Tuesday, November 18, 2008

News - 11/18/08...

From Nancy Beiman's blog comes an idea which should be taken into serious consideration -

Hand Drawn Animation Day

Friend and master animator Tahsin Ozgur has sent this request from Istanbul, Turkey, where he's currently teaching animation. International Hand Drawn Animation day originated in Turkey, and they would like to make it a worldwide celebration. So view a Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse or Joanna Quinn or Sylvain Chomet or other hand drawn cartoon of your choice today and think of pencils rather than pixels...as for me, I'm going to run the documentary "Frank and Ollie" and think of old friends still with us through their wonderful animated performances.

As in previous years we at Anadolu University and Maltepe University are observing Nov. 18th, anniversary of the release of Steamboat Willie, as a day to celebrate traditional hand-drawn animation.This year our special theme will be Frank and Ollie, since Ollie johnston passed away since our last celebration.

Please join us in our celebration.
Tahsin ("Tash") and Lale Ozgur

(Thanks Nancy Beiman)

Wonder Woman On March 3

Warner Home Video has announced a March 3 release date for Warner Bros. Animation's Wonder Woman movie.

Wonder Woman will be available as a single-disc DVD for $19.98 (SRP), 2 Disc Special Edition DVD for $29.98 and Blu-ray for $34.99 (SRP). The movie will also be available OnDemand and Pay-Per-View as well as available for download on March 3.

Produced by Bruce Timm, Wonder Woman is an origin story and features a voice cast including Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Virgina Madsen, Rosario Dawson, Oliver Platt and David McCallum. The film is written by Michael Jelenic and directed by Lauren Montgomery.

Here's how the Warner describes the film:

"Wonder Woman begins on the mystical island of Themyscira, where a proud and fierce warrior race of Amazons resides. They have raised Princess Diana, a daughter of stunning beauty, extraordinary strength and incredible fighting prowess. Diana possesses a host of super human powers granted to her by the gods and goddesses of Olympus and her strength and stamina are unparalleled. When Air Force fighter pilot Steve Trevor crash lands on the island, the rebellious and headstrong Diana defies Amazonian law by accompanying Trevor back to civilization.

"Meanwhile, Ares (the God of War) has escaped his imprisonment at the hands of the Amazons and has decided to exact his revenge by starting a world war that will destroy them all. It is up to Princess Diana to save her people and the world by using her gifts to become the ultimate Wonder Woman."


Wonder Woman: 2 Disc Special Edition and Blu-Ray versions will feature collectible packaging as well as 185 minutes of bonus features such as:

* Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream: She is one of the pillars of DC Comics. Examine why Wonder Woman is important in the grand scheme of the DC Super Heroes and how her raw strength and power helped define a new generation of empowered women, who realized that their gifts of intellect and strength were just as powerful as their male counterparts.

* Wonder Woman The Daughters of Myth: The documentary historically defines the meaning of the Amazons and how this links in with the evolution of the Wonder Woman character from comics to screen.

* Audio Commentary: Featuring commentary by Gregory Noveck (Senior Vice President, Creative Affairs, DC Comics), Bruce Timm (Producer), Lauren Montgomery (Director) and Michael Jelenic (Screenplay).

* Bruce Timm¹s Top Picks: Popular episodes from the Warner Bros. archive of Justice League/Justice League Unlimited animation featuring Wonder Woman; all personally selected by Timm, producer of this Wonder Woman feature film. All formats include "To Another Shore" and "Hawk and Dove." Exclusive additions for the Blu-Ray and 2-Disk formats: "Paradise Lost, Parts 1 & 2."

* Digital Copy Download: Warner Bros. is including a Digital Copy of Wonder Woman on the DVD which will provide fans a legitimate means to enjoy their favorite action hero anywhere they want on their portable video device. Formats supported include: iTunes, Windows Media Player. Restrictions apply. Consult product packaging for details.

* Sneak Peek: The next DCU Animated Original Movie.

* Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess: This featurette includes both a thumbnail history of the character of Wonder Woman, with interviews with DC Comics creators and artists (Paul Levitz, Dan DiDio), and behind-the-scenes footage of the made-for-DVD release punctuated with interviews from the production staff and voice talent behind the film (Keri Russell, Alfred Molina, etc.)

Warner Home Video also released the following new screen shots and pre-production artwork. Click on the thumbnails below to get the full-sized images; screens from the movie are presented in 1920x1080 high definition resolution:

'Green Lantern' Casting Rumors

Rumor on the internet is that Ryan Gosling will not be playing 'Green Lantern' in the upcoming movie. Producers apparently made an offer to Casey Affleck, who was awesome in 'Gone Baby Gone', but apparently that deal didn't work out either. No word on who the next candidate may be.

The Whatnots Take Manhattan!

The Muppets Studio announced the opening of The Muppet Whatnot Workshop at FAO Schwarz in New York City. What's a Whatnot, you ask? Whatever you want it to be! The Whatnots are the extras of the Muppet world, the background creatures, monsters and other assorted weirdoes who add extra mayhem and madness to every Muppet production.

The Muppets Studio has teamed up with FAO Schwarz to create The Muppet Whatnot Workshop at their 5th Avenue flagship store. For the first time ever, guests can personally design their own Whatnot puppet, choosing from a wide assortment of Muppet-y features and outfits. Their Whatnot can look like themselves...like a friend...or even like their favorite celebrity. The Muppets Studio and FAO Schwarz are thrilled to offer this unique creative experience.

