Thursday, November 13, 2008

News - 11/13/08...

Coraline Poster Debuts

Focus Features today released the one-sheet for Coraline, the upcoming stop-motion feature from LAIKA and director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach). The movie will be released in stereoscopic 3-D in February of 2009.

Based on Neil Gaiman’s international best-selling book, the movie tells the story of Coraline Jones), a young girl who is bored in her new home until she finds a secret door that leads to an alternate version of her life. On the surface, this parallel reality is eerily similar to her real life and the people in it, only much better. But when this seemingly perfect world turns dangerous and her other parents try to trap her forever, Coraline must count on her resourcefulness, determination and bravery to escape and save her family.

Dakota Fanning lends her voice to title character, leading a cast that includes Teri Hatcher, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Ian McShane. Gaze upon the poster below and view some behind-the-scenes set pics here:

Woolverton Gets WGA Animation Award

Lion King scribe Linda Woolverton has received the eleventh annual Animation Writing Award for lifetime achievement from the Writers Guild of America, West’s Animation Writers Caucus (AWC). The honor, bestowed in recognition of her creative contributions to advance the craft of film and television animation writing, was presented at the AWC’s annual awards ceremony held on Nov. 6 at WGAW headquarters in Los Angeles.

“Linda is one of the few writers about whom it's safe to say that her work has been seen and loved by billions,”
comments WGAW president Patric M. Verrone. “As if writing the most successful animated film of all time and the only one ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar isn't enough, adapting her work into a 14-year run on Broadway is nice, too.”

While working as a development exec at CBS early in her career, Woolverton wrote two young adult novels,
Star Wind
and Running Before the Wind. The books were published by Houghton Mifflin and she soon made the transition from TV development exec to full-time writer, penning teleplays for animated TV shows such as The Berenstain Bears, Ewoks, Teen Wolf, Real Ghostbusters, My Little Pony, The Popples and DuckTales.

When one of her novels caught the attention of a Disney exec, Woolverton was hired to write the screenplay for
Beauty and the Beast. The 1991 release won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy/Musical and became the first animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. Woolverton was again hired by Disney to pen The Lion King with Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts, and to provide story material for Mulan. Woolverton’s other shared screen credits include Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (screenplay by Caroline Thompson and Linda Woolverton, based upon The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford) and Arctic Circle (narration by Linda Woolverton and Mose Richards and Kristin Gore).

Woolverton later adapted her
Beauty and the Beast script for the Broadway stage, garnering a Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical in 1994. She was also awarded the Laurence Oliver Award for Best New Musical in the U.K. The musical production of Beauty and the Beast ran for 5,464 performances between 1994 and 2007, becoming the sixth longest-running show in Broadway history and grossing more than $1.4 billion worldwide. In addition, she co-wrote the book for Elton John and Tim Rice's hit musical Aida, which ran for five years on Broadway.

Most recently,Woolverton penned the screenplay for Tim Burton’s ucpoming live-action/CG adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s
Alice in Wonderland
. The film stars Johnny Depp and will employ digital performance-capture technology. She is also writing screenplays for Sony and Warner Bros.

Founded in 1994, the WGAW’s Animation Writers Caucus represents more than 600 animation writers and works to advance economic and creative conditions in the field. Through organizing efforts, educational events and networking opportunities, the Caucus is a leading proponent for animation writers. Recent AWC Writing Award honorees include Jules Feiffer, Jack Mendelsohn, Al Jean, Michael Reiss, and, most recently, Brad Bird. The 2009 Writers Guild Awards will be held on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009, with simultaneous ceremonies at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles and the Hudson Theatre at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York City.

Image Metrics Mints Game, Film/TV Units

Image Metrics, a provider of facial animation solutions for the entertainment industry, announced that it is aligning its operations into video game and film and TV divisions in order to address the growing demand for its services in the two industries. Kelvin Duckett has been promoted to general manager of the film group, and former Havok sales exec Brian Waddle is joining the company as general manager of the games unit. In these newly created positions, Duckett and Waddle will work directly with Image Metrics CEO Mike Starkenburg to expand business operations in their respective markets.

Having guided Image Metrics in various roles over the past several years including a stint as COO, Duckett will oversee global sales to feature film and visual effects studios, post production houses and broadcast customers. During his 20-year career in the film industry, he has built, run and sold highly technical service companies such as 525 Post Productions in Hollywood, Virgin Mexico in Mexico City, Rushes in London, MediaLab in Paris and POP & Post Logic Studios in Los Angeles. Trained as an editor, Duckett has worked for the BBC, ITN and ABC News, and has also worked extensively as a visual FX specialist on commercials and music videos.

With Duckett’s guidance, Image Metrics has recently debuted a beta program for film studios interested in incorporating the performance transfer portion of its facial animation technology into their internal production pipelines. The company attracted a lot of attention when it showcased its facial animation capabilities at SIGGRAPH 2008 with a photo-real demo of a character named “Emily.”

