74.

He and his wife Shirley left California for Spanish Fork, Utah after he retired from the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonist Union in 1999.

As a producer, Ahern shared an Emmy with executive producer Jim Henson and others for Muppet Babies, which was named Outstanding Animated Program.

He was born John Crosbie Ahern on December 6, 1933 to John Hannibal (Jack H.) and Evelyn Leone Crosbie Ahern in Los Angeles. His father was a well-known set decorator who worked on projects ranging from TV's The Monkees to the live-action Disney classic 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

He attended Brigham Young University, Santa Monica City College and Pasadena Art Center.

Ahern produced 55 episodes of G.I. Joe (1985) and four episodes of Defenders of the Earth (1986).

He was a layout artist for the TV series The Adventures of Gulliver, Cattanooga Cats, Josie and the Pussycats, The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Speed Buggy, The New Tom & Jerry Show, The Mumbly Cartoon Show and BraveStarr, as well as the 1994 mini-series Red Planet, the 1974 ABC Afterschool Special Cyrano and the 1980 ABC Weekend Special Scruffy.

In theatrical films, he was a layout artist for
Charlotte's Web (1973) and BraveStarr: The Legend (1988). He was an animator for the 1978 anime film Winds of Change (aka Metamorphoses)

As a layout supervisor, he worked on the TV series C B Bears, The All-New Super Friends Hour, Scooby's All Star LBoldaff-A-Lympics, Challenge of the SuperFriends, Yogi's Space Race, The Godzilla Power HouBoldr, Buford and the Galloping Ghost, Thundarr the Barbarian, Goldie Gold and Action Jack and Peter Pan and the Pirates.

He was a layout supervisor for the TV specials
Davy Crockett on the Mississippi (1976), A Flintstone Christmas (1977) and Beauty and the Beast (1983), as well as 1990's Jetsons: The Movie.

Ahern was an animation supervisor for
The Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Puppy Hour, Dungeons & Dragons and The Gummi Bears, along with the 1984 My Little Pony
TV special.

As a storyboard artist, he worked on the series Dungeons & Dragons, Bionic Six, Sylvanian Families, X-Men and Spider-Man. He was also a storyboard editor for Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, and story director for Speed Buggy and Rubik, the Amazing Cube.

Ahern was a production manager for the ABC Weekend Specials The Incredible Detectives, The Trouble with Miss Switch and Scruffy, in addition to the series The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show.

He was a timing director and sheet timer for the 2000 TV series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and a model design supervisor for the 1985 TV-movie My Little Pony: Escape from Catrina.

Ahern was an associate professor at BYU for the Fine Arts Department in Animation. In 1963, he married Shirley Lynn Arnold in the Salt Lake Temple.

He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, in which he served in many capacities throughout his life.

In his spare time, he enjoyed photography, motorcross, cycling, skiing, mountain climbing, camping, and backpacking.

John Ahern is survived by wife Shirley; son Scott Arnold Ahern of Provo, Utah; daughters Jodi Lyn Bradley of Wellington, Utah, Kimberly Marie Ahern of Simi Valley, California and Kelly Rene Ahern of New Market, Alabama; nine grandchildren; and sisters Lynne Engstrom of Northridge, California and Sunny Fletcher of Pelham, New York.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, November 3 at the Crosswinds 3rd Ward Chapel, 1660 S. 1400 E., Spanish Fork, Utah. Family and friends may attend a viewing at the church from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m. prior to services. Interment will be in the Santaquin Cemetery.

Condolences may be sent to the family at

Sony-Paramount to co-finance Tintin

Variety reports that Sony Pictures Entertainment and Paramount Pictures are in talks to co-finance the digital 3-D Tintin, the Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson series based on the Belgian comics Tintin. The report suggests that the first film of the series will be directed by Steven Spielberg and is expected to be complete in time for a 2010 release.

Coraline sneak peek

IGN reports about a special screening of roughly half an hour of footage from the upcoming 3D stop-motion animation film Coraline which they attended recently. Based on the novella by Neil Gaiman, Coraline tells the story of the eponymous young girl who discovers a secret door in her new home that leads to an alternate reality. Directed by Henry Selick, the Focus features release is slated to open in February 2009.

An early screening of Pixar’s Up

An early screening of Up, Pixar’s upcoming animated film, was attended by blogger Larryfile recently. According to the write up, the rough cut version of the film that was screened, was mixed with storyboard, rough and finished animation. The movie plot was completely original but somewhat dark with many adult themes. He finally adds, “I would definitely recommend this movie to family and friends as the animation that we saw was top notch.”

'Schoolhouse Rock' DVD: The Election Collection

Rocking the Election

"I'm just a bill…
Yes, I'm only a bill.
…and I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill."