"After working in the background of every Muppet production, it's great to see the Whatnots finally land a starring role," said Kermit the Frog. "Whatnots helped make the Muppets what we are today. So, it's fitting that from now on, you can make these Whatnots whatever you want them to be....Just make sure they don't get between Miss Piggy and the camera."

For those unable to make it to FAO Schwarz NYC, the Whatnots are also available through the catalogue at FAO.com. Once your design is submitted online, your Whatnot will be built just for you, and shipped directly to you. Your Whatnot will arrive with a puppeteering hand rod and a clear, vinyl backpack so you can take your Whatnot with you wherever you go.

WALL•E Rolls In to Stores

Disney/Pixar’s latest animated family film is available to own today on DVD and Blu-ray. The movie comes packaged with a host of bonus features, including an animated short that introduces a new character from the world of WALL•E, and the new Pixar short Presto, which screened in theaters with the feature presentation.

Directed by Andrew Stanton, WALL•E takes place 700 years in the future and revolves around a young industrial robot left alone to clean up the mess human kind left behind when the Earth became too polluted to support life. WALL•E’s life changes one day when a spacecraft arrives carrying a sleek new robot probe who captures our hero’s heart and takes him into space on a thrilling journey to an orbiting luxury liner where human beings have all of their needs met by robots and a greedy corporation. The movie features Fred Willard in Pixar’s first live-action segment, and voice work by Jeff Garlin, Ben Burtt, Sigourney Weaver, John Ratzenberger and Kathy Najimy.

Included on the disc is Burn-E, an all-new animated short about a repair robot trying to do his job aboard an orbiting luxury liner, but is foiled at every turn by WALL•E’s adventures aboard the Axiom. The film is directed by veteran Pixar animator Angus MacLane, who has worked on Geri’s Game, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, For the Birds, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and One Man Band, and won an Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Character Animation for his work on The Incredibles.

Presto is the story of a turn-of-the-century magician who forgets to feed his rabbit, Alec, one too many times. Comical on-stage high jinx ensue when Alec gets fed up with not being fed and sets out to sabotage the great Presto in the middle of a performance. The short is written by Pixar animator Doug Sweetland, who has won Annie Awards for his character animation work on Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo.

The WALL•E disc also offers director commentary, deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, a look at the film’s sound design with Oscar winner Ben Burtt (Star Wars), the Leslie Iwerks documentary The Pixar Story, a sneak peek at “Wall•E's Tour of the Universe,” a number of shorts on Buy n Large Corp., a storybook titled Lots of Bots and a collection of funny moments dubbed “Wall-E's Treasures and Trinkets.” The Blu-ray edition also features a video game arcade, 3D set fly-throughs, pop-up commentary by Pixar’s Geek Squad and a presentation of Burn•E with picture-in-picture storyboards presented by the film’s director. The three-disc special edition carries a suggested retail price of $39.99 on DVD and $40.99 on Blu-ray. The single-disc release can be had for $29.99 or less.

Dark Horse to Unleash War Monkeys

Kevin Munroe, director of TMNT and Imagi’s upcoming Gatchaman CG feature, may be wrangling blood-thirsty simians for his next job. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the filmmaker is in negotiations to helm War Monkeys, a horror comedy slated to go into production next year under the Dark Horse Indie (DHI) banner. The story isn't derived from a Dark Horse comic, but rather an original idea by DHI producer Chris Patton. The script is written by Cleve Nettles.

Chubby martial arts star Sammo Hung is negotiations to star in the flick. He would play one of two janitors who battle military-trained Rhesus monkeys after they accidently free them while cleaning an underground research facility during the Christmas holiday. The title animals will be brought to the screen through a combination of real monkeys, animatronics and CG animation.

The pic is being produced by Robert Sanchez. Ruben Arizpe and Infinite Filmed Entertainment/7 Renegades Ent. partner Faith Zuckerman will also produce and finance the film in association with an unnamed Asian co-producer.

DHI has had fanboys giddy with anticipation of
My Name Is Bruce, an upcoming horror comedy directed by and starring genre icon Bruce Campbell, star of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films. The production entity recently won an Emmy for the Don Rickles documentary Mr. Warmth, which was directed by John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Animal House)

Intel Kicks off Mass Animation Project

Intel Corp. announced the start of Mass Animation, a collaborative, worldwide effort to produce a computer-generated animated short film for theatrical release.

Artists around the world are invited to animate shots for a 5-minute film titled Live Music, which is being produced and directed by Yair Landau, former president of Sony Pictures Digital. Made possible through a unique application built by Aniboom on the Facebook Platform, the collaboration will run through Jan. 30. Animators, regardless of experience, may begin work immediately and submit footage for community voting to open on Nov. 24 at www.facebook.com/massanimation.

Live Music is inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and early CG films. Set in a musical instrument store, the tale follows Riff, a rock ‘n’ roll guitar who falls in love to the wrong song but ends up with Vanessa, the classical violin of his dreams. The story is conveyed through the universal language of music rather than dialog, and the instruments are brought to life through original compositions and familiar rock tunes played principally by legendary guitarist Steve Vai as Riff and acclaimed violinist Ann Marie Calhoun as Vanessa.

“Mass Animation’s first project, Live Music is a great story that we are excited to tell through a breakthrough Facebook application,” says Landau. “This new method of creating films draws upon a global community and social technology to allow people to come together in a whole new type of creative collaboration. Animators around the world will get a chance to showcase their talent and imagination in the film; animation fans will have a say in which shots best convey the story and characters, and therefore deserve to make the final cut.”