Brian Waddle brings senior management expertise and a history of sales success to the role of general manager of video games. Before joining Image Metrics, he was VP of worldwide sales and marketing at Havok, where he oversaw global sales and marketing operations and channel development until the company’s recent acquisition by Intel.

Image Metrics rapidly re-creates realistic facial performances without markers or makeup. The company’s solutions have been adopted by some of the best-known production studios in the entertainment world, including Digital Domain, Rockstar Games and Sony Computer Entertainment. Recent projects include facial animation for cinematic sequences in the video games Rock Band 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV. Image Metrics has offices in Santa Monica, Calif. and Manchester, U.K.

Christmas Is Here Again on DVD

Another animated holiday movie has joined the fray. Christmas Is Here Again
a musical adventure featuring the voices of Kathy Bates, Ed Asner, Shirley Jones and Andy Griffith, is now available on DVD from Screen Media through Wal-Mart,
Target, Best Buy and other retailers nationwide. Produced by Renegade Animation
(The Mr. Men Show)
and Easy to Dream Ent., the award-winning film is also set to make its television debut on Dec. 17 on WWOR New York, KCOP Los Angeles, WPWR Chicago, WPHL Philadelphia, KDFI Dallas and other stations across the country.

When the evil Krad steals Santa's toy bag, he crushes the holiday spirit and causes the world's children to, over time, forget all about Christmas. Determined to stop Krad from destroying Christmas once and for all, wide-eyed orphan Sophiana and her band of friends embark on the polar adventure of a lifetime. Along the way, they discover their importance of compassion, loyalty and never losing hope. Newcomer Madison Davenport stars as Sophiana. Also featured in the all-star cast are Norm Macdonald, Brad Garrett, Colin Ford and Daniel Roebuck. Jay Leno narrates.

The film is written and directed by Robert Zappia, and produced Jim Praytor. Daniel Roebuck is co-producer and exec producers are Ashley Postlewaite, Carole Anne Zappia and Marco Zappia. Darrell Van Citters served as animation director, and Mike Giaimo was production designer. To view a trailer of the movie or purchase the DVD, go to

Scott, Toon Scribe Tapped for Monopoly

Hasbro and Universal have found a director and screenwriter for their upcoming movie based on the enduring board game Monopoly. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien) will direct and the difficult job of adapting the property for the screen has gone to Pamela Pettler, who has written Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, Gil Kenan's Monster House and Shan Acker’s 9, which is being produced by Burton and Timur Bekmambetov.

There’s no word on how Hasbro and Universal plan to spin a narrative from the popular real estate game involving little, plastic houses and fake money. With Scott’s involvement comes talk of a futuristic take in the vein of
Blade Runner. Scott was previously attached as a producer, along with Giannina Facio and Hasbro's Brian Goldner. Lawrence Grey will oversee production for Universal and Bennett Schneir for Hasbro.

Monopoly seems like an odd source for movie material, it’s not the only Hasbro board game pegged for the screen. Platinum Dunes is producing a Ouija Board movie for Hasbro and Universal, and a Battleship pic is said to be in development. Paramount made a 1985 movie based on the mystery board game Clue, and is bringing Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toyline to the big screen. Directed by Stephen Sommers, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra
is slated to hit theaters on Aug. 7, 2009.

Briefly: Bradford Animation Fest; Qubo in NY, Philadelphia, and DC

* The Bradford Animation Festival begins this Wednesday, November 12, 2008, with highlights including a workshop with character designer Curtis Jobling (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and a conversation with Simpsons producer Al Jean. [Digital Arts Online UK]

* The Qubo Channel will be added to RCN's cable TV offerings in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. [Press Release]

Business Week on Disney's Bollywood Plans with "Roadside Romeo"

Business Week has taken a look a Disney's first co-production with the Indian film company Yash Raj Films to produce Roadside Romeo, an animated musical that "could be a Bollywood film if it were not an animation film" according to director Jugal Hansraj. The article looks at the Indian studio that animated the entire film and briefly touches on the larger strategy to tap into India's market of 350 million children under age 14.

Emru Townsend, RIP

Emru (r.) with sister Tamu

Our friend and colleague Emru Townsend passed away Tuesday night after a brave battle with leukemia. Emru was the founder of the print and online magazine FPS Magazine and one of the sincerest, most passionate and articulate animation critics around.

He put up a valiant fight against his illness over the past year, and in doing so he brought awareness about the importance of bone marrow donation. It’s something easy that almost anybody can do, and it can save a life. To learn more about how you can become a bone marrow donor, visit

From both Jerry and Amid, we want to offer our sincere condolences to Emru’s entire family, and particularly his sister Tamu who is an active member of the animation community and an important part of FPS’s online presence. Emru will be missed.

Remembrances of Emru are beginning to be posted online:
Richard O’Connor
Matt Forsythe
Vicky Tamaru
“StandingInTheMiddleOfLife” (nice writeup)
Dan Tynan
Madeline Ashby
Mark Mayerson
Chris Robinson
Harry McCracken
Didier Ghez

Emru (c.) with animators Ward Jenkins (l.) and Pat Smith (r.)