So goes a most familiar tune of a segment from Schoolhouse Rock, known throughout the past thirty plus years for its smart, catchy, and informative way of sparking in kids a concept of politics and government in a way that was actually rather fun. An award-winning animated series that made sure children were exposed to the fundamental basics of modern academia every Saturday morning, Schoolhouse Rock raised more than a generation of animation fans whose knack for articulating the principles of arithmetic, history and science is fondly remembered.

Now, as the 2008 election season begins to thin out, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has put together a collection of classic Schoolhouse Rock episodes for domestic release.

The collection, an election-themed assortment of items that explain politics and government in the cartoon's familiar old way, was released within the past month and includes some of Schoolhouse Rock's most memorable clips. From "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College" to the venerable "I'm Just a Bill," there's little to miss from the one-disc DVD release

Perhaps an ideal way for animation enthusiasts to introduce their eager children to the political process; or perhaps a must-have for fans of old school Saturday-morning cartoons that artfully integrated a clever visual aesthete into its storytelling (audio or otherwise), the limited edition release of The Election Collection is one of the few remaining reminders that civic education can be fun.

The recently released home video also features the entertaining new-to-DVD song "Presidential Minute," with two surprise endings and an exclusive Election Tracking Kit that comes complete with stickers to help young viewers keep track of the actual voting results in all 50 states. Disney's Election Collection of Schoolhouse Rock animation is currently on sale for only $19.99 (one disc). The animated shorts contained in this release are from the original creators of Schoolhouse Rock, executive producer George Newall, producer Radford Stone and music director Bob Dorough.

…but I know I'll be a law someday.
At least I hope and pray that I will,
but today I am still just a bill….

on Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, a recognized leader in the home entertainment industry, is the marketing, sales and distribution company for Walt Disney, Touchstone, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax and Buena Vista product, which includes DVD, Blu-ray Disc™ and electronic distribution. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is a division of The Walt Disney Studios.

Madagascar sequel sets records in Russia, Ukraine

The sequel "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" made box office history Thursday in both Russia and the Ukraine, studio DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. announced Friday.

The continuing saga of the Central Park Zoosters bowed in Russia to the biggest opening day ever for an American film and set the record for the biggest opening day of all time in the Ukraine. Paramount Pictures is distributing the feature worldwide.

In Russia, the film opened on 841 screens, grossing $2.81 million. This record establishes Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa as the second-biggest opening of all time in the country, besting all previous animated feature releases. In the Ukraine, the film opened on 92 screens to a gross of $396,000.

"These numbers are confirmation of the worldwide popularity of the characters from the original film and the strength of the storytelling in the sequel. We are looking forward with enthusiasm to its worldwide release and domestic opening on November 7," said DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

In the sequel to 2005's Madagascar, Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria, King Julien, Maurice and the penguins and the chimps find themselves marooned on the distant shores of Madagascar. In the face of this obstacle, the New Yorkers have hatched a plan so crazy that it just might work. With military precision, the penguins have repaired an old crashed plane -- sort of.

Once aloft, this unlikely crew stays airborne just long enough to make it to the wildest place of all -- the vast plains of Africa, where the members of our zoo-raised crew encounter species of their own kind for the very first time. Africa seems like a great place... but is it better than their Central Park home?

Fox signs deals giving "American Dad" 5th season

Cartoon sitcom "American Dad" has been picked up by 20th Century Fox TV for a fifth season as a result of new two-year deals with series co-creators Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman.

The twin seven-figure agreements will keep Barker and Weitzman on the series and include options for a third year for the pair.

Barker and Weitzman created American Dad with producer Seth MacFarlane four years ago. Since then, they have executive produced and run the comedy series, and have not contemplated quitting.

"The world is screwed up, so we think we still have some semi-poignant things to say about it through the show," said Weitzman.

Two heads are better than one for the series, according to 20th Century Fox TV chairman Dana Walden.

"Matt and Mike are covering far more territory in the executive producer slot than one person can ever cover. That enables Seth to focus on his other projects," she said.

Their overall deals allow Barker and Weitzman to develop new projects. However, they'll be concentrating for now on American Dad during what Walden called "a critical year for the show."

Ratings for the series have improved last season: up 19% among teens, 8% among total viewers and 6% among adults 18 to 49.

Fox has ordered 22 more episodes, bringing the total number of American Dad episodes available to 109. That'll be more than what's needed for Fox TV sister company Twentieth Television to market the show for syndication. The company is expected to begin start approaching cable networks and station groups about such deals later this year, the Hollywood Reporter said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the team of American Dad writers are working on Season 5 while watching the United States presidential race.