“This project is about the magic that can happen when thousands of artistic people all over the world put powerful computing tools to use in the spirit of collaboration,” adds John Cooney, online programs manager with Intel’s Partner Marketing Group. “The power of the Intel Core i7 processor technology, introduced today and part of the project’s prize package, makes it possible for content creators to design, animate and innovate.”

The tools and 3-D models that animators will need to collaborate on this project, including a limited-duration version of Autodesk Maya 3D animation software, are provided and can be accessed through the Mass Animation application on Facebook. Dell will be awarding a Dell Studio XPS desktop PC powered by an Intel Core i7 processor to animators whose creations are rated the best by the community on a weekly basis. An international jury of animation experts will select the shots to be considered for the film. As director, Landau will have the final say as to which submissions make the final cut. Animators whose work makes it into the finished product will receive on-screen credit and $500 in compensation.

WALL-E concept art

SlashFilm shares a batch of concept art and production photos from WALL-E to promote the release of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray. The article includes sketches of WALL-E and Eve, storyboards, and concept art for Trash Planet.

Waltz with Bashir - David Polonsky's Visual Companion

The film's art director on the powerful visuals.

One of the most acclaimed films of the year, Ari Folman's animated drama Waltz With Bashir is a potent blend of haunting dreamscapes and harrowing memories of the early 1980s Lebanon war in which Folman fought as an Israeli soldier. Waltz's art director and illustrator David Polonsky was responsible for over 80% of the drawings that became the bedrock for the film's unique look, and gives Rotten Tomatoes an exclusive tour through a selection of the film's powerful images.

David Polonsky:
In the beginning Ari Folman wrote a three-minute "pitch scene" to raise production funds -- the air terminal scene as it appears in the film. We had a really pressing timeframe: in a month and a half we had to come up with an approach that was affordable and served the story. Yoni Goodman, the director of animation and myself, we did it in three weeks. It came together, the technique and the aesthetics; it had to be on one hand simple and on the other very detailed. To find the balance between making something stylized, that still has the sense of truthfulness.

It's much easier to make dramatic scenes and compositions -- you look at a Tarantino film and you can immediately see the aesthetics of it. What we were trying to do in some places was get as far from that as possible. It's not trying to impress with draughtsmanship. For Ari's character here, for example, we were trying to get the right expression, to show his rebellious nature but that he's still quite compliant and a little bit depressed, all these mixed emotions.

Animating the film, there were two teams. I was responsible for drawing the images, the other animators were manipulating the drawings. Yoni Goodman came up with this technique of using Flash and Photoshop in a very complicated way. The thing is, we had these limitations and were trying to make the best of it, not to compete with these big studios. I personally did over 1700 drawings and I had three other people, Michael Faust, Ya'ara Buchman and Asaf Hanuka, working with me. It took three years but it wasn't that hard because the people were so delightful.

David Polonsky:
The other thing that was decided at that early point was the treatment of the background and the world we were trying to create. In this frame you can see that we decided to use photographs inside the drawings. Because the movie deals with memory and the way it works, this uncertain feeling of whether it's a photograph or a drawing, that came early on.

The motif of this specific orange colour kind of developed throughout the film. It started out of something in the script, which is the actual colour of flares and how they light up this very artificial and alarming atmosphere. It's based on my experience living [in Israel] close to war action, I've gotten to see some flares and I know their eerie orange look. The orange then became the motif that runs throughout the film. It's something burning, a chemical burn, not a warm fire. And it reappears throughout the film until it takes over in the final scenes. But it's not something for the viewer to decipher, it's not subliminal, it's intuitive.

David Polonsky:
The strong scenes with the dogs and the animals, that's the easier, fun part. The dog coming at you, whatever you do with it, it's a strong image. For me, my job, the more interesting thing is bringing it to life with the details, like exactly where in Tel Aviv this is taking place; to come up from the abstract to the specific. The dogs start running in a downtown area with dirty shops and garages and they're gathering towards a street that is central to a bohemian part of town. The whole dog sequence, the idea is this surreal image of violence invading the most familiar place. Again, I don't expect someone from London to recognise this street!

David Polonsky:
This is based on a photograph that they took of the promenade in Tel Aviv. The interesting thing again is the play between this frame and Image 2 -- this is Tel Aviv and Image 2 is Beirut. And the fact that they're so similar and that he's remembering here in Tel Aviv what happened there. I wasn't able to go to Beirut because I have an Israeli passport so I'm basing everything on reference but you get the strong sense that the landscapes are very similar because it's the same weather, same sea. The film's opening scene with the dogs in this eerie light -- it's not clear if it's dawn or dusk and the streets are empty, but that's a hallucination. With the brooding colour here, we're trying to reinvoke this feeling when it's really lousy weather. Imagine this at night, not even dogs would come out...

David Polonsky:
This is not my design, it was drawn by Asaf Hanuka. If you read the script you get the idea that the Isareli army is forcefully intruding into this Beirut but what really makes it interesting for me is the art direction. It immediately gives you the sense of a specific place and a time. The choice of the car, it's American and those soldiers coming from Israel to Lebanon had this feeling of amazement coming across the prosperity of the country. These guys haven't seen a videotape of Lebanon, back then Israel had one TV channel. To see an American car would be like an event and if there are loads of them, they'll go over them with their tanks.

David Polonsky:
We were trying to convey this sense of absurdity. A lot of things are going wrong, this guy smoking a bong and it's made from a 7-UP bottle and in the background this is an example of 'friendly fire'- it's an Israeli plane bombing an Israeli convoy. Again you're not necessarily supposed to know that.