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

At the Mall

Because the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers headquarters is cheek by jowl to Imagi Animation in the fabled Sherman Oaks Galleria, I took the opportunity to bop over there during an afternoon break. (Multi-tasking, that's me.)

As I went into Imagi, two story artists were coming out with pleased looks on their faces. One of them said:

"We had a new screening for Gatchaman an hour ago, and the picture has really come together in a good way. For a long time it seemed to be two separate films, but now it forms a seamless whole. We've got some notes, but everybody agrees that it works, and works well. It knows what it wants to be."

The rest of the story crew I talked to feels pretty much the same way about the quality of the picture.

And what about the other features happening at Imagi? I got to see some impressive scenes for Astroboy on various computer screens, and Tusker (late of DreamWorks) is now on Imagi's plate. As one artist remarked: "We're getting a big DreamWorks contingent around here ..."

And as for those AMPTP-IATSE negotiations, there's a blackout on the talks, but the lunchtime bunji-jumping competition in the Alliance's three-story lobby was a hoot.

Thank God I was wearing a helmet when my turn came.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

R2-D2's Inner Workings Revealed in Friday's The Clone Wars

What is R2-D2 made of? Audiences will find out, both literally and figuratively, in "Duel of the Droids," a new episode of animated series STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, premiering at 9 p.m. ET/PT Friday, November 14, on Cartoon Network.

In the episode, Anakin, Ahsoka and replacement droid R3-S6 (aka "Goldie") embark on a dual rescue/sabotage mission when they discover R2-D2 is being held at General Grievous's secret enemy listening post.

Writer Kevin Campbell (DISNEY'S HOUSE OF MOUSE, JACKIE CHAN ADVENTURES) created a little extra work for the Lucasfilm Animation crew when he used the unusually vivid word "splayed" to describe how R2-D2's internal mechanisms would be removed and exhibited across an examining table. That gave the production team ample opportunity to delve into Artoos's inner workings, as well as to have a little fun at director Rob Coleman's expense.

"Dave [Filoni] and the designers -- particularly Killian Plunkett -- figured out what was actually inside Artoo," Coleman said. "He's the ultimate Swiss Army knife, and we all love the myriad things that come out of him, but having to build and animate all of that is another story. Lucasfilm Animation's Gary Scheppke got a box full of 'Artoo bits,' and the modelers -- basing it off the actual hardware -- crammed it into the model inside the computer. There are definitely some recognizable pieces on that table from the films, as well as all the things that show up for the first time in this episode -- a cutter wheel, suction cups, etc. Then they animated in a few things like a pea shooter and a boxing glove just to get my attention. They're funny guys."

Campbell says he took pride in the opportunity to add some history for Artoo and his capabilities, showing some aspects of the droid that audiences haven't seen before.

"I love that we're adding back story to the back story. We discover that when Princess Leia hides the Death Star plans inside Artoo in Episode IV, it's not the first time he's been entrusted with important information," Campbell said. "I also like that we get to play with Anakin's emotional side. The Jedi are saying he gets too attached, that he's willing to risk everything to get Artoo back. He's a Jedi, and yet he assigns sentimental value to an inanimate object. I can relate to that, because that's real loyalty."

See a clip of "Duel of the Droids" on AWNtv.

New Coraline poster

IMPAWARDS shares a new poster for Coraline. Based on Neil Gaiman’s novella of the same name, the animated stop-motion fantasy is slated for a February 6, 2009 release.

Dr. Toon: Santa, Sisyphus and Sam the Snowman

In this month's column, Martin Goodman gets a head start on Christmas by analyzing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town in mythic terms that would make Joseph Campbell proud.

The State of the Anime Industry

One of the good things about anime conventions is that they provide opportunities for fans to hear from industry professionals about what's new, and what directions various influential companies might take. For example, Erin Finnegan's excellent coverage of a NYAF panel with representatives from Bandai and FUNimation. The talk was candid:

Funimation rep Adam Sheehan says, “Our sales have gone up in the last couple of years. We’ve been lucky to get quality shows.” Funimation has been doing 13-episode sets of One Piece for hardcore fans. “One Piece is the most illegally downloaded series in the world” Sheehan says. “If just 1% of those people bought a DVD it would increase our sales tenfold.”

This news is disappointing for two reasons.

1: It means that, as Chris MacDonald from the Anime News Network says, “It’s not exclusively a DVD industry… DVD sales of Naruto are inconsequential. Viz doesn’t give a damn... They only care about licensing. Boxed Home media is never going to be as big as it was in the ’90’s again.”

2: One Piece? Seriously?

Roadside Romeo Triumphs ... in India

Disney's other animated dog picture has already done damn well:

When Walt Disney recently released Roadside Romeo , its first animated movie aimed specifically at the Indian market, it got all the proof it needed that the country's cinemagoers appreciate films made especially for them.

The film came out last month and scored Disney its best opening weekend performance in India, outstripping previous animation hits such as
Toy Story . "In its first four days it exceeded the entire Indian gross of The Incredibles ," says Jason Reed, general manager of Walt Disney Studio international productions.