"If (Barack) Obama wins, that would provide an interesting wrinkle to the show, as Stan is such a die-hard Republican," Weitzman said. Chimed in Barker: "If (John) McCain wins, it would be great for the show and horrible for our grandchildren."

Barker and Weitzman were a writing team for 17 years, but recently split up "to bring heat back into the relationship," they joked.

Why Did Marvel Recast Rhodes in Iron Man 2?

Why did Marvel Studios recast Col. Jim Rhodes in Iron Man 2? The surprise announcement that Don Cheadle was taking over the role from Terrence Howard in the sequel (and now The Avengers) left many fans wondering what happened. Entertainment Weekly has an article possibly explaining how this came to be:

Hollywood insiders believe the exit stems from Terrence Howard's difficult behavior on the set of Iron Man. But those with intimate knowledge of the situation suggest a far more dramatic backstory: Howard was the first actor signed to the film and, on top of that, was the highest-paid. That's right: more than Gwyneth Paltrow. More than Jeff Bridges. More than Robert Downey Jr. And once the project fully came together, it was too late to renegotiate his deal. It didn't help that, according to one source, Favreau and his producers were ultimately unhappy with Howard's performance, and spent a lot of time cutting and reshooting his scenes. (Favreau could not be reached for comment, while Howard's publicist says: ''Terrence had a tremendous experience working on Iron Man.'')

You can read the full article here.

New Planet Of The Apes Coming!

I find this very surprising. That's not to say I don't believe it, I most definitely do - after all, nothing FOX does these days should surprise anyone - but it just doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense. Considering their last stab at rebooting the "Planet of the Apes" franchise resulted in quite a few job losses and a big dint in the studio wallet, why would Rothman's guys even want to try again? Is there not another "X-Men" spin-off film they can develop? Maybe the guy who shoots fire from his fingers? Surely there's a quick-buck video-game movie they can rush into development?

Maybe I'm just scared they'll f*** this up like they did the last one?

According to CHUD, FOX have been quietly developing a remake of "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" for the past twelve months or so.

Now this isn't a sequel to the Tim Burton film -in fact chronologically, it'd be a prequel to the previous film - and in fact it probably won't share many similiarties at all with it, well, besides the fact the stars are monkeys.

For those that don't recall, "Conquest" told the story of 'Caesar' (Roddy McDowall), the first ape to talk.

In a futuristic society where ape slavery has taken over the world, Caesar, the son of the late simians Cornelius and Zira, surfaces after almost 20 years in hiding out from the authorities, and prepares for a slave revolt against humanity

There's some differences between this new version and the old script - for a start, "Conquest" was set in a future America, a fascist society, where as this new version is set today - and as a consequence its been renamed to "Genesis : Apes".

As much as I'm bewildered by FOX's enthusiasm to restart the "Apes" franchise, again - or maybe I just wish it was another studio handling it - this does sound like a pretty nifty idea. And so long as Burton and Mark Wahlberg go nowhere near it, a few people just might actually catch it.

CHUD has more.

Filmation composer Ray Ellis, 85, used wife's name

Ray Ellis, who used the name of his wife Yvette Blais as a pseudonym to compose almost all of the background music for Filmation Associates cartoon series from 1968 to 1982, died Monday in Encino, California at 85.

The cause of death was complications from melanoma, said his son Marc, with whom he co-composed the score for the 2002 Adam Sandler animated feature film Eight Crazy Nights.

Ellis arranged such classic pop tunes as "Chances Are," "Come To Me" and "That Certain Smile" by Johnny Mathis, "Splish Splash" and "Dream Lover" by Bobby Darin, and "Standing on the Corner" and "Moments to Remember" by the Four Lads. The Philadelphia native also arranged for such acts as Doris Day ("Everybody Loves a Lover"), Tony Bennett, The Drifters, Connie Francis, Judy Garland and Ray Price during a career of nearly 65 years.

Working with his son, he wrote original music for the original Spider-Man cartoon series.

Some of Ellis' earlier Filmation work appeared under the name of his son Marc, or under the pseudonyms "George Blais" or "Spencer Raymond." He was "Spencer Raymond" on the 1968 series Fantastic Voyage, "George Blais" on some of Filmation's early 1970s series and its feature films, and Marc Ellis -- then a teenager -- on the 1969 series The Hardy Boys. But he was credited under his own name for background music for The Archie Show and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

As Yvette Blais, he co-wrote the music
for Star Trek: The Animated Series with Norm Prescott (credited as "Jeff Michael").

He also provided music for such Filmation shows as
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Lassie's Rescue Rangers, The Brady Kids, My Favorite Martian, Shazam!, The New Adventures of Gilligan, The Ghost Busters, Ark II, The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse, The New Animated Adventures of Flash Gordon and The New Adventures of Tom and Jerry.