I drew this in pencil and then scanned the images in and worked over them with Photoshop. It's kind of therapy, most of the time it's fun but sometimes it becomes tedious, especially when things don't work.

David Polonsky:
That is Ariel Sharon. It's funny because my first gig as an illustrator was for the Israeli version of 'Spitting Image'. I used to do all the sculptures and caricatures. I didn't make Sharon's puppet but I did someone very similar, another politician. But I had a chance to draw Ariel Sharon as an editorial illustrator many times. He's kind of chubby and a little bit of a sweet appearance and this again is a contrast between his image at that time as a war hero and his, you might say, criminal disregard for what was going on.

This absurdist little joke about him eating five eggs for breakfast, it comes again from the script. The soundtrack is this guy describing the routine at the beach and we didn't want to illustrate it exactly because it too literal, so we came up with this idea of the visual narrative showing something completely different. The inspiration was these black and white war movies where the general is telephoning the lieutenant and there's this very heroic chain of command and they're taking decisions. We were using this stereotype to convey this absurdity - he's calling him and he's calling the men and in the end they're going to catch some kid in the orchard.

David Polonsky:
This image is one of my favourites, I think. It's really simple and a lot is going on. It's symbolic but in the end it's effective on an emotional level. The motif of the flies just came in as an idea and then it became important because of the same flies hovering over the little girl's head at the end. The idea of the eye staring back at you, is the conscience or whatever. I had a lot of different size pictures of horses, and it was a combination, but the hard thing technically here was to make the whole frame work without a lot of details, because you have the eye and this is simple but how do you get the feel of the flesh?

David Polonsky:
This is meant to be like a postcard, like an idealized image of Holland looking at it from Tel Aviv with 35 degrees and 95% humidity! Ari's friend, this guy Carmi, got away from the war and from the Middle East so Holland has to be this kind of paradise. We even had the tulips! It's a self-consciously touristy shot. The colours are over-the-top.

My artistic inspirations here are by association influenced by the technique I was using at the time for newspaper illustration, because I have to work very fast. I went back to doing that after the film and I'm used to these deadlines where I have to come up with an effective image very fast. In my editorial stuff I do something much more stylized, influenced by my discovery of illustrators who worked for a magazine called Simplissimus, Simplissimus was published in the early part of the 20th century in Germany and all the best artists from Europe came to work there.

David Polonsky:
This is again one of my favourite scenes because it's in the middle between a hallucination and trying to be real. It's the place where they're dumping their wounded and there's a feeling of something like an altar, a religious experience, and everything is kind of steeped in this bright light. We tried little touches to bring these characters to life. This guy on the left is clearly religious, we were trying to give him some specific characteristics and life outside of the frame. Again something that I learned on this film was the less you show sometimes, the more effect you get. You just have to hint enough and then the imagination takes over.

David Polonsky:
This is evoking a very familiar image in Israel. There's a very famous photograph of a Jewish boy in the ghetto with his hands up, it's really in the collective subconscious. These are Palestinians and it's a mirror image, again very bluntly illustrating this feeling of Ari, who, as the son of Holocaust survivors, got involved in this massacre in kind of a reverse role.

In the beginning the colour was that bright chemical orange but here it was almost impossible to look at, so we had to tone it down. The colour is deliberately not as energetic, there's something very slow about the whole thing. And again that's part of the atrocity; the massacre took three days. They were killing them very slowly. It has an exhausted feel to it, you can't move fast in this sort of atmosphere.

The shift to live-action at the end of the film is a big issue. For me, I wasn't sure about it. We had a lot of debates with Ari but he was completely for it from the beginning and now I understand what he meant. It's true that it's blunt and it's true that it breaks this atmosphere but that's the only simple way to convey the message that something real happened. This whole artistic side of elevating the events, that's all good. But we can't forget that something horrendous took place.

Open Season 2 DVD in January

DVDActive reports that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced DVD and Blu-ray releases of Open Season 2 for the 27th of January. Extras on this release will include “How to Draw: Boog, Elliot & Fifi feature”, “deleted scenes”, “Who Let the Dogs Out music video”, “Going WILD! With the Voice Cast of Open Season 2 featurette”, and 4 interactive games. The Blu-ray release will include an exclusive Save Mr. Weenie game.

Poster for $9.99

IMPAWARDS shares a poster for the stop-motion animated feature $9.99. Based on the Short Stories of Etgar Keret, in $9.99, an ad alters the life of Dave Peck, an unemployed man, 28 years old and still living at home.

News Shorts: November 17th 2008

- New photos of the action figure based on Universal's The Wolfman gives us an idea of what Benicio Del Toro will look like in monster form in the film. There's also a look at the replica medallion worn by lead character Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro).

- The first screen captures are out from the video game tie-in to the upcoming "Watchmen" movie". The game, "Watchmen: The End is Nigh", hits with the film in March. Also interesting fact - the word 'Watchmen' is used twice in the new trailer despite none of the teams in the book being called 'Watchmen'. Zack Snyder talks to CHUD about why this is so.