The film's success confirmed what Disney and its rivals in Hollywood have long suspected: Hollywood's best prospects for growth are in emerging theatrical markets such as India, China and Russia.

The point to be made here is that Hollywood congloms are going to be producing an increasing number of locally-based animated features. The Indian market in particular is huge, revenues are going up, and it would take a doltish studio exec not to see the oncoming reality.

Which doesn't mean, of course, that the big ticket, animated extravaganzas coming out of California aren't going to be on the sub-continent's movie screens too. Just that companies will be pressing as many revenue buttons as they can in as many ways as they can.

So someday soon there will be Roadside Romeo, the Sequel, yes?

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Shawn Levy Confesses He Just Wasn’t Right For Directing ‘The Flash’

He’s the fastest man on Earth, but you sure as heck wouldn’t know it based on how long it’s taken for “The Flash” to make it to the big-screen. The slow crawl of the project turned into a snail’s pace, that, in light of the “Justice League of America” movie, eventually turned into a complete stop.

The last official word we had on the project was way back in October of last year, when “Wedding Crashers” director David Dobkin revealed exclusively to MTV News that he was tapped to helm the upcoming “Flash” flick.

Back then, we wrote that he was taking over for Shawn Levy, who we said “left for undisclosed reasons.”

So what where those reasons?

“It’s true, I never quite got to the starting line [on that one] and it may be [simply] that in my line of work, especially in my line of work, as a rule, you kind of develop maybe 15 scripts in order to get one that’s worth shooting,” Levy told us Boldfrom the set of his upcoming sequel “Night at the Museum 2.” “[But] with ‘The Flash,’ maybe it’s because I’m most comfortable doing a movie that can be just straight-up funny without having to kind of adhere to expectations.”

Levy, of course, is best known for (and worth noting, really successful at) creating action/comedy hybrids, like the aforementioned “Night at the Museum.” Ultimately, he confessed, that sensibility just didn’t mesh with the vision for the D.C. icon.

“I didn’t know that ‘The Flash’ ever wanted to be about laughs. Even I, and I’m not a profound fanboy, but even I grew up with a certain reverence for Flash,” Levy said. “I didn’t want to find the funny in the lore, so I always erred on the side of doing right by the legend, doing right by the lore of BoldThe Flash.”

In the end, then, Levy was content to remove himself from the project to concentrate on films where the material matched his sensibility, and may the heavens bless him for it. But somebody at Warners thought it should be a more out-and-out comedy — after all, Dobkin was brought on board immediately after Levy.

The Dark Knight DVD and Blu-ray Clips

The Guardian has posted three clips from bonus features on the upcoming DVDs and Blu-ray Discs for The Dark Knight. On December 9, fans will get a chance to buy a Two-Disc Special Edition, a Widescreen Edition, Full Screen Edition, a Blu-ray, and a Two-Disc Blu-ray Limited Edition.

Click here to watch the clips!

Chicks On Anime - Animators Turned Directors

Benjamin Ettinger returns to discuss how animators become directors.

About the contributors:

Bamboo is the managing editor for Anime News Network, and writes the column Shelf Life.
Sara is an animator who's also released her own independent short film.

Last week, we posted the first half of a fascinating conversation with Benjamin Ettinger, the owner of AniPages, a valuable resource for fans about many of the most renowned animators and animators-turned-directors in the Japanese industry. For those who want to read more about the topic, he also posted a very excellent article on his website titled, "What makes animation interesting?", which also delves more into the topic of what sets animators apart. It's a great read, and I highly encourage everyone to take a look at their earliest convenience.

This week, the conversation turns to a few very well-respected directors who got their start as animators. Once again, I've included some links to some of their works, as well as certain scenes. I definitely learned a lot from our time with Benjamin, and I hope that's shared with our valuable readers.

Next week, we'll be going back to more conventional fan topic, but hopefully everyone's enjoyed these past two columns. Thanks for reading! And thanks so much to our wonderful guest, who opened my eyes to this medium that we all love so much.

Sara: Oftentimes, an influential and respected animator will go on to become an influential and respected director. Miyazaki was mentioned in passing, and Mitsuo Iso, who animated the Golden Boy clip, directed a remarkable series last year called DennĊ Coil. But the most important name, in this aspect, is Masaaki Yuasa. For this discussion, at least, in my opinion.

Bamboo: How does a key animator become a director? At what point in his career is he allowed to take on that responsibility? Is it his decision, or the studio's?

Benjamin: It's absolutely the studios' decision. I think people accede to directing much quicker today than they used to. It took Miyazaki some 20 years to direct his first film. It took Masaaki Yuasa more than 10 years to direct his first film. It took Imaishi much less than 10.

Sara: Ben, you're somewhat of an expert on Yuasa's history; would you like to give a brief summary?

