Thursday, November 20, 2008

News - 11/20/08...

New Coraline Production Videos

I've made it no secret that I think Coraline is going to be another break out hit from Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick and his talented team of stop motion animators.

The official website that used to be shrouded in secrecy has finally had some production videos added to it.

To check them out, go to

There you will asked to enter a passkey.

Entering BUTTONEYES gives you a close up look at the puppets and detail used by the animators in making them come to life.

Entering the passkey STOPMOTION gives you a behind the scenes look at the incredible sets used for the movie.

Disney, IMAX Ink Five-Pic Deal

Disney and IMAX Corp. are partnering for a slate of five upcoming films, starting the 2009 debut of Robert Zemeckis stereoscopic 3-D, performance-capture retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The agreement also covers Tim Burton’s live-action/CG hybrid version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the Disney Digital 3D version of Toy Story and other highly anticipated event films that will be hitting theaters starting in November of 2009.

The deal comes as IMAX Corp. is aggressively expanding to make more theaters available to moviegoers. The recent introduction of a digital projection system is allowing the company to cut costs by eliminating the costly 70mm film projection systems that moviegoers can see at work as they enter most IMAX venues. DreamWorks Animation’s
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was the first widely distributed digital presentation, debuting on 35 IMAX screens equipped with the new projection system.

Nov. 6, 2009, Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol
has Jim Carrey lending his voice and physicality to Ebeneezer Scrooge, who begins the Christmas holiday with his usual miserly contempt, barking at his faithful clerk (Gary Oldman) and his cheery nephew (Colin Firth). But when the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come (all played by Carrey) take him on an eye-opening journey, Scrooge must open his heart to undo years of ill will before it's too late. Release dates for additional titles will be announced in the near future.

Mary and Max to open Sundance

The animated film Mary and Max has been selected to open the 25th Sundance Film Festival. The stop-motion pic is the first feature from Adam Elliot, the Australian filmmaker behind the Oscar-winning 2003 short Harvie Krumpet. Featuring the voices of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette,Mary and Max is financed by Screen Australia, Adirondack Pictures and Film Victoria, with Icon Int’l handling international sales efforts.

Produced by Melanie Coombs, Mary and Max revolves around a pen-pal friendship between a chubby and lonely eight-year-old girl in Melbourne, Australia, and an obese, 44-year-old Jewish man living with Asperger's Syndrome in New York. Spanning 20 years and two continents, the unlikely friendship survives much more than the average diet of life's ups and downs. Hoffman provides the voice of Max and Collette is Mary. The voice cast also includes Eric Bana and Barry Humphries (Dame Edna).

Landing the opening spot at Sundance is a major coup for an animated feature, especially an independently produced project. Mary and Max is the first of its kind to receive the honor, which bodes well for its chances on the road to the Oscars next year. Check out the film's website at

The Birth of a New Family Pants Episode

As the holiday season slides into view, you’ll likely be spending more time with your family. Dave Redl has obviously spent plenty of time with his, deconstructing their eccentricities… and laughing at them. Here’s the latest short from Dave’s comic-turned-animated-series Family Pants. This is Lamaze Daze:

If you like what you see, go buy a Family Pants DVD for your weird family.

New KA-POW! Episode is Super Splendid

The Happy Tree Friends spin-off series has spun out Splendid. The latest 3-minute adventure from Mondo Media has launched, and it features the well-intended superhero Splendid, who has been redesigned for his new starring role. Roque Ballesteros directed and his pals at Ghostbot handled the design, storyboarding, layout and animation. This episode of Splendid’s SSSSSuper Squad is titled Mirror, Mirror, in which we meet Splendid’s arch nemesis - Splendont!

The animation team included Roque, Sam Chi, Tony Cliff, Alan Lau, Brad Rau, Joel Reid, Jayson Thiessen and Kris Toscanini - and Chris Battle on the layout team..

Beauty and the Beast to get 3-D makeover

Variety reports that Disney classic Beauty and the Beast is all set to get a 3-D makeover. According to the report, Disney is re-rendering Beauty and the Beast using its Disney Digital 3-D technology, and will release the film in 2010. The re-rendering process which is expected to take about nine months to complete will be overseen by original team of filmmakers, including producer Don Hahn and co-directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale. Disney plans to roll out 3-D versions of 10 other films over the next two years which include Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Up and Rapunzel.

Sparx Closes Paris Toon Shop

Sparx, the animation company behind Exodus Films’ recently distributed animated feature film Igor, is streamlining its operations as a result of the global economic crisis. Daily Variety reports that the company is shutting down its Paris animation facilities and refocusing its operations in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The Los Angeles office, opened in October of 2004, will remain open.