His son Marc aided his father without credit on later Filmation scores, getting onscreen credit for co-composing the theme music to 1979's
Flash Gordon

Born on July 28, 1923, Ellis played tenor sax in the Gene Krupa Band and the Paul Whiteman Band in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He also performed live with jazz combos on Philadelphia TV station WCAU.

In 1955, Columbia Records A&R man Mitch Miller discovered him. Aided by bandleader Miller, Ellis arranged numerous Top 10 records for such acts as the Four Lads, Mathis, Bennett, Darin and Chris Connor. For the Columbia and RCA labels, he recorded instrumental albums under the Ray Ellis and His Orchestra name.

Working at Atlantic Records with Jerry Wexler, Ellis turned to R&B, arranging hits for the Drifters ("Under the Boardwalk"), Brook Benton ("There Goes My Baby"), Ben E. King ("Spanish Harlem") and Etta James ("C.C. Rider"). He did arrangements for Lady in Satin (1958), Billie Holiday's final album.

In 1959, Ellis became A&R director at MGM Records. There, he made hits for Connie Francis ("Where the Boys Are"), Clyde McPhatter ("Lover's Question") and Frankie Laine. He later worked with such artists as Maurice Chevalier, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Michelle Lee, Liza Minnelli, Anthony Newley and Barbra Streisand.

Ellis' work with his son Marc extended writing music for The NBC Nightly News and The Today Show. The two created music for Sale of the Century, Catch Phrase, Scrabble and other game shows.

In recent years, Ellis worked on projects with Barry Manilow and Bette Midler. He helped raise funds for the Ojai Music Festival in his retirement years.

Besides his son Marc, Ellis is survived by Yvette, his wife of more than 60 years, and Jeffrey, a Los Angeles attorney.

Ray Ellis with Chris Emery, drummer for the Winnipeg band Volume. Ellis gave permission and support for Volume to release The Amazing Spider-Band, a CD of re-creations of tunes from the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon series.

"Hulk: Gamma Corps" Status Confirmed, Update On "The Avengers: Earth's Greatest Heroes"

Marvel Animation has confirmed the status of the Hulk: Gamma Corps animated series, and reveals how it became a part of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. A Marvel Animation Age exclusive!

Originally announced last year, the Hulk: Gamma Corps animated series has been confirmed as officially cancelled by Marvel Animation. But, it's not as cut and dry as one may think. Hulk: Gamma Corps was actually in production, but then The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes came along.

Joshua Fine, Director of Animation Development for Marvel Animation, tells Marvel Animation Age that the Hulk: Gamma Corps animated series was in pre-production when the decision was made to fold the creative work being done there into the upcoming The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated series. Even though the creative team was well into pre-production of Hulk: Gamma Corps, with scripting underway, they saw the chance to tell bigger stories that reached far beyond Hulk's universe.

"It became apparent to us that the creative work that was being done to bring Hulk’s world and his villains to life was too good to relegate to his universe alone, and would be much better suited as part of an full-on Avengers scenario," says Fine.

Producer Ciro Nieli, who was previously working on the shelved Hulk: Gamma Corps animated series, is now currently working on the upcoming highly-anticipated The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated series. While more details will be revealed about The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes as production moves forward, Fine can reveal one absolute about the upcoming Marvel Animation series,

"This show is going to be big!"

Expect many elements of the shelved Hulk: Gamma Corps animated series to be worked into the upcoming The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated series. The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes is scheduled to premiere in 2011.

Animation Show in Montreal until November 6

The Animation Show wraps up at the end of the month. If you checked the tour's website, you may think you missed the Montreal leg, but it actually began yesterday and runs until November 6th. Use the Cinema du Parc's schedule for the correct showtimes. If you missed it in your city, or saw it and liked it, stay tuned to the official website or console yourself with The Animation Show Vol. 3 DVD.

(Thanks fps magazine)

The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello

I first saw The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in 2005 during the short film competition on Saturday night. I remember that particular program was exceptional, but this short was the most remarkable of the lot for me. It appeals to several biases: it has both a steampunk and a gothic horror motif; the story has excellent pacing and takes it time, but ropes you in; and it looks gorgeous, using a silhouette animation style reminiscent of Lotte Reiniger, but refined for our times with motion graphics and digital compositing.

This short, directed by Anthony Lucas, is supposed to be the first of a trilogy. Last week, the distributor Monster Distributes put the entire short up on Youtube and quite deservedly, it is one of the featured shorts in the Youtube Screening Room. Perhaps the short will gain new fans, hastening the next installment.

As if this weekend wasn't creepy enough. Check this out.

(Thanks fps magazine)

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