Benjamin: Yuasa started out as an animator at a studio called Ajia-do, working on ordinary TV productions. I assume his style was not in evidence immediately. I don't know what it was that led to him developing a unique style—partly it was the animation he loved to study, and partly his personality—but he started to create interesting animation after a few years that really stood out as unlike anything else out there. Many years before becoming a director, Yuasa stood out as a unique creator. Yuasa started out creation very free and very colorful animation full of transformations.

Bamboo: What do you think was his first work that really captured his future potential?

Benjamin: An early piece that shows him to be a unique voice is the musical segments he did for the Chibi Maruko-chan film in 1990. That is really quite early in his career to be displaying such a unique voice. But Yuasa wasn't content to just do this kind of material. He also handled very realistic material, working with Shinya Ohira on an episode of Hakkenden that stands out for its outstanding realistic rendering of faces and movement. Yuasa has many different faces, which I think is true of any great creator.

Eventually Yuasa began working as a director on
Crayon Shin-chan. I think it begins that way for every animator. They give storyboarding a try, find they like it, and that leads to them eventually directing.

Bamboo: Do you think animators bring something different to the directing table?

Benjamin: Yes. Very much so. I think Yuasa is an outstanding example of just how different a perspective someone with the background of an animator can have. At the most basic level, I think Yuasa is focused on creating work that is exploits the inherent possibilities of animation. That, you might say, is what many animators-turned-directors bring to the table that others might not. They think like animators. Miyazaki is a classic case of this.

Bamboo: I think it's interesting that you mentioned how his animation is full of transformations. That instantly reminded me of that scene in Mind Gamethe love-making scene—when the couple is constantly, literally transforming. It's almost like his animation aesthetic came alive, if that makes sense.

Sara: Yes, I was about to mention that the first piece of I work I saw by Yuasa was his work in Noiseman Sound Insect, and I got a similar sense.

Benjamin: Yes, Yuasa uses every means available to him as an animator to create a rich visual experience, which is what makes scenes like that love-making scene have so much more power than if they had been done in a conventional way.

Sara: I think Yuasa's aesthetic as an animator definitely comes across in the way he directs. In Mind Game, especially, he "exploits the inherent possibilities of animation" as a director by using as many styles as possible in one film, it seems like. Mind Game really is a groundbreaking piece of work.

Benjamin: What attracted me to Yuasa, personally, was that I felt he showed me what we're missing, what isn't being done, but could be done. I'm the kind of person who likes to see different things tried in animation, and animation is uniquely suited to coming up with new ways of telling stories that make for exciting viewing.

Sara: In Mind Game, all kinds of things are going on. We have what, traditional 2D anime-style animation, pastel, 3D, a whole mesh of aesthetics that manages to be cohesive through superb direction. And Yuasa's approach, as mentioned earlier, gives a new generation of animators to push boundaries that may normally not be available to them on other projects.

Benjamin: What makes Mind Game great is that, while trying all of these different things, while going all over the place, it nonetheless conveys a simple human story and creates characters we can believe in. It's easy enough to mix things up and be experimental, but to combine experimentation with cohesive storytelling the way he has was what made Mind Game so striking.

Bamboo: Do you think that animators-turned-directors tend to seek out more unique and individualistic key animators than directors?

Benjamin: Yes, I think that as animators, they are out to create a film that will be rich in terms of the animation, because, like I said, they think as animators would—they know that, to bring a shot alive, you have to move the character in such a way to make it communicate.

Sara: Hm, that maybe depend on an individual basis. Satoshi Kon was never an animator, for instance, but he frequently uses what Japanese fans refer to as "sakuga" animators to animate his films.

Benjamin: So naturally, they seek out animators who will be able to meet their demands to create animation that fills out and brings alive their storyboard.

Sara: But having an animation background makes a difference.

Benjamin: Yes. Our background colors our approach. Of course, you also have directors like Mamoru Oshii and Isao Takahata who can't draw a lick and were never animators, yet create films that are consistently rich in the animation department. But I think there is a difference in the sort of storyboards they draw and the sort of stories they choose to tell.

Sara: Going back, for a moment, to how an animator's approach to animation influences their direction, it struck me how Iso's debut work, Denno Coil, really seemed to reflect him. His animation has always been a bit more controlled and realistic, and his series reflected that.

Benjamin: Miyazaki's films couldn't be more different from Takahata's.

Sara: Yuasa's Kemonozume, on the other hand, seemed to showcase a whole different aesthetic every week, because I think that appeals to Yuasa.

Bamboo: Do directors tend to work with the same key animators? Or do they vary their staff, based on what kind of style they want?

Benjamin: It depends on the director. Some directors like Satoshi Kon, whose work doesn't vary as dramatically as Yuasa's does from one project to the next, tend to use the same pool of talent from one film to the next, with various degrees of difference, although this is a generalization. It also has to do with availability.