"Some convincing photos have been posted of what looks like packaged 35mm film trailers for James Cameron's upcoming sci-fi epic "Avatar". The film is scheduled to open next December and the distributor Fox has the sci-fi remake "The Day the Earth Stood Still" opening this December 12th - giving hint that the first footage could premiere with that film - almost a year exactly from Avatar's release..." (full details)

"In a press release published on Friday, Walden Media revealed that they have yet to give a green light to begin production on the third installment in "The Chronicles of Narnia" franchise – "Voyage of the Dawn Treader". The film is still scheduled for a May 7th 2010 release at present..." (full details)

"Luc Besson says that he's beginning work on an epic sci-fi feature next year - big enough that it could be broken up into a trilogy but he hasn't decided yet as it's still too early. He's also completed filming two sequels to "Arthur and the Minimoys" and is working out the 3D elements right now..." (full details)

"Paramount's dispute with David Fincher over 'Benjamin Button' seemingly caused them to dump his planned "Heavy Metal" animated film based on the cult magazine. Now the magazine's publisher Kevin Eastman says things have been sorted out and Fincher, Zack Snyder and Gore Verbinski are set to helm three segments of the five-segment anthology feature..." (full details)

Marvel releases THOR toon promo art

Hot on the heels of last week's announcement that a 'Thor' animated TV series is in the works, Marvel.com posted a promo image for the new series.

Check it out:

CBR Hosts Exclusive "Batman: Brave & the Bold" Video Clips

Comic Book Resources is hosting two exclusive video clips from Batman: The Brave and the Bold, the new animated series which debuted on Cartoon Network last Friday. The clips are of the opening credit sequence and the beginning of the episode "The Rise of the Blue Beetle!" showing Batman and Green Arrow escaping from a deathtrap set by the Clock King.

Toon Tuesday: Looking Back on Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" -- Part Deux

Disney Legend Floyd Norman concludes his series on the development & production of this 1996 Walt Disney Pictures animated feature

The start of 1994 was an amazing time for the production crew of Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." We were all energized and couldn't wait to move our film into production.

As the team moved into its new quarters, I made it a point to learn the names and talents of my colleagues. Because Disney Animation was knee deep in production on another film down the street, many of our crew was new to Disney. Some had traveled from the UK, and some were from Canada.

The entire crew of Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
What a great group of talented guys and gals

One of our leads on Quasimodo was a new guy from the UK, and he was an awesome talent even back then. I knew James Baxter would be an animator to watch. I had worked with some of the Canadian animators at other studios, and it was good to team with them again.

Like most animated films, we struggled with story issues from the beginning. One such, was the opening sequence that introduces our bad guy, Judge Claude Frollo. Story veteran Burny Mattinson had put together a very effective sequence that covered a lot of exposition. However, production boss Jeffrey Katzenberg felt something was missing. In time, the sequence was eventually set to music and storyboarded by Paul and Gaetan Brizzi. The talented brothers joined our production and -- unlike most of us -- had actually lived in Paris. Set to the music of Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, this opening sequence remains, in my opinion, nothing less than brilliant.

One of the movie's highlights is the "Festival of Fools." The wild and raucous song sequence was storyboarded by the talented Kevin Harkey. Huge crowds fill the streets of Paris to enjoy the crazy celebration. Animating crowd scenes -- once an animator's nightmare -- now became possible because the multitudes could be generated digitally.

More of the beautiful development art created for the film

However, Esmeralda's dance number was another thing altogether. Lovingly drawn by Chris Sanders, the saucy Gypsy girl was a cause for concern by Disney's female executives. More and more clothes were added to Esmeralda in the hopes of "cooling her off." Another moment also caused concern. Claude Frollo sniffs the hair of the young woman, and again audiences cringed. Oddly enough, this was a scene animated by a woman.

As all of you probably know, much is cut when a movie is in story development. Scenes and sequences are excised to improve story flow and character development. It's a process everybody in this field has learned to trust.

However, I still regret the cool stuff that never made it into the movie. Such as Brenda Chapman's wonderful introduction to the mysterious Quasimodo lurking in the shadows. Children in the streets of Paris tell scary stories of the "monster" in the bell tower, and the audience eagerly anticipates the first appearance of the Hunchback.

One of my story sketches from Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
This was from the cut pub sequence where Quasimodo, disguised as a woman, is hit on by a drunken patron.

I storyboarded a wacky pub sequence where Quasimodo, disguised as an "ugly woman" is hit on by a drunken patron. Eventually, the hunchback reveals himself and the drunk swears off booze forever.

Finally, I crafted a "rooftop chase" where Quasimodo pursues the soldier, Phoebus as he makes his way out of Paris. Climbing and sliding over the Paris rooftops, the very nimble hunchback demonstrates the abilities that will serve him well in the film's bell tower climax.

Of course, every movie has its serious and silly questions. "How could stone gargoyles fly," asked CEO Michael Eisner. Apparently, it never occurred to the bosItalics to ask "How can stone gargoyles talk?"

Copyright 1996 Disney. All Rights Reserved

I attended a sneak preview of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" in Pasadena not far from the Walt Disney Studio. The audience consisted of young adults and teenagers, and I knew they would have no mercy. If our movie sucked ... Well, we would know soon enough.

After an hour or so, the end credits began to roll, and the uItalicsually jaded young audience began to applaud our efforts. Maybe we didn't hit a home run -- but we didn't do half bad.

Finally, I have a personal note concerning this very special motion picture. After having worked at the Walt Disney Company for several decades, I received my first screen credit on, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." Yeah, that's right. My first!

Directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise.
Two talented guys I really miss. I'll bet Disney does too.

So thank you, Don Hahn, Roy Conli, Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale for giving this Disney veteran his first screen credit ever on a Disney animated motion picture.