Last year, Sparx moved into a new, larger facility in downtown Paris and invested more than $4.48 million in new equipment. At the time, the studio had Igor in production and was poised to turn out more Hollywood product. Exodus had tapped the company to animate its Bunyan and Babe, but the work will now go to another studio. Sparx was also slated to work on Fable Works’ 3D-animated feature film Cereal Heroes! The project was scheduled for theatrical release in 2010, but its status is unknown.

Sparx has done well in television with such hit children’s series as Rolie Polie Olie and the award-winning Zoe Kezako. Management hopes to get back into animating more Hollywood movies in the near future. In the meantime, its efforts will be focused on commercials, TV series and video games.

Locomotion I.D.’s

Here are eight station IDs for the late great Locomotion channel (1996-2005), a wonderfully programmed Latin American cartoon cable station which was bought out in 1995 by Animax. In it’s heyday, the channel mixed classic Hollywood cartoons, anime and independent animation. Good stuff.

I don’t know who did these spots, but they are bursting with creativity and a lot of fun. They had one, which I haven’t seen in ten years, featuring Krazy Kat and Ignatz Herriman style, as stop motion puppets. Does anyone have that, or know who did it?

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

SpoutBlog Talks with Nina Paley on "Sita Sings the Blues"

The Spout Blog has spoken with filmmaker Nina Paley about her autobiographical animated movie Sita Sings the Blues, which superimposes the Indian epic poem The Ramayana on an ugly period in her own life to the 1920's jazz music of singer Annette Hanshaw. Paley discusses her influences and other topics on her mind recently. Sita Sings the Blues will be screening at New York's Museum of Modern Art on Thursday, November 20, 2008, and Saturday, November 22, 2008, as part of their "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You" program.

Exclusive Interview: 1-1 With The Directors Of Bolt

Bolt is one of those cartoons that impresses you right out the gate. From the beautiful look of the film to the familiar, but fun story, it's the animated feature Disney needed to get back on track. Not only within its own house but with fans who were calling Pixar the king of animation instead of Disney. BoldA title Pixar deserves that Disney had abandoned. But now that they're one company, the Disney features have gotten their magic back. In this exclusive interview, "El Guapo" from Latino Review talks to directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard about working with Pixar, telling a story from an animal's perspective, their own pet stories, and how things are going with another future film, Rapunzel.
I'd like to talk about the transition from
'American Dog' to 'Bolt'. Was a
lot of story changed and the visual look of the film?

Williams: The truth is that I wasn't working on 'American Dog' before that transition and so I don't really know too much about what was going on before. The nice thing for me is that John [Lasseter] asked me to come and work on it and there really were no restrictions. I mean, we had the premise of a dog who was the star of a TV show who uses superpowers and then is lost out in the world. So we inherited that, but from there the next thing was that I really had free reign to make the movie that I wanted to make and really search and find what I think the real core of the movie ought to be. John really respected that and really sort of fostered that. So it was nice that we were really able to start from square one and embark on making a movie.

Howard: I think the only thing that kind of remained from the 'American Dog' version was the art direction. We kind of maintained that painterly look. Paul Felix was the art director on that film as well. So for maybe a year before we started on 'Bolt' there had been research done and all these tests on that painterly technology that allowed them to put the pink strips on different objects in the environment. They got, I think, five or six patents for that technology and that helped us greatly because when Bolt goes out into America you want that world to feel lived in and accessible. It's funny because people who aren't paying attention to it will say, 'There's something that felt very different about it, like the quality of the light or the environments felt very real.' Saying that is funny because there's a lot of abstraction involved. Like, as objects move away from the camera there's a lot less detail in the objects.

And lighting can be very harsh in CG.

Howard: Very much. It could be very plastic. Things can look very small almost as if they're in miniature. It's a very delicate balance of where you chose to place your attention in a scene. All of it of course too has to support the characters. You can't take the attention away from the acting that's going on and the story beats.

Williams: That's one of the things that I learned along the way, that the really dynamic and dramatic lighting is actually relatively easy for them. But that the really soft and nuanced lighting is really what presents the biggest challenge for the lighting team. So, things like the Rhino pep talk that he gives to Bolt in that sort of magic hour, that sort of really soft [light] just before sunset represents a big a challenge. In the end it's trying to not feel harsh and trying to feel soft and to make the world feel rich and organic. That's the real challenge with computer animation. I think that under Paul Felix's art direction and with Adolph [Lusinsky] leading the lighting team that we really achieved that. So we were definitely the beneficiaries of that.

What's the biggest challenge of directing a cartoon, telling the story from an animal's perspective versus a human perspective?