I think Yuasa would have liked to have more talented animators than he did for his TV series, but scheduling circumstances prevented that to some extent. The situation on the production floor is different for a TV series than it is for a movie. But Yuasa, at least at his current stage of creative evolution, likes to vary things, as evidenced by the intra-episode variation in
Kemonozume, and by the dramatic shift in style to Kaiba. So he will be more willing to seek out different animators depending on the project. Some directors like to work with the same staff because they aren't particularly interested in varying the visuals to as great an extent as Yuasa is from one project to the next. Mamoru Oshii regularly returns to a core team focused on Tetsuya Nishio and Hiroyuki Okiura, for example.

Bamboo: Yuasa seems to me, based on what I've seen of his works, someone who is much more willing to explore wildly different styles—and, as Sara said, sometimes within the same work. What jumps out to me is that when he combines animation styles, it's not awkward. And that's important to me, because often times, when you see directors combine 2D and 3D animation, for example, you get a jarring disconnect from the viewing experience. I don't feel that disconnect with his works. His different styles melt together in a way that works, possibly because he's able to use the animation to connect with itself, not just as a tool to make figures move.

Benjamin: I think that goes back to his background. It's not just that he started out as an animator—he started out as a fan of animators. He started out in animation because he loved good animation. Inevitably, that will color his later work, and give him more of a focus on the drawing side of things. I think being trained as an animator, he acquired a sense of what 'works' for a screen, what creates a pleasurable or harmonic image, so to speak.

Sara: What's interesting is that a lot of creative decisions like this are attributed to studios, as generalizations by the mass public. I know when I first saw Mind Game, I thought "Wow! Studio 4C is amazing!" before I learned to appreciate the animators themselves. Gainax is another studio that people think of as having a particular "look" when it is, in fact, a group of animators who animate a certain way, such as the Kanada-style.

Benjamin: Sara's point about individuals being behind what makes a movie good, rather than necessarily the studio, is very true, but it can hard for people to find out about these things without going to considerable lengths. In fact, that's a large part of the reason why I began writing my blog, to fill in that gap.

Sara: I hope this discussion will help others approach animation from a new perspective as well. I feel that animators deserve a great deal of credit.

Bamboo: I think this may be a natural place to start wrapping up the conversation, as well.

Benjamin: I think animation is often a factor in why we love a show or a movie, whether we realize it or not. That was the case for me before I started learning about this kind of thing. Only when I learned that Ichiro Itano was the guy who drew those amazing dogfights in Macross did I begin to have an inkling about these behind-the-scenes interconnections.

Sara: Yes, I agree. The Macross Plus concert scene was probably my launching point. In terms of wanting to know who was directly responsible for what I was seeing on the screen. And not just who was in charge overall.

Benjamin: Once you learn that a certain individual was behind this scene, and that scene, you can begin to appreciate the work you're seeing in a different light, and you can seek out more of what you like. At a basic level, that's why it's useful to know about the animators behind the work. It's not always necessarily the director who is the reason you like a particular scene that you find exciting or moving. Sometimes it's the work of the animator that gives it that special something.

Sara: Hear hear.

Bamboo: That's a perspective I hadn't realized until very recently, and it makes a lot of sense. Anyway, Ben, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. I think our readers will be very pleased, and I know I certainly learned a lot.

Sara: Any last closing thoughts? I just want to urge readers to visit to learn more. It's a fantastic resource.

Benjamin: Thanks for having me! It was a real pleasure talking with all of you.

Fourth Season of 'Robot Chicken' on Adult Swim

Puppets, Parody & Everything In-Between

In a television worldview where Battlestar Galactica references are frequently accompanied by kicks to the groin, or where curiously lewd representations of classic comic book characters conveniently intermingle with legions of human-to-puppet transfigurations, the Adult Swim stop-motion comedy Robot Chicken somehow keeps on surviving. Gearing up for its Season Four premiere on Adult Swim in the first week of December, Robot Chicken is prepared to bring loyal viewers another pop culture enema they so desperately need.

With its now memorable channel-surfing incubation of notable comics, films, or television personalities, revealing that "what's hot" is actually "what's irrelevant," Robot Chicken once again climbs aboard Adult Swim for a new season.

Still guided by executive producers Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, the stop-motion animated television series is planning to profile and parody the likes of Tila Tequila, Ron Moore, and James Bond among many others, whose own stardom seems to have warped their worldview beyond repair.

The fourth season will consist of ten episodes, and will kick off on Sunday, December 7th, 2008 at 11:30pm (ET). As the new season picks up, Seth and Matt return as puppets themselves, searching for work with the apparent cancellation of Robot Chicken, they seek help from a number of sources in the TV community. Unfortunately for these exec producers: Joss Whedon hasn't the time for peons such as them ("You think you're worthy of writing in… the Whedon-verse?"); and Seth MacFarlane is too busy basking in the sunlight of his recent fame, using his phenomenal knack of "the recall" ("That's not as crazy as the time…").

Robot Chicken also promises to give viewers a glimpse into the only way to kill a werewolf, who Iron Man's unexpected ally is, and what "the Composite Santa Clause" is. Robot Chicken is created and executive produced by Green and Senreich under their own Stoopid Monkey Productions, in conjunction with Alex Bulkley and Corey Campodonico's ShadowMachine Films.