Cheshire Smile Brings Christmas to TELETOON

Here in LA, it was 95 degrees this weekend, so it feels odd to be writing this… but a new Christmas movie will soon debut on TV. The Side Show Christmas, a 44-minute Flash-animated special, will air on the French TELETOON network at 5pm EST on December 7th, and then in English on TELETOON on December 12th. Tim Tyler’s Saskatchewan-based Cheshire Smile Animation partnered up with Studio B Productions to create this film about “a side show owner who kidnaps Santa in a wild scheme to save the family business.” Here’s a promotional clip from the project…

Anime Film 'The Girl Who Leapt Through Time' on Sale

Memorable 'TokiKake' Anime Film on DVD

When you're in high school, personal relationships are more than an exploration of unknowable emotions; they're a whirlwind of awkward, sympathetic, sometimes frightening, and altogether inquisitive adventures--moments in time--where your outlook on life changes from second to second.

For Makoto Konno, the lead character to the anime feature film The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, this is most definitely the case.

When the girl happens upon a series of odd and serendipitous circumstances that lead to her discovering that she can quite literally "leap" back in time, from a few minutes to a few hours, Makoto soon finds that high school relationships are a bit easier (or is it more difficult?) to deal with when you have the luxury of time on your side.

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a hilarious, dramatic, and insightful movie about what would happen if a high school girl learned if she could control her place in time. Makoto doesn't have many goals in life. She enjoys playing catch with her two best friends (two guys named Chiaki and Kousuke) and likes to eat pudding (as long as her little sister doesn't get to it first). But one day at school, Makoto learns that she's been temporarily blessed with an unusual ability: to go back in time.

Whether it's to have last night's beef dinner all over again, to make sure that it's someone else who is responsible for the mess in home-ec, or to make sure that you ace the pop quiz the math teacher just prepared…

Makoto finds that jumping through time is a blast. Life doesn't have to be one embarrassing mishap after another anymore; now, if Makoto experiences some bad luck, she can "fix" it in the blink of an eye.

But as Hosoda's The Girl Who Leapt Through Time continues, Makoto eventually comes to discover that by changing the course of time, it's not only her life that is affected, but the lives of everyone around her as well.

As the story unfolds, whenever the girl spends more time with one of her friends, it immediately translates to other schoolmates suddenly being deprived of some similar moments. And whenever Makoto reweaves moments in time so as to ignore the inevitable, she quickly learns that her resistance to bad news makes the news all the more difficult to accept. Sometimes Makoto has back luck, and sometimes she can correct it. Other times, Makoto has bad luck and at her own insistence, makes things worse.

An emotional frame of reference for how one teenager wields power over her destiny, only to fear losing it in a fit of lost self-confidence, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is one of the most creative and elating anime films produced in recent years.

Distributed by Bandai Entertainment, the Japanese animation is available for purchase on DVD from November 18th, 2008 for $29.98. Teaching audiences that being carefree is fine as long as you're responsible for your actions, without overcompensating, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time introduces its young characters to adulthood in a variety of limitlessly humorous and irrevocably thrilling circumstances. Bonus features on the home video release include interviews with the original Japanese voice-over cast, promotional videos, and director commentary.

on Bandai Entertainment Inc.: Bandai Entertainment Inc. (Code Geass, Gurren Lagann)is a subsidiary of Namco Bandai Holdings (USA) Inc. and is a long-standing distributor of Japanese animation on home video and programming for television broadcast in North America.

Matt Senreich and Seth Green on "Robot Chicken: Star Wars: Episode II"

Comic Book Resources has interviewed Robot Chicken co-creator Matt Senreich about the second Star Wars-themed episode of the show. Among other topics, Senreich discusses how this second episode differs from the first, what it was like to work with Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher, and the "rivalry" between Robot Chicken and Family Guy.

Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Times' Hero Complex weblog interviews Robot Chicken's other co-creator Seth Green, who briefly discusses the show, how he approaches the Star Wars episodes of Robot Chicken differently, and what it's like to work with George Lucas.

Robot Chicken: Star Wars: Episode II will air on Adult Swim on Sunday, November 23, 2008, at 11:30 PM (Eastern).

China Animation: Local Governance & Creative Sovereignty

Feature News: China Animation

The business of producing and distributing cartoon and gaming content in China continues to witness formulaic and sometimes counterintuitive support from industry governing bodies. Over the past few years, debates have circled as to whether the nation's broadcast limitation of foreign material, the strict supervision of domestic material, and the persnickety allocation of airspace to alternative content, are helping or hindering regional growth. Now, after a series of legal reports and political examinations, China has established the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) as the chief governing body over the animation sector.

The GAPP has previously shared oversight with the Ministry of Culture, and more notoriously, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT). The General Administration of Press and Publication is the legal authority on the screening, censorship, and/or ban of any print, electronic or internet publication in China; however, these latest measures ultimately consolidate oversight of the animation, comics and videogame industries, specifically, to the GAPP.

"Basically, the Chinese animation industry is in an exhilaratingly chaotic state," Isaac Wu, international account manager for BeTop Multimedia, a computer animation production group, commented recently.

The monitoring and management of publishing activities for cartoons, comics and games will now be stepped up in an effort to weed out "inappropriate" content and provide growth, however limited, to local artists. Censorship comes in many forms, perhaps most often publicized as the restriction of foreign creative content to air domestically. Regardless, concerns over the tight grip that Chinese authorities continue to wield over greater organizational rights to form an animation business, and the over more distilled availability of finance during times of need, remain concerns for interested parties.

The General Administration of Press and Publication will be responsible for organizing open business markets and exhibitions for the industries affected by this centralization of power. As has become the trend for local governments of struggling cartoon businesses, mapping out expos for student artists or smaller studios to showcase their potential is but one of few immediate gains. And although the construction of gaudy animation/gaming parks continue, such architectural wonders often leave little cash afterward for actual animation production. Additionally, increasing regional exposure for animation studios, whose individual size can range quite dramatically, only helps insomuch as said exposure leads to a diversification of clientele.