Well, we do our research. As soon as we got this and knew that we were going to do this animal picture we knew that we were going to have to do our homework, especially with John as our boss because he's a huge proponent of knowing what you're talking about. We had to know everything about dogs, everything about cats, everything about hamsters, how they move and how they emote. We had Doink the Hamster who's been here at the studio for a couple of years and we studied him and we talked to Stewart Zemeda who's an amazing animal expert. He's worked with us back since 'Lion King'. He's just an amazing scientist and he'll tell you why animals move like they do and the fact that dogs can't actually turn their paws up. Just little details that you wouldn't know, but then that's just so what you animate then stays feeling like a dog. The next part of dogs that people are so familiar with are their own pets. People would bring in things in their animation from their own pets. 'Oh, my dog does this great thing with his eyebrows. He has this little flicky thing when he looks around the room.' It's not what you'd expect from a typical animated performance, something that they've taken from their personal experience and put into that animation. Hopefully that kind of resonates with other people as they see these performances.

It's a pretty emotional third act.

Yeah, it is. There's a lot of stuff.

Williams: It catches people by surprise. I think that people –

People don't care if you kill the human. [Don't worry. Nobody dies. -Ed.]

Williams: Yeah. Growing up, that was like, you've seen war pictures and it's like, 'I don't care if a hundred guys get shot in this war picture, but one dog gets hurt, just hurt –

...And damn it, you just can't watch 'Old Yeller' again.

I know. I watched that movie when I was a kid over at my grandma's house and I had no idea what was coming and I was like, '[Gasps]! They shot the dog.' I was never the same.

Williams: Because dogs are just nothing, but good. They're all about loyalty and all about unconditional love and you just can't stand to see anything bad happen to them. I think underneath it all there has to be a human story, a universal story that people can connect with. I think that because we found that story people are surprised when they get to the end of the movie and find it to be more emotional than they expected.

Do you have personal stories where you've lost an animal growing up and it was hard on you?

Oh, yeah. Every pet I've ever lost has been hard. Both Chris and I own pets and had pets growing up and you get so attached to them. I firmly believe that they're individuals that have their own personalities and they love and fear and care and stuff. I don't think it's random at all. You do get so attached especially to dogs just because they are so loyal and they're so all about that connection. The choices that Bolt makes towards the end of the film, the choice that Bolt makes with Penny is so true to what a dog would actually do. If you think about it –

You read stories all the time about dogs saving their owners.

Exactly, yeah. It just felt right. I just felt like, 'Of course he would do that.'

Williams: I have a very vivid memory of taking my sixteen year old cat when I was younger to the vet knowing that it was time. It was so old and so sick and I remember that we always used to put the cat in the box and this time we couldn't put the cat in the box. It was very emotional. My dad and I took the cat. It's part of your family, that cat for sixteen years. It certainly was one of the saddest days of my life. It was really hard.

You work so hard on a movie like this. Is an Oscar nomination important or it doesn't even matter?

Well, people have asked us about that and we're not trying to be humble or anything, but we never gave it a thought because you're really just down in the trenches trying to get this thing down. Our priorities are really to tell the story and the characters, and again, with this being John Lasseter's first Disney film that he's seeing through from beginning to end you want to make this thing great. I think that was our goal. It's very nice that people mention that it would even be in consideration.

Williams: Yeah. I think that's something, I mean when we close the storm doors and start to work on things we're just trying to make the characters play, make the moments play, make the movie work and honestly the last thing on your mind are what rewards you might receive. There's enough to worry about in just making the story come together. So it is nice that people are asking about that, but it really is the last thing on our minds.

Howard: It's great. I feel a great sense of pride from the crew in what they've done and that's awesome. When you ask people to invest several years of their lives and work a lot of extra hours and spend time away from their families you don't want to do something that's not as good as it can be. I think that's a big part of what Chris and I were trying to do, trying to help them create something that they could be proud of. They're such talented and amazing people that you really want to have a story and characters that are worthy of them, worthy of that talent.

Williams: We've had the opportunity now to see it a few times with audiences and it's really exciting and really rewarding to hear them get involved, to hear them laughing and to see that people are affected by it and that people are touched by it. So after this long two years of working on this movie that's definitely, by far, the greatest reward.

Can you talk about your backgrounds, how you got here?

We've both been here about fifteen years. I guess back in college I saw 'Roger Rabbit' and that changed things for me. I wanted to be a live action film editor and then I saw 'Roger Rabbit' and then I kind of got interested in animation. I liked Chuck Jones cartoons as a kid, but then after seeing 'Roger Rabbit' I went after kind of getting into Disney animation. Then I got an internship in Florida for animation and I started working like in 1993 or '94 and I've been in animation ever since and I got into the story for this film.

Williams: I went to animation school up in Canada and took an animation internship at the Florida Studio for Disney, but I found that early on I was turning every assignment into a story assignment whether it was supposed to be about layout or animation or whatever. Really that was the part that I was drawn to and so pretty quickly I realized and Disney realized that story was the place for me. So I've been doing for about thirteen years before John asked me to work on 'Bolt'
. Story will always be my first love.