In January 2009, Adult Swim is planning to bulk up its on-air time even more, by including the 10:00pm hour, every night of the week. The anticipated addition of the newly acquired King of the Hill, network executives hope, will help sweeten the deal for carrying over devoted viewers from one year to the next. One of Adult Swim's pride and joy, Robot Chicken was the program with the most-watched telecast for the late night network this past Third Quarter, whereby the September 14th airing delivered an audience of Men 18-34 of a notable 941,000.

on Adult Swim: Adult Swim (, launched in 2001, is TBS, Inc.'s network offering original and acquired animated and live action comedy and action series for young adults. Airing overnight 11pm to 6am Monday through Saturday and 10pm to 6am Sunday (ET), Adult Swim shares channel space with Cartoon Network, home to the best in original, classic and acquired programming for children and families, and is seen in 97 million U.S. homes.

UPDATE!! More Details For John Boorman's WIZARD OF OZ Film!! SEE The Emerald City, The Tin Man, & More!!

Re-uploaded Tin Man art that didn't display properly before; it should be viewable now. I really love his design...but I feel I've seen it before? Maybe they're using a book illustration as a template? Maybe it was previously released in some capacity?

Last week, AICN got wind of a John Boorman directed CGI adaptation of L. Frank Baum's THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (details HERE).

It was the first time many of us had heard of the project, although we later learned the film had been in development for (at least) two years - long enough for a significant amount of concept art to be rendered (HERE").

A few days ago, The Wiz sent in a few more details about the project...including more concpet art for the film. To the best of my knowledge, this art isn't availale elsewhere on the net - making this an "exclusive" I suppose.

Here's what The Wiz had to say...

Boorman has collaborated with writers Ron Mita & Jim McClain who did SWAT for Sony (ask Harry about his love of their original draft) and created the story for Fox and Blue Sky's ROBOTS.

It appears that Boorman has a jones for the OZ story going back to his childhood and he's been down that road a bit in ZARDOZ (wiZARD OZ).

The screenplay is reported to read very dark (by design) and they may even be voice casting. Expect Boorman to use his connections to bring in some strong voices.

Look for a return to the book, Including the fact (from the book) that the Tinman is a Munchkin and shorter than Dorothy.

Look for Dorothy to be a tomboy...a real Kansas farm girl. There is even some information on Dorothy's parents ( Dorothy's mom is Aunt Emily's sister).

The Emerald City was descried as sitting on a plateau over endless waterfalls sending up a witch proof veil of mist.

The Wiz

And, here's some artwork illustrating some of his details (a few of the pics can be enlarged by clicking on them).





Tin Man

The Emerald City

The Witch's Castle (word it it "grows" when she's angry)

I'm sensing this will be an extremely compelling project & I'm eager to learn more about it. Hopefully we'll hear back from The Wiz soon...

Del Toro Updates Hobbit, Frankenstein

Guillermo del Toro, the Oscar-winning director of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, took time during the Hollywood coming-out party for Hellboy II's Blu-ray disc Nov. 11 to talk about future projects, including The Hobbit, Frankenstein and At the Mountains of Madness.

Del Toro is in the process of co-writing the two
Hobbit films with Peter Jackson before moving to New Zealand to being production. Following is an edited version of del Toro's talk with a small group of reporters, including SCI FI Wire. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Have you brought up the possibility of Viggo Mortensen reprising the role of Aragorn in The Hobbit?

Del Toro:
You know, when the time comes. I hope New Line buys lunch.

Have you made any casting decisions?

Del Toro:
Not yet. Just the ones that have been announced [Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum]. There's not lack of information. It's not withholding. We really don't have more information, because we're writing. And literally, like every week, what you discover writing the two movies, writing the two stories, it changes. So every week there's a discovery, and anything we say this week would be contradicted next week. Certainly that would be true in casting. Why create hopes or why create expectations if down the line you're going to go, "You know what? That was not a good idea." So we won't cast it until we finish writing.

Which of your older films are you excited to present on Blu-ray?

Del Toro:
I believe that very, very, very soon we're going to be announcing a very special Blu-ray edition of Cronos. And when you know who is doing it and how we're doing it, it will be more exciting. I cannot announce it properly, but we're doing a Blu-ray of Cronos, which is very exciting for me, because it's one of those movies that I think I want to revisit, retime, restructure the sound for the Blu-ray experience in a big way. ...

Changing the subject, you say with your proposed Frankenstein movie you want to bring in elements from the novel that haven't been depicted yet?

Del Toro:
Mm hm, but that is two separate conversations. One is, I would love to do, like, a miniseries of the novel. But the [feature-film] project I have at Universal is not that. The project I have at Universal is trying to approach the mythology from a different point of view. So what you will see will be seeing the Frankenstein myth, but from a side, like an oblique way. If I told you exactly what it is, then it will be completely surpriseless by the time it is announced. But it won't be the straight Frankenstein, I don't think.

It won't be the sympathetic monster kind of thing?