According to Steven Ching, the CEO of production group Agogo Corporation, 60% of animation in China is completed on a work-for-hire basis. That is to say, a solid majority of Chinese animation production is contract work, most of which is estimated for other Asian clients and Europe. Avenues for Chinese animators to succeed locally are limited. This may not necessarily be the case for work-for-hire deals--which build essential creative skills and develop industry contacts; however, it remains true that one's success may be limited in terms of the management of creative, proprietary content.

For this nation's industry, the battle for content developers' intellectual property rights is a double-edged sword. On one hand, through the GAPP (and SARFT), producers will assuredly have content to publish if they color within the lines and apply the government's preferences in developing an animated series containing the didactic, often historical elements. Gaming firms and commercial production houses that contend to fill China's massive, officially allotted airtime to original programming will gain reasonably steady funding and approval for their projects.

By-the-book though the process may be, the abovementioned path is not always conducive to enhancing the entertainment value and creative depth of home-grown productions. The Chinese animation market is without a doubt growing; however, the current and anticipated oversight from the General Administration of Press and Publication regulates this growth in a manner some perceive not entirely beneficial to the animation community. For the government, it is the industry's capacity to "switch from straightforward revenue to high-risk investment," as Brian Ho, owner of Sky Wonders Studios, states, that provides the largest challenge to conservative observers.

The GAPP's newfound ability to authorize a company's incorporation in addition to a company's right to develop content for domestic distribution does however allow independent productions to occasionally ascend through the haze and grab an audience's attention. Priority is given to government-supported networks and/or television stations with a more manageable revenue stream to counterbalance approximated costs. "The funding always has a hard time reaching the right place where it is really needed," a producer for a 2005-founded computer animation outsourcing company stated. Independent animations and animation co-productions involving international partners it should be mentioned, are available to just as much scrutiny as are network-backed, domestic operations.

Beyond the government's regulatory absorption, all signs point to an animation industry with the talent, technology and consumer confidence to support a marketplace capable of delivering truly "innovate[ive]" animation that will readily contribute to a "reviving" effort of China's original cartoon production business, as Zang Tanshao, trustee of the China Animation Association, commented to one source.

Chinese consumers reportedly spend a little more than CNY 17 billion (USD $2.5 billion) annually on animation products; over 70% of animation fans, in China, are over the age of sixteen years of age; and the online gaming market was estimated last year to have been worth some CNY 12.8 billion ($1.87 billion), a growth of two-thirds over the prior year… But as glossy as these numbers appear, instead of espying business sectors in dire need of freedom from self-pressurization, local officials instead fret over a nation's consumer funds tending to the banks of foreign production groups moreso than Chinese. Animated content accounts for a rather measly amount of China's Gross Domestic Product, only a fraction of one percent, when it could be much greater.

Some producers fear that talented animators are running out of patience with the nation's awkward appropriation of funds among the cartoon, comics and gaming markets; the result of which is an increasingly weak infrastructure, conducive to a creatively inferior international presence, with only a few, elite, regional production companies, whose chief production work serves only highly regulated distribution channels. As a result, an emphasis on educational materials for television stations, the profligate funds for commercial endeavors with limited audiences, and a reluctance to accept the influence of foreign creatives, has moved authorities to guide the China animation industry toward a rather difficult and unwieldy era.

Mania Exclusive: Another DRINKY CROW clip

Fans of depressed, drunken, suicidal cartoon characters: Mania. com is proud to present another exclusive first look at the new Adult Swim/Cartoon Network series 'The Drinky Crow Show".

The series debuts on November 23rd at 12:15am on Adult Swim/Cartoon Network. It's based on the long-running 'Maakies' comic strip created by Tony Millionaire. Check out their interview with Millionaire and the show's co-creator, Eric Kaplan here: part one and part two, and don't forget to view their previous exclusive video clip!

In today's clip, Drinky Crow wakes with the shakes and worries that he's committed a terrible mistake:

'Ratatouille' composer to conduct Oscars

AP – In this Feb. 24, 2008 file photo, composer Michael Giacchino arrives at the 80th Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES – The next time an Academy Award winner's acceptance speech runs long, a new conductor will strike up the band to play them off.

Michael Giacchino, whose credits include "Ratatouille" and "Lost," has been tapped as music director for the upcoming Oscar ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Monday.

The Emmy-winning composer and conductor was selected by producer Laurence Mark and executive producer Bill Condon, themselves newcomers to the show. In Giacchino, Mark and Condon follow a pattern of choosing Academy Awards first-timers that include director Roger Goodman and set designer David Rockwell.

Giacchino, who's never conducted a live telecast before, said he's hoping to inject some Hollywood nostalgia into the ceremony when he leads the orchestra pit for the Feb. 22 ceremony at the Kodak Theatre.

"It's such a classic fairy tale setting," said Giacchino. "That's why I love about this town when I think about it. I think we're going to try to incorporate that feeling somehow. Instead of trying to play to the celebrity of it, I think we're going to play to the ideals behind it, and where it all came from — the fun aspect of it."

Giacchino takes over the podium from "Rocky"
composer Bill Conti, who has served as musical director 19 times since his first in 1977, including the 80th Academy Awards earlier this year.