Do you guys ever collaborate with the people over at Pixar and vice versa?

Yeah, we brought the movie up a few times and got feedback from them. Of course you're up there with people who've made one great movie after another. So we totally respect what they have to say and it was great to be able to bring it up there and open yourself up to criticism and that's something that really makes the movie better and stronger. To be able to screen it down here, screen it up there, really always invite input from any source and really take it seriously – I think that definitely benefited the movie.

Howard: Yeah, it's great because I think that we learned that part of what makes their movies great is that they do have a merciless dedication to quality up there and not letting anything be just okay. They really go after the strengths of a movie and finding out what's at the core and if you're staying on beam and if you're giving your audience everything that they deserve. They're brutal on their own pictures. They'll beat each other up, but it never gets personal. It comes from a place of passion and a place of caring for a film. To be exposed to that was amazing for us. I think in turn our own story trust down here, our own group of directors and hands in story became much more vocal. I think that's part of what John was looking for. He doesn't want people being quiet in that room at all. It's like that's a sign of complacency or fear and that's not where you want to be when you're making these films because there are so many decisions that can affect the direction of these films. If you're open to hearing criticism and are all going after same goal to make the strongest film possible then no one's feelings are going to get hurt.

Williams: Disagreement is definitely a sign of vitality. I've been up there and watched them be really brutal on each other with their own films and I think that's great. That's exactly the kind of open and honest communication –

It shows you're passionate about the movie.

Yeah, and it's been great because all through the making of 'Bolt' with our own story team, people were able to disagree vehemently but it always stayed about the movie and it was never personal. As a director that's great because then you have more and more options on the table. Sometimes one person might have an idea and then another person might disagree with them and volunteer an idea and then a third person will come along and build on that idea. So once you start to allow for that you have so many great options to pick from. As a director it definitely behooves you to try and foster that environment where people feel comfortable enough to say everything that's on their mind, to disagree with each other.

Now you're working on 'Rapunzel'. How is that coming along?

Oh, it's good. It's still very early. We only had our first sort story retreat in Oji a couple of weeks ago, but it's the same sort of process as 'Bolt'. You kind of get it down to what the core of the film is and then you kind of build all the characters and the action up from there. So it's very early on in our process.

What kind of look are you going for visually because 'Bolt' is probably one of the best looking cartoons I've ever seen?

Yeah, 'Bolt' is phenomenal and we're taking a lot of examples from 'Bolt' because there is that great kind of painterly style, and again, that maturity in the cinematography that Adolph and Chris and Paul all kind of got into this film. We want to take what we've learned from that. We've got a lot of the same people working on the film and we want to tell a different kind of story, a very traditional Disney story and so we're looking at a lot of Disney classics, particularly 'Cinderella' for a lot of the art direction. We're kind of embracing the Disney story.

That'll be more of an influence for the look of the film, that old school classic look?

Oh, yeah. I think that Nathan and I are both huge Disney geeks. We love the parks. We love the old films. So we think that has to get into these films and that we should indulge that and really try to get that kind of two-d feeling into this 3-D film.

When you're brought on board do you change the story from what it was before or punch it up or change the look at all? When the movie is first conceived is the look already decided on or does that change throughout?

Howard: I think so. I think that when Chris kind of reinvented 'Bolt' luckily the art direction fit very well and it seemed like it was a good thing to hold onto. When we were looking at 'Rapunzel' we didn't change the tone of the film. I think the tone of the film and what you're trying to get emotionally from the film kind of dictates the art direction that you follow and also how broad the humor is going to be, that has an influence on the stylization of the backgrounds. Like, how real can this world be and is that serving you to put your story into. But it all comes back to story. That's what Lasseter always impressed on us during the making of 'Bolt'
. 'Make sure what you're doing with the lighting and the art direction, with the character design, make sure it all supports your story at all times.' It goes back to that basic thing.

Williams: As we're developing the story we're just looking at story reels and it's all still images and hopefully even with that you're able to move people and then as the animation comes in it gets that much more immersive.

What are your personal favorite animated films?

I love 'Bambi' a lot. I think it's one of my earliest memories, being at the community center, sitting on the floor and watching it projected against the wall. As a kid, obviously at the end of the movie there's some stuff there that's really striking and it stays with you. Definitely 'Bambi' for me.

Howard: 'Bambi', yeah. 'Dumbo' which I mentioned earlier, how simple and emotional it is. 'Pinocchio' and 'Cinderella' both, kind of as pair, are a lot of what Disney is about to me. There's a feeling in those films to me, I don't know if it's that a lot of it is kind of reflected in the parks or what people think of as Disney's sort of heritage, but I love those films. 'Sleeping Beauty' of course is very beautiful and one of the most emotional of all the stories.