Del Toro:
Oh, you know, I think that we're going to go both ways. One of the things I love about Frankenstein is that the incarnations can vary so greatly. The greatest soulless monster of Frankenstein has always been Christopher Lee, because when he stares at you, there's really nobody home. It's literally one of the scariest moments I remember as a kid. I thought, "Oh, my God, this thing is not human." And the opposite, the complete polar opposite, is Boris Karloff, who is more human than humans. So you will have both those vibes in the piece.

Not through Victor Frankenstein's eyes, not through the monster's eyes, but somebody outside the bubble?

Del Toro:
[laughs] It's not exactly Mary Reilly. It's not Igor's diary. No, but it's an ancillary story to ... Frankenstein, but it is period. ...

With regard to At the Mountains of Madness, I'd love to see you tackle H.P. Lovecraft in a way that hasn't been done.

Del Toro:
Me too. Me too. ... Part of the arrangement with Universal--in being essentially there for now until 2017--part of the arrangement was they would finance research and development for Mountains of Madness. And we are doing it. There are many technical tools in creating the monsters that don't exist, and we need to develop them. The creatures, Lovecraft's creatures, the tools that exist for CG and the materials that exist for makeup effects, you need to push them to get there and we're going to push them.

Guillermo del Toro

What is the effect you want to get?

Del Toro: Well, the fact that the shape-shifting implicit in the novel and implicit in the creatures, ... if you think in technical terms, digitally, that means normally you generate, for example, one model per creature. If you talk about shape-shifting to the degree that these creatures do, then you're talking about, essentially--if you're using traditional tools--you're going to need to generate 30, 40 models fully rendered per creature. That's A, limiting and B, incredibly expensive. So what we are trying to do is we're developing sort of a Swiss Army Knife approach to modeling. The details are going to be evolving, but it's almost like a Chinese box approach to the models, where we can encase one model on another one and make them modular. And the tools that we need for that to be fluid don't exist. We're going to need to write digital code we need to develop, the way Peter [Jackson] had to develop software for Lord of the Rings. ...

It took so many movies to develop intelligent fire software to the point where Peter could render the Balrog or to develop Massive software to do the crowds in Lord of the Rings
. By the same token, we're going to need to develop a new tool that will be. We are thinking of calling it The Howard. For Lovecraft. ...

How are you going to do Smaug the dragon in The Hobbit?

Del Toro: Smaug is
creature in The Hobbit
. The way Tolkien wrote it already is magnificent. It's already a fantastic character. So, obviously, dragons, you ask every person what their best favorite dragon is, they will give you a different answer. In my mind, what we're going to attempt on the design of this creature and the creation of this creature needs to push the envelope beyond anything you've ever seen on that kind of creature.

That's a lot to overcome.

Del Toro:
Yes and no. Yes and no, because, normally, the creature, there is some stuff that has been done with dragons that I find there are very few landmarks created for me. One of the best, one of the strongest landmarks that almost nobody can overcome is Dragonslayer. The design of the Vermithrax Pejorative is perhaps one of the most perfect creature designs ever made. So what you have to be careful is not to try to be distinctive just to be distinctive, but Smaug has certain characteristics that make him unique already. I cannot. I am bursting at the seams about spilling the beans, but I won't because I would be shot. ...

At what point could Hellboy III happen?

Del Toro: You know, I think that they will not green-light it or not or they will not talk about it until the last Euro hits the piggy bank. The fact is the movie, even though it was dually sodomized by Hancock and The Dark Knight
, still did theatrically better than the first movie, internationally is doing exceedingly better than the first movie. It really is in some cases doing 300 percent more business, and depending on the territory and globally I think is doing about 100 percent more business than the first one. Let's see what happens with the DVD, and the people that make the decisions do it based on the calculator function of the iPod, not on the other one.

Would they wait for you or would you let another filmmaker do it?

Del Toro:
I would beg them and amputate myself in order for them to wait for me, but I don't control it. If they say, "No, no, no, we're going to do it," I personally think this incarnation of the trilogy, I would love to finish because it's not arbitrary that we went into a different direction on the second one. I really think when and if you see the three movies, you're going to have a comedic one, a tragic one and you're going to see three movies that are incredibly apart in registration one from another. It's really exploring Hellboy in very different ways.

Would you remain part of it producing if you didn't direct?

Del Toro:
I don't know. I mean, I don't know if I can. You know, I think producing, partially producing is being able to extricate yourself from the director. If you don't do that, you are not really producing. I don't f--k around with my directors. I don't tell them what to do. ...

In producing something like Hellboy, I don't think I would be objective. I really think it's a dangerous position, so maybe in the writing, I would have a better handle, but I don't know if I could be involved to that degree. ...

I bet they reissue Mimic as "From the director of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy."

Del Toro::
I'm working on it. I'm doing it. It's going to be as close to a director's cut as we can. We actually had a great experience the other day. We watched my original cuts, and we were like, "Oh my God, this is such a f--king different movie." ... We rescued it because I kept a copy at the right moment. I said, "In case it never happens, I'm going to distribute it at conventions."

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