Giacchino was nominated last year for an original score Oscar for
"Ratatouille." His other credits include "Speed Racer," "Mission: Impossible III" and "The Incredibles." He's also composed and conducted the scores for the upcoming films "Star Trek," "Land of the Lost" and "Up." He won a music composition Emmy in 2005 for his work on "Lost."

"I anticipate it being different but having a lot of fun doing it," Giacchino said. "I also anticipate it being very tense and counting every second. At the same time, it's always like that when you're scoring because you're constantly watching the clock, checking to see if you're on time and making sure you're on budget, so it may not be that different."

Last month, the Academy announced that architect Rockwell, who handled the set design on Broadway for "Hairspray"
and "Legally Blonde,"
would serve as the show's production designer.

Naruto "Shippuden" streaming free and subbed!

Via ANN, we learn two news pieces of interest to Naruto fans:

1: Viz Media will stream Naruto: Shippuden starting 15 January. Shippuden is an arc that occurs 2.5 years after the events of the original Naruto timeline, and is currently airing in Japan. There are currently no plans to dub Shippuden.

2: TV Tokyo will stream English-subtitled Naruto via Crunchyroll one hour after Japanese airing, starting 8 January. This is what a lot of us have wanted for years, and I personally can't wait.

These developments, as you can imagine, were planned: the Crunchyroll showings are intended for paid subscribers, with free showings appearing seven days later. Viz has been making great strides in trying to monetize their online episodes of other series like Bleach, by showing them on Xbox Live and Hulu (which is no help to Canadian visitors, as Hulu blocks Canadians from viewing). It's all part of a massive campaign to make new material available faster.

1984-85 layouts - Lynne Naylor Jetsons Crowds

Via John K's blog -

Most animators dread crowd scenes, including me. Lynne Naylor jumped in and did these impossible tedious scenes and made them look great!

She designed all the characters too and made each one different. Not only that, they all have slightly different poses, yet all their poses balance well against each other.

I could stare at these drawings for hours. Every litle detail, each leg, belly, face has such unique and subtle stylish shapes.

This is great cartooning and thinking. She not only captured Ed Benedict's style; she added a lot of her own style to it - she brought that kind of cute appeal that only girls seem to be able to do.

Even her actions really fit within the Hanna Barbera style but come off as lively and fun. And in the 1980s!...the era of "don't dare have fun making cartoons".

These scenes show a lot more than mere raw talent, which Lynne has a ton of. They show knowledge, skill and a great deal of thought and planning. To be able to combine so much control and and so many elements, yet still have it come off as so light and fun and easy is pretty monumental.

I'm envy work like this.

Lately I've been a bit down because every year the whole idea of control, fun and skill seems to vanish further into the past. It gets harder to produce the simplest cartoons. When I dug these up the other day, I couldn't believe what was being done in the 80s - under the worst possible conditions. We should be much furher than this by today, but it doesn't look like control or clarity is ever coming back - let alone appeal.

Richard Williams Interview at Spline Doctors

Richard Williams (left) and Ken Harris

Spline Doctors has an audio interview with Richard Williams where he talks about his experiences with animators Ken Harris and Milt Kahl. Williams also talks about the creation of his new instructional DVD series.

(Thanks Mark Mayerson)

Incredible Animation Budgets Interactive Graph

Not enough people talk about animation budgets and salaries and I think that’s a shame. It’s hard to produce good work without knowing what it costs to make something. Brad Graeber, creator of Captain Capitalism, was faced with this situation recently and decided to actually do something about it. For the past year, he’s been researching animation budgets and has created this unbelievably useful interactive animation budget chart that shows animation budgets from the 1920s through today. The graph allows you to view production costs by minute, second, foot and frame. Brad writes a lot more about the project on his blog. Hopefully this spurs even greater discussion in the industry, especially about music video, commercial and Flash animation budgets, which seems to be where a lot of people underprice themselves nowadays. Brad has provided a super-valuable service for professionals and students alike and we should all thank him.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

"Astro Boy and Anime Come To The Americas" release Nov 30 '08 @ Amazon.com

"ASTRO BOY AND ANIME COME TO THE AMERICAS: An Insider's View of the Birth of a Pop Culture Phenomenon" will be released on November 30, 2008. You can pre-order yours by following the link below.

ASTRO BOY AND ANIME COME TO THE AMERICAS: An Insider's View of the Birth of a Pop Culture Phenomenon
Fred Ladd

The first generation of American television programmers had few choices when selecting Saturday morning children's programs for local stations. That changed dramatically in 1963 when a Japanese animated television series called "Tetsuwon Atom" was acquired for distribution by a division of NBC. Fred Ladd adapted the show for American television - rechristened "Astro Boy", it was an overnight sensation. "Astro Boy's" popularity sparked a new industry in importing animated television to America from Japan. Ladd went on to adapt numerous Japanese animated imports for American release, and here provides an insider's view of the creation of what has blossomed into an ongoing cultural and media phenomenon.

Price: $35.00

Release Date: November 30, 2008


Please note that product prices and availability are subject to change.

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Star Trek and The Spirit trailers

There have been plenty of grainy bootlegs posted over the weekend, but here are the official versions - enjoy.

Witch Mountain Trailer Is Live!

Yahoo! Movies has posted the new trailer for Disney's upcoming Race to Witch Mountain, a reboot of the 1970s SF kids' franchise. The movie stars Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino and opens in March 2009.


It's easy to get mired in Disney's glorious past. We should never forget contemporary artist wrote new chapters of excellence in the Disney animation annals. One look at the varied styles of this magnificent artwork from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST reminds us just how superb contemporary Disney art can be.

(Thanks Animation Backgrounds)

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