Have you seen the Blu-Ray?

I bought the Blu-Ray and it's phenomenal. It's so amazing and we got to see some of the original paintings from the film not too long ago. The colors are just as vibrant as they were back in 1950 when they made it. The amount of talent that's come through the halls of these studios over the past eighty years is kind of incredible. That's one of the great things. I can't think of another artistic venue where an artist can have their work seen by so many millions of people. It's a great opportunity to take this great personal expression of what you believe and how you see the world and have the rest of the world see that in a picture.

Bolt super barks its way into theaters this Friday. Click HERE to be taken to the official website.

Christopher Reeve’s Son On How To Make The Next ‘Superman’ Movie: ‘Just Be Original’

There were a lot of things wrong with the last Superman movie — but the filmmakers did manage to find an actor with an uncanny resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve. Was casting Brandon Routh a good thing? Does that honor Reeve’s memory?

Not necessarily, said Reeve’s son Matthew, during a recent fundraising event called “A Magical Evening” to benefit the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation in New York. Matthew, along with his sister Alexandra and younger brother Will, do a lot of work to honor the actor we all think of as the Superman by aiding fundraising efforts to cure paralysis.

The Foundation’s raised $20 million so far, and on Monday, proved the money is going to good use by showing how they’ve helped one soldier, Lt. Reinaldo Gonzalez, recover. Told he would never walk again after coming home from the war injured, he actually walked on stage at the event. That is what honors Reeve, who in the hearts of his biggest fans, his three children, can never be replaced.

“As far as we’re concerned, there’s only ever going to be one Superman,” Matthew laughed.

So instead of worrying whether they should keep Routh or try to cast yet another actor who looks like Christopher Reeve in the upcoming reboot, Matthew suggested that Warner Bros. focus more on the story this next time around.

“There were lots of plot lines established, and it was very faithful to the original Donner films and sequels,” he told us, “and I’d be curious to know how some of those plot lines in the last one will be continued or abandoned. If you look at ‘The Dark Knight,’ that was a phenomenal movie, and hopefully they can do something as good with the next version of this one. It could be.”

Matthew’s advice, then, was this: “There are lots of fans of the comics and the films my dad did and the new one, and you can never please everyone. So just be original and creative and exciting, and I’m sure it will be successful.”

Bond, Verbinski Remake "The Host"

Universal Pictures is set to remake the 2006 South Korean thriller "The Host" reports Variety.

Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski, Roy Lee, Doug Davison and Paul Brooks will produce.

Bong Joon-ho directed the original film, which broke box office records in its native Korea. Despite its modest budget, the movie features state-of-the-art creature animation and other effects by The Orphanage.

The original followed a city terrorized by a giant mutant squidlike creature hatched by toxins that flow into a nearby river from a military base.

When the creature grabs a little girl, her dysfunctional family must band together to rescue her.

The Orphanage certainly has a bid in, but there’s no word on which visual effects shop will get to animate Universal’s latest monster. Verbinski is likely to extend his working relationship with Industrial Light & Magic, which handled the lion’s share of vfx work on the Pirates films. ILM is set to create the animation for Rango, Verbinski’s first fully animated feature. Johnny Depp is on board to lend his voice to the title character in the Paramount Pictures family flick.

Commercials director Fredrik Bond makes his feature helming debut on the project and Mark Poirier ("Smart People") is adapting the script.

Here's the trailer for the original Korean version -

"Narnia" Scribes Pen "Captain America"

Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (the "Narnia" films, "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers") are in negotiations to pen "First Avenger: Captain America" for Marvel Studios reports the trades.

Created in 1941, the comic followed rejected army candidate Steve Rogers who undergoes an experiment that takes him to the pinnacle of human form.

Paired with an indestructible shield, he becomes a symbol of the war effort as he fights Nazis and evil scientists.

Marvel's "Captain America" will be a World War II-set movie, and the character will appear in the modern day-set "Avengers."

Last week Joe Johnston boarded the project as director. Kevin Feige is producing. "Captain America" is scheduled for release May 6, 2011.

Stevenson In Talks To Helm "He-Man"

"Kung Fu Panda" co-director John Stevenson is rumored to be attached to direct the new live-action "He-Man" for Silver Pictures reports Latino Review.

According to their sources, the former Muppet Show character designer and animation artist pitched a new take on the Mattel and cartoon character which got him the job.

Stevenson has an extensive background in art direction and animation, starting out as a character designer on The Muppet Show in the late 1970’s.

"Gossip Girl" Man Takes On "X-Men"

"Gossip Girl" and "The O.C." creator Josh Schwartz is in negotiations to write an X-Men spin-off for the younger set - "X-Men: First Class" says the trades.

"First Class"
will focus on a younger set of super-powered mutants than the first trilogy, likely focusing on some of the students attending the mutant school introduced in the "X-Men"

There's also the possibility, though less likely, that it could serve as a prequel - focusing on teen versions of the current film characters such as Cyclops and Storm.

Marvel Comics ran a short-lived comics series with the same name several years ago.

Producer Lauren Shuler Donner and "X-Men: The Last Stand" scribe Simon Kinberg are also involved. Schwartz apparently has the option to direct but so far hasn't signed up for the possibility.

New Up Details, Trailer

Disney/Pixar released new details about and a new trailer for the upcoming 3-D animaited film Up--from Monster, Inc. director Pete Docter--which will feature the voices of Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger, Delroy Lindo and Jordan Nagai.

The studio describesUp thusly: "A comedy adventure about 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell."

The studio also released a new trailer here.

6 Scariest Environmental Doomsday Movies

It's Green Week there at NBC Universal, the parent company of SCI FI Wire: the time when thoughts turn to ways they can do their part to heal the planet and nurture the environment.

But they at SCI FI Wire like to take a different approach to environmental concerns. Let others come up with suggestions for low-energy light bulbs and energy-efficient washing machines. We prefer to ask: What if? What if you all screw up and the planet dies a horrible death, leaving the few survivors to scrabble among the wreckage, fleeing mutant, flesh-eating zombies, watching cities fall to massive tidal waves, forced to eat the corpses of the dead just to live another bleak day?

That's what we call motivational! Here's our pick of the best depictions of environmental collapse as imagined by science fiction movies.

1. Soylent Green (1973) OK, maybe not the best, but certainly the environmental-message movie with the best punchline. Who at this point doesn't know that if we use up all of the Earth's resources, we will be forced to subsist on a diet of tastless green crackers made out of Edward G. Robinson? Created about the time of the nascent environmental movement's birth, this film followed by a year the similarly humorless--if inadvertently hilarious--Silent Running, in which the last of the world's forests is--natch--shot into space, to be cared for by a wacked-out hippie and three dwarf robots. See how bad it can get if you don't recycle??

2. The Day After Tomorrow (2004) Call this the first global-warming disaster movie. Leave it to Roland Emmerich--the director of such intellectually stimulating fare as Independence Day and 10,000 B.C.--not to let the facts get in the way of a good story. Don't get us wrong: We worry about the shrinking polar ice caps as much as the next penguin. But Day After Tomorrow--based on the questionable science of The Coming Global Superstorm by UFO nutcases Art Bell and Whitley Strieber--is plain loony. A deep-freeze chasing Jake Gyllenhaal down a hall? Americans fleeing to Mexico? I mean, really. Still, the movie posits the persuasive idea that a massive climate shift may be just around the corner. It's enough to make you buy a Prius.

3. Children of Men (2006) An unspecified environmental calamity has rendered all women sterile in this brilliant dystopian SF nightmare based on P.D. James' novel. Its genius is the depiction of the world as it descends into chaos as a result of environmental collapse: Terrorism, tyranny, cultism, war, poverty. Sound familiar?

4. I Am Legend (2007) Another apocalyptic nightmare, this one caused by the release of a mutant virus that turns its victims into bloodsucking zombies. Perhaps not our greatest environmental threat, I'll concede, but the film--the latest movie incarnation of Richard Matheson's classic 1954 SF novel--offers us one of the best realizations of a New York devoid of people. Will Smith captures what it would really mean to be the last man on Earth. Oh, and what happens to his dog shouldn't happen to, well, you know ...

5. The Matrix (1999) Finally! A movie that dared to ask: What if we scorched the sky to blot out the sun to stop the rampaging machines from killing us all? Of COURSE it would be an environmental disaster! Take care, lest we all wind up as extra-long-life double-A batteries to power a massive planetary machine civilization intent on keeping us all enslaved in a digital neural interface simulation. SOMEONE had to say it.

6. WALL*E (2008) This subversive environmental tract from the hyper-political Disney/Pixar film collective offers an alternate view. So what if rampant consumerism leaves the Earth a stinking midden heap of towering garbage? So what if humans devolve into boneless jelly sacs of idiocy and appetite? At least there will be adorable robots to save us! Have another sip of that Supergulp Slusho!

In WALL*E, mankind's consumerist habits have left the Earth buried in garbage.

Will Bryan Singer Return To The ‘Superman’ Movie Franchise? MTV Asks Him Point Blank

FROM MTV.COM: These days — for better or for worse — the name Bryan Singer is synonymous with “Superman.” While there still remains a loud majority that blame him for the debatable failure of “Superman Returns,” there’s still a small, equally vocal contingent who’ve praised his vision of DC Comics’ Man of Steel and want to see him return to the franchise.

That being said, love him or hate him, there’s one question that comic movie fans across the board wanna know — will Singer be returning to Metropolis to helm the sequel to “Superman Returns"? And MTV Movies asked him this point blank in an exclusive interview.

“At the moment I can’t really talk about that,” said Singer. “I wish I could. From my perspective I’m going to take a brief pause. ["Valkyrie"] has taken a long time so I’m going to take a pause. A movie like that takes some time to do right. That’s all I can say about that.”

So while the director remains quiet on the subject for now, he did relate a funny story about a lunch meeting with “The Dark Knight” director, Christopher Nolan. To read all about it, head over to for the full interview.

Would Keri Russell, Voice Of Cartoon ‘Wonder Woman,’ Be Up For The Live-Action Version?

Keri Russell is a huge Wonder Woman fan — so much so that she used to dress up as the Amazonian princess for Halloween. But even though she’s providing the voice of Wonder Woman in the upcoming “Wonder Woman” animated DVD movie, she’s not so sure she’d want to try her hand at doing Diana in a live-action “Wonder Woman” movie.

“It’s so tricky to do [a superhero story] as live action,” Russell told us when we caught up with her at the afterparty for her one-night reading of “All About Eve” on Broadway. “And we haven’t seen a girl [carry] one yet.”

That might be why producer Joel Silver has been running through directors and writers on “Wonder Woman,” from Joss Whedon to the Wachowski Brothers to the now-rumored McG, searching for just the right take. (“It’s been in a constant state of development; we’ve just not been able to find the right way to do it yet,” Silver told SuperHeroHype.)

But since there’s already a queue of actresses ready to crack the lasso and fly the invisible jet — most recently Beyonce — Russell isn’t sure she’d be the most qualified, even with her voice work as Wonder Woman on her resume.

“My only real experience with that is working with J.J. [Abrams], when we did ‘Mission Impossible,’she said, “and that was really fun, I have to say. But I don’t know. I would do something for it, but I’m not necessarily fighting to get the part.”

Check Out Two New Web Clips For ‘Wolverine And The X-Men’

The good friends over at Nicktoons Networks in association with Marvel have released two new video clips from the new season of “Wolverine and the X-Men,” set to hit airwaves January 23 on Nicktoons.

The first video — which can be watched below — is the third trailer for the upcoming season to hit the web so far, and teases at the upcoming storylines for the season (and if you watch closely, it looks like we might be in store for a “Days of Future Past” episode — sweet!). Not to mention, if the clip below is any indication, all you X-Fans out there shouldn’t be disappointed with the solid cast of mutants and their enemies that look to make appearances in the show.

Here, peep the second video where we get another behind-the-scenes look at the creators and voice cast from the show.

Madagascar Deux In Foreign Lands

We know that the zoo animals are collecting heavy coin across the fruited plain. But how are they doing overseas?

"Madagascar 2," still warming up nicely in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, tallied $6.4 million from 990 screens in only seven markets to lift its early cume to an encouraging $48.5 million. The animated hit comes out in full force in late November and early December.

When the flick reaches full velocity, it will most likely do as well in the other parts of the globe as it does here. I'm estimating a world-wide cume of ... oh ... $450 million to $550 million.

(Of course, we'll see how Madagascar performs when the Little White Dog shows up.)

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Stan Lee, Sherman Bros. Awarded with National Medal of the Arts

The Los Angeles Times reports on the recipients of the 2008 Natioanl Medal of the Arts, presented by President George W. Bush on Monday, November 17, 2008. Included in the recipients were Spider-Man and X-Men creator Stan Lee and Disney songwriting duo Robert B. Sherman and Richard B. Sherman, who wrote the scores for The Jungle Book, Mary Poppins, and The Aristocats.

Wolverine Actor Named Sexiest Man Alive

The Associated Press reports that Hugh Jackman (Wolverine from the X-Men films) has been named "The Sexiest Man Alive" for 2008 by People Magazine.

The X-Men star currently star in the new movie Australia along with Nicole Kidman, which will be in theaters next week.

Past winners include Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Matt Damon.

Trey Parker on "Imaginationland" and How They'll End South Park

The Los Angeles Times Hero Complex weblog has spoken to South Park co-creator Trey Parker about when and how the series will end, with the respective answers being "Not anytime soon" and "as a movie" akin to the 3-part Imaginationland special. Parker confirms that Imaginationland was intended as a second South Park feature film, but was converted to 3 episodes of the show when they "were completely out of ideas" in the middle of a season. Parker also notes that the Team America: World Police movie "just killed the movie spirit in us..."

The following are some of fps magazine's coverage of the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema -

WFAC 2008: The Adventures of Prince Achmed

This year’s Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema kicked off last Thursday night with a screening of Europe’s first animated feature film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Die Arbenteuer des Prinzen Achmed). Considered Europe's first animated feature film, it is 81 minutes long, and was made in 1926 by Lotte Reiniger (along with her husband and two others).

Reiniger made the film with paper cut-out shadow puppets – apparently over 100,000 of them. What was particularly special about Thursday night’s screening was the live soundtrack performed by Miles and Karina, who were commissioned earlier this year by The Northwest Film Forum to compose a new score for this amazing piece of cinematic history. I lost myself in the story – a tale based on 1001 Arabian nights – partly because the beautiful details of the animation worked so well at propelling the story, but also very much because the music was such a brilliant complement to the visuals… Miles and Karina’s music evoked the moods and humor of the story beautifully – and so subtly that I completely forgot the music was being performed live!

WFAC 2008: The very first animated feature film ever made

Quirino Cristiani's parents had really wanted him to be a doctor. Just after the turn of the 20th century, the Italian immigrants in Argentina had hoped that Quirino would "get over" his penchant for drawing, and be a doctor in the Buenos Aires hospital where his father worked.

Young Quirino only wanted to draw and was especially fascinated with representing movement, and later made a living drawing political satire cartoons for various newspapers and magazines. Newsreel producer and entrepreneur, Frederico Valle, first commissioned Cristiani to make artwork for the end of his newsreels, and wanted Cristiani to see if he could make them move. This lead to them making El Apostol: a 70-minute animated feature satirizing Argentina's President Yrigoyen, which premiered in 1917 and was a runaway success, playing to packed cinemas for six months.

None of the footage survived a fire that destroyed all of Valle's precious stock in 1926. But we know about it - and its impact on the history of animation from the Italian documentary, Quirino Cristiani: The Mystery of the First Animated Movies.

WFAC 2008: Grave of the Fireflies + panel discussion

On Day 2 of the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema, we got to see a screening of an original 35mm print of Grave of the Fireflies. This is an Isao Takahata, 1988 Studio Ghibli film, based on a short story about a 14-year-old boy who tries to care for his sister after their ailing mother is killed during a raid in the 1945 Kobe bombings. He and his sister experience the fear-inspired selfishness of an aunt and he must find a way to take care of himself and his sister on his own.

There was a panel discussion following the film lead by Fred Schodt, author of Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics; John O'Donnell, founder of Central Park Media (the publishers who license the film for North America); and Fred Ruh, author of Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii.

The conversation between the panelists and the audience covered debates as to whether the film was anti-American or rather just anti-war generally, given that the American bombers were barely referred to directly except by the subtle display of some American signage a couple of times on the bomber planes. Another point was raised about the divide between the themes considered culturally sensitive in western animation versus the plain-speaking storytelling of Japanese anime. As a nod to the animated film genre, it was agreed that this socially important, and poignant story couldn't be told the same way in a live-action film (a live-action version was made in 2005), given the youth of the actors required to play the parts and the fact that they couldn't be represented as realistically in the unhealthy conditions in which they were portrayed for the anime version.

This screening was also presented by UrbanEx and their Out Of The Cold programme.

WFAC 2008: Midnight Madness screenings

Joseph Chen, curator of the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema, likes to highlight the fact that animated films are neither tied to a specific genre or animation technique, nor are they thematically hide-bound – the only thing linking them is that they are animated and generally do not include much live-action (although some do mix it up). The “Midnight Madness” screenings are, in Joseph’s words “all about edge” – both story-wise and in the techniques used to “paint” the story.

This year’s two midnight screenings were We Are the Strange (by MDOTSTRANGE, a filmmaker based in San Jose) and From Inside (by John Bergin, a Missouri-based artist and feature filmmaker).

We Are The Strange is definitely edgy - an assault on the senses for which I wasn't really prepared, but which had me thinking for some time afterwards. It was a clever composite of 8-bit, pixelated gaming imagery, cut with stop-motion animation, a couple of live-action appearances, and anime-style animation. The soundtrack was cranked to 11, and, frankly, you're not meant to be comfortable with it. But I was definitely engaged - and it was as visually complex and interesting, as it was disturbing. Not for everybody, but I really liked it.

From Inside was the Saturday night midnight screening. John Bergin, the writer, director and animator, warned us before the movie started that the story was as bleak as the weather outside (it was windy, bitterly cold and snowing). What followed was a visually stunning, dark allegory. How do you find hope in a world going to hell - what can you do to stop it, and should children be brought into this chaos? Or are children the only redemption we have? I loved this movie - it combined 3D animation along with awesome 2D 1930s-inspired, dark illustration. Again, not for everyone, but a truly beautiful piece of artwork, and a story that ends on a more hopeful note than you're lead to expect.

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